We're in Florida right now, and this case has been all over my newspaper for days.
Seventeen year old, African American Travyon Martin, who was a Miami resident, went to visit his father in Sanford in central Florida. His father lives in a gated community, which means down here that there is a gate guard at all times whose job is to keep out non-residents. He got hungry one evening and decided to walk to the local convenience store, where he purchased iced tea & Skittles, and began to walk home. He was wearing a hoodie, because it was an unpleasantly rainy night. He was completely unarmed.
On his way home he was spotted by George Zimmerman, age 28, who is part white and part Hispanic. Zimmerman is described as "the neighborhood Watch captain." Why a neighborhood Watch is needed in a gated community is unclear to me.
Zimmerman took a gun, got in his car, and pursued Martin. Zimmerman called 911 to report a suspicious person. The 911 operator told Zimmerman to stay in his car and wait for the police to arrive. Meanwhile, Martin was alarmed. He phoned his girlfriend and told her that a strange guy was following him, and it had made him feel so stared at and uncomfortable that he pulled his hood up over his head. He then said he was going to try to lose the strange guy. He told his girlfriend the guy was right behind him again. His girl told him to run. He told her that he wasn't going to run, but he was going to walk fast.
The girlfriend then reports that Martin said, "Why are you following me?" Then another voice (presumably Zimmerman) said, "What are you doing around here?" These 2 questions were repeated. Then there was the sound of a scuffle, and the phone went dead.
Zimmerman says Martin punched him, and so Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.
In FL, there has been a law since 2005, that you are allowed to shoot people if you feel threatened. And, of course, everyone here can pretty much get a concealed carry permit for a handgun.
From the article:
A grand jury meets on the case in April. Federal authorities are also pursuing the case. It may be hard to get a conviction for anything, since clearly Zimmerman felt threated by Martin.Under the new law, there is no duty to retreat and it gives a Floridian the right "to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force," if he feels threatened.
However, since Martin's only threatening behavior, at least until they began to talk to each other, was being unknown to Zimmerman (and possibly, but not definitely, being seen as a black person dressed in a hoodie in a gated community), do you feel this defense should hold water?
Zimmerman says that Martin hit him before he scuffled with him. Martin is dead and can't comment.
In a larger sense, is the Florida law even constitutional, given that it allows someone who irrationally feels threatened to murder someone else? And if it is constitutional, do you think it is right?
The legislator who introduced the bill is backpeddling quickly to say that this situation is not quite what he intended:
Clearly, Zimmerman pursued and confronted Martin.The "Stand Your Ground" law's legislative sponsor, Florida Rep. Dennis Baxley, said it wasn't written to give people the power to pursue and confront others.
Since Zimmerman was told by the 911 dispatcher to stay in the car and wait for the police, and he didn't, can he legitimately claim self defense?
And again, should someone visiting a gated community stay inside at all times for fear of being murdered?
If the crime was murder, should it be prosecuted as a hate crime?
Should the Federal government be getting involved at all? This is not an ATF case, nor a drug case, so I suppose they are involved only because at first the local police were perceived as not doing anything-Zimmerman shot Martin, admitted it, and he should be arrested, was the thinking.
However, is it because the Feds are treating the case as a hate crime?
Should Zimmerman pay Martin's family in a wrongful death civil suit?
This will draw more attention in various media outlets as April approaches .