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TN black caucus calls for review of 'Stand Your Ground' law

7:19 PM, Jul 17, 2013   |    comments
State Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, chairman of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators / George Walker IV
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By Chas Sisk / The Tennessean

Black lawmakers called Wednesday for a review of Tennessee's self-defense statute following last week's verdict in the Trayvon Martin case.

The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators said the state's "Stand Your Ground" provisions should be reconsidered to prevent cases like the Martin shooting from taking place in Tennessee. The group suggested that portions of the self-defense statute should be repealed or replaced in the interest of public safety.

"No child should ever have to be afraid to walk peacefully down the sidewalk without being attacked because of the way they dress or the color of their skin," state Rep. Larry Miller, a Memphis Democrat and the caucus' chairman, said in a press release. "The unfortunate death of Trayvon Martin will not go in vain; we must turn a wrong into a right."

Tennessee self-defense law says explicitly that people have "no duty to retreat" before using force if they have a reasonable belief they face death or serious injury. Similar laws have been passed in 20 other states, including Florida, where a jury on Saturday found George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, not guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter for the fatal shooting of the 17-year-old Martin during an altercation last year.

According to testimony in the heavily-covered trial, Zimmerman tracked Martin as he walked through a residential neighborhood after buying snacks from a nearby convenience store. Martin was unarmed, but defense attorneys argued successfully that Zimmerman had reason to fear for his life during the fight.

The black caucus' 17 members said they were disappointed in the verdict. They said it highlights unequal treatment of black men by the legal system and the danger of racial profiling.

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