Civil Rights

Eric Holder condemns stand-your-ground laws, as DOJ probes Trayvon Martin slaying


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Eric Holder

In the wake of a controversial not-guilty verdict Saturday in the slaying of an unarmed black teenager by a volunteer neighborhood watch member who said he feared for his life, the nation’s top law enforcement officer has criticized applicable state law that supported a Florida jury in reaching its determination.

Attorney General Eric Holder suggested Tuesday that so-called stand-your-ground laws nationwide should be reconsidered, according to Fox News and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req). Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is reviewing the Trayvon Martin slaying to determine if his civil rights were violated.

“Separate and apart from the case that has drawn the nation’s attention, it’s time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods,” said Holder in his prepared remarks for a speech at the annual NAACP convention in Orlando. (In a press release provided to the ABA Journal, the organization says more than a million people have joined in the NAACP’s call to sign a petition asking the DOJ to file civil rights charges against George Zimmerman, the acquitted defendant.)

An American Bar Association National Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws began work in January and is scheduled to hold a final hearing seeking public input on the laws on Aug. 9 at the ABA’s annual meeting in San Francisco, as an earlier ABA Journal article discussed.

In other responses to the acquittal of Zimmerman, protesters rallied throughout the country and singer Stevie Wonder said he will no longer perform in the approximately two dozen states that have stand-your-ground laws, according to FACT Magazine and the Hollywood Reporter.

The New York Daily News has a photo gallery of protesters.

However, problems with the state’s case and the way jurors perceived Martin and at least one of the government’s key witnesses also may have played a role in Zimmerman’s acquittal, experts told USA Today after the verdict.

Zimmerman’s lawyers portrayed the case against him as baseless and perhaps racially motivated, but at least one, after the verdict, called Martin’s death a tragedy, the Los Angeles Times (sub. req.) reported.

See also:

American Bar Association (press release): “American Bar Association Creates National Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws”

Los Angeles Times (opinion): “Misperceptions fueled the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman tragedy”

The Two-Way (NPR): “‘Dear George Zimmerman’ Letter Hits Home With Many”

NPR: “Will ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws Stand Up To Scrutiny?”

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