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Conflict & Tragedy

Trayvon Martin killing heats up debate over Stand Your Ground laws

Neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman of Sanford, Florida, fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin as he was walking home from a 7-Eleven store. Because of Florida's Stand Your Ground law, Zimmerman remains free.

The debate over whether Martin's death 25 days ago was racially motivated has sparked protests and a nationwide outcry demanding that Zimmerman be charged with murder.

The Stand Your Ground law, Florida Statue 776.012, states that, “A person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if...he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.”

Since Trayvon Martin was running away from Zimmerman at the time of the shooting, according to the recently released 911 tapes, some say the Stand Your Ground law is not applicable.

Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, has a criminal history. According to MSNBC's Ed Schultz, Zimmerman was arrested for assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. To some, this raises character questions about Zimmerman.

The ultimate question in this case is would George Zimmerman have shot Trayvon Martin if he were white?

And if Zimmerman had killed a white 17-year-old under similar circumstances, would he be in jail today, or remain free because of Florida's Stand You Ground law?

Sanford Police Chief, Bill Lee announced at a press conference Thursday afternoon that he was temporarily stepping down as a result of the criticism surrounding his investigation of Trayvon Martin's death.