Showing posts with label George Zimmerman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label George Zimmerman. Show all posts

14 July 2013

Florida News

by Leigh Lundin

Illegal Blogging

Be advised: In posting this article, I am violating one of Florida’s most recent laws. Signed by our illustrious Medicare governor, it bans internet caf├ęs… and computers and tablets and smart phones. Yep, I’m a criminal. This comes two years after Florida banned sex. I can’t get away from my criminal past.

Florida bleeding
George Zimmerman Trial

Two stories dominate the news here in central Florida. First is the George Zimmerman trial which went to the jury Friday.

I happen to know one of the defense attorneys, Don West, his wife and family, although I haven’t seen him in some years. He’s a decent man and it was from him I learned that even male criminals have a back story, that most were dysfunctionally forged in childhood, some by events so terrible most of us cannot imagine.

After doing my small part to bring the Sanford shooting to the attention of readers, I haven’t written about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman in quite some time. Opinions appear to be as polarized as the prosecution and defense: Some see Zimmerman as a hero defending his neighborhood from marauding criminals ‘who always get away’ and that he merely defended himself against a violent teen who ambushed him. Using eMail blasts and doctored photos, the neo-nazi StormFront.org has partially succeeded in polluting opinions, so that casual followers might imagine Trayvon was a gang-tattooed, gold-toothed, junkie with a criminal record.

As brought out in testimony, yes, he wore two tattoos: One honoring his grandmother and the other a depiction of praying hands.

The state’s case is simpler: An innocent teen boy, minding his own business, was stalked and then waylaid by a Neighborhood Watch ward captain and wannabe cop operating outside his purview.

I suspect the truth is that George Zimmerman isn’t a vicious person and I don't intuit he’s racist. Instead, Florida’s Shoot First / Stand Your Ground law disfavors the black community and defies common sense, but in Florida, that’s no reason to change a bad law.

The news media here referred to the ‘racially charged’ testimony of Trayvon’s friend, Rachel Jeantel, sneered at by Sean Hannity. To my mind, the scene wasn’t so much racially charged as it was funny, exposing the gap between a 60-something white man and a teenage black girl. A baffled Don West simply couldn’t fathom what the girl was saying. I kept thinking of the scene in Airplane when Barbara Billingsley pops up, “Oh stewardess, I speak jive.

The prosecution handed the defense several gifts, including most of their witnesses exploited by Mark O’Mara and Don West. I couldn’t believe prosecutors put Zimmerman’s best friend, Mark Osterman, on the stand, giving him a platform to present Zimmerman’s claims virtually unchallenged. WFTV’s local legal analyst, former criminal attorney Bill Sheaffer, scathingly criticized the state’s ongoing gaffes, mostly for putting forward Zimmerman’s testimony making it unnecessary and even risky for him to testify.

It does appear Trayvon took Zimmerman to ground and straddled him. After all, Zimmerman was an armed guy following Martin in the dark (against the instructions of the police 911 operator). The defense made an issue whether the pistol was pressed against Trayvon’s chest or not, whereas I’m not certain that’s critical. Indeed, the key to the defense was to portray Trayvon as the aggressor and Zimmerman the victim.

Other problems with the gun disturb me. The defense echoes Zimmerman’s contention that Trayvon grabbed Zimmerman’s weapon and yet Zimmerman somehow wrested it from Trayvon’s grasp despite the boy’s purported overwhelming strength. The big problem: How would Trayvon know about a concealed pistol in a waistband holster under George’s rain jacket in an unlit area on a rainy night? If, as Zimmerman claims, Martin managed to get him on the ground and pummeled him, I can’t imagine the boy knew Zimmerman had a gun. Either Zimmerman had already announced or even pulled out his pistol whereupon Trayvon defended himself, or Zimmerman didn’t pull out his Glock until he was already under Martin, which implies Trayvon couldn’t have known he had a pistol. To me, that’s the biggest hole obscured in the defense’s case. The state asks another question: If Trayvon straddled a supine Zimmerman and the gun was in the waistband holster as Zimmerman claims, wouldn’t Trayvon have had to climb up off the man to reach for the concealed pistol?

One other issue dismays me although it doesn’t affect the other facts of the case. Not for a second do I believe the comic book dialogue Zimmerman attributes to Trayvon: “Tonight you die, MF.” And later, after Zimmerman fired, he claims Martin stood and gasped, “You got me!” Beyond the bad B-movie lines, the medical examiner testified that after the Martin boy was shot through the lung, drowning in his own blood, he wouldn’t have been able to move, let alone stand or speak. To be clear, Mark O’Mara managed to slightly dislodge the ME’s certainty, but the overall gist remained– the shock would have prevented Trayvon from moving.

Note: We haven’t been told why, but local channel 6’s WKMG has been banned from the courthouse amid Twitter speculation it may have something to do with their interview of Sanford’s ex-police chief who’s openly critical of the mayor and city manager. WKMG was the dominant all-Casey-Anthony all-the-time news station and had been a major news source following the Trayvon Martin shooting.

Note: The trial is over. Two hours before this article went to press, the jury announced their verdict: Not Guilty.

Shooting for Fun

We don’t know many details yet, but for weeks a number of random shootings of houses and cars have plagued Kissimmee and nearby Saint Cloud, which included at least one killing and possibly two. This week, Osceola sheriff arrested four youths: two 20-year-old males, a 17-year-old girl, and the primary shooter, a 15-year-old boy.

On 24 June, Lothar Schafer bought himself and his teen son a .45 calibre Hi-Point carbine. The following day, the shootings began when the quartet of friends rode around Osceola County from midnight to dawn, shooting at houses and cars. At six one morning, the 15-year-old decided to shoot a young man at a bus stop ‘for fun.’ The same boy also stands accused of stabbing a robbery victim in the throat.

Jorge Muriel, the anguished brother of one of the accused said, “I wish I didn't grow up when guns were so common. … If people didn't have guns this wouldn't have happened.” ‘People’ in this case were all less than 21.

Details how investigators zeroed in on the youths remain sparse. We do know the Osceola Sheriff’s Department called in the local Florida Metal Detecting Club which proved its, er, mettle by finding the shell from the bus stop shooting, which linked the murder to the other shootings.

Remember the chief prosecutor in the Casey Anthony trial? Jeff Ashton announced a few hours ago he’ll prosecute the shooters. Stay tuned, my friend.

01 April 2012

Florida's Right to Kill Law

by Leigh Lundin

Three weeks ago, we brought you the story about Trayvon Martin's death when it was an early local issue. Since then the story has made national, even international headlines. The Reverend Jesse Jackson flew in and Friday the Reverend Al Sharpton called for 'action' and a boycott.

Our local NAACP has declined Sharpton's 'action' and boycott, thank you very much. We have a new prosecutor, the 11-month police chief stepped aside, and a majority of folks– including white folks– believe Trayvon Martin was terribly wronged.

Here's what most people don't know: Someone other than George Zimmerman is ultimately responsible.

Trayvon Martin

Shoot from the Lip

To be sure, radio wing-nuts assert we don't know how frightened and brave Ward Captain Zimmerman was to face an unarmed kid, and a gun group is advertising a George Zimmerman defense fund. Zimmerman's father claims we don't know all the facts and Zimmerman's brother made wild accusations that Martin grabbed the pistol and screamed "Tonight you die," which doesn't seem to fit known facts. We learned Zimmerman's magistrate father may have intervened on the side of his son in earlier arrests.

Worse, far-right sites such as StormFront have taken to defaming the teenager, falsifying photos and a police record. Yes, Trayvon was tattooed– with praying hands and a tribute to his grandmother.

In contrast, Trayvon's brother appeared level-headed and honest to a fault, saying he couldn't be certain if the screams heard on recordings are Trayvon or not. For the record, the Orlando Sentinel hired experts who, using two different technologies, demonstrated the screams weren't Zimmerman's.

Trayvon wasn't perfect, but we know that night the teen was innocent. That evening, he did nothing more wrong than buy tea and candy then walk home chatting with his 16-year-old girlfriend on his cell phone. The two had spent 400 minutes (6 hours 40 minutes!) chatting that day before the phone was knocked aside. Minutes later, he was killed mere meters from his house. [Note: We now know Rachel Jeantel was 19 and didn't consider herself a girlfriend.]

Culpability

I'm not here to demonize the shooter, much as I believe he caused a tragic death. Although Sanford's police department has had problems, I'm not sure we can focus blame on police. Why? If prosecutors refuse to prosecute, how can police jail the accused? And according to detectives, police wanted to arrest George Zimmerman but prosecutors refused.

Certainly investigators made mistakes, beginning with not dispatching a homicide detective to the scene and accepting the word of George Zimmerman without question. They did not test Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol, violating standard procedure. They uncritically accepted recorded screams were the killer's, not the victim's. They stated neighbors' stories conflicted with 'known' evidence. They refused to release the 911 calls until forced to by attorneys.

But in the end, their hands were tied. Why? You're about to find out. I'm going out on a limb and say another man is more responsible for not only Trayvon Martin's death, but the murder of dozens of other Floridians.

Legislated to Kill

This man's name is Durell Peaden of Crestview, Florida, a former state senator, the genius behind 776.013§3 that gives Floridians the right to kill with virtual impunity, a law that tripled the number of 'justifiable homicide' killers set free, jumping from an average of thirty-four a year to more than a hundred. The lobbyist behind the law was NRA's Marion Hammer who argued Floridians needed more than a right to carry a weapon, they need the right to use it pretty much at will.

In 2005, our Sunshine State pioneered a law called 'Stand Your Ground', also called 'Never Retreat', 'Shoot First', 'License to Kill' and, according to Tallahassee State Attorney Willie Meggs, 'that stinking law'. This testosterone-powered statute supplanted the common (and sensible) 'castle doctrine', which gave people the right to defend their homes. Sneering at what they called 'the Brady bunch', the NRA claimed the new statute was needed to prevent authorities from harassing law-abiding citizens with petty arrests.

It's not a 'pro-gun' law nor are the law's opponents anti-gun, although politicos on both sides may argue otherwise. The new statute legalized an aggressive never-back-down philosophy. It says you don't have to walk away from a confrontation. It says you have the right to solve problems with a gun or a baseball bat or a knife or an ice pick.

Applied Murphy's Law

With impunity, it allowed a man to kill another in a playground argument over a skateboard– literally. It allowed a homeowner to legally shoot an inebriated man who knocked on the wrong door and asked for a light. Alcisviades Polanco walked after fatally stabbing another in the head with an ice pick. Numerous avoidable bar fights have needlessly ended in death… and without penalty.

Six months ago, Judge Richard Oftedahl of the 15th Judicial Circuit dismissed all charges against Michael Monahan, charged in a double homicide and facing the death penalty. Monahan walked after shooting two unarmed men from a distance of twenty feet, men who never laid a hand on him.

No Bad Deed Goes Uncopied

This bill was strongly opposed by law enforcement, prosecutors, liberals and conservatives alike, although it appealed to excitable wing-nut elements. Since its inception, as many as twenty-four states copied it.

Its first five years saw nearly a hundred claims of use with more than two-thirds resulting in death. The vast majority of these homicides were excused by prosecutors or, in cases where prosecution actually occurred, given a pass by the courts.

Those favoring the law declare it a great success with fewer people clogging the courts. Victims like Trayvon Martin might argue otherwise. Many of the cases have only two witnesses… one who winds up dead.

Law of Unintended Consequences

Police and prosecutors tried to warn legislators about the predictable effects of the law, but lawmakers blew off their concerns, seduced by NRA donations and that exciting chance to kill a human being. Sadly, they're not the ones paying the price.

For the record, if you think I'm letting George Zimmerman off the hook or if you think I'm opposed to gun ownership, then you've misread the article. What I'm for is common sense which is sadly missing in Florida.

Maybe it's legislative sunstroke.

One more small thing bothers me. In researching this article, I came across two cases in which Florida courts disallowed the Stand Your Ground defense. In both of those cases, the shooter happened to be… black.