Public Safety What are they thinking?


and the Jury.

I have heard, for years, that a Jury trial is a “crap shoot” and that you never know which way they will go.

The basic trial is made up of a number of parts, all of which have their function.  There is the prosecution/plaintiff, the defense, the judge, and, if it is a jury trial, the jury.

Of course they get there through, normally, the efforts of some investigative agency who builds a case against the soon to be defendant.  The prosecutor decides at what point he believe the case could be proven and then takes him to court.  The defense represents the defendant and tries to prove that he is not guilty.  They each do this by introducing information which they believe will prove their side of the argument, it is then up to the judge to decided if the jury can hear this information (evidence), and the jury uses this information to decide if the defendant, or the prosecutor, have proved their case.

This is a simplified version  of the process.  Both side must be familiar with the law, that is prosecution and defense, as well as the judge who must decide if the information introduced by the two sides can be used but, in order to get justice the jury is expected to be made up of not only the persons “peers” but made up of people who are not knowledgeable enough of the case, or issues, so that they will not form opinions about the case prior to the introduction of the information, by either side.  This part can be tricky, and it is the reason that both side get to interview the jurors in order to determine if a juror has knowledge that may cause them to form a premature opinion….  This last part can be a problem in cases such as the Zimmerman, O.J. Simpson, or even the recent Casey Anthony trial where the press was all over the cases like flies on, well, you know.

Since these cases get the attention of people like Nancy Grace and rest of the TV talking heads, to find someone who does not know about the case you pretty much have to find people who do not have computers, T.V., Radios, newspapers, or get out of the house.   This would eliminate the average thinking person and only leaves you with the people who decided the Casey Anthony trial, or the O.J.Simpson case..  and that is not even taking into consideration the people who get out of Jury duty

So, what does that leave us with?  Both the prosecutor and Defence try to convince the jury of their version of what happened.  While both sides try to introduce information to the jury that explain their version it is up to the Judge to make sure that both sides stay with in the guide lines for evidence…  Often jurors who are in certain professions will get knocked out of the jury box because one side, or the other, fears that they might be either too knowledgeable about evidence, or have view that are contrary to their clients interest..  My Grandmother was once put off a D.W.I. jury, in Florence, S.C., when the defence attorney recognized her as someone who once tought his sunday school class.

It would be nice if everything worked just as it was planned.  That prosecutors never hid information that might help the defence but, yes, it happens, or that they never let public pressure push them into a trial they were not ready for, or did not believe in, but, yes it happens.

In the case of George Zimmerman the prosecutions job was to prove, to the jury, that Zimmerman was the aggressor..  One of the neat things about TV investigations is that by the time the show comes to a close, unless it is a multi-part episode, no matter how muddied the plot got you can be assured that when they arrest someone the story is ended…  They can do this because in the world of TV, they don’t have to wait weeks, or months, to get lab results back, and they always have a magic procedure that allows them to find the one piece of evidence that will either lead to a conviction or confession.  Not at all like the real world where sometime what happened, as for as proof is concerned, is just a matter of conjecture..  In the real world prosecutors had to sift through the stories that Zimmerman told and try to explain to the jury that he had attacked Trayvon Martin.  It would have been preferable to have a witness to the initial encounter so they could say, with certainty, that Zimmerman had tried to detain Martin after having seen NO EVIDENCE of a crime but, what they got was an accumulation of statements, and some eye witness reports, that did NOT paint a clear picture.

The jury could only decide its verdict based on their understanding of the information presented to them by either the prosecutor or defence, while I was in favor of a guilty verdict, I can understand how they might not have thought that it was proven that he had started the fight…..  If they had proven that he had tried to detain Martin then it would have been a case where he was doing something that was not allowed and therefore he would not have been able to use the self-defence excuse.  If the defence had been able to prove that Martin attacked Zimmerman,  the suspicious man following him, then Zimmerman would have been able to say he was defending himself but, neither side seemed to be able convince the jury of their version of the story so, the reasonable doubt had to go to Zimmerman.


That Joe Guy.


Re lated articles


Enhanced by Zemanta
Public Safety What are they thinking?

Should you be able to legally Defend yourself, or others?

Martin Grave
Martin Grave (Photo credit: Robert of Fairfax)

The Trayvon Martin case prompted a new look at the Stand Your Ground Laws, and specifically the one in Florida..

One of the questions that come up is this : Should Neighborhood Watch people be armed?  Are they Law Enforcement?  No. They are observers, and therefore they should “observe and report” only..  This means that they should NOT CONFRONT suspects who might be committing crimes.  Does this mean that, as a Neighborhood Watch member they give up their rights as a citizen?  NO!  For seven years I was in Air Force Security Police where we were taught that while the Posse Comitatus act barred Federal Troops from enforcing Civil law we still retained our right as Citizens..  What did this mean?  Lets say I was at a base that conducted town patrols.  While I could not be dispatched to a robbery, as that would be construed as Enforcing Civil Law, I could act if I just happened to be out front when the bad guys came out.  I still had my rights of citizens Arrest.  Does this mean that the people who wish to make their neighborhoods safe have to give up that same right just because the joined a Neighborhood Watch?  I don’t think that should be a question.  IF they were to see a Felony taking place they should be able to act.  Of course, since they are not Law Enforcement, and therefore they are not protected by the same laws as REAL LAW ENFORCEMENT officers, they have to be correct, or they could be charged, for arresting  someone who turns out to not be a real felon.  I used to tell some of the people I worked with, in the private security field, that if they want to play cop they have to know more about the law than the cops do, as they can be arrested for false arrest, or imprisonment, so the best thing for them to do is “observe and report”.  As an A.F.S.P. we were told that the first things we were to do was 1 Detect, 2. Report, and then 3. neutralize the threat.  The first two were the most important, as someone other then you must know about the threat, and be able to respond.

So, while they might still have the rights of a private citizen, to arrest for a felony, the best action for them is to “observe and report”, and let the people with the express authority make the arrest.  If Mr. Zimmerman had seen an actual felony, or had a probable cause to believe he had seen a felony act being committed, it might be different.  Still the best thing would be to stay our of the way, and let Law Enforcement handle the situation, not go charging in.

There is just as much evidence to show that Trayvon Martin was defending himself, and if that is true then Zimmerman is the aggressor as there has so far been not proof of a felony action on Martin’s part.

The Sanford Police would have been with in their rights to arrest Zimmerman.  We might never know what really happened but, I do not believe the “Stand Your Ground” law applied to him.

Maybe the law needs to be clarified.  What we don’t need is to take away a citizen’s right to defend themselves, or others, or to prevent the commission of a violent crime.  What we do need is for the law to clearly explain under what circumstances you are allowed to not be the victim.

If we wind up going back to the days when you were required to retreat from a threat, we might face the possibility that a citizen who is forced to protect himself would become the criminal, and that would be a real crime.


Public Safety What are they thinking?

To the family of Trayvon Martin,

Trayvon Martin Protest - Sanford
Trayvon Martin Protest - Sanford (Photo credit: werthmedia)

I did not know him,and, except for his death, I most likely would never have even heard of him.  Maybe, if he had been able to mature to adulthood, he might have been able to make his mark on the world but, unfortunately we will not have the chance to find that out as his premature death, at the hands of an overzealous moron, closed off a possible life path that could have lead anywhere.

I know there are people who see his death as a condemnation of the so called “Stand Your Ground Law” and wish to see the law repealed.  The problem with that theory, as far as what I have read about the case up to now, is this:  if the “Stand Your Ground” law had applied to this incident, it would have applied to Trayvon Martin who found himself being followed by an unidentified person.

Mr. Zimmerman might have had some kind of standing if he had been in either a vehicle marked as a Neighborhood Watch, or if he had been in some kind of uniform that stated he was a member of a neighborhood watch.  I have not, so far, seen any reports that put him in either of those, so he was just some guy on the street.

For Trayvon Martin we have a young man who walked suspiciously?  Being followed by some guy he did not know.  Accounts, from the Sanford PD, have Zimmerman getting injured in a scuffle, of some kind.  Did Zimmerman attempt to detain Martin and got knocked on his ass for his efforts, at which point he shot the young Martin?  Did Martin confront his pursuer, and wind up in the scuffle? I would think that, at the point Mr. Zimmerman started to follow Martin he was the aggressor, and the only one with the right to defend himself would be Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed.

I still do not see the merit of Zimmers argument that he was defending himself when it seems like HE initiated the contact.  If Zimmerman grabed Martin then he would be guilty of assault, and therefore would be the one at fault.

Once an investigation takes place, and the Grand Jury is probably the best way to go, we should know what the facts were, and would be able to make a better judgement.  In the meantime, if you want to talk about the so called vagueness of the law you have no further to look than at Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Beth Bloom.  Judge Bloom gave an opinion that Greyston Garcia, who had seen  Pedro Roteta  steal property from his truck,  was able to use the “Stand Your Ground” defense when he chased Roteta down and stabbed him in the BACK.  I agree that Garcia saw evidence of a crime, seeing his radio being lifted out of his vehicle, but, I have yet to see where the “reasonable threat” comes in, as me Roteta was running away from him.  If a sitting Judge, they are usually lawyers, can make a stupid call such as this, well, how do you expect the Sanford PD to do any better with just their Police training.

In the meantime the usual suspects are stirring up the crowd and trying to overturn a law that they just don’t understand.  In one article I found there were a bunch of quotes from Democrats from around the country, who seemed to think the law would result in open season on minorities.  The other quotes were from Republicans who expressed the idea that Americans have the right to defend themselves from ANY kind of threat.

As an Air Force Security Policeman I was taught that there were three actions a patrol officer should take 1st observe  2nd report and then 3rd respond.  If you got killed doing the 3rd then you were a wast if you had not done the 2nd.  As private security the 3rd would more properly be wait for the cops, and keep your suspect under observation.  I used to see private security people who were like Zimmerman, and I would tell them the same thing I am going to say here.  “If you want to play cop, and bust people, then you have to know more about the law than the cop who responds.  If he makes a mistake by arresting the wrong person he is protected by the legal presumption that he is doing his best.  You might just go to jail”.  Some of them understood what I was talking about, other still wanted to stop people, and question them.

In one neighborhood where I did mobile patrols there were some kids who worked for us who would follow a certain car around.  The reason was that in a well to do area where the homes, in the 90s, went for at least $150,000 they would see an old beat-up sedan, which they assumed did not belong there.  I could understand that but I also knew that the man in the car owned a construction company, and this was the car he drove to work sites so he did not have to worry about damage to his good cars.

It is nice to think that you are helping to keep an area safe but, you must use discretion, which did not seem to be a word that Mr. Zimmerman understood.

Trayvon Martin’s death is tragic, and useless.  I would hate to see it take away from our right to defend ourselves when faced with violence.   Resetting the law to a time before the passage of the “Stand Your Ground Law’ would require people, when faced with violence, to either submit, or run.  They would only be able to defend themselves if they were in a position when they could NOT retreat.  It would also give the attacker the advantage of knowing that, unless he left his victims no place to run to, they could not act against him, and that even if they did try to run away they would have to turn their backs to him, and he could just take what he wanted off their bodies.

There is an old saying “an armed society is a polite society”.

Related articles

Public Safety

Stand Your Ground? Yes or No.

The Florida State law, often called the “Stand Your Ground Law”  is one that has been needed for years.  Prior to the new law, if someone broke into your home that laws at the time stated that you must retreat, and that you could only defend yourself if you were backed into a place from which you could NOT retreat, such as a closet, or bathroom, that had no other exit.  Then, fearing for your life, you could defend yourself.

If someone attacked you, such as a fight that you did not start, you could defend yourself, though if they then broke off the attack and attempted to flee, you would be the aggressor if you continued to fight and you could be the one charged.

As I understand it the main change is that you do NOT have to retreat if attacked.  For example, if someone breaks into your home you no longer are required to flee them, and can “Stand Your Ground”.

The recent death of Trayvon Martin, in the City of Sanford, Fl., is putting the Stand Your Ground Law under public scrutiny, and raising question about the the law itself.

George Zimmerman admits to having shot Martin but claims he did it in self-defence.  The Sanford PD claims they did not arrest him at the scene because, at the time, circumstances seemed to agree with Zimmerman.

I would hate to be the person charged with making the determination of whether it was a justified act on the part of Zimmerman.  Sure he was supposed to be some kind of Captain, or whatever, with a Neighborhood Watch group, though reports say he was NOT on duty at the time of the shooting.

I have a number of questions:  what did Zimmerman think he was doing by chasing Martin?  Did Zimmerman ID himself as part of a neighborhood watch?  Did Martin confront a suspicious person, who was following hm for no apparent reason?  If Zimmerman was injured, Sanford PD says he had blood on his lip and the back of his head, which of the two started the scuffle.  As a neighborhood watch member he had the legal authority of the average citizen, the right to citizen’s arrest, though there did not appear to be an apparant offence to arrest for.  The would most likely have resulted, saying that he had detained the person, in his arrest for either “false arrest”, “unlawful detention”, or even impersonating a police officer, if he had given the impression that he acted in such a capacity.

I have never been in a neighborhood watch program but, I had worked for about 20 years in the Security field, both in the Air Force, where I got out as a Security Police SSgt.  Now Mr. Zimmerman might have had a concealed weapons permit but, that would not give him the legal standing to carry it as part of his neighborhood watch.  When I did private security, after 7 years in the Air Force, I worked for a number of private security companies.  Mostly with an unarmed security license, where state law said that even if I had a carry permit, or other authorization, that, unless I had an armed guard licence, I was still not allowed to carry the weapon.  Basicly that would mean that, say I was a Deputy Sheriff and wanted to do security work while off duty, I would have to have a Guard License and and Armed Guard License.  So why was he carrying?  Did the Law Enforcement Co-ordinator for the group know he carried?  If so why didn’t they expel him from the program.

From what I have seen of this story, so far, I would have to say that I do NOT think it was a justified shooting.  The “Stand Your Ground Law’ might protect him from an aggressor but, if it turns out he was doing something he had NO legal right to be doing, or if he was the aggressor, then he has no protection under the law, even this one.

To me the law is clear.  He has to have a reasonable belief that his life is in danger.  The keyword would be “reasonable belief”.  At this point I don’t see it.  What I do see is poor judgement on the part of a gung-ho wannabe cop, who charged in where he had NO training, or legal authority.

What we have here is a mess, and what we don’t need is the Rev. Al Sharpton stirring up the pot.  Sometimes the question is not “black or white” but “right or wrong”, and this is a question that must be answered by law and not because some publicity seeking Rev. Al Sharpton says so.