The shooting death of Trayvon Martin has been called everything from a national tragedy to a national disgrace; a hate crime with more and more rallies taking place everyday calling for George Zimmerman’s arrest and justice for the victim and his grieving family.
President Barack Obama has also weighed in on the issue, leaving behind the sound bite, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.”
But absent from most of the discussions, most of the rallies, most of the righteous anger and all of the remarks from an increasing plethora of Black leaders and media figures is the other national disgrace — the abominably high murder rate among young Black males.
“This is an epidemic that’s been going on too long,” said Mayor Michael Nutter in a recent interview. “And unfortunately, you will find African-American males at the bottom of good categories and at the top of negative categories.”
Last Thursday, Mayor Nutter spoke at a rally in Love Park regarding the Martin killing. Nutter said people are concerned over Trayvon Martin, but also need to be outraged over what’s happening on their own street corners.
“How is it possible that thousands of Black men, thousands of Black people, [are] killed every year, and no one says a word?” asked Nutter in a published report.
Community leader and anti-violence activist Bilal Qayyum, who is also working with other community leaders on the new media campaign Live and Let Live: Promoting Peace and Eradicating the Culture of Violence, also questioned the Black community’s lack of outrage over the meaningless killings that happen in its neighborhoods every single day.
“Everyone is angry about what happened to this kid Trayvon Martin in Florida, but I tell people that in Philadelphia in the last ten years we’ve had 3,760 people killed. And over 2,600 of them were Black males,” Qayyum said. “Where’s the anger about that? In Chicago, there were a bunch of shootings just a couple of weekends ago and again, mostly Black males killing other Black males. Where is the outrage over that?”
The Black genocide taking place in the African-American communities didn’t happen overnight, social experts say. And, many of the factors contributing to it weren’t spawned in the Black community. Systemic racism, government apathy, the poor quality of education in many predominantly Black public schools and the loss of living wage jobs, have all played a part in creating the ongoing bloodshed.
“This is something that affects every aspect of life in our city,” said Chad Dion Lassiter, MSW and president of Black Men at Penn. Lassiter said the level of anger isn’t the same because people are being reactive rather than proactive, which is harder.
“It’s easier to be visceral rather than do the hard work of violence prevention,” Lassiter said. “We’re silent over the Black genocide, yet Trayvon Martin’s assassination gives us an example of the level of outrage that could take place — but deafening silence when the same thing happens on the street corners of our neighborhoods. I think it’s because we’re hypocrites; we’re okay with the moral erosion happening right in front of our eyes. There’s too much talk and too much inactivity — too much silence from the Black churches and the Black community. There are too many Black Zimmermans in our communities right now. Curtis up the street can commit two murders, and no one is willing to say anything. Are we really going to be okay with that?”
To cite a recent example, on March 20 at around 3:30 p.m., an unidentified Black male pulled up in a gold colored car in the vicinity of Fifth and Pierce streets. The still unidentified male fired several shots at a 19-year-old Black male. The victim ran south on Fifth and then onto Pierce Street, according to police. The unidentified shooter pursued him, still firing, and striking two men, ages 51 and 52. The victims were hospitalized in stable condition. That same evening, just before 9 p.m., gunfire exploded again inside a playground near Fourth and Washington where at least 60 people were gathered. An unidentified gunman fired several shots into the crowd, striking a 12-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl. The boy suffered a graze wound to the ankle and the girl was struck in the thigh. Both were rushed to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where they were treated and released.
At the publishing of this article, the number of homicides in Philadelphia this year has climbed to 92. According to figures from reports researched by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, across the nation, 85 percent of the Black victims of homicide are male, and 51 percent are between the ages of 17 and 19.
“Should we be outraged over the death of Trayvon Martin? Yes, but cases like this happen everyday,” said Minister Rodney Muhammad of the Nation of Islam. “Martin’s death symbolizes the injustices done to us on a daily basis. The hoodie he wore was part of the stereotypical profile, but Wall Street stuck up the whole nation wearing business suits. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan called it justifiable homicide — that Zimmerman felt justified because our Black genocide gives a license to people like him. There has to be resentment over the wide spread murder of ourselves and our injustices to each other. I think for too long we’ve relied on someone else for our own betterment. We’re overdue to stop asking America for what’s due to us. We’ve done a great work for America and now it’s time to do a great work for ourselves. We have geniuses in every field of human endeavor, and we need to marshal those strengths. When we do better, America does better. There was a time when our children would walk ten miles to learn to read and write. Now we have children who live across the street from a Free Library and have never been inside it.”
ORLANDO, Fla. — The police chief in the city where Trayvon Martin was shot was set to permanently step down from his post after enduring strong criticism of his department’s decision not to arrest George Zimmerman.
City commissioners — who previously gave Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee a vote of “no confidence” — rejected by a 3-2 vote the resignation of Lee, who was roundly criticized for not initially charging Zimmerman.
Lee had temporarily stepped aside as chief March 22 after enduring strong criticism over his department’s handling of the Martin case. Police did not initially charge 28-year-old George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who claimed he shot the 17-year-old Martin in self-defense. Prosecutors later charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder.
“The city has experienced great turmoil in the past two months and we are hoping to stabilize the department and continue with this time of healing,” said City Manager Norton Bonaparte.
Florida law gives people broad leeway to use lethal force if they believe their lives are in grave danger. The Feb. 26 shooting sparked protests nationwide, as well as debates about the laws and race. Martin was Black; Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is from Peru.
Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder earlier this month, 44 days after the fatal shooting. He was released from the Seminole County Jail in the middle of the night on $150,000 bail.
The neighborhood watch volunteer was wearing a brown jacket and blue jeans and carrying a paper bag as he walked out of the Seminole County jail around midnight Sunday. He was following another man and didn’t look at photographers gathered outside. The two then got into a white BMW and drove away.
Zimmerman did not speak as he left the suburban Orlando jail.
His ultimate destination is being kept secret for his safety. He could leave Florida.
Martin’s parents have a “heavy heart” now that Zimmerman has been released from jail, said Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the 17-year-old’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton.
“They hope his freedom is temporary because the pain he has caused this family is permanent,” Crump said Monday.
Zimmerman fatally shot Martin inside the gated community where Zimmerman lived. Martin was unarmed and was walking back to the home of his father’s fiancée when Zimmerman saw him, called 911 and began following him. A fight broke out — investigators say it is unknown who started it.
Zimmerman says Martin, who was visiting from Miami, attacked him. Zimmerman says he shot Martin in self-defense, citing Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which gives broad legal protection to anyone who says they used deadly force because they feared death or great bodily harm.
Zimmerman was not charged for more than six weeks, sparking national protests led by Martin’s parents, civil rights groups, and the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
Residents in Sanford hadn’t been expecting a ruckus once Zimmerman was released.
City commissioners said they hadn’t received calls from nervous residents. Protesters didn’t show up outside the jail. And talk at one local coffee shop seldom focused on the case.
“It’s just kind of a non-issue now,” said Michele Church, a server at Mel’s Family Diner. “That’s pretty much all anybody in Sanford wanted, was an arrest, so it could be sorted out in the court system.”
Zimmerman was fitted with an electronic device when he was released Sunday, according to a statement from the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office. That would allow law enforcement to monitor him if he leaves the state.
Defense attorneys for other high-profile clients who awaited trial on bail have said Zimmerman should leave Florida and refrain from going out in public.
About a half-dozen photographers and cameramen camped outside the Sanford jail Sunday, focused on the door marked “Bonds Rooms,” where other people who had been arrested and released on bail exited.
Sanford Commissioner Patty Mahany, whose district includes the neighborhood where Martin was killed, said Sunday that things had calmed down.
“I think now that people are able to see the justice system taking place, even though they understand it’s going to be quite slow, people are willing to just remain calm and really we’re all getting back to our daily routines,” Mahany said.
Meanwhile, Martin’s parents published a “Card of Thanks” in The Miami Herald obituary page Sunday. The note says Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin express their appreciation for all the public’s support since their son’s death. The notice includes a photograph of Trayvon Martin dressed in a hooded sweatshirt, similar to one he was wearing the evening he was killed.
“Words will never express how your love, support and prayers lifted our spirits and continue to give us the strength to march on,” the letter says. — (AP)
When Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, the loud and immediate accusation was that Martin’s slaying was racially motivated.
While the courts have yet to prove that point, the issue raised by Martin’s death is one that has been a part of American life since its founding. Race relations have become even more scrutinized since the election of the nation’s first Black president which, according to a recent study by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has fostered the creation of more and more hate groups.
Hatred, whether by one race against another, or against a nationality, religious group or homosexuals, is a deeply entrenched aspect of American life and as Martin’s killing seems to indicate, very difficult to root out.
“The only time the nation dealt with the problems of racism was during the Civil Rights Movement — and America was forced to do it then,” said Dr. James Cone, the Charles A. Briggs distinguished professor of systematic theology at Union Theological Seminary. “America is a long way from a post-racial era, and by and large, Americans aren’t ready yet to confront the issues of racism. But if you’ve spent 200 years establishing a way of life, it takes more than 12 years to change it.”
On Friday, April 6, five African Americans were shot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in an incident law enforcement authorities are investigating to determine if it was racially motivated. Three of the victims, Dannaer Fields, 49; Bobby Clark, 54; and William Allen, 31, died from their wounds. Two more men, Deon Tucker, 44 and David Hall, 46 were wounded. By Sunday, April 8, police had arrested two suspects, Jacob C. England, 19, and Alvin L. Watts, 32. England and Watts randomly shot Black pedestrians in the predominantly Black neighborhoods of North Tulsa, authorities said.
In February 2012, a 13-year-old white boy was assaulted, doused with gasoline and set on fire by two Black teens in Kansas City, Missouri. The victim was walking home from school when he was accosted by two other boys about 3 p.m. The assailants covered the victim in gasoline and ignited him, burning his face and hair. So far, no arrests have been made in the case.
Last month, three white teenagers pleaded guilty to beating an African-American man and then allegedly running over the victim with a pickup truck. Deryl Dedmon, John Aaron Rice and Dylan Butler admitted to conspiracy and violating the 2009 federal hate-crimes law in the killing of James Craig Anderson. They face sentences of up to life in prison. Dedmon admitted that he and a group of white teens were partying when he allegedly suggested they find a Black man to harass. They drove to predominantly Black Jackson, Mississippi, and found Anderson before dawn outside a hotel. He was brutally beaten before Dedmon allegedly ran over him. The entire incident was captured by a nearby surveillance camera.
Hinds County Circuit Judge Jeff Weill Sr. said during the proceedings that Dedmon’s actions have no excuse, and are a stain that will take years to fade.
According to a report recently released by the SPLC, the number of hate promoting groups has grown in the United States in the last couple of years, with 34 groups based in Pennsylvania. California and Texas have the largest number of such groups, with 84 and 45, respectively.
“The radical right grew explosively in 2011, the third such dramatic expansion in as many years,” said Mark Potok, senior fellow and spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The growth was fueled by superheated fears generated by economic dislocation, a proliferation of demonizing conspiracy theories, the changing racial makeup of America and the prospect of four more years under a Black president who many on the far right view as an enemy to their country. The truly stunning growth came in the anti-government ‘Patriot’ movement — conspiracy-minded groups that see the federal government as their primary enemy.”
Potok said that over the last few years actual reported hate crimes specifically against Blacks had showed a decline, but the numbers aren’t that accurate.
“The figures put out by the FBI are based on voluntary reporting. Some crimes are not reported, and others are misclassified. We did have a rash of what could be termed as bias incidents following the election of Barack Obama, but 55 to 56 percent of hate crimes are not reported at all,” Potok said. “Again, where we’re seeing a real increase is the number of hate groups, which we do a pretty good job of counting. In 2008, there were 149 Patriot groups, and that number increased to 1,274 by 2011 — that’s a 755 percent increase. It coincides precisely with the election of our first Black president. I think it’s also a response to the economic trends and a sense among these people that ‘this is not the country my white forefathers built.’ There’s a really serious discomfort.”
SANFORD, Fla. — A routine bail hearing for George Zimmerman took a surprising turn into remorse and explanation Friday when the neighborhood watch volunteer got on the witness stand and told Trayvon Martin's parents: "I am sorry for the loss of your son."
"I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit younger than I am. I did not know if he was armed or not," Zimmerman said, marking the first time he has spoken publicly about the Feb. 26 shooting of the unarmed black 17-year-old.
The hearing wrapped up with a judge ruling Zimmerman can be released from jail on $150,000 bail while he awaits trial on second-degree murder charges. He could be out within days and may be allowed to live outside Florida for his own safety once arrangements are made to monitor him electronically.
Defendants often testify about their financial assets at bail hearings, but it is highly unusual for them to address the charges, and rarer still to apologize.
An attorney for Martin's parents, who were in the courtroom when Zimmerman spoke, spurned the apology. The parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, had no comment as they left.
"This was the most disingenuous and unfair thing I've seen," said attorney Natalie Jackson. "This was the most unmeaningful apology."
In a measure of how volatile the case has become, Zimmerman appeared to be wearing a bulletproof vest under his suit and tie, and his parents and wife testified via telephone because of fears for their safety.
After the hearing, Zimmerman's lawyer, Mark O'Mara, acknowledged that putting Zimmerman on the stand was risky but said his client wanted to respond after Martin's mother said in an interview that she would like to hear from him.
"He had always wanted to acknowledge what happened that day," O'Mara said. "I was hoping that it could be accomplished in a private way. We weren't afforded that opportunity."
Stacey Honowitz, a Florida prosecutor with no connection to the case, said: "I think it was to sway public opinion. He's not incriminating himself. He is setting up his self-defense claim."
In agreeing to let Zimmerman out on bail, Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester said he cannot have any guns and must observe a 7 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew. Zimmerman also surrendered his passport.
Zimmerman will need to put up 10 percent, or $15,000, to make bail. O'Mara said he expects the family to come up with the amount. Zimmerman's father has indicated he may take out a second mortgage.
Zimmerman worked at a mortgage risk-management company at the time of the shooting and his wife is in nursing school. A website was set up to collect donations for Zimmerman's defense fund. It is unclear how much it has raised.
Bail is not unheard of in second-degree murder cases, and legal experts had predicted it would be granted for Zimmerman because of his ties to the community, because he turned himself in after he was charged last week, and because he has never been convicted of a serious crime.
Prosecutors had asked for $1 million bail, citing two previous scrapes Zimmerman had with the law, neither of which resulted in charges. In 2005, he had to take anger management courses after he was accused of attacking an undercover officer who was trying to arrest Zimmerman's friend. In another incident, a girlfriend accused him of attacking her.
The hearing provided a few glimpses of the strengths — and weaknesses — in the case being built by the prosecution.
Dale Gilbreath, an investigator for the prosecution, testified that he does not know whether Martin or Zimmerman threw the first punch and that there is no evidence to disprove Zimmerman's contention he was walking back to his vehicle when confronted by Martin.
But Gilbreath also said Zimmerman's claim that Martin was slamming his head against the sidewalk just before he shot the teenager was "not consistent with the evidence we found." He gave no details.
In taking the stand, Zimmerman opened himself up to questions from a prosecutor, who grilled him on whether he made an apology to police on the night of the shooting, and why he waited so long to express remorse to Martin's parents.
Zimmerman said he told police he felt sorry for the parents. He also said he didn't say anything to them sooner because his former attorneys told him not to.
As part of the bail hearing, Zimmerman's family testified that he wouldn't flee if released and would be no threat to the community.
"He is absolutely not a violent person," said his wife, Shellie Zimmerman.
Zimmerman's father, Robert Zimmerman, said that even when confronted, his son was likely to "turn the other cheek." The father also described his son's injuries the morning after Martin was shot, saying he had a cut and swollen lip, a protective cover over his nose and gashes on the back of his head.
Zimmerman's mother, Gladys, said her son worked with two black children as part of a mentoring program that required him to venture into a dangerous neighborhood. "He said, 'Mom, if I don't go, they don't have nobody,'" she recalled. -- (AP)
ORLANDO, Fla. — The judge presiding over the Trayvon Martin shooting case on removed herself Wednesday after the attorney for defendant George Zimmerman argued she had a possible conflict of interest that related to her husband.
Judge Kenneth M. Lester Jr. will preside over the case. The next judge who would be in the court rotation, John D. Galluzzo, also cited a conflict, so Lester was selected, according to a news release from the court.
Florida Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler had said she would make a decision by Friday, when a bond hearing for Zimmerman had previously been set. Her husband works with Orlando attorney Mark NeJame, who was first approached by Zimmerman's family to represent the neighborhood watch volunteer.
But NeJame declined and referred them to Mark O'Mara, who is now representing Zimmerman. NeJame has since been hired by CNN to comment on the case.
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for the Feb. 26 shooting of the 17-year-old Martin. Zimmerman said he shot Martin in self-defense after Martin attacked him. Martin was unarmed.
Galluzzo said he had a conflict because of his personal and business relationship with O'Mara.
O'Mara said he requested that Recksiedler step down now because the case is just beginning. Recksiedler was assigned the case after Zimmerman's arrest last week. -- (AP)
For years, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was not well known but it has had significant influence in helping to shape and spread controversial legislation, such as pushing voter ID laws and Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” statute.
For years the group of lawmakers and private sector officials worked closely to draft mainly pro-business legislation on issues including tax policy and cable TV regulations.
The organization received increased attention for its role in spreading passage of Voter ID and Stand Your Ground laws in Republican-controlled state legislatures nationwide.
The group came under the media spotlight after the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was killed by George Zimmerman who claimed he acted in self-defense.
Sanford police did not charge Zimmerman, citing Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which gives people wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat during a fight.
For decades the group, which was founded more than 30 years ago by a group of state legislators and conservative policy advocates, was largely unknown.
“The past month has been the largest amount of exposure about ALEC probably in its history,” said Lisa Graves, a leader at the Center for Media and Democracy.
The backlash tied to the Martin case caused ALEC to lose support from several companies, including the Coca-Cola Co., Kraft Foods Inc. McDonald’s Corp., PepsiCo Inc. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The corporations cited the Stand Your Ground laws as their reasons for leaving ALEC. The companies no longer wanted to be associated with controversial laws that prosecutors and police have generally opposed for being too vague and dangerous
ALEC announced Tuesday that it was eliminating its public safety task force that had dealt with the “Stand Your Group,” and said it was refocusing those resources on economic matters.
While ALEC’s decision to discontinue the task force is welcomed it was done only after increased media scrutiny and public pressure against unpopular laws.
So, is this for real?
News broke last week about the City of Philadelphia having paid $775,500 to settle a slew of lawsuits filed over the years against a discredited crew of narcotics cops and a top official in the City Solicitor’s Office told a reporter that three-quarters of a million dollar expenditure is not a “shocking number.”
Not shocking in a city desperate for cash to fund public schools and provide jobs?
That response from a top city government lawyer to throwing precious City Hall revenue down a rat hole of protecting corrupt police is ridiculous with a capital R.
Perhaps a reaction that is a step above that solicitor’s remark on the Ridiculous Meter is the unusual confluence of normally antagonistic entities — the Fraternal Order of Police and the Guardian Civic League — both providing support for a policewoman disciplined by the PPD for committing the crime of fraud — lying in a series of real estate transactions.
How ridiculous (and shameful) is it for any law enforcer to publicly support a proven law breaker even if that criminal holds ranking positions in both the FOP and the GCL?
Guess this support for that property deed fudging disgraced Black policewoman and those now white ex-narcs who remain on the PPD payroll under seriously dark clouds of suspicions including stealing money proves that crime pays for police.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Ramsey rejected a recommendation from a departmental review board to suspend that policewoman for thirty days opting instead to fire her.
Commissioner Ramsey’s action came after the Philadelphia DA’s Office refused to file criminal charges against the law breaking law enforcer for her fraudulent acts that strangely did produce criminal charges against persons with involvement in those property thefts involving that soon to be ex-cop.
In a review of the Year 2012 words beginning with the letter ‘R’ have prominence.
There is the R-word: re-election.
President Barack Obama’s re-election in November is truly historic for more reasons than the first non-white to rule the Oval Office getting a repeat performance.
President Obama prevailed in his reelection against repugnant efforts by the obscenely rich to ruin the very democracy upon which America is founded with massive infusions of cash for dirty tricks and deceptive TV ads devised specifically to defeat Obama.
Fortunately, reason among voters, lead by rock-solid support for the President from the same Blacks his administration has backhanded for four years, blocked the rich from their desired reward of stealing the presidential election thus gaining free reign to raid federal revenues.
President Obama’s encountered repugnant recalcitrance from the Republican Party way beyond legitimate partisanship.
Republican resistance to policy/programmatic initiatives of President Obama have damaged all Americans, not just Democrats but middle and low-income people who blindly back Republicans literally against their economic self-interest.
But retarded actions by Obama himself have helped that Republican resistance.
Obama keeps trying to curry bipartisan favor from the same Republicans who’ve repeatedly declared they are figuratively for everything he’s against and against everything he’s for.
Obama is caving unnecessarily on Social Security in the current Fiscal Cliff negotiations with Republicans offering his political enemies enticements through advancing his support of a scheme to curb cost of living increases that will rob senior citizens of thousands of dollars annually…breaking an Obama campaign promise not to touch Social Security.
Obama’s constant reach for rapprochements with Republicans his reminiscent of remarks that famed Black journalist/activist Ida B. Wells made in 1898 about then President William McKinley’s refusal to act against racist mobs rampaging against Blacks.
Wells, whose life and works are now the subject of programs around Philadelphia honoring her, castigated McKinley for being “…much too interested…in the decoration of Confederate graves to pay attention to Negro rights.”
The Year 2012 tallied continued attacks on the rights of Blacks, the most pronounced being efforts in many states including Pennsylvania to strip Blacks, Latinos, the elderly and college students of their voting rights by erecting barriers to election booth access.
One organization at the head of efforts nationwide to roadblock Republican efforts to rob voting rights was the NAACP, the civil rights organization that some Blacks from arm-chair revolutionaries to right-wing conservatives love to rail against as irrelevant.
Another R-word rearing its head repeatedly in 2012 was racism.
Racism laced the tragic February murder of Florida teen Trayvon Martin from motivating the racial profiling of accused assailant George Zimmerman to exposing the lack of racial diversity among Florida judges, prosecutors and police.
The failed diversity in Florida’s criminal justice system is apparently a rejection of recommendations for increasing diversity the Florida Supreme Court has made since the early 1990s.
Racism is evident in the rightfully outraged reactions to the Connecticut elementary school massacre.
That massacre in a predominately white town has prompted an unprecedented national reaction demanding action to tackle the normally politically untouchable topic of gun control.
The hot response to the Connecticut shootings contrasts to body politics’ cold as ice reaction towards the murders of 62 school age children in Chicago from January to early December 2012.
Those Chicago murders of children aged 6-to-18 are separate from the 446 children shot in that city this year alone including three 5-year-olds, one 4-year-old, one 3-year-old and two 1-year-old children, according to Crime Chicago blog.
Happy New Year!
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
On April 16, 2007, our nation suffered its deadliest shooting incident ever by a single gunman when a student killed 32 people and wounded 25 others at Virginia Tech University before committing suicide. Five years later, have we learned anything about controlling our national gun and gun violence epidemic? A look at just a few of the sad headlines across the country so far this year suggests we haven’t learned much, if anything at all.
In February of this year, a 17-year-old high school senior, who other students described as an outcast who’d been bullied, shot and killed three fellow students and injured two more at Chardon High School in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. Would this have happened without a gun?
In Washington state, three children were victims of gun violence during a three-week period at the end of February and at the end of March. A three-year-old died after shooting himself in the head with a gun left under the front seat of the car while his family stopped for gas. The 7-year-old daughter of a police officer was shot and killed by her younger brother after he found one of their father’s guns in the glove compartment of the family van. And an 8-year-old girl was critically wounded at school when her 9-year-old classmate brought in a gun he found at home that accidentally went off in his backpack. Would this have happened without a gun?
There already has been a rash of shootings in Chicago this year, including the especially violent weekend in mid-March when 49 people were shot and 10 were killed. One of the victims was a 6-year-old girl who was sitting on her front porch with her mother getting her hair brushed before a birthday party when she was killed by shots fired from a passing pickup truck. Would this have happened without a gun?
And in Florida, unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin was shot and killed walking home from the store in February after being followed by self-appointed “neighborhood watch captain” George Zimmerman. Would Trayvon’s death have happened without a gun? Now that George Zimmerman has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder, Trayvon Martin’s family is finally moving forward in their quest for justice.
As a nation we can’t afford to keep waiting for common-sense gun control laws that would protect our children and all of us from indefensible gun violence. It’s time to repeal senseless gun laws such as the “Stand Your Ground” laws enacted by 21 states. The laws have grabbed so much attention in Trayvon’s case and allow people in Florida to defend themselves with deadly force anytime and anywhere if they feel threatened. More than 2 million people have signed online petitions saying they want to repeal these laws. It’s time to require consumer safety standards and childproof safety features for all guns and strengthen child access prevention laws that ensure guns are stored safely and securely to prevent unnecessary tragedies like those in Washington state. And in a political environment where the too secretive and powerful advocacy group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) pushed “Stand Your Ground” laws in other states along with other “model bills” that benefit some corporate bottom lines or special interests such as the NRA, it’s time for all of ALEC’s corporate sponsors to walk away from enabling or acquiescing destructive laws that protect guns, not children.
It’s a tragedy that five years after Virginia Tech so little has changed. How many years must we wait until tragic headlines about school shootings, children dying, and people using the “shoot first and ask questions later” defense to take the law into their own hands go away? When will we finally get the courage to stand up as a nation and say enough to the deadly proliferation of guns and gun violence that endanger children’s and public safety? — (NNPA)
Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund.
I didn’t know this was National Cut and Run Week. I guess I didn’t get the memo.
Rick Santorum got it, and at long last decided to get out of the race for the Republican nomination before suffering another embarrassing loss in his home state of Pennsylvania. Which brings me to a side point: just how did we get to be Zippy the Pinhead’s ‘home state’ in the first place? He was born in Virginia, where his family still resides. He (presumably) pays taxes in Virginia, and if his kids weren’t home schooled to keep them away from free thinkers, they’d probably be educated in Virginia. He lived in Pennsylvania long enough to purchase property and run for office.
Apparently, just buying a home somewhere makes you a born-again native. Well, you can claim him if you want, but speaking as a native Pennsylvanian, I refuse to accept him as a neighbor. We have more than our fair share of reality-challenged dullards as it is.
I will admit, though, that getting out now was about the smartest thing Zippy’s done in the past few months. If he’d held on past next Tuesday, and probably taken a butt whipping in Pennsylvania in the process, the next several news cycles would have been dominated by television talking heads using phrases like “humiliating,” “devastating” and “crushing” to describe his defeat here.
If Santorum has any ambition for running again in 2016, and you know he does, this week was the time to bow out — while his stock, and positive poll numbers, are about as high as they’re going to get.
I will further admit to a tiny pang of disappointment. I was hoping he’d hang on until the GOP convention in Tampa, and help Newt Gingrich throw a monkey wrench into the machine by way of a brokered convention. Not because I’m a Democrat, but because I’m a columnist, and Santorum’s shoot-from-the-lip style makes good copy. No one in politics says as many stupid things as he does on a minute-by-minute basis, and I’ll miss him — especially since his departure leaves us with little to slow down the Mitt Romney Express.
The good part is, though, that the more people find out about Romney, the less there is to like. Wait until the mainstream gets hold of the fact that Romney, until 1978, believed the tenets of the Mormon church that Black skin was a curse, (albeit one that can be reversed upon ascension to heaven, where the cursed melanin will be changed to pure white), and that interracial dating was punishable by death.
But there will be time to dissect Romney later, and you can bet that’s going to happen.
Back to the Week of the Quitters, and the big news that George Zimmerman’s legal team dropped him like a faulty transmission Tuesday.
That revelation brought its own set of strange questions, as we found out that not one of his lawyers had ever met Zimmerman face to face.
Think about that for a minute.
For the past several weeks, we’ve seen these doofuses or their surrogates describe Zimmerman’s broken nose and cuts to the back of his head. They recounted the circumstances of Trayvon Martin’s death with authoritative detail, and made every effort to paint the 17-year-old as an aggressive thug who was probably up to no good.
But the truth is, they’d never met Zimmerman, never seen any injuries, and never spoke to paramedics or police officers on the scene. They conducted no independent investigation, and based their entire case outline on the word of a man so cowardly he wouldn’t even tell his defense team which rock he was hiding under.
Why would a cadre of greedy, amoral lawyers back away from the biggest case of their lives, and a trial that would have made them famous? A trial, which by the way, would have been televised coast-to-coast, and the resulting book and movie deals would have made them all very rich men, win or lose?
You know why. Because Zimmerman’s case is a guaranteed dead loser, and as soon as they figured that out, they decided it was in their best interests not to stand their ground.
They ran for the hills the minute the special prosecutor announced she wouldn’t empanel a grand jury, and would probably charge the trigger-happy vigilante herself, which she did a few days later.
Like Santorum, that was probably the lawyers’ smartest move too.
Maybe it wasn’t Cut and Run Week. It was more like Cut Your Losses Week.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
SANFORD, Fla. — After weeks in hiding, George Zimmerman made his first courtroom appearance Thursday in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, and prosecutors outlined their murder case in court papers, saying the neighborhood watch volunteer followed and confronted the Black teenager after police dispatchers told him to back off.
The brief outline, contained in an affidavit filed in support of the second-degree murder charges, appeared to contradict Zimmerman's claim that Martin attacked him after he had turned away and was returning to his vehicle.
In the affidavit, prosecutors also said that Martin's mother identified cries for help heard in the background of a call to police as her son's. There had been some question as to whether Martin or Zimmerman was the one calling out.
The account of the shooting was released as Zimmerman, 28, appeared at a four-minute hearing in a jailhouse courtroom, setting in motion what could be a long, drawn-out process, or an abrupt and disappointingly short one for many of the Martin family's supporters because of the strong legal protections contained in Florida's "stand your ground" law on self-defense.
During the hearing, Zimmerman stood up straight, held his head high and wore a gray jail jumpsuit. He spoke only to answer "Yes, sir," twice after he was asked basic questions from the judge, who was not in the courtroom but on closed-circuit TV. The defendant's hair was shaved down to stubble and he had a thin goatee. His hands were shackled in front of him.
He did not enter a plea; that will happen at his arraignment, which was set for May 29.
To prove second-degree murder, prosecutors must show that Zimmerman committed an "imminently dangerous" act that showed a "depraved" lack of regard for human life. The charge carries a mandatory sentence of 25 years in prison and a maximum of life.
The special prosecutor in the case, Angela Corey, has refused to explain exactly how she arrived at the charge. But in an affidavit filed with the court, prosecutors said that Zimmerman spotted Martin while patrolling his gated community, got out of his vehicle and followed the young man.
Prosecutors interviewed a friend of Martin's who was talking to him just before the shooting. His parents' lawyer has said that Martin was talking to his girlfriend back in Miami.
"During this time, Martin was on the phone with a friend and described to her what was happening," the affidavit said. "The witness advised that Martin was scared because he was being followed through the complex by an unknown male and didn't know why."
During a recorded call to a police dispatcher, Zimmerman "made reference to people he felt had committed and gotten away with break-ins in his neighborhood. Later while talking about Martin, Zimmerman stated 'these a------s, they always get away' and also said 'these f-----g punks,' said the affidavit, available at http://apne.ws/Itn7Nu .
It continued: "When the police dispatcher realized Zimmerman was pursuing Martin, he instructed Zimmerman not to do that and that the responding officer would meet him. Zimmerman disregarded the police dispatcher and continued to follow Martin who was trying to return to his home."
"Zimmerman confronted Martin and a struggle ensued," prosecutors said in their account. The account provided no details on the struggle other than to say that witnesses heard numerous calls for help and that Martin's mother reviewed the calls to police and recognized her son's voice crying for help.
Zimmerman told authorities that Martin attacked him as he going back to his vehicle, punched him in the face, knocked him down and began slamming head against the sidewalk.
At Thursday's hearing, the case was assigned to Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler, a 39-year-old former assistant state attorney from Sanford who was elected to the bench in 2010. Zimmerman is being held without bail at the county jail.
For all the relief among civil rights activists over the arrest, legal experts warned there is a real chance it could get thrown out before it ever goes to trial because of Florida's expansive "stand your ground" law, which gives people a broad right to use deadly force without having to retreat from a fight.
At a pretrial hearing, Zimmerman's lawyers would only have to prove by a preponderance of evidence — a relatively low legal standard — that he acted in self-defense in order to get a judge to toss out the second-murder charges. And if that fails and the case does go to trial, the defense can raise the argument all over again.
There's a "high likelihood it could be dismissed by the judge even before the jury gets to hear the case," Florida defense attorney Richard Hornsby said. Karin Moore, an assistant professor of law at Florida A&M University, said the law "puts a tremendous burden on the state to prove that it wasn't self-defense."
Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, said his client will plead not guilty. At some point soon, the lawyer is expected to ask the judge for a hearing on the "stand your ground" law.
"It is going to be a facet of this defense, I'm sure," O'Mara said in an interview. "That statute has some troublesome portions to it, and we're now going to have some conversations and discussions about it as a state. But right now it is the law of Florida and it is the law that is going to have an impact on this case."
Martin family and their lawyer acknowledged the arrest is just a first step.
"I think that it will start the process that we are pushing for," said Martin's father, Tracy Martin, "but we can't just stop because we have an arrest. We got to keep pushing to get a conviction and after a conviction we have to certainly continue to push to get a stiff sentence."
Martin family attorney Ben Crump said he wants to make the repeal or the amending of "stand your ground" laws in Florida and other states to be a big part of Trayvon Martin's legacy. "We're not the wild, wild west," Crumb said.
As for Zimmerman, O'Mara said after the court appearance: "He is tired. He has gone through some tribulations. He is facing second-degree murder charges now. He is frightened. That would frighten any of us."
"He has a lot of hatred focused on him right now," O'Mara said. "I'm hoping that the hatred settles down now that we're moving forward." -- (AP)