TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Protesters rallied at the state Capitol Tuesday to call on Gov. Rick Scott to appoint a new prosecutor in the case of Trayvon Martin - an unarmed black teenager who was shot to death in Sanford last month.
College students and several criminal defense attorneys from Tallahassee chanted "Justice for Trayvon" as they marched to the Capitol to present their demands to Gov. Scott.
They also want the governor to appoint a special task force to study the issue of racial profiling and abuses of discretion by police and prosecutors. The protesters think police should arrest George Zimmerman, who claims he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in self defense.
On Tuesday, Seminole County State Attorney Norm Wolfinger said he would take the case to a grand jury next month. He says he wants to conduct a thorough review of the facts.
That decision comes as the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and the FBI decide to investigate as well. Plus, Gov. Scott has directed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to join the investigation.
Protesters welcomed the involvement of state and federal authorities. They said they have no faith in the grand jury that will examine the Martin case.
"Because you have to realize that the Sanford Police Department that has dragged its feet in the first place, they work on a day-to-day basis with that prosecutor's office and in many instances, they're all in cahoots. And so our concern is that this will be a punt where the state attorney could come out and say, 'Well, we presented the information to the grand jury and they found no probable cause to indict.' So we have serious concerns at this point that justice would not be served if that's the process that takes place," said attorney Chuck Hobbs.
Attorney Mutaqee Akbar said George Zimmerman should be arrested. Akbar blamed racial profiling for Martin's death.
"Trayvon Martin is dead because of racial profiling. Period. We all deal with it every single day and we want the governor to pay attention to that. Number two, we want the governor to pay attention to the fact that the police are abusing their discretion as to who they arrest and the state attorney offices throughout the state are abusing their discretion as well and it comes down to a racial line. It's the elephant in the room but it comes down to a racial line and we want him to form a task force to make sure that a travesty like this doesn't happen again."
During a conversation with reporters on Tuesday, Gov. Scott was asked what he thought about the idea to create a task force to focus on racial profiling.
"I think the first thing we ought to be doing is let's find out what happened here. None of us believe in any racial profiling. But I think the first step is, let's find out what happened here and I think with the local and the FDLE and FBI, I think we'll find that out first," said Scott.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi echoed the governor's comments.
"We need to let this investigation take its course and I'm going to respect the integrity of the investigation and I'm confident in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Justice Department that they will do a thorough investigation and that's where this investigation currently is, it's where it should remain with law enforcement."
The case brings new focus to Florida's so-called "Stand Your Ground" law, which the Legislature passed in 2005. It allows people to use lethal force if they feel threatened, as Zimmerman claims.
Gov. Rick Scott was also asked if he thought that law should be changed. Scott said any time there's violence, it's always positive to go back and look at existing laws to gauge their impact. He said if the law needs adjusting, he hoped state lawmakers would do so.
First Coast News