US Attorney General Eric Holder condemns 'Stand Your Ground' self-defence laws highlighted by death of Trayvon Martin

 

America’s top law enforcement official has condemned the “Stand Your Ground” laws spotlighted by the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and the subsequent trial of his killer, George Zimmerman.

Speaking to the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) on Tuesday, US Attorney General Eric Holder said the measures “sow dangerous conflict in our neighbourhoods” by “allowing – and perhaps encouraging – violent situations to escalate in public.”

Since the Stand Your Ground law first passed in Florida in 2005, well over 20 US states have adopted similar legislation, allowing people to defend themselves with deadly force should they feel threatened at home or in public. Those pleading self-defence need not retreat from anyone they perceive as a threat before opening fire.

Mr Holder was speaking at the NAACP’s annual convention in Orlando, Florida, mere miles from Sanford, where Trayvon was killed in February 2012. Mr Zimmerman, who on Saturday was acquitted of murder, did not employ Stand Your Ground as part of his defence at trial, but police cited it as a reason why he was not arrested until some six weeks after the shooting. The jury were also told that if they believed Zimmerman had a right to be where he was during his altercation with Trayvon, then “he had no duty to retreat and the right to stand his ground.”

Zimmerman was far from the first to benefit from the law’s protections, which have even been used to thwart prosecutors in several violent gangland incidents. In 2006, a year after the law was passed in Florida, a Miami man escaped conviction despite having sprayed 14 bullets at a car full of gang members. That same year, 19-year-old Christopher Cote was shot twice by his neighbour, Jose Tapanes, after an argument about whether Cote was walking his dog on the other man’s property in West Palm Beach Florida. Cote died in his mother’s arms. Tapanes was initially convicted of manslaughter, but acquitted at a retrial, courtesy of Stand Your Ground.

In April 2012, not long after Trayvon’s death, 29-year-old Daniel Adkins was shot and killed outside a Taco Bell in Arizona, which has its own Stand Your Ground law. Police did not arrest his killer, Cordell Jude, 22, because he claimed to have mistaken Adkins’ dog leash for a deadly weapon. “These laws try to fix something that was never broken,” Holder told NAACP delegates. “The list of resulting tragedies is long and, unfortunately, has victimized too many who are innocent.”

The NAACP has launched a petition calling for civil rights charges to be brought against Mr Zimmerman. Mr Holder said the Justice Department is conducting an investigation to determine whether such charges are feasible.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine