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How Would North Carolina's Legal System Handle the Trayvon Martin Case?

4:28 PM, Mar 26, 2012   |    comments
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It's tough to turn on the TV, or search the internet without coming across something about Trayvon Martin. The national media is all over what the Sanford Police did or did not do.

The shooting happened February 26th. Police say Trayvon was returning from a trip to 7-Eleven to pick up iced tea and skittles. The accused shooter, George Zimmerman, called 911 to report a suspicious person wearing a hoodie, moments before the shooting. When police arrived on the scene, they took Zimmerman at his word that it was self-defense.

Police did not run a background check on Zimmerman. Adding to the controversy surrounding this case, on Thursday, the Sanford police chief temporarily removed himself as chief.

If a situation like this occurred in the Triad, how would law enforcement handle it?

News 2 learned the police department gathers as much evidence as possible. Winston-Salem police treat all deadly shootings--whether it involves strangers, a neighborhood watchman or even police-- as a homicide from the moment they arrive on scene. Then, police call the district attorney's office and discuss what to do next.

Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O'Neill said, "Even in the middle of the night, we would get a call on this and work with them to try to figure out what's the appropriate thing to do and being sure we have our ducks lined up before we make a move and charge someone."

North Carolina has a new law called the Castle Doctrine. In essence, if you feel your life is at risk in your home, car or workplace, you can use deadly force to protect yourself. However, this is not a license to kill. The law limits when you can say you acted in self-defense.

"It requires that someone retreat in cases of self defense, if it's safe to do so. If you are in your home or business or your car and you feel threatened under the new castle doctrine, you have no duty to retreat. You can shoot first and ask questions later," O'Neill said.

News 2 spoke to several police departments on the phone. They were reluctant to speak on camera about this subject. But, they all did mention that oftentimes many of the facts in a case are not made public. In addition, they said it's usually better to take a little more time to gather evidence, interview people and process everything instead of rushing through and potentially making mistakes.

WFMY News 2

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