Friday, March 30, 2012

Probable Cause

Good god! How much “probable cause” do you need to arrest a confessed killer with a police record who just shot an unarmed teenager after pursuing him against advice and shooting him with a gun he was not supposed to be carrying while acting as an unsupervised and illegitimate community watchman? Oh, I forgot, it was a Black teenager carrying some ice tea and skittles, an obvious threat to an armed Hispanic adult who outweighed him by probably at least 60 pounds, perhaps even more.

Well, the boy is dead, the killer is free after pleading his right to “stand his ground,” because he felt threatened, an explanation immediately accepted by the police without any investigation whatsoever. An investigation was finally begun after the fact. I have not seen even one scintilla of evidence that the killer’s story is true, a story that completely defies credibility in the first place. As the facts begin to emerge (after the fact, of course) they contradict virtually every part of the killer’s claim. He was clearly not standing his ground as it is known he was pursuing the boy against the clear advice he was given not to do so. He was obviously the aggressor. He claims he had turned around and was walking back to his car when the (known to be frightened) boy supposedly attacked him (presumably after putting his tea and skittles down) with a single punch that broke his nose, knocked him down, to have his head beaten against the concrete. There is no evidence he had a broken nose, no evidence his head was smashed against concrete, the encounter took place on the grass, and he showed no visible signs of damage when videotaped half an hour after the episode took place. There is certainly no evidence he was attacked so savagely as to have to shoot the boy to death. It is clear from the cell phone conversation the boy had with his girlfriend that he was afraid and knew he was being pursued. His pursuer was not in uniform and could have been anyone. At least two eyewitnesses heard the boy cry for help and scream before two shots were heard and the screaming stopped. If all of this does not constitute probable cause it is difficult to imagine what else might be required. The coroner that prepared the boy’s body for burial reports there were no signs of violence apparent on the boy’s hands, face, or body. In fact, there was probable cause for an arrest at the scene and the probable cause by now is overwhelming.

What makes this case even worse is the inept handling of it from the beginning. The main arresting officer did not believe the killer’s story and filed a report calling for a manslaughter charge. But no such charge was filed as it was apparently overridden by the Prosecuting Attorney (who then recused himself). The Chief of Police decided to step aside temporarily. The arresting officer told the mother of the 13 year-old who witnessed the crime that it was definitely not a question of self-defense and there “was some stereotyping involved.” While it is commendable that the current Prosecutor wants to make sure she gets it right and do the right thing, the only reason she is hesitating I can imagine is that the case is likely to prove to be a scandal for the police, the original prosecutor, and the entire justice system that is involved. We now know, for example, that the Mayor had to override the police and the prosecutor to get the 911 tapes released (why should this have been resisted). We also know the fact that Zimmerman was handcuffed and taken to the police station in handcuffs means he actually was arrested and somehow became mysteriously “unarrested,” apparently an impossibility under Florida law.

I do not know that I have all of this information correct, but to the best of my knowledge it is. There is no doubt in my mind that a terrible miscarriage of justice was about to happen, may even happen yet. The law the killer is trying to invoke (that doesn’t even apply in this case) should more properly be called “The Stand Your Ground and Kill Blacks at Will, Bill.” It is an incredibly stupid law and I’m sure there must have been warnings about what it might lead to if enacted (in fact, these kind of killings have increased threefold since it was passed). Remember, the bill says if you (merely) feel threatened you have the right to act, including shooting someone who is threatening you. Who is it that routinely threatens American citizens? Black men, of course, and young Black males in particular. This may be unpleasant to admit but in contemporary American culture it is an unfortunate fact of life.

It is also a matter of our own making, festering for years. You have a population discriminated against for years, with massive unemployment and poverty, little or no hope for any future, some of whom inevitably take to drug dealing, delinquency and crime, thus providing a stereotype and an excuse for even further discrimination. By employing drug laws discriminatory and otherwise, and by a system of justice that is itself discriminatory (as I suspect is the case in the Trayvon Martin case), we have managed to put as many Black men as possible in prison, but as we can’t manage to put them all in prison (it’s getting too expensive among other things), what better way to proceed that to just declare open season on them. Thank the (totally irresponsible) leadership of the NRA, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and I suppose, unhappily, the good voters of Florida for creating this monstrosity of a law that has now spread like a cancer to 26 other states (I think). Just think, if President Obama were foolish enough to go out alone at night, it could happen to him as well.

Opinions founded on prejudice are always sustained with the greatest of violence.
Francis Jeffrey

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