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Black lawyer group urges Florida governor to repeal 'Stand Your Ground'

Sybrina Fulton (R) mother of Trayvon Martin, stands with National Bar Association President John Page (C) and Nathaniel and Cleopatra Pendle
Sybrina Fulton (R) mother of Trayvon Martin, stands with National Bar Association President John Page (C) and Nathaniel and Cleopatra Pendle

By Kevin Gray

MIAMI BEACH, Florida (Reuters) - A leading group of black lawyers on Monday urged Florida's governor to call a special legislative session to repeal the state's "Stand Your Ground" law after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.

"Stand Your Ground must fall," said John Page, the president of the National Bar Association, one of the oldest organizations of African-American lawyers, during the group's annual meeting in Miami Beach, Florida.

Civil rights groups have stepped up calls for Governor Rick Scott to ask state lawmakers to overhaul the law. Dozens of students this month staged a sit-in in Tallahassee, the state's capital, also urging him to repeal it.

But Scott has repeatedly said he supports Stand Your Ground and has no plans to call a special session. Recent polls show a majority of Floridians also back the law, which was first passed in 2005 with overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats alike.

"I'm asking Governor Scott - convene a session," Page said. "We're asking you to act."

Dennis Baxley, a Florida state representative who sponsored the law, has also said he sees no need to overhaul it. He has argued the law has helped to lower crime rates in Florida.

Under Stand Your Ground, people fearing for their lives can use deadly force without having to retreat from a confrontation, even when it is possible.

Earlier this month, a jury acquitted Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer, of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the killing of Martin, a black 17 year old.

Critics contend that Zimmerman racially profiled Martin when he followed him in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense and shot Martin after the teenager punched him and smashed his head into a concrete sidewalk.

While Zimmerman did not invoke Stand Your Ground in his defense, one member of the jury has said there was a reference to the law in the jury instructions.

A second member of the jury has called for changes to Florida's self-defense law, which she said gave jurors no option but to acquit.

Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, appeared alongside Page on Monday. She said she believed the Stand Your Ground law contributed to Zimmerman's not guilty verdict.

"The thing about this law is I just think it assisted the person who killed my son to get away with murder," Fulton said. "We have to change these laws so that this doesn't happen to somebody else's child."

(Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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