“It's hard to imagine that this couldn't have been resolved by [Mr. Zimmerman] leaving, so that no one would've gotten hurt, so this is a case where the Stand Your Ground law can actually make a legal difference,” says former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Bellin, a law professor at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas.
“Even if you have suspicions about what motivated this, and you think there was a racial element and no justification for this shooting, the fact is he had no obligation to retreat under the law,” he notes. “If prosecutors don't have the evidence to disprove the claim of self-defense, they won't be able to win.”
But for the parents of the victim, and some 240,000 people who have signed a petition for a federal investigation on the Change.org website, the bare facts of the case suggest that Zimmerman was the aggressor and that the failure to arrest him points to covert racism and an abdication of authority by the local police department.
In a press conference Friday, Trayvon Martin's parents said they no longer had any faith in the Sanford Police Department and called on the FBI to take over the investigation.
"We're not getting any closure, any answers, and it's very disturbing,” Tracy Martin, Trayvon's father, said. “As a father, I'm hurt. I feel betrayed by the Sanford Police Department."
Meanwhile, tensions are roiling in the area as several large rallies and protests are being planned and a black militia group has vowed to place the shooter under citizen's arrest. The state has said it may take several weeks to complete its review of the case.
On Feb. 26, Zimmerman, 28, a self-appointed block watch captain in The Retreat at Twin Lakes, a gated community in Sanford, just outside Orlando, called 911 from his car to report a suspicious person – a black man wearing a hoodie – walking slowly through the neighborhood. The 911 operator, according to police, told Zimmerman to wait for police to arrive. The man in the hoodie was Trayvon, returning to his family's house from buying Skittles and an iced tea at a local convenience store.