Trayvon Martin Case: Lead Investigator Asked to Step Down

PHOTO: Trayvon Martin, 17, was fatally shot by neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman.
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As tensions between community leaders and residents in Sanford, Fla., reach a boiling point, the man leading the investigation into the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is being asked to step down.

During a heated special meeting regarding the death of the unarmed teen, who was allegedly shot and killed by self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, Sanford city commissioners conducted a vote of "no confidence" against embattled Police Chief Billy Lee. Three of five commissioners voted against the chief.

One commissioner demanded that Lee resign. It is now up to the city manager to decide whether or not to let Lee go.

"The unknown in a tragedy will make the heart do crazy things, and we haven't done a good job of getting out in front of that," said Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett after the vote. "I have confidence in him in a lot of ways, and don't have confidence in him in some ways."

The vote of "no confidence" came after Triplett was forced to answer some tough questions from neighborhood residents and the media, during an NAACP meeting aimed at addressing allegations of police misconduct in the community.

"If there were mistakes made we are going to act accordingly," Triplett said in response to a question from ABC News about the investigation into Martin's death.

Some believe local authorities botched the investigation from the start.

Martin, who was black, was carrying only a bag of skittles, ice tea and his cell phone, when Zimmerman allegedly killed him on Feb. 26. While Martin's family has repeatedly called for his arrest, Sanford Police accepted and stand by Zimmerman's claim of self-defense.

But it's not just the mayor, or the conduct of the police officers, that is being questioned.

Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law gives enormous leeway to people like Zimmerman to use deadly force if they feel threatened. Since the law was enacted seven years ago, justified homicides in Florida have jumped threefold, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Twenty states have similar laws, but Florida's is widely viewed as having the broadest application. Courts across the state have been trying to figure out how to grapple with the legislation and the Martin incident is one of several examples that have stirred controversy.

In another ongoing trial, lawyers for Trevor Dooley are using the law to defend him in the death of his neighbor David James. In 2010, Dooley shot James in front of his 8-year-old daughter after witnesses say the two men got into an altercation on a basketball court in Valrico, Fla., when James tried to prevent Dooley from shooing away a teenage skateboarder using the court to practice tricks.

Dooley's attorneys argue that he is protected by Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law and that he shot James in self defense. They argue that mundane neighbor disputes can turn violent.

Cases like this and Martin's have led Florida State Representative Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, one of the original sponsors of the law, to say that it has been misused.

"There was nothing in this statute ever intended to protect somebody who was pursuing or confronting other people," said Baxley.

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