Lawyer: Shooter has a good defense

Annie Singh (center) and Linda Dayson (right) at a rally for Trayvon Martin in Jacksonville, Fla. BOB MACK / Florida Times-Union
Annie Singh (center) and Linda Dayson (right) at a rally for Trayvon Martin in Jacksonville, Fla. BOB MACK / Florida Times-Union (Annie Singh)
Posted: March 25, 2012

MIAMI - Attorneys for the family of Trayvon Martin and the Florida Neighborhood Watch captain who fatally shot the unarmed teen offered different perspectives Saturday on the federal investigation of the death.

Daryl D. Parks, an attorney for the Martin family, told board members of the National Association of Black Journalists that family members met with federal and local officials for more than an hour Thursday. He said the family left the meeting "with a strong sense that Justice was very committed" to investigating the case.

"I think that it was rather clear that the attorney general is quite aware of the situation," Parks said, referring to Eric H. Holder Jr. "They have devoted a great deal of resources into looking into this matter."

But, Parks added, "it was clear from Justice's statements that charges of a hate crime are going to be a challenge."

Meanwhile, a lawyer representing the Neighborhood Watch captain, George Zimmerman, 28. said Saturday that he believed the state's stand-your-ground law applied to the case. Craig Sonner said his client had been unfairly portrayed as a racist.

The Feb. 26 incident in the gated community has ignited racial tensions - Zimmerman is white and Latino - and raised questions about the police's handling of the case. Rallies were held Saturday in major cities such as Washington and Chicago to protest the investigation by the local police.

Amid the public outcry, the Sanford police chief and state's attorney in the case have both stepped aside. Zimmerman has not been arrested or charged.

Parks said Saturday that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement had told the family's legal team that it was aware of Zimmerman's whereabouts. It is not clear whether they are offering protection to Zimmerman, who has been in hiding and has received death threats in recent weeks.

Martin's parents also met Friday with the newly appointed special prosecutor in the case.

Parks said the legal team planned to pursue a civil case against the Twin Lakes homeowners' association.

Sonner said he believed the case fell under Florida's stand-your-ground law, which dictates that a person has the right to stand his ground and "meet force with force" if attacked. "I believe what the evidence will show is that this case does fall under that," Sonner said. "I believe we have a good case."

Meanwhile, authorities say a Florida man is charged with threatening the police chief who had been overseeing the investigation.

The Seminole County Sheriff's Office said that John Carnduff Stewart of Melbourne Beach e-mailed Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee on Friday, saying Lee and his family should be killed.

The sheriff's office said Stewart had sent threatening e-mails previously, including to Penn State assistant football coach Mike McQueary. Stewart was placed on electronic monitoring as a condition of his $10,000 bond.

Lee temporarily stepped down as chief amid national outrage over the investigation.

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