The death of 17-year-old African-American Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., at the hands of George Zimmerman continues to spark debate over the role of race in the shooting, as well as Florida’s controversial Stand Your Grand law.
Sarasota’s Richard Swier wrote this week on the right-wing blog Red County that the Martin case piqued his interest “not because one young man was black and the other Hispanic, go to Los Angeles if you want to see blacks and Hispanics shooting one another.”
“What peaked my interest was how this shooting is being used by President Obama for political purposes,” Swier wrote.
“Will the New Black Panthers offering a bounty of $10,000 for the capture of this Hispanic man inevitably lead to his lynching?” Swier asked. “Are all blacks now vigilantes? Is this not what some are accusing Mr. Zimmerman of, his taking the law into his own hands? Will this lead to further conflict between the black and Hispanic communities in Florida and across the country?”
The New Black Panther Party offered a $10,000 reward for the capture of George Zimmerman “for the murder/hate crime of Trayvon Martin.”
Swier also criticized the federal government for “looking into this case, as if it cannot be handled by the local Sheriff, who has since recused himself. I believe he recused himself not because he is not fully competent and capable of conducting an unbiased investigation but rather because this case has become a national political football. When that happens justice cannot be served.”
Virginia Chamlee of The Florida Independent reported Tuesday that Florida Gov. Rick Scott told MSNBC, “There’s not enough information; no one has enough information,” when asked about the case.
Scott expressed confidence in State Attorney Angela Corey, who was picked to lead the investigation, saying she is “aggressive” and “anxious” to start the investigation, but also cautioned viewers against rushing to conclusions. “We do have to wait. We’ve got to get the information out before people make decisions about things,” he said. “And we’ve got to have due process for the individual that people are suggesting — that is George Zimmerman — did something wrong.”
The News Service of Florida reported that Scott “doesn’t want to rush the investigation into the shooting of Trayvon Martin and won’t expedite the work of a task force that will examine the state’s self defense law, a spokesman said Tuesday.”
State Rep. Dennis Baxley also spoke with the News Service. The Ocala Republican sponsored Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, the controversial 2005 measure that allows Floridians who feel they are being attacked to use deadly force instead of retreating, even when outside their homes. The law has come under fire since Martin’s death.
“This law is very clear,” Baxley told the News Service. “It defends you if you’re under a violent attack. If you’re the victim, you get to decide, and you get to make a response, and the overall effect has been much safer. I would hate to do anything that diminishes our citizens’ rights to protect themsleves from harm.”
“There is nothing in the statute that provides for any kind of aggressive action in terms of pursue and confront,” Baxley said, adding “that has been some misapplication of this statute.”
During a National Public Radio interview on Monday, Baxley said that Stand Your Ground does not apply in the Zimmerman case and that a three-fold increase of justifiable homicides in Florida since it was passed shows “the law is working.”
He added that the Martin tragedy should lead to a clarification of that application of the law, because “the statute itself is not bad policy.”