A blind man in Florida who shot and killed his friend has had two guns returned to him after being acquitted last month of murder under the state’s stand-your-ground law.
John Wayne Rogers, 40, shot 34-year-old James T. DeWitt in the chest with an assault rifle in March 2012, after a long drinking session in Rogers’ home in Geneva, in eastern Seminole County.
Prosecutors had charged Rogers with first-degree murder over the killing of DeWitt, who was staying the night, but a judge ruled that he had acted in self-defence.
Rogers, who was left legally blind after an industrial accident in 2011, told jurors that DeWitt had begun punching him and then came charging at him, threatening to kill him.
Rogers shot him once with a .308-caliber assault rifle.
In a hearing at the Seminole County Courthouse last week, the judge ordered that two guns be returned to Rogers, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Judge John Galluzzo said that he was legally required to return the rifle, as well as a 10-millimetre Glock pistol.
Rogers had argued that it was his constitutional right to bear arms and said that he needed the weapons for protection.
But the judge ordered the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office to destroy the ammunition that had been seized alongside the guns because it was old and unsafe.
After the 10-minute hearing, Rogers told the Orlando Sentinel: "I'm happy that justice was done."
The case has once again thrown Florida’s self-defence law into the spotlight.
The stand-your-ground law allows a person who "reasonably believes" they are in imminent fear of serious bodily injury to use deadly force to defend themselves, even if, despite their belief, no real threat exists.
The law was adopted in Florida in 2005 and has been copied in more than 20 states since then.
Civil rights groups and a handful of state legislators are urging a legal review of Florida's self-defence statute, saying it has created a license to kill for gun owners who hate or fear young black men.
Last year, George Zimmerman, a former central Florida neighbourhood watchman, was acquitted of murder after saying he shot a 17-year-old unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in self-defence.
Gun rights activists, backed by a Republican-controlled legislature, have resisted all efforts to undo the law.
Additional reporting by ReutersReuse content