Trayvon Martin’s Killing and Our Deep Distrust of Government
By Bryce Covert, Next New Deal Editor
It seems the grieving family of Trayvon Martin, the slain 17-year-old whose killer has thus far gone free due to a claim of self-defense, may get some justice. The US Department of Justice announced today that it will investigate the killing and the local police's bumbling investigation into the crime.
But we still need to talk about the conditions under which this crime took place. Martin was killed by a neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, even though the 911 operator Zimmerman had called to report Martin’s “suspiciousness” told him not to pursue. The law that may have emboldened Zimmerman, and that has most definitely shielded him from proper prosecution, is referred to as Florida’s “stand your ground” law. Passed in 2005, it kicked off a wave of similar legislation across the country that expanded the rights of civilians who use lethal force in self-defense, undoing the former requirement that they retreat from confrontation when possible. And as Liliana Segura reported in 2008, “The new laws are particularly expansive in that they go beyond the boundaries of private homes to include cars, workplaces or anywhere else a person may feel threatened.” Months after Florida passed its bill, similar legislation was proposed in more than twenty states.