Benjamin Crump continues to advocate for other families across the U.S. affected by stand your ground laws. (Courtesy of Vaughn Wilson)
The word stunned might best describe how U.S. citizens, particularly blacks, felt after hearing that a six-member jury, following two days of deliberation in a Florida courthouse last July, found George Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
One year later, with increased cases in which defendants have used the “stand your ground” law to avoid prosecution, civil rights leaders and activists have ramped up efforts to challenge a criminal justice system that often treats blacks and women as second-class citizens.
“Blacks seeking justice must continue with protests, pressure and patience,” said Benjamin Crump, the civil attorney for the Martin family. “We cannot ignore the realities that were unearthed in the wake of this still-shocking verdict – realities that exclude an honest and frank dialogue on race. Stand your ground is a broken doctrine of jurisprudence. It does not work in the same way for all Americans. A year passing may make things easier to ignore, but it does not mean they no longer exist,” said Crump, 44, a partner at the Tallahassee, Florida-based law firm of Parks & Crump, LLC.
Crump joined the parents of Trayvon, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, and a host of celebrity guests on Saturday, July 19 for a Peace Walk and Peace Talk engaged black youth and allowed them to share their feelings about the February 26, 2012 murder of Trayvon and to discuss subsequent shootings of blacks allegedly targeted because of their clothing, hairstyles, musical predilections or skin color at the historic Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles.
The shooting of one black youth, Jordan Davis, 17, serves as another high profile Florida case in which the shooter, a white man named Michael Dunn, 47, attempted to justify his actions saying he felt threatened after confronting Jordan and three other teens in their Dodge Durango outside of a convenience store on November 23, 2012. After complaining about the volume of their music, Dunn shot into the vehicle 10 times, with three bullets cutting through Jordan’s liver, a lung and his aorta.
“We now wait for the retrial of Michael Dunn for my son’s murder, but no matter what the jury decides I know it will be God’s ruling that has the final say,” said Lucia McBath, Jordan’s mother.
“If the murderers of Trayvon and Jordan could stand their ground why couldn’t our children? Black parents know that the rules are different and even though we try our best, we cannot protect them from laws that almost make it a crime to be black. We must go after the legislators who voted for stand your ground laws and get them out of office,” said McBath, who now serves as a national spokesperson for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group of mothers from all 50 states formed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. Twenty-six states have enacted so-called stand your ground laws, including Georgia, Texas and Michigan, which remove the requirement to retreat before using force in self-defense. Florida passed the first such law in 2005, allowing people to stand their ground instead of retreating if they reasonably believe doing so will “prevent death or great bodily harm.” Other states followed with laws specifically affirming one’s right to defend themselves, even outside of their homes and with deadly force if necessary.
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