Trayvon Martin was walking home from a convenience store in Sanford, Fla., last month when he was shot dead by George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watch captain, in what he claimed was an act of self-defense.
The killing has inspired a heated debate across the nation about Florida laws, racial profiling and the punishment the shooter should receive, if any at all. The murkiness of the events preceding the shooting makes it difficult to condemn Zimmerman for cold-blooded manslaughter. Additionally, to the dismay of many, Florida state laws make it nearly impossible to charge Zimmerman in this type of case anyways.
The details of what ensued between the two individuals has just begun to surface, and it is difficult for police and the public to piece together what exactly happened. However, I agree with the majority of Americans — nearly three out of four — who say the police should arrest the neighborhood-watch volunteer who killed an innocent teenager, according to a new national survey by CNN.
Martin was walking home with only Skittles and iced tea in his backpack, wearing jeans and a hoodie while talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone when he caught Zimmerman’s eye by apparently looking suspicous. Zimmerman called 911 to report his suspicion of Martin, and despite the dispatcher’s instructions not to follow him, Zimmerman got out of his car and began chasing after him.
The girl who Martin was talking to said during the phone call “she heard someone ask Martin what he was doing and heard Martin ask why the person was following him … The girl then got the impression that there was an altercation in which the earpiece fell out of Martin’s ear and the connection went dead,” according to an article by CNN.
It remains uncertain what happened next, but whether Martin threw the first punch or not is irrelevant information. If a man followed you with a gun in hand, it would not surprise me if the person being followed acted in self-defense, which is protected by the same law saving Zimmerman from arrest right now. However, it was Martin who shot and killed an unarmed teenager even when he knew police were on their way.
Ultimately, Martin would be alive today if racial profiling had not been a factor and Zimmerman had simply followed the 911 dispatcher’s instructions to stay away. Despite Zimmerman’s claims that he is not racist, an individual wearing a hoodie is not reason enough for suspicion, and conclusively murder.
Sadly, Sanford authorities say they could not arrest Zimmerman under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which allows people to employ deadly force to defend themselves any time they feel a reasonable fear of death or serious injury.
Before, Florida’s law stated that when faced with confrontations, individuals had a duty to retreat rather than to respond to provocations. Now Florida’s population is allowed to respond with a gun if someone comes at you with a fist, which is a disproportionate reaction.
Additionally, the law relies on the understanding of the situation by the attacker. It is difficult for a court to decide whether a situation actually presented reasonable fear or not, so most often the perpetrator is not charged. This gives violent individuals a safe means of lawful coverage to hide behind when they irrationally decide to pull the trigger — like Zimmerman.
With this information in mind, it is not surprising that “since the law went into effect, reports of justifiable homicides have tripled in Florida,” according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
While the anger towards Zimmerman by Martin’s family and the public is understandable, Gov. Jeb Bush who signed the law should have something to answer for as well. The outrage concerning Martin’s death needs to also be directed towards Florida legislators who voted for the Stand Your Ground law, which resulted in the creation of another valid excuse for murderers on trial.
This law takes the U.S. a few steps back in time to a less civilized, more barbaric nation. A time where people can walk around with their sawed off shotguns shooting anything they detest, making me feel like Florida is caught in a bad scene from the movie “Shoot ‘Em Up.”
The U.S. is better than this law and if Zimmerman is not legally punished for the murder of Trayvon Martin, hopefully the “Stand Your Ground” law will be altered before another person discriminatorily and inexcusably murders and then hides behind it. For now a word of advice to those visiting Florida while this outrageous law continues to be in effect — leave the hoodies at home.