ArticleDownload Worksheet March 22nd, 2012
Shooting Death of Teen Raises Questions About Florida Law
The death of a teenager in Florida and the lack of an arrest for the man who shot him has provoked passionate discussions around the country about racial profiling and the Florida law that allows people to defend themselves with deadly force.
17-year-old Trayvon Martin was walking back from a local convenience store to his father’s girlfriend’s house in a gated community when he was spotted by 28-year-old George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain.
Zimmerman called 911 and told a police dispatcher that a “black male” was acting “suspicious.” Zimmerman ignored a warning from the dispatcher not to pursue Martin and a violent confrontation ensued, leaving Martin dead. Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, told local police he acted in self-defense.
The police declined to charge Zimmerman, saying there was not enough evidence to disprove his claim of self-defense.
Trayvon Martin’s death sparks outrage
Thousands of people have joined rallies in New York City and Miami and civil rights leaders are planning more demonstrations in other cities. Trayvon’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, addressed the huge crowd in New York nicknamed “A Million Hoodie March.”
“We’re not going to stop until we get justice for Travyon,” his father said. “George Zimmerman took Trayvon’s life for nothing…. My son did not deserve to die.”
Trayvon’s mother told the crowd, “Our son is your son. This is not about a black and white thing. This is about a right and wrong thing.”
The U.S. Justice Department and FBI have opened a civil rights investigation, and the local prosecutor has convened a grand jury April 10 to determine whether to charge Zimmerman in the death of Martin.
The Associated Press also reported Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee is stepping down temporarily because he has become a distraction to the case.
Why wasn’t Zimmerman arrested?
Zimmerman claimed he acted in self-defense under the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows people to defend themselves with deadly force as long as they “responsibly believe” it is necessary to protect themselves.
Since this bill became a law in 2005, 31 states including Alabama, Georgia, Maine, Ohio, Texas and West Virginia have adopted similar laws.
The “Stand Your Ground” law expands the “Castle Doctrine” that designates a person’s home, or in some states, any place legally occupied, such as a car or business, as a place in which the person has certain protections and immunities. If this person is attacked in their home, they have the legal right to protect themselves using deadly force.
Prior to Stand Your Ground, a person had to “retreat first” or use non-deadly force to defend themselves against a threat or harm. The use of “deadly force” was authorized only to defend against a direct threat or great bodily harm (including the use of a weapon) or during the commission of a felony such as a home invasion.
In passing the “Stand Your Ground” Law, the Florida Legislature expressed its intent that no person should be “required to needlessly retreat in the face of intrusion or attack.”
However, in response to public outrage, the lawmaker who sponsored the law in 2005 wrote an opinion essay for FOX News.
“Mr. Zimmerman’s unnecessary pursuit and confrontation of Trayvon Martin elevated the prospect of a violent episode and does not seem to be an act of self-defense as defined by the castle doctrine,” wrote Republican Dennis Baxley of the 24th district in Florida’s House of Representatives. “There is no protection in the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law for anyone who pursues and confronts people.”
— Compiled by Imani M. Cheers for NewsHour Extra
Submit Your Student Voice
Tooltip of RSS content 3
Lesson Plan: How to create a balanced budget — it’s a ‘Balancing Act’
How do we know that our government is fulfilling its duties to us, the public? How do we decide what those duties are? As efforts to pass the federal budget get underway, students will have the power to re-prioritize how money is spent using the interactive tool Balancing Act. What changes will they make? Continue readingBalancing ActBudgetbusiness educationEconomicseconomyfederal budgetFederal GovernmentGovernment & CivicshistoryPresidentSocial StudiesState Governmenttaxes
Young conservatives: Climate change is an issue for all of us
There is a growing movement among young conservatives, including evangelical Christians, who support environmental regulations. They say it’s important to act as faithful stewards of the earth. One group, the Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, has grown to 10,000 members in the past five years. Continue readingcarbon taxChristianityclimate changeclimate scienceconservatismconservativeevangelicalfossil fuelsGlobal WarmingGovernment & CivicsideologyPoliticsReligionScienceSocial Studies
Should seat belts be mandatory on school buses?
School districts around the country are debating whether or not to require seat belts on school buses. Requiring seat belts comes at a high cost for school districts already struggling with tight budgets. Continue readingbusDebateenglishEnglish & Language ArtsMaking the Gradeschool busschool busesschool safetyseat beltSocial Studies
Lesson plan: What’s your “Brief but Spectacular” take?
Every Thursday night, the PBS NewsHour profiles people and their passions in the series Brief but Spectacular. Creator Steve Goldbloom and his producing partner Zach Land-Miller wanted to find a new way to share original voices the public might otherwise not see. Now you can join the fun… Continue readingbrief but spectacularELAenglishEnglish & Language ArtsEnglish language learnersfilmIdentitySocial Studiesvideo
Lesson Plan: Storm chasing reveals clues to our weather future
Storm chasing: We do not recommend you try this at home! The top 208 weather…climate changeenvironmentenvironmental scienceextreme weatherNGSSScienceSRLSTEMstorm chasingstorms