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article imageGrand Jury summoned to probe killing of Florida black teen

By Yukio Strachan     Mar 21, 2012 in Crime
Sanford - A Florida grand jury will convene next month to investigate the fatal shooting of a black teenager -- found with a bag of Skittles and a bottle of Arizona Iced Tea -- by an armed white neighborhood-watch volunteer.
“I share in the desire of the family and the community to accurately collect and evaluate all the facts surrounding the tragic death of Trayvon Martin,” said state attorney Norman R. Wolfinger in a statement released on the Office of the State Attorney website. “That is why I directed the expeditious review of the investigation which was delivered by the Sanford Police Department one week ago today….I will also be utilizing the investigative resources of the Seminole County Grand Jury which will be called to session on Tuesday, April 10, 2012."
The state attorney's announcement came a day after the U.S. Justice Department, in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, formally announced it would investigate the incident. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Xochitl Hinojosa, a Justice Department spokeswoman, released the following statement:
"The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all of the evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation. The department also is providing assistance to and cooperating with the state officials in their investigation into the incident. With all federal civil rights crimes, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted intentionally and with the specific intent to do something which the law forbids – the highest level of intent in criminal law. Negligence, recklessness, mistakes and accidents are not prosecutable under the federal criminal civil rights laws.
Public outrage
Protesters holding signs at the Trayvon Martin Protest Student Rally at the Criminal Justice Buildin...
Protesters holding signs at the Trayvon Martin Protest Student Rally at the Criminal Justice Building in Sanford at 9am on Monday, March 19, 2012
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The state attorney's announcement and the involvement of the Justice department came after weeks of mounting international calling attention to what critics describe as an injustice that the Sanford Police Department had not arrested Martin's killer citing Zimmeran's right to self-defense under Florida's Stand Your Ground Law.
It appears that supporters decided to stand their ground, in a different way: online. As of 3:45 a.m. Wednesday morning, 749,263 people had signed an online petition at Change.org to "prosecute George Zimmerman for the shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin."
“People all over the world ...said we demand you make an arrest. That’s what is building pressure to look at it,” The victim’s family lawyer, Ben Crump said, the Globe and Mail reported.
On Tuesday evening, CNN reported that more than 638,000 people had signed the petition including celebrities such as Gabrielle Union, Alyssa Milano, Cher and Russell Simmons making it one of the site's largest petition campaigns ever, spokeswoman Megan Lubin said. More than 10,000 people an hour were signing the petition early Tuesday.
A suspicious person
The shooting Feb. 26 of Trayvon Martin,17, in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, occurred when Zimmerman spotted Martin "walking around, looking about" while patrolling the neighborhood in his SUV, assuming his duties as Neighborhood watch captain.
According to an incident report, The Orlando Sentinel reported, Zimmerman, 28, called police that night, reporting that he saw a suspicious person.
Walking from a 7-Eleven to the apartment of his father's fiance, Trayvon had a package of Skittles in his pocket and a bottle of Arizona Iced Tea when Zimmerman spotted him.
Sanford police dispatched a patrol car, but before that officer arrived, Zimmerman, who according to CNN police say is white, had shot him with a 9 mm handgun in the chest. Zimmerman killed Martin about 70 feet from the apartment where he was headed.
Sanford police did not arrest Zimmerman because he claims self-defense. Florida's deadly force law, also called "stand your ground," CNN reports, allows people to meet "force with force" if they believe they or someone else is in danger of being seriously harmed by an assailant, which Zimmerman claims.
But Crump, Martin's attorney, according to the Globe and Mail, said Zimmerman should not be protected under the Stand Your Ground law. “It’s illogical, you can claim self-defense after you chase and pursue somebody,” he said.
Martin's father said the family believes race was a factor in their son's death, CNN reported.
"I think that's an issue that Mr. Zimmerman himself considers -- as someone suspicious -- a black kid with a hoodie on, jeans, tennis shoes," Tracy Martin, the teenager's father, told Anderson Cooper on CNN. "Thousands of people wear that outfit every day, so what was so suspicious about Trayvon that Zimmerman felt as though he had to confront him?"
More about Trayvon Martin, Grand jury, George Zimmerman, neighborhood watch
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