A few weeks after turning 17, Florida teenager Trayvon Martin became a national symbol of the controversial "Stand Your Ground" laws on the books in 22 states that led to his shooting death. His mother, Sybrina Fulton, testified at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing Tuesday morning on the laws and their impact on civil rights and public safety so that senators could "at least put a face with what has happened with this tragedy."
Recounting that fateful night, Fulton said that her son was simply going to the store to get snacks, some candy and a soft drink, and chatting on the phone with a friend.
"He was not going to get cigarettes or bullets or condoms or other items of that nature. He was going to get a drink and candy. Trayvon was minding his own business," she said. "He was not looking for any kind of trouble. He was not committing any crime and that's important to remember."
Fulton, who did not refer to her prepared remarks, also said that laws like "Stand Your Ground" that make kids feel unsafe in their communities are in need of serious review.
"I just wanted to come here to let you know how important it is that we amend this stand your ground because it certainly did not work in my case," she said. "The person that shot and killed my son is walking the streets today. This law does not work."
Lucia Holman McBath, in an emotional testimony, spoke of the things she won't see her son Jordan, also 17 and from Florida, grow up to experience after he was killed last year when Michael David Dunn allegedly shot at four teenagers sitting inside a car listening to loud music. Dunn said he saw a gun but authorities did not find any weapons in the car. His trial is set for next year.
"I am here to tell you there was no ground to stand. There was no threat. No one was trying to invade his home, his vehicle, nor threatened him or his family," she told the panel.
McBath said that she fears she will see Dunn walk free, "hiding behind a statute that lets people claim a threat where there was none" and urged them to "lift this nation from its internal battle in which guns rule over right."
“This is not about politicking, this is not about inflaming racial tensions, though some might try to use it to do that,” said Cruz, who offered Fulton condolences for her loss. “This is about the right of everyone to protect themselves, to protect their family.”
NAACP Washington bureau chief Hilary Shelton told BET.com that such hearings are critical because they give voice to the victims of "racially discriminatory and reckless laws" and experts who explain what a problem they are, which is instructive to both the American public and state legislators.
"Every time we come here, somebody is listening and it's important that they listen to make changes," Fulton told BET.com.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)