The year is 2012, but the controversial death of Florida youth Trayvon Martin is causing some to say that it still feels like the 20th century.
Nearly a month after the 17-year-old Miami Springs, Fla. native was shot down by a neighborhood watchman in Sanford, Fla., his killer still remains free.
“This is a 21st-century Emmit Till lynching,” Sirius Satellite radio personality Joe Madison told the AFRO. “Once again, you have a young, African American who was perceived to be a threat. Here we are again with a person that has not been prosecuted.”
Martin's killer, George Zimmerman claimed self defense after firing the fatal shot Feb. 26. State authorities said they have not charged Zimmerman because they have no evidence to contradict his story.
Some speculate that Zimmerman may eventually walk free, thanks to a Florida statute called “Stand Your Ground.” The law, which was enacted in 2005, prevents gun holders from being prosecuted if they claim self defense in situations where they feel endangered.
The U.S. Justice Department launched a full investigation into the matter March 19 and announced it that it would help state officials with their probe. Martin's family, who has rallied for justice in his death, met with the department March 22, according to CNN. The outcome of the meeting has not been announced.
Meanwhile, Sanford, Fla. city commissioners have voted “no confidence” in Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee's handling of the investigation. According to CBS News, the commission voted 3-2 against Lee March 21 and called for his resignation.
Lee reports to the city manager, meaning the commission does not have the power to fire him. But City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. told CBS News that he would take the group's vote into consideration.
On Friday, President Obama was reported as saying that the “Trayvon Martin case is a 'tragedy,' every aspect must be investigated”. Groups across America have rallied against Zimmerman. The Martins joined demonstrators in New York City March 21 for an event deemed “The Million Hoodie March.”
Madison, the Rev. Al Sharpton and radio personality Michael Baisden also hosted another rally at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Sanford March 22.
“[Our goal] is to let Trayvon Martin's family know that they have support,” Madison said, prior to the event. “You have to remember that it has been 25 days since he was killed. For three weeks, his family was pretty much on their own. We're going down to support the family, encourage the community and urge local leadership to keep doing what they're doing.”
The story took a dramatic turn with the March 16 release of 911 tapes that recorded the night of the shooting.
On the Sanford 911 tape, Zimmerman told the dispatcher there had been break-ins in the area and said Martin, who was returning to his father's house from a nearby convenience store, looked “suspicious.”
“This guy looks like he's up to no good, or he's on drugs or something,” Zimmerman told the dispatcher.
Several additional tapes were posted online a short time later, fusing Zimmerman’s call with subsequent calls from neighbors who reported gunshots and a fight between Zimmerman and Martin, who was found to be unarmed.
Now, debate has sparked on whether Zimmerman called the teen a “f--king coon” on the tape.
Madison said that he confirmed the watchman used the racial epithet after one of his sound engineers cleaned up the audio.
“After the dispatcher told [Zimmerman] not to pursue anyone, we hear him say f--ing coon,” he said. “That is racist and so, this is the lynch pin in the federal investigation that I think is necessary to bring charges of a hate crime.”
According to CNN, whether Zimmerman used the slur prior to killing Martin is key. The federal government is not allowed to prosecute typical murders. However, they can take action if one person kills another on the basis of race.
“The Justice Department has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that race was a motivating factor and that is the crux of their investigation,” Madison said.