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Resident Breast Inspector
3,285 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Neighbourhood Watch and/or vigilantism gone wrong, Florida gun laws gone wrong or was it reasonable to gun him down 70' from his father's house?


The federal Justice Department will investigate the shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American teenager who was fatally shot in Florida last week by a neighborhood watch captain armed with a high-powered handgun.

In a late-night statement, the department announced Monday its Civil Rights Division, along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida and the FBI, will launch “a thorough and independent investigation into the facts and circumstances of the shooting,” and pledged to “take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation.”

The brief statement, which came only hours after the White House appeared reluctant to insert itself into the situation, also included a caveat for Martin’s family as well as activists and protesters who have demanded justice: There’s no guarantee the acknowledged shooter, George Zimmerman, will end up behind bars for chasing and shooting the 17-year-old student. Zimmerman, has been described by police as white though his family has said he is white and Hispanic.

“With all federal civil rights crimes, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted intentionally and with the specific intent to do something which the law forbids – the highest level of intent in criminal law,” according to the statement. “Negligence, recklessness, mistakes and accidents are not prosecutable under the federal criminal civil rights laws.”

Zimmerman, 28, insisted to police he shot Martin in self-defense Feb. 26 as the two wrestled on a suburban street in Sanford, Fla., a suburban community just north of Orlando. Sanford police have not arrested or charged Zimmerman, who had a permit to carry a weapon.

The shooting of Martin, a baby-faced student with no history of trouble, has outraged the African American community. Stories about Martin’s death — and the Sanford police’s decision not to arrest Zimmerman — blazed across the Internet during the last four days, along with growing calls for President Obama to condemn the shooting.

But hopes that the president would make a statement were squelched during press secretary Jay Carney’s press briefing Monday afternoon. Asked about the shooting, and whether Obama has said anything, Carney was brief.

“We here in the White House are aware of the incident, and we understand that the local FBI office has been in contact with the local authorities and is monitoring the situation,” Carney said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Trayvon Martin’s family, but obviously we’re not going to wade into a local law enforcement matter. I would refer you to the Justice Department and to local law enforcement at this point.”

“This case compromises the integrity of our legal system and sets a horrific precedent of vigilante justice,” Congressional Black Caucus Chair Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said in a statement. “Members of the Congressional Black Caucus stand together in the name of justice for Trayvon. As a nation we cannot, should not, and will not ignore, Trayvon’s brutal murder and the inconceivable fact that his killer remains free. Contrary to the flippant way this case has been handled, his life had meaning and purpose. Trayvon had a family, friends and a future all taken away because of the color of his skin.”

Just before the shooting unfolded last month, Zimmerman told a police dispatcher there was “a real suspicious guy” who looked “like he was up to no good or on drugs or something” in his neighborhood. He told the dispatcher Martin had “something in his waistband.” At the time, Martin was carrying a bag of candy and an iced tea he had just purchased.

Against the dispatcher’s advice, Zimmerman chased Martin, caught him and eventually shot him. Zimmerman told police he drew and fired after Martin started to fight him.

The case has drawn national outrage. A petition asking for Zimmerman’s prosecution has drawn more than 420,000 signatures, and an attorney for the Martin family has asked for an FBI investigation.

At the White House press briefing, reporters pressed Carney on whether Obama himself has expressed his thoughts about the shooting, noting that president said police “acted stupidly” when Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested by a white officer during a confrontation in Cambridge, Mass., in 2009.

Obama’s remarks, however, triggered a fierce backlash: with whites and police unions criticizing the president for siding with Gates, who is black, was arrested in his suburban home after a white officer came to investigate a burglary report. The blowback led to days of coverage, culminating with a “beer summit” between Gates, Obama, the officer and Vice President Joe Biden.

Regarding Obama’s thoughts about the Martin case, Carney said, “I don’t have any conversations to report to you.”


Mediocre Strafer
9,137 Posts
What an incredibly stupid controversy.

The POTUS is being pressed to take a stand on a simple self defense vs homicide charge?!? What's next, his vote on Dancing With The Stars?

And can't the media *ever* refer to a firearm without tacking on the term "high-powered"? Has anyone ever seen a reference to a "low-powered" firearm? Can we start using the expression "high-powered rhetoric" instead?


Wish I were a Leesta too
2,774 Posts
I'm all for self defense and even defense of property in some cases a'la Texas, but this kid was doing nothing illegal. Sounds to me like Mr. Wannabehero intentionally chased down and started shit with him and got in over his head took the pussy way out. looking like you're up to no good does not mean being up to no good. Chasing down someone who doesn't have your stolen possessions in hands is stupid stupid stupid.

Do I think it was because the kid was black? Not really, though I wouldn't rule out the possibility. Sounds to me like the shooter just wanted to be a tough guy and used his balls to make decisions. Race be damned, the guy murdered the kid. He should fry.

That said, the story is horribly written and biased beyond belief. Baby faced? Really? "high powered" handgun? That's an oxymoron. Sensationalism at it's finest. This story is more of an editorial than journalism, but what's new.

2,557 Posts
One thing I found interesting in another article was that Trayvon was up in Orlando because he was serving a week-long suspension from school down in Miami. My sister teaches school down in SoFL. It's almost impossible to get suspended for a week, which means little Trayvon was not quite the inncoent angel he's made out to be. He probably didn't deserve to get killed, but there is a good chance he wasn't just walking back from the store with a bag of skittles.

2,345 Posts
While the boy may have had ill intentions, it appears he didn't act or do anything. If a man pursued me, I would confront him also. Unfortunately it cost him his life. While facts are difficult to sift from all the steaming bullshit the media and politicians have sensationalized, I feel that this situation was a product of Zimmerman, from start to conclusion.

Being a fan of the 2nd amendment and castle doctrine, this is frankly an unsettling case. There will always be those who abuse power, and the law. It isn't hard to provoke a 17 year old boy; hormones ensure that.

These are simply conjecture based opinions on my part, and I hope that the truth of the matter is reached and justice is served ensuring closure. But we all know how rare that is.

15,233 Posts
One thing I found interesting in another article was that Trayvon was up in Orlando because he was serving a week-long suspension from school down in Miami. My sister teaches school down in SoFL. It's almost impossible to get suspended for a week, which means little Trayvon was not quite the inncoent angel he's made out to be. He probably didn't deserve to get killed, but there is a good chance he wasn't just walking back from the store with a bag of skittles.
Maybe he had someone's car stereo...

Premium Member
45,772 Posts
The guy who shot Trayvon is a nutcase. He has made multiple 911 calls in the recent past that turned out to be baseless. He had no training as a community watch leader and was told not to follow Trayvon but did it anyway. Charles Bronson wannabe.

Using him as an example of the gun-owner community is like using a flip-flop wearing squid as the poster boy for the MSF.

15,272 Posts
I do have to wonder why the PD didn't arrest him and the prosecutor isn't pursuing charges (at least at this point).
Not a flight is a bit surprising though

I just wish they'd waited to play the race card until it was actually needed, just get sick of everyone jumping to racial motives right away

2,367 Posts
Not a flight is a bit surprising though

I just wish they'd waited to play the race card until it was actually needed, just get sick of everyone jumping to racial motives right away
The good ole boys over on the Strom Front forum don't want "whites" taking the rap on this one either. George Zimmerman appears to be hispanic.

8,142 Posts
Based upon this story, it sounds like murder to me. Of course, this was a very poorly written article, so it's hard to make a judgment based upon this alone. If the few details this article mentions are correct with no other mitigating factors, the shooter should be in jail right now awaiting a court date.

I'm an ardent defender of the second amendment and the right to defend ones self, but I won't defend a murderer that tries to hide behind a self defense claim.

One thing I found interesting in another article was that Trayvon was up in Orlando because he was serving a week-long suspension from school down in Miami. My sister teaches school down in SoFL. It's almost impossible to get suspended for a week, which means little Trayvon was not quite the inncoent angel he's made out to be. He probably didn't deserve to get killed, but there is a good chance he wasn't just walking back from the store with a bag of skittles.
It's actually quite easy to get suspended from school for a week with all these zero-tolerance policies in school now-a-days. Of course, the boy could have done something pretty bad... But getting suspended from school isn't exactly a terrible crime.

8,142 Posts
Here's a better article that I found with more detail:

Trayvon Martin Exclusive: Friend on Phone with Teen Before Death Recalls Final Moments - ABC News

In the final moments of his life, Trayvon Martin was being hounded by a strange man on a cellphone who ran after him, cornered him and confronted him, according to the teenage girl whose call logs show she was on the phone with the 17-year-old boy in the moments before neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman shot him dead.

Martin's death Feb. 26 has stirred national outrage and protests, partly prompting the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the FBI to open an investigation into the case.

ABC News was there exclusively as the 16-year-old girl told Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump about the last moments of the teenager's life.

"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."

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."

The line went dead. Besides screams heard on 911 calls that night as Martin and Zimmerman scuffled, those were the last words he said.

Trayvon's phone logs, also obtained exclusively by ABC News, show the conversation occurred five minutes before police first arrived on scene. The young woman's parents asked that her name not be used, and that only an attorney could ask her questions.

Martin's father, Tracey Martin, and mother, Sybrina Fulton, listened to the call along with ABC News, ashen-faced.

"He knew he was being followed and tried to get away from the guy, and the guy still caught up with him," Tracey Martin said. "And that's the most disturbing part. He thought he had got away from the guy and the guy back-tracked for him."

The teen was killed by Zimmerman while walking back to his father's fiancés home after stepping out to buy Skittles and some iced tea during the NBA All-Star Game. After weeks of relentless pressure, the Sanford Police have decided to release emergency and non-emergency calls placed during the incident.

"These a**holes always get away," Zimmerman says in a call to a non-emergency number.

Dispatcher: "Are you following him?"

Zimmerman: "Yeah."

Dispatcher: "We don't need you to do that."

An altercation soon ensued. A few moments later a torrent of 911 calls flooded in and Martin was killed by a single bullet. Zimmerman claimed self-defense and has yet to be arrested, stoking outrage and claims of prejudice against the police department.

"When George Zimmerman is arrested, tried and convicted I will get a little rest," Tracey Martin said.

Phone records that indicate the time of the girl's call with Trayvon Martin before his death.

According to a statement by the Justice Department, "The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all of the evidence and take appropriate action and the conclusion of the investigation. … The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted intentionally and with the specific intent to do something which the law forbids. Negligence, recklessness, mistakes and accidents are not prosecutable under the federal criminal civil rights laws."

Nearly half a million people have signed an online petition on urging law enforcement officials to step in and arrest Zimmerman. Protests have played out in the Florida town all week with a large gathering expected Thursday.

Zimmerman violated major principles of the Neighborhood Watch manual, ABC News has learned. The manual from the Neighborhood Watch program states: "It should be emphasized to members that they do not possess police powers. And they shall not carry weapons or pursue vehicles."

According to Chris Tutko, the director of the National Neighborhood Watch program, there are about 22,000 registered watch groups nationwide, and Zimmerman was not part of a registered group, which police were not aware of at the time of the incident.
This definitely sounds like murder to me. I don't know why he isn't in jail right now, or at least charged with murder.

Resident Breast Inspector
3,285 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
Five years since Florida enacted "stand-your-ground" law, justifiable homicides are up

By Ben Montgomery and Colleen Jenkins, Times Staff Writers
In Print: Sunday, October 17, 2010

TAMPA — Two men meet at a park one Sunday afternoon in September. One is playing basketball with his daughter. The other has a gun tucked in his pants.

The two men argue about a kid who's skateboarding. The man with the gun tries to enforce the rules. The other man lunges.

The unarmed man takes his last breath in front of his 8-year-old daughter. Two days later, authorities charge the gun owner with manslaughter.

Case closed? Maybe not.

If history serves, the gunman stands a very good chance in court. The case may not even make it to trial.

That's because of Florida Statute 776.013(3), which took effect five years ago this month. The old law gave you the right to protect yourself with deadly force inside your home. The 2005 law gives you the right to protect yourself in a park, outside a Chili's, on a highway — just about anywhere.

You need only to "reasonably believe" that pulling the tr***** or plunging the knife or swinging the bat is necessary to stop the other person from hurting you.

Reports of justifiable homicides tripled after the law went into effect, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Last year, twice a week, on average, someone's killing was considered warranted.

The self-defense law — known as "stand your ground" — has been invoked in at least 93 cases with 65 deaths, a St. Petersburg Times review found.

In the majority of the cases, the person's use of force was excused by prosecutors and the courts.

Proponents say that means the law is working, allowing people to protect themselves without having to ponder legalities in the heat of an attack. You don't have to wait to see how much of a victim you're going to be. You don't have to wait for the first bone to break.

But the law has also been used to excuse violence in deadly neighbor arguments, bar brawls, road rage — even a gang shoot-out — that just as easily might have ended with someone walking away.

Has it cheapened human life?

• • •

Miami's police chief made a prediction shortly before the law took effect:

"Whether it's trick-or-treaters or kids playing in the yard of someone who doesn't want them there or some drunk guy stumbling into the wrong house,'' Chief John Timoney told the New York Times, "you're encouraging people to possibly use deadly physical force where it shouldn't be used.''

Four years later, Billy Kuch got drunk, so drunk that at 5 a.m. one day he stumbled to the door of the wrong house in a look-alike neighborhood and tried to open it, twice.

Before the "stand your ground" law, homeowner Gregory Stewart would have been expected to hunker down in his Land O'Lakes residence, dead-bolt secure, and call police.

With the law in place, he could use deadly force anywhere he had a right to be, provided he felt threatened with death or great bodily harm. He had no duty to retreat from danger.

Stewart left his wife inside with their baby and stepped outside, gun in hand.

Kuch put his hands up and asked for a light.

"Please don't make me shoot you," Stewart said.

Kuch, then 23, says he might have stumbled. Stewart, then 32, told police the unarmed man took three steps forward.

The bullet ripped into Kuch's chest, nicked his heart, shot through his liver, in and out of his stomach, through his spleen, then out his back. He felt like his body was on fire.

Stewart, when questioned by deputies, began to cry. "I could have given him a light," he said.

The days ticked by, Kuch in a coma as his parents waited for word of a trial. And waited. After two months, the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office decided the shooting was justified and dropped the aggravated battery charge.

Kuch's parents couldn't believe it.

"We're not against gun ownership," said Bill Kuch, 57 and retired from IBM. "But we're against this law that provides someone the right to kill you without prosecution."

Billy Kuch spent more than a month in the hospital.

"The guy is 6-1, 250. I'm 5-9, 165, and I have a 0.3 blood-alcohol level," he said. "Did he really think I was going to be able to take his gun away?"

• • •

Arthur Hayhoe read about Billy Kuch in the newspaper. The executive director of the Florida Coalition to Stop Gun Violence added another file to his growing stack. This shooting wasn't far from his own home.

Hayhoe says the law turns Florida into the Wild West.

"What in the hell is our state government doing passing a law encouraging our citizens to solve disputes with guns?" he said. "This is the right-to-commit-murder law."

Florida was the first of more than 20 states to allow people to defend themselves with deadly force anywhere they had a right to be.

Credit the National Rifle Association. Backed by the influential organization, the "stand your ground" legislation won broad support from lawmakers and praise from then-Gov. Jeb Bush as "a good, common-sense, anticrime issue."

Marion Hammer, the NRA's Florida lobbyist, said the measure was needed to prevent authorities from harassing law-abiding people with unwarranted arrests.

"The law was written very carefully and it means what it says: You have a right to protect yourself," she said.

Drowned out in the debate were the critical voices of law enforcement officials and prosecutors. They worried people would become less sensitive to gun violence and death. They envisioned vigilantism.

After the law took effect on Oct. 1, 2005, a national gun control group launched an ominous advertising campaign warning visitors about "Florida's Shoot First Law."

Hayhoe passed out fliers at Miami International Airport telling tourists to "please take sensible precautions," such as: "Do not argue with local people."

He wrote letters to the editor and started keeping tabs on cases where the new law was applied.

It didn't take long. On Nov. 6, 2005, a Valrico man found himself serving as an unwitting test case.

David Heckman, 65, said he was scared when he grabbed his .38-caliber handgun and wounded his fiancee's ex-husband.

The man had come to Heckman's home, vandalized his car and threatened to break his jaw, Heckman said. He remembers the man taking off "like a skinned rabbit" after getting hit in the thigh.

A jury cleared Heckman of wrongdoing. His defense cost $110,000.

His is one of 35 Florida cases logged by Hayhoe.

"They say this law hasn't made Florida the Wild West," Hayhoe said. "But how many bodies does it take?"

No other group keeps tabs — not the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, not the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. That's problematic, because even academic studies of the effects of the law rely on anecdotes.

And Hayhoe's count is incomplete.

• • •

The Times searched major Florida newspapers and found at least 93 cases in the past five years in which the new law was a factor. Those are just the confrontations that made the papers.

In 57 of them, those who used force were either not charged with a crime or the charges were dropped by prosecutors or dismissed by a judge before trial. Seven other defendants were acquitted.

Some people fought off intruders in their homes or businesses, which would have been allowed even before the "stand your ground" law.

The use of force resulted in 65 deaths.

Did the law empower the users of force to shoot? Could the tables have been turned on the shooters? If not for the law, would any of those 65 people still be alive?

How can anyone know?

What is known: Reports of justifiable homicides in Florida have spiked.

For the first half of this decade, the state counted an average of 34 justifiable homicides a year, as few as 31 and as many as 43.

That continued in 2006, the law's first full year.

But the next three years brought these numbers:

2007: 102.

2008: 93.

2009: 105.

The first six months of 2010: 44.

"I have always predicted that they would increase as more and more gun owners learn what they can do with this law," Hayhoe said.

• • •

One of those numbers: Michael Frazzini, 35, Cape Coral, father of two, decorated Army helicopter pilot who served five tours of duty. Now dead.

Frazzini's elderly mother thought a 22-year-old neighbor was disturbing her property. One night in 2006, Frazzini stopped by to check things out.

The neighbor later told authorities that he encountered Frazzini wearing a camouflage mask and wielding what looked like a pipe. The neighbor pulled a knife.

The neighbor's father came out next and, thinking the masked man might attack his son, fired one shot from his .357 revolver into Frazzini's chest.

Frazzini died in his mother's back yard. The pipe turned out to be a 14-inch baseball bat.

The shooter walked away uncharged. A prosecutor said nobody involved in the decision felt good about it. Neither did one of the law's co-sponsors.

"The intent is that you can only use the same amount of force as you believe will be used against you," Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, then a state representative, said at the time. "It certainly wasn't that you can shoot and kill somebody wielding a souvenir baseball bat."

Maybe so. But there is no provision specifically barring someone with a permit from bringing a gun to a knife fight, let alone to a brawl that starts with fists.

That's just one of the problems with the law, according to an analysis in the January 2009 University of Miami Law Review.

Here's another: In many instances where deadly force is used, there are two witnesses and one of them is dead. That leaves one version of events, from a person motivated by self-interest.

The Times' analysis indicates that the law has provided legal cover not just to those fending off attacks by strangers, but also to those who pull a gun in a storm of machismo and adrenaline.

Fights at house parties and a pool hall. Neighbor disputes. Disagreements at a park.

One of the law's biggest critics is Willie Meggs, the state attorney for six counties in the Panhandle. He says he's a strong believer in gun rights but thinks the law is just another valuable tool for killers. The old law was working just fine, he says. He petitioned the Legislature to address the law last year. Nothing.

"Gangsters are using this law to have gunfights," he said. "That's exactly what this law breeds."

In 2008, two gangs in Tallahassee got into a shoot-out. A 15-year-old boy was killed. A judge dismissed charges against the shooters, citing "stand your ground."

"Before this law, we would have had a duty to avoid that," Meggs said. "I should not meet you in the street for a gunfight."

He says it devalues human life.

Is that measurable?

Asks Peter Hamm of the Brady Campaign: "How many killers getting off scot-free is enough to change the course of society?"

• • •

Without a "stand your ground" instruction manual, it has been up to police, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges to put the law into practice.

That has left a lot of room for conflicting interpretations about when and how immunity should be applied.

Take the case of Jimmy Hair.

In 2007, he shot a man who attacked him outside a Tallahassee nightclub. Meggs' office accused him of murder. Hair spent two years in jail awaiting trial before an appeals court dismissed the charge.

The NRA's Hammer said he never should have been prosecuted.

"There is nothing wrong with the law," she said. "Some of the state attorneys and law enforcement officers are complaining because they can't just go arrest everybody and sort it out later."

The Florida Supreme Court is being asked to clear up some of the confusion.

This month, justices heard their first "stand your ground" case. An Okeechobee County man says he injured a woman with a broken beer bottle after she first smashed it on his head.

Only issues of legal procedure are before the court. Justices have not yet weighed in on the wisdom of the law, which asks prosecutors to examine something as nebulous as a man's state of mind.

For Heckman, the Valrico man who shot his fiancee's ex in the thigh, its merits are already apparent.

"If I didn't have that gun," he said, "I would have been hurt very badly or I would have been killed."

• • •

What, then, was Trevor Dooley's state of mind when he went to a park in Valrico last month with a gun to confront a skateboarder?

Dooley, 69, had a permit for the gun, and no law bars him from taking it to a park.

Authorities say he shot David James dead.

What was James, 41, thinking when he lunged toward Dooley? What was Dooley thinking James was thinking?

Did Dooley "reasonably believe" that the younger, b*****, stronger man would take his gun and harm him?

Only he knows.

And whether he is punished for gunning down a father in front of his daughter in a park on a sunny Sunday afternoon will more than likely come down to what he says he was thinking in those few seconds before a man died.

Habitual line-stepper
11,594 Posts
I really don't see how this has ANYTHING at all to do with race. I didn't listen to the 911 call, though.

Anyways, the kid was black. Big deal. Most people in this country don't even notice crap like that any more. I love how since the kid was black, people want Obama to get involved. And the black caucus (which, honestly, should not even really exist in my opinion).

It's complete bullshit. We can condemn this guy all we want.... but I want him to get a fair trial. The more internet and media coverage he gets, the less likely it is for him to get an impartial jury.

Habitual line-stepper
11,594 Posts
Justifiable homicides are up? Maybe that means less innocent people are being jailed for defending themselves.
Justifiable homicides are up.... but so is the number of unemployed people who are more desperate, which can create a lot more crime.

The article was written to condemn the "stand your ground" law. And they site a couple examples of people supposedly getting killed wrongly.

But if I walk outside and find a guy in a mask holding a weapon.... I don't care that he's a decorated war veteran.

And if a guy come to my porch and is totally drunk and banging on the door, there's a damned decent chance he might have done something to deserve getting shot.

All these "tragic accidents" might have happened without the law in place. And really, most people don't even know about the law, I would bet. It's probably more a sign of the times- high unemployment and higher crime- than anything else.
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