Trayvon Martin shooter claims self-defense, still faces no charges

Our Portland readers have probably all heard by now of the tragic case of Trayvon Martin which has been getting much media coverage over the last several weeks. Among the more controversial aspects of the case are the accusations of racial profiling and Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which many feel is implicated in the case.

Also controversial is that George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, has not been charged with a homicide crime as many feel he should. According to the state attorney's office, there is insufficient evidence to convict Zimmerman, who himself claims the shooting was in self-defense.

Critics say that racism played a role both in Zimmerman's decision to follow Martin on the night of the shooting and in police accepting his version of the incident during the investigation.

Interestingly, the Florida law under which Zimmerman claims self-defense is strikingly similar to an Oregon law. Under the Florida law, one is permitted to use deadly force in self-defense, without first having to attempt to escape a threatening situation. Oregon's law, while less specific than Florida's, has been interpreted by the Oregon Supreme Court to not require those facing a threatening situation to attempt to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense.

As our readers have probably heard, the Florida law has been criticized for promoting vigilantism, but the law has also been defended on the grounds that it allows innocent bystanders and victims to protect themselves.

It isn't clear yet how the Florida case will proceed, if at all. Zimmerman has reportedly already attained an attorney and is preparing for a potential trial. He has also stated his is willing to turn himself in if he is charged.

Whatever takes place, in this case, it is a powerful reminder of the challenges some criminal defendants face where issues of race are raised.


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