DOJ to Investigate Trayvon Martin Case

DOJ and the FBI will investigate the killing of Trayvon Martin.

I hope this results in a restriction on members of neighborhood watch groups playing cop. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes:

Mr. Zimmerman is not a cop. He had no legal right to question a law-abiding citizen based on his suspicions. Unless the legal standard now is that black youth have to show fearful deference to random strangers who stop them on streets they have a legal right to be, then Mr. Zimmerman's actions weren't justified.

I don't think that statement should be restricted to youth or persons of a specific race. It should be apply to everyone. Vigilante justice is no justice at all. Leave policing to police. [More...]

According to the Miami Herald article linked above,

George Zimmerman, 28, a neighborhood watch volunteer with a long history of calling in everything from open garage doors to “suspicious characters,” called police to say he had spotted someone who looked drugged, was walking too slowly in the rain, and appeared to be looking at people’s houses. Zimmerman sounded alarmed because the stranger had his hand in his waistband and held something in his other hand.

Dispatchers told Zimmerman not to follow and confront Trayvon. He didn't listen. Contrary to earlier reports, only one bullet was fired.

Zimmerman had called police to report a suspicious person — Trayvon. Zimmerman then stepped out of his SUV, while still on the phone with police, and followed the teenager on foot. The two somehow came face to face on a sidewalk; there was a fight, and Trayvon wound up dead, a single gunshot to the chest.

When police arrived, they found Zimmerman standing nearby, blood coming from his nose and the back of his head, a police report states. The back of his shirt also was wet and had grass on it. A neighbor called 911 before the shooting and described the fight as two people wrestling. A 13-year-old boy said he saw Zimmerman on the ground and heard someone calling for help.

I doubt federal civil rights charges will be brought. Public emotional outrage has resulted in the investigation, but as the Justice Department says,

"Negligence, recklessness, mistakes and accidents are not prosecutable under the federal criminal civil rights laws."

I don't think "Stand My Ground" laws are the problem as much as armed members of citizen watch groups who patrol neighborhoods looking for offenders. They are the ones who shouldn't be carrying guns.

I see where this is going -- the tragedy of this youth's death by a vigilante will be overshadowed by those with agendas -- including civil rights groups who insist this was a racially motivated, intentional killing, and gun control groups.

The focus should be on the role of neighborhood watch groups. Unless the media coverage changes course and addresses this issue and vigilante justice, I probably won't be writing much more about the case.

Feel free to state your opinion in comments, but keep in mind, unsupported factual accusations without source links will be deleted.

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    Trayvon's killing (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Edger on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 06:14:20 AM EST
    may not have been racially motivated per se, but has Zimmerman ever stalked and confronted a white person on the street in his self appointed batman fantasy role?

    does the apparent racial epithet (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by smott on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 07:09:42 AM EST
    Heard on the 911 tape push this towards Hate Crime territory?...

    Note - have not listened to the tape just read other comments....


    No need to go there... (5.00 / 2) (#20)
    by kdog on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 08:03:09 AM EST
    every violent crime is a hate crime...not a fan of hate crime legislation.  Equality under the law should apply to victims of crimes just as much as those accused of breaking the law.  

    Seems a pretty cut and dried case to me, no need to contemplate it...deranged Charlie Bronson wanna-be started a fight with a kid and then murdered the kid.  The "stand your ground" law isn't applicable at all...he stalked the kid, he was the agressor.  

    Now if the kid shot Zimmerman, the "stand your ground" law would appear to be applicable to exonerate the kid.  The local authorities have it twisted.


    I don't agree as some crimes are perpetrated (none / 0) (#22)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 08:09:24 AM EST
    against someone precisely because of who or what they are, minority, gay, women etc.  The arbitrary manner in which the victim is selected make these crimes especially heinous & threatening to the community at large, how can one, more importantly why should anyone, avoid  the risk of being victimzed for who/what they are?  



    Lots of violent crimes (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by sj on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:14:25 AM EST
    are just plain arbitrary.  Are "hate crimes" any more arbitrary than a mugger?  Or burglars who target a neighborhood?  And what about abused family members?  They are targeted for who/what they are.

    My personal opinion -- that Zimmerman was a racist time bomb waiting to blow -- notwithstanding, I'm with kdog here.  Every violent crime is a hate crime.


    On that theme (5.00 / 2) (#93)
    by NYShooter on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 01:09:56 PM EST
    I always objected to increased penalties being meted out to persons convicted of assaulting members of the Police Dept, or other select groups. I understand the thought behind these laws but I also never felt a cab driver's life was worth any less than a policeman's.

    I'm sure an accountant's family grieves every bit as much over the loss of their loved one as does the family of a police officer.


    If he is ever charged... (none / 0) (#45)
    by kdog on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:44:19 AM EST
    An insanity defense seems logical...makes more sense than self-defense anyway.

    In my opinion calling 911 that many times and his other behavior are signs of serious mental defect.


    OCD? (none / 0) (#46)
    by oculus on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:46:53 AM EST
    Thinking more.... (none / 0) (#59)
    by kdog on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:06:45 AM EST
    Extreme paranoia.  

    FL Supreme Court approving jury (none / 0) (#74)
    by oculus on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:59:24 AM EST
    instructions re insanity defense:



    Thanks very much. (none / 0) (#113)
    by Mitch Guthman on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 05:11:39 PM EST
    Can you also provide the current Fla instructions for defense of self?

    The jury instructions start at p. 62: (none / 0) (#125)
    by oculus on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:03:18 PM EST
    Thanks, again! (none / 0) (#143)
    by Mitch Guthman on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 04:28:50 AM EST
    Looking over this material and these instructions, I'm really confused about how this law works.  I think it's going to take a couple of weeks and going to UCLA to look at their LaFave to figure it out.

    At first glance, it kind of looks like "self-defense" is no longer a "defense" under Florida law.  It looks like the prosecution needs to plead and prove the absence of something kind of like a reasonable belief that the defendant is in fear for his life.  But not quite.  Also, not only does the prosecution have the burden the Florida law seems to have adopted a subjective standard---in other words, it looks like if the trier of fact decides that you believed you were in danger then you're entitled to DV even if the belief wasn't objectively reasonable.

    Also, it seems to have created something what they used to call an "immunity". I haven't seen anything like it for years---I just vaguely remember reading about them.  

    Anyway, it's 2:20 am so I'm going to call it a night and resume later.  But my first reading of this is that Florida justed issued everybody with a carry permit a license to kill.  


    This is the part the concerns me the most (none / 0) (#148)
    by vicndabx on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 09:26:34 AM EST
    Myy layman's read of the law and commentary on it draws me to the same conclusion.

    it looks like if the trier of fact decides that you believed you were in danger then you're entitled to DV even if the belief wasn't objectively reasonable.

    I get the logic... (none / 0) (#26)
    by kdog on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 08:31:10 AM EST
    but I still don't like 'em...another weapon for prosecutors when the standard arsenal is more than sufficient to prosecute violent criminals and protect any and all communities.  The less crimninal laws to be misapplied and abused the better.  Equality under the law and equal protection under the law.

    Is it any less heinous when a murderer picks their victim out of a hat?  Or kills because their dog told them to?  


    Err... (none / 0) (#23)
    by kdog on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 08:24:03 AM EST
    contemplate should be complicate.

    Are you saying that a violent death ... (none / 0) (#107)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 04:38:21 PM EST
    ... resulting from a callous act of criminal negligence is thus a "hate crime"? How about a classic crime of passion? I would have to take issue with you there on those counts.

    A hate crime charge specifically requires that prosecutors prove beyond resonable doubt that the victim was chosen or targeted by the suspect because of factors concerning the victim's race, ethnicity, perceived sexual orientation, etc.

    It requires a much higher burden of proof to ascertain guilt, and rightly so. Otherwise, prosecutors could easily rely upon your definition that "every violent crime is a hate crime" in the course of overcharging a suspect as a means of compelling him to cop a plea to a lesser charge, regardless of that suspect's actual guilt or innocence.


    I see your point... (none / 0) (#147)
    by kdog on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 08:49:36 AM EST
    All premeditated violent crimes are hate crimes.

    I mean they sure as hell ain't love crimes.  


    I'm not sure what your starting point is here (none / 0) (#153)
    by sj on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 10:36:19 AM EST
    My interpretation of kdog's POV (and certainly my own POV) when saying that all crimes are hate crimes is that there shouldn't even be a such a thing as a hate crime charge.  So burden of proof as to the "hate-ness" would be irrelevant.

    In the end, that's not the world we live in.  And it's just another way that it's not the world I want to live in.


    Uhhhhhhhhhh (none / 0) (#126)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:24:14 PM EST
    If you call a kid a coon I think that race is involved.  I heard the tape. It is pretty clear.

    I heard it too (5.00 / 1) (#136)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 12:04:47 AM EST
    I can't understand how some say they don't hear anything.  Was clear as a bell for me.

    I never said race wasn't involved... (none / 0) (#146)
    by kdog on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 08:44:29 AM EST
    pretty clear to me it was, though we can't go in Zimmerman's head...I'm talking about my objection to hate crime legislation.  There is no need for it, laws against murder are sufficient to protect all people, as long as the law is enforced equally.  

    I abhor racism & bigotry but I don't think it should be against the law to hate people or groups of people...freedom of speech and thought.  It should only be against the law to hurt people.  


    It ISN'T against the law to hate people (none / 0) (#154)
    by jbindc on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 10:42:41 AM EST
    Or to be a racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe, etc.

    It's an aggravating factor if you specifically target someone to kill them or injure them BECAUSE they are black, female, gay, etc.


    Thought Crime... (none / 0) (#156)
    by kdog on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 11:01:09 AM EST
    Again, I get the logic behind hate crime laws, I just don't agree with it.

    If equality under the law is the ultimate goal,  there should be no "special victim" status applied to minorities, gays, police officers, etc.  


    I did not hear about a racial slur (none / 0) (#105)
    by ruffian on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 03:46:42 PM EST
    The word that is usually beeped out is 'a**holes'.

    Who Knows (5.00 / 2) (#63)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:30:12 AM EST
    But I would put money on the police arresting him had a white kid been killed.

    Me too... (none / 0) (#65)
    by Edger on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:34:24 AM EST
    Care to lay odds on that one? (none / 0) (#9)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 07:32:55 AM EST
    No... (none / 0) (#11)
    by Edger on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 07:43:46 AM EST
    I guess the part that gets me is that (5.00 / 5) (#5)
    by Anne on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 07:11:58 AM EST
    all Zimmerman saw was someone walking down the street, and now that someone is dead.

    And I guess this is the reason most Neighborhood Watch groups that I've heard of don't have their members out alone: maybe if Zimmerman had had someone else from the group with him, he might not have - allegedly - decided to ignore the police, who told him they didn't need him to follow this "suspicious" person.  Maybe if he hadn't been alone, he could have been discouraged from getting out of his car to confront what turned out to be a kid.

    I know these groups can and do serve a valuable purpose, when they work as they are intended to, not the least of which is the most obvious: if potential criminals know that people in a neighborhood or area are keeping an eye out, they are less likely to cause problems.  But what Zimmerman allegedly did makes me wonder, who watches the Watchers?  I think it's supposed to be the police - these Watch groups are usually done in cooperation with local police - but if the Watchers don't listen to the police, things can easily go sideways.

    Maybe if Zimmerman hadn't been carrying a gun, he'd have stayed in his car and let the police handle the matter; guns make people brave - but they don't make people smart.

    No Neighborhood Watch Groups (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by smott on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 07:20:41 AM EST
    ...that I know of allow their members to carry guns.

    Zimmerman was way off the reservation.


    Nothing brave about confronting unarmed folks (5.00 / 3) (#15)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 07:50:00 AM EST
    with your gun.

    In fact, I can't think of anything more cowardly.


    Although perhaps Zimmerman's (none / 0) (#75)
    by oculus on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 11:02:25 AM EST
    reporting the person he was calling about had his hand in his waistband could be interpreted to mean Zimmerman suspected the person was armed.  

    All the more reason not to confront (5.00 / 2) (#83)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 11:51:25 AM EST
    & leave it to the police

    I'm been certain from the beginning (none / 0) (#82)
    by sj on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 11:41:59 AM EST
    that's what he was trying to imply.  But you have me wondering now... what other reason would he have to say that?

    If one is at the point of calling the police (5.00 / 2) (#88)
    by Anne on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 12:14:42 PM EST
    to report something suspicious that might include a gun, that would seem to be the wrong time to be making anyone, much less a 911 operator, guess what may or may not be going on.  Seems like simple, declarative sentences like, "I'm worried he may have a gun - his hand is in the waistband of his pants," removes the doubt that pauses and hesitation may be leaving in that moment, when some sort of response may be initiated, and later, when people are debriefed.  

    My interpretation of the "hand in his waistband" was "if I end up using my gun, it will be easier to claim self-defense or fear-for-my-life."  Now, through his father, he's claiming that he got out of his truck to read the street sign and the kid jumped him, and that's why he ended up using his gun.  Too bad about that tape that says he was following the kid, huh?  And since Zimmerman was allegedly out every night patrolling the neighborhood, what are the chances that he didn't know what street he was on?

    Everything I am reading about this Zimmerman character just screams "cop-wanna-be," but with an element of something more dangerous.  In the McClatchy article I linked to in another comment, I read this (my emphasis):

    "It's a gated community, but you can walk in and steal whatever you want," Rashada's wife, Quianna, said.

    They discussed the topic with Zimmerman when the watch captain knocked on their door late last year. Zimmerman seemed friendly, helpful, and a "pretty cool dude," Ibrahim Rashada said.

    "He came by here and talked about carrying guns and getting my wife more involved with guns," he said. "He said I should have a weapon and that his wife took classes to learn how to use one.

    "I do have a weapon, but I don't walk around the neighborhood with mine!"

    Yes, because the more people with guns, the safer we all will be.  Or deader.


    If, as me , you support not allowing these groups (none / 0) (#12)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 07:44:14 AM EST
    to carry guns then you support gun control.  To claim otherwise is nonsense and when those who claim to be gun rights advocates support denying guns to one group or another they are really saying I want guns to be allowed in society, but on my terms.

    Well, so don't I, and so doesn't every other gun control advocate.  The question is where do you draw the line.  Clearly, in Florida at least, they need to draw a more sensible line.  And don't give me the Roberts' Court line on the 2nd Amendement.  That court decided Citizens' United too. I am sure Roberts & Co. will be enjoying the same level of support should they overturn the health care law or Roe v. Wade.


    Bob, I support gun rights (5.00 / 1) (#69)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:39:28 AM EST
    and I don't support neighborhood crimewatchers carrying guns while on their self-appointed patrols. It's about vigiliantism not gun rights.

    You are having it both ways (none / 0) (#84)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 11:53:47 AM EST
    you support gun rights except in a circumstance where you think it ought to be controlled, in this instance neighborhood watch  groups.

    I think it ought to be controlled too in this circumstance and probaby a lot of others that you woudl not agree with.


    How is that having it both ways? (5.00 / 2) (#87)
    by smott on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 12:13:38 PM EST
    Can we not support the right to own/bear arms, and at the same time elucidate circumstances in which we deem control should be tighter/even to the extent of eliminating?

    As in free speech.


    Hold on a second, Bob; (none / 0) (#42)
    by Anne on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:21:56 AM EST
    take a moment to understand that all I was saying is what I said: that if Zimmerman hadn't had a gun, maybe this whole thing would have ended differently.  

    I didn't say he should or shouldn't have been allowed to carry a weapon, or whether anyone should or shouldn't be allowed to do so, or whether the gun laws make sense or whether we do or don't need gun control, only that (1) the NW program of which Zimmerman was a part doesn't seem to have been doing things by the same "rules" as what I had understood these groups are generally governed by and (2) that guns don't make people smart.

    I'm not a big fan of guns, generally.  I have family members who hunt, and I get that, I do.  But, the majority of people who are injured or killed by bullets weren't shot by hunting rifles, but by handguns, many of which seem to be in the possession of people who think the answer to everything is to shoot someone.  Maybe guns make the people who have them feel safe, but they don't make me feel safe.

    I don't know what the answer is, Bob.  All I do know is that another kid is dead, another family grieving, and we need to find other ways to handle conflict, anger and fear that don't involve injuring and/or killing people.


    I wonder if an armed group of black neighbors (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 08:29:09 AM EST
    patroling about a predominately black neighborhood would be described so charitably as a citizens watch or neighborhood patrol group?

    I wonder if Zimmerman were black and Trayvon white if there'd have been any arrest?

    I wonder if Zimmerman felt at all empowered by the recently enacted stand your ground laws in Fla?

    I wonder if silencing such musing might possibly be in furtherance of a gun rights agenda, or are only civil rights and gun control advocates capable of having agendas?

    An Important Factual Point (5.00 / 9) (#51)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:53:10 AM EST
    We now have a direct conflict in facts from the two sides:

    Trayvon Martin was on the phone when George Zimmerman was following him. The young lady with whom he was speaking, through her lawyer, talked to ABC News:

    "He said this man was watching him, so he put his hoodie on. He said he lost the man," Martin's friend said. "I asked Trayvon to run, and he said he was going to walk fast. I told him to run but he said he was not going to run."

    Eventually he would run, said the girl, thinking that he'd managed to escape. But suddenly the strange man was back, cornering Martin. "Trayvon said, 'What, are you following me for,' and the man said, 'What are you doing here.' Next thing I hear is somebody pushing, and somebody pushed Trayvon because the head set just fell. I called him again and he didn't answer the phone."

    The line went dead. Besides screams heard on 911 calls that night as Martin and Zimmerman scuffled, those were the last words he said.

    ABC News verified that Martin did talk to the young lady by looking at his phone records. I don't know that they can corroborate the exact contents of the conversation.

    Nevertheless, when you read this, it's worth remembering the tale Zimmerman told the cops:

    Zimmerman said he had stepped out of his truck to check the name of the street he was on when Trayvon attacked him from behind as he walked back to his truck, police said. He said he feared for his life and fired the semiautomatic handgun he was licensed to carry because he feared for his life.

    Coates is on it.

    This kid was me. Living in a mostly white neighborhood in the south as a kid, I was stopped at least once a year as a teenager. When I got a nice car from my parents, they assumed I was a drug dealer. The idea that someone could stop me and somehow at the end of the engagement, end up shooting me is . . . I don't know if any story this year has as directly hit my core as this one.

    That's me.  I live in a decent neighborhood now so that could be my kids. That could be a friend's kid coming to visit us.

    I don't even know what else to say.  If he's guilty I want him punished but that doesn't bring this kid back.  He's gone.

    Because his skin color automatically made him look suspicious.

    This story is going to reverberate.  I have not seen family and friends as upset about a story in a long, long time.

    My first stepfather was black (5.00 / 2) (#72)
    by Dadler on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:47:37 AM EST
    We got pulled over by the cops, one time I recall clearly, just for being a black man and white kid together driving in a car together.  Cop asked me if I was alright, in a strange way, almost winking to me.  I told him I was fine, that Fred was my stepfather.  Stepfather, I could tell, was gritting his teeth, and when the incident was finally over and we were on our way again, oh did he let loose.  That I essentially despised my stepfather, that he was a terribly phucked up and abusive guy, it all sort of receded for a few minutes that day, as I found myself having sympathy for him as I never again would.

    I hope you're right, and that this case does reverberate.

    The shooter, IMO, is a hyper paranoid with delusions of grandeur and hero fantasies, combined with what seems a quite obvious bias against and loathing for young black men who just, well, don't look like he thinks "decent" people should.  


    Jesus (5.00 / 2) (#80)
    by CST on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 11:16:53 AM EST
    I've actually been on the other end of a call remarkably like that once.  Only he just got mugged, and woke up the next morning in the hospital - with his face smashed in but alive.  The worst part was the 12 hours not knowing what happened, and the phone call from his mother the next day asking me if I knew where he was.  I can't imagine if it had ended like this.  Poor girl.

    Racism is a funny thing.  There are days when you can almost pretend it's not there, that it doesn't affect you personally, and just go on with whatever like it's something from the past. And then there are days when it smacks you in the face.

    Whatever his reasoning was for ultimately pulling the trigger, I have a very hard time believing he would have been following a white kid.


    So, now I am reading that Zimmerman (5.00 / 2) (#67)
    by Anne on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:35:06 AM EST
    was not a member of any registered neighborhood watch group.


    When the homeowners association wanted to start a neighborhood watch, only one man stepped up: George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old who admitted to shooting an unarmed Miami Gardens teenager and who is now the focal point of a race-related scandal of national proportions.

    Interviews with neighbors reveal a pleasant young man passionate about neighborhood security who took it upon himself to do nightly patrols while he walked his dog.


    The recent shooting raised troubling questions about whether the homeowners association knew its volunteer was armed with a Kel Tek 9mm semiautomatic handgun. Many residents -- black and white -- question Zimmerman's judgment and wonder why he would have engaged the teenager at all.

    The answer may lie in police records, which show that 50 suspicious-person reports were called in to police in the past year at Twin Lakes. There were eight burglaries, nine thefts and one other shooting in the year prior to Trayvon's death.


    Police volunteer program coordinator Wendy Dorival said she met Zimmerman in September at a community neighborhood watch presentation.

    "I said, `If it's someone you don't recognize, call us. We'll figure it out,' " Dorival said. "`Observe from a safe location.' There's even a slide about not being vigilante police. I don't know how many more times I can repeat it."

    And let's just say I'm skeptical that police did not know Zimmerman wasn't a member of a registered watch group:

    According to Chris Tutko, the director of the National Neighborhood Watch Program, there are about 22,000 registered watch groups nationwide, and Zimmerman was not part of a registered group -- another fact the police were not aware of at the time of the incident.

    One thing this may have done is brought needed attention to some of the practices of the Sanford Police Department, the actions of which, on this and other cases, have raised more than a few eyebrows.  Not subjecting Zimmerman to drug or alcohol testing at the time of the shooting doesn't seem like it would be in keeping with standard protocol.  Nor does their "we believed his account and no one refuted it" rationale for not arresting him or doing a more thorough investigation.

    I don't know - the more I learn about this case, the worse it feels.

    More (none / 0) (#100)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 02:59:15 PM EST
    Tapes from 911 dispatchers have revealed that Zimmerman had been told not to pursue Martin. While Martin did not have a criminal record, Zimmerman had been charged in 2005 with "resisting arrest with violence and battery on an officer."

    It keeps getting better.


    a member of the watch group (none / 0) (#117)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 07:45:31 PM EST
    has vouched for him being a member of the a watch group -- they were members at the same time

    [Frank] Taaffe, a marketing specialist who had been a watch captain with Zimmerman until December, said he may have been "overzealous, maybe," but "his main concern is the safety and welfare of the community."


    That contradicts other reports (5.00 / 1) (#128)
    by Towanda on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:11:50 PM EST

    I'm in Neighborhood Watch, and were I on a jury in such a case in my state, I would know that the solid attestation would have to come from the police.  They have us on their email lists.

    Now, it certainly could be looser in that locale, but I still would want to know that before trusting this report that contradicts others.


    "Overzealous, maybe.". From a (5.00 / 1) (#129)
    by oculus on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:18:59 PM EST
    marketing guy.

    Okay, so we now know there were (5.00 / 2) (#130)
    by Anne on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:24:11 PM EST
    at least two members of this neighborhood watch group - has anyone else stepped forward claiming to have been a member?  Where are the rules, the protocol, the organization?  Funny that we haven't heard about that.

    We know that this group wasn't affilitated with the Neighborhood Watch Program - the police came and met with the community association, but there is no indication that the community association affiliated itself with this or any other registered program.

    One guy coming forward to say he was also a watch captain doesn't change the fact that this whole thing stinks, and it smells worse every day.


    I would say that these two guys (5.00 / 2) (#131)
    by Towanda on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:41:02 PM EST
    may have thought that they could call themselves a neighborhood watch group, but they may have been misappropriating the name.  (Trademark lawyers will understand that.)  And so is anyone else who does not understand that it is a formal organization, and that organization says that these guys were not in a Neighborhood Watch group.
    Neighborhood Watch requires training and rules -- which specifically do not allow carrying a weapon -- and constant contact with police.

    There are other names, common nouns, for guys who get all armed and go out looking for trouble.


    Last Night (5.00 / 0) (#149)
    by ScottW714 on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 09:58:02 AM EST
    I saw several interviews from people w/i the community.  One guy took his side and vouched for him, but you could tell they knew each other the way he was speaking.  Two other people whom they label neighbors, didn't know who this guy was, and why he was protecting them.

    To me is just seems off that no one seems to know much about the neighborhood watch, except his friends.   Seems to me like if you are going to protect you neighborhood it would be a good idea to say... know your neighbors.  Especially if you are going to pursue people you don't know or that look suspicious.

    I wonder what one can do to make sure there isn't some idiot in say my neighborhood with a loaded gun patrolling the streets in my name for my security.  To make sure I don't get robbed.  I'm well insured, and I'd rather have stuff missing, then a dead kid in my yard.  And I have been burglarized, and had my car broken into.

    The thing I can't get past is there were burglaries in the neighborhood, not beat downs, not rapes, not murders, just stuff stolen.  To me even if the kid had just committed a theft, a burglary, there is no reason to confront him with a loaded weapon.  He is putting himself in harms way for the glory of catching a thief, a thief that stole other people's stuff.  Make zero sense.


    Anyone here know whether the location (5.00 / 0) (#68)
    by oculus on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:37:31 AM EST
    of the shooting was the private, posted property of the homeowners' association?  Just curious.  

    Federal civil right prosecution is appropriate. (5.00 / 2) (#99)
    by Mitch Guthman on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 02:43:38 PM EST

    I respectfully disagree about the potential for federal criminal charges.  Assuming that what I'm reading about the past practices of the police (and their significant working relationship with Zimmerman as a police auxiliary) on this blog and at the Atlantic's blog is substantially accurate, then it would seem to me that there is significant potential for charging under 18 USC §242.   Again, assuming the facts as described are true, such a prosecution would be well within the scope of that law and totally consistent with the purpose of the original Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 (which is still on the books as 18 USC §242).

    If the local USA decline to prosecute, I would hope the the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division would be asked to review that decision.  Also, if both of them declined then I would hope that DOJ would release all the declination memos so that we can all understand precisely why DOJ would decide not to pursue what would seem to be a case which obviously needs to be in the federal courts, prosecuted by federal authorities, to vindicate this young man's civil rights.

    Seems Like.. (none / 0) (#102)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 03:05:35 PM EST
    ...the same type of situation in the south in the 60's where the locals refused to prosecute so the Fed stepped in.

    And as much as the author doesn't want this to be about race, it is.  We don't know whether this altercation would have happened if the 'suspect' was white, but to me, it certainly would have been prosecuted had the kid been white.

    Doesn't matter, they have opened a Grand Jury investigation at the county level I believe.


    Under Section 242 (none / 0) (#111)
    by Peter G on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 05:06:06 PM EST
    there has to be "state action."  I don't see on the facts so far revealed where Zimmerman was acting as an agent of any local governmental unit, or even claiming to be one ("under color of law"). Would any other other civil rights law apply?  I'm not thinking of one.

    18 USC 242 applies to acts of private individuals (none / 0) (#115)
    by Mitch Guthman on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 06:27:21 PM EST
    For example, in U.S. V. Price, 383 U.S. 787 (1966) private individuals with whom local law enforcement officials were deeply involved could be charged with the 1964 murder of three civil rights workers (Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman) who were murder near Philadelphia, Mississippi.  As Justice Fortas said: "To act `under color' of law does not require that the accused be an officer of the State. It is enough that he is a willful participant in joint activity with the State or its agents."  Thus, the private individuals who did the actual murders acted "under color of law" (and therefore could be charged under §242) even though they themselves were not law enforcement officers.

    In this case, the local police seem to have had a practice of using people such as Zimmerman as basically a police auxiliary.   The police were aware of his activities and were in regular communication with him.  The local police seem to have supported him in "policing" just as they seem to have been supportive of other vigilantes and treated them as informal police auxiliaries.  There is certainly enough material in the press to suggest that Zimmerman was acting "under color" of law when he killed Trayvon Martin.


    Disagree. The nexus between the (5.00 / 0) (#124)
    by oculus on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 08:58:17 PM EST
    non-public entity employee and the public entity has to be quite close.  What distinguishes Mr. Zimmerman from any other citizen who calls 911, other than the frequency of his calls.  So far there is no indication he drove about armed w/a semi automatic at the behest of law enforcement.

    I don't think the police need to have asked him. (none / 0) (#140)
    by Mitch Guthman on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 03:59:10 AM EST
    The nexus doesn't have as close as you are implying and the police don't need to have formally recruited Zimmerman for him to have been acting "under color of law".  It seems to me that if the police knew of his activities and supported them (even informally) then he's basically a police auxiliary for purposes of Sec. 242.

    There have been some published reports that he had meetings with a police employee who was in charge of coordinating with neighborhood watch programs and the PD seems to have accepted him as a police auxiliary.

    Moreover, there is some published information suggesting that we are much closer to the Mississippi case than you might think.  There seems to have been a long history of encouraging and/or protecting private individuals who acted aggressively towards black in their community in much the same way (albeit to an obviously much lesser degree) as did the KKK.  This is a relationship that need to be throughly explored before it is possible to say that a prosecution under Sec. 242 is impossible.


    I won an MSJ on this issue. Just sayin'. (none / 0) (#161)
    by oculus on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 05:18:37 PM EST
    I don't see sources (5.00 / 0) (#133)
    by Towanda on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:43:12 PM EST
    stating that police initiated constant contact with Zimmermann, which is what would occur in a Neighborhood Watch organization.  Where are such sources?

    What I see are sources stating that Zimmermann was constantly calling the cops.  That's quite different.


    We should have an investigation to find out. (none / 0) (#142)
    by Mitch Guthman on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 04:11:39 AM EST
    There have been published reports at the Atlantic about that the police knew what Zimmerman was doing and possibly encouraged him.  There is also the history that this PD seems to have with encouraging/protecting private individuals with some kind of relationship (past employment, family, etc) to act aggressively against blacks.  This needs to be explored.

    Interesting theory (none / 0) (#122)
    by Peter G on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 08:55:08 PM EST
    In the famous 1964 "Mississippi Burning" Philadelphia, MS case, of course, the private KKK individuals actively conspired with (sec 241) and aided and abetted active duty deputy sheriffs in murdering the civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner, so that was an easier case. Not saying the DOJ couldn't possibly do Zimmerman that way, but it's more of a stretch.  Particularly when the 911 operator was apparently telling him not to do what he did.

    I was quoting DOJ's statement (none / 0) (#116)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 07:43:25 PM EST
    The Justice Department said its investigation would examine the facts and circumstances of the shooting, and noted that with all federal civil rights crimes, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted intentionally.

    "Negligence, recklessness, mistakes and accidents are not prosecutable under the federal criminal civil rights laws," the Justice Department said.



    Yes, that's true (none / 0) (#123)
    by Peter G on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 08:58:04 PM EST
    I was pointing out another legal problem with a federal civil rights theory -- proving state action.  On top of that, as the DOJ is warning, there has to be a specific intent to deprive the victim someone of what the defendant knows to be the victim's constitutional rights. These are challenging statutes to prosecute under.

    I'm not sure I understand why DOJ would put out such a press release before even beginning their investigation.  It sounds to me like they've decided they really don't want to get in the middle of this and they're going to punt.

    Reading this does not fill me with confidence in their investigation.  Better to have said "we're investigating and we will let you know if we can make a case or not when we've completed the investigation".  

    Is this the same press release as is done in every case or is this something special for this case? (Not snark---serious question---does anybody know?)


    Florida self-defense law (5.00 / 1) (#132)
    by lawstudent on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:42:52 PM EST
    Since we're all talking about it, how about we read it?  

    Florida Self-Defense Law

    Under 776.012, "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 the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or (2)  Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013."

    Under 776.008, "forcible felony" includes home-invasion robbery, burglary, and "and any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual."  

    Under 776.013, "a person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself . . . if: (a) The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering . . . a 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 . . . ."

    Under 776.012(1), Zimmerman could claim that he reasonably believed Trayvon was about to commit a "forcible felony" such as breaking and entering (which is what he suggests on the 911 tape) or even "any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual."  If he takes it a step further (much less believable, in my view), he could claim Trayvon "was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering" a home, and Zimmerman had reason to believe this felony "was occurring," and he gets a presumption of a reasonable fear of death or imminent injury under 776.013.  (Sure doesn't sound like an affirmative defense).

    Also worth noting that 776.032 grants Zimmerman immunity from prosecution (which includes arrest and even detention under the statute) if his acts comply with the statute.  The law enforcement agency can investigate the incident, and only if there is probable cause that the force used was unlawful can they make an arrest.

    The only thing working against Zimmerman is section 776.041, use of force by aggressor, which does not allow him to claim self defense as the initial aggressor except in certain circumstances.

    Now personally, I believe the facts that I have read in the news reports along with the 911 tapes that I have listened to in full, still support an arrest.  It sounds like he pursued Trayvon, even after instructed not to do so by the 911 operator.  It also sounds like he was the initial aggressor, based on an interview with Trayvon's girlfriend who was on the phone with him just before he was shot.  It is also questionable, in my view, whether he was reasonable in thinking his own life was in danger in a wrestling match (observed by a 911 caller) with an unarmed teenager who weighed 140 lbs regardless of "who started it."  

    Spike in gang related and other killings (none / 0) (#145)
    by smott on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 07:28:07 AM EST
    In FL since this law. (Shocker there)

    Gang on gang violence, bar violence, drug buyer violence et al.

    POssibly explains why they sent a narc to investigate.

    Thanks for all the details. It doe seem given the witness is dead, claim of self defense could be all Zimmerman needs.


    Thanks for the statute, ... (none / 0) (#152)
    by Yman on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 10:16:14 AM EST
    Under 776.012(1), Zimmerman could claim that he reasonably believed Trayvon was about to commit a "forcible felony" such as breaking and entering (which is what he suggests on the 911 tape) or even "any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual."

    ... but are you saying that this claim is reasonable, or merely that Zimmerman could make the argument that he "reasonably believed Trayvon was about to commit a forcible felony"?

    If the latter, ... sure.  If the former, I haven't seen anything in the news reports or 911 transcripts that would indicate his suspicions were "reasonable".


    I think it's still an objective standard. Maybe. (none / 0) (#160)
    by Mitch Guthman on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 04:47:46 PM EST
    But I'm not sure how to answer that question.  I spent last night and this morning going over some of the Florida material and cases, notably Dennis v. State and descriptions of trial court decisions as reported in the press.  My tentative conclusion is that the belief must still be both subjectively reasonable (actually believed) and objectively reasonable (whether an ordinary person in the defendant's position would believe that force was about to be used against him).  That is generally thought to be the meaning "reasonably believed" in other self-defense statutes.

    But, if the reports in the press are correct, the local prosecutors and trial judges seem to be giving a very strange, typically Southern, reading to the language of the statute about whether the defendant's belief needs to be objectively reasonable.  The statute itself says: "(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 forcible felony."

    The reports in the press suggest that this is being read to mean that if the trier of fact finds that the defendant sincerely believed himself to be threatened he is immune from prosecution no matter how irrational or absurd that belief and no matter whether the threat is real or imagined.  This is possibly because they are reading it in context with 776.013(1) which says: "(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..."  The would appear to create an immunity, not a defense.

    Some of this confusion at the trial level may be the result of Florida having (I think) changed self-defense from a defense to some kind of an immunity (e.g., an exemption from criminal prosecution) in which a defendant who can claim the immunity is simply exempt from prosecution.  I think this is what's going on in Peterson v. State and Dennis v. State but I'm not sure.

    Is there somebody out there who can explain how this law works?  


    not in my opinion (none / 0) (#163)
    by lawstudent on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 10:22:42 PM EST
    Not reasonable in my personal opinion, nor do I think it's reasonable from an objective standpoint.  Just saying this is one way to look at it, and if you think it's reasonable (or the law allows subjective reasonableness), he could fit into this law.  

    Is there such an animal? (none / 0) (#167)
    by Yman on Thu Mar 22, 2012 at 07:41:26 AM EST
    "Subjective reasonableness"?  It seems like, if they wanted to apply a subjective standard, they would simply omit the word "reasonable".  

    Only your agenda, neighborhood watch groups, (4.50 / 8) (#8)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 07:32:20 AM EST
    allowed to be discussed?

    I see a huge racial aspect to this story.  Does Zimmerman suspect white kids walking about in his neighborhood and stop & interrogate them?  Doubt it.

    You support gun rights?  Fine, but plenty of us think it is nuts that a paranoid vigilante is allowed to walk around with a concealed gun and brandish to those he suspects of ,well, just what exactly? As I recall, the opponents of Fla's stand your ground law when it was in the legislature prohpesized events like this occurring, but we need not discuss that even with a dead teenager.

    NO arrest, no cause for arrest under the state's stand your ground law?  Not worthy of dicussion?  Nothing wrong with this picture? "Negligence, recklessness, mistakes and accidents" are not descriptive of this incident.  A 28 yo self-appointed Barney Fife with a long history of paranoia and self importance was allowed under state law to carry a concealed weapon and brandish it against an unarmed, unsuspecting teenage who was walking home from a conveninence store and not breaking any laws.  Suspicious for what? Being black?  There is no negiligence or even recklessness here, there is  the deliberate action of both Zimmerman and the state that allows nuts like Zimmerman to carry concealed weapons and encourages them through the stand your ground law to use them.

    To limit the discussion of this horrific incident to the one issue  you deem worthy of discussion is remarkably lame.  Yes, neighborhood watch/vigilantism is a problem here, but is is far from the only problem sourrounding this murder.

    Even if this gun discharged in the middle of a fracas it was Zimmerman who, without cause or authority, initiated the fracas and Zimmerman who knew he had a loaded weapon that could go off on his person. Unlike the murdered Trayvon, Zimmerman knew the risk at hand and proceeded to accost a law abiding teenager he deemed "suspicious."  Or then again, maybe Zimmerman just pulled out his gun and shot him after the kid rightfully told him to go pound sand and punched him in the nose.  

    Gun rights do not include the right to kill or terrorize unarmed law abiding citizens, nor the right to escape prosecution for murder.  State laws like Fla's that encourage such muderour behaviors are a national disgrace.

    I'm not limiting the discussion (none / 0) (#62)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:26:36 AM EST
    I explained the facet most interesting to me and why I don't expect I'll be writing continual posts about it. You can discuss any aspects you want, so long as you state your opinion as opinion and not fact, and don't call Zimmerman names or declare him guilty of a crime.

    Wow! (3.00 / 4) (#6)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 07:17:23 AM EST

    He had no legal right to question a law-abiding citizen based on his suspicions.

    So, you have no legal right to talk to a stranger!  What a concept.


    You can question me on the street (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 07:37:40 AM EST
    & I can tell you where to go!  Zimmerman, like you, has no legal authority to question or demand answers from anyone who is simply walking about on a public thoroughfare.

    Do you think for a moment, before he was shot & killed, Trayvon might have found Zimmerman's actions a bit suspicious?


    You are mistaken (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:00:03 AM EST

    You are perfectly free to ask questions and demand answers of anyone you like.  Of course that does not mean you obligate anyone to come up with an answer.

    You may have heard of the concept.  It is called "freedom of speech."



    Sorry, but no. (5.00 / 1) (#49)
    by Farmboy on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:52:11 AM EST
    As a private citizen, you don't have the right to "demand answers of anyone you like."

    You want to stand on the street corner and yell at passersby, feel free. You get in their faces to "demand answers" and you're way, way over the line.

    Your freedom of speech and opinion cannot infringe on the rights or reputation of others.


    Freedom of Speech ? (5.00 / 0) (#71)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:44:42 AM EST
    I am so tired of you right wing hacks not understanding what that means.  Its freedom from retribution from the government for speaking your mind.

    It's not freedom to call you boss an ahole, call your wife a heifer, or demand answers from stranger on the street.  All of which could have serious consequences, just not from Uncle Sam.

    You have no Constitutional right to talk to me, but more importantly, you can not stop me, stalk me, corner me, or demand answers from me. And I suspect Zimmerman was probably trespassing at some point in his quest to stop the black man.


    beeing free is not the same (none / 0) (#36)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:12:48 AM EST
    as being authorized

    Purposeful obtuseness (5.00 / 4) (#13)
    by Yman on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 07:45:43 AM EST
    It's not just for geometry.

    Agree? (1.00 / 0) (#29)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 08:55:49 AM EST

    Anyone has the right to ask a question of anyone they choose.  

    Don't you agree with that?



    are you not very bright, or being purposely obtuse (5.00 / 1) (#96)
    by cpinva on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 02:29:01 PM EST
    Anyone has the right to ask a question of anyone they choose.  

    Don't you agree with that?

    no, i don't. the "freedom of speech" enumerated in the first amendment regards speech in the public square: you have the right to speak your opinion, publicly, without interference by the state. it has nothing to do with speech between private parties. you do not have the right to question another private citizen, they must grant you permission first.

    so mr. zimmerman had no "right" to question mr. martin (or anyone else for that matter), unless he and mr. martin had a previous contractual agreement to that effect.

    whatever tuition you paid for that constitutional law class, demand a refund.


    No, I do not. (5.00 / 0) (#109)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 04:45:10 PM EST
    If you are not a public safety official, you do not have the right to confront random passers-by on a street and question them in a hostile manner.

    Do you also believe that people should enjoy the right to yell "Fire!" without due cause in a crowded theatre or shopping mall.


    I do (none / 0) (#35)
    by Yman on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:12:21 AM EST
    I'm just amused by your narrow, literal interpretation of the quote.  The writer should have used the word "authority" rather than "right", but his intent was clear.

    Everyone of has the authority (1.00 / 1) (#43)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:28:15 AM EST

    That authority is noted in the first amendment to the Constitution.

    Doubling down on the obtuseness (5.00 / 2) (#58)
    by Yman on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:04:39 AM EST
    Not the best bet.

    What the author was writing about was the legal authority to question people, which is why he included the sentence immediately preceding your quote:

    Mr. Zimmerman is not a cop. He had no legal right to question a law-abiding citizen based on his suspicions.

    But keep swinging ...


    Disagree (1.00 / 0) (#144)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 06:57:29 AM EST

    The writer of the piece was implying that asking questions without some authority over and above the first amendment was wrong.  In fact the first amendment is legal authority for Zimmerman to ask as many questions of anyone he so chose.  

    Wrong on both counts (5.00 / 0) (#151)
    by Yman on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 10:04:35 AM EST
    The writer was clearly stating that, because Zimmerman was not a police officer, he had no legal authority to question anyone just because he thought they looked suspicious.  Hence, the reason for the first sentence.

    Mr. Zimmerman is not a cop. He had no legal right to question a law-abiding citizen based on his suspicions.

    Moreover, as has been pointed out to you numerous times already, the First Amendment protects (among other things) people from government interference of free speech.  There's nothing illegeal about Mr. Zimmerman asking people questions, but he has no 1st Amendment right to question people.

    You don't need a blog full of lawyers to tell you that ... anyone familiar with the basics of constitutional law would do just fine.


    So (1.00 / 0) (#155)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 10:53:17 AM EST

    So, if as you assert, there is is no first amendment right to question others, then the government is perfectly within its powers to prohibit such questioning.

    Your assertion makes no sense.



    Your rights are being violated (5.00 / 0) (#159)
    by Yman on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 02:18:36 PM EST
    Anyone has the right to ask a question of anyone they choose.  

    In fact the first amendment is legal authority for Zimmerman to ask as many questions of anyone he so chose.

    Take a walk to the Whitehouse, or Capitol Hill.  Then demand you be allowed to ask questions of Obama/Senator/Congressman.  When they refuse to honor your "1st Amendment right to ask a question of anyone you choose", file a lawsuit.

    Make sure you videotape the whole thing ... we could all use a laugh.


    Are you really that clueless, or ... (5.00 / 2) (#110)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 04:46:42 PM EST
    ... do just play someone who is, whenever you come to this site?

    Is it difficult (5.00 / 0) (#32)
    by sj on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:06:55 AM EST
    to maintain that level of ignorance?

    He didn't just speak to the kid (3.67 / 3) (#78)
    by esmense on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 11:10:45 AM EST
    It appears that he tried to restrain him, that's why there was a scuffle, why the boy yelled for help. It appears Zimmerman shot him because he was having difficulty restraining him any other way.

    No one has a "right" to interfere with another person going about their lawful business -- in this case that boy was just trying to get home.


    ALso had bloody nose and blood on back of head (none / 0) (#81)
    by smott on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 11:23:06 AM EST
    ...plus grass stains on the back of his shirt (this is Zimmerman)...

    I guess I'd speculate if in the scuffle,  Martin punched him in the nose and knocked him down.

    But the cops seriously dropped the ball not to do any drug/alcohol testing on Zimmerman, it would seem....


    We don't have the lab reports (5.00 / 1) (#101)
    by Mitch Guthman on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 03:01:28 PM EST
    In fact, we don't even know that this force has a crime lab or that any kind of crime scene was set up there and evidence collected. There is some indication in the press that Zimmerman's clothing weren't kept and he gun may have been returned to him.  We don't know whose blood it was (or even if there was any blood) or whether the alleged wound on Zimmerman might be self-inflected.

    We also don't have the crime lab reports on the fatal gunshot wound and an examination of the victim's hands and clothing which might be very important.  These might be the most critical pieces of physical evidence in the whole case. So let's wait until we have them before saying the victim struck Zimmerman or that he had some kind of injury.

    We also don't know whether Zimmerman gave a recorded statement and what kind of investigation was done (although, apparently, the purpose of the "investigation" was to clear Zimmerman since one of the investigating police officers "corrected" at least one ear-witness about what she needed to hear as opposed to what she reported she did hear.  Which does not give me much confidence about the quality/integrity of police investigation).

    I also have a question of why there was such a physical confrontation (if it actually took place) if Zimmerman actually believed that Martin was a danger to him.  Did Zimmerman confront Martin from a distance with a drawn weapon?  If not, why would he choose to approach someone he supposedly believed was possibly armed and dangerous with a holstered gun?  

    Presumably, Zimmerman will now claim that there was a fight during which he became in fear of his life, drew his gun and the gun discharged during the struggle.  Is this consistent with the physical evidence? Also, if Zimmerman was following Martin and knew that backup officers were en route why did he choose to stop Martin at that time?


    According to sources, Zimmerman ... (5.00 / 1) (#119)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 08:19:23 PM EST
    ... initially claimed that he was assaulted by Martin, who allegedly approached him from behind. Today's disclosure of the concurrent phone call between Trayvon and his girlfriend back in Miami, which ABC News confirmed took place contemporaneously to the time of the shooting, would seem to contradict Zimmerman's contention.

    If anyone was acting in self-defense (3.67 / 3) (#112)
    by Peter G on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 05:09:15 PM EST
    it would seem to have been the young Mr. Martin.

    Disappointing (none / 0) (#1)
    by RustedView on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 06:08:31 AM EST
    This is another disappointing case of individuals run-amok.  In Pittsburgh, one of the local papers just had a feature on a guy who is a self-appointed gun-toting "activist".  City Paper Article

    It never ends well.

    I wouldn't be so quick to absolve the state here (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 07:59:01 AM EST
    the stand your ground law was the subject of considerable media attention only a few years ago.  There was much to do over how it would empower gun owners and allow them more "freedom" to protect themselves.  

    Whether is comports with one's fantasy of the responsible gun owner, hunter or the patriotic ever ready militia man, there are plenty of gun nuts out there, plenty.  When they see laws like these being promulgated in the name of the manly right to defend hearth & home, well it doesn't take a genius to figure out how empowered they can become to act out their secret dreams of shooting someone "bad."


    I read an article from a Tampa newspaper (5.00 / 1) (#79)
    by esmense on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 11:12:58 AM EST
    that said that last year in Florida "an average of 2 people a week were killed" in shootings that were, under this law, considered "warranted."

    I don't think I'll be spending any of my tourist dollars in Florida.


    any thoughts on the self-defense claim? (none / 0) (#3)
    by jpe on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 06:20:04 AM EST
    The reason I ask is that from a quick scan of the googles, Florida seems to make self-defense a defense that the prosecution has to disprove rather than an affirmative defense that the defendant has to prove by preponderance.  Criminal law is way outside my wheelhouse, though, so I'm looking forward to reading the experts.

    Well, if as reported, Zimmerman initiated events (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 07:53:00 AM EST
    good luck with that even with Fla horrific stand your ground burden of proof laws. From the reporting so far, the person who defended himself from unprovoked confrontation is dead.

    What matters is who escalates into violence, (none / 0) (#18)
    by jpe on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 07:59:03 AM EST
    not who initiates contact.

    That's helpful for the gun carrying party (none / 0) (#21)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 08:03:47 AM EST
    What matters isn't who escalates ... (none / 0) (#28)
    by Yman on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 08:52:09 AM EST
    ... into violence, but whether the killer was legally justified in using deadly force.  Not sure about the specifics of Florida law, but this generally means that deadly force may only be used when necessary and reasonable under the circumstances.  Merely "escalating into violence" doesn't justify a killing.

    Anyone else (5.00 / 1) (#137)
    by Amiss on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 02:01:34 AM EST
    seen the pics side by side? From here Zimmerman looks at least twice Trayvon's size or more. If they are both recent pictures. there was absolutely NO reason for Zimmerman to use deadly force. And again according to local news reporting from Sanford, the boy was close to a block from home.

    Appears to me that Zimmerman was way overzealous. and the boys' family is doing a good job of getting others riled up.

    So sad, all of it.


    Almost twice Trayvon's size (none / 0) (#157)
    by Towanda on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 11:38:19 AM EST
    as several reports state that Trayvon Martin weighed 140 pounds, while Zimmermann weighs 250 pounds.  That considerably undermines the latter's claim that he felt threatened -- by a skinny kid.

    For a man, at least (none / 0) (#158)
    by jbindc on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 12:36:12 PM EST
    I can think of many situations  where, if confronted with someone (especially a man) who weighed less than me, I would be in fear.

    "...weighed less than me" (none / 0) (#164)
    by NYShooter on Thu Mar 22, 2012 at 01:59:49 AM EST
    ....or, weighed half as much as me.

    hmmm, let's see, I don't know...

    Now, if his forefinger was extended (or blowing on his fingertip for emphasis,) or if his middle finger was perpendicular...

    now you got something.


    I have something already (none / 0) (#166)
    by jbindc on Thu Mar 22, 2012 at 07:28:42 AM EST
    I'm saying it's much more plausible thst a woman could be fearful of a man who was smaller in size because of upper body strength.  A 250 pound man shouldn't probably fear for his life from a 140 pound teenage boy, but I bet many 250 pound women could feel differently.

    I guess. (5.00 / 1) (#168)
    by NYShooter on Thu Mar 22, 2012 at 10:16:13 AM EST
    But, you must know different 250 lb. women than I do. And, in NYC that goes for 150 lb. women also.

    This (none / 0) (#169)
    by CST on Thu Mar 22, 2012 at 11:18:04 AM EST
    I have the worst image in my head right now of a stereotypical southern belle going up against Marissa Tomei from My Cousin Vinny.

    I apologize right now for that as I'm sure the vast majority of southern women aren't damsels in distress, and I know all New Yorkers aren't Marissa Tomei, but this is what I'm picturing.

    But what I'm getting at is that I agree it might be partially cultural :)


    The boy's family riling people up???? (none / 0) (#170)
    by BobTinKY on Fri Mar 23, 2012 at 12:53:56 PM EST
    Are you for real? Other than mourn the loss of their 17 yo son and call for the arrest of his admitted killer ( who has been invoking stand your ground law) what exactly have they done that is so offensive?

    "George Zimmerman, the man who shot Martin in late February, has avoided arrest by evoking the Stand Your Ground law in Florida, which allows individuals broad latitude to claim self defense in wielding a firearm. Florida is one of 21 states with such laws, which have since come under intense scrutiny even by previous supporters. Prior to that law being passed in Florida there were 13 'justified' killings in the state each year. Since then, there have been 36."



    It all depends (1.00 / 0) (#31)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:04:38 AM EST

    It all depends on what "escalating into violence" means.  If it means trying to cave your skull in with a can, that may suffice.

    Exactly ... (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by Yman on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:15:29 AM EST
    ... my point.  

    "Escalate into violence" could mean "cave your skull in with a can", or it could mean pushing someone away when they're running after you.  Merely, "escalating into violence" does not mean a killing is justified by self-defense.


    The question is who was the initial aggressor (5.00 / 0) (#114)
    by Mitch Guthman on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 05:33:58 PM EST
    If the crime took place as I surmise then the victim (Trayvon) was stalked and then attacked by a strange man (Zimmerman) who was physically much larger and stronger than himself and who either said he was armed or who displayed a weapon.  I believe at that point most people would consider themselves in mortal danger and so Trayvon would have been legally privileged to defended himself with as much force as he could muster, including deadly force.  

    Which would be to say that if he was put in fear of his life by Zimmerman, then young Trayvon would have perfectly privileged to beat Zimmerman to death with his can of soda (something not previously considered a deadly weapon).  


    "Look out! He has a can of iced tea!" (5.00 / 2) (#120)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 08:24:00 PM EST
    That's really pathetic, even for you.

    Stand Your Ground is also a non-starter (none / 0) (#48)
    by smott on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:51:36 AM EST
    If I interpret it correctly.

    I would defer to Jeralyn but I thought that to invoke Stand Ground one had to be on one's own property, which Zimmerman was not.

    Also - it's been reported that Zimmerman is white...he's Cuban, with a light brown complexion. Looking at his pic you would not immediately say "white dude"...you might say Hispanic...IMO anyway.


    In Florida you do not have to be on your (5.00 / 2) (#103)
    by ruffian on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 03:42:31 PM EST
    own property. You just have to 'reasonably' feel threatened.

    Seems to me Trayvon had a lot more reason to feel threatened than Zimmerman did.


    I think you mean ... (none / 0) (#60)
    by Yman on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:14:10 AM EST
    ... the "Castle Doctrine", which generally gives a person certain legal defenses and immunities while they are in their home that don't exist when they are outside their home.  The "Stand Your Ground" laws generally allow someone outside their home to use deadly force (when otherwise justified) without first having a "duty to retreat" from the attacker.

    The Iowa House recently passed a (none / 0) (#61)
    by Farmboy on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:15:05 AM EST
    "Stand Your Ground" bill that allows people to use weapons anywhere they happen to be for perceived self-defense situations, and to use them to prevent perceived crimes.

    Yup, you read that right. If the Senate version of HF 2215 passes, then when folks in Iowa just think they see a crime about to happen, it will be legal for them to whip out their Glocks and start waving them around. Not only that, the law imparts legal immunity if they are acting in good faith.


    Insanity (5.00 / 1) (#70)
    by smott on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:41:53 AM EST
    I wonder if, after you've pegged someone dead with said Glock, you then have to show in court that you were in "mortal danger" or some such.

    Basically - that offing someone comes with even a teensy bit of legal responsibilty for the shooter...

    Or do I dream?...


    A prescient playwright: (none / 0) (#14)
    by oculus on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 07:46:13 AM EST
    Alan Ayckbourn:  "Neighbourhood Watch."

    NYT review: (none / 0) (#77)
    by oculus on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 11:07:11 AM EST
    I heard the call Zimmerman made on the news (none / 0) (#19)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 07:59:33 AM EST
    He specifically said that what was suspicious was that it was a black male youth.  Then he paused and said with a hand in his wasteband, said for affect IMO.  Makes me wonder if drugs or alcohol wasn't involved on Zimmerman's part but I doubt he was checked, hope he was though because a kid who had nothing but candy and a cell phone on him is dead.

    "Then he paused ,,," (5.00 / 0) (#40)
    by oculus on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:17:19 AM EST
    Can't figure out how one hears this on a 911 call,  

    If he was truly afraid he was armed (5.00 / 0) (#44)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:37:11 AM EST
    Wouldn't that be likely the first thing he would tell the dispatcher?  First he desribed a suspicious black youth.  Then there was a pause, then he decided to add that the youth had his hand in his waistband.  It sounded to me like he was searching for justification to attack the kid.

    Hard to say. I just read the 28 (none / 0) (#50)
    by oculus on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:52:24 AM EST
    yr, old  caller had a history of reporting open garage doors.

    YEs numerous calls (5.00 / 0) (#53)
    by smott on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:54:45 AM EST
    Self appointed Batman.
    With a gun.

    It seemed to me he really (5.00 / 1) (#54)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:57:11 AM EST
    Was determined to exert some authority over that poor kid.  It's creepy

    According to USA today, (none / 0) (#33)
    by oculus on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:07:59 AM EST
    The Rev. Al Sharpton fill be in Sanford today.

    Good (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:15:10 AM EST
    While he oftens jumps into the fray with quesitonable justification, this is not one of those times.

    it remains to be seen (5.00 / 1) (#64)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:32:01 AM EST
    whether this is one of those times.

    I wonder who will be the first to introduce a law named after Trayvon Martin and what it will prohibit.


    I would suggest (5.00 / 1) (#86)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 11:55:35 AM EST
    it be the repeal of FL's insane stand your ground law.

    I'd suggest... (5.00 / 0) (#90)
    by kdog on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 12:53:26 PM EST
    a law shutting down the Sanford PD...they only seem to wanna protect and serve those who shoot black kids for the crime of walking while black.

    Thats the real scandal here...the lack of charges and Sanford PD's handling of the investigation, if you can even call it an investigation, more like a whitewash.  

    A conviction is one thing, let him base his defense on "stand your ground" or self-defense or insanity, that's his right and I don't fault him that, but to not even charge the guy? WTF is in the water cooler at the precint?  KKK Juice?

    I hope the DOJ is taking a long hard look at the PD, and holds them accountable.  'Bout time they did something useful instead of waging war on pot or ignoring the most massive financial fraud in the history of mankind.  


    Did the Sanford Police Dept. (none / 0) (#92)
    by oculus on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 12:56:06 PM EST
    send the case toe county District Attorney's office?  

    Is this the same Sanford PD that ... (5.00 / 0) (#121)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 08:27:48 PM EST
    ... initially dispatched a narcotics investigator to the homicide scene?

    I think that would require an arrest first.... (none / 0) (#94)
    by kdog on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 01:22:39 PM EST
    they didn't even arrest the f8ckin' guy...in an arrest-happy nation such as ours that is really telling.

    Maybe the DA will bring charges if and when the New Black Liberation Militia make a citizens arrest.  


    Arrest is not a required pre-condition of (none / 0) (#95)
    by oculus on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 01:32:08 PM EST
    submitting the investigation to the D.A.'s office for review as to whether or what charges to file, if any.  P.D. could send over file w/o a recommendation to file charges and let D.A.'s office decide whether to file/reject/request further investigation.  

    Me too. That would be the only good outcome (none / 0) (#104)
    by ruffian on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 03:44:13 PM EST
    there have  been other questionable occurrences too, but none this obvious.

    Insufficient info yo say @ this (none / 0) (#41)
    by oculus on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:19:21 AM EST

    The Martin case is being raised (none / 0) (#47)
    by Towanda on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:50:33 AM EST
    in discussion of another fatal shooting a few weeks ago, one of the first since the "castle doctrine" was adopted in Walker's Wisconsin, and of a biracial youth (in a very white small town) hiding on a homeowner's porch after police raided a party nearby.  Porches are part of the "castle," according to the new law.

    No charges are filed as yet, after weeks -- but the DOJ being involved in the Martin case now may .

    Links aren't working again for me, so rather than post a long link, anyone interested can google "bo morrison" and "slinger."

    Comment deleted that (none / 0) (#66)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:34:57 AM EST
    called Zimmerman a libelous word. Out of 58 comments, it's the only one deleted. There's one in every crowd, I guess, that can't follow rules.

    Grand Jury to Investigate (none / 0) (#73)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:49:23 AM EST
    A grand jury will investigate the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old shot to death in a gated community in Florida on Feb. 26, state attorney Norm Wolfinger announced Tuesday.

    "I share in the desire of the family and the community to accurately collect and evaluate all the facts surrounding the tragic death of Trayvon Martin," Wolfinger said in a news release. "The public is entitled to no less than a thorough, deliberate, and just review of the facts. We intend to honor that commitment."

    The Seminole County Grand Jury will be called to session on Tuesday, April 10, Wolfinger said.


    Bravo to FL elected AG. (none / 0) (#76)
    by oculus on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 11:05:22 AM EST
    State's attorney is not (5.00 / 2) (#97)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 02:31:42 PM EST
    state attorney general. Pam Bondi is the Attorney General of Florida. The states attorney who announced the case will go to a grand jury is prosecutor Norm Wolfinger. He's the prosecutor for Brevard and Seminole counties.

    Maybe (none / 0) (#89)
    by lentinel on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 12:15:06 PM EST
    this is not quite on topic, but it seems to me that with the amount of tax money drained from us individual taxpayers, there should be a hell of a lot more police out there patrolling our neighborhoods.

    this just reminds me (none / 0) (#91)
    by CST on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 12:55:57 PM EST
    I was working in an area where a massive police headquarters was directly across the street from the most obvious open-air drug market in the city, with the associated "auxillary" high violent crime rate.  Not that I approve of the war on drugs, but it did always beg the question - what were the cops actually doing there?  As far as I could tell, the only thing the police accomplished in the area was mucking up traffic.  But they managed to do that exceedingly well.  That being said, the cops did the right thing in this case, they told the guy to back off.

    Same commenter (none / 0) (#98)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 02:33:11 PM EST
    repeated the name-calling of Zimmerman and comment has again been deleted.

    What would be basis for insanity plea? (none / 0) (#106)
    by Mitch Guthman on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 04:30:50 PM EST
    This is from the PDF file posted by Oculus:

    "In 2000, the Legislature enacted section 775.027, Florida Statutes, which became law on June 19, 2000. The section provides that the "defendant has the burden of proving the defense of insanity by clear and convincing evidence." § 775.027(2), Fla. Stat. (2005). It defines insanity as "a mental infirmity, disease, or defect" that results in the defendant's being unable to "know what he or she was doing or its consequences" or unable to "know that what he or she was doing was wrong." § 775.027(1), Fla. Stat. (2005)."

    I don't see any basis under Fla law for an insanity plea.  

    From what I can gather, the more promising avenue for the defense is the Fla version of self-defense which (from the reported cases and discussions by Fla prosecutors of unreported trials resulting in acquittals) basically any killing in which the victim dies without making a statement seems to have a presumption of self-defense which is difficult to overcome. And with a dead black boy, I think it the way for Zimmerman to go. Fla is the South, after all.

    2012 Central Florida. What (none / 0) (#108)
    by oculus on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 04:39:28 PM EST
    a damning statement.  IMO, based on info here, NGI seems an unlikely outcome.  

    he's not claiming insanity (none / 0) (#135)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:57:28 PM EST
    he says he didn't commit a crime, because he acted in self-defense after being placed in fear.  

    Here's a good recap of what he told police.


    South Florida (none / 0) (#138)
    by Amiss on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 02:17:27 AM EST
    is not as much "the South" as southern Florida is. Miami has gone through many transitions such as Jerusalem, Havana etc.

    Stand your ground law (none / 0) (#118)
    by ruffian on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 08:08:21 PM EST
    To me this law is fueling the attitude of the Zimmerman's of the world. Here is a column by Beth Kassab, a local Orlando reporter, that explains its effect in this and other FL cases.

    She is right (none / 0) (#139)
    by Amiss on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 02:22:05 AM EST
    That is what happens when you have a state "taken over" by people so ignorant of even basic human rights it makes your blood boil. After all, it was okay to mess up the elderly, who should we go after next?

    As to all the clamor for an immediate arrest (none / 0) (#134)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 10:50:48 PM EST
    Here's the alternative view -- from a former law enforcement officer turned writer.

    The alternate view (5.00 / 0) (#150)
    by vicndabx on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 10:04:33 AM EST
    doesn't take into account the wide discretion law enforcement and prosecutors have when deciding to arrest and prosecute.  I'm sure this former law enforcment officer encouraged the use of that discretion when it suited his purposes.

    The lack of use of that discretion is the issue here.


    Former law enforcement officer. (none / 0) (#162)
    by oculus on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 05:20:18 PM EST
    But not a lawyer, much less a FL criminal lawyer.