Criminal Justice

Justice Department to Investigate Death of Fla. Teen; Does 'Stand Your Ground' Law Protect Shooter?

Federal authorities will investigate the death of a black Florida teen shot and killed by a neighborhood watch captain.

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will join with the FBI to investigate the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was shot last month after he left his home to buy some Skittles, according to the Associated Press and the Washington Post.

The watch captain, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, says he acted in self-defense. According to police tapes, he called police after seeing Martin to report the youth seemed suspicious. The dispatcher advised Zimmerman not to follow the teen. The AP story says Zimmerman disregarded that advice. Zimmerman’s father, however, issued a statement saying his son did not follow or confront Martin, and did not target him because he is black.

Prosecutors could be hamstrung by a Florida law that allows residents to stand their ground and to “meet force with force, including deadly force” if they feel threatened, AP says. The state was the first to pass a “stand your ground” law. About half of all U.S. states now have similar laws.

Updated at 10:50 a.m. to correct typo in headline.

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.