Trayvon Martin Case: Special Prosecutor Appointed as Protests Grow Louder

As tensions mount over the death of Trayvon Martin, continued scrutiny is falling on the Sanford, Fla. police department while thousands rally for the arrest of George Zimmerman.

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REUTERS / Octavian Cantilli

Residents of central Florida take part in a protest organized by the Florida Civil Rights Association in front of the Florida Division of Licensing in Orlando, Florida

The story in the case of Trayvon Martin’s shooting death is continuing to evolve, causing national outcry from government officials and public figures.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the case. State Attorney Angela B. Corey will replace Seminole-Brevard County State Attorney Norm Wolfinger who recused himself after discussing the case with Scott. He requested the special prosecutor in a letter in which he said he was making the move “with the intent of toning down the rhetoric and preserving the integrity of this investigation.”

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Sanford, Fla., Police Chief Bill Lee has temporarily stepped down in the wake of surrounding pressure for his department’s decision not to arrest George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin. The 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer claimed self defense after Martin was killed. Lee has said there is no evidence under Florida law that would necessitate Zimmerman’s arrest, which has caused a national uproar. On stepping down, Lee said his presence had become a “distraction” in the case. The leave is temporary and it is unclear when he will return to his duties.

On Tuesday, Sanford city commissioners voted 3-2 “no confidence” in Lee, with Commissioner Mark McCarty joining the calls for his resignation. Meanwhile, George Zimmerman was withdrawn from enrollment at Seminole State College, in Sanford where he was working on an associate’s degree. School officials said they removed him based solely on our responsibility to provide for the safety of our students on campus as well as for Mr. Zimmerman.”

(VIDEO: ‘Million Hoodie March’ in New York Rallies Support for Trayvon Martin)

The protests surrounding the case show no sign of slowing down. Hours after his mother’s death, Rev. Al Sharpton led a rally in Sanford, Fla., on Thursday evening that attracted thousands and collected at least $24,500 in monetary pledges for Martin’s parents. One of several that have taken place over the past week there, the rally was originally planned for a 400-seat church, but the overflowing crowd relocated to Fort Mellon Park downtown. At the lakeside park, rally goers held signs saying “Chief is gone, Zimmerman is next,” while chanting, “No justice, no peace.” 

The Sanford rally came a day after hundreds came to New York’s Union Square for a “Million Hoodie March” to stand in solidarity with Martin’s family.

The NAACP has begun to collect stories from people who have accused Sanford Police of abuse or poor investigative efforts. Turner Clayton Jr., president of the organization’s local branch says he will take the accounts and turn them over to the U.S. Department of Justice, which is conducting an investigation, along with the State of Florida. A grand jury investigation is set for April 10.

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Several lawmakers have weighed in on the case as well, calling for Zimmerman’s arrest and police action. Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson has vowed to keep up the pressure on state and federal authorities for a thorough investigation of Martin’s death. She has said she will go to the House floor each day to speak on the case. “Mr. Speaker, I am tired of burying young black boys,” the Miami legislator said Tuesday on the House floor. Republican Rep. Allen West, the second of two African American lawmakers to speak out on Martin’s death, is also demanding  Zimmerman’s arrest. “Let’s all be appalled at this instance not because of race, but because a young American man has lost his life, seemingly, for no reason,” West wrote on his Facebook page.  “I have signed a letter supporting a [Department of Justice] investigation.” West’s district is located north of the Orlando area where Sanford is located.

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