Tag Archives: Stanford Florida

Martin verdict demands a call for action

I was outside in the garden already sweltering, when my wife hollered out to me that a verdict had been reached.  It seemed, at the time, that her five words, “they found him not guilty”, turned up the heat on me ten-fold.

Since then, I’ve calmed myself.  As much as I’m not surprised by the verdict I nevertheless wondered, how could that be?  As the aggressor, how could he be found not guilty?  Didn’t it occur to them that this young man had every right to defend his life from what he perceived to be a dangerous threat with the same fervor that George Zimmerman defended his?  Where was Trayvon Martin’s right to stand his ground in all of this, I asked myself.

Now, as the verdict continues to be vetted this way and that, I understand how they got to that point.  It’s that twisted and vague statute.  Even if you concede that the verdict was brought without any sort of behind-the-scenes racial collusion, you have to admit that the court failed to provide any justice for Trayvon and his parents.   And while justice is blind and can be notoriously unreliable, the scales generally balance.  This time though something went terribly wrong.  Again, it’s because the “Stand Your Ground” law, as it’s written, really doesn’t allow for justice; a decision made from the thorough and fair scrutiny of all the facts and both parties.   Currently, it seems to favor the last man standing.

I’ve questioned before the prosecutions attempts to make this into a racially motivated case.  Proving such hatred, without a preponderance of evidence, is a hard sell.  We’re talking about Florida, remember?  And as I said previously, it would be just as wrong if Trayvon Martin was a white youth.  Understandably though, African Americans feel strongly that it’s so mainly because Zimmerman’s actions harken back to that time, not so long ago, when a black man could be killed on the streets, in front of witnesses, for simply disrespecting his white counterpart.

Unfortunately the verdict did little to stem those emotions; if anything, it intensified them.  And while a call for action could be taken as a summons to commit violence, violence would solve nothing-would more than likely exacerbate the situation-and do little to respect the Martin family.  Instead of that, what we need now is a concerted, well-thought-out type of action; the sort of protest that assisted people in the past in their struggles for social, economic and legal equality.  I’m talking about boycott.

If there’s anything America understands, it’s money.  Likewise, if there’s anything that will get Americans’ attention, it’s the moolah, again.  For now, a particular group of Americans, aka the state of Florida, are content that justice has been done and the only way that their collective minds will be changed is through a strong, prolonged economic boycott of all things Florida, or at least those aspects of coin that we can affect.   Start with Florida tourism; that means no more trips to Orlando, Miami, Key West or South Beach.  Forget about Disney, take the children somewhere else.  If you want to visit relatives, have them come north.

Other leisure activities should not be overlooked.  A vast amount of money is being made through the sports franchises of the state.  So, let’s boycott all Miami Heat games (Sorry, LeBron!) home and away, as well as the games of the Miami Dolphins, Orlando Magic, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning.  And we need to do the same for the Arena Football teams and minor league clubs, as well.

Such an embargo would not be an easy task.  We Americans, both black and white, love our leisure activities.  So, there is some hardship to be suffered if we do this.  But if we are emboldened, it can succeed; history has shown us that.  Two years before Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat to a white rider on a Montgomery Alabama bus, commuters in Baton Rouge, Louisiana stood up for their rights to ride in equal comfort to their others.  In 1960, black consumers of New Orleans boycotted stores on both of the city’s main shopping avenues, seeking to end the shop owners’ use of segregated facilities and employment discrimination.  Also in 1965, Activist Caesar Chavez organized the Grape Boycott, after an independent walkout of Mexican and Filipino farm workers, to highlight the hardship of migrant farm workers incurring low pay and unsanitary housing and working conditions.  And more recently in 2002, Samira Ahmed organized wives of fighters in the second Sudanese Civil War to withhold sex from their husbands until hostilities ended.

Such an action would definitely be a wake up call not only for the Justice Department but also for the state of Florida, where “Stand Your Ground” change must emanate from.  And change is what we want; we being any rational and fair American, not simply a black one.  Change is what America demands; and if she doesn’t, she should.  For any law that allows one man to take the life of another in such a frivolous and sanctioned fashion with little to no legal recourse is an unjust law and should not be allowed to stand.  I’ve said before, today it was a young black male but who knows who’ll be looking down the barrel of a gun tomorrow.  I’m just saying…


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Put Yourself in Trayvon Martin’s Shoes

Maybe it’s because I watch a lot of Law & Order but if I were the prosecutor, that’s exactly what I’d be trying to do for the jurors.

First, I’d attempt to set the scene for that night.  It was raining, a hard rain that blanketed everything and made visibility difficult.  A teenager was braving the elements, hood up, electing to walk the short distance from the store.  He was a lone, black teenager walking in the rain through the streets of a suburban Florida gated housing community.   He wasn’t known to other members of the community; he was visiting his extended family and was not a regular fixture in the neighborhood.

At some point, Trayvon began to have suspicions that he was being followed.  Who knows what went through his mind then.  It is, after all, Florida and both the state and the region had seen its share of racially motivated violence over the years.  So, it’s understandable that, in the absence of any type of official sanctioning of the shadow, aka a marked police vehicle with lights blaring, the young man would become concerned.   Any rational human being would do so.  He spoke to his girlfriend via cellphone and she advised him to run away.  He probably tried to do so but was no match for the overzealous neighborhood watchman who was determined that this time; “they” wouldn’t get away.  At some point a confrontation erupted; muffled cries for help were heard followed by a shot.  And when it was all said and done, a 17 year old, unarmed African American youth lay on the rain-soaked ground, dead of a single gunshot wound.

The prosecutor wants to look at George Zimmerman’s state of mind that evening.  He needs jurors to recognize that this was a man fervently preoccupied about the safety of his neighborhood and increasingly suspicious of newcomers, so much so that he stalked and killed a lone teenager walking through, simply because the youth was unknown to him.  But the burden of proof has to be difficult for the state, especially with the racial component.  I would argue that the facts of the case should be enough to bring a conviction, in spite of, or even with the help of the “Stand Your Ground” statutes.

776.041 Use of force by aggressor.—

The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:

(1) Is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of, a forcible felony; or

(2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless:

(a) Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or

(b) In good faith, the person withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.

History.—s. 13, ch. 74-383; s. 1190, ch. 97-102.

Hussein & Weber, PL

And the facts are simple.  One man stalked and killed another without just cause.  It’s not self defense when you provoke the attack and whether or not it was Zimmerman’s duty to retreat should not be given weight.  And it shouldn’t be, as argument, that he “…reasonably believed that he was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm…” since he had no business, legal or personal, being out there in the first place.  It makes no difference that he was a neighborhood watchman.  The minute he disobeyed a lawful order from police dispatch to break off his pursuit, he was no longer sanctioned as part of the community effort and became simply another vigilante looking to kill for retribution (776.013(2a) & 776.013(2c)).   In fact, it’s been disclosed that members of the watch are told not to follow with the purpose of apprehending.  They are told to put such actions squarely in the hands of law enforcement.  Another thing:  George Zimmerman has never shown any regret or remorse or offered an apology remaining confident in his right to take the life of another in such an orchestrated fashion.

And with that we come to the main problem with Stand Your Ground.  It gives ordinary residents an exaggerated feeling that they can use deadly force whenever they see fit, regardless of the circumstances.  There’s no vetting of the situation because the killing of the other party makes such determinations impossible.  Even members of the law enforcement community have come out in question of the statute calling it dangerous and confusing.  Unchanged and at its best, tragic accidents will occur with seemingly no true recourse for justice.  At its worst, it’ll be open season with citizens creating all sorts of scenarios in an effort to settle all family business.  And make no mistake, it would be just as wrong, Zimmerman just as guilty, if Trayvon were white.  What’s important to consider is, what’s the value of a human life?  Today, it’s a young black man’s but who knows what tomorrow or the next day will bring.

Sources:  Hussein & Weber, PL, Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer, Jacksonville, FL (Stand Your Ground Statute); Wikipedia, Stand-Your-Ground law



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