Medical Examiner from Trayvon Martin Case Plans $100M Lawsuit

Dr. Bao in court - courtesy of WFTV.com

Dr. Bao in court – courtesy of WFTV.com

 

From the very beginning, the case against George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin was beset by the specter of racism. Even before the trial, Zimmerman was already enjoying the bonuses of being a non-Black criminal suspect when police declined to charge him with murder until after enough people started complaining and petitioning.

So it is little wonder that the medical examiner who testified in the case, Dr. Shiping Bao, has recently accused the medical examiner’s office (the head of the office, presumably), state attorney’s office, and the Sanford Police Department of bias against Martin, according to WFTV.com. The WFTV.com article goes on to say:

Attorney Willie Gary said Dr. Bao was made to be a scapegoat and was wrongfully fired from the medical examiner’s office. He said his client was prepared to offer proof that Martin was not the aggressor.

“He was in essence told to zip his lips. ‘Shut up. Don’t say those things,'” Gary said.

What’s especially interesting is that the medical examiner’s office has never given a public statement as to why Dr. Bao was fired, which leads one to infer that he may have been fired for expressing his discomfort for testifying in a manner that helped the police and Zimmerman. He was the one who examined Martin’s body, so his testimony was meant to help the jury understand what happened the night Martin was shot.

It’s also important to note that his testimony took some twists and turns during the trial, as reported by WFTV.com:

On the stand, Dr. Bao changed his testimony about key statements he’d made and said he’d changed his mind about Martin only being alive for as many as three minutes after the shooting.

Dr. Bao and his attorney are now planning on suing for $100 million. The reports I read didn’t specify who they are suing, but it seems likely that it will be the current medical examiner’s office head, or the county the case took place in. There are very few news reports on this so far, which is strange since you’d think this story would be huge given it has to do with the Zimmerman trial.

There is also a video of the report at WFTV.com.

I’ll post any updates I find.

Matt Damon Talks New Film, Stand Your Ground Law and Trayvon Martin Case

Photo courtesy of media.tumblr.com

Photo courtesy of media.tumblr.com

Watch video of politically savvy actor Matt Damon express disappointment in Pres. Obama’s second term. He also criticizes the Stand Your Ground law in regards to the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case. 

“Stand Your Ground” Defense Doesn’t Work for Everyone

Photo courtesy of BET.com

Photo courtesy of BET.com

 

Marissa Alexander is many things- a black woman, a mother, a domestic abuse survivor, and a violent criminal serving a 20-year bid.

Her crime in the eyes of a jury that took only 12 minutes to render their verdict was three counts of aggravated assault with a firearm, according to TheGrio.com. The thing is, no one was actually hurt. That’s unless you consider a ceiling a person.

It all happened during a confrontation between Alexander and Rico Gray, her then-husband, in which she felt threatened. Considering the fact that Gray had a history of abusing her physically, it is not hard to understand why she may have been frightened.

So, in the course of the confrontation she took out a gun and fired it above her husband’s head, presumably to scare him off, since she never once aimed at him directly. His two children happened to be in the room during the incident, hence the three counts, though the children were never hurt, either.

A typical self-defense case? In the eyes of many, yes. A Stand Your Ground-worthy case? In the eyes of the law, it should have been. In fact, Alexander attempted to use the law as her defense, but the judge in the case rejected it. TheGrio.com explains the outcome of the case:

“The fact that Alexander, a domestic violence victim, was denied use of ‘Stand Your Ground’ to facilitate her claim of self-defense has served as an example for some of how the law is not equally applied to all races and all genders.”

The fact that George Zimmerman actually did shoot someone, and that person died, yet Zimmerman is walking free doesn’t make much sense in comparison to Alexander’s case. Zimmerman shot and killed someone “in self defense” who was smaller than himself and was unarmed; Alexander fired a warning shot in self defense that didn’t hit anyone and was not intended to hit anyone, while trying to protect herself from someone who had battered her before. Yet she’s in prison and he’s not.

Fortunately for Alexander, Florida State Senator Dwight Bullard also sees this as an imbalance of justice. According to TheGrio:

“State Senator Dwight Bullard sent letters to three members of the governor’s cabinet Monday, requesting that Alexander be granted a pardon and released from prison.  The letter was sent to Attorney General Pam Bondi, the state’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Attwater, and the Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putman.”

Under the Florida constitution, the governor has the authority to give pardons. In the letter, Bullard writes:

“[Alexander] was denied a defense under Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ protections, and was found guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.  Surely Ms. Alexander had a clear right to defend herself and not retreat from the middle of an altercation in which her life and safety were at stake.”

So what are the chances the pardon will be issued? Bullard is optimistic, saying that the work of the Dream Defenders (a group of young activists fighting to have Stand Your Ground repealed) has helped bring more exposure to Alexander’s case. He says:

“When [the Florida government] looks at the facts of the case it’s obvious, and that’s what gives me optimism,” says Bullard, “Opponents of ‘Stand Your Ground’ didn’t have much to look forward to [after the Zimmerman verdict] but between the success of the Dream Defenders who have been protesting for weeks in the capital, people are now doing a serious analysis of the flaws in ‘Stand Your Ground’ and this will carry over to Ms. Alexander’s case.  For the everyday citizen [it] is hard to understand how one person [George Zimmerman] goes free claiming self defense for killing an unarmed teenager and another person goes to jail for killing no one.”

“These facts should create an uneasiness and from the political standpoint it would be in the best interest of the governor to pardon Ms. Alexander.”

There are several petitions on Alexander’s behalf calling for a pardon, as well.

Parents of Trayvon Martin Reach Settlement With Homeowners Association

Trayvon Martin's parents - courtesy of www.chron.com

Trayvon Martin’s parents – courtesy of www.chron.com

 

From NewsOne.com

The parents of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin have settled a wrongful-death claim with the homeowners association of the Sanford gated community where their son was gunned down by neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012, reports the Chicago Tribune.

According to numerous reports, the settlement is believed to be more than $1,000,000, but the amount was redacted on public documents and Attorney Benjamin Crump would not confirm when asked.

As previously reported by NewsOne, Trayvon’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, filed suit against the Retreat at Twin Lakes subdivision in August, 2012.

Under the heading “Neighborhood Watch,” the neighborhood’s newsletter’s recommended that residents first call police and then “please contact our Captain, George Zimmerman … so he can be aware and help address the issue with other residents.”

Their endorsement of Zimmerman, who claims to have been acting in that capacity when he profiled, stalked and ultimately killed the unarmed 17-year-old, left them vulnerable to legal action.

For the full story and a video, go to NewsOne.com. 

UPDATE: Dream Defenders Score Victory: Florida Lawmakers To Review ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws [VIDEO]

Possible Display of Trayvon Martin’s Hoodie In African American History Museum

National Museum of African American History and Culture - courtesy of imblacknitravel.com

National Museum of African American History & Culture – courtesy of imblacknitravel.com

The director of the National Museum of African American History & Culture has expressed interest in displaying the hoodie Trayvon Martin wore on the night he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, according to NewsOne.com. Director Lonnie Bunch said of the hoodie to The Washington Post:

“It became the symbolic way to talk [about] the Trayvon Martin case. It’s rare that you get one artifact that really becomes the symbol.”

Rev. Al Sharpton, who had a pivotal role in bringing national attention to the case, has said he’d like the hoodie preserved, as well.

The museum is currently under construction in Washington, D.C., and is scheduled to open in 2015.

How We Are All Connected & How Trayvon Need Not Have Died

A blogger friend of mine shared this video with his readers on his blog, The Oneness of Humanity. I felt quite a strong reaction to it, and wanted to express my thoughts about its message.

From the “Overview Effect” documentary (see above):

Many of the great wisdom traditions of the Earth have pointed to what we are calling the “overview effect.” That is to say that they have come to realize this unity, this oneness of all life on Earth and of consciousness and awareness.”

As the speakers in the documentary say, this doesn’t necessarily have to be a spiritual or religious belief- it can simply be a “cognitive shift” in your way of thinking. Either way, it is a worthy change in the way we see the world.

I wonder what would happen if every person in America thought about themselves, each other, and the Earth in this way. Would we have people shooting each other? Would Trayvon Martin have been killed? If George Zimmerman saw himself as being connected with Trayvon, as being “one” with him, would he have shot him?

This all may sound very silly to American ears, but why should it be silly? Are we not all made of the same things, the same materials with which the whole Earth is made from?

Another speaker in the documentary talks about how “the self” and “others” are not really separate. We are simply “a manifestation of the whole.” Again, this may sound completely foreign to the American ear- that’s because it is foreign to us. There’s nothing wrong with being independent and self-reliant, but when we take that concept to its extreme, we run into trouble. If George Zimmerman had felt a deep connection or “oneness” with Trayvon, he would never have shot him that night. He wouldn’t have even been carrying a gun in the first place. And racism would not exist.

I’m not saying that I believe that we will get to a point where everyone in America, and every person in the world, will ever live their lives with these principles in mind. But, I truly believe that if enough of us do it, it will make a profound difference in this world.

Stand Your Ground: An Explanation of the Law

Image courtesy of wtxl.com

Image courtesy of wtxl.com

 

The Stand Your Ground law (specifically the version used in Florida, location of the Zimmerman trial) has been talked about and referred to a lot in recent weeks, and especially after George Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict. The problem, though, is that many news outlets have not adequately defined and described the law. In order to fully understand the events that led up to the trial, the crime itself, and the verdict, one needs to understand that law. So, this post is to help explain the law for readers.

According to usnews.nbcnews.com:

Normally, a citizen has a duty to retreat when confronted with what they perceive to be deadly force. The Stand Your Ground doctrine mostly removes that, meaning citizens who feel threatened are no longer required to try to quell a situation first before having the right to use deadly force in self-defense.

There are three parts to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law:

  1. It states that a person is presumed to have reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm when using defensive force if an intruder has broken into his or her home or vehicle and is justified in using force.
  2. It states that a person does not have a duty to retreat if he or she believes death or bodily harm is imminent.
  3. It provides immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.

The parts of the law that directly apply to the Zimmerman case are the 2nd and 3rd. In the time period immediately after Trayvon Martin’s death, Zimmerman was initially not charged with a crime because he was deemed, based on his description of the altercation and shooting of Trayvon, to be innocent of any crime. He claimed that he felt so threatened by Trayvon (although he is older and much larger in stature than Trayvon) that, after trying to fight back, he simply had to shoot Trayvon to death. Under the 2nd part of the Stand Your Ground law, this is permissible. Therefore, based on the 3rd part of the law, he was immune to a criminal prosecution of Trayvon’s death. He was only charged with a crime after the outpouring of public frustration and anger over the law.

It is very interesting to note that while Zimmerman’s defense team never used Stand Your Ground as a criminal defense in court, the judge instructed the jury to keep the law in mind anyway, causing at least one juror’s decision to be swayed by it. If that doesn’t constitute injustice, I don’t know what does.

Also important to note: this law was enacted with copious amounts of support from the National Rifle Association under a Republican-dominated state legislature in Florida. Florida was the first state to enact the law in 2005. In all, 22 states have since enacted this kind of legislation, according to CNN.com.

In any event, this “shoot first, ask questions later” law is unjust and should be removed from the books immediately.

Stevie Wonder Boycotts Performing in Florida Over Zimmerman Not Guilty Verdict

Stevie Wonder – photo courtesy of comicvine.com

 

According to Slate.com:

On Sunday night, Stevie Wonder declared that he would not perform in Florida until the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law is abolished. His boycott is politically savvy, morally righteous, and it could be enormously important.

While Stevie Wonder’s boycott of an entire state might have exerted real pressure in, say, 1976, in 2013 it’s almost entirely a symbolic act. But symbolic acts are often the first step toward kicking off concrete ones, and we should imagine what would happen if like-minded artists followed suit.

Beyoncé in 2013 might not be Stevie Wonder in ’76 but she’s not far behind, and her husband is said to be a figure of some renown. Rihanna’s 8.4 million Instagram followers felt her outrage on Sunday. If these [and other] artists were to join in Wonder’s boycott, the bottom lines of club promoters and festival organizers and concert arenas would start to look different in a hurry.

Stevie Wonder went on to say that he will not perform in any state that has Stand Your Ground laws in place.

As the article discusses, this may be more symbolic than anything else since Stevie Wonder has not released an album in quite a few years. This may also seem to some like a publicity stunt, but Stevie Wonder actually has quite a deep history with the Civil Rights Movement, according to Slate.com:

Stevie Wonder, some people might scoff, should stick to making music. But Wonder is one of the two or three most important American musicians walking the earth (Bob Dylan, maybe Aretha Franklin; end of list), with an unsurpassed track record for melding music and activism.

In 1961, a year before “Little” Stevie Wonder released his first album for Motown Records, two of the biggest stars in American music, Sam Cooke and Ray Charles, made headlines by refusing to perform before segregated audiences in the Jim Crow South; Charles opted to pay a breach-of-contract fine rather than sing in Augusta, one of the largest cities in his home state.

In the 1980s, Wonder was the musical spearhead of the campaign to make Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a federal holiday, and lent his talents to USA for Africa and the American Foundation for AIDS Research.

So his decision doesn’t appear to be a “Dancing With the Stars” kind of grasp for the spotlight. Seeing that his decision has made headlines in the news, other stars who decide to participate will likely bring more media attention, and more financial pressure on music venues, to result in some real change. Obviously, it won’t only be up to celebrities, but their high visibility and influence on fans could definitely help.

Stevie Wonder’s decision is an incredibly brave one. It will be interesting to see if other celebrities are brave enough to do the same.

The George Zimmerman Trial: We Want a Rematch

Protesters after Zimmerman not guilty verdict (courtesy of the Grio.com)

Protesters after Zimmerman not guilty verdict (courtesy of TheGrio.com, AP Photo/David Goldman)

 

According to TheGrio.com: 

The Justice Department said Sunday it is looking into the shooting death of Trayvon Martin to determine whether federal prosecutors will file criminal civil rights charges now that George Zimmerman has been acquitted in the state case.

For civil rights advocates and anyone else passionate about this case, this is welcome news.

George Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict was a sickening shock to many people, yet not wholly unexpected. To many watching the news at home, the killing of Trayvon Martin was a matter of race, with “self-defense” being merely a side issue. Yet, the trial was conducted in the complete reverse. It was revealed on the Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC) that the judge dismissed any mention or evidence pertaining to racism being a factor in Trayvon Martin’s death!

Is it any wonder, then, that Zimmerman was found not guilty? It is quite likely that if both Zimmerman (who is half Hispanic and half white) and Trayvon (black) were both white, the incident would have appeared very differently. If, for instance, Zimmerman had seen a hooded figure walking late at night and knew at some point, before any physical contact, that Trayvon was white ( in our hypothetical case), and had confronted him, what would’ve happened? Perhaps Zimmerman would have not done anything and went home. Perhaps he would have just asked Trayvon what he was doing, then called the police. Or, maybe he would have asked  Trayvon what he was doing, heard an unsatisfactory response, and somehow ended up in a physical fight. Let’s say that, for whatever reason, Zimmermann shot Trayvon during the brawl. Then the case goes to trial. In this scenario, the case would very well have centered around Zimmerman’s self-defense claim.

Self-defense arguments in court are successful only when the accused person can prove that he used force (a gun, for instance) against another person because he was in fear for his life and could find no way to escape. The the use of force must be a last resort. Self-defense is also only provable if the amount of force used to defend oneself is sufficient to end or pause the attack, but not meant to kill the attacker. So intent is also relevant. If the intention of the one being attacked is to kill the other person, that is not self-defense. If the intent is to simply stop the attack, then that is true self-defense.

So, in our hypothetical case, let’s say Zimmerman really was afraid. First of all, Zimmerman in not a small man, so the idea that he was truly frightened by a very young, skinny kid just isn’t plausible. The fact that this large, grown man was also armed makes the “frightened” scenario even less plausible. What is also problematic about his self-defense claim is that true self-defense requires that the person being threatened use only necessary force to end the attack long enough to escape, not to kill. Was it necessary, then, for Zimmerman to have shot Trayvon to death, or did he intend to kill him? It seems he did. Even the Stand Your Ground law shouldn’t have helped Zimmerman here because he chose not to use it in the trial. He used Stand Your Ground initially with success, which allowed him to go free without a trial. But once he was officially charged, his legal team used self-defense as his reason for the killing.

My blogger friend, The Secular Jurist, recently posted an article about Stand Your Ground and it’s influence on the trial. He mentions in his post that Judge Debra Nelson issued the jury these instructions during the trial:

If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

That is the definition of the Stand Your Ground law. What’s odd is that, though Zimmerman’s lawyers didn’t use that as a defense, the judge instructed the jury to consider it as a defense anyway!! And, lo and behold, they did, according to cfnews13.com:

While the defense did not use the Stand Your Ground law in Zimmerman’s trial, Juror B37, the only juror to speak out, told CNN that law was considered, along with the self-defense law, when the jury made its decision.

Race also very much complicates things. Because Zimmeriman is not black and Trayvon was, the question of intent becomes even more muddied. If Zimmerman is racist, then his mindset was not just on protecting his neighborhood (which he claimed in the trial), but on keeping “dangerous” black people out. So when Zimmerman saw this hooded black kid in his neighborhood, he wasn’t just thinking “intruder.” It is extremely likely that Zimmerman would not have physically confronted Trayvon at all, other than maybe asking for his name, if hadn’t been black. The fact that it become physical and that one person ended up dead says to me that Zimmerman’s actions went above and beyond what was necessary in every moment of that incident, and that his actions were excessive because of Trayvon’s race.

Judges are smart people (we assume). They have law degrees and usually have been lawyers for several years before becoming judges. So what went into the decision to exclude race from the trial proceedings? What were the judge’s motivations? Only she knows for sure, but she must have known that the task of obtaining a guilty verdict would be made more difficult by the exclusion of race. So why? And how could a decision like that even be allowed in a trial? Hopefully, the Dept. of Justice will consider that when they decide whether on not to take this case.