Trayvon Martin prosecution fully justified

If I were prosecuting George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, I would charge him with murder and conspiracy to obstruct justice, adding several named officers of the Sanford. Fla., police department – as well as the state attorney – as co-conspirators.

By now, most of the civilized world has heard the 911 call Zimmerman made last month describing someone as “suspicious” mainly because he was black and wearing a hoodie. This town watch “captain” saw no criminal activity, but decided to follow the person even after a dispatcher clearly warned him not to.  Minutes later, Zimmerman shot the 17-year-old youth, who was armed with nothing more than Skittles candy and an ice tea.

Police investigated the crime scene, and escorted Zimmerman to the police station less than an hour later before letting him go when the state’s attorney for the county apparently overruled the lead detective, who wanted to charge the killer with manslaughter. The world knew nothing of this Feb. 26th incident  until the following month, when it came to light. Trayvon Martin, whose name and a brief biographical sketch were included in an initial police report, was tagged “John Doe” and left with no notification of his next of kin despite the police recovery of his cell phone and its list of his most recently dialed friends and family members.

I would subpoena the phone records of the state attorney to determine who called him, and would ask why he drove some 50 miles from his home to the Florida town on a Sunday evening. How often does one of the state’s top lawman get involved in local shootings? Why did he go to Sanford, and  – more importantly – why did he overrule the head detective, who wanted to bring charges against Zimmerman?

As a prosecutor, I would also investigate whether there were civil-rights violations and would make available all of my findings for a Section 1983 claim, the federal law which permits those harmed to seek justice against individuals, police officers — as well as the entire police department — the city, and in this case, even the state attorney’s office.

I’d retain an expert to enhance the words Zimmerman said to the dispatcher when he cursed, saying “f… ing” something to determine if that f… ing something was actually, “f…ing coons.” I’d also question every person Zimmerman spoke to about the shooting and “memorialize” what he said in an attempt to use his own words against him should they prove vital. That would include his affluent father, a former judge, and a “friend”of Zimmerman, who has quit his job to become an informal “spokesman” for the shooter on the media circuit. Hearsay is generally not permitted at a trial, but there is an exception to the rule when a person charged with a crime has spoken about that crime to someone else.

Zimmerman has not been charged with any crime, and that might be a crime itself.

We know how friendly he has been with local police, having contacted them on numerous occasions in the past through what I would call an overzealous abuse of his town watch authority. His job is to “report” on what may or may not be suspicious. While he might be licensed to carry a gun, he had no authority to investigate on his own. Zimmerman was ordered not to follow the person, and Trayvon Martin would more than likely be alive today had he obeyed the experienced dispatcher.

Can we believe anything Zimmerman says? He clearly has an interest in the outcome of any investigation. We know there were two “initial” police reports — one that states the gunman had a bloody nose and grass stains on his back,  and a second report that makes no mention of any injuries or discolored clothes. Was one report prepared by a cop Zimmerman knew and befriended on the force? Did police automatically believe Zimmerman’s self-defense claim because they knew him?

And what about the state attorney? Why did he step aside when a nation-wide outcry forced the governor to order a state-run investigation? What was the “conflict of interest” mentioned by the official? Whose interest could there be a conflict with? Zimmerman? Zimmerman’s father, the judge?

Having worked 20 years as a criminal defense attorney, I never thought I would want to argue the other side of the law, but this is one case that calls out from all sides for swift and incorruptible justice.

8 comments on “Trayvon Martin prosecution fully justified

  1. stellamarr says:

    What really bothers me is the whole situation — Zimmerman calling 911, reporting an intruder — almost feels like a set up to use the stand your ground law. Now that he’s done that, there’s a record he’s afraid of an intruder right? So now he can claim self defense. Similar to the Joe Horn case in Texas.

    There was a case in Texas last year where a couple shot at a family who were off-roading. http://jonathanturley.org/2009/05/11/texas-couple-kills-seven-year-old-and-wounds-adult-who-trespassed-on-property
    They claimed the family was trespassing and that they had the right to shoot at them.

    Thanks for being in the world and writing this blog.

    Like

    • contoveros says:

      Thanks for sharing your life with the world, Stella, as well as your opinion on some really terrible things that are happening in states where this wild west “shoot first and ask questions later” attitude has spread from Florida to Texas and beyond.

      How a jury could acquit a man who forced a 13-year-old boy to kneel in front of him before shooting him in the back and killing him is beyond my comprehension. I am afraid to find out about the 7-year-old shot and killed for relieving himself on or next to the property of the man and woman who blasted him and his family with the double barrel shotgun, injury three and killing the boy.

      Thank all that is good that most people don’t feel such hostility to others. We should try to understand what is in the make-up of those that feel killing someone based on mere suspicion or for a property crime is justifiable. It never is . . .

      michael j

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  2. saradode says:

    Michael, I have tried SO hard to control my lifelong tendency to jump to kneejerk conclusions in situations like this, and for once to see things from all sides, and to just watch it all play out without judgement and hostility. I was doing pretty well for a while, but it just becomes more and more clear that, whatever George Zimmerman’s motives or feelings were at the time (and NO ONE can convince me that he didn’t say “f-ing coons” on that call), the case has been handled negligently at best, and there’s a whole lot of BS going on. (My big question at the moment is, if Zimmerman was claiming self-defense at the scene, I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t make damn sure that his injuries were PHOTOGRAPHED then and there so that he’d be able to back up his claim, and that the police would be happy to comply.)

    But even worse is how the case is exposing the hideous underbelly of racism in this country. I’m 50 years old, and not naive, but it still shocks me and sends me back and forth between anger and sorrow. And the ways in which Trayvon is being demonized and portrayed as a dangerous, drug-addicted gangster-type who was asking for what happened (even if all of that were true, he STILL wouldn’t have deserved to die like that)–it’s evil and heartbreaking. I don’t believe much in the concept of “sin” as most people understand it, but that comes close..
    .
    Thanks for the interesting, thoughtful post. You included some info. that I hadn’t heard yet (and I live probably about 100 miles north of Sanford), and an informed legal perspective. It’s quite different from our usual subject matter here among the blogs, but in a sense it’s all part of the same thing…

    Nancy

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    • contoveros says:

      Racial profiling exists and we ought to deal with it. By denying it, we are simply making excuses for the way people perceive others different than themselves as well as events.

      Why does a black male wearing a hoodie raise fear in some people? Their feelings of fear are neither right nor wrong. The basis for that fear, however, should be questioned and understood for the benefit of all.

      It is not just blacks. Like many Vietnam veterans — both black and white — I have a “heightened awareness” of Asian women whenever I see them. My feeling isn’t negative, but “cautious.”

      Ever since 9/11, there seems to be an unconscious mistrust of persons wearing Islamic garb. Shortly after the tragedy, I paused and hesistated when I first saw a woman wearing an abaya, the complete covering of a person’s head and body with only their eyes showing. “Does she have a weapon beneath the garb?” I wondered.

      Who knows if people in developing countries years ago felt the same way when seeing missionary Catholic nuns wearing the habits of their order. (Mostly black and white colors, I seem to recall.)

      These perceptions exist and people of all faiths and political persuasions should acknowledge it. It could be the first step in correcting misconceptions that our past fears cause in our present states of mind.

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  3. heyrob4449 says:

    Who dumped all the evidence in this case on your doorstep to make these determinations? The media has unfairly sensationalized the whole case, how about everyone quit armchair quarterbacking and let a Grand Jury examine the evidence, hear the witness testimony and make a fair and unbiased determination? If Zimmerman is found to be culpable then try him in a court of law, not the media. If it’s found that he acted in self-defense then every blabbermouth from Obama on down, owes him an apology. Until then everyone should stop muddying the water with conjecture and hyperbole. Wouldn’t you expect that if it were you or your loved one in a similar situation?

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    • contoveros says:

      A teenager was killed and the man that shot him was not arrested.

      Someone released the 9-1-1 radio tape two weeks after the incident and people listening to it demanded answers to questions the tape seemed to raise.

      We would not have a grand jury ordered to be convened had it not been for the Fourth Estate airing the tape and presenting subsequent revelations of the local, the county and the state government official actions, or lack thereof.

        These are the facts.

      I would think that most people would want our government to be responsible to the people when a question of possible injustice arises. I believe the family of the slain 17-year-old deserves answers, and that the family of the 28-year-old slayer would want their son acquited of wrong-doing by an impartial fact-finder that could only be provided in a court of law.

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  4. wolfshades says:

    A bunch of us have been hotly debating this whole issue in the pages of The Daily (an iPad-based news magazine). There are a lot of unknowns still: is Zimmerman telling the truth when he says he was attacked and on the ground, and that he pulled out his gun as a last resort? Where are the witnesses? Most importantly – was he treated for injuries as he said he was? Where’s the report on that? Who treated him?

    The media has enjoyed portraying this as a racist hate crime – because sensationalism sells – but once again – we don’t know for sure that that’s true. I saw the vide of him being taken from the police car in the station, and the grainy picture doesn’t resolve whether there were any visual injuries on him. It doesn’t look like it, but I’m not a medical or photography expert.

    I would guess that everything that can be done is being done, with respect to the ongoing investigation. Notice that when the police chief temporarily stepped down, he didn’t say “because I didn’t follow through” but because he wanted to tone down the heat of what was going on. That was telling, in my opinion. Unspoken was the phrase “we are still trying to figure this all out”. Conflicting testimony abounds, and worse – the most important witness is now dead.

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    • contoveros says:

      The Sanford police did no one a service when they refused to arrest. A defendant would want to preseerve evidence in his favor and a prosecutor would likewise want the same for his case.

      Physical evidence can be lost if not gathered immediately after such a shooting like this. In addition, statements taken of witnesses at the time of the incident or shortly after are more reliable than those garnered at a later date. There is more time to “reflect” on what to say and too many things can influence the recall ability. Some older statements become slanted in the story-telling.

      I’d like to see an arrest so that more facts could be provided us in our jury of public opinion.

      Like

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