The mother of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin told the National Urban League on Friday that the verdict in the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman “is not going to define who Trayvon Martin was.”
“We will define his legacy,” said Sybrina Fulton on Friday at the civil rights organization’s annual conference in Philadelphia. “We will define who he is and what he was all about.”
Roughly midway through her remarks, Fulton appeared to criticize Florida’s so-called “Stand Your Ground” self-defense laws, which have come under scrutiny since Zimmerman was acquitted July 13 on second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the February 2012 shooting death of Martin.
Zimmerman pleaded not guilty. He said he shot Martin in self-defense.
“Wrap your mind around no prom for Trayvon, no high school graduation for Trayvon, no college for Trayvon, no grandkids coming from Trayvon, all because of a law — a law that has prevented the person who shot and killed my son to be held accountable and to pay for this awful crime,” Fulton said.
Stand Your Ground laws refer to legal statutes in some states whereby an individual is permitted to use force in the name of self-defense without having to necessarily attempt to retreat from a confrontation.
Zimmerman’s lawyers did not apply the statute in successfully defending their client, but the laws have nonetheless crossed the national radar because of concerns that they might trigger similar violent confrontations. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a speech to the NAACP three days after the verdict, "It's time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods.”
Fulton told the large crowd that she believes that God is using her and her family to advocate for social change.
“At times I feel like I’m a broken vessel, at times I don’t know if I’m going or coming, but I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God is using me and my family to make a change, to make a difference,” she said.
Matt Rourke / AP
Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, holds up a card with a photo of her son as she speaks at the National Urban League's annual conference, on July 26, in Philadelphia.
“What is my message to you? My message to you is to please use my story, please use my tragedy, please use my broken heart to say to yourself: We cannot let this happen to anybody else’s child.”
Fulton’s remarks at the conference came one day after Attorney General Eric Holder appeared on the same stage and said that the Justice Department will contest congressional redistricting in Texas after what it considers discriminatory practices.
Holder told the National Urban League on Thursday that the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division will urge a federal judge in Texas to subject the State of Texas to a pre-clearance regime similar to the one required by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act — a part of the law that was preserved after the Supreme Court’s ruling in late June, which weakened the law.
The National Urban League’s conference runs through Saturday at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, according to The Associated Press.
George Zimmerman has sued NBC Universal for defamation. The company strongly denies the allegation.
Pete Williams and Michael O’Brien of NBC News contributed to this report.
First published July 26 2013, 12:11 PM