Trayvon Martin's mother testified before a U.S. Senate panel yesterday, urging states to amend their “stand-your-ground” laws, reports the Miami Herald. A stand-your-ground law allows a potential crime victim in fear of grave harm to use deadly force in public places; it also eliminates the duty to retreat. Between 2000 and 2010, at least 22 states enacted some form of a stand-your-ground law. Although George Zimmerman’s defense did not mention such laws at his trial, a juror known only as juror B-37 told CNN that Florida's stand-your-ground law was key in the jury's verdict.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Il.), who presided over the hearing, cited Texas A&M University research suggesting about 600 homicides a year could be linked to stand-your-ground laws; the research found no indication that the laws deter crime. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.), questioned the purpose of the hearing, saying the federal government has no authority over state self-defense law. Stand-your-ground laws changed the defendant's burden of proving that he or she reasonably perceived a threat to presuming the defendant's perception was reasonable, said David LaBahn of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. Given the prejudices that many Americans hold, laws that hinge on an individual's subjective belief are likely to produce prejudiced results, he said. “Because it's subjective, it allows them to go ahead and believe they're in danger and do the dramatic thing and take a life.”