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Florida Supreme Court to hear 'stand your ground' case

 


An unexpected roadway confrontation between a family from Indiana and a Kissimmee, Fla., man three years ago could soon reshape the way Florida's "stand your ground" law is applied in cases throughout the state.
Wrapping up a vacation on Dec. 29, 2011, Ronald Bretherick was driving toward Disney World with his wife, Deborah, and their son and daughter, when the family says they were nearly sideswiped by an sport-utility vehicle on U.S. Highway 192.
Bretherick honked as the other driver, Derek Dunning, sped past in a blue Escalade.
From there, the situation quickly escalated.
By the time it was over, the Brethericks' son Jared was in jail, accused of pointing a gun at Dunning. The then-22-year-old said he was trying to assure his family's safety until authorities arrived.
Though no shots were fired, a judge refused his request for immunity from prosecution under "stand your ground." He appealed, challenging the procedure used by Florida courts in "stand your ground" cases.

The Florida Supreme Court is set to hear his case Tuesday. If Jared Bretherick prevails, defendants may no longer have to prove they acted in self-defense in order to win immunity — potentially expanding the application of the self-defense law.
Deborah Bretherick said she could see trouble coming after her husband hit the horn.
"The way he stared at me, it was just the most unnerving" look, she recalled in a recent interview.
According to the Brethericks' account: Dunning cut them off, then came to a stop in front of them, in the center lane of traffic, and left his SUV. Ronald called 911 and showed his still-holstered gun as a warning. Dunning then returned to his SUV but backed it up toward the Brethericks.


Deputies said they arrived to find Jared Bretherick standing outside his family's truck, pointing his father's gun toward Dunning's SUV.
His mother and sister had fled to the roadside; Jared explained he stayed behind to protect his father, a disabled veteran. He also said he heard Dunning claim to have a gun, though none was found.
Jared Bretherick was arrested on an aggravated assault charge. After a hearing in June 2012, Circuit Judge Scott Polodna largely accepted the Brethericks' account as true, but denied Jared's request for immunity, due to several factors:
     Dunning wasn't committing a forcible felony, the judge ruled. At worst, he said Dunning's driving was reckless and the "threatening act" of leaving his SUV to approach the Brethericks was assault, a misdemeanor.
     After Ronald Bretherick waved the gun, Dunning returned to his SUV — a "retreat," the judge ruled.


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