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Trayvon Martin's Mother Finds New Role As An Activist


The mother of Trayvon Martin has spoken widely about the killing of her son. And today, she moved from the role of grieving parent to civil rights advocate. In Philadelphia, Sybrina Fulton addressed the nation's oldest civil rights group, the National Urban League. She called on members to join her in making sure what happened to her son doesn't happen to other children. NPR's Greg Allen has this report.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Since the verdict acquitting George Zimmerman on charges of murder and manslaughter, Sybrina Fulton has kept a low profile. She and her former husband, Tracy Martin, are considering whether to file a civil lawsuit against Zimmerman. The Martins also support the call for federal civil rights charges to be filed against the former Neighborhood Watch volunteer. But, today, she told members of the National Urban League, her focus is on the foundation she helped set up in her son's name.

She said the experience of losing a child to violence and the legal turmoil of the past 17 months have left her a changed person.

SYBRINA FULTON: At times I feel like I'm a broken vessel. At times, I don't know if I'm going or coming. But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is using me and God is using my family to make a change, to make a difference.

ALLEN: Fulton and Tracy Martin set up the Trayvon Martin Foundation last year as supporters held marches and vigils calling for justice. For a time, police in Sanford, Florida hesitated to file charges against Zimmerman because of Florida's Stand Your Ground law. That law grants immunity from prosecution to anyone found to have acted in self-defense.

Zimmerman told police he feared for his life when he pulled his gun and shot and killed the 17-year-old Martin. Fulton said today that 17 months after that night, she speaks as a mother. She asked others to do as she's done, acknowledge that for her youngest son, there will be no high school prom, no graduation, no college.

FULTON: All because of a law, a law that has prevented the person who shot and killed my son to be held accountable and to pay for this awful crime.

ALLEN: Fulton is one of many pushing for a repeal of Florida's Stand Your Ground law. In Tallahassee, a group of activists have held a sit-in at the capital now for a week and a half, pressuring Florida's governor to call a special session of the legislature to consider repeal. So far, the governor is unmoved. He supports the Stand Your Ground law and says he has no plans to call a special session.

Meanwhile, although the verdict is in, even one of those who helped reach it says she's still troubled. The only minority on the six-member jury, a 36-year-old Puerto Rican woman, was interviewed on ABC, where she made a startling comment.

MADDY: George Zimmerman got away with murder but you can't get away from God. And at the end of the day, he's gonna have a lot of questions and answers he has to deal with.

ALLEN: During the trial, the judge ordered the identities of the jurors remain confidential and that order hasn't yet been lifted. The juror, identified only as Maddy, said in her heart she thought Zimmerman was guilty, but in several hours of deliberation, she became convinced by her reading of the law that there wasn't enough evidence to convict him.

In her interview on ABC, the juror, a mother with eight children of her own, had a message for Sybrina Fulton.

MADDY: I want Trayvon's mom to know that I'm hurting and if she thought that nobody cared about her son, I can speak for myself. I do care. I can't do anything about it and I felt like I let a lot of people down.

ALLEN: Zimmerman's lawyer, Mark O'Mara, said in his view, Maddy did what a juror is supposed to do, set her feelings aside and cast a verdict based on the evidence presented in court and on the law. He called her a model juror. Sybrina Fulton called the juror's comments devastating, confirmation of what she believes, quote, "that George Zimmerman literally got away with murder."

Fulton says it's one more challenge to the nation to make sure that what happened to her son never happens to another child. Greg Allen, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.

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