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A day before stand your ground hearing, partisan dust already flying

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013 by John Kennedy

House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, traded jabs with a leading Republican Wednesday on the eve of a House hearing on the state’s controversial “stand your ground” self-defense law.

Thurston said House Democrats “strongly believe there must be major changes and fixes” to the 2005 law, which has drawn national attention since shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin.

Although the law was not part of the defense used by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, it did figure into instructions given Seminole County jurors who acquitted Zimmerman last summer.

The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee chaired by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, has scheduled a five-hour meeting Thursday to review the law. The Senate is considering modest changes to stand your ground. But House leaders reject the need for any modifications.

Democratic-sponsored legislation (HB 4003) going before the committee would repeal the law, but is almost certain to fail. While Thurston spoke only about fixing the law — and not repealing it — Gaetz said that showed signs of a split among Democrats.

“The House Democratic caucus is taking on the personality of Charlie Crist more and more,” Gaetz said, citing the freshly minted Democratic candidate for governor, who is a former Republican governor. “First they wanted a repeal of stand your ground, now they apparently want changes to stand your ground. Who knows what they’re going to want tomorrow?”

Florida was the first of two dozen states to approve stand your ground laws, which allow people to use deadly force to protect themselves. Before these new laws emerged, people who felt threatened outside their homes were required to flee an attacker if they could before using force to defend themselves.

Stand your ground gets modest rework by Senate panel

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 by John Kennedy

A Florida Senate panel agreed Tuesday to modest changes to the state’s controversial “stand your ground” law, while not ruling out more sweeping steps in the wake of last summer’s George Zimmerman verdict.

The Judiciary Committee voted 7-2 to endorse a measure (CS/SB 130) that requires law enforcement agencies to develop guidelines for neighborhood watch groups and also would demand that they fully investigate any claims made using the self-defense law enacted in 2005.

Proposals to revisit stand your ground went nowhere earlier this year in the Legislature. But last summer’s acquittal of Zimmerman in the shooting 2012 shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin has renewed focus on the legislation and Tuesday’s hearing marked the first time lawmakers took a second look at how the law has been applied.

“This has truly been an effort where we have taken this issue…and reached a consensus so far,” said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs. “If there’s more we can do later, we will do it.”

The House has shown little interest in reworking the law. But Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, said he still will work toward finding agreement with supporters of the legislation on a provision more strictly defining who an aggressor is when two people meet in a violent confrontation.


Baxley says Trayvon Martin case being used by Obama and Democrats

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013 by John Kennedy

The House sponsor of Florida’s controversial stand your ground law said Wednesday that he is frustrated that President Obama and others are using the measure and the Trayvon Martin case to rally opposition against Republicans.

Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, condemned what he called the “manipulation” of a tragic situation. Baxley spoke at a Republican club in Tallahassee where later this month, lawmakers plan to hold a public hearing on the self-defense law.

“He went from a position of saying ‘this young man could be my son’ to ‘this could be me,’” Baxley said of Obama. “When he merged those images, I couldn’t help but feel some political implications to that.”

Baxley said others like the Rev. Al Sharpton have been more explict, saying the Martin case and calls for repeal of stand your ground are aimed at the 2014 and 2016 elections. But Baxley said Republicans are not going to be pressured into overturning a law that he said has heightened public safety.

“Let’s face it. In a political environment, people are going to use whatever they have,” Baxley told reporters after speaking to the Capital City Republican Club. “But let’s don’t let them misuse it.”

The law, approved in 2005 unanimously by the Florida Senate and in an overwhelming, 94-20 vote in the House, was not used by lawyers defending George Zimmerman in the shooting death of the unarmed teen-ager. But it did shape the jury instructions given to the six-woman jury which acquitted Zimmerman.

Florida is among two-dozen states with stand your ground laws, allowing residents to use deadly force to protect themselves.

Before these new laws emerged, people who felt threatened outside their homes were required to flee an attacker if they could before using force to defend themselves.

Like Baxley, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, sees little need to change the stand your ground law. But Weatherford has said the House Criminal Justice Committee will hold a hearing this month on the law, mostly to hear testimony from law enforcement authorities about any difficulties they’ve faced with implementing the measure.

Legislation, however, also has been filed to repeal the law — or modify its use.

Leaders of the activist group, Dream Defenders, which staged a 31-day sit-in at the Florida Capitol ending last month, said they plan to attend the House hearing. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement released a report Wednesday that said providing Capitol Police security at the sit-in cost taxpayers more than $172,500 in overtime expenses.

Special session bid fails, but protest heading into its 2nd month

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Democrats have failed in a bid to call a special session of the state Legislature to repeal the controversial “stand your ground law.”

Enough Republicans had voted ‘no’ by late Wednesday to scuttle the push for a session which used a never-before-tried poll of lawmakers. Protesters on Wednesday also marked the 30th day of  their sit-in outside Gov. Rick Scott’s office demanding the special session, a protest spawned by George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the Trayvon Martin shooting.

Although a decision on the session won’t become official until midnight Monday, more than 80 of Florida’s 119 lawmakers refused to endorse the push for a session. Three-fifths support of the Legislature, or roughly 95 votes in favor, are needed under the state constitution.

All but one of the ‘no’ votes have come from Republicans, with only Rep. Mike Clelland, D-Lake Mary, breaking ranks with Democratic leadership.

“Not enough votes 4 SYG Special Session,” House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said in a message on Twitter. “FL supports self defense laws. We’re spending way too much on protest security.”

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Wednesday that overtime costs for security at the Capitol has neared $150,000 since the protest began. So far, legislative leaders, Scott and the state’s Department of Management Services have not indicated they would seek to end the protest.

Still, Wednesday evening signs were posted at the Capitol warning that “routinely scheduled” fire alarm safety testing would occur between 8 p.m. and midnight. “This testing will include the constant ringing of a loud, high pitch fire alarm throughout multiple floors of the Florida Capitol Building,” the sign warned.

“We’re not leaving,” said Dwayne Campbell, a student at Tallahassee Community College and a member of the Dream Defenders. “We are only becoming more mobilized.”




Overnight protest crowd grows for 10th night of sit-in

Thursday, July 25th, 2013 by John Kennedy

The 10th day of a sit-in at Florida’s Capitol ended with a crowd of about 100 protesters planning to camp out in the first-floor hallways, with the number swollen by new arrivals from Philadelphia and a handful of ministers from across the state.

Youth United for Change brought about 30 people from Philadelphia to the Tallahassee event, which has been going on even as Gov. Rick Scott has steered clear of the Capitol. Scott has been lately in Colorado at the Republican Governors’ Association gathering while protesters in the Capitol lobby call for a special session to repeal the state’s stand your ground law and a host of juvenile justice changes.

The protest started July 16, following George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford.

“We came with you all because we are all dreamers,” Saeda Clark, with Youth United, told the crowd gathered Thursday at the Capitol, led by the Dream Defenders, a statewide youth advocacy group. “There will be no more Trayvon Martins, as of today, staring with us.”

About a half-dozen ministers from Orlando, Gainesvilee, Tallahassee and Pensacola also planned to stay overnight at the Capitol in support of the protesters. One of the clergy, Kevin Thorpe, said the ministers are part of People Improving Communities through Organizing (PICO).

Democrat Rich to join protesters at Capitol

Thursday, July 25th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Democratic gubernatorial contender Nan Rich plans to be the first statewide political candidate to join protesters at the Florida Capitol, saying she shares the concerns of those now in their 10th day outside Gov. Rick Scott’s office.

“The lack of equality in this state and how our laws are administered are important issues,” said Rich, a former state senator from Weston. “Stand your ground and the juvenile justice concerns these young people have raised are worth talking about.”

Rich supported the controversial stand your ground legislation when it was approved, 39-0, by the Florida Senate in 2005. It later cleared the House 94-20 and was signed into law by then-Gov. Jeb Bush.

Rich plans to stop by the Capitol on Saturday.  She expects to be in Tallahassee that day to meet with the Democratic Club of North Florida.

While activists intend to remain in the Capitol for the weekend – visitors like Rich would be barred from entry. Still, several supporters showed up last weekend outside the 22-story building to voice support for those inside.

“I am the only active, Democratic candidate in the race,” Rich said, a dig at the anticipated, but still unannounced candidacy of former Republican governor-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist. “These issues are very important to me.”

Some organizations involved in the push for repeal of the self-defense, stand your ground law were active in get-out-the-vote efforts for President Obama in 2012. Democrats acknowledge that the measure potentially could power voters to the polls in a fashion similar to last year, when anger over election-law changes enacted by Scott and Republican leaders gave a spark to voter drives.

On Thursday night, the couple dozen protesters who have been overnighting at the Capitol are expected to be joined by as many as 40 clergy from around the state. Scott has been at the Republican Governors Association meeting in Colorado and has said he doesn’t anticipate returning to Tallahassee until next week.

Will Zimmerman verdict echo in Florida’s ’14 elections? Activists attempt to make sure it does

Monday, July 22nd, 2013 by John Kennedy

Florida’s “stand your ground” law has emerged as a powerful political symbol in the wake of the George Zimmerman case, with Democratic-allied activists looking to carry the issue into next year’s elections as a sign of Republican leadership working to oppress minorities.

Like the 2011 changes made to the state’s voting laws by Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP-led Legislature, organizations say the self-defense law mostly threatens poor, black and young Floridians.

Florida groups that used the voting measure as a rallying point to drive supporters of President Barack Obama and state Democratic candidates to the polls last fall are now organizing behind the call for repeal of stand your ground. Republicans are saying the push to change the law is a “misrepresentation” of the legal strategies in Zimmerman’s case.

“For many people, this is an example of just the type of policies Republicans and Gov. Rick Scott are pushing through in this state,” said Elbert Garcia, a spokesman for Florida New Majority, which worked last fall to encourage voting in black, Hispanic and low-income communities identified as less likely to cast ballots.

Florida New Majority is now assisting other veterans of the presidential campaign, such groups as the Miami Workers’ Center and PowerU Center in Miami in organizing activists angered by Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Full story:



FAU group now part of Capitol protest

Friday, July 19th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Dozens of activists, including a newly arrived entourage from Florida Atlantic University, prepared Friday to spend the weekend locked in the state Capitol, as the demonstration against the stand your ground law continued.

Capitol Police locked the doors of the 22-story building at 5 p.m. Friday, not long after volunteers carted trays of sandwiches, chips, soft drinks and water into the main lobby for the protesters long weekend.

“We may not that much of a difference right now, but we’ll see,” said Alexandra Caruso, 26, of Coral Springs, a graduate student at FAU. “Sometimes the kind of changes we’re looking to make take more than our lifetime. But it will come.”

Caruso said she was among seven FAU students who made the trip Friday to Tallahassee to participate in the demonstration in its fourth day. Activists led by an organization called the Dream Defenders have crowded Gov. Rick Scott’s office and adjacent first-floor hallway at the Capitol since Tuesday.

Like most of this week, Scott was away from the Capitol again Friday, making appearances at events elsewhere in the state.

Scott met with leaders of the protest for 45-minutes late Thursday but rejected their call for a special session to repeal the self-defense law that opponents say  contributed to George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin last year in Sanford.

The crowd gathering as the Capitol closed for the weekend topped 100 people, including representatives of area churches, the Florida National Organization for Women, and low-income advocates.

Dale Landry, head of the Tallahassee chapter of the NAACP, also encouraged the protesters, saying they were only blocks from where civil rights demonstrators engaged in a lunchroom sit-in and bus boycott more than 50 years ago.

“You are fulfilling a mission,” Landry said.

On third night, Scott meets with protesters in his office

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Gov. Scott with protesters

Gov. Rick Scott made a hastily arranged return trip to the Capitol late Thursday to meet with protesters gathered for a third day outside his office.

In a 45-minute meeting with seven leaders of Dream Defenders and other groups, Scott said he understood their concerns. He also said he planned to declare Sunday a statewide unity day in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict.

But during the meeting that began shortly after 9 p.m., Scott said he would not go along with the demand for a special session to
repeal Florida’s stand your ground law. Scott said he believed in the law.

The governor also said the protesters should work within the system in getting their views across at the legislative session beginning next spring.

“Each of you has a representative, each of you has a senator,” Scott said. “I’d sit down with each one. That’s how the process works.”

He concluded saying, “I appreciate you and I look forward to seeing you again.”

Phillip Agnew, executive director of Dream Defenders, said it was good the governor agreed to the meeting. But he said the group has no intention of leaving the Capitol until a special session is called.

“We plan on being here for some time, or until you will act,” Agnew told Scott.


Sit-in at Scott’s office continues; lawmaker urges Gov to ‘come home’

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Protestors hunker down Wednesday night outside Gov. Rick Scott's office

A sit-in at Rick Scott’s office ended its third business day Thursday with some three-dozen protesters pledging to stay at Florida’s Capitol until the governor addressed their concerns about the state’s “stand your ground” law.

Scott has been out of town the length of the protest, led by a statewide organization, Dream Defenders.

“This is only more motivating,” said Dwayne Campbell, 31, a Tallahassee Community College student.

Earlier in the day, Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, joined with a local minister, Rev. R.B. Holmes, Jr., to urge Scott to call a special session of the Legislature to repeal the 2005 law. The measure has gained renewed focus with Saturday’s acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of 17-year-old Travon Martin in Sanford.

Zimmerman did not use the stand your ground defense. But it has emerged as a lightning rod, drawing the anger and frustration of many in Florida’s minority community over the verdict.

Scott’s absence also is drawing heat.

“Come home, Governor,” Williams said Thursday at a news conference at a church just a few blocks from the Capitol. “Come home to speak to these citizens.”

FULL COVERAGE: Zimmerman trial news, photos

Gov. Scott declines NAACP call; no plans to return quickly to protesters at Capitol

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013 by John Kennedy
Protestors sing in the hallway outside Gov. Rick Scott's office

Protestors sing in the hallway outside Gov. Rick Scott's office Tuesday. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

Gov. Rick Scott declined late Wednesday a call from the Florida NAACP that he return to the Capitol “immediately” to address the “outcry” over the acquital of George Zimmerman, instead touting the state’s 42-year-low crime rate.

Scott’s letter to NAACP president Adora Obi Nweze also underscored his past action in organizing a task force to study the state’s controversial “stand your ground” law, which critics have said created a climate that led to Zimmerman pulling his gun and shooting 17-year-old Travon Martin last year.

As he did after the verdict, Scott sought to empathize with Martin’s parents and many in Florida’s black community outraged by Zimmerman’s acquital. A third day of protest is planned Thursday at the governor’s office in the state Capitol where a couple dozen representatives of the Orlando-based Dream Defenders have rallied.

A Scott spokeswoman said late Wednesday that the governor was scheduled to be traveling again Thursday and would not be in his office.

“After holding seven public meetings and considering 16,603 pieces of correspondence and 160 public comments at Task Force meetings, the Task Force concurred with the Stand Your Ground law and I agree,” Scott wrote Nweze. “It is also important to note that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law was not argued in the Zimmerman case.”


Protesters crowd Gov. Scott’s office for second day

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013 by John Kennedy

A couple dozen protesters Wednesday continued to crowd the lobby of Rick Scott’s Capitol office Wednesday urging the out-of-town governor to take action against Florida’s stand-your-ground law in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict.

The protesters, some from as far away as Miami, began gathering a day earlier and insisted they intended to stay until they drew a response from Scott. The governor was in New York most of Tuesday and is spending Wednesday at a series of events in the Florida Panhandle.

“Tell Rick Scott to come back, we’ve got some Skittles for him,” said Dwayne Campbell, 31, a Tallahassee Community College student, citing the candy 17-year-old Trayvon Martin carried with him when shot by Zimmerman during an altercation.

Some of the protesters, whose number had swelled to more than 100 on Tuesday, spent the night on the marble-floored hallway outside the governor’s office.

Organizers said others were expected to arrive Wednesday, but many at the scene said they planned to be there for the long haul.

“We’re serious. We don’t plan to leave,” said Shamile Louis, 21, a sociology student from the University of Florida who used a computer tablet to lead an internet discussion from the governor’s office.

Louis said the group has been contacted by supporters across the country and even from Ireland. Among the groups gathered at the Capitol were representatives of Dream Defenders, whose leader, Ciara Taylor, is from Jacksonville, and PowerU Center in Miami.

The protesters have called for a repeal of Florida’s stand-your-ground law. More than two dozen states have such measures that allow people to use deadly force if they think their life is being threatened.

The role that law played in the Martin shooting is in dispute — with Zimmerman’s defense team not having used the law as the basis for their arguments. But U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in a speech this week to the NAACP, said the laws encourage gun owners to seek confrontation rather than avoiding it.




U.S. Commission on Civil Rights member: ‘Stand Your Ground’ responsible for Zimmerman acquittal

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013 by Dara Kam

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights member Michael Yaki, who initiated the federal panel’s investigation into racial bias and stand your ground laws, blamed George Zimmerman’s acquittal on Florida’s first-in-the-nation law giving allowing people to use deadly force without retreating if they feel their lives are in danger.

Zimmerman’s lawyers argued that the neighborhood watch volunteer shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense after the unarmed black teenager attacked him. Zimmerman was following Martin in a townhome community in Sanford.

Yaki, who once worked for U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, issued the following statement this morning:

While the jury has spoken, the fact remains that an unarmed young man, with his whole future ahead of him, was killed by a gun. It is my personal belief that Florida’s Stand Your Ground, coupled with easy access to guns, was a largely responsible for this tragedy. But notwithstanding my personal feelings, the Trayvon Martin case opened up a nationwide inquiry into the appropriateness and efficacy of Stand Your Ground laws, and the US Commission on Civil Rights will pursue this investigation wherever it leads. To honor Trayvon and his family we will continue this inquiry with resolve and renewed purpose.

The Justice Department is reviewing the case, and the NAACP has gathered nearly 1 million petitions demanding that Zimmerman be charged with a federal hate crime.

UPDATE: Capitol sit-in planned over Zimmerman not guilty verdict

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Photo courtesy Dream Defenders

UPDATE: At least 50 protesters from around the state are settling into Gov. Rick Scott’s office on the first floor of the Capitol. The Dream Defenders and others want Scott, who’s in New York, to call a special session and are demanding lawmakers establish the Florida “Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act.” The group, mostly students, want changes to Florida’s stand your ground law and “zero tolerance” school policies and are asking for anti-racial profiling training for law enforcement officers. So far, the protest has been orderly as buses of more protesters, many of them college students, continue to arrive. Organizers said they expect at least 200 to join the sit-in and they plan to stay overnight.

Young people from around the state are planning a sit-in at Gov. Rick Scott’s office in reaction to George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Dream Defenders are busing up college students and others from Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Gainesville to demand that Scott call a special session to review stand your ground, racial profiling and zero tolerance school policies they believe are the reason Trayvon Martin wound up in Sanford last year.

Organizers expect as many as 200 to attend the protest they’re calling #TakeoverTuesday on Twitter.

Dream Defenders Executive Director Phillip Agnew said they’re prepared to wait “as long as it takes” for their demands to be met.

Scott’s in New York today and the Legislature won’t be in town until September at the earliest, when committee meetings meeting.

Like many others around the country, Agnew and his group, who’s protest has the blessing of the left-leaning Florida New Majority, are frustrated by Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict. Protests and vigils began the day after Saturday’s verdict and Al Sharpton, who will be at the NAACP convention in Orlando on Wednesday, said his organization is planning rallies in 100 cities in front of federal courthouses on Saturday.

“This is our step. We can’t burn our communities down. We can’t riot. So what can we do but go to the seat of power and ask them to do what they’re supposed to do,” Agnew said early this morning.

Agnew said the group is aware that Scott and the Legislature aren’t around but they wanted to give the leaders plenty of time to work on the Dream Defenders agenda the protesters believe will help avoid future tragedies.

Trayvon Martin, who lived in Miami Gardens with his mother Sybrina Fulton, was suspended from high school prior to going to Sanford to stay with his father Tracy. The Dream Defenders and other groups have made zero tolerance policies they call the “schools-to-prisons pipeline” a top issue.

Sparse crowd as ‘Stand Your Ground’ meeting begins

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012 by Dara Kam

LONGWOOD _ There were plenty of satellite trucks and television cameras from national news outlets at a mega-church near the site where neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman shot and Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in February.

But just a handful of people showed up for Gov. Rick Scott’s “Citizen Safety and Protection Task Force” meeting – the first where the public will be allowed to speak – so far.

Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, the panel’s chairwoman, spoke with reporters before the meeting began at 9 a.m.

She said the task force’s mission is not to revisit the Trayvon Martin shooting or Zimmerman’s case. Zimmerman, who was charged with second degree murder in the shooting, claimed he shot Martin in self-defense, shining a spotlight on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law that allows people to use deadly force when they feel threatened.

Carroll said the first task force meeting is being held to near Sanford to give residents “closure” in the aftermath of the shooting. National civil rights leaders were outraged that Zimmerman was not arrested for weeks. Special prosecutor Angela Corey, appointed by Scott, filed charges against Zimmerman two months after the Feb. 26 shooting. Accusations of racism because Zimmerman is a white Hispanic and Martin was black heightened racial tensions in the Central Florida community on the outskirts of Orlando.

“Because this task force was borne out of the concerns during the Martin-Zimmerman situation, we felt it would be a good thing to number one come to this area to give some closure,” Carroll, who is black, said. “There may be some people that have not had an opportunity to air their concerns during the time of all the situation going on a few months ago. So it gives an opportunity for the citizens to come and share what their issues, concerns, suggestions may be and have some closure to them having access to their public officials and individuals that may be making decisions based on what we heard throughout our public testimony and the information received on our website as well.”

The meeting begins with a presentation from Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Krista Marx, who is giving an overview of the “Stand Your Ground” law and a seminal Florida Supreme Court ruling related to it. Law enforcement officials and lawyers will also speak this morning before the public is allowed to weigh in this afternoon. Martin’s parents are scheduled to hold a rally during the lunch break and deliver more than 300,000 petitions to the task force asking that the law be changed.

The panel is holding meetings throughout the state and will make recommendations to the state legislature about whether the law should be changed.

Gov. Scott urges Floridians to ‘allow our justice system’ to work in Trayvon Martin case

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott is asking Floridians to “allow our justice system” to work in a statement that appears to be urging calm in the wake of an anticipated announcement of charges in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Special prosecutor Angela Corey is expected to announce this evening she is filing charges against George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who claimed he shot the unarmed 17-year-old on Feb. 26 in self defense.

More than an hour before Corey’s announcement, expected at 6 p.m., Scott’s office issued the following statement, attributed to the governor:

“We are fortunate in our state that most Floridians and local civic leaders are law-abiding, responsible citizens who all want justice to prevail. No matter what State Attorney Corey determines following her investigation of the Trayvon Martin tragedy, I trust in the goodness of all Florida citizens to allow our justice system to reach an appropriate conclusion in this case.”

Scott spokeswoman Amy Graham would not elaborate on the statement or why it was issued before Corey, appointed by Scott to investigate the high-profile case, made her announcement.

“The statement is self explanatory,” Graham said.

Civil rights activists from around the nation have held marches and rallies in Sanford and throughout the country in the aftermath of the Feb. 26 shooting in a gated community near Orlando.

The shooting has shined a spotlight “Stand Your Ground” laws like Florida’s – the country’s first – allowing individuals to use deadly force when they feel threatened. And it has rippled throughout the nation with civil rights leaders and others demanding a closer look at racial profiling and possible differences in how prosecutors and law enforcement officials pursue charges against whites and blacks.

Scott has announced he will create a task force to look into Florida’s 2005 “Stand Your Ground” law after Corey’s investigation is complete.

Gov. Scott appoints special prosecutor in Trayvon Martin case

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi have appointed a special prosecutor to take over the investigation of the shooting of Trayvon Martin, responding to increased pressure from national civil rights leaders outraged over the killing of the unarmed black 17-year-old by a neighborhood watch volunteer whom local authorities have not charged with any crime.

Scott and Bondi asked State Attorney Angela Corey of Jacksonville to take over for Seminole County State Attorney Norman Wolfinger. The appointment came the same day Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee temporarily stepped down amid outrage over his failure to charge George Zimmerman with any crime in the Feb. 26 shooting. Wolfinger said in a letter to Scotthe was stepping aside “in the interest of public safety” and to “avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.” The U.S. Justice Department is also investigating the case.

Scott also announced the formation of a task force headed by Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who is black, to look into the use of the state’s first-in-the-nation “stand your ground” law, which allows individuals to use deadly force to defend themselves when they feel threatened. Zimmerman said he shot Martin in self-defense, and Lee said he lacked evidence to arrest him.

Several black lawmakers, including Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens who represents the district where Martin lived with his mother, had asked Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, to appoint special legislative committees to look into the law. Yesterday, both leaders said they did not believe the committees were yesterday. But today, Scott said they have agreed to suggest appointees to the task force.

Scott’s announcement of the task force comes two days after Scott held an impromptu meeting with about 50 black lawyers and civil rights leaders who marched to his office demanding he create such a panel to look into racial profiling.

Read Scott’s statement regarding the “Citizen Safety and Protection” task force after the jump.

Sen. Siplin calls on Scott to appoint special prosecutor in Trayvon Martin case

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: Senate President Mike Haridopolos also says “no” to a special committee on the use of the “stand your ground” law.

“The Senate President feels that Governor Scott is currently taking all of the appropriate steps to address the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin. Additionally, the Senate President is confident that the circumstances surrounding this shooting will be closely examined by lawmakers, and if the Senate concludes that laws need to be revised they will be addressed in the future,” Haridopolos’s spokeswoman Lyndsey Cruley said in an e-mail.

State Sen. Gary Siplin and a coalition of other black lawmakers are asking Gov. Rick Scott to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate last month’s shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a neighborhood watch volunteer near Orlando.

Trayvon Martin was killed last month by George Zimmerman, whom police identified as white but whose family says is Hispanic, in a gated community in Sanford on Feb. 26. Zimmerman, who has not been charged with any crime, has said he shot the high school student in self-defense after a confrontation.

The shooting, now being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice and local authorities, has sparked an international furor with civil rights leaders demanding Zimmerman’s arrest and a probe into selective prosecution of white-on-black crime.

Siplin, an Orlando attorney whose district neighbors Sanford, said the community is plagued by a “plantation” mentality and asked Scott to appoint a special prosecutor to quell racial tension.

“In my community today, they’re very upset. They’re very excited. They’re ready to ignite,” Siplin, a Democrat and a laywer, said at a press conference in the Capitol Wednesday afternoon.

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