WASHINGTON, March 20, 2012—Honoring Trayvon Martin, the young man allegedly gunned down by neighborhood crime watch captain and gun carrying vigilante, George Zimmerman, #Trayvon quickly became a worldwide trending hashtag.
Hundreds of thousands of people, including celebrities, signed a Change.org petition, Tweeted and utilized social medias to demand the arrest of George Zimmerman.
Responding to that social media pressure, though it has taken twenty-three days, the Florida Justice System and the FBI announced on Monday, March 19, they will review the case.
“The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all of the evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
Citing Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, enacted in 2005 under Governor Jeb Bush, and presently on the books in seventeen states including Illinois, Ohio, and New York among others, police had not arrested George Zimmerman.
Also referred to as the Castle, or Defense of Habitation, Law Stand Your Ground is a doctrine that “designates a person’s abode as a place where a person has certain protections and immunities and may in certain circumstances attack an intruder without becoming liable to prosecution.”
However, Zimmerman shot and killed the child on the street, not in or near his home and witnesses reports raise questions about how the shooting could be justifiable homicide.
Prior to the shooting, Zimmerman called police while “patrolling” the neighborhood in his car, reporting “a real suspicious guy.”
“This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about,” Zimmerman told dispatchers. “These @!$%#s. They always get away.”
Reports are that several neighbors also called emergency responders reporting that they could hear cries for help, which were followed by a gunshot.
The child’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, claims that the voice yelling for help belonged to her son.
The child was simply walking home from the store with nothing more dangerous than a bag of Skittles candy in his pocket according to reports.
However Zimmerman, ignoring directives from the police dispatcher, allegedly chose to chase and engage the child, shooting him to death, then claiming self-defense and the Stand Your Ground law.
Those against the Stand Your Ground law call it “Shoot first (ask questions later)” as it allows a person claiming they are “in fear of great bodily injury” to use deadly force in public places.
It can also be used to shelter someone who kills unjustifiably, which is the fear of those who suspect Zimmerman of killing Trayvon without provocation.
The recent law overturns centuries-old doctrine requiring a person to retreat and avoid confrontation, versus confront and “stand” against another person.
Ladd Everitt from the Washington-based advocacy group to Stop Gun Violence, told MSNBC “No one could argue that Zimmerman could not have safely retreated and avoided this conflict, and I think that is the critical element here and why these laws are so dangerous,” Everitt said. “He (Zimmerman) does not have a duty to retreat in Florida.”
Ben Crump, the Martin family lawyer says that Zimmerman should not be protected under the Stand Your Ground law.
On dispatch recordings, the operator can be heard telling Zimmerman to stand back and not pursue the suspect, a command that Zimmerman ignored.
Attorney Crump says the Stand Your Ground law should not shield Zimmerman from arrest. “It’s illogical, you can claim self defense after you chase and pursue somebody,” he says. “That’s a courtroom defense. That’s not something the police accept on the side of the street.”
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