Rep. Garnet Coleman Press Statement: George Zimmerman Decision

PRESS STATEMENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  7/15/2013

Contact: Christopher Walker
281.250.0833 (cell)

Press Statement from Representative Garnet F. Coleman (D-Houston) on the jury finding George Zimmerman “not guilty”:

Only two people know exactly what happened that night, and one of them can no longer speak. What we do know is that Trayvon Martin’s parents had to bury their son because George Zimmerman saw an unarmed, black teenager and viewed him as a threat. We also know that Zimmerman’s actions – the killing arising out of suspicion, unjustified fear, and stalking of an unarmed teenager – are apparently protected by Florida’s “self-defense” laws, including the infamous “Stand Your Ground” provision.

A study conducted by Texas A&M University found that enacting Stand Your Ground laws result in more homicides. A further study conducted by the Urban Institute and PBS show a racial bias in Stand Your Ground laws: whites who kill blacks in Stand Your Ground states are 354% more likely to be found justified in their killing than those who killed another white person.

Rep. Coleman continued:

Unfortunately, as of 2007, Texas is also a Stand Your Ground state. I was one of only 14 Representatives to vote against the law, and it was because I understand how it makes a target out of people of color, particularly young males like Trayvon Martin. His death was tragic but unfortunately quite predictable.

That is why I am fighting to change the law back to the more reasonable standard we had prior to 2007. My bill filed this past session, House Bill 3773, would reinstate the “duty to retreat” in most situations while preserving the right to defend oneself and one’s family. There would be no requirement to retreat if an individual is in his or her own home or if the deadly force were used to stop the commission of a serious crime. The 2007 law just went too far. My bill would balance the right to self-defense with public safety. We can have reasonable self-defense laws that do not also authorize armed and untrained individuals to seek out conflicts and then fire their gun when the situation deteriorates. We have a trained police force for a reason; we do not need people “playing cop.” As long as these laws are on the books, I’m afraid there will be more Trayvon Martins.

Representative Coleman is available for comment.

[i] http://econweb.tamu.edu/mhoekstra/castle_doctrine.pdf

[ii] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/criminal-justice/is-there-racial-bias-in-stand-your-ground-laws/

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