In the wake of spreading public outrage, the Justice Department and the FBI have opened an investigation into the shooting of a black teenager by a Florida neighborhood watch captain who escaped arrest.
More than 435,000 people, many alerted by tweets from celebrities such as movie director Spike Lee and musician Wyclef Jean, signed a petition on Change.org, a social action website, calling for the arrest of the shooter, George Zimmerman.
The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the FBI announced on Monday that they have opened an investigation into the shooting in Florida of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed when he was killed.
Mom: Trayvon Martin was killed because of 'the color of his skin'
'Stand your ground'
Police declined to arrest Zimmerman, and turned the case over to prosecutors where it remains under review. Police cited Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, enacted in 2005 and now in effect in at least 16 other states.
Dubbed "Shoot first (ask questions later)" by opponents, the Florida law allows a potential crime victim who is "in fear of great bodily injury" to use deadly force in public places.
The landmark law expanded on legislation, known as the Castle Doctrine, that allowed use of deadly force in defense of "hearth and home." Passed under former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in 2005, it overturned a centuries-old doctrine that required the potential victim to retreat and avoid confrontation if possible, according to Ladd Everitt, spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, a Washington-based advocacy group.
"No one could argue that Zimmerman could not have safely retreated and avoided this conflict, and I think that is the critical element here and why these laws are so dangerous," Everitt said. "He (Zimmerman) does not have a duty to retreat in Florida."
Crump said Zimmerman should not be protected under the Stand Your Ground law. "It's illogical, you can claim self defense after you chase and pursue somebody," he said. "That's a courtroom defense. That's not something the police accept on the side of the street."
Five years after Florida's Stand Your Ground law was enacted, a 2010 review by the St. Petersburg Times found that reports of justifiable homicides had tripled, and a majority of cases were excused by prosecutors or the courts. Meanwhile, the petition drive, started by a friend of Trayvon's mother, has been signed by people across the globe from Canada to Thailand, Lubin said.
Celebrity tweets over the weekend made #Trayvon a trending topic on Twitter, she said. Additional celebrities tweeting and posting on Facebook about the case include singers Clay Aiken and John Legend, film director Michael Moore and actress Mia Farrow.