In Memory Of Trayvon Martin Feb 5, 1995 – Feb 26, 2012

In Memory Of Trayvon Martin (Feb 5, 1995 – Feb 26, 2012), a video by Diego Rodriguz found on YouTube, with a montage of sometimes familiar, touching photos of Trayvon Martin, offers a poignant memorial to the African-American teenager whose death on February 26, 2012 opened widespread, heated debate on race and gun rights in America.

As his killer continues to be a free man, we do hope Trayvon may rest in peace, yet that may not happen until the battle is won to change or repeal stand your ground laws.

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Rev. Al Sharpton Leads Florida March Against Stand Your Ground

(UPDATED) Reverend Al Sharpton and the National Action Network will be joined by the parents of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, and Attorney Benjamin Crump as they lead a march through Tallahassee on March 10th calling for a repeal of “Stand Your Ground’ laws in Florida.

Nation Action Network Stand Your Ground Rally

Participants are asked to arrive by 9:00 a.m. for the march, which starts at 9:30 a.m. from the Tallahassee Leon County Civic Center, 505 W. Pensacola St., and ends at the State Capitol at 400 S. Monroe St.

A rally at the State Capitol will immediately follow the march.

Last week, Sharpton joined many others in decrying the verdict in the Michael Dunn trial. In a statement, Sharpton said, “The mistrial further sends a chilling effect to parents in the twenty-three states that have the stand your ground law or laws similar. It requires the civil rights community to head into Florida, which is now ground zero for a national fight to change that law.”

[UPDATE: March 7, 2014 - Overflow parking will be in the city parking lot at the southeast corner of South Bronough and West Madison Streets.  The lot is accessible from South Bronough Street.The rally after the march will be at Walter Park, on the west side of the Capitol building.]

Blind Man In Florida Stand Your Ground Case Wants His Guns Back

[UPDATE: February 22, 2014 - Stating he was legally bound to do it, a judge ordered two guns confiscated from John Wayne Rogers to be returned to him]

A legally blind Florida man who was granted stand your ground immunity last month in the murder of a friend wants his guns back, and probably will get them.

John Wayne Rogers, 40, of Geneva, had been charged with first degree murder and was facing a life sentence for the death of James Dewitt, 34, on March 27, 2012.

A judge stopped a trial after two days of testimony, on January 10, and granted Rogers immunity under Florida’s stand your ground law. Rogers had spent two years in jail while awaiting trial. His weapons were  confiscated after he was arrested.

John Wayne Rogers

John Wayne Rogers (Seminole County Police mug shot)

Rogers, an ex-Marine who got the guns before an industrial accident caused his blindness, has filed a motion to have his weapons returned. Assistant State Attorney David Whateley reportedly said “I have no legal reason to ask the court to deny the motion.”

In an Orlando-Sentinel video, Rogers says, “I’m legally blind — not totally blind. I’m not running around the woods hunting or being paramilitary.… I’m not even carrying a concealed weapons permit. The firearms are for here, for my own protection.”

He won’t be the first blind man to fight for his right to bear arms. In 2012, a blind New Jersey man, Steven Hopler, won a four year battle to have his weapons returned after they were confiscated as a result of him shooting himself in the leg.

Rogers said he’s never been in trouble before “except for once..once other time I’ve been in trouble in my life.” That “once” is undoubtedly an incident in which he fired 15 shots from a handgun at a cousin after a night of drinking and fighting, according to court records. The cousin was bruised but not shot.

Rogers was charged with aggravated assault in that incident but made a plea deal, pled no contest to a lesser charge (unlawfully displaying a firearm), and was placed on probation, which was revoked when he physically assaulted a woman a year later, earning him 71 days in jail for domestic violence, according to court records.

What do you think? Should Rogers get the guns back?


(Video by Orlando Sentinel)

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8 Awful Closed Cases Of Stand Your Ground

Every incident of an unarmed person being killed by a weapon is awful, the complexity made worse when it involves stand your ground, and the wounds are never closed in these cases.

Florida leads this pack of several high-profile stand your ground cases that were closed in 2013 with sentencing or an acquittal:

Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin, 17, Florida – On February 26, 2012 America’s most infamous case of stand your ground happened in the small city of Sanford, Florida when an unarmed teenager named Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman. Hundreds of others had already been killed under self-defense statutes enacted in 2005.

Since it was the first state to initiate these new laws, it was widely assumed that Zimmerman would be acquitted under stand your ground law. But he never claimed stand your ground immunity. The jury was allowed to hear language from the law, which arguably may have been the basis for an acquittal on July 13, 2013.

 

Kendall Berry

Kendall Berry

Kendall Berry, 22, Florida – On March 25, 2010, Berry, a star sophomore running back at Florida International University, confronted Quentin Wyche on campus over Berry’s girl after Wyche had offended her earlier that day.

Wyche ran, and when Berry – who was not armed – caught up with him, Wyche pulled scissors from a backpack and lunged, stabbing Berry to death.

Wyche, now 25-years-old, claimed immunity under Florida’s stand your ground law, and was denied. He was convicted of manslaughter in September, 2013
and sentenced to 20 1/2 years in prison on November 25, 2013.

 

Darrell Niles (twitter photo)

Darrell Niles

Darrell Niles, 17, South Carolina – On April 18, 2010, after a night out in Columbia, Niles, a high school athlete, only wanted to make sure some girls he knew made it home ok. Niles, who was unarmed, was shot and killed as he sat in his car by Shannon Scott, 33, the father of one of the girls.

Scott turned himself in and was arrested for murder three days later. After a successful stand your ground immunity hearing, Scott was freed of all charges in October, 2013.

 

Kelly Danaher

Kelly Danaher

Kelly Danaher, 36, Texas – On May 1, 2010 in Houston, Raul Rodriguez, 46, a retired firefighter, complained about loud music coming from the birthday party for school teacher Danaher’s 3-year-old child.

Holding a video camera, a phone, and a gun, Rodriguez told a police dispatcher that he felt threatened and said, “I’m standing my ground here” [see the video here] as he fired his gun on a group of unarmed men, killing Danaher and wounding two others. Rodriguez was charged with murder. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison on June 27, 2013.

 

 

Timothy Davis. Jr.

Timothy Davis. Jr.

Timothy Davis, Jr., 22, Florida – One of the most awful stand your your ground incidents ever to happen was on October 1, 2011, in Apopka when retired policeman Timothy Davis, Sr., 47, shot and killed his namesake son, Tim, Jr. The younger but unarmed son was at the Davis home arguing with his ex-girlfriend over their child.

Tim, Sr. intervened, taking sides with his grandchild’s mother, but Tim, Jr., a high school football star, retaliated by attacking his dad, who retrieved a pistol and fired two rounds, killing Tim, Jr. At a jury trial on February 14, 2013, the father was acquitted of second-degree murder.

 

Daniel Adkins, Jr.

Daniel Adkins, Jr.

Daniel Adkins, Jr., 29, Arizona – On April 3, 2012, Adkins, a disabled Hispanic-American man walking his dog in Phoenix, was shot and killed outside a Taco Bell restaurant by Cordell Jude, a 22 year-old African-American man, after a shouting match caused when Jude’s car almost hit Adkins.

Jude said Adkins swung at him with an object. The only object found on Adkins was a dog leash. Jude was later charged with second-degree murder but found not guilty, but convicted of reckless manslaughter in what is called the “reverse Trayvon Martin” case. He faces 7 to 21 years in prison when he is sentenced on February 28, 2014.

 

Darius Simmons

Darius Simmons

Darius Simmons, 13, Wisconsin – On May 31, 2012, in Milwaukee, 75-year-old John Henry Spooner confronted an unarmed teenager about a burglary in which guns were stolen from Spooner’s home. As the teen’s mother watched Spooner shot the youth in the chest, fired another shot that missed, and tried to shoot again but the gun jammed.

Spooner was found guilty of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison, with no chance of parole, on July 22, 2013, and ordered to pay $58,551 in restitution to the Simmons family.

 

Walter Conley

Walter Conley

Walter Conley,32, Florida – On March 10, 2013 in Brandon, Ralph Wald, 70, woke up and found his 40-year-old wife in the living room having sex with Conley, who Wald shot and killed, claiming he thought Conley was raping her. Conley was not armed.

Wald was charged with second-degree murder, but acquitted on May 31, 2013.

 

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Stand Your Ground Protesters Arrested In Georgia

Moral Monday Georgia Stand Your Ground Protesters

Moral Monday Georgia protesters demonstrating against the state’s stand your ground law were arrested February 10. 2014. (photo credit: Max Blau)

About 23 people protesting Georgia’s stand your ground law in a demonstration by the Moral Monday activism movement were arrested in the office of State Senator Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) at the Coverdell Legislative Office Building in Atlanta Monday.

Senator Stone is the chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. The group wanted to meet with the lawmaker about his handling of SB 280, a bill introduced by Senator Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) to repeal the Georgia stand your ground law. Georgia’s self-defense laws contain a “no duty to retreat” statute enacted in 2006.

Stone’s staff told the protesters that the Senator would meet with only two representatives of the group – without cameras – but the protesters wanted the lawmaker to come out and speak with them all as a group, so the demonstration started, with members singing and holding signs.

Soon after, state troopers arrived. Some demonstrators left, but those who remained were handcuffed and arrested.

Later, Stone told reporters that the Moral Monday group was “disrespectful” because they didn’t schedule an appointment, then turned down his offer of meeting with only two members.

Ten members of the movement, including Senator Fort, were arrested two weeks ago in a Moral Monday demonstration against Governor Nathan Deal’s opposition to expanding Medicaid for the poor.

Moral Monday held a rally against stand your ground last Monday, and Fort said a hearing on SB 280 held last Wednesday was “cut short” by Stone. Fort is waiting to reschedule the hearing.

Although Fort had called for a “full and fair hearing”, he has said the hearing last week was “not full nor fair.” He called Stone’s handling of the hearing “disrespectful”.

Petitions Against Stand Your Ground Reach Over 500,000 Names

sign petitions against stand your ground lawsSince the Trayvon Martin shooting over 500,000 names have been added to online petitions calling for a review, change, or end to stand your ground laws, and about 80% of that number come from a petition started by Martin’s parents.

It may sometimes be fueled by news of homicides involving the possibility of stand your ground laws being invoked, but public sentiment against stand your ground appears to be rising. In fact, there’s no shortage of petitions against the law, and the number of signatures appears to be increasing.

Popular internet petition sites like Change.org, credoaction, and MoveOn contain most of the requests, which call for change or repeal of stand your ground law and even Florida boycotts.

Change For Trayvon“, a petition on Change.org, calls for the Governors of 21 states to review and amend stand your ground laws. This petition was started in 2012 by Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin (parents of Trayvon Martin) and appears to have the most signers – 427,605 – with a goal of 500,000 (In August, 2013, there were 383,844 names).

One petition on ColorOfChange.org, calling for an end to “Shoot First” laws had collected 46,890 by August of last year. And another, to repeal stand your ground laws across America – started by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense only a few months ago – has 26,547 signees and a current goal of 30,000.

Moral Mondays activism, accompanied by news of stand your ground incidents, has helped the names on a petition to repeal stand your ground in Georgia soar from 384 in August last year to over 8400 this month.

A couple of other petitions have closed after reaching their goals or becoming ineffective, such as one asking Florida to review the laws, or calling for repeal and another to repeal Florida’s stand your ground law, which had a goal of 10,000 and closed at over 16,000 by last August.

Back in August, right after starting this site, I put together a list to help anyone searching for online petitions against stand your ground laws. Here’s an updated list of over a dozen, as of February, 2014 (Happy Signing!) -

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Trayvon Martin Foundation Hosts Peace Walk

An organization started by the parents of Trayvon Martin hosts a “peace walk” and free community program in Miami this weekend that promises motivational speakers, music, and food.

The Trayvon Martin Foundation, founded by Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, is sponsoring a Trayvon Martin Remembrance Peace Walk starting at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 8.

Trayvon Matin Peace Walk

The program begins with a one-mile walk from Miami’s Carol City Park, 3501 NW 185th Street to the Betty Ferguson Center, 3000 NW 199th Street. Registration is required, and can be done online at the Trayvon Foundation website. Participants are requested to arrive at 8 a.m. to check in and receive line placement.

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A Million Hoodies Call For Music Turned Up For Jordan Davis

The Million Hoodies Movement For Justice is calling for a Day of Action to turn the music up throughout America on February 16, the birthday of Jordan Davis, gunned down after an argument over loud music by Michael Dunn, whose trial began this week.

Jacksonville, Florida Mayor Alvin Brown has proclaimed February 16 as Jordan Russell Davis Day.

The National Day of Action includes turning radios all the way up, mobilizing across the country, and signing a petition calling for Justice for Jordan Davis.

The movement is using the twitter hashtag #MusicUp4JD to promote the Day of Action., and participants can RSVP to the Hoodies.million hoodies logo

Million Hoodies is an award-winning activism movement started in response to the Trayvon Martin shooting. The group reports over 50,000 members, and helped generate global support for the arrest of George Zimmerman after he was not immediately charged in the shooting.

The group is trying to recruit local chapter organizers across the country. For more information go to the Million Hoodies website.

Rally To End Stand Your Ground In Georgia

Moral Monday Georgia is staging a rally against stand your ground law in Georgia at the state capitol in Atlanta at 4:00 p.m. tomorrow – Monday, February 3, to gain support against SB 280, a bill to repeal Georgia’s stand your ground law.

Georgia rally against stand your ground law

Moral Monday Georgia is a grassroots social justice group modeled after protest groups in North Carolina. Moral Monday protests are characterized by engaging in civil disobedience by entering the state legislature building and then being peacefully arrested. The protests are generally partisan against Republican actions.

Senator Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) and nine other people were arrested last Monday inside Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s office and charged with obstruction and criminal trespassing while protesting the governor’s opposition to expansion of Medicaid programs for the poor.

The rally tomorrow precedes a hearing on Wednesday, February 5, in the Georgia House on a bill introduced by Senator Fort to repeal the Georgia stand your ground law.

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Jordan Davis Family Prepares For Michael Dunn Trial

As the trial of Michael Dunn gets underway on February 3, Lucia Mcbath, the mother of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, is making the rounds of network interviews, preparing for Dunn’s trial and telling the story of her fight to change or end stand your ground laws to anyone who’ll listen.

Jordan was gunned down while sitting in a friend’s SUV at a Jacksonville, Florida gas station in November, 2012 by Dunn after an argument over loud music.

Dunn’s attorney has said he may claim self-defense immunity under stand your ground laws because he said he felt theatened.

Jordan Davis’ family has been ordered not to show any support or emotion at the trial.

Yet, Mcbath and Jordan’s father Ron Davis have been tirelessly and emotionally sharing their story across the country since the tragedy, to gain support and awareness in the struggle for gun control and against stand your ground laws.

Mcbath testified last year at a U.S. Senate hearing on stand your ground, and at a Florida hearing to repeal stand your ground laws held last November. She also became the official national spokesperson for gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action.

Ron Davis has campaigned for changes to the law, and slammed the law and his son’s killer, Michael Dunn, in a radio interview last year.

In an interview with CNN two weeks before the February 3 Michael Dunn trial, Mcbath discusses how the George Zimmerman trial for the shooting of Trayvon Martin may impact this trial.

WATCH THE FULL CNN INTERVIEW WITH LUCIA MCBATH:

Georgia Senator Hopes To End Stand Your Ground

[UPDATE: This hearing was postponed due to weather conditions in Atlanta, and will now be held at 3:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday, February 5, 2014]

Georgia will hold a hearing before the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee on a bill to repeal the state’s stand your ground law on Wednesday, January 29, and advocates are calling on supporters to “pack the house”.nd stand your ground in Georgia

The bill, SB 280, introduced by Senator Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), seeks to repeal the statute relating to “no duty to retreat” in Georgia’s self-defense laws. The hearing will take place at 3:00 p.m. (EST) in Room 307 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building, located at 18 Capitol Square in Atlanta.

Georgia Senator Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta)

Georgia Senator Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta)

Senator Fort said in a statement that he is calling for “a full and fair hearing” on SB 280, something he claims was not done with a related bill last session. He said this bill, “seeks to end the morally wrong practice of allowing individuals to shoot first and ask questions later, a startling fact that is simply unacceptable for the citizens of this state.”

Advocates are calling on supporters to rally behind the bill and pack the house for this hearing. A facebook page promoting this event has details on parking and directions. Fort hosted a Georgia town hall meeting in December that was well-attended.

Georgia has been rocked by several incidents which may involve the state’s controversial law. One incident last year was on Veteran’s Day in Catoosa County, when a 17 year-old was shot and killed by a homeowner during a burglary.

Georgia stand your ground vicitim Ronald Westbrook

Ronald Westbrook

Notably and most recently, in November, 72 year-old Ronald Westbrook, who suffered from advanced Alzheimer’s disease, was killed after ringing the doorbell and turning a doorknob at a home in Walker County.

In November, Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition filed a lawsuit against Georgia challenging the state’s stand your ground law, as a result of two cases.

In one case, James Christopher Johnson III, a 25 year-old African-American, was killed at a nightclub in March of last year after an argument with a white man who was harassing his girlfriend. His killer later claimed stand your ground and was acquitted.

In another case, Herman Smith, Jr., 21, an African-American, was sentenced to life last year for killing a man at a birthday party in November, 2012.

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Country Singer Wayne Mills Shot From Behind, Bar Owner Claims Self-Defense

After coming from a George Jones Tribute concert on a Friday night in Nashville last year, ‘outlaw country’ music performer Wayne Mills headed over to the Pit & Barrel, a popular downtown Nashville music spot run by his friend Chris Ferrell, who shot him in the back of the head, and is claiming self-defense.

For over fifteen years, Mills, 44, had toured with his band and performed in the Nashville area as one of the hottest bands in the college circuit.

Wayne Mills

Wayne Mills (photo: waynemillsband.com)

During Mills’ career, country music’s Entertainer of the Year Blake Shelton, 2006 American Idol winner Taylor Hicks, and country singer Jamey Johnson each opened for him as they were seeking stardom. Mills had just finished a tour with Johnson within his last couple of weeks.

At the Pit & Barrel in the early morning hours of November 23, Mills had posed with the bar owner Ferrell, also 44, and other folks for a photo. Less than an hour later, just before 5:00 a.m., Mills was shot in the back of the head by Ferrell, who is charged with second-degree murder. Mills died at a hospital over 12 hours later.

An autopsy report released at a discovery hearing last week confirmed the gunshot wound as well as scrapes, bruises, and broken ribs.

Chris Ferrell

Chris Ferrell (police mug shot)

Ferrell, a sinister-looking character with a concealed-carry permit, claims he shot Mills in self-defense after an argument over Mills smoking in a no-smoking area of the club. His attorney claims he is not guilty. Ferrell is free on a $150,000 bond, and a status hearing is scheduled for February 6, but no trial date has been set.

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