The Issues Surrounding The Case Of Trayvon Martin & The “Stand Your Ground” Law (VIDEO)

Roland Martin talks with Donald Tibbs, a law professor at the Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University; Jennifer Butler, executive director of Faith in Public Life, a strategy center for people of faith; and Bishop Aubrey Shines, senior pastor of Glory to Glory Ministries in Tampa, Florida about the Trayvon Martin case and Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.

MR. MARTIN:  Hello and welcome to “Washington Watch.”

Joining us to talk about the many issues surrounding the case of Trayvon Martin [are] Donald Tibbs, a law professor at the Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University; Jennifer Butler, executive director of Faith in Public Life, a strategy center for people of faith; and Bishop Aubrey Shines, senior pastor of Glory to Glory Ministries in Tampa, Florida.

Folks, welcome to “Washington Watch.”

PROF. DONALD TIBBS:  Thank you –



PROF. TIBBS:  — for having me.

MR. MARTIN:  This is certainly a stunning story.  It has –

PROF. TIBBS:  Unbelievable.

MR. MARTIN:  — captured the attention of so many people across the country.  And it was interesting.  Friday, I tweeted to folks to say, “Hey, let me know if” – “about the various marches and things like that that [are] happening in your cities.”

I literally had to send[?] out[?] about 40 different events.  What is it about this case that – that you think has truly galvanized people in this – in such an amazing way?

PROF. TIBBS:  People have an expectation that the law will work the way that it is supposed to work, and what’s difficult to see here is that someone has lost their life.  That is extremely tragic, and the State of Florida particularly has not done anything to move in and use its laws the way that it actually can.

MR. MARTIN:  But also, I think what stands out is when you begin to look at what we do know about this case, when  you have George Zimmerman, who says, “Yes, I, indeed, shot him.”  The police take him down to the police station, but then after interviewing him, they let him go.  They don’t take the clothes in terms of – for evidence.  He gets the gun back.  Trayvon Martin’s body is in the morgue for three days.  They don’t drug test Zimmerman.  And so I think on – on one level, you have really shoddy police work that could potentially impact whether or not he gets indicted and, if he does, whether that’s going to be a murder charge or a manslaughter charge, based upon what is cleared as – clearly has been a shoddy investigation.

PROF. TIBBS:  Well, that’s particularly why we don’t have the evidence – right?  I mean the police have failed to do their job and conduct the investigation in a meaningful and responsible way.  And if the fe- — if the police fail at the front end to do what they need to do in order to move forward with the case, it’s difficult to have the evidence later on – and that’s what creates some of the confusion, as well as some of the apprehension about moving forward.

MR. MARTIN:  And, plus, Sanford, Florida – their police department, they have ha- — had pa- — they have had past issues –

OFF CAMERA:  Correct.

MR. MARTIN:  — with race –

OFF CAMERA:  Right.  Absolutely.  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  — with suspects who – who have been shot –

OFF CAMERA:  Correct.

MR. MARTIN:  — and killed.

BISHOP SHINES:  Correct.  And not o- — not only that, I think we have to look at the whole gamut here.  Again, let’s just not stop there.  I would like to know, for instance, with Zimmerman, were there other calls that were made in his – in – with o- —

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

BISHOP SHINES:  — other cases.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

BISHOP SHINES:  I’ve been told 20 to 30 other cases have [happened] in the past where he’s called 9-1-1, and they said, “Hey, look.  Back down.”  Well, if that’s the case, why is this guy still in the position that he’s in?

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

BISHOP SHINES:  He seems to be a loose cannon.  Again, let’s –

MR. MARTIN:  Well –

BISHOP SHINES:  — look at –

MR. MARTIN:  — apparently, he’s –

BISHOP SHINES:  — the evidence.

MR. MARTIN:  — a self-appointed neighborhood watch[man].

PROF. TIBBS:  Right.

BISHOP SHINES:  Well, see?  And, again, that’s a little –

MS. BUTLER:  Right.

BISHOP SHINES:  — scary.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

PROF. TIBBS:  Absolutely.


MR. MARTIN:  I – I do want to go to this issue.  Let’s deal with the law in Florida –


MR. MARTIN:  — because we’ve had lots of conversation regarding this “stand your ground” law.  Florida passed it, and there’re 23 other states that have also passed “stand your ground” laws.  The National Rifle Association – they want this in all 50 states, and what it says is – look, I’m born and raised in Texas, and so I’ve always known if somebody comes on your property trying to steal your car or harm you, you have the right to use deadly force to protect yourself on your property.

BISHOP SHINES:  Sure, um-hum.

MR. MARTIN:  This law expands that, but – to say anywhere.  And the problem is when you say, “I thought someone was trying to harm me, so therefore, I protected myself.”  It – it seems to me there [are] lots of problems with this law.  And so what does it mean if so many other states want to take up this law?

BISHOP SHINES:  Well, I – I’ve heard, though, Roland, several of the reps that really introduced this law; and they’ve been on the air several times in the last few weeks here regarding this.  That law is really not that broad.  What – and how these kinds of things really come about is, for instance, you’re in a car; and someone comes up to take you out of your car – what they call “carjacking.”

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

BISHOP SHINES:  A lot of these things were developed to simply say, “Hey, look.  You have a right to protect you, your wife” –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

BISHOP SHINES:  — “your children.”

Now, I’m from Chicago, and here are states that don’t have any protection as far as citizens being able to carry legal firearms –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

BISHOP SHINES:  — and look at the epidemic that we’re having in that city right now as a result.  So, I’m not sure we need to throw out the law.  Examine the law, but from what I’m hearing, from what I understand, I don’t think that the law is the issue.  I think the individual is the issue – not the law.

PROF. TIBBS:  So, can I disagree with that vehemently?

MR. MARTIN:  Go ahead.  Go ahead.

PROF. TIBBS:  Actually –

MR. MARTIN:  Go ahead.

PROF. TIBBS:  — the law is particularly the problem here.  The way that the statute is written is that it gives a person – it extends what we call the “castle doctrine.”  And what you were just speaking about was the right to have self-protection in your own home, and you actually don’t have the right to use deadly force unless deadly force is first coming towards you; but you also have to have a reasonable fear of imminent death or – or bodily injury.  And so the extension of the “castle doctrine” out into the general public is what makes this a particular problem, and the way that the law is written is that it is over broad.  It doesn’t have any limitations on it at all; and it allows individuals to act, as you said, based upon what they think and then and then at the same time after that, use the doctrine itself to protect themselves.

MS. BUTLER:  Yeah.  It seems to me that these laws are, you know, “shoot first and ask questions later” –

PROF. TIBBS:  Um-hum, yeah.

MS. BUTLER:  — and I think they need to be challenged.  I think, not only legally, but culturally, it sends a message that vigilantism is okay and that we have the right to use deadly force in almost any scenario.

BISHOP SHINES:  I – I don’t think so.  I think, in all due respect to the professor as well, that I think it’s a bit naïve to assume that the issue is one of intent is an incorrect issue.  If someone is coming on to you, and that purpose is to harm, you say, “Well, we don’t know what to think.  What are we going to do?  Wait until they do whatever they want to do, and then all of a sudden, ‘Boy, gee.  We should’ve really reacted then’?”

MR. MARTIN:  Well, Bishop, we have seen –

PROF. TIBBS:  [Crosstalk]- —

MR. MARTIN:  — in Florida a dramatic increase in the number of “justifiable homicides,” and police departments and prosecutors were not in favor of this law.  And so it’s very interesting when the very people who we should be trusting to law enforcement – cops, prosecutors –

PROF. TIBBS:  Don’t want it.


MR. MARTIN:  — a- — a- — a- —

BISHOP SHINES:  — I – I’ve not seen that, Roland.

MR. MARTIN:  — no, no, no, no.

BISHOP SHINES:  The – the law –

MR. MARTIN:  No, I –

BISHOP SHINES:  — officers that I –

MR. MARTIN:  — I’m –

BISHOP SHINES:  — know and law officers that are part of our congregation – I speak with these –

MR. MARTIN:  — no, I’m speaking –

BISHOP SHINES:  — individuals –

MR. MARTIN:  — no, no, no.  When this law was up for debate in the Florida legislature, prosecutors and police officers were saying, “This is going to be a problem for us,” because I think, in this case, we see what happened.  Becau- — you say the law’s not that broad, but the Sanford Police Department saw it as broad.  And so the problem there is when prosecutors are saying, “Our hands are sort of tied, because people could just simply claim, now, self-defense,” it’s –

BISHOP SHINES:  — what’s –

MR. MARTIN:  — an issue –


MR. MARTIN:  — for them.

BISHOP SHINES:  — but, Roland, it was an overwhelming support of even the police department when this law was finally enacted.

PROF. TIBBS:  Wi- — with – with all due respect, back to the Bishop, I might not know a lot of things; but I’m not naïve about the law.  The way that we have to understand how the law works is that it’s not just that someone comes towards you.  They have to actually put you in reasonable fear an apprehension, and you have to be able to identify that reasonable fear and apprehension.  And if you can do that, then you can o- — then, and only then – even if you read the statute itself, it says that specifically in the language.  You can stand your ground, but only after you have a reasonable fear.

MR. MARTIN:  I do – do want to get this question in.  I – it’s been very interesting to me the silence, if you will, of White evangelicals –

MS. BUTLER:  Yeah.

MR. MARTIN:  — especially social conservatives.

MS. BUTLER:  Yeah.

MR. MARTIN:  And what I’ve said – I’ve called out Ralph Reed and Tony Perkins, and I say, “Wait a minute.  You guys are always talking about pro-life.  What about Trayvon Martin’s life?”

PROF. TIBBS:  Um-hum.

MS. BUTLER:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  I just find it interesting –

MS. BUTLER:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  — when – when social justice issues hap- — happens, you rarely will see White evangelicals standing with African-American pastors.  I think they simply say, “You know what?  This is really a Black problem,” as opposed to a life problem.

PROF. TIBBS:  Right.

MS. BUTLER:  You know, I know the NAACP met with Franklin Graham recently, who’s been saying some racist comments about Pres. Obama –

MR. MARTIN:  [Crosstalk] – question the –

MS. BUTLER:  — and –

MR. MARTIN:  — President’s faith – things along those lines.

MS. BUTLER:  — exactly.

MR. MARTIN:  Go ahead.  Gotcha.

MS. BUTLER:  Exactly.  And so they challenged him to speak out on Trayvon Martin, and he said that he would.  And I hope that he does, because I think you make a very important point.

I know a lot of White evangelicals that are very concerned about this issue and will in the coming days be speaking out on it, and so I’m heartened by that; but I think this is an issue for all people, regardless of political –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. BUTLER:  — persuasion –

PROF. TIBBS:  That’s right.

MS. BUTLER:  — regardless of faith, regardless of background.

PROF. TIBBS:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  And i- — i- — it just troubles me, again, when you don’t hear –


MR. MARTIN:  — folks say anything, and I believe – and I – I had a good conversation with several of – conservative commentators that are on CNN, and I told them – I said, “Here’s what I think the problem is.”  I said, “I think, in this kind of case, many social conservatives are also pro-law enforcement” –

OFF CAMERA:  Um-hum.

MR. MARTIN:  — “are also pro-Second Amendment.”

BISHOP SHINES:  Second Amendment.


MR. MARTIN:  And so when this is- — they’re sort of like, “I don’t know where I come down.”

And I said, “If you co-” – I said, “If you believe in life” –


MR. MARTIN:  — “I just think, as a person of faith –


MR. MARTIN:  — you can’t just –

BISHOP SHINES:  [Crosstalk] –

PROF. TIBBS:  I agree.

MR. MARTIN:  — say, “I’m going to be silent.”

OFF CAMERA:  Absolutely.

BISHOP SHINES:  I – I do, too –

PROF. TIBBS:  I agree.

BISHOP SHINES:  — but at the same time, let’s be fair to some of those social conservatives.  You and I both know they do not get a fair shot in the general landscape of the media.

MR. MARTIN:  But when you don’t say anything –

OFF CAMERA:   — ‘Thing – silence.

MR. MARTIN:  — then you won’t – would not have an opportunity to be called.  All I’m simply saying is – is that when these sort[s] of stories happen – when Sean Bell happens, when this story happens, when other stories [happen], I often don’t see White evangelicals standing with Black pastors.  And all this reminds me of was MLK in “[Letter from] Birmingham Jail,” when he challenged White pastors –

PROF. TIBBS:  White pastors.

MR. MARTIN:  — to get off the sidelines.  And I think that’s part of the issue.  And so I do believe oftentimes, folks will say, “Well, that’s really a Black problem” –


MR. MARTIN:  — versus, “We need to be in the game.”

PROF. TIBBS:  What about just speaking out –

MR. MARTIN:  Twenty seconds.

PROF. TIBBS:  — because it is the right thing to do?  Because we know that there seems to be irregularities.  We know that there’re problems with this particular case, White or Black, and we shouldn’t try to –

MR. MARTIN:  That’s right.

PROF. TIBBS:  — separate –


PROF. TIBBS:  — the two out, because there is a big racial issue here, and we don’t want to remove that or ignore that pink –

MR. MARTIN:  All I’m saying is —

PROF. TIBBS:  — in the room.

MR. MARTIN:  — if you want to ask Black pastors to stand with you when it comes to a pro-life rally, I’m saying stand when somebody –

PROF. TIBBS:  I agree.

MR. MARTIN:  — like Trayvon Martin –


MR. MARTIN:  — is killed.

BISHOP SHINES:  I agree as well.

MS. BUTLER:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  I certainly appreciate it.  Thank you so very much for joining us.


PROF. TIBBS:  Thank you –

MS. BUTLER:  Thank you.

BISHOP SHINES:  Thank you.

PROF. TIBBS:  — very much.

MR. MARTIN:  All right, then, folks.

I hope this conversation encourages everyone to get involved in fighting [for] justice not just for Trayvon Martin, but for young, Black men everywhere, but also young folks, period.  To quote Dr. King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

I will be in Florida – Sanford, Florida – tomorrow, covering a march to the Sanford City Hall to demand action on this case.  I’ll have a special report next Sunday here on “Washington Watch.”