The Zimmerman Trial

 Crime, Featured, Legislature, Media, Politics, Society  Comments Off on The Zimmerman Trial
Jul 152013
 

I couldn’t let the George Zimmerman case go by without commenting. I think the main issues in the case are being overrun by our desire to make the main issue one of race. The case certainly has two points of race running through it, but the primary issues here are Florida’s draconian self-defense laws, and our concealed-carry law.

Let’s get the racial issues out-of-the-way first. I certainly believe race played a role in this case. Zimmerman clearly, based on the 911 call, profiled Trayvon Martin because he was a young black man. Now there certainly had been some crimes in his neighborhood involving young black men, but you go profiling, this is what happens. Despite Zimmerman’s impression, Martin “belonged” in the neighborhood. It was his neighborhood, and he was merely walking through. Would Zimmerman have called in a report of white teenager walking through the neighborhood? I don’t know, but suspect it would be unlikely.

The other racial undertone has to do with the actions of the response of the Sanford police officers. They were going to accept, unchallenged, Zimmerman’s invoking of Florida’s stand your ground law (more on that in a minute). I have to wonder if the tables had been turned. George Zimmerman had pursued and confronted this young man who was doing nothing wrong or illegal. He was carrying a gun. I would consider him a threat in that situation, and under Florida’s stand your ground law, I would have a right to use deadly force, as did Trayvon Martin. Let’s say that Martin had managed to wrestle Zimmerman’s gun away from him, and had, fearing for his life (he would have had a gun drawn on him after all), shot George Zimmerman? It’s only speculation, but I suspect the Sanford police would have used a higher standard for a stand your ground defense if proffered by Martin. I suspect he would have arrested and charged on the spot.

Did Zimmerman set out to find a black person to shoot that day? I seriously doubt it. Did he take the opportunity to shoot a black person when he came across one? I doubt that too. For that reason I’m hard pressed to consider this a crime of bias, but, as I said, there are certainly racial overtones to this situation.

I think they are overshadowed by a number of other issues which point directly to the absolutely insane Republicans running state government here in Florida. Let’s look at those issues in more detail.

First is the concept of “concealed carry.” If the idea of being able to carry one’s gun is for protection, then the concept of concealed carry is silly on its face, and in the case, deadly. What do I mean by this. My preference would be to avoid being involved in a crime at all. So if I carried a gun, it would be for the purpose of convincing you that I’m not your best choice as a potential target for a mugging. That means I need you to see my gun. I don’t want it concealed…I’d want to carry it loud proud. It is again speculation, but if Martin had seen a gun on Zimmerman as he approached, he might have turned tail and ran. I’d like to think Zimmerman wouldn’t have shot a fleeing person in the back. I believe concealed carry contributed to this situation.

Then we come to silly statutes in Florida that allow one to defend themselves. People who legitimately find themselves in life threatening situations have an absolute right to defend themselves. However, these are the kinds of situation that will happen in states with such broad self-defense and stand your ground laws. First, there was nearly never any accountability whatsoever because of stand your ground. While the outcome of the trial was not what many people believe served justice, at least there was a trial. Had it not been for the public pressure, Zimmerman’s invoking of stand your ground would have eliminated even a reasoned examination of the facts of the case, and the law in deliberately crafted to subvert such an airing of facts.

The self-defense law is so broad here in Florida that I would walk up to someone on the street, punch them in the face, and once they start kicking the shit out of me, I could pull out my concealed weapon to shoot and kill the person I originally attacked. Silly you’d think, but not so with our illustrious Florida Republicans, and this case is the result. I think that once you either instigate or pursue, you forfeit any claim to self-defense. At that point, you’re no longer defending yourself, you just got yourself into a fight.

The jury is getting a lot of flack, but I think it is undeserved. The jury is required to be finders of fact, and appliers of the law, and in this case, as unfortunate as it is, they did just that. There is really no significant forensic evidence, no complete and significant eyewitness testimony…there seems to only be a case of “he said / he said.” The only problem, there’s only one of the he’s available. I do not want juries to try to make law, or find violations of law where there is none. That’s not for juries to do. I want us to preserve the presumption of innocence, and I want the prosecution to have a very high bar to prove their case. In this situation, they were unable to hurdle the bar, but that’s largely because the Florida Legislature stacked the supports unreasonably high.

I think the jury decided the case before them rightly based on the law and the evidence. Now, does that bring any justice for Trayvon Martin and his family. No it certainly does not. The largest part of the blame is on George Zimmerman. This is a situation of his creation, and I hope the Martin sues his pants off, and I hope they win. They deserve nothing less. However, there’s plenty of blame to go around, and THE main reason justice could not be found in a criminal courtroom is because the Florida legislature has essentially legalized vigilantism. Direct your complaints and protests towards the Capital Building in Tallahassee.

As I said, I hope the Martin family brings a civil suit. There is no doubt about the basic facts of the case. George Zimmerman created a hostile situation in which Trayvon Martin exercised his right to stand his ground. Unfortunately, he lost because he brought only a pack of skittles to an unplanned gun fight.

As for a federal prosecution under civil rights laws, I’m not much of a fan. Those have their place, but again, I think that must be a high bar. Do I think Zimmerman committed a hate crime? I really don’t. I think he committed a crime of stupidity. The best place for the rest of this case is a civil courtroom. Let Trayvon and his family now have their day in court.That will be best found there. For the rest of us, we need to demand sanity from our legislators.

Oct 162009
 

bujubanton-kenyatafilmsBuju Banton is a Jamacian Reggae star who riled up the gay community with songs like “Boom Bye Bye” which calls for gay people to be shot in the head with automatic weapons, have acid poured on them, and be burned “like an old tire wheel.” He currently has an American tour being roundly opposed by the gay community, and a number of events have been cancelled. Unfortunately, the owner of a concert venue in downtown St. Petersburg, Janus Landing, feels no responsibility to help build an inclusive community.

A show on October 30th in Tampa was canceled. Unfortunately, it appears Mr. John “Jack” Bodziak, owner of the St. Pete venue, is fine with inviting a person who believes it is not only OK to bash other people, but seeks to incite others to the same behavior. Mr. Bodziak can be reached at jack@gmail.com or (727) 896-2276. I sent Mr. Bodziak the following email:

I have read that a planned concert by Buju Banton at Janus Landing is still scheduled. Is that true?

I generally support all forms of artistic expression, but Banton crosses over a line. Buju Banton has a long history of performing songs advocating violence against gay people, including one song, which advocates shooting gay people in the head with automatic weapons, pouring acid on them, and burning them “like an old tire wheel.”

But the issue goes far beyond just lyrics in some songs. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch confirmed that Buju Banton was among six men involved in a gay bashing in June 2004 in Constant Spring, Jamaica. UK, so Banton has a history of not only inciting others to harm fellow  human beings, he himself has participated.

Despite having met with a group of gay leaders and activists this week, Banton made the following statement, “This is a fight, and as I said in one of my songs ‘there is no end to the war between me and faggot’ and it’s clear.” This is NOT a person who should be invited to our community, and frankly, you should be ashamed for providing a venue for a person like this.

I frequently go to downtown St. Petersburg, eat at a number of restaurants, and watch movies at Baywalk, but no more. I will no longer feel safe after Buju has had the opportunity to incite people to murder and burn gay people, and will be notifying those businesses I frequent to explain why they will no longer enjoy my patronage.

I am truly sorry that you believe some amount of money is worth sponsoring the bringing of a person like this into our community.

I do plan to follow through. Lay and I are regulars at least at one nicer restaurant downtown.

Daily Ramblings – July 1, 2009

 Crime, General, Places, Society, Tampa, Weather  Comments Off on Daily Ramblings – July 1, 2009
Jul 012009
 

From yesterday, we’ve got a “pig” traffic tie up out in Pasco County, and today we’ve got rain, rain, and more rain, and do you know what one calls 1,000 lawyers on the bottom of the ocean?

That’s right, yesterday morning during rush hour there was a big traffic backup at a big intersection over in Pasco County. Apparently there was a dead pig in the middle of the intersection blocking things up. I have been unable to get any more information about this one.

Yesterday and today we’ve had a ton of rain, and while it’s quiet now, the radar seems to show that we are going to get more. I’ve had to pump water out of the pool a couple times. We’ve needed some rain, but be careful what you wish for. We really got it, and it has come in downpours when it rains. I had to drive up to the north side of town to run some errands, and that meant making my way through several areas where the streets get very flooded.

In Tarpon Springs a police officer has resigned amid allegations that he slashed the tires on a homeless person’s bicycles. Apparently he was mad because the homeless addressed several times with racial epithets (reportedly the “n” word) over and over after he arrested the homeless person on a trespassing charge.

Tampa Tribune File Photo

Tampa Tribune File Photo

So, the answer to the lawyer question above (What does one call 1,000 lawyers on the bottom of the ocean?) is “a good start.” A couple of months ago a thug named Richard McTear was arrested for allegedly throwing his teenage girlfriend’s baby on the concrete floor in her apartment, the tossing the baby from a car window out on the interstate. The baby died. Bedwell, the baby’s mother, is herself receiving services from DCF. She had problems with McTear, and had the Sheriff’s Department close a case against him, and DCF lower their concern level after she promised to seek a court order to keep McTear away. She didn’t, so now she is, big surprise, suing everyone in sight, including DCF and Sheriff’s Office.

But her money-grubbing attorney’s are also suing…wait for it…the apartment managers where she lived, because they supposedly didn’t provide enough security to keep this from happening.

Ex-Atlanta Cops Sorry for Killing 92 Year Old

 Corruption, Crime, Society  Comments Off on Ex-Atlanta Cops Sorry for Killing 92 Year Old
Feb 242009
 

You might remember the story of the Atlanta Police Departments execution of 92 year-old Kathryn Johnston a couple of years ago. Three of the detectives involved in the killing and subsequent cover-up are now in court for sentencing. The account in the Atlanta Journal Constitution refers to the three as “tearful” as they stood before the judge.

As you might imagine, a parade of family, friends, pastors and colleagues took the stand to praise them for being good parents and dedicated public servants. I have to wonder exactly what they were dedicated too. The “dedication to public service started in November of 2006 when officer Jason smith falsified an affidavit to obtain a “no-knock” search warrant.

That allowed the narcotics detectives to bash in Johnston’s door. Thinking her home was being invaded, Johnston fired a single shot from a rusty revolver. The “public servants” responded by firing 39 rounds, with five or six of them being fatal shots.

It seems that at least Det. Gregg Junnier did finally go to the FBI three weeks after the raid and fess up. According to the AJC story, Arthur Bruce Tesler said when moved to the Narcotics unit,

He was told to “sit, watch and learn” from superiors who cut corners to meet performance quotas for arrests and warrants. “I was a new part and plugged into a broken system.”

Tesler later testified he saw Smith planting baggies of marijuana in Johnston’s home to make it look like a drug house, and that he falsified the report and lied about the raid because Smith told him to follow the script.

Ellen DeGeneres Remembers Murdered Gay Teen

 Crime, Culture, Gay Issues, Religion, Right Wingnuts, Society  Comments Off on Ellen DeGeneres Remembers Murdered Gay Teen
Feb 292008
 

All these religious right wingnuts think they absolve themselves of any responsibility for the violence perpetrated against gay people when they say, “Oh we don’t hate gays, we just hate the sin.” Bullshit. This is what you have wrought, and you will stand in judgment for it. These wingnuts love to invoke the Old Testament wrath of God when it comes to homosexuality. I’d remind them the prophets of the Old Testament were usually warning of God’s wrath in the context of how corrupt the religious leaders’ of that time had become.

Micah summed it well: “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcMEL3_YsVI

News Roundup for The Week Ending October 28, 2007

 Crime, Fun Stuff, Humor, Places, Society, St. Petersburg  Comments Off on News Roundup for The Week Ending October 28, 2007
Oct 272007
 

Elephants Electrocuted in Drunken RampageMSNBC
That scrolled by on my news ticker, so how could you now click and read a story with that headline. It happened in India where elephants apparently have a taste for a rice beer brewed by local villagers. In this case, six elephants got into the drums of fermenting beer, got drunk and went on a rampage. They were eventually electrocuted when one of them knocked down a power line pole.

Citrus County Florida Necrophilia Plot ThwartedTBO.com
According to the report, a man in St. Petersburg had struck up an online friendship with a man in Citrus Springs. Eventually, Kevin Wade Daley asked the St. Pete man to help him kill someone so he could have sex with the victim. He’d targeted a handyman that worked in the neighborhood.

Trash to TreasureDayton Daily News
It’s the classic story of someone out for a daily walk in NYC and finding an interesting painting put out as trash. Turns out it’s an important work by Rufino Tamayo stolen in 1987. It’s been returned to the original owner, and will be auctioned at Sotheby’s, and could bring as much as $1 million. No word on whether the person that found gets a cut.

News for the Week Ending July 22, 2007

 Crime, Places, Politics, Society, The Courts  Comments Off on News for the Week Ending July 22, 2007
Jul 292007
 

The Cool Mom – From Findlaw
(AP) LONG BEACH, California-A mother charged with driving her 14-year-old son and six other juveniles to a skate park so they could attack another teenager pleaded not guilty to murder. Police said Eva Daley knew her son and the others planned to kill Jose Cano when she drove them to the park June 26. Cano, 13, died of stab wounds. Police said he had previously been involved in a dispute with the youths.

Man Flunks Bar-Blames Queers – From PlanetOut
A man said he failed the Massachusetts bar exam because he refused to answer a question about same-sex marriage, and claims in a federal lawsuit the test violated his rights and targeted his religious beliefs.  He said he refused to answer the question because he believed it legitimized same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting, which is contrary to his moral beliefs.

His lawsuit against the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court also claims the state government is “purposely advancing secular humanism’s homosexual agenda.”

Some people have no life.

News for the Week Ending May 20, 2007

 Crime, Culture, Gay Issues, General, Holidays, Humor, Places, Science, Society, Technology  Comments Off on News for the Week Ending May 20, 2007
May 192007
 

I’m posting the weekly news round up early this week, May 20, 2007. I have to be in Orlando tomorrow morning (Sunday) at 8am to attend a software conference.

Son gives his mom the night off and is slain
For Mother’s Day this year, Wai Ng may have saved his mother’s life.

His gift to her was simple: The 28-year-old son, known to friends as Ray, offered to work his mother’s shift on Sunday at the family’s Chinese restaurant in Tamarac.

But late that night, authorities said, a gunman stormed into the almost-empty restaurant and demanded money. Before making his exit, cash in hand, the stranger fired a single shot, leaving Ng dead on the floor.

Andromeda Galaxy Might Steal Our Solar System from Milky Way
Our solar system might get booted from the suburbs to the boondocks of our galaxy when the Milky Way merges with its neighbor Andromeda in a few billion years, scientists say.

New calculations by T.J. Cox and Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics show there is a small possibility that the Sun and its planets will be exiled to the outer reaches of the merged galaxy.

“You could say that we’re being sent to a retirement home in the country,” Cox said.

This is not a parody. I swear. It’s all true.
Just so you’ll know that what follows is scientifically possible, I will acquaint you with a 2003 study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation and published in the American Psychological Association’s Psychological Bulletin.

The study found that conservatism can be explained as a set of beliefs and behaviors that result from a psyche controlled by fear, aggression, closed-minded dogmatism, and intolerance of ambiguity, compounded by mental rigidity and decreased cognitive complexity [dumbness].

Seriously, I’m not making this up.

Miami Tops List for Rude Drivers
For the second year in a row, rude drivers who chat on cell phones and speed through red lights have earned Miami the title as the U.S. city with the most road rage, a survey released Tuesday said.

Miami motorists said they saw other drivers slam on their brakes, run red lights, multitask while driving and talk on cell phones, according to the survey by AutoVantage, a Connecticut-based automobile membership club that offers travel services and roadside assistance.

Sex worth more than porn: $1.5 mil more, to be exact
Porn.com domain sells for $9.5 million, the biggest cash domain sale in history. The Los Angeles Times

Gay For A Day – A Small Ray of Hope
What punishment would you inflict on a teenager convicted of a violent homophobic crime?
Knee-jerk reactions tend to vigilante-style ferocity, but careful thought can yield surprising results, as police in Sussex, England, discovered this year.

Brighton’s hate crime unit ordered a homophobic teenager to spend a day working as an intern at the gay magazine 3SIXTY as part of his sentence. The boy had been part of a group who attacked a gay high school teacher in Dukes Mound, Brighton, early one Sunday morning.

Surly at first, the teen perked up when asked to write an article about a gay person in the public eye. He chose to pen a piece about the pop star Ian H Watkins, who’d outed himself before entering the Big Brother house. It seems the task enthused the boy, who stayed to oversee the page layout.

Following his internship, the boy asked his probation officer if he could write to the victim to apologize for his crime.

St. Pete Man Killed In Sword Fight?

 Crime, Places, Society, St. Petersburg  Comments Off on St. Pete Man Killed In Sword Fight?
Jun 162006
 

It’s true. Two neighbors living in a apartments in a warehouse structure in St. Petersburg got into an argument. One of the men apparently went back to his apartment and got a sword; returned to the argument; and killed the other guy.

He must have been pretty casual about it, as he was later arrested at a Duncan Donut shop by a Pinellas County deputy.

I won’t even take advantage of the opportunity to make the obvious jokes about stupid criminals committing a crime and heading to a donut shop. That one is just too easy.

You can read the story at TBO.com.

How many murders go unsolved each year in the U.S.?

 Science, Society  Comments Off on How many murders go unsolved each year in the U.S.?
Jun 042006
 

DNA. Carpet fibers. Fingerprints. Given the wealth of forensic information, you’d think police would solve each and every murder. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in 2004, 62.6% of homicides were “cleared,” leaving a substantial portion of murder cases unresolved.The FBI’s official site says a crime is cleared when either an arrest is made or “elements beyond the control of law enforcement prevent the agency from arresting and formally charging the offender, by exceptional means.” We assume this refers to rare cases when, for example, suspects die before they can be charged.

In 2004, there were 16,137 cases of murder or nonnegligent manslaughter in the United States. Because 37.4% of these cases went uncleared, around 6,035 people “got away with murder” that year. Of course, this assumes each offender murdered only one person, which very likely isn’t true, but seeing as the cases are unsolved, this is our best guess. Anyway, while that number is disturbingly high, there is some good news. From 2003 to 2004, the number of murders fell 2.4% and violent crime in general is on a downswing.