Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Trayvon Martin: Video of Zimmerman Shows No Bruises, Cuts or Bleeding



ABC News has released a police surveillance video of George Zimmerman filmed as he was taken into a police station for processing the night he killed Trayvon Martin. The video calls into question Zimmerman's and police's description of his injuries he allegedly sustained as a result of Martin attacking him.

Zimmerman says he suffered a broken and bloody nose and major cuts on the back of his head, which Martin allegedly slammed repeatedly on a sidewalk. In the video, however, Zimmerman does not seem to have any visible injuries.  The video appears below this post.

For more analysis, see:

Trayvon Martin: A Fatal Flaw in Zimmerman's Self-Defense Argument

BREAKING NEWS: Geraldo Rivera Says Hoodie Killed Trayvon Martin

Sorry, Trayvon Martin: They Just Don't Like You

BREAKING NEWS in Trayvon Martin Case: Officer in the Case Has A Prior Record of Racial Controversy

Trayvon Martin: 911 Call Contradicts Police Account (Audio)

SHOCKING NEW WITNESS TESTIMONY IN TRAYVON MARTIN CASE!

Trayvon Martin: "Stand Your Ground" Rule Has NOTHING To Do With This Case



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Monday, March 26, 2012

Trayvon Martin: A Fatal Flaw in Zimmerman's Self-Defense Argument



Sanford, Florida, police have released their version of the facts that led to the slaying of Trayvon Martin. Although the Florida State Police have taken over the investigation, the beleaguered Sanford, Florida, police department is apparently trying to defend its reputation.

In order to sway public opinion, the Sanford police have provided their findings regarding Martin's death to the media. Rather than legitimizing George Zimmerman's assertion of self-defense, these "facts" reveal a fatal flaw in his defense.

Zimmerman's Allegations

According to the police, Zimmerman left his car "to follow" Martin on foot. Suddenly, however, Martin simply disappeared.  In the span of just one minute (yes, 60 seconds), Zimmerman returned to his vehicle when Martin suddenly approached him from behind and asked if he "had a problem." After Zimmerman said "no," Martin allegedly gave Zimmerman a "single punch," which knocked him to the ground.

Martin then allegedly jumped on top of Zimmerman and began punching him. Moments later, Zimmerman yelled before shooting Martin in the chest from the ground.

Police Portray Martin as the Aggressor

The police version of the events portrays Martin as the initial aggressor. This is a very important conclusion from a legal perspective. The initial aggressor can only claim self-defense in limited scenarios. Also, an initial aggressor has a "duty to retreat" to safety (rather than standing his or her ground).

Zimmerman contends that he was walking towards his car when Trayvon approached him from behind. If this is true, then Martin should have continued home, rather than beginning an altercation with Zimmerman. Since he did not, Zimmerman had the right to use force to defend himself.

Whether lethal force was justifiable depends upon whether Zimmerman reasonably feared death or serious bodily injury. Zimmerman's lawyer has said he suffered an injured nose and scratches. Other than knowing that Martin died from a gunshot, police have not released any information regarding the condition of his body.

Trayvon Martin Was Not the Initial Aggressor

In order to accept the police's and Zimmerman's version of the fatal incident, it is necessary to ignore all of the events that led to the moment when Zimmerman and Martin first interacted. 911 tapes reveal that before they met, Zimmerman was in his car following Martin. Not only did Zimmerman begin watching and following Martin before the 911 call, he continued to watch him during the call.

Zimmerman told the operator that he believed that Martin was "up to no good" and that he was on "drugs." Zimmerman also said that he was angry that the "fucking assholes" always get away with burglaries in the area. He also referred to Martin as a "fucking coon," an obvious racial slur.

Zimmerman's Story Has a Fatal Flaw

Near the very end of his call, Zimmerman said that Martin was "walking towards" him and, moments later, that he "ran."  Zimmerman then exits his car, but the dispatcher told him not to confront Martin. Zimmerman ignores the dispatcher's request. Instead, Zimmerman leaves and follows Martin.

At this point, police state that "[t]here is about a one-minute gap during which . . . they're not sure what happened." Zimmerman, however, says that during this time, he suddenly could not find Martin; therefore, he started walking towards his car. Instantly, Martin reappeared and confronted Zimmerman, asking him if he had a "problem." Zimmerman allegedly said "no." Then, supposedly, Martin attacked him.

The hole in this story is easy to spot. Zimmerman told the 911 dispatcher that Martin was walking directly towards him before he ran. At that moment and against the instruction of the police dispatcher, Zimmerman left his car to follow -- not to find -- Martin.

According to Zimmerman, however, Martin suddenly vanished into thin air. One moment he was in plain view; within seconds, he was gone. But within less than a minute, Zimmerman was already going back to his truck, when Martin suddenly reappeared and brutally attacked him, after which Zimmerman killed Martin. According to police, this happened in about a minute. Although Zimmerman was so concerned about Martin's presence in the neighborhood, he lost track of him and stopped looking for him in a matter of seconds. Zimmerman's account sounds fictional.

Zimmerman's version of the events is further undermined by statements from Martin's girlfriend. Phone records indicate that Martin was talking with his girlfriend shortly before the shooting. Rather than being "up to no good," Martin was doing something that teenagers do quite often: he was on the phone.

Martin's girlfriend says he told her that a man was following him and that he was scared. She says she told Martin to try to get away, but she suddenly heard shoving before the phone went dead.  If her statements are correct, then Zimmerman continued walking towards Martin and angrily confronted him. Because Zimmerman, according to his own statement, followed Martin in his car and on-foot, and because of his tone during the 911 call (plus his history of antagonizing people he believed did not belong in the area), Zimmerman was likely the initial aggressor. Rather than confronting Martin, Zimmerman should have stayed in or retreated to his car. Because he did not, Martin acted in self-defense, not Zimmerman.

Black Men Can Be Victims Too

Although many folks want to pretend that racism is nonexistent, this is far from the truth. Instead, numerous studies confirm that racial biases -- both implicit and explicit -- persist in the United States.  Implicit biases (pp. 2042-2052) are the most difficult to counter because they are nonconsious ways of evaluating individuals. Racial stereotypes can even influence the behavior of people who embrace racial egalitarianism and condemn prejudice.

One study of implicit racial bias shows that whites often view blacks as more aggressive than whites. The testers asked observers to watch a conversation that becomes heated and which ends with one person pushing the other. Testers then asked the observers to rate (p. 2046) what they saw as "horsing around, dramatic, aggressive, or violent." The observers did not know that the people they were watching were actually actors. The actors had been coached to perform the push in a particular way. The results (p. 2046) are striking, and they are relevant to this case:
When the victim was white and the person initiating the physical contact was black, seventy-five percent of the subjects interpreted the shove as violent. Only six percent described it as horsing around or dramatic. The results were markedly different when the victim was black and the pusher was white. In this scenario, only seventeen percent of the subjects labeled the contact as violent. Instead, forty-two percent of the subjects rated the white perpetrator as horsing around or being dramatic.
Implicit racial biases might make it difficult for whites to view blacks as victims and whites as aggressors. These biases perhaps explain why Sanford police believed Zimmerman's version of the events, which portrayed the unarmed Martin as the initial aggressor. Whether jurors accept Zimmerman's assertion of self-defense will depend upon how they respond to racial stereotypes.

The public has now begun to hear that Zimmerman suffered injuries and that Martin attacked him. If people accept racial stereotypes that make it difficult to believe that blacks can be victims or that whites can be aggressors, then they will likely credit Zimmerman's self-defense argument. Although the facts might clearly show that Zimmerman was the initial aggressor, racial stereotypes might prevent jurors from accepting these facts. Racial stereotypes could also lead people to believe that Martin used excessive force and that Zimmerman's use of lethal force was reasonable.

Accordingly, prosecutors will need to emphasize strongly that Zimmerman was the initial aggressor. To the extent that Martin inflicted physical harm upon Zimmerman, he acted in self-defense against an angry amateur police officer, who was tired of assholes and coons committing crimes in his neighborhood.

This case presents an excellent opportunity to discuss the operation of racial stereotypes in a supposedly post-racial society. Equal justice depends upon this vital dialogue taking place.

Update: This essay was edited to reflect the fact that before Zimmerman ended the 911 call, he said Trayvon "ran."

For more analysis, see:

BREAKING NEWS: Geraldo Rivera Says Hoodie Killed Trayvon Martin

Sorry, Trayvon Martin: They Just Don't Like You

BREAKING NEWS in Trayvon Martin Case: Officer in the Case Has A Prior Record of Racial Controversy

Trayvon Martin: 911 Call Contradicts Police Account (Audio)

SHOCKING NEW WITNESS TESTIMONY IN TRAYVON MARTIN CASE!

Trayvon Martin: "Stand Your Ground" Rule Has NOTHING To Do With This Case

Friday, March 23, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Geraldo Rivera Says Hoodie Killed Trayvon Martin

I am speechless for two reasons. First, I cannot believe that Geraldo Rivera is still a media commentator. Second, I cannot believe that Rivera believes that Trayvon Martin induced his own killing by wearing a hoodie.

As Mediate reports, Rivera blamed the hoodie for Martin's death on Fox and Friends this morning:
“I believe. . .that George Zimmerman, the overzealous neighborhood watch captain, should be investigated to the fullest extent of the law and if he is criminally liable, he should be prosecuted. But I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was" (italics added).
Rivera also invoked Juan Williams and compared his arguments to Williams' statement that he fears Muslim-looking people at airports. Rivera simply substitutes "Muslim" with black and Latino to explain his position:
When you see a black or Latino youngster, particularly on the street, you walk to the other side of the street. You try to avoid that confrontation. Trayvon Martin, you know God bless him, he was an innocent kid, a wonderful kid, a box of Skittles in his hands. He didn’t deserve to die. But I’ll bet you money, if he didn’t have that hoodie on, that nutty neighborhood watch guy wouldn’t have responded in that violent and aggressive way (italics added).
Two Reactions: One Negative, One Positive

I have two general reactions to Rivera's comments. One is negative; the other is positive. On the negative side, Rivera's comments are a blatant form of "victim-blaming." His position sounds quite similar to the sexist notion that rape victims cause their own rapes by dressing "seductively."

Victims of violent crimes, however, do not ask for violence. Rather then blaming the victim, Rivera should blame the Zimmerman and his racism for the killing. Rather than blaming rape victims, society should condemn rapists. That Rivera blames a teenager for his own death is loathsome.

There is a positive side to Rivera's comments, however. Rivera has done the country a favor by bringing the issue of "implicit racial bias" to the table for discussion. Although many people want to pretend the United States is post-racial, this is a foolish notion. Racism persists. It is often overt -- as in calling someone a "fucking coon" before murdering him. Sometimes, however, it is subtle and a reflection of implicit biases -- as when people, like Rivera, impulsively dart across the street to avoid walking next to a black or Latino male. Hopefully, Rivera and others will examine, question and overcome their own biases -- rather than blaming others for their own racial pathology.

For more analysis, see:

Trayvon Martin: A Fatal Flaw in Zimmerman's Self-Defense Argument

Sorry, Trayvon Martin: They Just Don't Like You

BREAKING NEWS in Trayvon Martin Case: Officer in the Case Has A Prior Record of Racial Controversy

Trayvon Martin: 911 Call Contradicts Police Account (Audio)

SHOCKING NEW WITNESS TESTIMONY IN TRAYVON MARTIN CASE!

Trayvon Martin: "Stand Your Ground" Rule Has NOTHING To Do With This Case

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Trayvon Martin: "Stand Your Ground" Rule Has NOTHING To Do With This Case


A lot of professional and amateur media have argued that the "stand your ground" rule -- a provision in Florida self-defense law -- could complicate or preclude the prosecution of George Zimmerman.  Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, but police declined to arrest him. Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee insists that he cannot dispute Zimmerman's assertion of self-defense. 911 calls, witness testimony and the fact that Trayvon was unarmed and much smaller than his assailant, however, severely undermine Zimmerman's self-defense argument.

Nevertheless, some commentators -- most of whom lack any legal training -- insist that the stand your ground rule bolsters Zimmerman's defense. This argument is baseless. In order to understand why the rule should not affect the outcome of this case, it is important first to examine the law of self-defense in Florida.

Florida Self-Defense Law

Self-defense allows a defendant charged with a homicide or battery to justify his or her actions. In most states, in order to claim self-defense, the defendant must have a reasonable belief that the victim posed a threat to the defendant or to some other person. Also, there are special rules for the use of "lethal" or "deadly" force. Consider Florida law, for example:
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 (italics added).
So, in order to justify killing Martin, Zimmerman must demonstrate that he reasonably believed that Martin was about to kill him or cause him serious bodily injury.

Florida law also describes certain circumstances when people can assume as a mater of law that they are going to become victims of lethal force. These circumstances, referred to in Section (2) above, include carjackings and home invasions, which are not relevant to this case.

Stand Your Ground

In some states, self-defense is not available if the defendant had the ability to "retreat" from the harm. In other words, if the defendant could have escaped the danger without using violence, then the use of force is not justifiable. These states impose a duty to retreat in order to discourage the unnecessary use of force.

In 2005, Florida amended its law to remove the duty to retreat provision. So long as the person claiming self-defense had a legal right to be in a particular location, that individual can stand his or her ground and remain there without any duty to retreat from the threat (see statutory language quoted above).

Critics argue that that the stand your ground rule encourages violence and makes it easier to prove self-defense. To the extent that a person could escape violence by retreating, the stand your ground rule would ordinarily lessen that individual's burden for proving self-defense; it removes one required element of the defense. Some newspaper studies claim that the success rate of self-defense arguments has increased since 2005.

Self-Defense Not Generally Available to Aggressors

For several reasons, however, the stand your ground rule has no bearing on the Martin case. First, Florida law clearly states that self-defense is only available to aggressors under very limited circumstances:
The justification [for using force] described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who. . .

(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 (italics added).
In other words, aggressors can only use lethal force if the victim's response is so great that it would cause a reasonable person to fear death or great bodily injury. But in such a situation, the aggressor must also exhaust "every reasonable means to escape such danger." Translation: under Florida law, the aggressor has a duty to retreat and cannot stand his or her ground.

Under Florida law an aggressor can use lethal force only under one additional circumstance -- when the aggressor indicates that he or she wants to end the confrontation, but the victim continues to fight. But Florida law requires that the aggressor "withdraw" from physical conduct and indicate to the victim a desire to retreat. In other words, the aggressor can use deadly force to defend himself or herself if, after indicating a desire to retreat, the victim will not permit the defendant to do so.

Zimmerman Was the Aggressor

The evidence shows that Zimmerman killed Martin. Zimmerman also admitted to the 911 dispatcher that he was following Martin in his car. Although Zimmerman told the dispatcher that Martin seemed to be on drugs, Martin was actually having a coherent telephone conversation with his girlfriend. According to her testimony, Martin said that a man was following him and that he was trying to escape. Zimmerman, against the advice of the dispatcher, left his car to pursue a fleeing Martin on foot.

Under these circumstances, probable cause exists to charge Zimmerman with murder. Zimmerman initiated contact with Martin. Martin was simply returning home from a store. Because he initiated the aggression, Zimmerman does not have the right to claim self-defense or, consequently, to "stand his ground."

Regardless of the Stand Your Ground Rule, the Force Must Be Proportional to the Threat

Even if the stand your ground rule applied in this case, it would not preclude arresting or even convicting Zimmerman. Any use of lethal force must be proportional to the threat. Under Florida law, this means that regardless of whether he was the aggressor, Zimmerman must have reasonably believed that his life was in danger or that he would suffer serious bodily injury. Martin, however, was unarmed, while Zimmerman had a gun. Martin is 100 pounds smaller than Zimmerman. Witnesses say that Martin was screaming for help. Martin's girlfriend says that he was trying to escape Zimmerman (not vice versa).

So, even with the stand your ground provision, Zimmerman's use of lethal force was likely unjustifiable under the circumstances. The telephone data and statements of Martin's girlfriend are particularly damning.

Probable Cause Exists to Arrest Zimmerman

Although the stand your ground provision is archaic and reminiscent of the Wild West, it has no bearing in this case. Obviously a good defense lawyer would raise the issue, but Zimmerman -- not the prosecutor -- has to prove he acted reasonably.

Probable cause, which the government needs to demonstrate in order to arrest and try Zimmerman, is a pretty easy standard to satisfy. Generally, the government needs only to show that there is a reasonable possibility that the defendant committed a crime. As a Florida appeals court recently held:
Probable cause to arrest exists when facts and circumstances within an officer's
knowledge and of which he had reasonably trustworthy information are sufficient to
warrant a person of reasonable caution to believe that an offense has [been] or is being
committed
(italics added).
The government need not prove that an offense has actually occurred in order to arrest Zimmerman. Instead, the government must establish that after weighing the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable person could believe that Zimmerman has committed a crime. That minimum threshold is absolutely satisfied in this case. Zimmerman should be arrested and prosecuted for killing Trayvon Martin.

For more analysis, see:

Trayvon Martin: A Fatal Flaw in Zimmerman's Self-Defense Argument

Sorry, Trayvon Martin: They Just Don't Like You

BREAKING NEWS in Trayvon Martin Case: Officer in the Case Has A Prior Record of Racial Controversy

Trayvon Martin: 911 Call Contradicts Police Account (Audio)

SHOCKING NEW WITNESS TESTIMONY IN TRAYVON MARTIN CASE!

BREAKING NEWS: Geraldo Rivera Says Hoodie Killed Trayvon Martin

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

SHOCKING NEW WITNESS TESTIMONY IN TRAYVON MARTIN CASE!

ABC News has just released a story that could certainly lead to a murder charge against George Zimmerman, the individual who killed Trayvon Martin. Attorneys for Martin's family released cell phone records to ABC News which prove that Martin was on the phone with his girlfriend moments before he was killed.

According to the young woman's statements, Martin told her that he was being followed by a strange man and that he was trying to escape. Her account, bolstered by phone records, disproves Zimmerman's "self-defense" argument -- which was already sketchy based on available witness statements and 911 calls. In fact, given the amount of effort that Zimmerman apparently made to capture Martin, prosecutors have a basis for charging him with first-degree murder.

Here is a clip from the ABC News article. Please read the entire article here.
ABC News was there exclusively as the 16-year-old girl told Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump about the last moments of the teenager's life.

"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."
As I have previously argued, Zimmerman was the aggressor. Martin reasonably feared for his own safety. Zimmerman cannot assert self-defense under these circumstances. Prosecutors should charge him with first-degree murder.

The Sanford Police Department Has Lost All Credibility

This new development calls into question the thoroughness of the local police investigation and the credibility of the department. Bill Lee, the Chief of Police for Sanford, Florida, has consistently stated that no evidence could rebut Zimmerman's claim of self-defense. Yet, witness statements, 911 calls, and now phone records and additional witness statements provide ample evidence to establish that Zimmerman murdered Martin and that his self-defense claim is rubbish.

The FBI and Florida State Police have joined the investigation in this case. Once these agencies compile a record, Lee should resign, and the department should be placed under state control. It no longer has the credibility to serve the city.


For more analysis, see:

George Zimmerman, Killer of Trayvon Martin: The Man Who Would Be Cop


Sorry, Trayvon Martin: They Just Don't Like You


BREAKING NEWS in Trayvon Martin Case: Officer in the Case Has A Prior Record of Racial Controversy


BREAKING NEWS: Geraldo Rivera Says Hoodie Killed Trayvon Martin

video

Sunday, March 18, 2012

George Zimmerman, Killer of Trayvon Martin: The Man Who Would Be Cop


Note: Major New Development in the Case: SHOCKING NEW WITNESS TESTIMONY IN TRAYVON MARTIN CASE!

The Miami Herald and the Orlando Sentinel have published additional reports regarding the death of Trayvon Martin. Both articles portray George Zimmerman, Martin's killer, as someone with a deep -- almost pathological -- desire to become a police officer.

Zimmerman longed to become a police officer.  In 2008 he applied to attend a local law enforcement academy, but he never entered the program. Nevertheless, Zimmerman apparently seized every opportunity to live out his fantasy of becoming a law enforcement officer.

When his neighborhood association considered the idea of starting a neighborhood watch program, Zimmerman was the only person to volunteer. In his role as watch captain, Zimmerman warned neighbors to watch for suspicious persons, particularly "young black men" whom he believed were outsiders.

Although some neighbors say that Zimmerman's efforts prevented crimes, others, particularly blacks, complained about his tactics. Teontae Aime, a 17-year-old neighbor, said that Zimmerman "would circle the block and circle it; it was weird. . . If he had spotted me, he’d probably ask me if I lived here. He was known for being really strict.” Another black resident said that he stopped walking in the neighborhood because he fit the "stereotype" of individuals that Zimmerman deemed suspicious.

According to local police, Zimmerman made dozens of 911 calls over the last 15 months. Usually, he called to report "suspicious" persons in the neighborhood. Zimmerman, however, has engaged in fantasy policing outside of the neighborhood watch program. In 2003, he followed a shoplifter in his car and called police to assist with an arrest. He also pursued another driver whom he said spat at him. The other driver, however, said that an "irate" Zimmerman was tailgating him. No arrests were made.

Although he claimed to respect police, Zimmerman allowed his fantasies to supplant official police advice. During his 911 call, for example, the dispatcher told Zimmerman not to pursue Martin, but he ignored this warning.

Furthermore, Wendy Dorival, a local police officer who coordinates neighborhood watch programs, says that she told Zimmerman in September 2011 never to take matters into his own hands:
“I said, ‘If it’s someone you don’t recognize, call us. We’ll figure it out. . . 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.” 
Sadly, for Trayvon Martin and his grieving family, Dorival's compelling warnings were ignored. Instead, Zimmerman, the man who would be cop, pursued an innocent boy and killed him. Yet, he remains a free man.

For more analysis, see:


Sorry, Trayvon Martin: They Just Don't Like You

BREAKING NEWS in Trayvon Martin Case: Officer in the Case Has A Prior Record of Racial Controversy

Trayvon Martin: 911 Call Contradicts Police Account (Audio)

BREAKING NEWS: Geraldo Rivera Says Hoodie Killed Trayvon Martin

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Trayvon Martin: 911 Call Contradicts Police Account (Audio)


Note: Major New Development in the Case: SHOCKING NEW WITNESS TESTIMONY IN TRAYVON MARTIN CASE!

Under threat of litigation, police in Sanford, Florida have released 911 tapes related to the February 26 killing of Trayvon Martin. Martin's death has begun to attract national media attention.  This case underscores the continuation of racial injustice in the United States.

George Zimmerman, who is white, killed Martin, who was black, after he called police and reported that a suspicious person was walking in his neighborhood. Martin was visiting his father and was returning home from a local convenience store. During the 911 call, the police dispatcher told Zimmerman not to pursue Martin, but he left his car nonetheless. During other 911 calls, neighbors reported a scuffle between two individuals. Screams and gunshots are heard in the background.

Despite the increasing evidence that points to a crime, police have refused to arrest Zimmerman. Instead, Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee has credited Zimmerman's statement that he acted in self-defense when he killed Martin.

Earlier this week, Lee also tried to downplay the significance of race in Martin's death. Lee, for example, stated that race could not have been a factor in Martin's death because when the police dispatcher asked Zimmerman to state the race of the individual he was observing, Zimmerman responded that he did not know. The 911 tape, however, directly contradicts Lee's statement. Instead, Zimmerman initially said that he believed Martin was black, and then a few seconds later he said that he was a "black male."

In addition to contradicting Lee's account, the 911 tape also strongly suggests that Zimmerman acted pursuant to racial stereotypes, prejudice or both. Zimmerman recited several racial stereotypes during the call. He said that Martin seemed "up to no good." Zimmerman also speculated that Martin was "on drugs or something." Zimmerman said that Martin had his hand in his "waistband," implying that unarmed boy was armed and dangerous. During the call, Zimmerman stated that there had been several burglaries in his neighborhood, and he lamented that they "always get away."

Near the end of the call, strong winds are suddenly audible. This suggests that Zimmerman had already left his car to pursue Martin even before he ended the call. Nevertheless, police insist that this was a case of self-defense. The tape, however, contradicts this conclusion. Martin was simply walking home.  Unfortunately, he crossed paths with Zimmerman who imagined himself to be a law enforcement officer.

Zimmerman did not fear for his life. Instead, he left his vehicle with a gun to pursue an innocent boy. Martin must have been frightened. Zimmerman apparently did not want another one to "get away." Under these circumstances, Zimmerman has no right to assert a self-defense argument. He initiated aggressive contact with Martin. When Zimmerman killed Martin, he committed manslaughter -- at the very least. If Sanford police care about equal justice, they should arrest Zimmerman.  Also, given the history of racial strife and cronyism in the Sanford police department, Lee should lose his job. As a result of his behavior in this case, he can no longer serve the public effectively.

Note: Zimmerman's 911 call, courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel, is embedded below this post.

For more analysis, see:

Trayvon Martin: A Fatal Flaw in Zimmerman's Self-Defense Argument

George Zimmerman, Killer of Trayvon Martin: The Man Who Would Be Cop

Sorry, Trayvon Martin: They Just Don't Like You

BREAKING NEWS in Trayvon Martin Case: Officer in the Case Has A Prior Record of Racial Controversy

BREAKING NEWS: Geraldo Rivera Says Hoodie Killed Trayvon Martin

video

Friday, March 16, 2012

BREAKING NEWS in Trayvon Martin Case: Officer in the Case Has A Prior Record of Racial Controversy

WFTV, a local Florida television station, reports that the supervising officer who initially responded to the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford has a prior record of racial controversy. In 2010, Sergeant Anthony Raimondo declined to arrest Justin Collison, who brutally attacked a black homeless man, leaving him unconscious and breaking his nose. Collison, who is white, is the son of a Sanford police officer and the grandson of a former Florida judge.

Collison was intoxicated at the time of the unprovoked attack. Also, a Youtube video captured the attack while it occurred. Despite having possession of the video, Raimando still refused to arrest Collison. Police only arrested Collison after the national media released the video and criticized police handling of the case.

Note: Police have released the 911 tapes. The tape of Zimmerman's call contradicts police accounts of the Martin's killing.

Also, for an analysis of the legal and race issues in this case, see: Sorry, Trayvon Martin: They Just Don't Like You.

Sorry, Trayvon Martin: They Just Don't Like You (UPDATED)


"It is about time the court faced the fact that the white people of the South don't like the colored people." -- Chief Justice William Rehnquist (written when he was a law clerk on the Supreme Court).

The recent murder of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager, by George Zimmerman, a white "neighborhood watch vigilante from Sanford, Florida, should remind the public of the continuation of racial injustice in the United States. Zimmerman shot and killed Martin as he walked to his father's home in a central Florida neighborhood.

Prior to shooting Martin, Zimmerman called police from his car to report a "suspicious" person in the neighborhood. Zimmerman asked police whether he should leave his car to investigate the situation, but police told him not to do so. Despite the police warning, Zimmerman left his car and confronted Martin.

Although the facts remain hazy, Zimmerman admits that after he left his car, he killed Martin. Zimmerman says that he acted in self-defense. Several witnesses tell local newspapers, however, that Zimmerman did not act in self-defense; they have also accused police of mishandling the investigation. It is also clear that Martin was unarmed and that he was returning to his father's home from a store where he had purchased candy for a younger sibling.

Police have declined to arrest Zimmerman. Bill Lee, Chief of the Sanford Police Department, accepts Zimmerman's allegation that he acted in self-defense. Lee says that Zimmerman believed that Martin was a threat because "the way that he was walking or appeared seemed suspicious to him." Lee also says (mistakenly - see below) that Zimmerman has a "squeaky clean" record and that he does not believe that "it was [Zimmerman's] intent to go and shoot somebody. . . .” Currently, prosecutors are considering whether to bring criminal charges against Zimmerman.

This case is deeply troubling for several reasons. First, the police are misapplying and misleading the public about the criminal laws regarding homicide and self-defense in order to justify the decision not to arrest Zimmerman. Also, this case is yet another reminder of the continuing problem of racial injustice in the United States, particularly, the disparate treatment of black and white offenders and victims.



Law Regarding Homicide and Self-Defense

The law regarding homicide is far more complicated than the public's general understanding of the term.  While the public tends to equate "homicide" and "murder," these words are quite different from a legal perspective.

Homicide is simply the killing of a person by another individual. Within that broad category, however, several scenarios are possible. The killing could result from intentional and planned behavior; this is typically described as "murder." The killing could result from recklessness or negligence; this is typically described as "manslaughter." Although I have simplified these categories somewhat, it is clear that even if Zimmerman did not begin the night with the intent to kill an individual, he still might have committed a serious crime -- possibly, manslaughter or even second-degree murder.

Every state recognizes "self-defense" as a defense to a homicide charge. Under Florida law (as in many other states), in order to act in self-defense, the assailant must reasonably fear that the victim will harm him or her or some other person. Furthermore, in order to rely upon self-defense, the assailant must not have acted act as the aggressor.

In order to act with lethal force, as Zimmerman did, the assailant must reasonably fear that the victim will cause imminent great bodily harm or death to him or her or to another person. Under Florida law, lethal force is also justifiable to stop home invasions and carjacking -- scenarios that are not relevant to Martin's death.



The Facts Support Charging Zimmerman

From the few facts that are known, Zimmerman's self-defense claim seems shaky at best. Zimmerman, who is 26, weighs about 100 pounds more than Martin, who was 17. Zimmerman was safe in his car and advised by police to remain inside. Zimmerman admitted to following Martin in his car. Zimmerman was armed with a gun.  Martin was unarmed. The facts of the case do not suggest that Zimmerman was justified in using deadly force against Martin. Instead, they suggest the opposite: Martin should have feared Zimmerman.

Martin should have feared Zimmerman because Zimmerman was following -- or stalking -- him in a vehicle.  Zimmerman left the car to confront Martin.  Zimmerman was much larger than Martin. Zimmerman was armed with a deadly weapon. Zimmerman was likely the aggressor because he left his car and confronted Martin.  Under these circumstances, if Martin fought Zimmerman, he likely had the right to do so according to Florida law regarding self-defense.  Zimmerman's behavior would cause a reasonable person to fear him.

Furthermore, the police statement that Zimmerman has a squeaky clean record is not exactly true. In 2005 Zimmerman was charged with resisting arrest with violence and battery upon a police officer. Also, residents in Zimmerman's neighborhood allegedly complained to police about his aggressive tactics in the past. Even though these additional factors could not prove guilt in a court of law (and might not even be admissible as evidence), they certainly are the type of information police routinely use before making arrests.




Racism Still Exists


The oldest "race card" is the denial that racism exists. Despite the popular belief that the United States is post-racial, racism remains a substantial factor in American culture.  Indeed, this case follows a disturbing racial pattern that was typical during Jim Crow and segregation. The police have discounted the value of the black victim. The police have accepted as factual the allegations of the white assailant -- however suspicious they sound. The police have failed to charge a white man who unlawfully killed an innocent black male.  And the police have stated that the black victim was the aggressor. These traditional patterns of racism that exist in the Martin case were pervasive during Jim Crow.

These racist patterns also exist far beyond the Martin case. Social scientists continue to conduct studies that reveal implicit racial bias in the United States. Even people who consider themselves racial egalitarians often act upon stereotypical beliefs about persons of color.

In one study, researchers showed a series of images of individuals to test subjects. The participants were told to "shoot" at images that also included a gun.  More often, test subjects incorrectly shot unarmed black subjects; they paused, however, before shooting white subjects, which limited the amount of incorrect outcomes. The researchers repeated this study with police officers and found frighteningly similar results: race impacted the subjects' conclusion that the image was armed. This same instinctive racial thinking could have impacted Zimmerman.

Others studies demonstrate that whites are more sympathetic crime victims than blacks and Latinos.  This pattern even impacts reports of crime in the media. Compare, for example, the extreme level of media attention to white female crime victims (in particular) with the reaction to black victims, including Martin. If Martin were killed in Aruba, like Natalee Holloway, he still would not receive the same volume of attention her death attracted from the media. Race and gender biases explain this differential treatment.  And, to reiterate, these biases even affect the behavior of individuals who sincerely describe themselves as nonracist, which is how Zimmerman's father recently portrayed his son.


What To Do Next

Currently, prosecutors are examining Martin's death. Because prosecutors are elected and impacted by social biases, however, it is unclear whether they will behave differently than the police.

In order to provide justice in this case, a new investigation should take place with different investigators. The Sanford police department lacks credibility. Also, Chief Lee needs to lose his job. He is shielding a likely violent felon, rather than helping the victim.  This is atrocious behavior.

Finally, the public needs to admit that race still remains a powerful force in the United States. Researchers who have documented the existence of implicit bias have also found that training and education can prevent racist behavior. Unless the public admits that racism remains a substantial social issue, then people will not recognize the need for training and education. The greatest outcome of young Trayvon's death could be progress towards a more just society.

Note: Major New Development in the Case: SHOCKING NEW WITNESS TESTIMONY IN TRAYVON MARTIN CASE!


Note: The quote from Rehnquist was contained in a memorandum he wrote urging the Court to rule against black plaintiffs in a race discrimination case. The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit challenging the "white primaries" that Southern Democrats used to nominate candidates. Rehnquist viewed this as a freedom of association issue. The Court ruled that the racist primaries violated the Constitution.


UPDATE: Apparently, the Sanford police department has issues. See BREAKING NEWS in Trayvon Martin Case: Officer in the Case Has A Prior Record of Racial Controversy.


Police have released the 911 tapes. The tape of Zimmerman's call contradicts police accounts of the Martin's killing.

See also:

Trayvon Martin: A Fatal Flaw in Zimmerman's Self-Defense Argument

George Zimmerman, Killer of Trayvon Martin: The Man Who Would Be Cop



Trayvon Martin: "Stand Your Ground" Rule Has NOTHING To Do With This Case


BREAKING NEWS: Geraldo Rivera Says Hoodie Killed Trayvon Martin
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