Investigation of Trayvon Martin’s Death and Police Response Must Be Fair, Thorough, Unbiased

Joyce Hamilton Henry
Mid-Florida Regional Director, ACLU of Florida

Rev. Al Sharpton, Dr. Joyce Hamilton Henry, and Sybrina Fulton

(Pictured above, from left to right: Rev. Al Sharpton, Joyce Hamilton Henry and Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, at the gathering.)

Tens of thousands of people were in Sanford, Florida, last night — coming together over the tragedy of the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. (Pictured above, from left to right: Rev. Al Sharpton, Joyce Hamilton Henry and Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, at the gathering.)

National political, social and media leaders joined the Martin family in seeking justice and speaking to and for a community in pain. As Mid-Florida Regional Director of the ACLU, I was there and I can tell you that the emotion and energy in the crowd was intense as they demanded justice for Trayvon.

In the hours before and since the rally last night, two events unfolded which will shape this ongoing situation: it was announced that a state attorney from outside the area will help lead the official inquiry, and Sanford’s Police Chief, Bill Lee, announced he would temporarily step aside.

Early on, we highlighted the need for an unbiased, professional, thorough outside investigation into the shooting and called on state and federal leaders to act. Thankfully, the FBI, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the Department of Justice have announced that they will undertake an investigation. These agencies should investigate not only what happened to Trayvon, but the response of local law enforcement to his killing. With the addition of outside eyes on the Martin shooting, we don’t want to lose sight of the need to not only uncover what happened that tragic night but also review the initial local investigation itself. Unanswered and very troubling questions about the police response remain.

Bringing in a state attorney from outside Sanford is clearly a hopeful  development and their  expected professionalism will help the FBI and FDLE conduct the fair and objective investigation that is needed. The governor and law enforcement leaders deserve credit for making this happen.

Now that outside experts are looking over the evidence and hopefully reviewing the investigation itself, we must give them the room they need to do the job right.

Justice is best served in this tragedy by a thorough and unbiased investigation of both the shooting and the initial investigation by the Sanford Police Department.

TAKE ACTION: Please join us in calling on Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to ensure that this investigation is done right. We deserve fair, thorough and unbiased answers.

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(Note: This piece also appears on the ACLU National Blog.)

4 Responses to “Investigation of Trayvon Martin’s Death and Police Response Must Be Fair, Thorough, Unbiased”


  1. 1 Lonnie Robinson April 2, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Are “Poor Blacks” afforded their Constitutional Rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness—in the United States —as the Upper-Class Blacks who have ASSIMILATED themselves to the norms—of the Whiteman/System? Do the Whiteman determine—which Blacks—they will allow—to receive their—God Given Right—to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness!
    I am Benjamin Crump!
    My name is Mr. Lonnie Elliott Robinson. I’m a Poor Blackman who was born and raised in district 5—the most impoverished and crime infested district—in the City of Miami Florida. I want to become a Criminal Defense Lawyer. I applied to the law schools in Dade County Florida—Florida International University College of Law and The University of Miami School of Law. I was repeatedly denied entry! It has always been my lifelong dream and hearts desire to receive my legal education from the University of Miami School of Law.
    All law schools ‘now’ have Blacks—but they do not have ‘any’ Poor Blacks? The Law School Admission Council is the System—which all people who want to go to law school—must use! The statistical research data compiled by the LSAC—reveals that it is the Poor Blacks—who always score at the Bottom of this exam? And that this and only this—is the reason—that Poor Blacks are not seen in law schools.
    However—you ‘can find’ Poor Blacks who have graduated from law school—who have become accomplished attorneys in their respective fields! Unfortunately—Affirmative Action—can be attributed to this! In my Is It Fair Document (Attached)—I reveal “HOW” the Law School Admission Council wrote the Law School Admission Test—in a manner which Poor Blacks would—Score at the Bottom of this exam. Please see the *is it Fair Document, and the *Why Law Schools should Comply Document. And you will see—why you do not see Poor Blacks—in Law School.
    I am Benjamin Crump!
    I am Trayvon Martin!
    I was raised Poor—and when I speak—I sound “just like Benjamin Crump!
    I was so ‘excited and delighted’ to see and hear Benjamin Crump—on Local and National Television on every Channel, every day! I said to myself—thank you Jesus! For letting the World see—something which they weren’t familiar with seeing; or shall I say—HEARING! They weren’t use to hearing the sound of an UNASSIMILATED BLACK LAWYER!
    My family and friends said that:—Trayvon Martins Parents better get another lawyer—this lawyer is a ghetto lawyer—you hear how he sounds? And he is supposed to talk—he’s letting the Momma do all of the talking?
    I said that:—you are no different than Mr. George Zimmerman—with your Stinking Thinking! I sound just like him—do you think that “this makes me DUMB?
    I tell everyone that—the greatest legal strategy—is for the lawyer to get pass his/her ego—and let the World hear the broken heart—of Trayvon’s Mother!
    In the United States of America —we have Upper-Class Blacks, Middle Class Blacks and Poor Blacks. We are somewhat different—yet we are equal in Gods Eyes! So who are ‘we’ to Judge?

  2. 2 Lonnie Robinson April 2, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Is it fair?

    Is it fair/reasonable that the United States Department of Education gives “millions” of Poor People tax dollars to Law Schools which utilize policies—which discriminates/prevents Poor People from being a part of their student body?
    Law Schools have blacks—but you do not see—Poor Blacks? This is “caused” by the Policies being used. This has nothing to do with the Law on legal or illegal discrimination. We all know that the law in the United States of America relative to unlawful discrimination—is very narrow! This has everything to do with an institution implementing and utilizing a Policy—“which is known” to discriminate/prevent Poor People from being a part of their student body! One only needs to ‘look around the student body’ of Law Schools —and see that lower-class/poor blacks—are not represented. You see blacks from the upper-class! They all look alike, sound alike, and “act alike!
    The Policies being used today—have always been used. Even during the decades of Affirmative Action. They consist of the use of the LSAT exam and attaching policies which when used together—discriminates/prevent the Poor Law School Candidate from being a part of their student body. Attaching policies such as the use of cutoff scores, the reliance on high scores—and not adhering to the recommendation of the American Bar Association—to use a ‘MORE’ holistic approach—when reviewing the application of Poor people or people who are victimized by these policies. The LSAT exam takes advantage of the fact that poor people receive an Inferior education—compared to the upper-class students.
    The LSAC, (who write the LSAT exams) on their web page covering diversity, admits that minorities score significantly lower than the upper-class students. They say that this is due to minorities not studying hard, and not ordering and taking the previous exams, and using them to practice—the same way that they will have to—on the real exam, on the day of the test. I say— BULLSHIT!!
    All Poor People —aren’t lazy! Minorities pass the LSAT exam and are represented in our nation’s Law Schools. You see among their student body—members who represent: race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability. Unfortunately—none of these members represent—the lower class?
    Everyone who apply for Law School are instructed by the LSAC on their webpage and in their Prep Books, as well as all of the other Professional LSAT Prep Books and Tutors—to study hard, order and take the previous exams, and use them to practice—the same way that you will have to—on the real exam, on the day of the test. I did exactly as I was instructed—and scored poorly! My score is under Law Schools—cutoff scores?
    Poor People vocabulary is on average 100 words. Upper-class people vocabulary is on average 1000 words. The exam strategically inserts words that we do not know—in a juncture of the argument—where you would have to know the meaning of that word—in order to answer the question correctly. The argument lead you to go left—but that word signals you to go right? The exam uses topics/subjects that seem foreign to poor people. I’ve never heard of many subjects that are used. By the time poor people try to understand a word or a topic/subject—the clock is ticking!
    The exam, being timed, coupled with the above—causes the poor student to score significantly lower than the upper-class students. I used the dictionary and saw that every big word used, had a simple root word, which I could have understood, and thereby arrived at the correct answer. When I came upon any topics that dealt with criminal justice or anything that I could get a grasp on—I not only answered them correctly—I answered them quickly! Why didn’t the LSAC write the exam in a manner which—everyone could understand?
    In the Spirit of Affirmative Action, the United States Department of Education and the American Bar Association should—mandate that Law Schools who are accredited by the ABA and receives money from the Department of Education—implement and offer a—Alternative Admission Program to Poor Blacks and others who are victimized by these policies. Make sense? This action would *allow Law Schools to continue to use these policies; *bring fairness/justice to Poor People; and *bring ‘TRUE’ Diversity to Law Schools.
    Law Schools “love to boast” on their webpage about how their student bodies are Diverse. However, just like the law on unlawful discrimination is too narrow—law schools definition of having a diverse student body—is also too narrow! In the United States of America —we divide our citizens into classes—Upper-class, Middle-class and Lower-class/Poor! Until the student body of Law Schools reflect all three classes—Law Schools do not have ‘TRUE’ diversity?
    I applied to: the University of Miami School of Law (my heart’s desire and lifelong dream) and was denied entry the last two years. This year it is “my prayer” that I not only be admitted—I pray that all Law Schools offer an Alternative Admission Program to People like me!

    Respectfully Submitted in Jesus name
    Lonnie Elliott Robinson

  3. 3 Inara Ramin April 4, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    As time goes on since the senseless killing of unarmed Trayvon Martin it becomes crystal clear as to why the atmosphere is so violitile. There has been senseless un prosecuted murders of Blackmen in America from the Mayflower. It is not cosmicly correct to just forget about those murdered during the Middle Passage. It is not cosmicly correct to over look the thousands murdered during US slavery through 1865, it is not possible to erase from our racial memory the 9000 men murdered from 1865 through 1940 in the southern states slavery with a new name “CONVICT LEASING”. I find it truly amazing and unsettling that people Black and white are actually surprised that most of us consider this a racially motivated killing. Yes we do have a family of color in the White House, but we still live in an American society that has not reconciled with its’ birth defect.

  4. 4 BOKE [name/brand] (@artistofideas) April 6, 2012 at 2:02 am

    I write this as a white liberal who has sometimes been the only white in black gatherings … I have been hugged by Cornel West … shaken hands with Henry Louis Gates … asked Jesse Jackson a question face to face …

    … spoken at a town council meeting to ask that the police department install video cameras on their cars (so it would be harder to harass young blacks and Latinos …)

    … I was also once stopped by Beverly Hills Police and asked what I was doing (when I was just looking around at what 90210 looks like) …

    … I have been informed “You’re black!” at midnight in an all-black staffed McDonalds in Atlanta … and was the only white face in a screening of Spike Lee’s X in a small Southern town.

    … None the less I’ve also crossed the street to avoid walking through a crowd of black people on a night in New York City when black people had a reason to be mad at white people ….

    … and on a Sunday morning in an all black church in South Central, where everyone was smiling and hugging me … there was just one black male teen in attendance …

    … and he (alone) was scowling at me …

    … and I said to myself “I don’t blame him.”

    I know that if he’d been stopped by those Beverly Hills cops that had stopped me (because of my cheap car), he might have needed to lie on the ground with his hands behind his head. Accept humiliation far greater than would ever be inflicted on white liberal me.

    BUT … I wouldn’t have let him kill me if we’d crossed paths one night and the situation went awry.

    SO … WHAT I SEE IN THE CURRENT MOMENT … is that a huge mess has been made of an awful tragedy. THIS is not a hate crime with cover up. This is the tragic encounter … between a man protecting his neighborhood … and a young man defending his honor or choosing a pre-emptive strike to save his life from a perceived criminal.

    George Zimmerman did not pursue Trayvon Martin. He followed him. Didn’t hunt him, just tried to keep him in sight so he could tell the police where he was, so he “wouldn’t get away.”

    THIS is not the case to tear the world apart over. This is a tragedy.

    BOTTOM LINE: The ACLU should protect George Zimmerman from what has been wrought by social media and then cable news inciting this horrible mess. Calm the waters. Perhaps innovate by suing the worst slanderers on CNN. That would shock a lot of people. I doubt any organization can be that brave. But keep that perspective in mind. (Feel free to delete, but pass this note to someone further up the line in the organization.)


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