The federal government has officially joined the debate about states’ “Stand Your Ground” laws.The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights plans to launch a special investigation about how race effects the laws’ enforcement, USA Today reported.
The government’s investigation into the controversial statutes comes on the heels of the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
neighbourhood watchman George Zimmerman, who’s white and Hispanic, shot and killed the black teenager in Sanford, Fla.
Zimmerman, who faces second-degree murder charges, has cited Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law and claimed he shot Martin in self-defence.
At least 21 states have similar stand-your-ground laws.
But Florida’s law has come under fire since Martin’s death. An investigation by The Tampa Bay Times found the law has been used to exonerate drug dealers and gangsters.
The Times’ inquiry also found Floridians were more successful at using Stand Your Ground if the victim was black.
“There is an absolute lack of real data or information about how these stand-your-ground laws have been or are applied,” U.S. Commission on Civil Rights commissioner Michael Yaki told USA Today. “We need to make sure claims of justifiable homicide are not being granted or denied because of the colour of someone’s skin.”
In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott has created the Task Force on Citizens Safety and Protection to review the state’s law. The task force plans to tour the state, gathering public comments about the statute.
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