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Emotion vs. law in the Trayvon Martin case

Calls continue to grow for an arrest in the shooting death of Florida teenTrayvon Martin, but the case is complicated by the “Stand Your Ground” law. Karen Hunter and Judge Alex Ferrer discuss the legal implications.

>>> the latest release of audio recordings from the night an unarmed florida teen was shot and killed is escalating calls from the shooter’s immediate arrest. the lawyer for the family of 17-year-old trayvon martin says the teen was on the phone with his girlfriend just moments before his fatal encounter with neighborhood watch volunteer george zimmerman .

>> so she says, run. he says, i’m not going to run, i’m just going to walk fast. at that point, she says — she hears trayvon say, why are you following me? that’s when she says she hears another voice say, what are you doing around here?

>> zimmerman is claiming self-defense and has not been charged, though martin just had a can of iced tea and a bag of skittles in his hands. civil rights leaders held a peaceful rally last night calling for zimmerman arrest. alex ferrer is joining us now. we know martin was on the phone with his girlfriend just moments before the shooting. karen, what is your reaction to the girlfriend’s claims that he called her and said, somebody’s watching me, somebody’s following me?

>> i had the same reaction that i had before i found out about the girlfriend and that is that we’re in america. while people want to add race to this and there probably is a very strong racial component, at the end of the day , this is about a citizen who was coming home with a bag of skittles and an iced tea and got accosted and lost his life. in this country, that should never happen. as we fight for freedoms around the world, syria and egypt and sudan and they have this whole kony movement, in america 2012 , a young man cannot go home safely. that to me is the crux of this. if we’re really serious about what it means to be an american and the constitution and our inai inailable rights, that’s what this conversation is about.

>> martin’s parents spoke with the “today” show’s matt lauer today.

>> i feel he needs to be arrested because a crime was committed. my son is murdered. my son is not with us no more. nothing can bring him back.

>> judge, this was a controversial law when it was passed. it gives people in florida the right to protect themselves with deadly force . does that complicate chances for an arrest and conviction here?

>> it absolutely does. this is an emotional case. common sense dictates it’s easy. but when you do the legal analysis, it becomes much harder because details like, he was carrying a gun, he had a permit to carry a gun and florida allows that. he didn’t listen to the police when they said, don’t follow him. he doesn’t have to under those circumstances. the ” stand your ground ” law gives people the ability to defend the use of deadly force in circumstances where before the law was passed they couldn’t justify it. so —

>> i don’t want to get ahead of ourselves but i want to make sure i understand you. if this would go to trial — and, again, no arrests have been made — but if this goes to trial and common sense would tell a juror the shooter is on the phone with the police and the police say, don’t pursue him and he does it anyway, he could be instructed under this law that that’s irrelevant?

>> more than that. first of all, the instruction from the dispatcher was, well, are you following him? yes. we don’t need you to do that. it wasn’t a police order. if the police were on the scene and said, you’re interrupting my investigation, stand down and he didn’t, he could be arrested. but if i see somebody in my neighborhood and i think he’s breaking into homes, the dispatcher can say, i don’t want you to do that, but i can still do it and i’m not going to get arrested for that. all those things certainly build to make it look like this guy had a bad motive. perhaps he did. yesterday i would have say this is a very difficult case for the police to put together with the information you have because when this happens, the shooter’s the only one left to give you his version and you don’t have the other person available.

>> that’s the point made about this law, right? and it’s a law in 21 states. this is data from the florida department of law enforcement , the number of justifiable homicides tripled since the law went into effect.

>> but, judge, ” stand your ground ” applies to — if you’re being threatened. in this case, this young man was walking home, minding his business, he was approached by zimmerman . it was at any time other way around. if you’re stangd your ground, what is zimmerman standing his ground for when he’s pursuing this young man?

>> no question. what i’m saying is that when you come to the point of trial, you’re only going to have zimmerman ‘s version because he killed the young man. there’s no question the evidence indicates the young man was not involved in anything illegal, anything improper, he was behaving completely properly. but when it comes to trial, the story you’re going to hear is zimmerman ‘s story that he was the one who yelled for help, that he confronted the young man and the young man came at him. that’s the version you’re going to get. we see it over and over again. it’s so frustrating to judges and prosecutors that people get away with shootings because of the ” stand your ground ” law. yesterday we learned that in that 911 tape, or at least i heard and if it’s true, changes the whole ball game. heard that there’s a racial ep epiteph, if that’s true, it creates an animus. it creates —

>> is this going to create a bigger dialogue?

>> at the end of the day , this is a fundamental right every citizen has. my dad wore a suit and tie for most of our lives. and he said, that’s my bulletproof vest . in 2012 , do we have to arm our children now with bulletproof vests and is that okay? trayvon martin may have been a black teen, but if you’re looking at it, it could have been your child, my nephew, my brother. and if we don’t start looking at these cases as if it’s us, we stand to fall into the same trap we’ve seen over and over again. there was a priest — mueller, and he got snatched by the nazis and he wrote this poem, they came for me. and at the end of it, no one was left. well, we have to stand up and say, this is not going to happen anymore in this country. we’re americans. citizens have the right to walk home and not lose their lives.

>> important conversation and it will continue. karen hunter , thank you. judge, did you want to make one more point?

>> i was just going to say, i want to make it clear, i’m not supporting what zimmerman did at all. i’m completely opposed to it. i’m saying it’s difficult from a legal standpoint. and maybe some laws need to be changed.

>> judge alex ferrer, thank you so much for helping us

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