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Jacksonville Attorney: Neighborhood Watch Has Limitations

10:42 PM, Mar 20, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A neighborhood watch captain said he killed Trayvon Martin, 17, in Sanford, Fla.

The man, George Zimmerman, has not been charged but now federal prosecutors and the FBI are launching an investigation.

"Ultimately he was armed with Skittles," said Jacksonville criminal defense attorney Janet Johnson. "It's hard to claim self-defense when he was armed with candy and an iced tea."

"Trayvon Martin had a bag of Skittles," echoed Benjamin Crump, the family attorney of Trayvon Martin. "Where is self-defense in that?" 

Martin was walking through a gated community near Orlando three weeks ago when he was shot by Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer.

Martin was returning from a convenience store where he bought a bag of Skittles and an iced tea, according to reports.

Similar neighborhood watch organizations stand guard over Jacksonville neighborhoods.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, which runs the neighborhood watch programs, declined to comment. A spokesperson instead referring us to JSO's website.

According to JSO literature, these organizations prompt participants to watch for things like suspicious people or activities, and to protect themselves with preventative measures like locking doors.

It's stated under "duties and responsibilities" of neighborhood watch participants that if there is an incident, it should be reported to the police department first.

"They need to be told they don't have any special power," Johnson said.

Zimmerman told dispatchers he was pursuing Martin, but has claimed self-defense.

Some attorneys said Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' doctrine may come into play; it gives individuals the leeway to use deadly force if they feel threatened.

Johnson said it is important for neighborhood watch participants to understand the purpose and limitations of 'Stand Your Ground'.

"I think we should all limit what we're telling our neighbors they can do," Johnson said. "We can all be vigilant but that doesn't mean we have to be vigilantes."

First Coast News

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