The parents of two black teenagers whose high-profile killings set off fiery debates over American race relations marched on the Florida Capitol on Monday, pressing lawmakers to reform the state's self-defense laws.
The parents of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis were among a group of protesters led on a march by MSNBC host and activist Reverend Al Sharpton to the steps of the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla., where the Republican-led legislature began its annual session last week.
"Florida is failing us," said Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Martin, whose fatal shooting in 2012 led to the murder trial and subsequent acquittal of former neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.
"Stand your ground will not stand," Fulton said. "This law is wrong. Stand your ground is absolutely, positively wrong."
"There is a groundswell rising up and calling for change," said Lucia McBath, the mother of Davis, who was fatally shot by software engineer Michael Dunn amid a dispute over loud music in 2012.
Dunn was recently convicted of three counts of attempted murder for firing on the SUV in which Davis was killed but the jury was deadlocked on the murder charge.
A state House committee late last year rejected a bill to repeal the controversial 2005 law. The statute allows Floridians to use deadly force when they think their lives are in danger.
A bill putting some restrictions on applications of the legal defense is still pending in the Senate.
The "Stand Your Ground" law — which can be invoked to avoid charges altogether, or as a defense in court — was not specifically applied by defense lawyers in the Zimmerman or Dunn cases. But both defendants said they acted out of fear for their lives when they fatally shot their 17-year-old victims.
— Daniel Arkin, with Reuters
Phil Sears / AP
From left, participants including Lucia McBath, mother of Jordan Davis, Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, Rev. Al Sharpton, president of National Action Network, and Phyllis Giles, mother of Michael Giles, march to the Florida Capitol Monday, March 10.
First published March 10 2014, 5:33 PM