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.
(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.
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.]
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.
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.”
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?
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 with sentencing or an acquittal:
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.
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, 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.
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.
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., 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. UPDATE: Jude received an eight year sentence on February 28, 2014.
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,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.
(UPDATE: This article has been edited since first publication to omit the words “in 2013” from the second paragraph, and also to add any other updates noted above)
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.
Since 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 over 80% of that number come from a petition started by Martin’s parents.
Although activism against the law has dropped dramatically, public sentiment against stand your ground law appears steady, sometimes refueled by news of homicides involving the possibility of stand your ground laws being invoked.
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 or 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 appeared to have had the most signers in February, 2014 – 427,605 – with a goal of 500,000 (In August, 2013, there were 383,844).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.