Although George Zimmerman’s defense never invoked “Stand Your Ground” during the trial, his acquittal has sparked a new debate over the law – a debate that now includes everyone from Attorney General Eric Holder to musician Stevie Wonder.
Stevie Wonder announced at a concert Sunday night that he would no longer perform in Florida, or any other place with a similar law on the books, in protest. Attorney General Eric Holder questioned “laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense” in a speech Tuesday to the NAACP.
“There has always been a legal defense for using deadly force if–and the ‘if’ is important–no safe retreat is available,” he said. “But we must examine laws that take this further by eliminating the common sense and age-old requirement that people who feel threatened have a duty to retreat, outside their home, if they can do so safely.”
“We must ‘stand our ground’ to ensure that our laws reduce violence and take a hard look at laws that contribute to more violence than they prevent,” he added.
Cases involving “Stand Your Ground” have seen a renewed interest in recent days, including Marissa Alexander’s and Trevor Dooley’s experiences with the law. Alexander is serving a 20-year sentence for firing what she described as a “warning shot” despite invoking “Stand Your Ground,” and 71-year-old Dooley, was found guilty of manslaughter despite invoking the law.
Rev. Al Sharpton wants to work to strike down that law, organizing rallies and vigils across the country to call for action.
Zimmerman was acquitted of second degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Trayvon Martin; Zimmerman says he shot Martin in self-defense after Martin attacked him.
Protesters staged a sit-in at Governor Rick Scott’s office in Tallahassee on Tuesday pushing for a number of actions– including a Stand Your Ground repeal. Scott appears unlikely to budge on the issue.
“Immediately following Trayvon Martin’s death, Governor Scott called a bi-partisan Special Task Force with 19 citizens to review Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law,” Scott’s Communications Director Melissa Sellers told NBC News in a statement released in response to the protests. “This Task Force listened to Floridians across the state and heard their viewpoints and expert opinions on this law. The task force recommended that the law should not be overturned, and Governor Scott agrees.”
Editor’s note: George Zimmerman has sued NBC Universal for defamation. The company strongly denies the allegation.