TALLAHASSEE, Fla.-- A state senator is criticizing Gov. Rick Scott for moving too slowly on mobilizing a task force to study Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law.
So Sen. Chris Smith, D-Ft. Lauderdale, is forming his own task force.
Smith has been trying to push Gov. Scott to speed up the work of the task force, but the governor wants that work to wait until a special prosecutor finishes investigating the case.
"I've given the governor an opportunity to start the task force. I've asked him twice to start the task force and now instead of waiting on the governor to act, I've decided to lead in the state of Florida and I've assembled a task force to look at the controversial Stand Your Ground law," said Sen. Smith.
The Stand Your Ground law has come under increased scrutiny following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin because Sanford police said the law prevented them from arresting George Zimmerman when he claimed to shoot in self defense.
The law allows anyone to use deadly force in situations where they feel seriously threatened.
Sen. Smith says justifiable homicides in Florida have tripled since the law took effect in 2005. He believes the law is being used inappropriately by violent offenders to escape murder charges.
Now Smith is assembling a task force composed of state attorneys from Miami-Dade and Broward counties, public defenders and legal scholars from South Florida.
Smith says Gov. Scott was elected using the slogan "Let's Get to Work" but now he's refusing to get to work on a serious issue that's starting to hurt Florida's valuable tourism image.
"The Florida brand is being portrayed in a negative light each and every day on all of the major networks. As I appeared on different talk shows around the country, I received numerous people calling into these talk shows from Washington D.C. to Chicago to L.A. saying that I'm reconsidering coming to Florida if you have this law on the books and I can get shot walking back to my hotel in Orlando and that people now have a shoot-first mentality in Florida, I may not come to Florida. That's a problem. The Florida brand is bad right now."
Sen. Smith says his task force will deliver recommendations to the Governor and Legislature. The task force mainly includes Democrats and that's prompting questions about whether it can be objective.
Smith says he didn't consider party affiliation when he picked members for the task force.
"I've assembled legal minds not by party, but by people who have dealt with the law and everyone on the task force has some connection to the Florida Stand Your Ground use."
Gov. Rick Scott responded to the criticism by saying he's approaching the issue the right way. He says the most important thing in the case is to make sure justice prevails.
Scott said, "We have a great state attorney. Angela Corey's going to do a great job and we have to make that justice prevails for the Martin family and also for George Zimmerman. FDLE will do a very thorough investigation. The U.S. Attorney is involved. I think that's exactly what we ought to be doing now. We should do a task force and I appointed a task force.
"The House and Senate and Attorney General Bondi will add some members to it. We should do it. We should do it for public safety. We should always look at things like this and make sure we do the right thing. But the first thing you do is you do an investigation. You make sure justice prevails. Then you step back and say 'O.K., so what have we learned from this.' That's the right way of doing it."
Sen. Smith's task force will convene for the first time on Thursday in Broward County. The panel will take public testimony on the Stand Your Ground law.