Posted at 02:45 PM ET, 03/23/2012

Trayvon Martin case has been poorly handled, Santorum says

In remarks after President Obama made his first public comment on the matter, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum said Friday that the handling by Florida law enforcement of the Trayvon Martin case has been “horrible” and that the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law should not apply to the shooter, George Zimmerman.

“Well, ‘Stand Your Ground’ is not doing what this man did,” Santorum said Friday morning at a campaign event in Monroe, La. “There’s a difference between ‘Stand Your Ground’ and doing what he did. And it’s a horrible case. It’s chilling to hear what happened, and of course the fact that law enforcement didn’t immediately go after and prosecute this case is another chilling example of horrible decisions made by people in this process.”

Zimmerman, a 28-year-old neighborhood watch captain, has not been charged in the shooting.

Santorum’s remarks went even further than those of Obama, who was asked about the incident at a Friday morning news conference on his appointment of new World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim.

Obama described the shooting of the unarmed black teen in starkly personal terms, but was careful to stop short of declaring Zimmerman guilty. The FBI and the Justice Department are both investigating the case.

“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. ... When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids,” Obama said in response to a question by NBC’s Mike Viqueira.

The shooting has sparked a national debate over not only race but also the “Stand Your Ground” gun law that exists in Florida and 20 other states. The law, which is heavily backed by the National Rifle Association, gives local police the authority to make the call on whether to arrest a person making a self-defense claim.

The GOP presidential field had previously declined to comment on the Trayvon Martin case, which has dominated the news for days. But as of Friday afternoon, both Santorum and former House speaker Newt Gingrich were seeking to defend the “Stand Your Ground” law by arguing that it does not apply to the case.

“The young man apparently was not following the person who’s being investigated,” Gingrich told CNN’s Piers Morgan in an interview Thursday night. “Apparently, the shooter was following the young man. That’s not a stand your own ground, that’s a chase the other person into their ground. And I think you’re going to find the law, as interpreted normally, doesn’t apply to this case.”

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney weighed in on the case in a brief statement but declined to render judgment on whether “Stand Your Ground” was applicable.

“What happened to Trayvon Martin is a tragedy,” Romney said. “There needs to be a thorough investigation that reassures the public that justice is carried out with impartiality and integrity.”

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) had not commented on the case as of Friday afternoon.

Staff writers T.W. Farnam and Sandhya Somashekhar contributed to this report.

By and  |  02:45 PM ET, 03/23/2012

Tags:  Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, Rick Santorum

 
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