Friday Night Open Thread

November 30, 2012

Due to some unexpected complications (nothing serious), I was unable to complete the article that I had planned to post today.

Therefore, I have created this open thread instead.

Thank you,

Fred


Trayvon Martin’s Killer Trolls for More Dollars by Offering to Sell his Signed Autograph

November 29, 2012

I thought I had lost my capacity to be shocked when the man accused of shooting to death Trayvon Martin appeared on the Sean Hannity Show and told the nation that the shooting was “part of God’s plan” and he had “no regrets.” I could not and still cannot understand such a disdainful, casual and dismissive remark about killing any human being, no matter the justification. I have never killed anyone and I hope that I never do, but if I were to do so to save my life or the life of another person, I have no doubt that I would be emotionally devastated and sick with regret. I would expect to suffer post-traumatic stress in the form of flashbacks and nightmares for the rest of my life. I do not believe that my probable emotional and psychological reaction would be unlike yours and most everyone else on the planet, even if there were no doubt that we did what we had to do to survive or save another.

For all of my adult life, I have known that there are some people among us who can kill another human being as casually as we smack a mosquito that landed on our skin or a cockroach crawling across a counter top. They simply do not care and that does not change, even if it turns out that they killed an innocent person by mistake.

They do not care if a law or principle prohibits killing another person. At some point during their lives, if they conclude that they will benefit from killing another person, assuming they can get away with it, there is nothing to prevent them from killing except fear of failure or suffering an injury. I have known and represented people like that. I do not know why they are like that and they have told me that they do not know either. Fortunately, most people are not like that.

I believe it is important to know that these people, whom we call sociopaths, are not confined to any economic class, race, intellect, gender or religion. In fact, I believe they are more likely to be found among the predatory rich who regard the rest of us as a resource to be exploited for fun and profit. Suffice to warn that one must endeavor to identify them and I have found that the best way to do that is to know them by their deeds and their lies. They invariably leave a signature trail of using and exploiting others for personal gain without guilt or remorse.

You will know them by what they say and do.

In retrospect, I should not have been as surprised as I was by what he said on the Sean Hannity Show because all of his vital signs, including pulse and blood pressure, were normal and he exhibited no symptoms of shock or emotional distress when he was examined by an EMT within 15 minutes after the shooting. And this was not just any killing, assuming there is such a thing. This killing was not necessary and the person whom he murdered was an unarmed innocent.

I believe the evidence will convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that he profiled, stalked and killed Trayvon Martin. He was the self-annointed Neighborhood Watch Captain searching for an opportunity to commit an heroic act that would draw attention and establish his bonafides as a reliable and effective protector of neighborhood residents and their property from Black law breakers. His opportunity to accomplish that objective and prove to the police that they should hire him appeared in the form of Trayvon Martin, a Black male teenager wearing a hoodie in his neighborhood whom he did not recognize.

That was all of the information he needed to take action. Without a shred of evidence or making any effort to identify himself and engage Trayvon in polite conversation to find out who he was and if he needed any assistance, he concluded that he was a criminal “up to no good.” Acting as judge, jury and executioner, he menaced and stalked Trayvon first in his vehicle and then on foot after Trayvon attempted to elude him by running into a grassy and unlit area between two buildings composed of town houses. Despite being warned and agreeing not to follow Trayvon by a police dispatcher who had already dispatched an officer to the scene, he pursued Trayvon into the dark area with a loaded gun and shot him to death mere seconds before the police arrived.

Although he admitted that he got out of his vehicle and went in the same direction as Trayvon, he denied following him. He said he was merely complying with the dispatcher’s request to provide an address where the suspect was so that he could relay it to the officer en route. There are several problems with this explanation.

First, he admitted to the dispatcher that he got out of his vehicle and followed Trayvon until the dispatcher warned him not to do that.

Second, he specifically agreed not to follow Trayvon after the dispatcher warned him not to do that.

Third, the dispatcher did not ask him to provide an address where Trayvon was.

Fourth, he told the police that he went to a location where Trayvon wasn’t to find an address to give the dispatcher.

Fifth, he never provided an address to the dispatcher.

Sixth, even though Trayvon’s body was discovered more than 40 feet away in the unlit area that he vehemently denied entering, he told the police that Trayvon emerged from the unlit area between the two buildings and knocked him to the ground as he was walking back to his vehicle. Therefore, Trayvon’s body was not where it should have been, if he had been telling the truth.

Seventh, he did not tell the dispatcher where his vehicle was parked or describe it so that the officer en route would know what vehicle to look for and where to find it.

Eighth, he terminated the call with the dispatcher after asking him to tell the officer to call his cell phone when he arrived in the neighborhood.

By now, it should be apparent to everyone that he followed Trayvon into the unlit area where he shot him to death and he intentionally lied when he denied following him because he wanted to conceal that he was the aggressor by conjuring up a lie in which Trayvon followed and attacked him. The 40 foot difference between where he says Trayvon attacked him and where he shot Trayvon to death is an enormously inconvenient fact that exposes him for the liar and murderer that he is.

You shall know them by their lies and by their acts.

But there is more.

He would have us believe that Trayvon inexplicably emerged from the unlit area, jumped him and attempted to beat him to death with his bare hands as he was returning to his vehicle after abandoning the chase. He told the police that he killed Trayvon in self-defense as he was on the verge of losing consciousness from having been decked by a punch to the nose, straddled and pummeled about the face repeatedly and gripped by the side of the head and the back of his head slammed against a concrete sidewalk multiple times until he thought his head would explode. Yet, Trayvon had no reason to attack him since he had no weapon of any kind and he had successfully eluded him. The menacing stranger also outweighed him by more than 40 pounds and had never identified himself.

In addition, he sustained only two minor capillary-type cuts to the back of his head and, despite a claimed broken nose, he declined multiple offers to be transported to a hospital for a more complete medical evaluation.

He appeared cool, calm and collected throughout the interview at the police station with no sign of emotional or psychological stress. High resolution photographs of his claimed injuries show only two minor cuts to the upper back part of his head that did not require any stitches or even a bandage. This is inconsistent with his claim that the back of his head was repeatedly slammed into the concrete sidewalk until he thought his head would explode. His nose, which he claims was broken, shows only minor discoloration and barely detectable swelling. This evidence also is inconsistent with his story.

No blood or his DNA was detected on the cuffs and lower sleeves of the two sweatshirts that Trayvon was wearing or on his fingernail clippings which is inconsistent with his story.

Apparently, he was not dismayed or the least bit troubled to find out later that Trayvon was a peaceful and innocent Black teenager walking home in the rain on an early Sunday evening around 7 pm and talking to his girlfriend on his cellular phone while armed with only a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles.

We know this because he told Sean Hannity that he had no regrets and would not do anything different because everything happened according to God’s plan.

You shall know them by their acts and their lies.

And now this unrepentant human being without a conscience has announced that he will be selling his autographed signature.

Words fail.


Trayvon Martin Case: Banishing Zimmerman’s Name

November 28, 2012

Today I am featuring our good friend Tzar and his recommendation that I stop using Zimmerman’s name in the titles to my posts and instead to refer to this case as the Trayvon Martin case.

Upon reflection, I have agreed to follow his recommendation.

Here is his comment and my response.

Hello Professor

I wanted to comment on your choice to title your articles with Zimmerman’s name vs Trayvon’s. In light of Friday’s gas station shooting of a teen over the loudness of the music in his car and how attention seeking The Zimmerman clan has been of late, I thought I would raise the question: Do we give people who want attention like Zimmerman has received incentive to behave like him by mentioning Zimmerman too much. It’s complicated but essentially I wonder if we would we be better served if we referred to the “Trayvon Martin case” instead of the “Zimmerman case”

Here is the excerpt that prompted this post

How the media shouldn’t cover a mass murder

Every time there’s a mass shooting, I remember this piece of footage from Charlie Brooker’s BBC series Newswipe. In it, a forensic psychiatrist outlines the guidelines for news reporting of such a tragedy, assuming that your aim is to prevent further ones.

He says:

If you don’t want to propagate more mass murders…

Don’t start the story with sirens blaring.

Don’t have photographs of the killer.

Don’t make this 24/7 coverage.

Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story.

Not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero.

Do localise this story to the affected community and as boring as possible in every other market.

http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/staggers/2012/07/how-media-shouldnt-cover-mass-murder

Just some musings
great article as usual

My response:

Hi, Tzar.

You make a good point that had not occurred to me. I am used to thinking about a criminal case as the defendant’s case, rather than the victim’s case. I’ve always done it that way and so has everyone else I know.

Of course, just because it’s a common practice does not make it right.

I’m going to have to think about this

Thanks, for mentioning it.

Tzar’s response to me:

It is my intimation that the persistent hammering of one name vs another, chisels out monoliths in the consciousness representing not only our better or worser angels, but possibly inspirations to the our better or worser angels.

At the least it would be a fascinating social experiment; to essentially drown out the Zimmerman name and do things such as strictly refer to him as the defendant or the killer and put forth Trayvon’s name repeatedly enough that it can enter into proper martyrdom and social lore. A child’s defamation-notice I said defamation and not simply death-should mean something, it should stay in the society’s psyche. I believe that this kind of approach may help do that, I also believe that this is the kindest and worse thing we could do to vulgarians who openly support Zimmerman’s vulgarity.

One may even want to consider this propagandist approach as sort of a modus operandi or prevention play book whenever these horrible things happen.

Sorry for the flowery language, Just thinking out loud right after my morning coffee. 🙂

Finally, my conclusion.

People say it’s difficult to teach an old dog new tricks. My answer is that a person should always be willing to review and question old beliefs and ways of doing things. We become old dogs, if we don’t.

I also believe that the path to making a better world begins at home with the self. Often it’s the seemingly small change, the minor adjustment or adaptation, that others notice. In this way the ripple becomes a wave and the wave a tsunami.

Thank you, my friend.

I like your idea and I’m not only going to give it a try, I’m going to feature it and credit you on the front page.


Zimmerman: The Difference Between a Hate Crime and a Civil Rights Violation

November 27, 2012

I have written this article to eliminate some confusion regarding federal statutes that criminalize civil rights violations. Zimmerman might potentially be prosecuted for committing a hate crime, if a federal grand jury concludes that there is probable cause to believe that he profiled and killed Trayvon Martin because he was Black.

Since Zimmerman is a private citizen, rather than a state official, and he was acting as a private citizen, rather than acting as a state official under color of state law, he cannot be charged with violating Martin’s civil rights. However, Chris Serino and other state officials potentially could be prosecuted for civil rights violations for the way they conducted their investigation of the Martin homicide, as well as other investigations that resulted in controversial conclusions.

The reason for this distinction in the federal criminal laws is that the Bill of Rights protect private citizens from actions committed by federal and state officials that violate one or more of a person’s constitutional rights that are set forth in the Bill of Rights. Those rights do not apply to actions committed by a private citizen against another private citizen.

For example, each of us has a Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures committed by state or federal law enforcement officials, but the Fourth Amendment does not protect us from unreasonable searches and seizures committed by private citizens.

Therefore, our petition should be asking for a federal investigation of George Zimmerman for committing a hate crime and a federal investigation of the Sanford Police Department and several of its officials for committing civil rights violations.

I hope this eliminates confusion.


Zimmerman: Please Sign and Support the Petition Asking President Obama to Order a Federal Investigation and Prosecution of George Zimmerman for Committing a Hate Crime

November 26, 2012

Greetings and best wishes to Sybrina Fulton, Tracy Martin, the Martin family and all of their friends and supporters, and to LLMPapa and all of my readers.

On February 26, 2012, while armed with a firearm, George Zimmerman followed, confronted, shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, as Trayvon was walking home after purchasing a can of iced tea and Skittles at a nearby 7/11. Zimmerman, who claims self-defense, is charged with murder in the second degree. Trial is scheduled for June 10, 2013.

I believe the evidence will show that Zimmerman followed and confronted Trayvon Martin without a valid reason or lawful justification solely because he was a Black male, which is a violation of the federal hate crime law.

I support and I ask all of you to support Justice for Trayvon and the petition asking President Obama to order a federal investigation of the shooting to determine whether George Zimmerman should be prosecuted for violating federal laws that prohibit hate crimes.

Please watch LLMPapa’s latest video regarding the petition.

Thanks and many blessings to all of you.

Frederick Leatherman


Zimmerman: The Initial Decision Not to Charge Zimmerman Should Be The Subject Of A Separate Investigation

November 25, 2012

Hello, everyone.

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all of you. You nave not seen my fonts for a few days because we had family from out of town join us for Thanksgiving.

Question posed by Roderick2012.

Professor, could you write a post as to how you would question Serino if you were the State and O’Mara?

Serino seems like a big liability for the State and a gift for the defense given his contradictory statements and bad acts of leading witnesses and having leaked footage of Zimmerman to the media.

If you were BDLR how would you avoid the minefields and use him to get the evidence of Zimmerman’s re-enactment and Zimmerman’s police interviews into evidence?

I have been following the excellent comments and discussion about Serino, the deficient SPD investigation that he conducted and the apparent race and influence-driven decision by State’s Attorney Norm Wolfinger, SPD Chief Bill Lee and others not to charge Zimmerman with a crime. Regardless of the outcome in the Zimmerman case, that failed process must be thoroughly and transparently reviewed to identify what went wrong, why it went wrong, and recommend what should be done to make sure it never happens again.

No, I am not talking about appointing yet another committee to study a problem, minimize it, and assign blame to the proverbial rotten apple who is identified as the exception to an otherwise thoroughly competent and professional police department. I am disgusted by the use of strategies to identify and blame yet another fall guy and issue a false explanation of what happened that contains enough truth to plausibly deny the existence of widespread corruption and incompetence at the management and policy making level of an organization. Concealing the truth to protect and continue conducting business as usual will not solve any problems or restore citizen confidence in the ability of the police department to do its job. Instead, concealing the truth will promote cynicism and destroy faith in the ability of the police department to carry out its duty to enforce the laws without regard to race and privilege for the benefit of all of the people, rather than some of them. Citizen faith and confidence in the Sanford Police Department to ignore race and economic class while enforcing the laws is breaking down. Papering over the institutional and systemic problems that have been revealed in the discovery released to the public in the Zimmerman case, in effect, let the cat get out of the bag. Therefore, a denial of what we know to be true will further delegitimize the department.

I think that one of the most important lessons of the Zimmerman case is the realization that racism is alive and well in this country. An extraordinary number of people express racist opinions about Trayvon Martin and his family, for example, while vehemently denying that race played any role in accepting Zimmrman’s ghetto Black-gangsta defense. they are racist. Yes, indeed. We still have a long way to go before we eliminate racism in this country.

Now, to answer Roderick’s question, I do not believe that mentioning police misconduct will benefit either side. The defense needs to resist the urge to mention it because the misconduct benefited the defense at the expense of the truth and Trayvon Martin’s reputation. Asking the jury to acquit Zimmerman, despite overwhelming evidence of guilt, because some racist cops wanted to award Zimmerman a medal for killing a Black gangsta is not a winning argument. The prosecution has no reason to raise the subject because it has the evidence to convict Zimmerman.

Therefore, the Zimmerman trial will not be the appropriate forum to investigate and expose racism in the Sanford Police Department.


Zimmerman: Why I am so Critical of SPD Investigator Chris Serino

November 21, 2012

Some of you have expressed support for SPD Investigator Chris Serino. I respectfully disagree.

I believe he should have been fired for tampering with witnesses during the first night of the investigation by “correcting” witnesses who had identified Trayvon Martin as the person who uttered the terrified shriek. He informed them that the investigation had established that George Zimmerman uttered it. This is absolutely unacceptable.

No competent professional investigator should ever under any circumstances correct a witness’s testimony to support the police theory of the case. This is police misconduct and it is one of the major causes of wrongful convictions of innocent people.

We see it most often when the police have a particular suspect in mind and attempt to build a case against him, despite a lack of evidence, by “correcting” eyewitnesses who identified someone else and suggesting that their investigation has identified a different suspect as the perpetrator of the crime. Eager to assist the police to arrest and convict the “right” suspect, the eyewitnesses will often change their minds and identify the person whom the police have selected as the correct choice. The person is convicted and occasionally sentenced to death, assuming it’s a death penalty case. Years later, however, the defendant is exonerated by post-conviction DNA testing.

In such a case, “correcting” the witness or suggesting whom the witness should select causes multiple harms. The first, of course, is the wrongful conviction of an innocent person and the resulting destruction of their life. The second harm is even worse because it allows the perpetrator to remain free to commit more crimes. Therefore, the practice of “correcting” witness identifications or testimony to support the police theory of a case against a particular suspect has been universally condemned and every police officer in the country has been warned not to do it.

Nevertheless, some police officers with the occasional approval of a prosecutor have persisted in this discredited practice to make sure they get the “right” bad guy. So the wrongful convictions keep on happening and the innocent person languishes in prison or is executed, if it’s a death penalty case. The possibility of a post conviction exoneration by a DNA test is only available in cases where there is biological evidence to test. Most cases do not have biological evidence to test. Wrongfully convicted innocent people in those cases have no remedy except by filing a direct appeal or a habeas corpus petition. Their efforts are rarely successful because they have no way to prove their innocence.

I believe Serino may have saved his job by unexpectedly filing the capias recommending that State’s Attorney, Norm Wolfinger charge George Zimmerman with manslaughter. His request was rejected because Wolfinger had already decided not to charge Zimmermman. Nevertheless, Serino looked good for recommending Zimmerman be charged.

I give Serino a lot of credit for determining which way the wind was blowing and adjusting quickly to the shift in direction.

That talent enabled him to shift from aggressively steering the investigation in Zimmerman’s favor by tampering with witnesses that first night regarding who was screaming to interrogating Zimmerman during the next few days in a manner that allowed him to plausibly tell his supervisors that he was assisting Zimmerman to get his self-defense claim together, but nevertheless leaving him room to claim that he was just leading him on to build trust and get him to make damaging admissions, if the wind changed and people demanded to know why he was being so supportive and agreeable while he was interrogating Zimmerman.

Seems to me that Serino is a master politician in the department capable of convincing everyone he is their loyal friend even as he holds his cards close to his chest and quickly adjusts to align himself with whomever holds the power at any particular time.

I do not trust people like that and one of the primary reasons why my opinion is so harsh is due to the way he questioned Tracy Martin about the terrified shriek.

In the same interview when he showed him a photograph of Trayvon’s dead body and asked him if he could identify it, which is standard procedure, he played a recording of the 911 call with the terrified shriek in the background and asked him if he was 100% certain that was Trayvon screaming.

This was not the right time or the proper way to question him about the shriek. Wanting to help the investigation but obviously shocked and dismayed by the completely unexpected news that his son had been shot to death in Brandy Green’s supposedly safe gated community, Tracy Martin answered “No.”

Instead of waiting for another time after Tracy Martin had adjusted to the shock of Trayvon’s death and was prepared to focus on providing complete information about Trayvon, Serino ambushed him with a question demanding certainty in the form of a specific “yes” or “no” answer. In my opinion, the form and timing of that question strongly suggests that Serino was fishing for a no answer instead of just asking him to listen carefully and indicate whether he thought Trayvon uttered the scream.

Serino must have known that Trayvon very likely uttered the shriek because it sounds like a young person screaming in terror and it ended abruptly with the fatal gunshot. Because Zimmerman had the gun and fired the fatal shot, he had no reason to shriek in terror and stop shrieking at the same instant that he pulled the trigger.

If Tracy Martin had been provided with a reasonable opportunity to collect his wits and think about it, he would have realized the same thing. In fact he has changed his mind and stated that he is now certain that Trayvon uttered that awful shriek.

But the damage has been done and now he can reasonably expect to be confronted at trial with his initial denial and accused of changing his mind to get back at Zimmerman for killing his son. Is it not awful enough to have to reopen wounds and testify about losing your beloved son? Why should he also have to endure being called a liar because, given the nature of the question he was asked, he at first he denied that Trayvon was screaming. He will fear that the jury will not believe him and he will suffer terrible anxiety and guilt that he failed his son when his son needed him. If Zimmerman is acquitted, he will likely believe to the end of his days that Zimmerman would have been convicted, if only he had not failed his son.

This situation never should have happened. Serino did an awful thing to a father in terrible pain by taking advantage of his vulnerability to obtain a “no” answer that would support Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense at a time in the investigation when it should have been apparent to him that Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense was falling apart. I am shocked by his lack of empathy and willingness to take advantage of a grieving father to get what he wanted.

An investigator is never supposed to be an advocate defending a suspect in a homicide investigation, particularly in the early stages of the investigation before much is known. That is inexcusable and he is fortunate that I will not be cross examining him about how he conducted that investigation.

He certainly made the right decision when he decided to retain counsel and the other police officials including Chief Bill Lee would be well advised to do the same.

They had better not count on Serino refusing to turn on them if push comes to shove and he is accused of a state or federal crime based on how he conducted the investigation.

I do not believe he will go down without taking others down with him and, in fairness to Serino, he was probably ordered to do what he did.

Stay tuned for continuing developments because this fascinating aspect of the case is heating up.


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