Saturday, March 17, 2012

Social Media Cause célèbre –Trayvon Martin

Photo Credit: Martin Family Memorial Program
It seems as if these legal cases are popping up once a week and spreading through the Webosphere at the speed of light.

To coin a phrase we are becoming “emotional jump-offs” with these stories; we get upset, become impassioned and then we forget about it.

I can’t even tell you the last petition I signed – well that’s not quite true it was something about stopping the GOPs War on Women.

The point is We are becoming a nation of “Clictivist”– which means we are the OCCUPYMOUSE movement taking a seat instead of action. 

The latest event to spur us to clicking, sharing and signing electronically is Slained Black Florida Teen Trayvon Martin –
If you don’t know the story read on.

If you are familiar then there are some suggestions on how we can help at the bottom of this post.

George Zimmerman, 28 who self-identified himself as White/Hispanic shot, allegedly in self-defense, Trayvon Martin, 17, on Feb. 26 in Sanford, FL a town north of Orlando.    

According to reports Trayvon Martin was unarmed.  Sanford Police Sergeant David Morgenstern, says they interviewed Zimmerman but found no reason to arrest him.   Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee says without Probable cause they can’t arrest Zimmerman.  Zimmerman maintains he acted in self-defense. 

According to news reports a newly released 911call indicates someone is begging for his life. If it is Trayvon's voice maybe it will constitute Probable cause that will lead to an arrest.   Chief Lee has forward the case to the State Attorney Norm Wolfinger for further investigation.

According to the Florida of Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; Adam H. Putnam, Commissioner - Grea Bevis, Director
Use of Deadly force for Lawful Self-Defense is clearly spelled out.
According the website, two neighbors got into an altercation. One had a garden hose, the other a concealed firearm. The man with the gun, shot his neighbor and was convicted of aggravated battery with a firearm.  

Further, the statute on justified use of force in connection with use of concealed is also spelled out well on the state’s web site.

Photo Credit: Miami Herald Martin/Fulton
Meanwhile Trayvon Martin’s parents, Martin and Sybrina Fulton have asked the FBI to oversee the shooting investigation, in their words they believe the Sanford Police have botched the investigation.  
News reports indicate Special Agent David Couvertier, Tampa Division is looking into the matter.   His number is listed as (813) 253-1033

If I were reporting on this story–some of the questions I would raise:
Did the police close the case?
Is Zimmerman mentally unstable? Does he have an arrest record?  Zimmerman is licensed to carry a concealed weapon which would indicate that he doesn’t have criminal record but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been in trouble before.   Why did he target Trayvon Martin?  Especially since police reports indicate he was in his car when he first spotted the teen. 

Finally I would remind my audience, just because someone is not under arrest doesn’t mean police aren’t gathering evidence for a possible conviction.
When someone is arrested the next steps:
1)   Arraignment which according to Florida law must be within 72 hours of the arrest. At the arraignment  the suspect will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty – or no content
2)   Depending on the plea – The judge will set a date for a pre-trial or trial –or maybe even sentencing if the person pleads guilty or no contest. 
The judge will also determine if there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.  I’ve actually seen some cases dismissed. It is rare but it could happen.

State Attorney Norm Wolfinger is handling the case now and it is reported he has 3 attorneys and 6 intake officers on the case.  The key to bringing a case to its resolution often lies in the hands of responsible citizens.
Witness: if you or someone you know witnessed the shooting write up your statement while it is still fresh in your mind and contact the State Attorney’s office. (Information below)
Law Enforcement: Familiarize yourself on how you can help the State Attorney’s office.  UPDATE (03/20/12):   MSNBC reports State Attorney  Norm Wolfinger has sent the shooting case to the Seminole County Grand Jury that will convene on April 10Also Martin’s parents contacted the FBI and you might be able to assist them in getting an investigation.  There are specific cases the FBI investigates.  For example – if you know of any civil rights violations by the Sanford Police Department write it up and submit to the Special Agent in charge. (See contact information below) Oftentimes civil rights violation falls under the jurisdiction of the US Justice Department and the FBI is the law enforcement division. UPDATE 03/20/12: MSNBC reports the Justice department and FBI has launched a separate investigation into the shooting death. 
UPDATE 03/23/12 Cause Célèbre Files: Sometimes it takes a woman to do a man's job... Florida State's Attorney Norm Wolfinger steps down. New State Special Prosecutor Angela Corey will now investigate the Trayvon Martin Shooting death ...No word if the case will go to the Seminole country grand jury April 10th as planned.

Media Relations: While it isn’t always easy to keep a story in the public eye keeping in touch with local news directors/ editors/ reporters/bloggers and asking for a follow-up on the story will let them know you are still interested in the outcome.  UPDATE (03/20/12):  MSNBC reports Change.Org Petition calling for the arrest of George Zimmerman got 435,000 signatures

As always Do Stuff That Matters.  Be the solution not the problem.
UPDATE (04/11/12) :  AP is reporting Florida is charging George Zimmerman with Second Degree Murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin- News conference is expected at 6 EDT
Live News Conference Notes:
Special Prosecutor Angela Corey said George Zimmerman is already in custody...No bond is set for the charges brought against Zimmerman at this time.  Maximum sentence for 2nd degree murder is life in prison -but Special Prosecutor Corey says sentencing is not in question. lol! Special Prosecutor Corey just dissed a reporter by reiterating that she thought she was very clear that the prosecution does not discuss any details of an ongoing case... too many details were already released that shouldn't have.. If "Stand your ground" becomes a defense or motion in this 2nd Degree murder case - Prosecutor Corey says she will vigorously fight against it ...Seminole county - is the venue but the decision has not been made whether they will try the case there. They will decide when they pick attempt to pick a :fair and impartial" jury.. (Good Question) Especially since so much information has come out about this murder case. Arrest can only be made on probable cause - Corey says she wished the public would have waited until all the facts were in - many shooting cases don't have an immediate arrest. 

Note:  A few people questioned why the charge wasn't first degree murder -the answer is Premediation.  In an effort for the prosecution to bring a charge of first degree murder they would have to evidence that George Zimmerman plotted and planned to kill Trayvon Martin long before  he met up with him on the fateful day. 

Update (05/03/12) George Zimmerman formal arraignment scheduled for May 08, 2012.  According to reports he has waived his appearance. Zimmerman is expected to plead not guilty.  He remains out on $150,000 bond.  News reports indicate Zimmerman will stand trial for Trayvon Martin's murder in 2013.

Update (05/11/12)  George Zimmerman waived his right to a speedy trial - under Florida law his trial would commence within 175 days of his arrest.  His attorney, Mark O' Mara filed a motion to waive his right and one to request more time to prepare Zimmerman's defense. According Reuters report prosecution isn't objecting the requests. Murder trial may begin some time in 2013

Source articles/Resources:
Office of State of Attorney
Eighteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida
Brevard and Seminole Counties
Seminole Office
101 Bush Boulevard P.O. Box 8006 Sanford, Florida 32772-8006
Phone: 407-665-6000 FAX: 407-665-6004 .
Witness Management Program

The Florida Senate Chapter 776  Justifiable Use of Force

FBI Tampa, FL Special Agent Dave Couvertier

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services- Division of Licensing

Parents of slain black teen want FBI investigation

International Business Times Business/Law

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Justice Department Investigation Is Sought in Florida Teenager's Shooting Death

State Attorney's Offices overwhelmed by emails demanding justice for slain teen

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