By Andrew Revord
Few high school students probably fear being killed while coming home from
7-Eleven after grabbing some snacks. Unfortunately, that is exactly what
happened to Trayvon Martin, a black 17-year-old from Sanford, Florida who was
shot and killed by the 28-year-old George Zimmerman who is white, a
self-appointed neighborhood watch captain, on Feb. 26.
Police tapes released a month later of a 911 phone call Zimmerman made
before the shooting revealed Zimmerman had reported seeing Martin wearing a
hoodie and called him “suspicious” and decided to follow him. Zimmerman claimed
Martin attacked him, prompting him to shoot Martin in defense. Martin was found
dead, armed with nothing more than the convenience store junk food he had
Zimmerman claimed he had acted in self-defense. Under Florida’s “Stand Your
Ground” law, which effectively allows citizens to use any force they deem
necessary when they feel physically threatened, Zimmerman’s actions would be
The shooting prompted a U.S. Department of Justice investigation and
sparked a national outcry that has only been increased by the recently released
police tapes, which raise doubts about the legitimacy of Zimmerman’s claims of
acting purely in self-defense. Zimmerman was accused of racial bias and the
Florida police were accused of incompetence and racism for not arresting him on
While the racial aspect of the Martin case has grabbed the national
spotlight, the heart of the issue is the fact that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground”
law allows people to carelessly kill others under broad circumstances in the
name of “self-defense,” while their victims are basically guilty until proven
In this case, doubts have only been raised about the authenticity of
Zimmerman’s story and it seems more and more likely that he was not justified in
In spite of the police advising him not to, Zimmerman followed Martin and
shot him. Witnesses reported hearing a cry for help and then a gunshot.
Zimmerman claimed the cry for help was his.
Recently, two forensic experts analyzed the cry for help in the police
recording, each using different techniques. According to Tribune Newspapers,
both concluded the cry for help probably wasn’t Zimmerman’s. One of the experts
thought the voice sounded like a young man’s, probably Martin’s.
Zimmerman claimed Martin had knocked him down and slammed his head agaisnt
the ground, leaving him with a broken, bloody nose and a wound on the back of
his head. Police video surveillance tapes released Mar. 28 show Zimmerman after
the scuffle, with no apparent damage to his face or head.
On the police tapes of the call, Zimmerman is heard mumbling something,
possibly a racial slur, before shooting Martin. Some have said that
automatically assuming a black teen wearing a hoodie could be “suspicious” is
racist in itself.
Zimmerman’s family and many of his neighbors, both black and white, have
defended Zimmerman, who is half Hispanic, against accusations of being a
Even if Zimmerman is not racist, or was he motivated by racism to shoot
Martin, Florida’s law still allowed him to shoot and kill someone under dubious
Even assuming Martin did attack without Zimmerman provoking him at all,
that doesn’t automatically justify the use of lethal force unless Zimmerman’s
very life was truly threatened and he feared for it.
At best, “Stand Your Ground” and similar legislation allow people to use
excessive force whenever they feel a need to defend themselves. At worst, it
makes it easier for people to get away with murder. Either way, The Trayvon
Martin case is just another example of how laws like “Stand Your Ground” do not
make innocent people safer in the legal sense or in reality and don’t make it
easier for authorities to truly enforce justice. Such laws should be amended or
Rest in peace, Trayvon. We may never know all the how’s and why’s of your
death, but your tragedy inspires us to always stand our own ground for “liberty
and justice for all.”
To sign a petetion demanding Zimmerman be brought to justice, go