In a video timed to coincide with Mother's Day weekend, the mother of slain teenager Trayvon Martin urged people around the country to push for new scrutiny of "stand your ground" self-defense laws like those in Florida and about two dozen other states.
George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot the unarmed 17-year-old, was not arrested for weeks after the Feb. 26 confrontation because he invoked the Florida law that does not require a person to retreat in the face of a serious threat. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has convened a task force to decide whether the law needs changes in the aftermath of Martin's shooting.
His mother, Sybrina Fulton, said in the video that other states should follow suit, noting that thousands of mothers lose children every year to gun violence.
"Nobody can bring our children back. But it would bring us comfort if we can spare other mothers the pain we will feel on Mother's Day and every day for the rest of our lives," Fulton said. "I'm asking you to join Florida by asking the governor of your state to reexamine similar `stand your ground' laws throughout the nation to keep our children safe."
Fulton said this weekend would be very difficult for her.
"This will be my first Mother's Day without my son Trayvon," she said. "I know it will be hard. But my faith, family and friends will pull me through."
Zimmerman, 28, is free on $150,000 bail and living in an undisclosed location. He has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges that were only filed after the governor appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the slaying in the central Florida city of Sanford. The case has become a national racial flashpoint because the Martin family and supporters contend Zimmerman singled Martin out because he was black.
It has also sparked renewed debate over "stand your ground" laws pushed by the National Rifle Association. While backers say such laws protect innocent lives, detractors contend they can become a virtual license to kill and are prone to misuse by criminals and misinterpretation by judges.
The video is being distributed via email and social media such as Twitter and Facebook by a coalition of civil rights and anti-gun violence organizations, including the NAACP and Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. A spokesman for the effort, Chris Brown, said the initial focus is on states that have laws similar to Florida's, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina and Georgia.
"Our organization will be educating the public about these laws in all states," Brown said.
Also Friday, Zimmerman attorney Mark O'Mara said on his website that he expects to receive evidence in the case on Monday from prosecutors. Under Florida law, that normally means it would simultaneously be made public, but O'Mara said he may file a motion asking to delay public disclosure so witness names can be redacted.
O'Mara has raised concerns that witnesses who are named could be badgered by news media and possibly threatened because of the strong emotions triggered by the case.
"While we understand the frustration of those who want to view the information as soon as possible, we believe Mr. Zimmerman's right to a fair trial, decided by an impartial, unbiased jury, is paramount," the O'Mara statement said.
Zimmerman, who faces a potential life sentence if convicted, said he only fired his handgun because Martin attacked him. If Zimmerman prevails on his self-defense claim, a judge could dismiss the case before trial.
To view the Sybrina Fulton video: http://secondchancecampaign.org/card
Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://Twitter.com/Miamicurt
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