VOTE NOVEMBER 2014 IN MEMORY OF TRAYVON MARTIN (1995- 2012)

Reality is upon us and we are called to action!!! It is important that everyone who wishes to support the memory of Trayvon Martin and his family, do whatever it takes to vote in the  upcoming 2014 November elections. The family and their supporters need all those who are in favor of repealing or amending of the “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida  to show up in huge numbers, even greater than those from the 2012 elections. Vote for Charlie Crist who has openly advocated the reconsideration of both the “Stand Your Ground” law and the minimum sentencing legislated guidelines of the “10-20-life rule!”

UPDATE: Florida Governor, Rick Scott was reelected by a 1% margin on November 4, 2014 in a tidal wave of republican victories.

Stand Your Ground Cartoon
Stand Your Ground Cartoon

Let us do a quick historical review of the “Stand Your Ground” Law.

THE “STAND YOUR GROUND” LAW…….began as a law in 2005 in the State of Florida. It was sitting in the works as a policy to be enacted into legislation by  the NRA and ALEC.  Around 1973, an organization ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council ) was created by conservative icons like the Paul Weyreich and Henry Hyde with backing from major contributors like the Koch Brothers and Exxon Mobile.  The organization ALEC has assisted Republican legislative bodies with many conservative model legislative templates such as:   1.)Promoting ways to dismantle public worker unions in states with Republican majority led legislative bodies as these are  the only big money contributors left who can seriously compete with the big money interests who donate to the Republican party. This includes the promotion of school choice even if the school choices have not been vetted for financial solvency and /or demonstrate a plan for real improvement modeled after current charter schools with outstanding records in impoverished areas around the country such as the Success Schools in New York City; 2.) Promoting voting rules and systems designed to reduce the number of minority folks who vote heavily democrat from having access to the voting booth including the requirement of picture voter identification cards; 3.)Gun rights advocacy including the”Stand Your Ground” Law. This “Stand Your Ground” law which originated in the State of Florida in 2005 has spread to  over  several Republican congressionally led states. This allows  for the use of lethal force without the shooter having to retreat or do anything to avoid the shooting in order to defend themselves especially in their own territory (home) which is referred to as the “castle doctrine.”  In 17 states, even being one’s home or car is not required and the State of Florida is one of them.  Under the traditional self defense laws, a person who feels threatened must use reasonable means to extricate themselves from the situation short of using lethal force; (4.) Promoting the interests of the oil and fossil fuel industry including the discounting of scientific evidence regarding the issue of climate change.

Florida was the first state in 2005 to pass the “Stand your Ground” law  and now 26 states have  adopted some version. The law was developed and marketed for the republican led Florida congress  by NRA and  ALEC on the basis that law abiding citizens in Florida needed protection against the threat of prosecution from someone just protecting themselves and property during the string of Florida hurricanes of 2004.  Challengers of this law asked for an example of just one case in which the above situation was an issue. The answer came in the form of a Mr. James Workman who was protecting his RV during a storm event.  He saw a man whom he perceived to be an intruder which caused him to feel threatened. Consequently, he shot the man to protect himself and his wife. The sellers of this law claimed the poor elderly man and his wife had to wait months worrying about legal repercussions while the prosecution took many months to arrive at a decision. The problem is that the prosecution took three months and the intruder was not just any intruder. Mr. Rodney Cox  was a  FEMA worker and a family man with a great reputation.  No one will ever know what he was doing wondering in the area of Mr. Workman’s RV that evening. The sad thing is that on any other occasion these two men had so much in common including a love for fishing. They could have been good friends. This is how this law came into being with bipartisan support.  Many who voted in favor in 2005 now openly oppose this law.

In 2012, after a lot of protests over the Trayvon Martin case shined a light on citizens concerns regarding this law, Governor Rick Scott did appoint a task force to study and to make recommendations.  The criticism about this task force was that it was just for show with the appointees being biased already in favor of the law.  As expected, the 19 person appointed Governor’s Commission did not recommend discontinuing this law other than a legislative clarification of the requirement that the person asserting the defense not be engaged in “unlawful activity. The recommendations they did make have not been acted upon as of this date. The task force did recommend that police departments and the courts have sufficient training to ensure the law is applied fairly, and that the legislature more clearly define the role of neighborhood watch groups to avoid vigilantism and to fund a study as to how this law has been applied to date, examining the effects of race, ethnicity, sex.  The task force rejected the recommendations of one of their members, Miami-Dade  County State  Attorney Katerine Fernandez-Rundle that  would have restricted the law, including a recommendation to limit immunity from prosecution to defendants who did PROVOKE A CONFRONTATION.  In the final 44 page task force report in the appendix, there is a letter written by Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle.  Ms. Fernandez-Rundle recommends amending with one extra condition the law’s language that says a person has “no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.” That person claiming the right to stand his or her ground has to be the person “who does not initially provoke the force.” In other words, you can’t initiate a confrontation, and then kill somebody because that person fought back and was causing you “great bodily harm.” The commission found no increase in violence due to the  enactment of this law.

“STAND YOUR GROUND” LAW

There are other Florida controversial cases over the “stand your ground” law, including what has happened  to two men who served honorably in our U.S. Military in 2009 & 2010.   (1) In 2009, Ronald Thompson of Keystone Heights, Florida was a 65 Year old army  veteran with 14 years of service and  who logged over 5,000 hours of  volunteer work at the Veterans Affairs Center In Lake City, Florida.  One  day, he noticed his neighbor having difficulty keeping  her grandson and  three of his friends away from her house. He made the mistake of coming  over and of firing two gunshots into the ground to scare them off.  The  Prosecutor, Angela Corey arrested him with charges of aggravated assault; prevailed at trial, and because of the Florida strict minimum sentencing guidelines, Mr.  Thompson was about to be given a sentence of 20 years.  The judge decided to  reduce the sentence but then the reduced sentence was overturned on appeal by the office of 4th Circuit State Attorney, Angela Corey.  Mr. Thompson would still be behind bars for a 20 year sentence  except the Fourth Circuit Judge Don Lester came to the rescue  and granted Mr. Thompson a new trial on June, 2012, on the basis that the jury instructions had been flawed in his original trial regarding the justifiable use of deadly or non deadly force given the circumstances of the case. Mr. Thompson was released while waiting on a decision from Ms. Corey regarding  another trial. Ms. Corey did offer a plea deal. Mr. Thompson accepted it which stipulated a five year prison term with credit for time served. He will be in prison until October 2015 versus the year 2029.

Airman Michael Giles Served in War Zones-Victim Florida Justice
Airman Michael Giles Served in War Zones-Victim Florida Justice

(2.)While Airman Michael Giles, a native of Atlanta, Georgia was stationed in Tampa, Florida in 2010 on active duty, he had been invited to a party in Tallahassee, Florida. While at the club party at the behest of two friends, it became obvious that the atmosphere was volatile. Several brawls had broken out and Michael was separated from the only two people he knew. It was so confusing and ugly that security moved everyone in the club outside.  Witnesses say that there were over 20 people involved in the fighting. Michael did not want to leave his friends behind, so he remained in the sidelines completely out of action. However, in an instant, he was pushed forward by a crowd when someone hit him from behind. In an attempt to escape from the situation, he fired a warning shot from his gun into the air. Witnesses say that there were over 20 people fighting and multiple gun shots were heard. Airman Michael Giles had a legal right to carry a concealed weapon. Also, he is trained in how to assess a dangerous situation and then how to respond accordingly. Because there were other gun shots fired that evening, I have not confirmed that the only bullet fired from his gun was the one which injured his attacker in the leg but this is the allegation. With so many people fighting around him and his attacker close by, Airman Michael Giles fired a warning shot from his weapon to get away from what he perceived to be a dangerous situation and now, he is  serving a 25 year sentence.  During trial, his attacker did state for the record that he did not know Airman Michael Giles and he admitted that Airman Giles did nothing to provoke him. Several witnesses testified that Airman Giles was standing on the sidelines not participating in any way. In addition, they consistently testified that his attacker had been responsible for several fights that evening and that there had been multiple gun shots. The police department representative presented a sentencing recommendation that Airman Michael Giles be granted be probation due to his clean criminal record, his claim of self defense, lack of a violent history, and his service to our country. His Judge stated “Frankly, I think the 25-year mandatory is overly harsh based on the facts of this case, but that’s what the law requires I do and I intend to follow the law.”  Airman Michael Giles Mom has published a response:  “My husband and I are proud military veterans, with a combined 40 years of service, and we were proud when our son also chose to serve his country. Michael completed a tour in Iraq and Kuwait and was looking forward to furthering his career in the military, but now all of that has changed. We believe that we have raised a good man. He had no prior criminal offenses, no history of violence, and was a outstanding father and Airman. So we do not understand how the state of Florida could sentence him to a mandatory 25 years for defending himself.” Former U.S. airman Michael Giles was jailed to 25 years in prison for standing his ground in Florida. He’s been in prison for five years now for what his supporters argue was a simple act of self-defense.

As per Grio, December 4, 2013 by Donovan X. Ramseya, a democrat Florida State Senator Dwight Bullard has written a letter to the current Governor Rick Scott to request clemency for this soldier who has served our country and to date, he has received no response. It is for this reason alone that the current Governor will not earn my vote. If he believes even for one second that the State of Florida is safer because a military hero is serving 25 years, when even the presiding judge stated openly that the sentence is overly harsh but he is restricted by Florida’s minimum sentencing guidelines,( the ” 10-20-life” rule), then Governor Rick Scott does not deserve my vote for his cowardice.

According to a statement to theGrio from Bullard’s office, he has received no response from the governor. “As of yet our office has heard nothing from Gov. Scott’s office. His office has time and again proven non-responsive on issues related to injustice,” Bullard said in a statement to theGrio. “He subsequently has turned a definitive blind eye to high[-]profile plights of injustice involving African-Americans. His lack of intervention on behalf of Marissa Alexander and lack of compassion for the killings of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis have not gone unnoticed by Black Floridians – and all Floridians. So it comes as no surprise that he has been noticeably absent in the case of Michael Giles. Nonetheless I will continue pressing his office and others to take notice of cases like Mr. Giles, Ms. Alexander and others.”

In response, John Tupps, deputy press secretary for Governor Scott, told theGrio, “Florida is at a 42-year low in its crime rate, and Governor Scott works every day to ensure that Florida families are kept safe and have the opportunity to live the American Dream.”

Stand Your Ground Cartoon
Stand Your Ground Cartoon

In 2012, after a lot of protests over the Trayvon Martin case shined a light on citizens concerns regarding this law, Governor Rick Scott did appoint a task force to study and to make recommendations.  The criticism about this task force was that it was just for show with the appointees being biased already in favor of the law.  As expected, the 19 person appointed Governor’s Commission did not recommend discontinuing this law other than a legislative clarification of the requirement that the person asserting the defense not be engaged in “unlawful activity. The recommendations they did make have not been acted upon as of this date. The task force did recommend that police departments and the courts have sufficient training to ensure the law is applied fairly, and that the legislature more clearly define the role of neighborhood watch groups to avoid vigilantism and to fund a study as to how this law has been applied to date, examining the effects of race, ethnicity, sex.  The task force rejected the recommendations of one of their members, Miami-Dade  County State  Attorney Katerine Fernandez-Rundle that  would have restricted the law, including a recommendation to limit immunity from prosecution to defendants who did PROVOKE A CONFRONTATION.  In the final 44 page task force report in the appendix, there is a letter written by Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle.  Ms. Fernandez-Rundle recommends amending with one extra condition the law’s language that says a person has “no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.” That person claiming the right to stand his or her ground has to be the person “who does not initially provoke the force.” In other words, you can’t initiate a confrontation, and then kill somebody because that person fought back and was causing you “great bodily harm.” The commission found no increase in violence due to the  enactment of this law.

Until relatively recently, there has been little attempt to test the assumption of no increase in violence in Florida subsequent to the enactment of this law because murder overall is pretty rare and numbers from just one state can be hard to analyze. However, Mark Hoekstra, an Economist from Texas A & M University has been rigorously  collecting data, studying and analyzing the effects of these “Stand Your Ground ” laws on a national level and he is finding these laws lower the cost of using lethal force.  He has analyzed national crime  statistics to see how states with “Stand Your Ground”   laws differ from those states which don’t have these laws. He compared homicide rates in states before and after they passed these laws. The study found that homicide rates went up by 7%-9% in states that passed these laws in comparison to those that didn’t over the same time period.

Of course, NRA experts have found these studies flawed and without merit. They would refer you to studies done by John Lott or his book of “More Guns,  Less Crime.”  He claims that states adopting “Stand Your Ground” laws have seen their murder rates drop by 9% and overall violent crime by 11% even accounting for a range of other factors such as national crime trends, differences in income and poverty level measures; etc. For what critics say about these studied read the reference below, ” Myths of Murder and Multiple Regression.”

chaim-cartoons-stand-your-ground nana

The Stanford Law Professor, John Donahue, has high praise for this study by the Texas A&M’S Hoekstra.  Mr. Donahue has been studying crime and violence for over 20 years and is working on his own report on “Stand Your Ground” laws and he states that so far,  his results are similar to those found by Hoekstra.  For the past year of 2012-2013, the Tampa Bay Times has been collecting data on almost 200 cases having any possible connection to self defense claims and “stand your ground” laws and they have published several reports.  They report: “Defendants claiming “stand your ground” are more likely to prevail if the victim is black. Seventy-three percent of those who killed a black person faced no penalty compared to 59 percent of those who killed a white.”

A lot of the voices on the right with their talking points are stating that the “Stand Your Ground” statute had no bearing on the Trayvon trial.  I disagree on two points.  While the defense, did not argue this to gain immunity for their client Mr.  Zimmerman prior to trial,  Mr. Zimmerman did benefit in that it was read by the judge as part of the jury instructions which were several pages long, full of legal words sufficient to protect oneself against an appeal but not in assisting  the lay person in having a clear understanding of the law.  This statute is required to be part of any jury instruction involving a claim of  self-defense in Florida. Mr.  Zimmerman also benefited in that it was more than two months after the shooting before he was charged based on the assessment that the prosecution could not win at trial with the evidence at hand because of this law. It is only because of a lot of public pressure, media coverage and public demands, that charges were brought and the police and judicial system and the problems with this law have been put under the public spotlight.

There is a group, “Color of Change”  who have successfully lobbied different companies for associating with ALEC by  accusing them of working to disenfranchise minority and low- income voters and by them also supporting the coordinated proliferation of voter ID laws which effect these groups. “Color of Change” also accused ALEC of encouraging up to 26 other states to enact similar measures to Florida “Stand Your Ground” laws. The Trayvon Martin case is the straw that broke the camel’s back. In 2012,  companies such as Walmart, Coca Cola, Pepsico, Wendys, Blue Cross &  Blue Shield and many others ended their partnership with the conservative group, ALEC.  “The Color of Change” group are still extremely active and increasing in numbers.

Stand Your Ground / Trayvon Martin Cartoon
Stand Your Ground / Trayvon Martin Cartoon

ALEC’s representatives have publicly stated that their organization will no longer participate in these type of political activities. The Koch brothers have instead been actively funding various Tea Party groups to support their various conservative political agendas which would include the “stand your ground” law; voter id laws designed to restrict access to the ballot box; denial of any scientific evidence regarding the validity of climate change. Recently, Yahoo decided to no longer be a member. As per the blog, Seattlepi by Joel Connelly, posted on September 25, 2014, “Yahoo, Facebook and Yelp have joined an exodus of technology companies from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the group that has drafted stand-your-ground and voter ID laws for introduction by conservative state legislators. The first out the door, late in August, was Microsoft.  Google announced on Tuesday that it was quitting ALEC’s Task Force on Communications and Technology:  CEO Eric Schmidt accused the group of “literally lying” about climate change. Yahoo was reserved, very corporate and close to the vest.”

“We have decided to discontinue our membership in ALEC:  We periodically review our membership in organizations and at this time, we will no longer participate in the ALEC Task Force on Communications and Technology,” the company said in a statement.

As per this blog Seattlepi, “a coalition of public interest groups have asked corporate America to quit ALEC.  The movement started to take on momentum in 2012:  The shooting of unarmed 16-year-old Trayvon Martin by neighborhood vigilante George Zimmerman triggered a nationwide discussion of “Stand Your Ground” laws. Amazon.com quit ALEC with a flourish at its 2012 stockholders meeting, as a crowd mobilized by Fuse Washington and other groups cheered when news reached the street. Other dropouts have included such giants as General Motors, Proctor and Gamble and Coca Cola.  All told, 90 companies have parted way with the organization in the past two years. Facebook took a turn-the-other cheek approach earlier this week.”

Dream Defenders At Sit In At Florida capital
Dream Defenders At Sit In At Florida capital
Over a year ago, there were a group of young protesters, “Dream Defenders,”  camping out 24 hours a day in the halls of the Florida Capital State Building demanding the Governor to establish a special session to review these laws.  The Governor response was a recommendation that they pray on this. To end the “Dream Defenders” sit-in, the House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, promised a future hearing on the law before the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.  So far, the  Governor and the Republican majority legislative body are not genuinely motivated to adjust  their attitude which would be counter to their own self interests.  The Governor’s Commission did not recommend discontinuing this “Stand Your Ground” law other than legislative clarification in that the person asserting the defense not be engaged in “unlawful activity.  The Trayvon Martin trial’s outcome did not bring  this law’s application into dispute.  There is little motivation for the Florida Governor  or the Republican majority legislative body who are responsive to Tea Party type Republicans to act.

However there are has been some activity which has not born any real fruit. On October 8, 2013, a Florida Senate Panel approved some modifications to the “Stand Your Ground” law which is a beginning. The bill approved Tuesday, 10/8/2013,  requires local sheriffs to issue guidelines to neighborhood crime watch programs, particularly that participants are prohibited from pursuing and confronting suspects.  It also further clarifies existing language in ‘Stand Your Ground’ that individuals acting as aggressors are barred from using the law as a defense, and removes language so that any bystanders injured by ‘Stand Your Ground’ fire can pursue civil action.  In response to the House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel promise to the “Dream Defenders” to hold a hearing on this issue, the Democrat Representative from Tallahassee filed a repeal, HB 4003. This past November, 2013, a hearing in the Florida house was held, and after  five hours, a House panel defeated the legislation repealing the “stand your ground” law, on an 11-2 vote. The Senate has promised  to sponsor a similar bill in the Spring 2014 which even if it does pass, will go nowhere if the House will not support its’ passage.  However, the committee did approve one change in separate bill. By a 12-1 vote, the lawmakers passed another provision ensuring that people who fire a warning shot when feeling threatened aren’t subject to the minimum mandatory sentencing law called 10-20-Life. It still has not been enacted into Florida law.

As expected, the republicans argue, the citizen has a right to protect themselves and the “stand your ground” law is just one more tool to assist him or her. Opponents of the law explain that not only is the law disproportionately impacting racial minorities but that it encourages the use of violence that could have been avoided.

Any grass roots effort to encourage any improvements to the “stand your ground” law  will  be a monumental effort….Last September, 2013, there was a Sarasota, Florida County Commissioners’ meeting.  During the meeting  three Commissioners wanted to voice their support of repealing “stand your ground” laws with a formal proposal. The Vice Mayor, Willie Shaw introduced a statement which reads, “the City Commission requests that the State Legislature repeal the “Stand Your Ground” statute and establish a more civil approach to governance than afforded under the current statute.”  Mayor Shannon Snyder, former deputy sheriff and fiscal conservative known for his support of gun rights was the only elected official to voice opposition. Then Frances Rice, a retired Army Colonel and attorney began a campaign to recall  Vice Mayor Shaw and the two commissioners who supported him, Suzanne Atwell and Susan Chapman.  A few days later, all of the Sarasota County delegation to the Florida legislature expressed near universal opposition to repealing the “Stand Your Ground” laws. These include State Senator Nancy Detert, R-Venice,  and Representatives, Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota; Doug Holder, R-Osprey; and Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. The Democrat Representative from St. Petersburg, Darryl Rouson offered the only exception in that he said the law did deserve some clarification.

This past August, 2013, the Florida Sheriffs Association announced to the media that there was unanimous support among their group in support of “Stand Your Ground” laws.  This claim resulted from a vote taken at a meeting held by the sheriffs’ association in July, 2013. The Orlando Sentinel recently reported that this claim is under dispute for several reasons. The major reason for the dispute is that many of the top police offices from several large urban areas were not represented at the meeting. Broward Sheriff  Scott Israel told the Sun Sentinel that he would have voted “no” and he supports more restrictive changes to the language of the law.  He states,  “I support an individual’s right to use armed self-defense when faced with the immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury, and without requiring any duty to retreat in one’s own home; however, if there is a safe opportunity in other settings to retreat and de-escalate potentially deadly violence, it should be done.”  Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, told the Orlando Sentinel, “Had I been present, I likely would not have supported the vote.”  According to the Sun Sentinel, not every sheriff present voted and finally, the question they were asked to vote on was confusing.  As Pinellas County Sheriff ,  Jerry Demings has stated, he supports the concept of the law itself but he is open to discussing changes to improve the law.  What I understood was being asked and  voted on was the concept of the law, which I support. But I think there’s room for discussion on possible changes.”  Bob Gualtieri, among others, argues the law shouldn’t cover scenarios “where you are the primary aggressor, or when you’re using deadly force against somebody who is unarmed.”

I believe the “Stand Your Ground ” law at a minimum should reflect what former Florida Governor Jeb Bush believed he was signing in 2005.  On 3/24/2012, former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush told the Dallas Morning News “stand your ground” doesn’t apply  to this case. “Stand your ground means stand your ground. It doesn’t mean chase after somebody who’s turned their back.”  He was responding to a question about the Trayvon Martin shooting situation.

This grandmother believes our judicial system should be enabled to allow for the exercise of judicial discretion and not be bound by restrictive laws which allow for no flexibility or common sense, and / or our Florida prosecutors should worry less about their “hard fighting crime” image and more about doing what is right on behalf of lady justice and the taxpayer. There is such a thing as prosecutor’s discretion.  This grandmother does not feel any safer with the likes of Airman Michael Giles being behind bars for 25 years. I probably would feel safer not being any where near his attacker. Who was sentenced? As a matter of fact, I would be very comfortable in the presence of Trayvon Martin, and Ronald Thompson, all who have paid a terrible price at the whims of Florida justice just so some elected legislator, prosecutor or judge can claim they are not soft on crime while my taxpayer monies are wasted in putting away peoples who are no more of a criminal than I am. Not only am I not feeling protected by these crime fighting techniques, I am embarrassed by how Florida officials have administered justice so cavalierly, unfairly with no sense of equity against at least two of our military heroes and other decent people.

This “stand your ground” law permits folks who fatally shoot others without any witnesses to have virtually the same immunity or benefit of doubt as a police officer. However, if the victim is not fatally shot, the shooter is subject to the strict Florida minimum sentencing guidelines of 10 years just for improperly “brandishing” a gun without discharge during a crime. If you shoot or discharge the gun, the mandatory minimum sentence is 20 years. Hence the 2 cases I described above. Even though two men with military backgrounds who could legitimately claim self defense for themselves or a neighbor, had no intent to harm anyone. In the Airman Giles case, it is alleged that he shot his attacker in the leg, and the veteran Mr. Thompson’s case, no one was hurt. Still, the prosecution showed no mercy, discretion, common sense and intended for these men to serve a minimum prison term of 20 years. It could be argued that a shooter could internalize the message that it would be best if the victim did not survive as long as there were no videos or witnesses to counter any self defense claims.

Does anyone else detect the high level of similarities between how the police and initial prosecution investigations were handled in the (Sanford, Florida 2012) Trayvon Martin and the (Ferguson, Missouri 2014) Michael Brown cases?  George Zimmerman, a former community volunteer safety captain who was taking criminal justice courses and who was savvy regarding Florida law was given the benefit of the doubt at the beginning of the investigation in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Black teenager returning home from a quick stop at a local store when he claimed “self defense.”  This “stand your ground ” law makes piercing someone’s claim of self defense by any party, especially when the deceased victim can’t testify, an extremely high hurdle. To this day, there are still Tea Party Florida Republican Congress representatives stating unequivocally, that not one dot of this law should be altered. Now notice that in both cases, how the bodies of both victims were cavalierly treated for hours after having been fatally shot. In both cases, a thorough unbiased, independent vetting of all witness testimony within 72 hours after the shooting was not done, especially if the testimony would not be favorable to the shooter. Sufficient fact data collection was done simply to insure no surprises. In the Ferguson area, the police did make sure to confiscate all videos. In both cases, there was a concerted effort to uncover any negative backgrounds regarding both victims and to make sure all such information was leaked to the press as soon as possible. Any disclosure/ story regarding the shooters’ version was offered only after all the information had been collected so that all stories could appear consistent with the known facts.

What is the difference between the above two cases and the recent 2014 South Carolina case by which a state trooper Sean Groubert attempted to use the “fear of bodily harm” to justify the shooting of a Black young man, Levar Jones who was stopped at a gas station for not wearing a seat belt?  There was a complete video, from start to finish. as the police car was equipped with a video cam.  It shows that the young man politely followed all the officer’s instructions including reaching into his car to find his driver’s license as instructed by the officer. He was shot 4 times. Fortunately 3 bullets missed. The police officer was immediately fired and he will be facing prosecution. The history of state trooper prosecutions in the State of South Carolina indicates that the odds of this same officer being prosecuted for a felony without the video cam evidence were virtually nil. I am in support of all our police officers being equipped with a video cam. This protects the competent police officers. Our police officers do a difficult job and deal with many difficult and complicated situations. Whenever and wherever possible, they deserve the benefit of the doubt and the support of the community. However, we do pay taxes for a professional, competent, and well trained police force and we expect no less. I DO NOT WANT TO PAY FOR THE POLICE CULTURE AND ACTION THAT I HAVE WITNESSED IN SANFORD, FLORIDA IN 2012 OR IN FERGUSON, MISSOURI IN 2014.

If you care about what happened to Trayvon Martin, please repeat the 2012 surprise voter turnout and send a clear message to our Florida legislators.  There is not a better time to make your voice heard!!!

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