On February 26th, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black high school student was visiting his father in Sanford, Florida and watching the NBA All-Star game at a house in a gated community. At halftime, he walked to 7-Eleven to buy Skittles and Arizona Ice Tea. He was on his way back to the house when a neighborhood crime watch volunteer named George Zimmerman noticed him. Zimmerman was patrolling the neighborhood in his SUV. He called 911 to report "a real suspicious guy," and then took off after Martin. The details of what happened next are unclear, but other 911 calls from neighbors record screams for help and a gunshot. Martin was discovered dead with a bullet to his chest.
James Peterson is Director of Africana Studies at Lehigh University and associate professor of English. He also blogs for The Huffington Post. Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor, law professor at George Washington University, and author of Let's Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice, explains the role Florida's unique "vigilante" laws play in this case.