State Prosecutor Probes Trayvon Martin Case

Across the country Monday, thousands of people held rallies demanding the arrest of George Zimmerman. He is the neighborhood watch volunteer who last month shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in what he says was an act of self-defense.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now, let's turn to another case where legal questions are swirling. In Sanford, Florida, and across the country yesterday, thousands of people held rallies yesterday demanding the same thing - the arrest of George Zimmerman. Zimmerman is the neighborhood watch volunteer who last month shot and killed a black teenager named Trayvon Martin. As NPR's Greg Allen reports, city officials in Sanford say the case is now out of their hands.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: It was the regularly scheduled meeting of the Sanford City Commission, but it was something more. It was exactly one month since the incident that claimed the life of a 17-year-old and riveted the attention of the nation on a quiet Orlando suburb.

To accommodate all those who wanted to attend, the city commission moved their meeting to the town's civic center, which seats about 500. Several hundred more gathered at a nearby park where they watched the proceedings on a large screen. Trayvon Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton were there. Also, civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Sharpton told the commissioners he brought along a petition with two million signatures of people with a single request:

REVEREND AL SHARPTON: Do the right thing. Do the right thing. Arrest Zimmerman now.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS)

ALLEN: But the case now belongs to the state. Last week, Florida Governor Rick Scott appointed a special prosecutor to take over the investigation. She'll work with a grand jury that's being convened next month to look at the evidence and determine if charges should be filed. But before the storm of anger, frustration and sorrow, Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett last night had few answers.

JEFF TRIPLETT: We, too, are in the pursuit of truth and justice. And we've looked to outside our walls to help people deliver that to us. And we'll take swift and decisive action when that happens.

(SOUNDBITE OF RALLY)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: My son, your son. My son, your son. My son, your son. My son...

ALLEN: People came from all over Florida to Sanford's historic downtown yesterday for the meeting and rally. Some wore hoodies, and carried signs with a question: Do I look suspicious? There were similar rallies in many other cities yesterday, from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. In Sanford, Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton appealed to the parents in the crowd.

SYBRINA FULTON: I know I cannot bring my baby back. But I'm sure going to make changes so that this does not happen to another family.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS)

ALLEN: George Zimmerman's attorney maintains his client acted in self-defense and in recent days, some details have begun to emerge. Sanford police yesterday confirmed a story first reported by the Orlando Sentinel. In his interviews with police, Zimmerman said he was on his way back to his car when Martin appeared, punched him in the face and began beating him - pounding his head on the ground. Zimmerman says that's when he acted in self-defense. According to the report, other witnesses corroborated Zimmerman's story.

Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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