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Trayvon Martin case: use of Stand Your Ground law or pursuit of a black teen?

A grand jury in Florida and the US Justice Department will both probe the Feb. 26 shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin. Key questions: Did the alleged gunman racially profile Trayvon? And did he use the Stand Your Ground law appropriately?

Trayvon Martin poses in this undated file family photo. On Feb. 26, a self-appointed white neighborhood watch captain shot and killed Martin, who was unarmed. Local authorities have declined to press charges, citing a state law that allows people to defend themselves with deadly force.

Martin Family Photos/AP/File

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The shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin is no longer in the sole hands of local law-enforcement officials, meaning the wheels of justice appear to be moving, after a three-week delay, toward a fuller investigation of whether the shooter killed the 17-year-old in self-defense.

On Tuesday came the announcement that Florida's Seminole County will convene a grand jury on April 10 to look into the case, even as a team from the US Justice Department's civil rights division arrived in Sanford, Fla., the community where Trayvon died Feb. 26 after he was shot by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman.

The Justice Department would not ordinarily investigate such an incident, but the fact that Trayvon was black and the alleged shooter, George Zimmerman, is part white, part Hispanic – and that local authorities declined to press charges against Mr. Zimmerman, even though Trayvon was unarmed – opens the door to a civil rights investigation on grounds the teenager came under suspicion primarily because he is African-American. 

Protests, rallies, and official pressure have been building ever since the police in Sanford declined to arrest Mr. Zimmerman. Before the shooting, Trayvon had been walking from a convenience store back to his father's fiancée's house in a gated neighborhood, with nothing more than a bag of Skittles in his pocket.


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