U.S. Commission on Civil Rights voted to initiate a probe into “stand your ground” laws and whether they bear any racial bias. The investigation was approved in a 5-3 vote on Friday, and comes shortly before George Zimmerman faces trial for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin — the case that brought these measures into the national spotlight.
According to the Huffington Post, Democratic Commissioner Michael Yaki pushed for the investigation.
“This is something the commission has not done in decades — a full-blown field investigation of an issue with potential civil rights ramifications,” he said. Specifically, they’ll be examining if “there is bias in the assertion or the denial of Stand Your Ground, depending on the race of the victim or the race of the person asserting the defense.”
Gail Heriot, an independent who voted against the probe (expected to cost up to $100,000), said she did so because it’s simply too big a feat: too complicated, “not much in the way of data.” In 2012, the Tampa Bay Times tackled the issue and determined — after going through nearly 200 cases — that “defendants claiming ‘stand your ground’ are more likely to prevail if the victim is black.”
While the commission authorized an investigation last year, Yaki said they lacked the staffing and resources to be able to follow though, which isn’t the case this time.
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