Florida Governor Rick Scott had recently signed a bill which was set to implement a new ‘stand-your-ground’ law in the Southeastern state, but the changes have been blocked by one circuit judge who used a Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix reference to prove the proposed law to be unconstitutional. Milton Hirsch, a judge from Miami-Dade, who has been known for referencing Shakespeare in the past, has now compared the new law to the unfair trial Harry received (and almost lost) in the Ministry of Magic.
The US ‘stand-your-ground’ laws (also called ‘line in the sand’ or ‘no duty to retreat’) are generally defined as the right of defendants to “stand their ground” and use force without retreating, in order to protect and defend themselves or others against threats or perceived threats. With the new Florida bill, however, prosecutors will now have to prove the shooter was not acting in self-defense, instead of the defense having to convince a jury that they actually were. Critics of the new bill fear the changes will give way for more cases such as the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of unarmed Trayvon Martin in 2012.
Judge Hirsch wrote in his ruling that “as a matter of constitutional separation of powers, that procedure cannot be legislatively modified,” referring to the bill signed by Governor Scott. To demonstrate his point, he references the courtroom scene in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, where Harry is up against a powerful political figure who uses his position in both the executive and judicial branches to deny him a fair trial.
The Miami judge writes:
“Harry’s fundamental right to a fair hearing is seemingly irrelevant to Fudge through his consistent attempts to firstly discredit him … and secondly by making it as difficult as possible for Harry to raise an adequate defense….The trial of Harry Potter shows that through the lack of a separation of powers in the wizards’ constitutional system, there is a distinct disregard for the rules of natural justice, traditionally applied to judicial decisions. …The right to be tried by an independent and impartial tribunal is a basic principle of natural justice.”
Hirsch claims the new law will deny victims of shootings a fair trial in the same way that Harry Potter was, which almost led to his expulsion from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The judge believes not only will victims be discredited, they are being denied the opportunity to raise adequate argument because the defense must essentially prove, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that the shooter didn’t feel threatened by the victim.
Some commentators believe it is unlikely that Judge Hirsch’s decision will stand in the long term, as it goes against the wishes of the state’s powerful Governor. Florida is also considered to be a state with a powerful gun-lobby and a stronghold of the National Rifle Association who have had a lot of success in strengthening stand-your-ground laws in many parts of the United States.