Latest news

Cleaver urges an end to 'vigilante justice'

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver has introduced a House resolution condemning “vigilante justice” in the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, and urging states to repeal so-called Stand Your Ground laws.

Martin was shot and killed in an altercation with George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. Zimmerman remains free in part because Florida authorities determined he acted in self-defense, a decision that has prompted scores of demonstrations and further investigations.

Cleaver, a Kansas City Democrat, is chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The resolution — co-sponsored by three Florida House members — accuses Zimmerman of “racial bias” in the shooting.

In a news release, the former Kansas City mayor criticized the Stand Your Ground concept, which generally allows citizens to legally defend themselves without a requirement to retreat.

“It is imperative that we shine a light on this controversial, dangerous, and sometimes deadly law that has been adopted in over 20 states, to protect our communities, and the integrity of our nation’s legal system,” Cleaver said in the statement.

But Kevin Jamison, a lawyer and board member with the Western Missouri Shooters Alliance, accused Cleaver of political posturing.

“He obviously doesn’t understand what Stand Your Ground law means,” Jamison said. “It does not mean shoot everybody you’re scared of. It is not a big change from traditional self-defense grounds.”

The Congressional Black Caucus announced the resolution Wednesday, although House records show it was introduced last week. It was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, which is controlled by Republicans. Committee staff members could not be reached for comment.

Hundreds of House resolutions are introduced each year, but only a small percentage get a final vote. Resolutions only express the sense of the House and do not carry the force of law.