July 16, 2013, 12:33 pm By JAMES C. MCKINLEY JR.
Protesting the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of the black teenager Trayvon Martin, Stevie Wonder said on Sunday that he will not play a concert in Florida until the state repeals its Stand Your Ground law, which makes it harder to prosecute people who claim they killed someone in self-defense, NBC reported.
“I decided today that until the Stand Your Ground law is abolished in Florida I will never perform there again,” Mr. Wonder said during a concert in Quebec City. “Wherever I find that law exists I will not perform in that state or that part of the world.”
The trial focused attention on Florida’s expansive self-defense law, and its Stand Your Ground provision. That provision allows people to use lethal force to defend themselves if they “reasonably believe” they might be killed or suffer severe injuries, even if they can retreat from the conflict, setting a low bar that makes prosecuting such cases difficult. About two dozen states have similar laws.
Like almost everything else in the trial of Mr. Zimmerman, the role of the Stand Your Ground provision in the jury’s decision to acquit him is unclear. Mr. Zimmerman’s defense did not invoke the provision, arguing instead that he could not have retreated from the fight on the night of Feb. 26, 2012, because Mr. Martin had pinned him to the ground and was hitting him. Still, the judge specifically mentioned the provision when she gave the jury its instructions, so it may have been a factor in the jury’s deliberations.
For many people upset about the outcome of the trial, however, the provision has become a focus of anger. Some argue that such laws, coupled with gun laws allowing citizens to carry concealed guns, encourage the kind of confrontations that led to Mr. Martin’s death.
Mr. Wonder is one of them. “For those that we have lost in the battle for justice, wherever that fits in any part of the world, we can’t bring them back, what we can do is we can let our voices be heard,” he said. He added: “You can’t just talk about it. You got to be about it.”