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Posted: March 23, 2012

Fla. Gov. to appoint task force to review "Stand your Ground" law

WFTV (Orlando)


An Orlando-area state lawmaker helped Florida Gov. Rick Scott choose a new state attorney in the case of slain teen Trayvon Martin.

Florida State Sen. Gary Siplin said he worked closely with Scott and others to make sure that the prosecutor on the case was far removed from any ties to the Sanford Police Department.

"I got so many calls about justice. They felt that the current prosecutor who had a relationship with the Sanford Police Department would not be fair. There may be an appearance of conflict of interest," Siplin said.

The news was announced as a rally for Martin began Thursday evening, along with demands for the arrest of vigilante George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman shot and killed Martin, who was unarmed and returning home from a 7-Eleven, on Feb. 26.

Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi worked together to appoint Angela B. Corey (of the 4th Judicial Circuit) as the newly assigned state attorney in the investigation into the death of Martin. Scott and Bondi reached out to State Attorney Norman Wolfinger, and after a conversation, Wolfinger decided to step down from the investigation and turn it over.  

Scott also announced the formation of a task force, which will convene following the conclusion of the investigation by Corey.

Scott and Bondi said they have full faith in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the U.S. Department of Justice and in Corey that a full and thorough investigation will be conducted.

"We're honored to serve the governor, and we're going to get right on it," said Corey.

Orlando TV station WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said he believes the tough prosecutor from Jacksonville will get it right.

"She's a no-nonsense prosecutor. The governor could not have asked any other prosecutor better that her to oversee this investigation and present this case to the grand jury," said Sheaffer.

Scott is taking steps to make sure a death like Martin's doesn't happen again. He issued a statement on Thursday night calling for "a task force on citizen safety and protection to investigate how to make sure a tragedy such as this does not occur in the future."  (Read Scott's full statement)

Scott said he has plans to appoint a task force to review Florida's "Stand your Ground" law.

The"Stand your Ground" has become a hot topic across the country in response to Martin's death.

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich gave his opinion about the law and the case.

"Apparently, the man, the shooter, was following the young man. Now that's not a 'Stand your own Ground,' that's a 'chase the other person into their ground,'" said Gingrich.

Gingrich said he thinks the law as it's meant to be interpreted does not apply to the Martin case.

Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee announced that he has temporarily stepped down as chief, during a press conference outside of Sanford City Hall on Thursday.

"I must temporarily remove myself from the position of police chief for the city of Sanford," Lee said. "It's apparent my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process, therefore I must temporarily remove myself as police chief."

Two captains will lead the department while the city searches for an interim chief.

The NAACP and people in the community have called for Lee to be fired.

WFTV learned that Lee will likely be off the job until the State Attorney's Office finishes its investigation, and he will continue to collect his $102,000 annual salary in the meantime.

Civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton led the rally Martin at Fort Mellon Park in Sanford Thursday evening, calling for Zimmerman's arrest.

"Arrest Zimmerman now!" shouted Sharpton.

Zimmerman claimed he acted in self-defense, and the lack of his arrest has prompted outrage from civil rights activists, local leaders and people from around the country.

More than 10,000 people gathered at the park, asking for justice in the case.

"No justice, no peace!" shouted the crowd.

"We can't allow a legal precedent to be established in this city that tells us it is legal for a man to kill us, tell any story he wants, and walks out with the murder weapon," said Sharpton.

Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, also spoke to the crowd and was overwhelmed with emotion as she read a verse from the Bible.

"Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not until your understanding. I stand before you today, not knowing how I'm walking right now, because my heart hurts for my son," Fulton said. 

Martin's father, Tracey Martin, also addressed the crowd.

"I pledge I will not let my son die in vain, making sure George Zimmerman pays for what he did to our son," Tracey Martin said.

A town hall meeting at the Civic Center is scheduled for Monday night.

Only WFTV spoke to the family of the boy who was with Martin the day he was killed.

They said detectives never interviewed Martin's friend, 14-year-old Chad Joseph Jr.  He was hanging out with Martin the day of the shooting, watching the NBA All-Star game at Joseph's mother's house.

His family said that Joseph Jr. was the one that wanted candy during the game, which prompted Martin to venture out of the Retreat at Twin Lakes complex to the 7-Eleven.

"He asked Chad, 'What do you want back?' And Chad told him, 'Hey, I'll take a pack of Skittles.' The Skittles he had on him," said Chad Joseph Sr.

Joseph Sr. said his son didn't even know Martin was dead until after school the next day.

The Sanford Police Department did not reply to WFTV's messages about whether the teen was interviewed.

Also on Thursday, Seminole State College kicked out Zimmerman, who remains silent and in hiding.

Sanford police reportedly know where he is, and only Zimmerman's father has spoken publicly on his behalf. His father wrote a letter, claiming Zimmerman is Hispanic, with many black family members and friends, and the racist media portrayal is not true.

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