When Trayvon Martin's shooting death was first recorded on a soggy night in late February it was just a blip on the local television news, but this story quickly escalated to become one of the most controversial murder cases of the year. The death of the 17-year-old boy raised national concern about gun control, race and equal justice under the law, and drew attention to Florida's controversial "stand-your-ground" law.
The murder took place in an Orlando suburb when Martin was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer during a confrontation in a gated community, and the man who shot Martin, George Zimmerman, claimed self-defense under Florida's 2005 "stand-your-ground" law. This law provides broad protection to anyone who says they have used deadly force because they feared death or great bodily harm, and Zimmerman sought protection under this law by claiming that Martin tried to reach for his gun during a struggle.
Zimmerman plead not guilty to second-degree murder, and Martin's parents went public with their criticism of the Sanford Police Department and the story gained national attention. This case gained immense popularity and soon, Martin's face was on t-shirts, postcards, television shows, and was the reason for many protests. The FBI became involved and conducted further investigation into how the Sanford Police Department handled the case. The trial date is set for June 10, but the judge has also set a "stand your ground" hearing 45 days before trial where Zimmerman has the chance to argue that he acted on self-defense and he can ask the judge to drop the charges.
This case received the top vote in the state's top story poll conducted by The Associated Press, and has brought about a more critical eye towards the activity of the Sanford Police Department and other police departments in general. The handling of this controversial case created distrust between the police and the Sanford's black community, and the Chief of the department temporarily stepped down from his position at one point. The prosecution in this case has been criticized by legal analysts for over-charging Zimmerman, stating that the probable cause affidavit does not support a charge of second-degree murder. This case will continue to develop and play out as the trial draws closer, but one thing is for sure; the court's view of the "stand-your-ground" law will be vastly different by the time it is over.