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
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders