Good Morning- April 30, 2012- Time to vent.
If anyone has been keeping up with the news of late, I sure you know about the Killing of Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. It’s a case that has made the headlines throughout the world. It is a troublesome several fronts. One, it involves race. Two, there’s right of people to protect themselves from harm. Three, what were the actions of the police investigations? Four, why the local prosecution’s original decision not to seek charges? Finally, the media role in trying to get the facts correct.
All this is leading to a scary scenario that hasn’t been seen since the Rodney King Beating in the early 1990’s. If the Trayvon Martin Case isn’t handled correctly, there will be consequences that will weigh heavily into the future of race relations.
Let’s start off with the facts. Trayvon Martin is a seventeen year old teenager who is African American male. He was shot to death by George Zimmerman a twenty-eight year old Hispanic American. There’s no dispute in that. Realize that there are no witnesses to the actual shooting. The only word we have is Zimmerman’s.
Zimmerman is a volunteer neighborhood watch captain. So he goes around keeping an eye on things within the gated community he also lives in. Zimmerman also has a license to carry a concealed firearm. Trayvon Martin is unarmed. He was staying with his father
and his fiancée at her home. On the night of February 26, he goes to a store to buy some candy and a drink. He returns only to be confronted by George Zimmerman.
Around 7 P.M. local time, Zimmerman sees Martin. Zimmerman calls the Sanford Police and tells of a suspicious person in the community namely Martin.
Now, this is where it gets very questionable. Zimmerman confronts Martin. According to Zimmerman, it was Martin who attacked him. Apparently, some type of fight breaks out between them. The result is Zimmerman shoots Martin and claims self-defense. For his role the Sanford Police take him in for questioning. After several hours he is released without being charged.
Police believed there was insufficient evidence to dispute the self defense claim despite the lead homicide investigator recommended Zimmerman be arrested. The State Attorney was actually the one who made the decision not to arrest and charge Zimmerman.
This leads to a very angry African American community, who see this as another case of racial injustice. I don’t think this is the case. However, this is a tragedy. A teenager
with his life ahead is gunned down before he has a shot at his dreams. Before we get to the part about black vs. white, do realize that Zimmerman has some Hispanic ancestry.
Here’s my take on the incident. I believe Zimmerman saw something he perceived someone was up to no good. Being the volunteer watch captain, he felt duty bound to confront that individual. Now, he did call the police and told them what was going on.
The audio tape of that call can be accessed via any of the news site, so I won’t go in entire detail. But here’s the thing. Zimmerman says he following Martin. The police dispatcher tells him “we don’t need you do that”. Instead of waiting for the police, Zimmerman
for some reason he continues to follow Martin.
Let’s look at Trayvon Martin’s viewpoint. He goes to a store to buy some candy and drink. He comes back and gets on his cell phone to talk to his girlfriend. According to the girlfriend he mentioned that he is being followed. To me it sounds like Martin was concerned that someone was stalking him. Martin may have been trying to defend himself.
Whatever the case, I don’t believe race had anything to do with it. However, I don’t think Zimmerson is completely innocent either. He did apologize for the shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin. It would be up to Martin’s parents to accept and forgive, which that isn’t going to happen.
There’s a new prosecutor, State Attorney Angela Corey, who is trying the case for second-degree murder. Zimmerman did turn himself in. He pleaded not guilty and was released on bail. He is in hiding while wearing an electronic monitoring device. There’s controversy on that concerning whether he actually had the money for bail or not. People from around the country had been sending him money for his defense.
Now about the Police and the Prosecutor take. Remember, I said the original state’s attorney didn’t think there was enough evidence to charge Zimmerman. Zimmerman had said it was in self-defense. The State of Florida does have on its books a ‘Stand Your Ground’ law.
It reads as the following:
Use of force in defense of person. 776.012—A person is justified in using force, except
deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably
believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another
against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is
justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:
(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent
imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to
prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or
(2)Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013.
Home protection; use of deadly
force; presumption of fear 776.013 of death or great bodily harm.—
(1)A person is presumed to have
held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to
himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or
likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:
(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had
unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or
if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that
person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and
(b)The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that
an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or
(2)The presumption set forth in subsection (1) does not apply if:
(a)The person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be
in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or vehicle, such as an
owner, lessee, or titleholder, and there is not an injunction for protection
from domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision order of no contact
against that person; or
(b)The person or persons sought to be removed is a child or grandchild, or
is otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of, the
person against whom the defensive force is used; or
(c)The person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity
or is using the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle to further an unlawful
(d)The person against whom the defensive force is used is a law enforcement
officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who enters or attempts to enter a
dwelling, residence, or vehicle in the performance of his or her official
duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any
applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known
that the person entering or attempting to enter was a law enforcement officer.
(3)A person who is not engaged in
an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has
a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her
ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she
reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily
harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a
(4)A person who unlawfully and by
force enters or attempts to enter a person’s dwelling, residence, or occupied
vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act
involving force or violence.
(5)As used in this section, the
(a)“Dwelling” means a building or conveyance of any kind, including any
attached porch, whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent,
mobile or immobile, which has a roof over it, including a tent, and is designed
to be occupied by people lodging therein at night.
(b)“Residence” means a dwelling in which a person resides either
temporarily or permanently or is visiting as an invited guest. (b)
(c)“Vehicle” means a conveyance of any kind, whether or not motorized,
which is designed to transport people or property. (c)
Immunity from criminal
prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force. 776.032—
(1)A person who uses force as
permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such
force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of
such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement
officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his
or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in
accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably
should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in
this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining
in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.
(2)A law enforcement agency may
use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in
subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless
it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was
(3)The court shall award
reasonable attorney’s fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income, and
all expenses incurred by the defendant in defense of any civil action brought
by a plaintiff if the court finds that the defendant is immune from prosecution
as provided in subsection (1).
Use of force by aggressor. 776.041 —The justification described in the
preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:
(1)Is attempting to commit,
committing, or escaping after the commission of, a forcible felony; or
(2)Initially provokes the use of
force against himself or herself, unless:
(a)Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or
she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has
exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of
force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or
(b)In good faith, the person withdraws from physical contact with the
assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to
withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes
the use of force.
It’s pretty long winded but that is the statue for the State of Florida concerning self defense. I can see where and how George Zimmerman could claim self-defense. But remember, it was Zimmerman following Martin in the first place. Another fact, that the incident didn’t involve a house, car, or any property. As best I can tell, both Zimmerman and Martin had the legal right to be in the area.
Let’s look at the news media involvement. I don’t think there was much wrong doing. Their job is to report the facts. However, there were some unethical presentations of the case when both NBC ‘Today’ show and its local Miami WTVJ NBC6 ran segments
that merged parts for Zimmerman’s 911 call to police making sound like they
playing up the race card. A couple of producers ended up getting fired.
Another thing I see is perceptions. When I first watched on the news I saw the pictures of Zimmerman and Martin. Looking at Zimmerman, I’m thinking he’s got to be a 200 pounder. Good size. They mention Martin was 150 pounds. A 200 pounder
vs. a kid whose only 150 pounds. There mismatch if I ever saw one, right? As I
was researching for this writing, I’m using Wikipedia’s data. Wikipedia stated
that Zimmerman is about 5’8” and 185 pounds. Martin on the other hand is listed
(depending who you talk to) 6’0 to 6’3” between 150 to 160 pounds. I mention
this because a taller person might intimidate a shorter person. It is possible
that Zimmerman might have had addition fear because of this.
A case of this type ends up being so sensationalized, justice go out the window. People not involved in the case are already making judgments about George Zimmerman. It turns out Trayvon Martin may not get the justice he deserves. And Zimmerman doesn’t get a fair trial. Where does this end up. Think of the riots after the acquittal of the Los Angeles Police officers in the Rodney King beating trial. That would be very unfortunate.
I leave it at this point. It looks like it will be next year before a trial gets started. What ever happened to the right to a speedy trial?
DBN HAS SPOKEN
Special Thanks for Wikipedia and CNN for material provided for this writing