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E D I T O R I A L and O P I N I O N
Zimmerman and Martin Case- Self Defense or Profiling
The six person jury to be selected, seated, and sequestered in the trial of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin in Seminole County, Florida on February 26, 2012, faces a monumental task of simply staying focused on the factual evidence and the rule of law. Smoke and mirrors, mere public opinion, nor media bias has a right or a place in deciding the guilt or innocence of George Zimmerman in this case. Political influence on any side of the aisle, intimidation, or threats against either side must not be tolerated by this court. It is the responsibility and duty of this court to seek the truth without prejudice and to render a fair and just verdict.
Does it truly matter to the court who Zimmerman or Martin was “prior” to the events of that evening? The charge against Zimmerman is second degree murder. A second degree murder conviction in the state of Florida requires an “unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual.” A conviction as such constitutes a felony of the first degree, punishable by imprisonment for a term of years not exceeding life or as otherwise provided by Florida statutes.
The prosecution knows the physical confrontation ‘immediately’ prior to the gunshot is the critical issue of this case. Their position is that Martin was provoked due to racial profiling. The prosecution must show that this depraved (marked by corruption or evil; perverted) state of mind existed at the time of the shooting. The defense must show that Zimmerman legally defended himself with lethal force against an aggressor that he believed was about to cause him great bodily harm or death. Florida law allows it under those specific circumstances.
What are the known facts of this case? On February 26, 2012 at 7:09 p.m. in the gated community of Twin Lakes, Sanford, Florida; Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot in the left chest area, “one inch to the left of the anterior midline- one half inch below the nipple;” virtually a contact wound with gunpowder residue present (“with soot, ring abrasion, and a 2x2 inch area of stippling”). The wound track passed directly “from front to back,” and there was no exit of the projectile. The weapon was a semi-automatic (double action only) Kel-Tec 9mm pistol. This weapon was designed and marketed for maximum concealment ability. George Zimmerman, 28 (at the time); a resident of the Twin Lakes community admitted to shooting and killing Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman, claiming selfdefense. Zimmerman met the State of Florida requirements for and legally possessed a conceal-carry permit for that firearm and was lawfully carrying it. Zimmerman was a permanent resident of the gated community; Martin was not. Zimmerman was an active participant in the neighborhood watch program there with a documented history of calling in suspicious activity; was legally in a place/location and at a time usual for law abiding citizens. The language as to who confronted who at the time of the shooting is unclear and speculative. There is nothing illegal in Zimmerman’s preliminary actions prior to the confrontation; absent any evidence that Zimmerman “forcibly” detained Martin; assaulted/battered him, or otherwise violated any protected right of Martin. Martin would also not be justified in assaulting or battering Zimmerman. The true issue at hand is the first harmful event. The State of Florida believes that Zimmerman “provoked” Martin. Provoke by definition- to anger, enrage, exasperate, stir up, arouse, incite or stimulate to action. The “who threw the first punch” conjecture would in fact be the first harmful event; not mere words, shouting, insults, and related verbal communication or gestures if it were to occur. It became a crime when either one of them assaulted or struck the other- if that even occurred prior to the fatal gunshot.
The racial profiling described by the prosecution that allegedly provoked, angered, or enraged Martin has not been factually laid out. It is not possible to see the culpable acts that would even support such a theory to date. There was no evidence presented to date of a hate crime or similar action at the original scene. In fact, the truth (after an altered media audio clip emerged) was that the civilian police dispatcher asked Zimmerman the race of the suspect.
“Zimmerman: "…This guy looks like he's up to no good. Or he's on drugs or something. It's raining, and he's just walking around, looking about." Dispatcher: "OK, and this guy – is he black, white or Hispanic?" Zimmerman: "He looks black."
In the George Zimmerman case the “affidavit of probable cause” for second degree murder, the investigator/affiant Dale Gilbreath, based his “probable cause” for arrest essentially on Zimmerman observing Martin and “assumed he was a criminal.” Affiant further states that Zimmerman called the police and spoke to the dispatcher. Zimmerman indicated that he (Martin) “was acting suspicious” and asked for an officer to respond. A close examination at the prosecution’s case with what has emerged to date is that Zimmerman is allegedly guilty (charged) of second degree murder because Zimmerman “provoked” Martin; improperly followed him; and confronted him- then shot him. Even if Zimmerman had not been a neighborhood watch participant in his community and simply a concerned citizen, would he not have a right to be suspicious at something pursuant to his or her own feelings or perceptions? What is fact is that community had experienced multiple burglaries and thefts, and at least one shooting previously. It is fact that released recorded calls to police show Zimmerman got out of his car that night and followed Martin at some point, and Zimmerman claimed he was on his way back to his truck when Martin attacked him. Zimmerman was not involved or engaged in any unlawful activity, and was in a place where he had a right to be. The prosecution stated that Zimmerman got out of his car and began following Martin and the dispatcher “instructed Zimmerman not to do that,” and that Zimmerman “disregarded the police dispatcher and continued to follow Martin.... Zimmerman confronted Martin and a struggle ensued.” Again, the facts are that the dispatcher suggested Zimmerman (on tape) “did not need to do that.” The dispatcher was not a sworn police officer, but a civilian dispatcher. It was not an illegal act for Zimmerman to exit his vehicle and observe or to walk along and follow behind someone to maintain sight as police responded to the scene and could be accurately directed in. This is done every day when people or even neighborhood watch people call for assistance for what they perceive to be suspicious activity. They are encouraged to not directly confront these suspects but report where they are. There is no report or any language that indicates that Zimmerman confronted, engaged, threatened, or even spoke to Martin before he walked back to his car. At one point Zimmerman claims he didn’t see him anymore.
While there are various versions as to what transpired when and after Zimmerman and Martin came together, a medical report obtained states that Zimmerman had a fractured nose, two black eyes, two lacerations on the back of his head due to his head being banged against the concrete- indicated by at least one eye witness. A thorough autopsy conducted on Martin did not reveal any physical injury other than the gunshot wound and laceration(s) to Martin’s knuckle(s). One witness indicates that when he saw Zimmerman after the shooting he told him, “Man, you’ve got blood all over you- you alright?” Zimmerman responded, “… guy beating on me, I had to shoot him.”
The charge filed against Zimmerman by prosecutors superseded the decisions of the original investigating jurisdictional authority (Sanford Police Department), was second degree murder. This charged brought forth by a special prosecutor- State Attorney Angela Corey of Florida’s fourth judicial circuit. The special prosecutor was appointed pursuant to Governor Rick Scott. This action appears to have ensued after Sanford police had previously declined to file charges against Zimmerman. This action by Governor Scott essentially removed the jurisdictional decision venue of Seminole County’s (Sanford) eighteenth judicial circuit court. A potential rationale for this action by Governor Scott, although weak and political on its surface, is the intense national media attention, reporting outrage by some congressional representatives; comments by President Barack Obama, and the presence and vocals of some notable civil rights leaders traveling to Sanford. Media clips were permeating the atmosphere with such phrases by prominent officials that “Trayvon Martin was hunted down like a dog;” as well as the implications of further race related shenanigans against Zimmerman. It is a responsibility of a prosecutor to seek the conviction of the guilty, while at the same time protecting the interests of the innocent. The prosecutor must seek justice and not merely a conviction. The burden of proof in a criminal case is on the prosecution to prove each and every element of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors cannot advocate any fact or position known to be inconsistent with the truth.
This should not be a selective prosecution or unjustifiable standard, singling out one case from other similar cases not pursued. The accusatory instrument or charging affidavit should clearly set forth the alleged criminal conduct with sufficient specificity. The charging criminal statutes upon which the accusatory instrument is based should not be unconstitutional from the standpoint that it prohibits conduct that is protected by the United States Constitution such as free speech and to peacefully assemble, among other protected freedoms of presence and movement. Records allegedly show that the Sanford police investigator believed Zimmerman was taking a beating from Martin and cried for help 14 times in 38 seconds. Trayvon Martin’s father allegedly stated that the voice screaming for help on the dispatch audio was not his son’s. A curious thought is if Zimmerman had been assaulted in the alleged same manner while sitting and waiting in his vehicle- for the police to arrive, would the same charge apply when Zimmerman defended himself against a violent beating? Would this static “surveillance” action have provoked the same response by Martin? The true test of the special prosecutor in this case will be much more than trying to push a charge of murder against Zimmerman by “evincing a depraved mind… without any premeditated design to effect the death” of Trayvon Martin. In fact, an involuntary manslaughter charge would be stretching the envelope based on the charging documents, witness statements, and associated evidence released to date. That charge would need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman …”by the act of procurement, or culpable negligence of another without lawful justification (resulted in the death of).” Each of these would be to ignore the evidence of Zimmerman’s injuries (and lack of on Martin- other than the gunshot wound as the sole manner of death), and ignoring the premise that Zimmerman feared for his life and was being badly beaten bloody pursuant to Zimmerman’s and other witness statement(s).
CRIMINAL JUSTICE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATES
United States of America
—————————— Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia. His website is located at www.cjiausa.org TWITTER:
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