SANFORD, Fla./NEW YORK (Reuters) - One year after the fatal Florida shooting of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin sparked national debate about gun laws and racial profiling, his parents prepared for a solemn vigil in Manhattan on Tuesday as they continue to crusade for stricter gun laws.
Meanwhile, George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Martin during an altercation, remained out of sight, preparing for the possibility of a high-profile murder trial scheduled for June in Florida.
Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, and their attorney, Benjamin Crump, said his death last February 26 in the Orlando suburb of Sanford has altered the debate about Stand Your Ground gun laws.
Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, passed in 2005, allows people to use lethal force in self-defense if they are in fear of serious bodily harm. More than 20 states have since passed similar laws.
“This is the first time in about five years that there has been no new Stand Your Ground laws enacted in any other states in America,” Crump told CNN Tuesday.
“So I say that is a plus for the advocacy for Trayvon Martin,” Crump said. “This time last year nobody knew about this little-known law called Stand Your Ground but now everybody knows about it.”
Crump called it “asinine that you can ... shoot and kill an unarmed kid and say Stand Your Ground, and go home and sleep in your bed at night.”
Police cited that law in initially refusing to arrest Zimmerman, which sparked celebrity protests and popular demonstrations across the country, turning the case into international story.
Amid the controversy, the Sanford police chief stepped down and Florida Governor Rick Scott appointed a special prosecutor who charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder. A judge granted him bail and ordered him to remain in Florida pending trial.
Zimmerman’s attorney plans to invoke the Stand Your Ground law at an April 29 hearing at which a Florida judge could determine if the law applied to Zimmerman, possibly granting him immunity and averting a criminal trial.
”We just want to have that trial, and let the jury decide,“ Fulton, the teen’s mother, told CNN. ”And whatever decision comes out of that, we’re going to accept that. “We may not like it, but we’re going to accept it.”
In Sanford, several dozen people will gather for a candlelight vigil near the time - 7:15 p.m. - when Martin, 17, was shot.
Editing by Daniel Trotta and Nick Zieminski