theGrio’s 100: Benjamin Crump, lending a legal hand for victims

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Ben Crump

Family lawyer Benjamin Crump (C) speaks as the parents of Trayvon Martin, mother Sybrina Fulton (R), father Tracy Martin (2nd-L) and Rev. Al Shaprton (L) listen after hearing George Zimmerman will be charged with second-degree murder in the death of their son during a press conference at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, April 11, 2012. (Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Who is Benjamin Crump?

Benjamin Crump is an attorney and a partner in the Tallahassee, Florida law firm Parks and Crump. Crump first gained notice as the attorney for the family of Martin Lee Anderson, a 14-year-old Florida boy who died after being beaten by a group of guards at a boot camp in February 2007 — a beating caught on surveillance video. Five years later, Crump got a call from the family of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer as he walked to his father’s girlfriend’s home inside a gated community in Sanford, Florida on February 26, 2012.

As the case has gained international attention, and became the subject of protests and controversy, the 43-year-old personal injury specialist and self-professed “country lawyer” who calls Thurgood Marshall his inspiration, has found himself increasingly drawn into civil rights cases, and he has become a sought-after advocate for families whose loved ones have died under curious circumstances. He represents the family of an Arkansas man, Ernest Hoskins Jr., who was shot to death by his boss during a business lunch at the boss’ home … and Ronald Weekley, who says he was beaten by Los Angeles police for allegedly skateboarding on the wrong part of the street.

Why is he on theGrio’s 100?

The Trayvon Martin case galvanized not just the African-American community, but many who have questioned the proliferation of “Stand Your Ground” and other laws that some believe encourage the brandishing of firearms. Crump has helped to publicize cases of alleged police brutality or other misconduct that might have gone unnoticed without his particular skill at gaining media attention for the victims, and his relationships, including with the National Action Network’s Rev. Al Sharpton.

What’s next for Benjamin Crump?

Crump and his fellow attorneys Darryl Parks and Natalie Jackson are awaiting the trial for the Trayvon Martin case. And Crump and his firm are pressing forward with Hoskins and other cases he believes need more national attention, particularly cases where the victims are African-American, or poor.

He has said his interest in civil rights cases comes in part from growing up in segregated schools in Lumberton, N.C., through the fifth grade.

“It was a situation to me, that I said, ‘Why do people on that side of the tracks have it so much better than people on our side of the tracks?’” he told the Associated Press last March.

Follow William Barber on Twitter at @TruthAndHopeNC