Debate rages over arrest of shooter of slain Florida teen

By Kyle Hightower
Associated Press

SANFORD, Fla. — Women’s jewelry and a watch found in Trayvon Martin’s school backpack last fall could not be tied to any reported thefts, the Miami-Dade Police Department said Tuesday.

The Miami Herald reported Tuesday it had obtained a Miami-Dade Schools Police Department report showing the slain teenager was suspended in October for writing obscene graffiti on a door at his high school.

During a search of his backpack, the report said, campus security officers found 12 pieces of women’s jewelry, a watch and a screwdriver that they felt could be used as a burglary tool.

Martin’s fatal Feb. 26 shooting in Sanford, Fla., by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman has caused a national firestorm.

The Herald reported that when campus security confronted Martin with the jewelry, he told them that a friend had given it to him, but he wouldn’t give a name.

Miami-Dade school officials declined Tuesday to confirm the report when contacted by The Associated Press, citing federal privacy laws regarding students.

Miami-Dade Police did confirm it had been asked by school police to help identify the property taken from Martin’s backpack. It notified school police that the jewelry did not match any that had been reported stolen.

Martin had previously been suspended for excessive absences and tardiness and, at the time of his death, was serving a 10-day suspension from school after school officials found an empty plastic bag with marijuana traces in his backpack.

His parents and their lawyer, Benjamin Crump, have said such reports are irrelevant to the shooting and part of an attempt to demonize Martin. Crump did not return calls to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, black Democratic members of the Florida Legislature are demanding that a special session be called to consider whether to repeal the state’s seven-year-old “Stand Your Ground” law, which eliminates a person’s duty to retreat when threatened with seriously bodily harm or death.

Sanford police have cited the law as the reason Zimmerman wasn’t arrested after the shooting. They are also demanding that a task force appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to examine the shooting and any changes needed to state law begin work immediately instead of waiting for the police investigation to conclude.

“Whether self-defense was a legitimate factor, the law remains intact — with all the same components still in place for more killings and additional claims of self-defense, warranted or not,” state Sen. Chris Smith wrote in a statement to the governor.

But Scott and other Republicans have insisted that the state should wait until ongoing police investigations are completed.

Republican Rep. Dennis Baxley, one of the sponsors of the law, said that “when things have cooled off a little bit I think it’s worthy to sit down and say is there legislation that is needed.”

Police Chief Bill Lee temporarily stepped down after outrage erupted over the police department’s handling of the shooting.