Trayvon killer ‘shouldn’t be free’


Published: Thursday 26th February 2015 by The News Editor

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The mother of a black teenager has said the neighbourhood watch volunteer who shot him dead does not deserve to walk free after US prosecutors decided not to charge him with a hate crime.

The shooting in Sanford, Florida, sparked a national conversation about race, bias and crime, in part because George Zimmerman, who identifies himself as Hispanic, was not immediately arrested after shooting Trayvon Martin, 17, who was unarmed.

Speaking before the third anniversary of her son’s death, Sybrina Fulton said she still believed Mr Zimmerman got away with murder.

“He took a life, carelessly and recklessly, and he shouldn’t deserve to have his entire life walking around on the street free. I just believe that he should be held accountable for what he’s done,” Ms Fulton said.

Mr Zimmerman, 31, claimed he shot Trayvon in self-defence after confronting him while volunteering for his neighbourhood watch group. A jury acquitted him of second-degree murder the following year.

The US Justice Department said this week that it found insufficient evidence to establish that Mr Zimmerman willfully deprived Trayvon of his civil rights or killed him because of his race.

“The Justice Department is the top of the line here,” Ms Fulton said. “But what they found just wasn’t enough.”

Mr Zimmerman’s lawyer Don West said his client was relieved the case was now closed.

“This cloud he was under has been lifted,” Mr West said, adding that he found it misleading to suggest that charges were not filed only because the legal standard for federal hate crime was so tough to meet.

“There simply was never any compelling evidence that this was a federal hate crime. Race played no role in it whatsoever,” he said.

The February 2012 confrontation began after Mr Zimmerman spotted Trayvon walking through the area, returning to his father’s home after buying sweets and a soft drink at a shop.

Mr Zimmerman called police to report a suspicious person and got out of his car to follow Trayvon despite being warned by the dispatcher to stop.

He did not give evidence at his trial, but told investigators he feared for his life as Trayvon straddled and punched him during the ensuing fight.

Wearing a T-shirt bearing a black-and-white image of her son in a hoodie, Ms Fulton said she still longed for Mr Zimmerman to be held responsible.

She now channels her grief into work with The Trayvon Martin Foundation, which reaches out to other families who have lost children to violence, awards scholarships and collects school supplies for poor pupils.

She said she was also watching to see how the Justice Department handled other high-profile killings of unarmed African-Americans.

Decisions are pending on whether to charge police in New York and Ferguson, Missouri, with depriving the victims of their civil rights by using excessive force in the course of duty.

“What we want is accountability, we want somebody to be arrested, we want somebody to go to jail, of course,” Ms Fulton said. “But … we have grand juries and special grand juries; they’re making a decision to not even arrest a person.”

Published: Thursday 26th February 2015 by The News Editor

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