When a burglar carrying a bag of stolen car stereos swung it at Greyston Garcia's head, Garcia swung back with his fist -- in which he clutched a kitchen knife.
Garcia recovered the bag, which held his own stereo, and went home thinking he'd seen the burglar run away uninjured.
But the burglar later died and, months after the Jan. 25, 2011, confrontation, Garcia was facing a second-degree murder charge in a Miami-Dade County courtroom. Garcia claimed self-defense, citing Florida's 7-year-old "stand your ground" law, which is also at the center of the Trayvon Martin shooting case.
A neighbor had alerted Garcia in the early-morning hours that two men were burglarizing vehicles in the neighborhood, including his truck. Garcia ran out and yelled at them to drop the radios, but Pedro Roteta ran with the loot, provoking a chase that ended with the fight. Garcia was arrested the day after the incident.
Circuit Judge Beth Bloom threw out the murder charge this week, finding that Garcia's "use of force was justified in order to defend himself from the victim's actions."
Florida pioneered the law, which states that any person who is attacked "has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force," if he or she fears death or great bodily harm.
Martin, 17 and unarmed, was shot to death in February by George Zimmerman, 28, a neighborhood watch volunteer who claimed self-defense.
Zimmerman has not been charged.
Bloom issued her written ruling Tuesday, finding that when Roteta swung a 4- to 6-pound bag at Garcia, he prompted the deadly blow as a "necessary defense" for Garcia's life.
A medical examiner testified that there were no signs of twisting or side-to-side lacerations. The examiner also said a bag of metal swung at the head could cause serious injury or death.
The state attorney's office, which prosecuted the case, is reviewing the matter for appeal.
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