One of the most infamous trials in modern history ended on July 13th, 2013. A Florida neighborhood watchman was acquitted in the murder of an unarmed high school teenager.
Now, five years later, a six-episode television series from Paramount Pictures – “Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story” – is coming this July. Executive producers are Trayvon Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton & Tracy Martin, along with Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, Chachi Senior, Michael Gasparro, Jenner Furst, Julia Willoughby Nason, and Nick Sandow.
The series is based on “Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin” a book by Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, and the network claims it will delve into the killing of Trayvon Martin with a “story about race, politics, power, money and the U.S. criminal justice system”.
In response to the auction, Lucy McBath, mother of Jordan Davis who was killed in November 2012 at a Florida gas station during an argument over loud music (whose killer used stand your ground as part of his defense) penned this oped for the New York Daily News, exposing how both the auction of the firearm that killed Trayvon and NRA-backed stand your ground laws (and the legislators who vote for them) share the same deplorable lack of value for human life.
Stand your ground laws make communities less safe by letting people shoot to kill in public places, even when they can clearly and safely walk away from danger. And now Missouri is on the verge of becoming the first state to pass a new stand your ground law since Trayvon was killed.
The research on how stand your ground laws endanger public safety and in particular, disproportionately affect African Americans, is clear:
Everytown for Gun Safety found that states with stand your ground laws have, on average, experienced a 53 percent increase in homicides deemed justifiable in the years following passage of the law, compared with a five percent decrease in states without stand your ground statutes during the same period—an increase disproportionately borne by the black community. And after Florida passed its stand your ground law, its “justifiable homicide” rate tripled.
A 2012 study by researchers at Texas A&M found that stand your ground laws are associated with an increase in homicides, resulting in 600 more homicides nationwide each year.
The Urban Institute also examined racial disparities in justified gun homicide rulings that involve a single shooter and victim who are strangers. The researchers found that when white shooters kill black victims, 34 percent of the resulting homicides are deemed justifiable, while only 3.3 percent of deaths are ruled justifiable when the shooter is black and the victim is white.
Beyond all of that, Missouri’s SB 656 would also dismantle the state’s concealed carry permit requirement and allow people – including some violent criminals – to legally carry hidden, loaded handguns in public without a permit or any safety training. Missouri legislators passed this despite opposition from 76% of Missourians.
These are all reasons why hundreds of volunteers with the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Everytown for Gun Safety, have made phone calls, sent emails, met with their lawmakers and testified to defeat SB 656. The bill is now on the Governor’s desk.
Source: Everytown for Gun Safety/Moms Demand Action press release
By now, you’ve probably heard that George Zimmerman placed an online auction on the gun he used to fatally shoot Trayvon Martin. He said the U.S. Department of Justice returned the gun to him, after holding it since his acquittal on July 13, 2012.
When many of us saw the name of America’s human disaster trending on twitter last week, we were hoping he had died, right? This latest fiasco by a sick, troubled, publicity hounding, murdering nut who claims to be so “patriotic” means some disturbing, haunting emotions and memories America experienced three years ago will return.
My first reaction was not to publicly post or comment on this. To just let it ride, while America’s reactions played out on major news outlets, and give it time to blow over. Then my own emotions took control, and the anger, disgust, and pain seeped into the fingers typing these words. As I waited to observe the original online auction, it mysteriously disappeared right about the time it was scheduled to begin.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that GZ later sent a text which read that the auction site “was not prepared for the traffic and publicity surrounding the auction of my firearm.” That site later issued a statement saying it reserves the right to reject listings, and had done so with this one.
So he cut and pasted the gun and description onto another site, unitedgungroup.com, with the same starting bid of $5000. The site publicly changed their position regarding the auction, at first denying, then allowing the sale (presumably at the advice of their legal counsel), conceding he had as much right to sell his weapon on their site as anyone else did.
The description says that sale proceeds will be used to “fight BLM violence against Law Enforcement officers, ensure the demise of Angela Correy’s (sic) persecution career and Hillary Clinton’s anti-firearm rhetoric.” It ends with the Latin words Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum (If you want peace prepare for war).” –
If there was any good intention in this creep, he would have donated the gun to a museum, or had it destroyed. Instead, he claims in the sale description that he turned down a Smithsonian offer, but the museum has issued the following statement on twitter:
We have never expressed interest in collecting George Zimmerman’s firearm, and have no plans to ever collect or display it in any museums
This new auctioneer site reportedly crashed as the second auction began, but was back up the next morning. The auction was scheduled to run 4 more days. But after it was targeted by fake bidders, and reached a high bid of $65.4 million USD, that user’s account was deleted.
Then a new bidder posted a high bid of $485,000. The disturbed gun owner soon deleted the first auction himself, vowing to start over days later, and did so yesterday (May 17), with a starting bid of $100,000.
This time, only about three or four serious bidders and a couple of fake ones participated. In the end, it appeared the gun had sold to someone named David Thorne for $138,800 – although a hacker named John Smith (with a widely reported fake last-minute bid of $138,900) made several attempts to derail the sale with fake bids.
The auction was immediately deleted from the site after it ended. If all auction attempts failed, GZ reportedly claimed he still had several private offers.
The freedom to sell anything he owns would also apply to the vehicle he drove on the night he fired the fatal shot on Trayvon Martin, or the clothes he wore that night. Yet, for anyone to attempt to profit from a tragedy that shook the nation is as callous and unpatriotic as trying to sell hurricane memorabilia to storm survivors.
How sad. How utterly insulting, disgraceful, disrespectful, distasteful, atrocious, ignorant, shameless, selfish, and blatantly obnoxious. We could go on and on with adjectives that deliberately cut open wounds that haven’t healed, to describe how this feels, and what it means.
One thing that should never happen is that a murder weapon in a case like this can be used against the emotions of America. It’s an ultimate insult to the victim’s family – and all those who protested the outcome of one of the most famous trials in our history.
The reality of what the auction means is all too painful. It’s the ultimate slap in the face to everyone who thought it was a disgraceful injustice when a man who fatally shot an unarmed teenager walked free.
UPDATE: This article has been edited as originally published to include facts established by auction observation such as a widely reported last-minute bid of $138,900, which was established to be a fake bid.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In a case with echoes of the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman incident, a Florida man concerned over a rash of neighborhood burglaries is reportedly claiming self-defense after he chased, confronted, and killed a young man who was wearing baggy pants and a hooded sweatshirt whom he found suspicious.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that Claudius Angloricardo Smith, 32, is charged with second-degree murder and is being held without bond for killing 21-year-old Ricardo Sanes last Thursday, at The Fountains at MetroWest, an apartment complex in west Orlando.
But Sanes who, from his facebook page, appears to be the father of a young son, wasn’t carrying a bag of Skittles and iced tea. Police found that he was armed, with a .40 caliber handgun in the crotch of his pants. He sustained bullet wounds to the upper back and back of his neck.
When police told Smith about the wounds, he reportedly claimed they must have been exit wounds. He also claimed he didn’t know Sanes had a gun before the police told him.
According to police reports obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, Smith’s girlfriend, watching a video surveillance screen, spotted someone in dark clothing “walking around his yard,” who “was last seen climbing over the fence into” the apartment complex.
Smith told police he had “a recent problem with burglaries at his house…and he was certain the unknown male was responsible, so he began chasing the unknown male.”
According to police, Smith, who has a concealed-carry permit, said he jumped a fence into the complex, armed with a .45-caliber handgun, and saw Sanes “looking into windows of apartments as he walked past them.”
Smith said he pulled his gun and confronted Sanes, who tried to walk away, so he grabbed Sanes’ hooded sweatshirt and tried to force him back to his house “so the police could be called.”
Smith told police Sanes “punched him in the mouth and grabbed for the gun, so he pulled the trigger. Smith said he was afraid Sanes was armed “because his pants were falling down and his hands were in his hoodie pockets.”
Smith’s sister reportedly claimed he was so distraught that he was “crying and vomiting” after the shooting, when he told her he had shot somebody. But not only did he leave the scene of the shooting, but he discarded the murder weapon, and couldn’t give a reasonable explanation for either action.
Smith also claimed to have surveillance video he said “would prove this was the second time Sanes had tried to break into his house” in 10 days. But when police got there, the video recorder was gone, and Smith claimed he didn’t know who removed it or why
The similarities to the Trayvon Martin shooting are obvious — both Martin and Sanes wore hoodies. And both shooters claimed concern over recent burglaries, both went after the victims, both said they were attacked first, and both said they fired their guns in self-defense.
Yet, Smith’s argument is weaker: Sanes was shot from behind; Martin was shot in his chest, and Smith reportedly admitted to physically restraining the person he suspected at gunpoint. Zimmerman didn’t.
UPDATE: Claudius Angloricardo Smith was ultimately convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years in prison (with credit for having served 368 days without bond) on February 5, 2015.
In a tale of two murders, the victims were very much alike. Both had the same teenage passions that all 17-year-olds have. Both teens were born in February, both were killed (though miles apart) in Florida, and both in the same year.
Both had loving parents who had divorced, leaving a void that only a child’s heart could feel. And both of these 17-year-old teens were black. Yet, one is now a household name. The other, some people may have never heard of – yet.
They now share a common legacy. Each was killed by someone who had the option to invoke Florida’s “stand-your-ground” law. The shooter in each case has never showed or expressed public remorse, and neither shooter claimed stand your ground immunity. At least, in one case – not yet.
Yet, the differences are all too clear. Trayvon Martin, whose name is now a legend, may have even been considered ‘thuggish’ by some standards.
He was alone when he was killed in a quiet apartment complex on a rainy February night in Sanford, Florida two years ago by George Zimmerman, a Peruvian-white man, with no apparent witnesses to the shot being fired. Zimmerman waited for police, was questioned, and released, but wasn’t arrested until months later, after a public outcry.
The trial lasted a month, and Zimmerman was acquitted on July 13, 2013, leading to protests, marches, petitions, boycott threats, demonstrations, a fear of riots across America, and a nationwide call from media, civil rights groups, and others to end stand your ground laws.
Jordan Davis, in comparison, could possibly be considered a ‘choirboy’ in comparison. The family attorney, John Philips, has said Davis was an “all-American kid”.
Nine months after Martin was killed, Davis sat in the back seat next to a friend in an SUV, with another friend in the front passenger seat, waiting for the driver who had gone inside the store at a bustling, lit-up Jacksonville gas station the night after Thanksgiving, on November 23, 2012.
A Volkswagen Jetta pulled into a parking spot next to the SUV booming Chief Keef’s rap music. The driver, a 47-year-old white guy named Michael Dunn, waited as his girlfriend went inside the store to buy wine. Dunn later told police he “ordered them to turn the music down”.
According to Rolling Stone, the friend in the front passenger seat turned the sound down, but Davis reached over the console and cranked it back up. He and Dunn threw f-bombs at each other as the SUV driver got back into the driver’s seat.
Dunn said, “You’re not gonna talk to me like that”, reached into his glove compartment for a 9mm gun, and began firing, killing Davis in the back seat. Dunn was arrested the next day, after police traced his license plate, and has been in jail awaiting trial ever since.
While Dunn has not yet claimed stand your ground immunity. He has claimed he felt threatened and claims he saw the barrel of a gun in the SUV, but no gun was ever found.
A real test case for stand-your-ground is coming early next year. Dunn’s trial, originally scheduled to start September 23, was rescheduled to February 3, 2014 at the behest of his attorneys.
Maybe this will be America’s real wake up call, so that many people who still think stand-your-ground law is all good will see the loopholes, see how it actually jeopardizes society, realize it is in fact a very dangerous, flawed law, and take action by starting over to change it.
[UPDATE: Cordell Jude sentencing scheduled for January 8, 2014 has been postponed to February 28. 2014]
In many of the cases where stand your ground immunity was claimed, it was later denied, a murder charge reduced to manslaughter or dropped, and a manslaughter conviction was successful.
Just because there’s a stand your ground law in your state doesn’t mean you can just kill another person and not go to prison for it. Historically, long before “stand your ground” (“no duty to retreat”) came into play, the law in every U.S. state would appear to have still warranted at least a manslaughter conviction in many cases where an unarmed person was killed.
Although state laws can vary on sentencing, manslaughter was the final verdict recently, in the cases of Cordell Jude, who killed Daniel Adkins, Jr. in Arizona, and Quentin Wyche, who killed Kendall Berry in Florida. Neither victim was armed.
Both cases, connected to the web of situations involving stand your ground laws, and over 2300 miles apart, went to court this month, with a conviction in Arizona and sentencing in Florida.
Kendall Berry, 22, was a star sophomore running back at Florida International University. They may not have even realized they had played together in the same kids’ football league or pickup basketball games.
But on March 25, 2010, they tangled on the FIU campus over Berry’s girl. Wyche had smashed a cookie in her face earlier that day, because she wouldn’t give him a ride on the campus golf-cart shuttle she drove.
Berry, with several football teammates, confronted Wyche, who ran away, with Berry following. As Berry caught up with him, Wyche pulled a pair of scissors from his backpack, said something like “I’m gonna get you”, or “kill you”, according to witnesses, and lunged back at Berry, causing his death.
Wyche claimed immunity under Florida’s stand your ground law, but it was later denied. He was convicted of manslaughter in September. Last week, on November 25, Wyche, now 25 years old, was sentenced to 20 1/2 years in prison.
On April 3, 2012, Daniel Adkins, Jr., a 29 year-old disabled Hispanic-American man, was walking his dog in Phoenix, Arizona when Cordell Jude, then 22 years-old, an African-American driving with his 8-months pregnant girlfriend, pulled out of a Taco Bell drive-thru.
Jude told police he slammed on his brakes as he almost hit Adkins walking across the parking lot exit. He said Adkins shouted something at him, then approached and hit his car with something that looked like a bat or pipe. Jude claimed he fired a gun he kept in his lap as Adkins was about to swing at him again. The only object found on Adkins was a dog leash.
Jude was later charged with 2nd degree murder. On November 20, he was found not guilty of second degree murder but convicted of reckless manslaughter in what is called “reverse Trayvon Martin” case. He faces 7 to 21 years in prison when he is sentenced on January 8, 2014.
At a hearing on last Thursday, Florida lawmakers gave some young people a slap in the face, voting 11-2 against a bill calling for a full repeal of the state’s stand your ground law.
The Florida House of Representatives also gave some attendees the impression they had come into the hearing with their minds already made up that they would shoot down SB 4003, a bill introduced by State Representative Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee).
The lawmakers questioned Williams at length during the five-hour hearing, with much grilling coming from Chairman Matt Gaetz, who sometimes appeared to try to ridicule Williams’ attempts to sell the bill. Gaetz has been infamously quoted as saying he will not change “one damn comma” of Florida’s stand your ground law.
Williams insisted that his bill would simply cause the state’s current self-defense law to revert to its original form, what he called “common law” that existed before the 2005 legislation which enacted stand your ground law.
Gaetz used the opportunity draw an analogy between stand your ground with Williams’ common law, referring to the two as “buckets of laws”, one with more self-defense rights (stand your ground), and the other with less rights. He questioned which would be more preferable to someone who had the urgency to defend themselves.
The Webster Room in Florida’s Capitol was almost filled to capacity with about an equal amount of polarized HB 4003 proponents like the Dream Defenders, and opponents like NRA members occupying opposite sides of the room.
“Remember November” were the words used by Dream Defenders leader Philip Agnew as he spoke at the hearing. He was referring to next year’s state elections, when legislators seeking re-election face this new young breed of voters. Teenagers as young as 14 years-old spoke in favor of a repeal.
The lawmakers also heard from Lucia Mcbath, mother of stand your ground victim Jordan Davis, as she made another impassioned plea calling for changes in the law. She had appeared days earlier at a U.S. Senate hearing on stand your ground.
Ron Davis, the teenager’s father, also called for changes, and the House heard from attorney Daryl Parks, representing Sybrina Fulton & Tracy Martin, parents of Trayvon Martin, who were not at the hearing.
Gun advocate Marion Hammer, a past president of the NRA, made a short statement, purporting that “stand your ground is a good law”, and many other gun advocates spoke out against the repeal bill, or waived their chance to speak in opposition.
Before the lawmakers even voted on Williams’ bill, several in the proponent camp appeared to believe that the House would vote against the repeal. Agnew, the Dream Defenders leader, said, “It’s not over. We’ll just regroup and come back stronger next time.”