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911 Tapes Raise Questions In Fla. Teen's Shooting


The following is from the March 19, 2012, edition of National Public Radio. SMU Law Professor Jeff Bellin provided expertise for this story.

March 20, 2012

By Joel Rose

Police in Florida have released recordings of 911 calls from the night Trayvon Martin was killed. The unarmed black teenager was visiting his father outside Orlando when he was shot by a white neighborhood watch volunteer. George Zimmerman says it was self-defense, but Martin's relatives say the 911 tapes paint a very different picture. They want federal authorities to take over the investigation. . .

SANFORD POLICE CHIEF BILL LEE: Mr. Zimmerman has made the statement of self-defense. Until we can establish probable cause to dispute that, we don't have the grounds to arrest him.

ROSE: Police say they've handed the case over to the state attorney's office to determine what will happen next. Legal experts say prosecutors may find themselves hemmed in by state law.

JEFFREY BELLIN, SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY: Florida law really pushes the envelope of making the right of self-defense as broad as possible.

ROSE: Jeffrey Bellin teaches law at Southern Methodist University. He says Florida is one of 17 states that have what's known as a Stand-Your-Ground Law, meaning you have no obligation to back down in the face of a threat, even when you're outside your home.

BELLIN: As long as you are somewhere you have a lawful right to be, if someone attacks you, the words of the statute are you can meet force with force, including deadly force, if you reasonably believe that that is necessary.

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