Governor Reviewing Request for Special Prosecutor in Trayvon Martin Death

By: Jim Turner | Posted: March 22, 2012 3:55 AM
Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin

Saying he believes a “plantation-like” atmosphere exists in Sanford, Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, plans to head a bipartisan legislative fact-finding mission to the Central Florida community that sits just outside his district.

Siplin, along with Sens. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, and Sen. Chris Smith, D-Oakland Park, also called on Gov. Rick Scott to appoint a special prosecutor to oversee a Seminole County grand jury investigation into the death of Trayvon Martin.

“I know we have the U.S. attorney’s offices involved, the FBI, we still have a local prosecutor,” Siplin told reporters Wednesday outside the Senate chambers in the Capitol. “We’re not contesting the veracity of the current prosecutor but through tradition he has a relationship with the sheriff’s department, the police department in the city of Sanford.”
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The governor’s office said early Wednesday afternoon Scott is considering the request.

The grand jury is scheduled to convene April 10.

Martin, 17, was shot about 7:15 p.m. Feb. 26 while walking through a Sanford gated community, returning from a 7-Eleven, where he'd bought Skittles and a can of Arizona iced tea.

Sanford police have said they cannot arrest George Zimmerman, the gunman, because he claimed self-defense -- under the state’s Stand Your Ground law -- and evidence backed that up, including witness accounts and what officers saw when they arrived: Zimmerman with a bloody nose.

Siplin is planning the fact-finding mission with Braynon, Smith, Sens. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, Ronda Storms, R-Brandon, and Joe Negron, R-Stuart, to look into the Children and Family Services and Medicaid issues in the community. The goal is to see if legislation can be crafted for the 2013 session to address the “bastions of racism” Siplin said exists in Sanford.

“I live near Sanford, I know it’s kind of like a plantation,” Siplin said.

Braynon said there is vagueness in the state’s Stand Your Ground law that needs to be addressed.

The Florida Libertarian Party and the group Florida Carry have both criticized Braynon as politicizing the investigation.

House Democratic Leader-designate Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, has also urged House leadership to hold hearings on the 2005 Stand Your Ground law.

"I don't think it was the intent of the Florida Legislature in 2005 to authorize citizens to be hunted down and shot with impunity," Thurston stated in a release. "I believe it is now imperative that lawmakers discuss and take a fresh look at Florida's Stand Your Ground Law."

For a legal analysis of this case as it pertains to the Stand Your Ground Law, click here.

But Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Merritt Island, has advised Thurston that legislative action isn't needed as FBI and FDLE investigations and the grand jury are underway, said Cannon spokeswoman Katie Betta.

On Tuesday, Scott called for a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into the shooting alongside those of the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice.

“I think the first thing we ought to be doing is, let’s find out what happened here,” Scott said Tuesday. “Nobody, none of us, believes in any racial profiling. But I think the first step is, let’s find out what happened here. And I think with local, FDLE and FBI, I’m positive we’ll find that out first.”

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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