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Thursday, March 22, 2012

We Join The Courier Journal Editorial In Decrying The "Senseless" Murder In Florida Of Trayvon Martin By George Zimmerman, And We Also Wonder Why The Assailant Is Getting Away With It -- So Far.

Editorial | Trayvon Martin's senseless death

On the evening of the NBA All-Star Game, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin left the Sanford, Fla., home he was visiting to go to a convenience store to pick up some snacks for his little brother. He never made it back.

Instead, he met up with George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old man who lived in the gated community Trayvon was visiting, belonged to the area’s Neighborhood Watch and had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Minutes after Mr. Zimmerman called 911 to report a suspicious character (news media would report that Mr. Zimmerman called 911 nearly four dozen times in little more than a year), he said he and Trayvon got into a scuffle. Mr. Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon and told police it was in self-defense. Trayvon was unarmed but for the Skittles and the Arizona tea from the 7-Eleven.

Local police have not arrested Mr. Zimmerman in the incident, saying no evidence thus far undercuts his version of events; Trayvon, of course, is not around to tell his story — although his family’s attorney says a cell phone conversation Trayvon had with his girlfriend as the incident began contradicts Mr. Zimmerman’s account.

Why the seeming pass for Mr. Zimmerman? Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, versions of which are shared by other states, allows citizens the use of deadly force for self-defense regardless of their surroundings. For the record, law enforcement was dead-set against legislators passing this law, which was supported by the National Rifle Association.

Last month’s tragedy in Sanford has picked up volume, speed and mass given the nucleus of issues at its heart: race (Trayvon was black; Mr. Zimmerman is white Hispanic), stereotyping, law and law enforcement, special interests, easy access to guns, and long memories of longstanding injustices regarding black men in the South.

The outcry over the lethal incident and the law in the middle of it has blown past local boundaries, spawning rallies and protests, in addition to social media movements, by people who promise to stand their ground in defense of a slain, unarmed teenager.

Likewise, investigation into what exactly happened that Sunday evening in February has eclipsed that of the Sanford Police Department. The area’s state attorney has convened a grand jury; the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has become involved and, on the federal level, the U.S. Department of Justice is looking into the death of Trayvon Martin.

There are troubling questions about this encounter, and this case, that should invite the attention of all Americans.

Even if the “Stand Your Ground” law allows great latitude for claims of self-defense, why did the police only run a blood-alcohol test and a background check on the dead young man and not on the man who shot him? “My child was profiled. He was stereotyped,” said Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father.

Critics of the statute call it the “shoot first, ask questions later” law. How comfortable should anyone be that this law is being used by gang members, drug dealers, road ragers and jealous lovers (per The New York Times) to avoid the legal consequences of deadly force, and that the number of justified “self-defense” killings has jumped significantly since the law became vogue?

In the wake of a son’s violent death, a heartbroken father said, “We aren’t letting our son die in vain.”

That should be the nation’s wish for Trayvon Martin, too.

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