Skip to comments.Wendy J. Murphy: Racism worries color our view of Trayvon case
Posted on 05/06/2012 7:54:41 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
This is the conversation wed be having about George Zimmerman killing Trayvon Martin if people werent afraid of being called racist:
Should George Zimmerman have been charged with a crime?
If there were no stand your ground law in Florida, the answer would be maybe because whether Zimmerman acted in self-defense would typically be put to a jury. But stand your ground makes self-defense effectively irrelevant because it is not a self-defense rule, it is a doctrine of immunity that explicitly forbids prosecution of a person, even if he or she uses deadly force, so long as there is a reasonable fear of serious bodily harm OR if such person is enduring a felony that involves the use of force.
Some people say stand your ground doesnt apply because Zimmerman didnt face serious bodily injury given that he seemed OK at the police station soon after the incident.
There is some dispute about the seriousness of his injuries, though his attorney provided medical records showing Zimmerman suffered a broken nose, swollen lip and two lacerations to the back of the head.
ABC News ran a photograph of Zimmermans head injuries that showed a significant amount of bleeding. Even if reasonable people can disagree on whether these medical facts fit the definition of serious bodily injury, Floridas stand your ground law also grants immunity to people who use deadly force to repel a forcible felony. In other words, proof of serious bodily injury is not required. The crime of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, such as a cement sidewalk, is a forcible felony.
Shouldnt a prosecutor file charges whenever an unarmed person dies, and let a jury determine whether a conviction on lesser charges, or an acquittal, is the right result?
In some cases, this makes sense, as when the reasonableness of someones actions under a general self-defense rule is the issue. But under stand your ground prosecutors have no discretion even to file charges. This is a relatively new and different way of approaching prosecutorial decision-making. In the past, if a jury determined that a shooting death involved excessive use of force in self-defense, they would be compelled to at least find a person guilty of manslaughter. This is because the law generally allows individuals to defend themselves from harm using only an amount of force necessary to repel the force being used against them. So, if youre being punched, you can punch back, etc.
Stand your ground gives individuals permission to use more than equal force, and even to use lethal weapons, in certain circumstances. Support for this idea grew out of increasing concern that allowing only equal force was inhibiting weaker people from defending themselves against serious and potentially lethal violence by much stronger individuals, even when the offender does not have a weapon. A classic example of this is when a woman is being raped by an unarmed man. Stand your ground allows the victim to kill her attacker.
If the prosecutor was obligated to respect stand your ground, why did they charge Zimmerman with murder?
Some believe the prosecutor filed excessively serious charges for political reasons because protesters on Martins behalf were angry and were calling for Zimmermans arrest. Some of Martins supporters were also complaining that in similar circumstances, where the victim was not black, an arrest was made quickly and that racism was involved in the decision not to charge Zimmerman sooner.
Does it matter who was the first aggressor?
It could. If Zimmerman physically attacked Martin first, Martin would have had rights under the doctrine of self-defense as well as stand your ground. In other words, this could be a case where stand your ground applies to both men. Martin would not have rights under self-defense or stand your ground if Zimmerman did nothing more than follow him and act suspiciously toward him, even if his suspicion was rooted in racism, because those actions do not justify physical aggression under either self-defense rules or stand your ground.
What evidence indicates who was the first aggressor?
Evidence released thus far indicates Martin was the first to use physical violence. Zimmermans medical records reportedly show that he suffered a broken nose, swollen lip and lacerations to the back of the head. According to the coroner who received Martins body for burial, there were no injuries on his body (aside from the fatal wound) to indicate that Martin had been physically injured by Zimmerman before the gunshot. While this may not establish definitively that Zimmerman did not physically assault Martin, it is some proof that whatever aggression was involved, there was no physical violence that rose to the level of serious bodily injury or forcible felony.
It is possible that Zimmerman brandished a weapon, which could amount to a forcible felony even without causing bodily harm, but there is no evidence that this occurred. In fact, when asked during a recent hearing whether there was any evidence to contradict Zimmermans claim that he was walking back toward his vehicle when Martin Jumped on him from behind, the lead investigator for the prosecution said no.
Why did the prosecutor file charges if she knew Zimmerman had serious injuries and knew his claim about Martin as the first aggressor was not contradicted by the evidence?
Prosecutors sometimes worry more about public perception than doing justice. They also think about getting re-elected and how certain discretionary decisions might influence the feelings of voters in their district. Prosecutors are supposed to act ethically, and they can get in serious trouble if they make decisions based more on politics than law. The prosecutor in this case has been criticized for asking the public to join her in prayer with Martins family and for declaring that she would seek justice for Trayvon. A prosecutor has a duty to seek justice on behalf of the public interest, including the accused. She is also obligated to refrain from making public comments that might taint the jury pool or otherwise cause prejudice to the accused. The prosecutors lead investigator was also criticized after testifying at Zimmermans bail hearing that he never looked at Zimmermans medical records even though the prosecutor has a duty to uncover exculpatory evidence before filing charges.
Whats likely to happen?
If the prosecutions case is not stronger than the evidence thus far indicates, the charges will likely be dismissed before trial because stand your ground allows a defense attorney to file a motion to dismiss all charges without going to trial. Unless new facts are revealed that contradict the evidence thus far released, Zimmerman will win a motion to dismiss, either at the trial level or on appeal.
What about the fact that Zimmerman apparently lied when he testified that he thought Martin was a little younger than he was (28), but on the 911 tape, he says he believed Martin was a teenager? Wont this make it easier for a jury to find him guilty?
Not necessarily. If there is a trial, Zimmermans lie about Martins age will be admitted as evidence against him, but its not likely to make much difference in a case where Martins age isnt a particularly important issue. Martin was over six feet tall; much taller than Zimmerman, which is just as important as age for jurors considering whether they believe Zimmerman feared serious bodily injury or death at the time of the incident.
Zimmerman also apparently lied by omission when he failed to tell the court that he had $200,000 in a bank account. He only had to come up with $15,000 cash to get out on bond because witnesses said he had no money for bail. Then it turned out he had $200,000 in an account that people donated to him for a defense fund. Wont this hurt his credibility with jurors? If there is a trial, the jury wont likely hear about this issue because it isnt relevant to the murder charge. He could get in trouble with the judge, and his bail could be revoked or the amount of bail could be increased, but the judge knows that the vast majority of accused criminals lie about whether they can pay for a lawyer or afford bail without ever getting in trouble. A recent report in Massachusetts found that a vast majority of defendants charged with crimes dont tell the truth about how much money they have. An audit found that most people who get taxpayer funded lawyers dont actually qualify, which means not only that many people who can afford a higher bail are getting out on low bail when they dont deserve it, they are wasting the publics money on attorneys that they can afford to pay, at least in part, themselves. None of this excuses lying, but frankly, it was Zimmermans lawyer, not Zimmerman, who was obligated to tell the court about such defense funds, and he didnt. In fact, he said publicly that he simply never even asked Zimmerman about defense funds. Some people believe this is because the lawyer wanted to make sure the money was available to pay his fees, rather than given to the court for bail. Whatever the reason for the omission, it has nothing to do with the criminal charges.
Wendy Murphy is a leading victims rights advocate and nationally recognized television legal analyst. She is an adjunct professor at New England Law in Boston. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more of her columns at The Daily Beast .
Caution: This is the same (plus “a little work” around, at least, the eyes) Wendy “I’ve never heard a false rape claim” Murphy who embarrassed herself and the legal profession on a weekly basis during the Duke Rape Hoax.
Perhaps she learned a BIG lesson from that episode. It would appear so, from this column, which probably couldn’t be more pro-Zimmerman if it was written by his mother.
The internet never forgets.
Indeed. The only part of the article I would quibble with is her statement that Zimmerman “lied” about his defense fund. I don’t think that’s been proven even in the court of public opinion.
A "lie"? After a couple of sane comments, Wendy reverts to type with her typical jumping-to-conclusions nonsense.
These estimations by Zimmerman refer to two different points in time. His first guess as to Trayvon's age when he was talking to the police dispatcher was based on less information than at the later point in time when the physical confrontation occurred. Why didn't his later estimation become more accurate? Who knows? Maybe Trayvon had a deep voice. Maybe he had been growing facial hair as pictures seemed to indicate. Maybe Trayvon's aggressiveness seemed untypical for a mere teenager.
Zimmerman also apparently lied by omission when he failed to tell the court that he had $200,000 in a bank account.
Zimmerman was in jail until after the time of the bail hearing. Presumably, he didn't have internet access and may have had no idea what monies had been deposited in his web account. However, the existence of his website solicitation was reported in the news and it's surprising his lawyer was not aware of it.
Exactly correct. At best, this analysis is close to neutral, but trending in favor of the Martin camp.
There is nothing new here, but, it does place everything on the table at one time. All the cards are here. It looks like the prosecutor should be in more trouble than Zimmerman.
Zimmerman has to walk, it’s the law.
The Internet really makes it harder to railroad someone than before.
Zimmerman actually de-thugged Florida to some extent..
In a rational world, the city of Sanford would have given Zimmerman a plaque at an awards dinner in his honor.
It’s a shame that there are protected groups. Race should not play any part in this unless there is some proof Zimmerman killed trayvon because he was black. There isn’t.
I.T. looks like the positive Zimmerman article are hitting the presses.....any day now the MSM will start publishing them..../sarc
Three in one week end from the real journalist....the web.
Did you mean the Zimmerman camp?
What about statistics?
Has the burglary rate declined recently?
I certainly don't know all the facts and, though Wendy appears to want to sound impartial, I doubt she knows enough facts to make that statement. I question her reasoning, if not her impartiality.
When the bail issue arose, did George already have $200,000 in donations? Is he expected to be psychic now?
Knowing that this person was also in the thick of the "Duke Rape Hoax" just cements my skepticism about this presumed "expert."
“Zimmerman has to walk, its the law.”
Also, NBC should be charged with obstruction of justice.
Its a shame people do not have equal protection under the law in the US anymore, if we ever really did.
George is in a lose-lose position. If the law says he's innocent, the Jesse Jackass/Sharpie Mau-mau mob will kill him.
If he is sent to prison, his odds are not much better.
I don't believe those statements are true. Even under ordinary self-defense laws it would be illegal to arrest and charge someone without probable cause to believe that the person had acted without a "reasonable man" standard of belief that he was threatened with death or serious bodily harm.
An SYG law only negates the caveat that one must also believe, by the reasonable man standard, that he had no means of escape. It doesn't negate the standards required for probable cause that law enforcement must abide by.