Trayvon Martin case draws celebrities, feds join investigation
Trayvon Martin's shooting death is attracting celebrity attention, including Spike Lee, Wyclef Jean, and Mia Farrow. The US Justice Department opened its own probe into the Trayvon Martin case in Florida.
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"STAND YOUR GROUND"Skip to next paragraph
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Police declined to arrest Zimmerman, and turned the case over to prosecutors, where it remains under review. Police cited Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, enacted in 2005 and now in effect in at least 16 other states.
Dubbed "Shoot first (ask questions later)" by opponents, the Florida law allows a potential crime victim who is "in fear of great bodily injury" to use deadly force in public places.
The landmark law expanded on legislation, known as the Castle Doctrine, that allowed use of deadly force in defense of "hearth and home." Passed under former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in 2005, it overturned a centuries-old doctrine that required the potential victim to retreat and avoid confrontation if possible, according to Ladd Everitt, spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, a Washington-based advocacy group.
"No one could argue that Zimmerman could not have safely retreated and avoided this conflict, and I think that is the critical element here and why these laws are so dangerous," Everitt said. "He (Zimmerman) does not have a duty to retreat in Florida."
Crump said Zimmerman should not be protected under the Stand Your Ground law. "It's illogical, you can claim self-defense after you chase and pursue somebody," he said. "That's a courtroom defense. That's not something the police accept on the side of the street."
Five years after Florida's Stand Your Ground law was enacted, a 2010 review by the St. Petersburg Times found that reports of justifiable homicides had tripled, and a majority of cases were excused by prosecutors or the courts.
Celebrity tweets over the weekend made #Trayvon a trending topic on Twitter, she said. Additional celebrities tweeting and posting on Facebook about the case include singers Clay Aiken and John Legend, filmmaker Michael Moore and actress Mia Farrow.
"This is a great moment for the entire nation to become educated in these Stand Your Ground laws," Everitt said. "It's unbelievably dangerous and really takes us to a situation where the rule of law is beginning to erode on our streets and vigilantism is being actively encouraged by these laws." (Additional reporting by Tom Brown in Miami; Editing by David Adams, Kevin Gray and Christopher Wilson)