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News Coverage of Trayvon Martin Shooting Features Comments by Professor Donald Tibbs

April 17, 2012

Professor Donald Tibbs discussed the shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. on Geraldo Rivera's radio program and in numerous media outlets over the past several weeks.

At the heart of the controversy is the so-called Florida "stand your ground" law which, until April 11, allegedly prevented the arrest of Trayvon's shooter, George Zimmerman. Some questioned whether there are grounds for the rest under the Florida law. On April 16, Tibbs appeared on Washington Watch with Roland Martin commenting that Zimmerman's arrest was warranted under the Florida law. Watch here.

The law says you are not required to retreat when faced with an imminent threat, which you believe is life threatening, CBS Philly reported on March 25. At that time, Tibbs argued on CBS Philly that, without an arrest, "we're educating the public on how to use more violence," stating that the law sets a dangerous precedent because it allows an aggressor to use deadly force and later claim self-defense.

The real issue is not whether the "stand your ground" law condones this kind of violence but also whether, up until now, it should preclude the police from making an arrest, Tibbs said on Newstalk ZB, a New Zealand Radio Station. "Whether or not George Zimmerman [Trayvon's shooter] actually acted in self-defense is not a question . . . for the police and is actually a question for a jury . . . and since no arrest has been made we haven't been able to have a jury . . . make a decision about George Zimmerman's actions."

Tibbs reiterated this sentiment as part of a panel discussion on Washington Watch with Roland Martin stating, "if the police fail at the front end to do what they need to do in order to move forward with the case, it’s difficult to have the evidence later on – and that’s what creates some of the confusion, as well as some of the apprehension about moving forward."

Tibbs was a guest on Rivera's WABC Radio program on March 26 (interview begins about 56 minutes into the program). In articles published by the Washington Post, New York Post, Fox News Latino and the Associated Press on March 25, Tibbs commented on whether the U.S. Justice Department could pursue a hate crime charge against Trayvon's shooter. Such charges would be viable, Tibbs said, "if . . . a racial epithet . . . preceded the attack." However, “while race is definitely involved here, we shouldn't try to have the conversation simply through the lens of race, but that this is a tragedy for everyone, that this is a father who lost his son to needless violence,” Tibbs told the Christian Science Monitor on March 23. President Obama’s remarks acknowledge the universal concerns the tragedy raises, Tibbs said. Were it not for an outcry from black activists, celebrities and attorneys, the tragedy would not have become the story that has now engulfed the nation, Tibbs told the Christian Science Monitor in an article published on March 22.

Professor Tibbs’ expertise focuses on the overlapping issues of race, law, civil rights and criminal procedure, his book, “From Black Power to Prison Power: The Making of Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union,” was published by Palgrave MacMillan this year.