Days Black People Not Re-Enslaved By Trump

Monday, July 15, 2013

Trayvon Martin Watch: Sean Bell Verdict II

I learned a very hard lesson when I followed the Sean Bell trial: Understand the law.

It seemed obvious to me at the time that Sean Bell was murdered by the police officer. After all how else could you explain two full clips being unloaded into a car of unarmed passengers? One full clip discharged. A reload and then another full clip discharged. It had to be murder. The problem was that I, along with many people did not understand how the law handles a homicide. You see a dead body represents a homicide. That homicide could be justified or unjustified. It all depended on the circumstances.

Murder is a circumstance. It requires that the state prove, beyond reasonable doubt that the perpetrator has intended to kill his or her target and had malice, hatred or something along those lines. The key point being "prove beyond reasonable doubt."

The police get the benefit of the doubt when they shoot at someone. They get it from the justice department and they get it from the public. The idea being that police do not shoot unless they have to. When they have shot someone it is because the suspect did something to "deserve it". It was only late into the trial that I realized that the entire thing had been, in my opinion a publicity stunt.

If you read all the counts you'll note that there is NO second degree manslaughter charge against Isnora or Oliver for shooting at Guzman. This is significant because first degree manslaughter charges requires the proof of intent. I said back in march of 2007 that intent would not be provable. Second degree manslaughter requires no intent. Once it was shown in court, by both Isnora and Oliver that the target of their weapons fire was Guzman, it didn't matter what happened to Bell (case wise) Bell becomes collateral damage from the assault on Guzman. So the question that needs to be asked is why was there no second degree manslaughter (or attempted manslaughter if such a charge exists) leveled at Isnora and Oliver? If the prosecutor did not ask for such an indictment, was he or his office acting in concert with the police department to assure that the officers would be acquitted?
If you've followed all my Trayvon Watch posts you'll understand why I am focusing on the state's case rather than the "evidence". I believe the Florida prosecutors made the same mistake that the was made in NY. I cannot say that the "fix was in" but I can certainly say that the state's attorney's office fucked up. Let me explain how I think they fucked up royally on this case:

1) Wrong charges

While I was on Twitter and Facebook I repeatedly told people that murder 2 was not a proper charge and that it was a mistake to bring that charge. I said that the state would be unable to prove intent, much less malice on the part of Zimmerman beyond reasonable doubt. The reason is simple, Just as the NYPD was given the benefit of the doubt, this "neighborhood watch" person would also get the benefit of the doubt from any jury. The person in charge should have chucked any suggestion of murder II in the trash.

There is a second reason why Murder II should have never been on the table: It put the jury's focus on Zimmerman as potential victim> rather than as the actual perp. Since most of the fact in the case were not in dispute the prosecution essentially joined with the defense by having the jury spend two weeks deciding whether Zimmerman was scared for his life or not. Of course he was. The prosecution by waving around "intent" in order to convict on murder II, allowed the jury to contemplate Zimmerman as victim. This played directly into the jury instructions which had a clear exception for murder and manslaughter: How did Zimmerman feel? Of course both the prosecution and the defense had been making the jury think about that for two weeks. Which brings us to point number two

2) Wrong focus:

What essentially happened here, and as evidenced in my previous postings on the trial, everything was focused on Zimmerman. Mostly because of the wrong charges. It was wrong from the very beginning.

"Fucking Punks."

While that may have been "shocking" for an opening statement. The focus was entirely wrong. The prosecution should have spent the entire opening session on what Trayvon was (or might have been) thinking and doing. The opening line should have been:

"I'm being followed."

They should have lead with the forthcoming statement from Jeantel as to Trayvon noticing he was being followed.

They should have told the story of the events of that night through the eyes of the victim. Had the prosecution not had to try to prove malicious intent on the part of Zimmerman, they could have focused on Trayvon's story of walking to the store. Buying his skittles and iced tea. Of taking (or placing) the call to his lady friend. Of innocent banter on the walk home with his hood up to protect against the light rain. How he's a long way from home and it's night time and the lights are on in the apartments and people are doing the evening thing and he's looking around. Then the change in his conversation when he notices he's being followed by someone in a car. How he knows that a car should have passed him by now but is staying behind him. How he feels that he is in danger from a person who is clearly stalking him. Then the decision to run. Because the car "can't" come up on the curb between the buildings, but now the strange guy is on foot. What to do?

What to do?

Do I go home and bring the danger to my house?

Do I run?

Do I hide?

What does this strange man want?

Why are you following me?

The guy's got a GUN!!!

fight or flight

Trayvon is acting in self defense!!!

This is what the prosecution should have been for the entire two weeks: Martin. All day every day. What did Martin think was going on?

The prosecution should have hammered away at the very concept That Zimmerman was acting in self defense. Object every single time there is the slightest reference to defense by anyone other than Trayvon.

Of COURSE Trayvon fought him. He was fighting for HIS life!!!

Of course he smashed Zimmerman' head against the concrete! He was fighting for his life against an armed stalker. What the fuck would you DO?

And yes, I'd say "What the fuck would you do?" in open court and take the fine or contempt charge. It is THAT important to make it clear what the victim thought.

3) The Right Charges:

In order to make their manslaughter case stick the state should have brought up 2 additional charges:

A )Aggravated Assault and Aggravated Stalking.

From my previous posting aggravated stalking has the following:

“Credible threat” means a verbal or nonverbal threat, or a combination of the two, including threats delivered by electronic communication or implied by a pattern of conduct, which places the person who is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family members or individuals closely associated with the person, and which is made with the apparent ability to carry out the threat to cause such harm. It is not necessary to prove that the person making the threat had the intent to actually carry out the threat.
There is absolutely no reasonable doubt that Zimmerman stalked Trayvon. Zimmerman told on himself to that effect. Since Trayvon was not in the process of committing a crime nor was he "caught" exiting a building with "goods in hand" or anything like that, there was no reason to follow Trayvon, especially on foot.

Notice that the requirement here is that the victim have a reasonable fear for their safety. Clearly Trayvon was in fear of his safety due to the pattern of behavior that Zimmerman exhibited. Secondly, it doesn't matter WHAT Zimmerman thought he was doing (ie: protecting his neighborhood); his actions meet the definition of stalking.

Once you get the Jury to convict on the stalking charge, Manslaughter is easy to get to because you've established criminal activity on the part of Zimmerman and after that all that "I thought I was going to die" from the Zimmerman camp doesn't matter. When in the commission of a crime one kills someone you don't get covered by self-defense.

B) Manslaughter

Per the instructions given to the jury, manslaughter exceptions are:

The killing of a human being is excusable, and therefore lawful, under any one of the following three circumstances: 1. When the killing is committed by accident and misfortune in doing any lawful act by lawful means with usual ordinary caution and without any unlawful intent, or 2. When the killing occurs by accident and misfortune in the heat of passion, upon any sudden and sufficient provocation, or 3. When the killing is committed by accident and misfortune resulting from a sudden combat, if a dangerous weapon is not used and the killing is not done in a cruel or unusual manner.
As we go through these items we would have concluded:

1) Once we put aggravated stalking on the table, Zimmerman fails item 1. 2) Zimmerman did not shoot Martin "by accident" so he doesn't get covered under item 2. 3) The "sudden combat" exception does not apply if one is committing a crime. Try shooting a police officer who has taken you down after trying to arrest you for a crime you committed. You're not going to be able to argue "sudden combat".

Because the prosecution failed to establish criminal activity on the part of Zimmerman they could not get a conviction on the charges they filed. Because they wasted their effort on trying to prove the unprovable (legally). The prosecution allowed Zimmerman to be cast as the victim rather than the dead Trayvon.

4) Zimmerman had choices:

I haven't seen all the testimony but I haven't heard one piece of reporting that suggested that Zimmerman had choices. Zimmerman could have announced himself to Trayvon as a "friendly neighbor" who was "offering help to someone who looked lost".

Zimmerman could have driven right up to Trayvon and rolled down his window and said something to the effect: "hey there, you look kinda lost, I live here can I help you find a location?" If Zimmerman wanted to be more forceful, he could have rolled up on Trayvon and announced himself as neighborhood watch and ask if Trayvon needed help.

But Zimmerman said he thought the skittles was a gun. Oh, so Zimmerman left his vehicle expecting to get into a gun fight? Really?

Side issues:

5) Not a single black juror? I'm not saying that a black juror could not have come to the same conclusion as the rest of the jury but I believe it would have been harder to get a black juror to not see Trayvon as a victim because he or she would have to consider that they could have easily been Trayvon walking down the street minding his own business. Understand that jurors are expected to use their judgement and experiences when evaluating the credibility of witnesses and their statements.

6) I didn't see it mentioned but if it wasn't I think that the fact that the Zimmerman sitting in the courtroom was not the Zimmerman of 18 months ago would have been important. Zimmerman blew up and grew hair while he was awaiting trial.

7) Was there a black prosecutor in this office who could have made opening/closing statements? No disrespect to the prosecutors but I don't think they really understood exactly how offensive the idea of an innocent black male being stalked and killed is. I don't think they truly understood what was at stake here. Their focus on Zimmerman and how he was a "wanna be cop", played directly in the narrative of the defense. That Zimmerman was a good guy trying to do right and got himself into a bad spot. He wanted to get the "fucking punks". Well who doesn't want to get the fucking punks? How is that supposed to get a jury to see Trayvon as a stalking victim?

A good black attorney. Heck, even a non attorney would have instead focused on Trayvon. The closing argument as I see it would have been a clear narrative from Trayvon's point of view.

It would have been all about the fact that I'm walking in the drizzle to the store. I'm not in a rush 'cause I have no appointments. I'm talking to my lady friend.

I would have been right up in the jury's faces, particularly the mothers. I would have had them on the phone with their son walking home from the store. I would have let the hear the panic in my voice as I realize that someone is following me. I want them to hear me running away from this stalker. I want them to feel the panic as they realize the stalker is now on foot and is face to face with their son.

Their child is face to face with a potential killer and there is nothing they can do all they can do is hope he survives. Drop the phone in front of the jury. See which ones look to pick it up. You've won.

This was not a case that is won trying to get into the mind of Zimmerman. It was a case to get into the shoes of Trayvon Martin. I believe a black attorney would have understood that.

This concludes the Trayvon Watch series.