The killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager who was walking back home with his hands occupied by some candies and a cellphone, by an armed hispanic watch crime volunteer in Sanford, Florida has finally make top news after three weeks despite the terrible circumstances that in any other case would jump to the first line in seconds. Trayvon, 17, shot dead and his killer, called George Zimmerman, wasn’t even arrested by the police because claimed self-defense. A gun in the hands of a 28 years old man against some bags of candies and a cellphone, in the hands of a kid almost half his weight and the claim of self-defense passed like that, without much of questioning.
Finally, protests and public appeals have bring attention to the case.
Then, the police said that they didn’t arrest the killer out of fear of a lawsuit, because the protection provided by the so-called law “Stand your Ground” that grants immunity in cases of self-defense using a gun not only in home invasions but also on the streets if the one who uses the extreme force fells a great threat or danger from the other one. Even if there is space and opportunity to retreat or escape of the danger, the law protects the right to “stand the ground” and face whatever it comes without criminal consequences if there are injuries or even death as a result.
In this case, according to witnesses and tapes of calls to the 911, Trayvon Martin was walking home with some candies and a can of Ice Tea he had purchased in one hand and a cellphone in the other talking with his girlfriend, when he noticed that someone was following him in a SUV. His girlfriend said she told him to run, but he told her he would walk faster. The driver was an armed civilian volunteer who watched the kid. He called his “handler” and told him that the boy was acting suspiciously, looking to the houses, and that had something in his hands probably drugs. Despite the handler told him to let go, George Zimmerman with an insulting expression against blacks, went out of the vehicle and run after Trayvon, then there were some cries for help that stopped suddenly with a shot.
It seems that this “Stand Your Ground” law has made possible that other cases classified as self-defense with deaths didn’t reach a trial or the desk of a prosecutor or a judge, which I think is terrible wrong, because every violent death deserves an investigation and a claim of self-defense cannot be a free passport to immunity. Self-defense has to be proportional to the danger and the same existence of the danger has to be proved. If not, the law is a sort of coming back to the Wild West or the Law of the Strongest, Faster and best Armed.
Some questions popped to me at this case: why have this armed civilian crime watchers? there’s not enough budget for a proper police force , well-trained and disciplined instead of delegating in civilians that can be biassed, or simply not trained?. Why it took three weeks for this story to reach out the borders when we are so used to have news about weird shootings from the States? because the boy killed was black?, because it was bad press for the self-defense laws? because revealed the problems between minorities?
Reading this story I only can think in three facts:
One: Here played a mix of a bad law and a racist view. It’s clear that for the Crime Watcher in this case, “black boy walking in my street tonight” was equal to “trouble” “undesired”. There is a black President in the White House, but in the streets things are going slowly, it seems.
Two: A law that allows a violent death to pass without a proper investigation and it’s perpetrator with immunity and the benefit of the doubt and made possible that the case never reach the court is evidently a bad law.
Three: The more guns out there, the more shot-gun victims will be.
- Florida shooting: What we know about Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman (news.blogs.cnn.com)
- Trayvon Martin case: George Zimmerman should be charged, law’s authors say (theprovince.com)
- the Progress Report: Tragedy of Trayvon Martin (point4counterpoint.wordpress.com)
- Stand Your Ground fathers: Trayvon Martin’s killer should likely be arrested, doesn’t deserve immunity (miamiherald.typepad.com)