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Trial of Trayvon’s killer begins

George Zimmerman (left) and Trayvon Martin

George Zimmerman (left) and Trayvon Martin

Special to the Trice Edney Newswire from the Richmond Free Press

The long-awaited Florida trial of the Neighborhood Watch captain accused of gunning down teenager Trayvon Martin in cold blood began June 10. It is expected to focus the nation on Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law.

The law allows a person to use deadly force against an attacker in self-defense without any obligation to retreat first.

Focus was put on the law when George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old Hispanic American, shot and killed Martin, a 17-year-old African American,  Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford, Fla.

Zimmerman was initially not charged in the deadly incident. But after national protests, including ones in Richmond and Petersburg, he was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

According to authorities, Martin was walking to the house of his father’s fiancee after going to a convenience store that night when he was confronted by Zimmerman in the gated community.

The autopsy report shows Zimmerman shot the teenager in the chest at close range.

Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, his attorney Benjamin Crump and supporters claim the killing was cold-blooded murder by an overzealous volunteer acting out his police fantasy.

Zimmerman, who is out on a $1 million bond, claims Martin attacked him, forcing him to shoot.

On March 5, Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara waived a preliminary hearing on the Stand Your Ground law to allow his client to go before a jury. He said he might later seek immunity for Zimmerman.

Late last month, Judge Debra Nelson ruled that Martin’s familiarity with guns, his marijuana use and fights he may have been in cannot be used in Zimmerman’s defense. Zimmerman could face up to 30 years in prison if he is convicted.

Separately, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has approved an investigation into the Stand Your Ground law.

The organization will decide whether race is a factor in the enforcement of the law that 24 states have put in place.

“We’re going to take our own cut at it,” said Democratic Commissioner Michael Yaki.

He said they will dig through records at the district attorney, police and other levels “to see whether or not, as some people suspect, that there is bias in the assertion or denial of Stand Your Ground, depending on the race of the victim or the race of the person asserting the defense.”

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