A man who allegedly opened fire on three neighbors is invoking Florida’s stand your ground law and the Bush Doctrine as legal defenses against the criminal charges pending against him.
William T. Woodward, 44, was involved in an ongoing feud with the other men in Titusville, Florida, and he allegedly shot and killed two of them on Labor Day 2012. The third survived. The case is now finally coming to court. The trio allegedly threatened Woodward prior to the shooting. In footage of the police interrogation (see embed above), Woodward explains that he and his family have been tormented by the three men for months.
Lawyers for Woodward have filed a motion in court to get the case against their client dismissed.
Woodward, a combat veteran, has been charged with first degree felony murder and attempted first degree felony murder. Through his lawyers, he is asking for a stand your ground hearing before a jury rather a judge, a request unlikely to be granted. According to Florida Today, “Officials say Woodward snuck up on a Labor Day barbecue and opened fire at about 12:30 a.m. on Sept. 3, 2012. Police arrived and found Gary Lee Hembree, Roger Picior and Bruce Timothy Blake all had been shot. Hembree and Picior died of their injuries. Blake, who was hit 11 times, survived.”
The stand your ground law basically says that any American not engaged in any unlawful activity may “meet force with force,” including the use of deadly force to prevent great bodily harm. The law, which has been in effect in Florida since 2005, does not require the victim or alleged victim to retreat.
The law, which is also on the books in other jurisdictions, became immersed in a national controversy in the George Zimmerman murder case. Although the Zimmerman defense team did not rely on the law during the criminal trial in Seminole County, Fla., it was the stand-your-ground law that at least in part convinced police to initially dismiss Zimmerman as a murder suspect.
In their legal papers seeking a dismissal, the suspect’s lawyers in the Titusville shooting also cite a national security principle as a possible justification for what happened. “Woodward’s attorneys argue that an attack could have been expected based on the words of his neighbors. They go on to mention the ‘Bush Doctrine,’ a presidential concept that justifies a pre-emptive attack based on the need to defend from a threat.” The Bush Doctrine centers on international affairs, particularly in the context of the Iraq War, rather than a neighborhood dispute, however.
At the time of the shooting, a neighbor said of Woodward, “These people had been harassing him for over a month. He just finally snapped,” WESH reported.