News

    US Shooting Case Puts Spotlight on Controversial Law

    Civil rights activists and protesters gather on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall as they seek justice for 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Los Angeles, California, April 9, 2012
    Civil rights activists and protesters gather on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall as they seek justice for 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Los Angeles, California, April 9, 2012

    A special prosecutor in the southern U.S. state of Florida said a grand jury will not look into the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white, Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer in February. Under Florida law, the decision eliminates the possibility of a first-degree murder charge in the case - and leaves the decision to bring any charges to prosecutor Angela Corey alone.

    So far, the shooter has not been arrested or charged with a crime because of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law - which says a person has a right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force. The case has renewed a national conversation about gun laws.

    Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman said he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in self-defense during a confrontation, after calling the police emergency line to report a suspicious person:

    Dispatcher: "Are you following him ?
    Zimmerman: "Yes."
    Dispatcher:"Ok, we don't need you to do that."

    The case has cast a spotlight on Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which gives people the right to protect themselves with deadly force, even outside of their homes.   

    Zimmerman told police he shot Martin after the teenager punched him and slammed his head on the sidewalk. Authorities did not charge Zimmerman with a crime because of the law.

    But former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who signed the statute in 2005, doesn't think it applies in the Trayvon Martin case.

    "'Stand Your Ground' means 'Stand Your Ground.' It doesn't mean chase after somebody who's turned their back," Bush said.

    Supporters of the "Stand Your Ground" law said it has reduced violent crime and protects citizens who are trying to defend themselves. Greg Stone favored expanding gun rights laws.

    "Its been proven over and over again that it will make it more safe. An armed society is a polite society," said Stone.

    Daniel Gross with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence disagreed, and told members of Congress the law needs close examination.

    "In Florida law enforcement authorities do not have the discretion to take away licenses to carry concealed weapons even from those who have killed unarmed people, which occurs with alarming regularity in states like Florida with Stand Your Ground or, more aptly named 'Shoot first, ask questions later', laws," said Gross.

    Florida law enforcement data indicate the number of justifiable homicide cases tripled in the first five years the "Stand Your Ground" law was on the books.  Florida criminal defense attorney Kendell Coffey via Skype.

    "The way it [the Stand Your Ground law] is being applied and the way juries are reacting, it's tantamount to a license to kill anytime the shooter makes a claim of self-defense and there are no eyewitnesses to contradict the shooter's claim," said Coffey.

    Former Florida state senator Durell Peaden, who helped craft the law, said it was not meant to allow abuse. "This law says nothing about vigilante type law. It says nothing about following anybody, it says nothing about those premeditated points by carrying a gun when you are following anyone," he said. "Those issues were not addressed and not intended to be addressed in this law."

    More than half of all U.S. states have similar laws.

    The controversy surrounding them continues to grow. Many of the demonstrators who have taken to the streets since the Trayvon Martin shooting hope lawmakers will take a closer look and take steps to revise them.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora