THE DEBATE OVER THE KILLING OF TRAYVON MARTIN

Trayvon Martin a 17 year old African American teenager was shot and killed by George Zimmerman a 28 year old Caucasian/Hispanic male member of the neighborhood patrol near Martin’s father’s fiancee’s house in Sanford Florida. Zimmerman was stalking Martin who he said looked “suspicious.” Zimmerman who has not been charged has not elaborated on what he meant when he said Martin looked suspicious. But I think that it is safe to say that among the factors leading to Zimmerman’s description were 1) Martin was African American, 2) Martin was wearing a hoodie, and 3) Martin did not live in the neighborhood. 1

The stories vary widely as to what happened. The witnesses disagree. Some agree with Zimmerman that he was attacked. They say he was knocked down, punched and shot Martin in self defense. Others point to a cell phone conversation Martin was having with his girl friend at the time of the incident. He said he was being followed and the phone went dead as if he was knocked down. Those supporting Martin point to a video of Zimmerman at the police station. No blood can be seen on his clothing.

But all agree that Zimmerman stalked Martin and that he shot him. Zimmerman has not been arrested since the State Attorney 2 says there is not enough evidence at this point to convict him. The state attorney certainly has a duty not to charge Zimmerman if she feels she cannot get a conviction. But the question is whether Zimmerman’s claim of self defense is reasonable. Under Florida’s law a person may use deadly force “and does not have a duty to retreat if . . [he] or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.” Forcible felonies under Florida law are “treason; murder; manslaughter; sexual battery; carjacking; home-invasion robbery; robbery; burglary; arson; kidnapping; aggravated assault; aggravated battery; aggravated stalking; aircraft piracy; unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb; and any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual.” Certainly if you believe Zimmerman’s story Martin committed a “forcible felony. But since when does a State Attorney believe the self servicing statement of a killer. But you have witness statements that go both ways. Furthermore with ongoing investigations by the state attorney, the Florida attorney general, and the FBI forensic evidence will provide more evidence. It can be expected that we will discover how far away Zimmerman was from Martin when he shot him and at what angle the bullet was shot from. These reports will provide more evidence either exonerating or incriminating Zimmerman.

There has been much talk about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law” but this is a red herring. The law only applies to those who are defending themselves against someone who has either entered or attempted to enter one’s house, occupied vehicle or dwelling. 3 Under no version of the incident was Martin attempting to enter a residence, vehicle or dwelling.

But the day when an African American teenager can be shot for being Black, wearing a hoodie and being in the wrong neighborhood must come to an end.

Notes:

  1. He lived with his mother in Miami Gardens.
  2. A State Attorney in Florida is the equivalent of a district attorney in other states. A State attorney may cover one or more counties in Florida
  3. Don’t ask me what is the difference between a residence and a dwelling.

One Response to “THE DEBATE OVER THE KILLING OF TRAYVON MARTIN”

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  1. Mark Bennett says:

    You’ve got the stand-your-ground law wrong.

    The law is here.

    See subsection 3: A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be 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 reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

    I’m not saying that it applies, but it doesn’t only apply to dwellings.

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