A Miami-Dade appeals court has agreed with a man's claim of immunity under Florida's "stand your ground" law in the 2008 shooting deaths of two men outside a restaurant.
In a decision Thursday, the court ordered that murder charges against Gabriel Mobley be dismissed. Third District Court of Appeals Judge Linda Ann Wells wrote in the 2-1 opinion that Mobley acted reasonably because the slain men were the aggressors even though they were unarmed.
"The shooting at issue did not occur in a vacuum," Wells wrote. "Mobley did not shoot two innocent bystanders who just happened upon him on a sidewalk."
The shootings happened after an argument in which one of Mobley's friends was punched. Mobley, who had a concealed weapons permit, testified that he thought one man had a weapon and that he was frightened.
Miami-Dade prosecutors tell The Miami Herald that they will appeal the decision..
"This is what is so frustrating about the way the law is structured," said Miami-Dade Chief Assistant State Attorney Kathleen Hoague. "It is devastating for the victims' families. They never get to have their day in court before a jury."
Prosecutors charged Mobley months after reviewing surveillance footage that captured the altercation.
Mobley's defense attorneys hailed the ruling, saying Jason Jesus Gonzalez and Rolando Carrazana were the aggressors.
"Anyone who says that Mr. Mobley had other options or time to make a long, thought-out decision before using force, has never been in that unthinkable situation - where the possibility of never again seeing your family hinges on your split-second reaction to two violent attackers," said attorney Eduardo Pereira.
The "stand your ground" law came under intense scrutiny in the 2012 shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin. A jury acquitted George Zimmerman in that case.
Mobley's case is the first time a Miami-Dade appeals court has overruled a lower court judge and extended immunity.
Last year, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Thomas Rebull refused to dismiss the murder charges, saying that Mobley's testimony was not credible and that his use of deadly force was "neither reasonable nor necessary." In a dissent Thursday, appeals court judge Vance E. Salter defended Rebull's decision.