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White Sheets Surrounding Florida Teen's Slaying

By       Message Linn Washington       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink

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opednews.com Headlined to H3 3/20/12

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In March 1799 authorities in North Carolina found no fault in a teen fatally shooting a black man after confronting that man about his being on a public road.

In February 2012 authorities in Florida found no fault in a man fatally shooting a black teen after confronting that teen about his being on a public road.

How authorities in Sanford, Florida have handled the fatal February 26th shooting of 17-year-old black teen Trayvon Martin by a town watch operative in Sanford, Florida is sparking outrage nationwide.

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That slaying does raise the specter of race-tainted inequities that have roiled through American society since before the formal inception of the United States.

Police in Sanford, outside Orlando, quickly accepted the claim of George Zimmerman, 28, that he shot Martin in self-defense while he was allegedly losing a fight with the younger, physically smaller teen. Zimmerman is a three inches taller and is nearly 100-pounds heavier than Martin.

Zimmerman called 911 telling police he saw Martin acting suspiciously. Police told Zimmerman not to confront Martin but he rejected the police orders. A scuffle ensued where Zimmerman shot Martin with a 9mm pistol.

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Zimmerman is a self-appointed town watch captain and wannabe policeman with a checkered past. Neighbors have reportedly complained about Zimmerman's aggressive behaviors. He's called police 46-times in the past year in his town watch capacity. In 2005 police charged Zimmerman with assaulting an officer but dropped charges.

Federal authorities are now investigating the fatal shooting of Martin by Zimmerman who Sanford police cleared without doing any background check on Zimmerman who was once arrested for assault on a policeman or conducting tests to see if Zimmerman was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the shooting as some contend citing the sound of Zimmerman's voice on 911 tapes.

Martin, when killed by Zimmerman, was walking back to a relative's home after buying a bag of candy and a can of ice tea from a convenience store. Martin, a well-respected high school student, had no criminal record.

The shooting of Martin, however, raises an issue as equally contentious as racism -- the propriety of Florida's controversial 2005 "Stand Your Ground" law which turned self-defense law on its head by removing the duty to retreat before using deadly force against an alleged attacker.

That law additionally allows the use of deadly force against unarmed persons.

In May 2010 a Florida man successfully cited the "Stand Your Ground" law following his shooting of another man during a fight at a beach where he shot that man in the back of the head as that man was getting out of the water.

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Since this law's approval Florida authorities have cited it in finding legal justification in nearly 400 homicides according to media accounts. Almost two dozen other states have adopted similar laws.

This law, backed by the National Rifle Association, allows the use of deadly force under the loose standard of if a person "reasonably" believes their life is in danger.

Police and prosecutors in Florida opposed changing traditional self-defense standards warning the looser "Stand Your Ground" standards were ripe for abuse creating what critics termed a shoot-first/ask-questions-later environment.

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Linn Washington is a weekly columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune and This Can't Be Happening. Washington writes frequently on inequities in the criminal justice system, ills in society and failings of the news media. He teaches multi-media urban (more...)
 

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