Florida Supreme Court to determine whether deputy can use 'stand your ground' defense in killing

Oral arguments in Deputy Peter Peraza case to be heard Tuesday

By Jeff Weinsier - Investigative Reporter

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The state of Florida is taking the case against a Broward County sheriff's deputy all the way to the state Supreme Court. 

On Tuesday, oral arguments are set to begin in Tallahassee. 

Deputy Peter Peraza was charged with manslaughter in 2013 after fatally shooting Jermaine McBean in Oakland Park. 

That charge was eventually dismissed after the deputy used Florida's "stand your ground" law as a defense. But the state says law enforcement officers aren't entitled to use that law.

The Florida Supreme Court’s decision in the case could affect every officer in the state of Florida.

"It can be a dangerous ruling, because if police officers can’t use stand your ground law, they will be afraid to do their job," Peraza's attorney, Eric Schwartzreich, said. "They protect us in this day and age."

Schwartzreich will have 10 minutes to address Florida Supreme Court justices Tuesday.

"This case never should have gotten this far," Schwartzreich said. "We are hopeful and confident that it will be game over after the Supreme Court hears this case."

Peraza was arrested Dec. 11, 2015, after the fatal shooting of the 33-year-old McBean.

Authorities said Peraza responded to a call about a man with a gun walking around an Oakland Park apartment complex.

McBean was shot when he apparently turned toward officers with the gun, which turned out to be an air rifle.

Peraza was the first deputy in decades to be charged with manslaughter.

As his defense, he used Florida's "stand your ground" law, which gives a person the right to use deadly force if it prevents imminent danger.

"Deputy Peraza thought children and citizens and other deputies and other members of the community and himself were going to be in harm's way," Schwartzreich said. "(A) police officer, like anyone else, has a right to come home from work."

At a stand your ground hearing, a Broward County judge agreed with the defense and the manslaughter charge was dropped.

The state appealed the decision.

The Fourth District Court of Appeals sided with Peraza, but the Second District did not.

The Florida Supreme Court will now resolve the legal conflict.

The state argues that police incidents are subject to another part of the state law and that officers could argue self-defense in a trial. 

"The legislature, when they drafted the law, said any person. It wasn't any person except law enforcement officers," Schwartzreich said. "It wasn't any person excepting law enforcement officers. It was any person."

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