Tells Why ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws Must Be Amended
(Trice Edney Wire) – Benjamin Crump, the passionate Tallahassee, Florida lawyer, who represents the parents of Trayvon Martin, says he will continue to press vigorously for changes in so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws around the nation because he fears for other children – including his own.
“My greatest concern is the precedent that has been set. This is a terrible precedent because I have Black sons. I’m a Black man,” said Crump, a father of 15 and 19-year-old sons. “This is so scary for little Black and Brown boys and girls to say that you can confront me, kill me and the law protects you. When you do that, this is a terrible precedent. I unfortunately predict that any Tom, Dick or Harry that shoots one of our children now, the first thing they’re going to say is, ‘I was standing my ground.’”
Speaking passionately in the telephone interview with the Trice Edney News Wire, Crump said a “Trayvon Martin Amendment” would require courts to consider who initiated the confrontation that led to violence. “You can’t profile somebody, pursue them, start the confrontation, pick the fight and then shoot and kill them and say that you were standing your ground.”
Currently, most of the laws only require someone to believe their life is in danger before legally shooting or taking another life – regardless of the circumstance that led to the confrontation.
“We need to concentrate on getting this legislation passed so if anybody takes another life, Trayvon Martin’s legacy will be, ‘Were you the aggressor?’ Because we can’t have everybody killing everybody,” says Crump. “They know they cannot bring Trayvon back, but what they’re trying to do is change these laws with the hope that it will prevent anybody else’s children being killed in this manner and with these results from our justice system.”
According to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the 22 states that have ‘stand your ground’ laws are Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington and West Virginia.
In an open letter posted on the organization’s website, Lawyers Committee President/CEO Barbara Arnwine explains why these laws must be “critically addressed”.
“These ‘stand your ground’ laws extend the castle doctrine, which allows one to use deadly force when defending one’s ‘castle,’ to places outside the home. Although Zimmerman alleged traditional self-defense, he benefited from a jury instruction, which stated that he ‘had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.’”
Arnwine says because the laws do not consider the circumstances surrounding the incident, they “potentially increase violence and wrongful deaths based on misunderstandings, miscommunication, and racial prejudices.”
Crump, of the Parks & Crump law firm, is scheduled to march and speak alongside Trayvon Martin’s parents – Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton – during March on Washington anniversary events Aug. 24, much of which will larger focus on racial profiling of Black youth. He is realistic about the amount of public pressure it will take to amend the laws; especially since they are decided from state to state. It would take a sweeping move by Congress, but he believes the momentum and passion since the July 13 not-guilty verdict will help.
“By the end of the year we hope that the Trayvon Martin tragedy will have the impact that the Emmett Till and the Medgar Evers and the Martin Luther King tragic deaths had to promote the passage of the civil rights act of 1965,” he said.
A string of civil rights leaders are also pressing the U. S. Department of Justice to file a federal civil rights case against Zimmerman. They argue that the volunteer Neighborhood watchman profiled Martin; therefore went after him because of his race. Crump says the Martin family has not given up on any legal strategy.
“We’re considering all legal options right now,” he said. “They’re focused on still trying to hold the killer of their son accountable in the criminal courts. And they understand that in the court system, they have no power over any of this stuff. So they’re trying to impact what they can.”
The Martin family continues to heal following the 18 months since their teenage son’s Feb. 28, 2012 death in Sanford, Fla. A jury found Zimmerman not-guilty after he argued he was attacked by Trayvon despite evidence that clearly showed the youth to have been unarmed and non-threatening while being followed by Zimmerman.
“They were devastated by the verdict as we all were. It was heart-breaking,” said Crump. “They’re trying to take something very painful and very negative and make something positive out of it. And they’re trying to not have a defeated mentality and they’re trying to take on this very tall order.”
Heard a tweet, “What will we tell our boys?” That’s the question. President Obama so eloquently made his remarks a few days ago and said we have to encourage our men and boys.
Meanwhile other families across the nation struggle to explain to their children how to avoid such a fate. “The sad thing about it is you don’t want to have to tell them they don’t have a right to walk in peace; They don’t have a right to walk home from the store,” says Crump. “You don’t want to tell them that it’s a different America for them, that they can’t have freedom of expression, they can’t wear certain clothes because they would be perceived as criminals or suspicious or up to no good.”