WASHINGTON — The mother of Trayvon Martin — the unarmed 17-year-old who was shot to death last year in Sanford, sparking a national debate about "stand your ground" laws — testified Tuesday about the need to amend a law that "does not work."
Speaking months after George Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder charges in her son's February 2012 death in Sanford, Sybrina Fulton appeared before the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. She asked its members to "seriously take a look" at the 2005 Florida law and similar ones passed in more than a dozen other states since then.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the chairman of the subcommittee, agreed that it was time for the laws "to be carefully reviewed and reconsidered."
The elimination of a potential victim's "duty to retreat" was a point of contention, with critics saying the laws emboldened people to escalate a confrontation.
"These laws permit and, quite frankly, encourage individuals to use deadly force even in situations where lesser or no physical force would be appropriate," said Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, testifying at the hearing.
But others, including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the ranking Republican on the subcommittee, said people's right to "stand their ground" stems from a 1895 Supreme Court decision. Cruz said the notion that "you're obliged to turn and run rather than to defend yourself is a notion that is contrary to hundreds of years of our jurisprudence and to the rights that protect all of us."
Although the Zimmerman defense did not mention stand your ground at his trial, one of the six jurors in the trial told CNN's Anderson Cooper that Florida's law was key in the jury's verdict.