Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeals in July ruled that a boy convicted of battery for his role in a school bus fight should have been allowed to use the state's "Stand Your Ground" law as his defense.
The court of appeals ruled that the Broward County Circuit Court, which ultimately found the boy, T.P., guilty, erred by "believing that the Stand Your Ground law applied only to the defense of home or vehicle, not on a bus." The boy's conviction was reversed and the case remanded because the boy indeed "had the right to assert a defense" under the Stand Your Ground law as he was not engaged in unlawful activity, "and he had the right to be on the bus going home from school...
"Although the trial court's misgivings of applying it to a fight on a school bus may be well taken, it is not the place of the trial court, or this court, to refuse to apply the plain meaning of the statute," the appeals court decision continued.
The appeals court, however, rejected T.P.'s contention at trial that mere battery of any sort invokes the Stand Your Ground law. It further ruled that that battery may not always be a matter of force, such as with unwanted touching, that reasonably could result in imminent threat of serious bodily, as Florida's Stand Your Ground law requires.
T.P. was arrested by Broward County Sheriff's deputies after they responded to a call about an on-board fight with a girl, A.F. During a preliminary hearing, T.P. claimed self-defense under "Stand Your Ground" because he said A.F., a larger girl, started the fight by grabbing his jacket and fighting him down to the bus seat. The school bus driver corroborated this testimony under oath.
A.F., meanwhile, gave two different accounts of how the fight started, first testifying at the hearing that the fight occurred as she and T.P. attempted to disembark the bus at their stop. She claimed that T.P. bumped her on the shoulder as he walked down the aisle, and hit her in the cheek after she tapped him on the shoulder, grabbed his jacket and said, "Hey, you pushed me." At that point, she testified that T.P.'s mother and grandmother boarded the bus and also began hitting her.
But on cross examination, A.F. said that T.P. bumped her and then pushed her out of the way as she was getting off the bus. She said T.P. had already passed her when she "fought him down on to (sic) the seat," according to the appeal court's transcript. Inconsistent with her previous testimony, she denied pulling on T.P.'s jacket. Instead, she testified that he hit her when she turned around.
The Broward County Circuit Court denied T.P.'s motion and again denied T.P.'s motion at trial, where the bus driver did not testify, and T.P. was found guilty.