No Ground to Stand On

A teenager was returning home from the 7-Eleven.

A man was stalking him.

The teenager was packing Skittles and a can of Arizona Iced Tea.

The man was packing a Kel-Tek 9mm semiautomatic handgun.

The teenager was talking to his girlfriend:

“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.”

The man was talking to 911:

Zimmerman: “Oh, shit. He’s running… down towards the other entrance of the neighborhood.”

Dispatcher: “He’s running? Which way is he running?”

Zimmerman: “Down towards the other entrance to the neighborhood.”

Dispatcher: “Which entrance is that, that he is running towards?

Zimmerman: “The back entrance.”

[inaudible]

Dispatcher: “Are you following him?”

Zimmerman: “Yeah.”

Dispatcher: “OK. We don’t need you to do that.”

The teenager’s girlfriend:

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.”

Another caller to 911:

Caller: “There’s just someone screaming outside.”

Dispatcher: “Is it a male or female?”

Caller: “It sounds like a male.”

Dispatcher: “You don’t know why?”

Caller: “I don’t know why. I think they are yelling ‘help,’ but I don’t know. Just send someone quick, please.”

Dispatcher: “Does he look hurt to you?”

Caller: “I can’t see him. I don’t want to go out there. I don’t know what’s going on.”

Dispatcher: “So you think he’s yelling help?”

Caller: “Yes. There’s gunshots.”

Dispatcher: “How many?”

Caller: “Just one.”

Officer Ricardo Ayala, upon arriving on the scene:

I then noticed that there was, what appeared to be a black male wearing a gray sweater, blue jeans, and white/red sneakers laying face down on the ground. The black male had his hands underneath his body.

Officer Timothy Smith:

While I was in such close contact with Zimmerman, I could observe that his back appeared to be wet and was covered in grass, as if he had been laying on his back on the ground. Zimmerman was also bleeding from his nose and back of his head…

While the SFD was attending to Zimmerman, I overheard him state “I was yelling for someone to help me, but nobody would help me.”

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law:

A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

Sanford, Florida, city manager Norton Bonaparte, Jr., Monday:

When the Sanford Police Department arrived at the scene of the incident, Mr. Zimmerman provided a statement claiming he acted in self defense which at the time was supported by physical evidence and testimony…

Zimmerman’s statement was that he had lost sight of Trayvon and was returning to his truck to meet the police officer when he says he was attacked by Trayvon.

Trayvon Martin was unavailable for questioning.

19 Comments

Sigh.

If the Sanford PD actually did a serious investigation instead of “gung ho asshole will be gung ho asshole” then there will not be so much focus on that stupid FLA law, the seemingly oblivious police of Sanford and police race relations in the US America.

I’m not against self defense, even lethal, but to word it like a weakass “Good Samaritan” Law is just stupid. Kill someone, and the police should investigate what happened just to make sure. It should not be used as a shield for what is looking more and more to my L&O “trained” eye as Murder One.

“A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

^^Applies to Trayvon, not Zimmerman. They’d better not twist this shit.

@JNOVw00tah: You make a good point.

No matter how hard to try to strip the racial element from this tragedy–Suburban Asshole shoots unarmed kid–the thought still creeps back that things would have been handled so much differently had Trayvon been white, or if Zimmerman were black.

The self-defense law gets applied to Zimmerman instead of Trayvon because, well, you know how those black kids can be! He was armed with a bag of Skittles! And an Arizona Iced Tea! That’s such a deadly combination!

If that’s the law then I don’t see how Zimmerman can be prosecuted. All he has to do is say that he felt his life was in danger. It doesn’t matter if he’s wrong, if that’s what he believes then he had the right to defend himself.

@JNOVw00tah: Of course that’s right but Trayvon is dead. The law can only apply to the person who shot him. Plus, the fact that Trayvon did what he could to get away from his killer, according to this law makes him more guilty. Had he stood his ground and opened fire he would be less guilty.

Remind me never to go to Florida.

@Benedick: I’m talking about how Zimmerman had grass on his back and was bleeding from the back of his head and nose. I assume Trayvon tried to defend himself at some point, and the defense (should Zimmerman be charged. HAHAHAHAHAHA!) might claim that Trayvon instigated the incident (grass, blood, etc.), and they won’t mention that Trayvon’s real crime was being in the wrong neighborhood after dark.

Anyway, Trayvon was the only person who had any right to use deadly force because dude was aiming a fucking Kel-Tek 9mm semiautomatic handgun at his chest.

But because Trayvon probably tried to defend himself at some point, Trayvon acting in self-defense aids Zimmerman and negates why Trayvon fought back. That’s the twisting.

ADD: Oh. We agree. Silly me.

@SanFranLefty: Waiting for the RW media to twist that comment into “Is Trayvon Obama’s Love Child?” in three…two….

@JNOVw00tah:
Yup. That was my first thought when I read this. Trayvon was the one with the right to “stand his ground”. He even tried to get away from this guy and was apparently put into a no-win “fight or flight” situation. Not good when the other guy has a gun.

@SanFranLefty:
Pretty moving comments from the Prez even if he had to walk a tightrope about what he could say. He spoke with sincerity and a quiet moral authority. He is clearly at his best when speaking from the heart on a topic where he feels a personal connection.

I imagine Mitt would come across the same way as President if he was speaking about how Wall Street firms should allocate their year end bonuses.

The original idea behind “stand your ground” was to protect homeowners from prosecution where they chose to fight a home invasion/intrusion at the initial point of confrontation instead of being forced to retreat (as was/is the law in some jurisdictions) before responding with deadly force.

Let’s say you’re at home reading or watching Downton Abbey or whatever when you hear a crash in a back window. Curious, you go see what it is. Some asshole is in your house going through your stuff and he comes at your with a knife or your kid’s baseball bat.

In some jurisdictions, you must retreat before you pick up your fireplace poker, kitchen knife or the base of a lamp and start swinging away. You connect with the guy, cause a fatal injury and he expires in your living room. You may be looking at a manslaughter charge and even a wrongful death action by the estate of the perp. In a”stand your ground” state, you can confront the guy where you find him and you are immune from suit for wrongful death or bodily injury suffered by the bad guy so long as you are acting in self defense.

The author of the Florida law says Zimmerman’s actions are not covered by the law. I also agree with JNOV in that if the law applied to anyone in this case, it is to young Mr. Martin. Swarthy man gets out of an SUV with a shit ass 9 in his hand*, hell yeah, he would have feared for his life and could have invoked his right to self defense if he believed it was necessary to do so. (He also could have run as he was advised to do.)

There have been cases where homeowners and others have been prosecuted for going beyond the bounds of self defense. Let’s say you take the perp down with your handy home fire extinguisher (“spray him with the white stuff, hot him with the red can”) and once he’s down, you keep beating the fuck out of him until his head looks like an open watermelon and his rib cage feels like a bag of potatoes. Then you’re going to the pokey for a while and you may as well sign the deed to your house over to your lawyer or the victim’s family.

ADD: @JNOVw00tah: Are you sure that’s a Kel-Tec? It looks exactly like my Ruger LC9 9 mm (except for the trigger guard mounted laser I installed), which is one of the best compact auto pistols to come along in recent years.

* The Kel-Tec is widely regarded as an unreliable cheap piece of shit.

@redmanlaw: My understanding is that the “homeowner protection” part of the law was already there. The “Stand Your Ground” part (quoted here) added the legal right to use deadly force outside the home.

And yes, from the pieces I was able to collect, it’s pretty clear who was (unsuccessfully) defending himself by any means necessary.

But here’s the problem: From the available evidence, how do you build a prosecutable case for manslaughter? Right now it’s Zimmerman’s word against the girlfriend’s, and what we know as casual observers may not be provable in court.

Also: I’m not yet on board with “Fucking Coon” on the 911 tape. I listened to that a few times last night, and it took a lot of imagination to fill in the blank.

@nojo: Putting my old prosecutor’s hat on, I would look at the report in this case. The first thing that leaps out is the word “unnecessary.” It appears from the report that the shooter was in a fight with an unarmed person, and that Zimmerman was losing the fight and shot the other guy instead of getting his ass kicked. Since there are no witnesses, we look at what we got. Shooter’s injuries were not life threatening and in fact it does not appear that he was even in need of treatment at the scene by EMS. Next, in addition to being unarmed, the other guy was minding his own business/not committing any crime until confronted by shooter.

The ugly little word “premeditated” appears in my mind like a red flame: was this guy out looking for trouble and found someone to harass, intimidate or possibly kill? Unless we can get evidence on that point, I don’t think were looking at a first degree (premeditated) murder but we may be looking at second degree murder (when a person is killed, without any premeditated design, by an act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind showing no regard for human life) or manslaughter (the killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification – i.e., failure to meet test for stand your ground).

Armed self-defense experts raise the issue of proportionality in such cases. It is OK to use deadly force against a scrawny kid armed only with a can of iced tea? Was the tea in a bag that would enable it to be swung (probably no more than once) as a club?

In this case, I’d charge Zimmerman second degree murder* and take it to a preliminary hearing or grand jury at which the shooter could raise SYG as a defense per the statutory scheme (not a decision to be made out in the field by law enforcement). I’d take or offer manslaughter in a plea agreement.

The mobile cocoon of protection that people are bothered about in this case could have some beneficial applications. Say you are a female who is getting carjacked away from home and your options include making an armed response or be found bound and dead in the woods. Stand your ground makes sense in that context, as it would in the case of the elderly couple that was abducted at a New Mexico truck stop by escaped prisoners from Arizona. They ended up dead in the desert a year or two ago. At the very least I have a folding knife in my pocket at all times. I also have a Gerber money clip with a folding box cutter blade that I occasionally carry.

* At which point I would be declared a liberal anti-gun prosecutor by the gun rights community.

@redmanlaw: Hell if I know. I chose it from here.

They all scare the shit out of me.

@redmanlaw: Shooter says he was confronted by the Deceased. Girlfriend says Trayvon told her on the phone that Shooter did the confronting.

Also: How would Shooter know the Deceased was unarmed? Skittles were discovered after the fact.

The reason these questions come up is that a lot of folks are calling for Zimmerman’s head, and won’t settle for anything less. I agree that he’s guilty-guilty-guilty, but I’m not sure how this plays out legally. I fear we’re heading for some bad times, since the law won’t satisfy the anger.

@nojo: Zimmerman could man up and kill himself.

@redmanlaw: Well, yes, there’s that.

Worst thing he could do is accept his role as Wingnut Poster Boy. Then we’d be in for some really bad times.

Hmmm…

As of 2005, Goetz was again living in New York City and had run for Mayor in 2001 and also Public Advocate in 2005. Goetz has stated that while he did not expect to be elected, he did hope to bring attention to issues in the public interest. He is an advocate for vegetarianism and the serving of vegetarian lunches in the New York City public school system. Goetz is also involved with squirrel rescue in New York. He installs squirrel houses, feeds squirrels and performs first aid. He sells and services electronic test equipment through his company Vigilante Electronics. In the 2002 film Every Move You Make, Goetz played a criminalist who teaches a female stalking victim how to use a concealed-carry weapon.

Or that.

@nojo: I recall a story from a couple of years ago where the head of a Chinese pharmaceuticals maker killed himself after his product resulted in death and serious harm to consumers. A big products liability case there can result in the death penalty, as was the case for some dairy producers:

“Two Chinese milk producers have received death sentences for selling dairy products laced with melamine, a toxic compound that led to the deaths of at least six children.

“Dairy middleman Zhang Yujun and dairy producer Geng Jinpin were sentenced to death by China’s Intermediate People’s Court, the New York Times reports. A former dairy executive received a suspended death sentence and three other men were sentenced to life in prison, the story says.”

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/two_chinese_dairy_producers_get_death_penalty_for_selling_tainted_milk/

By the way, the competition among MSNBC hosts for who can express the most Outrage! is fucking annoying. I don’t need cheerleaders, I need facts. Just because Keef could pull off a world-class rant doesn’t mean you can.

@nojo: Does squirrel first aid involve mouth-to-mouth?

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