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    Entries in Al Sharpton (3)

    Friday
    Nov022012

    Call Me A "Gagnostic"

     As a writer and journalist, I don’t particularly believe in gag orders, so when the second gag order motion was filed by the State on October 18, I had a feeling it, too, would be turned down, just like the first one on April 30. Sure, the first one was denied by a different judge, but the law is pretty clear about what a gag order is, and George Zimmerman’s defense team has not reached the brink of breaching the legal levee to a point of overflowing; when the public is flooded with pre-trial information that may possibly prejudice a jury down the road. Of course, this is assuming that the State passes its first hurdle — the ‘not yet filed’ defense motion for immunity. We won’t go there. Not now, anyway.

    The definition of a gag order is quite simple. Law.com describes it as “a judge’s order prohibiting the attorneys and the parties to a pending lawsuit or criminal prosecution from talking to the media or the public about the case.” The description further states that a gag order “has the secondary purpose of preventing the lawyers from trying the case in the press and on television, and thus creating a public mood (which could get ugly) in favor of one party or the other.” A gag order would apply toward law enforcement officials and include all witnesses.

    The second part of the description is intriguing because attorneys have been trying cases in the media since the first stone tablet announced something of legal merit thousands of years ago. Before then, it was grunt of mouth that spread the news, and I’m sure that, back then, there were lawyers that hung their slate shingles over cave entrances advertising their services. In those days, they probably wore custom-tailored saber-toothed fur ensembles to court instead of more mundane beaver skins.

    Back to the present. The only thing that’s new about the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case is that the Internet has evolved over the years. We didn’t see it during the O.J. Simpson era of the mid-90s because, unlike today, there wasn’t really a huge need for it. Cell phones were the size of bricks, they were very expensive, and most people were still content with their beepers, fax machines and copiers. I went online sometime in the mid-to-late-90s, but I was in information superhighway diapers until the early 2000s. That’s the way it is in the courtroom now because most laws regarding trial publicity were written prior to the massive explosion of the digital age. If we only go back four years, we witnessed it with the bombastic blast of information regarding the Casey Anthony case, the likes of which we’ve never seen. Thousands of documents were released to the public due to Florida’s liberal Sunshine Law. It wasn’t without problems, though. Case in point: If two different sized tires were found in the woods where Caylee was found, you’d better bet the public retreaded them and overinflated their minds to believe that Casey threw those tires there for a reason. They dissected everything. Why were those tires there? What was Casey hiding? Who helped her? Roy Kronk? God forbid that they might have been there since 2003. Yes, they became Casey’s tires, yet they never swayed the jury one way or the other. There’s a reason for that. They weren’t hers and they were never introduced as evidence at trial. Those woods had been used as a dumping ground for years. That’s the problem with evidence. It’s not always evidence.

    Granted, the Zimmerman defense had been publishing all sorts of information on its site, the gzlegalcase, about their client and some of the evidence that’s been released to date, but it was nothing more than what’s been released to the public, anyway. The defense has merely been offering their own interpretations, and some conflicts with the way the State thinks. While the State has been very tight-lipped, that doesn’t mean the defense must play the same game. Most certainly, it doesn’t mean that we have to believe what anyone says, either.

    §

    During the gag order aspect of the hearing on October 26, Bernie de la Rionda rambled on. At times, I found him to be inconsistent and somewhat disheveled, wordwise. He asserted that the defense Website had been somewhat unethical. Zimmerman & Company called witnesses liars and tried to bypass the media by offering their own version of the case instead of how the media might interpret it. I disagree. We are given the same information in discovery. We can write our own commentary. For instance, Zimmerman’s medical records indicate he may have sustained a broken nose during the fight with Trayvon the night of February 26. O’Mara clearly said it’s a fact and undisputed that his client’s nose was broken. I don’t have to believe O’Mara and neither do you, and that’s the whole point.

    Discovery impacts potential jurors a heck of a lot more than anything the defense throws out, in my opinion, and no proof exists either way. His nose was broken, his nose wasn’t broken. You decide. Ostensibly, both sides will offer tons of rhetoric at trial. It’s the name of the game. There is one point where I may agree with de la Rionda. It’s when he commented about the defense site’s quote asking for donations from those who would do the same thing if they were in Zimmerman’s shoes. That’s pretty tasteless and crass, not to mention cold-hearted and grossly opinionated. SEND MONEY IF YOU THINK TRAYVON DESERVED TO DIE. Never mind that O’Mara’s job is to defend his client, not bark for money. If O’Mara has a fault, it’s that he can be overtly insensitive at times.

    When O’Mara got up to explain why he had done nothing wrong to warrant the gag, I agreed with him until he asserted that the attorneys for Trayvon’s parents were using the race card. Yes, early on, it turned ugly in a racial kind of way, but O’Mara practically accused Benjamin Crump of inciting a race war. That’s just not true. I attended the National Rally for Justice on Behalf of Trayvon Martin in Sanford on March 22, and all I heard from the speakers, including Rev. Al Sharpton, was nothing but justice, justice, justice. Take it through the court system! That’s all they have been seeking. Not retribution. O’Mara claimed that Crump called Zimmerman a racist murderer and, I’m sorry, but I never heard that. If you can show me where Crump did, in fact, say it, I’ll eat my hat.

    He also accused Crump and Natalie Jackson of being surrogates for the State. That’s not true, either, any more than saying that Robert Zimmerman is working for the defense. O’Mara claims that, as a surrogate for the State, Crump must be as bound to Florida Rule 4-3.6 as the immediate attorneys involved in the case. I disagree. Crump does not represent the State. His represents Trayvon’s family. Period. Even if a gag order were in place, it would have no bearing on him. I feel that the intent of this sort of strategy in the courtroom was to throw the judge off course. “They went thataway!” It didn’t work because Judge Nelson didn’t blink. She would not budge, and she often had to remind the defense and prosecution to stay on the road.

    §

    I was fairly certain before the hearing began that Judge Nelson was going to rule against the gag order motion. While I had some problems with the defense, did anything ever rise to the level that I would consider iffy? No, but I can understand some of the issues at hand. For instance, what separates bloggers from mainstream media? The Huffington Post is a blog, but it’s the media. Daily Kos is as much a part of the media as the New York Times Website. So is NewsBusters. Then there’s Marinade Dave. We won’t go there, but my point is clear. There’s no single distinguishing line that separates media outlets, so why can’t the defense have a blog?

    When O’Mara slightly belittled de la Rionda by reminding him this is 2012 and that law books are no longer on shelves, it reminded me of the final presidential debate on foreign policy, when Obama ridiculed Romney about the armed forces no longer fighting with bayonets. While I understood the president’s point, I knew he was wrong. Marines still carry bayonets. In that vein, not all attorneys are Internet savvy. The last time I checked, Office Depot and Staples still sell legal pads and writing instruments with ink, not just digital tablets and capacitative touch screen pens.

    But now that we are in the midst of a technology frenzy that continues to skyrocket into the future, at a time when my six month old 3rd generation iPad is already obsolete, I question what good a gag order would do in today’s world. Just how would it impact a jury seven months into the future when we live in an age of lightning LTE speed? The old saying, today’s news is at the bottom of tomorrow’s birdcage, no longer applies because you can’t clean up birdpoop with the Orlando Sentinel dot com. This morning’s news is already old and who can remember what happened yesterday? Other than something that impacts us tremendously, like Superstorm Sandy, who cares? By the time George Zimmerman goes to trial, no one will remember O’Mara’s ramblings from last month, let alone care. Trust me on that one (but I do find it peculiar that nothing new has been posted on the gzlegalcase site [as of this writing] since October 23.)

    Ultimately, Judge Nelson denied the motion because alternatives are available to the court to “ensure that an impartial jury can be selected. Those tools include a change of venue, a larger than normal jury venire, individualized voir dire, and stern instructions to the jurors as to their sworn duty to decide the issues based only upon the evidence.” I fully concur, but I think the best news to come out of her order was one simple, yet important, thing. Had a gag order been placed, other than Benjamin Crump, the media would have had no one else to talk to but Robert Zimmerman, Jr, and no one but the media and his own family care about him. And he only matters when there’s nothing better to report. Count your blessings. It’s good to be a gagnostic.


    [Prior to the start of the hearing, I wasn’t sure I could get an Internet connection on my iPad. I did, but in the meantime, I asked Rene Stutzman, senior reporter at the Orlando Sentinel, if she had any paper to spare. She gave me her legal pad without hesitation. That was very kind and generous of her. Of course, I gave it back.]

    Cross posted on the Daily Kos

    Monday
    Mar262012

    The National Rally for Justice on behalf of Trayvon Martin

    I attended the rally for Trayvon Martin last Thursday, March 22, in Sanford. I chose to go because I truly believe Trayvon Martin was murdered. I don’t believe George Zimmerman ever set out to kill anyone that day or any other time, but a teenager is dead and he alone is responsible. 

    The Stand Your Ground law does not give citizens the right to kill on a whim. You cannot be the aggressor and use the law as an excuse. In truth George Zimmerman stalked a child.

    Jeffrey Toobin is an attorney, author and legal analyst. On the slate.com Website, Toobin states, “Trayvon saw someone following him, felt threatened, retreated, was still followed, and then was approached by an armed man who had 100 lbs on him. … Because Zimmerman was acting as an aggressor, Trayvon had the right to defend himself by punching, kicking, tackling, etc. Because Zimmerman was acting as the aggressor, his actions cannot be considered self-defense: you can’t initiate and then claim self-defense. The evidence for initiation is there on the 911 tape. … Why is it that a black man cannot be afraid of a white man who follows and approaches him on a street at night?”

    A lot of trashtalk is coming out on Trayvon now. Some of it may be true, but it still means nothing to me. Zimmerman may not be guilty of a hate crime, but that doesn’t mean he’s innocent in the 17-year-old’s death.

    I will be posting more articles in the coming days, but first, the following is a video I put together of 50 of the 141 photographs that I took at the National Rally for Justice on behalf of Trayvon Martin. Please watch it and if you feel like it, let me know what you think. Right now, I’ve got 50 pictures to post on my blog, but not on my front page. I’ll post a link to it when it’s up.


    CLICK HERE TO SEE ALL PHOTOGRAPHS

    Thursday
    Mar222012

    The Tragedy of Trayvon Martin

    PLEASE READ MY NEW POST HERE:

    SLIMM V. ZIMM

    By now, the entire world knows who Trayvon Martin is — the unarmed 17-year-old African-American lad shot dead in his tracks by an overzealous Neighborhood Watch captain, George “Triggerman” Zimmerman, on February 26 in Sanford, Florida. Before delving too deeply into this tragedy, just what is Neighborhood Watch, and who (or what) gives people the right to shoot anyone?

    Actually, the National Neighborhood Watch Institute has no authority or control over anything. According to the NNWI Website, it “was formed to supply law enforcement agencies and individual’s [sic] better tools for their crime prevention dollar.”

    Basically, NNWI sells the materials, including signs and manuals, necessary for police departments to train people like “Triggerman” Zimmerman. In my opinion, whatever the police department was that trained him, they did a remarkably lousy job. While the NNWI strives to “provide excellent educational materials and products that build observation and reporting skills,” somewhere along the line, all of Zimmerman’s training went out the window with one squeeze of the trigger. Not only did the system fail him, he failed the system dreadfully.

    The location of the shooting was inside the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes. Zimmerman lives in that community and he’s the self-appointed Neighborhood Watch captain. Apparently, he called 911 at least 47 times between August 12, 2004 and Feb. 26 of this year. Most of the calls started the same way about suspicious persons, “We’ve had a lot of break-ins in our neighborhood recently and I’m on the Neighborhood Watch.”

    George Zimmerman 911 Call History

    How revealing it is that most of those suspicious characters were black, yet this shooting is not supposed to be about racial profiling? Give me a break.

    I went to the scene on March 21 and spoke to several people. I took photos of the spot where Trayvon died, and I laid it all out in the pictures displayed below to give you a good idea of what went down that tragic Sunday evening.

    CLICK PHOTOS TO ENLARGE

    This map shows the route Trayvon Martin took when he returned.

    Visiting from Miami, Trayvon walked to a nearby 7-Eleven, but when I say nearby, it was about a 2-mile hike. I’m sure, like other boys his age, he got restless inside his father’s girlfriend’s house and needed to get out to do what 17-year-olds do; they text and talk on their phones. That’s not all. He wanted to buy something for his soon-to-be stepbrother, so when he got to the store, he bought a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea, turned around and headed back. Very suspicious, huh?

    Almost immediately after Trayvon returned to the gated community, Zimmerman began to slowly tail him in his pickup truck. It’s as if he were lying in wait… lurking… ready to pounce at any moment. He dialed 9-1-1 to, once again, report a suspicious character, whose crime thus far was merely being black. When Trayvon put his hoodie up to keep the falling rain off his head, he suddenly morphed into a black thug. You see? This is racial profiling, plain and simple.

    Straight ahead, between the two perpendicular rows of buildings, is the sidewalk Trayvon took to escape Zimmerman. It was the way back to where he was staying. 

     

    Zimmerman has a concealed weapons permit and was carrying a Kel Tek 9mm PF9 semi-automatic handgun. Why, in God’s name, anyone like him needs to carry a gun in his capacity as a nobody with no authority whatsoever is beyond me. Today, he is a murderer in my book.

    In recorded 911 calls, Zimmerman acknowledged that he was following a suspicious person. At some juncture, he parked his truck and began pursuing Trayvon on foot. In his subsequent statements to police, he claimed that Trayvon attacked him and he shot the teenager in self-defense, but here’s where his story falls apart. (Continued below the photos)

    This is the path Trayvon took, looking south. Scott is on the left. Both are from a Japanese media organization. Facing me is the direction Trayvon took. Zimmerman parked his truck somewhere near the red car and pursued on foot.

    This is the spot where Trayvon died, just to the left of the small tree.

    Trayvon never left the sidewalk. He followed the path to where he was staying. As he approached his destination, the sidewalk went from being parallel to the street to winding around the side and backside of two rows of townhouses. In order to continue following his prey, Zimmerman had to get out of his pickup to pursue him. He had to run, too, which is clearly evident on one of the 911 recordings, where he acknowledges to the dispatcher that he is running after him. The dispatcher tells him not to do that, to which Zimmerman says “OK” yet ignores the request. Incidentally, dispatchers have no authority. They are civilians and all they can do is offer advice.

    This is the scene looking south. The shooting took place on the sidewalk to the left.

    This is what Trayvon last saw as he tried to make it back to safety, although it was dark.

    From what I was told near the scene, Zimmerman raced in front of Trayvon and swung around abruptly to face him. Both stopped in their tracks. Trayvon was on the phone with his girlfriend at that moment. Bear in mind that Zimmerman weighed about 100 lbs. more than Trayvon. Trayvon asked Zimmerman why he was following him and Zimmerman demanded to know why he was there.

    STOP! BACK UP!

    Here’s where it gets tricky. If a nutbasket like Zimmerman came up to me, I’d want to know who gave him the authority to question who I am and why I’m anywhere. I’d ask him if he were a cop. No? Then get out of my face. It’s none of his business. That’s a natural reaction. Someone pushed first. It doesn’t matter who, because, in no time at all, a senseless vigilante pulled out his weapon and shot an innocent person dead on the spot. He shot him point blank in the chest. I’ve heard rumors he did it while the teenager was lying on the ground, on his back, but I haven’t heard anything official yet.

    One of the people I spoke to was Sly, who lives nearby, but not inside The Retreat. He said that, obviously, Zimmerman knew all about the Stand Your Ground law, where you shoot to kill and claim self-defense. Without a witness, who’s there to contest it? Because of that law, the Sanford Police Department chose to not arrest Zimmerman, but my big question to them is quite simple — has there ever been an incident anywhere in the world where a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea was used to threaten someone or cause death or great bodily harm?

    I didn’t think so.

    Trayvon was on his cell phone talking to his 16-year-old girlfriend within minutes of his death. He told her he was being followed. She told him to run. He told her he’d walk a little faster, but he wasn’t going to run. Trayvon had no idea who this dude was or what he wanted. When he walked around the corner of a building, Zimmerman zipped on by and swung around.

    “What are you following me for?” Trayvon asked.

    “What are you doing around here?” Zimmerman demanded.

    Trayvon must have been pushed, his girlfriend assumed, because his headset fell to the ground and the phone went dead. Who pushed who first doesn’t matter. This is clearly the case of a cop wannabe. Zimmerman took the law into his own hands, as if he had the power of a real law enforcement officer. This was his goal in life — to be a cop. In one loud pop, that dream went down the drain as blood flowed from Trayvon’s chest. Trayvon’s own dreams faded into oblivion in a matter of seconds.

    There’s a good reason why Zimmerman never became a police officer. What’s sad is that no one looked at him intently enough to know he was a threat to everyone’s safety; a guy who took his self-proclaimed title as captain of the neighborhood too seriously. Today, he’s nothing more than a cold-blooded murderer. He alone provoked the incident. Would someone please tell the Sanford Police Department that you cannot be the instigator and then claim Stand Your Ground self-defense?

    Incidentally, police confiscated Zimmerman’s gun. He says he needs to buy a replacement to keep up his work as a Neighborhood Watch captain. Would someone please tell me this is not an insane world?

    Tonight, I will try my best to join thousands of others in the National Rally for Justice on behalf of Trayvon Martin.