Mark O’Mara engineers snipe hunt to avoid responsibility for publicizing irrelevant evidence

May 29, 2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Good afternoon:

NBC News reported late yesterday:

A Florida judge ruled Tuesday that George Zimmerman’s defense team cannot mention Trayvon Martin’s suspension from school, prior marijuana use, text messages or past fighting during opening statements at next month’s trial.

Judge Debra Nelson said that during the trial she will consider motions to admit details as evidence on a case-by-case basis, outside the presence of jurors who will decide if Zimmerman is guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Martin.

Although this statement is technically correct, it also is misleading because Judge Nelson actually concluded that the evidence was irrelevant and inadmissible. That is why she granted the State’s motion in limine to prohibit the defense from mentioning any of those things during jury selection and opening statement.

The only reason she might change her mind is if the State were to open the door by introducing evidence of good character. That is not going to happen because Trayvon’s character, whether good or bad, is not an issue in this case. BDLR has no reason to introduce evidence of good character and I am certain that he was not planning on doing that because he knows that good character evidence is irrelevant. Since the defense cannot rebut something that does not happen, the jury will not hear any of this information.

That is not the end of the story, however, because the irrelevant information in question was obtained from Trayvon Martin’s phone and it is the subject of a defense motion for sanctions and request for a judicial inquiry that Judge Nelson has scheduled for June 6th, the same day as the Frye hearing regarding the admissibility of expert testimony identifying the person who uttered the terrified death shriek.

I do not believe Judge Nelson is going to find that BDLR withheld evidence from the defense. The evidence was recorded on Trayvon’s phone in binary code and a copy of that raw data was disclosed to the defense sometime in late January. O’Mara did not hire an expert or purchase a software program that can translate that code into plain English.

A few weeks ago, O’Mara was contacted by an attorney who represents Ben Kruibdos, the Director of Information Technology for the Fourth Judicial Circuit. The attorney is Wesley White.

The Miami Herald reports:

White led the Nassau County state attorney’s office before resigning in December, citing differences of opinion with Corey. He is now in private practice.

White said the photos Kruidbos retrieved were of a hand holding a gun and one depicted drugs. The content of the text messages wasn’t specified.

“I’m an officer of the court and I’m obliged to inform the court of any misconduct or any potential misconduct coming before the court. Whether it’s by the defense or prosecution,” White said.

Apparently, Kruibdos extracted the two photographs and possibly the text messages from the binary code and gave them to BDLR who did not pass them on to O’Mara.

Does that constitute a discovery violation or a tempest in a teapot?

I believe it is a tempest in a teapot, so long as BDLR turned over the raw data.

Judge Nelson has already ruled that the evidence is not relevant or admissible and it certainly is not exculpatory.

We will have to wait and see how the hearing turns out, but this looks like another snipe hunt instigated by O’Mara to distract everyone from holding him accountable for publicly disclosing information that should not have been disclosed.

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Zimmerman: Judge rules that evidence published by defense last week is not relevant or admissible

May 28, 2013

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Good afternoon:

Judge Nelson denied the defense motion for a continuance of the trial.

None of the information about Trayvon, which caused the big hullabaloo last week after the defense improperly released it for publication to the Orlando Sentinel, will be admitted into evidence at the trial because all of it is irrelevant and inadmissible.

However, Judge Nelson granted O’Mara’s request for an evidentiary hearing on his motion for sanctions against BDLR for alleged discovery violations pertaining to that information. Unfortunately, she had to continue the hearing to June 6th because O’Mara did not have all of the witnesses he needed to present his case.

I do not believe that he has a legitimate argument, since the evidence is not admissible at trial or exculpatory, and the prosecution disclosed it to the defense in timely fashion back in January. O’Mara claims that the disclosure was not timely because he was provided with raw data that he could not interpret.

However, he specifically asked for raw data, which is a proper request, and he should have retained an expert and/or the software program that is used to interpret it. His failure to do that cannot be blamed on BDLR.

FYI: Defense counsel should routinely ask for raw data, since it is the actual result and less susceptible to misinterpretation. Note that O’Mara waited until after the panel of 500 potential jurors were summoned to jury service. His delay in filing his motion for sanctions suggests that he was more interested in gaining a tactical advantage with that motion than he was in obtaining an interpretation of the raw data.

Judge Nelson granted the defense request for a Frye hearing regarding the admissibility of expert testimony identifying the person who uttered the terrified death shriek. She scheduled the hearing for June 6th and 7th and will permit expert witnesses on both sides to testify by videophone.

The defense still has not endorsed any expert witnesses. Remains to be seen, if any legitimate experts will disagree with the State’s experts and if they have the money to pay an expert. I doubt that they do.

At a press conference after the hearing, Robert Zimmerman, Jr. aggressively promoted the conspiracy theory that I wrote about in my last post.

_________________________________________________

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Defense mendacity in Zimmerman case is disgusting

May 24, 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013

Good morning:

George Zimmerman’s attorneys, Mark O’Mara and Don West, have unintentionally confirmed this week that they have no defense to present on his behalf by knowingly and intentionally publishing false, irrelevant and inadmissible information about Trayvon Martin to incite white racists to denounce him as a pot smoking black thug who deserved to die.

I used the word “confirmed” because three weeks ago the defendant appeared in open court and waived his right to an immunity hearing. The mixture of false and misleading information released yesterday is not a defense to second degree murder. It’s deliberate character assassination by false statement and innuendo of an unarmed teenager who was stalked, restrained and shot through the heart while screaming for help.

Here’s LLMPapa:

Last I heard, skipping school, pot smoking and participating in refereed fights between equal combatants is not a death penalty offense.

In other news, the defense attorneys filed a flurry of forgettable motions and responses to prosecution motions which, like snowflakes in April, are destined to melt when they hit the ground.

I begin with Donald West’s frivolous, dishonest and intentionally misleading reefer-madness motion that he filed earlier this week arguing that a trace amount of marijuana in Trayvon Martin’s autopsy blood should be admissible to prove that he was the aggressor even though he was unarmed and the defendant stalked, restrained and shot him in the heart.

The defense motion to continue:

1. cites no authority,

2. claims he needs to investigate Dr. Reich (the State’s audio expert who identified Trayvon as the person screaming for help), which takes about an hour if you google him,

3. claims other unnamed experts told him Dr. Reich’s opinion is based on science that has fallen into “disrepute,”

4. fails to support this assertion with an affidavit from one or more of these experts, and

5. claims he needs time to find an expert to hire even though he is supposedly in touch with all of these experts.

This motion is ridiculous and will be denied because it fails to document a reason for a continuance.

O’Mara’s motion for sanctions against Bernie de la Rionda for not disclosing the evidence that the defense obtained from Trayvon’s phone and published in its 3rd evidence dump, is frivolous because the so-called exculpatory evidence that he claims BDLR withheld in violation of the Brady rule is not exculpatory.

Therefore, the Brady rule does not apply and this motion should be denied.

West’s reply to the State’s motion to exclude opinion evidence about the defendant’s guilt or innocence generally admits that witness opinions about the guilt or innocence of a defendant are inadmissible but warns that if the State attempts to attribute the delay in arresting and charging the defendant (which isn’t relevant either), then the State will have opened the door to allowing the defense to call SPD cops to justify what they did.

I don’t believe this issue will come up as it is irrelevant to whether the defendant murdered Trayvon.

Sideline mini-trials about marginally relevant or irrelevant issues are exactly what evidence rule 403 is designed to prevent.

West’s 2-page reply to the State’s motion to exclude the defendant’s self-serving hearsay statements, which does not cite a case, generally agrees that many of the defendant’s statements are hearsay, if offered by the defense, but disagrees with the State’s argument that none of the defendant’s statements are admissible under the res gestae exception or some other exception to the hearsay rule. West asks Judge Nelson to reserve ruling until the issue comes up in trial.

This is a sneaky response because West wants to be able to ask a leading question seeking agreement from a witness that the defendant said XYZ. For example, he might ask SPD Investigator Serino this question:

George told you that he killed Trayvon in self-defense, didn’t he?

Bernie de la Rionda (BDLR) would object to the question because it contains an inadmissible self-serving hearsay statement.

Judge Nelson would sustain the objection, but she cannot unring the bell, so to speak. The jury would have heard the defendant’s inadmissible statement.

He also would probably like to mention that self-serving hearsay statement during the defense opening statement to the jury or maybe during jury selection.

The purpose of the State’s motion in limine regarding the defendant’s self-serving hearsay statements is to prevent those events from happening, and I am reasonably certain Judge Nelson has seen this trick before and is savvy enough to see through West’s tactical deception.

Therefore, I expect she will grant the State’s motion.

BTW, the res gestae exception that West mentions is a limited exception to the hearsay rule similar to the present-sense-impression exception in which the hearsay statement about an event occurs as the event happens. Thus, the statement is part of the event itself or the res gestae and cannot be excised from it.

The State’s motion in limine seeking an order prohibiting the defense from mentioning the voice stress analysis test that the defendant took should be granted because that’s the legal rule in Florida and elsewhere. The rule is based on the lack of general agreement among scientists that this type of test can consistently produce accurate and reliable results.

In other words, the test violates the Frye Rule.

Judge Nelson should grant this motion.

The State’s 3rd motion for a gag order asks Judge Nelson to put an end to the defense effort to poison the jury pool by assassinating Trayvon Martin’s good character with false evidence and innuendo publicized after the jury pool of 500 people have received their notices to report for jury service on June 10, 2013.

It is no accident that the defense waited until after the 500 potential jurors were served with their notices, but before they report for jury service. Therefore, this was a deliberate tactic to create an unringing the bell problem regarding false, irrelevant, and inadmissible evidence.

A gag order will not unring the bell.

This is quite possibly the sleaziest tactic that I have ever seen. To intentionally poison a jury pool a couple of weeks before trial with false and misleading information about the victim of a homicide calculated to incite and unite White racists to approve of the execution of an unarmed Black teenager is astonishing.

These two lawyers are fortunate that I am not Judge Nelson because I would jail them for contempt of court and file complaints against the bar association requesting their disbarment from the practice of law.

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Fred


Zimmerman defense stumbled into money trap

May 19, 2013

Sunday, May 19, 2013

ChrisNY~Laurie said,

Why haven’t we seen any reciprocal discovery? I’d like to see what the defense has turned over to the State. Do we not get to see reciprocal discovery?

The Defense has expert witness’ that they would like to call via video conferencing at the next hearing, and filed a motion for approval. Does the Judge approve or deny this motion before the next hearing date or wait and tell them during the hearing when she gets to that motion? I haven’t even seen a motion in reply from the State yet, so maybe they have no objections to this. I don’t see how they don’t considering the defense did not name these experts, unless they did through emails or something.

Let’s not place the cart before the horse. Judge Nelson first has to decide whether to grant the defense motion for a Frye hearing. She will decide that motion at the hearing on May 28th.

I do not believe she will grant the motion because O’Mara has not made a proper showing. He needs affidavits from experts asserting that the technology/methodology used by the prosecution’s experts is not generally accepted in the relevant scientific community (i.e., audiologists). He hasn’t done that.

If she were to grant the motion, however, I do not believe she would conduct it via video conferencing. Cross examining someone on a video screen is not the same as cross examining them in person when the witness is not on his own turf with support at the ready off camera. I do not believe Bernie de la Rionda would agree to O’Mara’s request. I certainly would object if I were the prosecutor. I do not believe Judge Nelson would grant O’Mara’s request over de la Rionda’s objection.

O’Mara appears to be caught up in a money trap caused by frivolous expenditures of internet contributions and now he cannot afford experts.

Too bad, so sad.

The answer, as I have been suggesting for several months, is to attempt to get the defendant declared indigent so that the court will pay for the experts, but O’Mara and his client do not want to go there.

I suspect the reason is they do not want the internet fund shut down and turned over to the Court for reimbursement.

Greed and stupidity are quite the double whammy.

They have only themselves to blame.

_________________________________________________

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Calling Mark O’Mara’s Bluff

May 18, 2013

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Good afternoon:

I doubt that the defense has retained an expert who will testify that the defendant uttered the shriek that ended with the gunshot for the simple reason that everyone in their profession in the world would thereafter know they had committed perjury.

The defense has had one year to find and endorse an expert witness. Yet they have not done so.

Mark O’Mara claims that he has an expert who disagrees with Dr. Reich, but he has not identified the expert or produced a copy of the expert’s report.

I think he is bluffing and I am calling his bluff.

Who is your expert, Mr. O’Mara?

Let’s see his Curriculum Vitae and written report.

_________________________________________________

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Zimmerman: Pssst hey buddy what’s a Frye hearing

May 7, 2013

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

To Frye or not to Frye,
that is the question.
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind
to suffer the slings and arrows
of outrageous fortune
or to take arms against
a sea of troubles
and by opposing end them.

Hamlet, Act III, by William Shakespeare

Good morning:

I write today to explain the Frye Rule and Mark O’Mara’s latest strategic mistake. Let’s begin with the mistake.

If Judge Nelson grants his motion, there will not be any testimony by an expert witness regarding the identity of the person who uttered the terrified shriek. That will not help the defense because that intense, high-pitched, and prolonged nightmarish shriek of sheer terror ends abruptly with the fatal gunshot to the heart.

Just as it does not take a weatherman to tell which direction the wind blows, no juror is going to have any difficulty figuring out that the person who uttered that inhuman shriek is the victim of that gunshot. No juror is going to believe that the person armed with the gun; who pulled it out of a holster; who extended his arm; who aimed the gun taking care to make sure his left hand was out of the way; and who pulled the trigger at point-blank range is the person who screamed.

I am certain the prosecutor will not forget to remind the jury that the defendant told the police that he kept screaming for help after the shot because he thought he missed Trayvon Martin.

Apparently, Mark O’Mara has not listened to that agonizing shriek because, if he had listened to it, he never would have filed this ridiculous motion that can only hurt his client, if Judge Nelson grants it, since the absence of expert testimony would simplify identifying Trayvon as the source of the shriek while also disproving the defendant’s claim that Trayvon was beating him to death and attempting to smother him when he fired the fatal shot.

Breath. Taking. Stupidity.

Now, let’s take a look at the Frye-hearing request.

Every once in awhile someone develops a new theory or a new way of performing some task (i.e., a new methodology). A lawyer finds out about it and decides he wants to apply that new theory or methodology to win a case. Opposing counsel says, “Not so fast, pal. Not without a Frye hearing.”

A Frye hearing is a pretrial hearing to determine if evidence obtained pursuant to a new theory or methodology should be admitted or excluded during the trial. Think of it as a judicial screening device to exclude potentially inaccurate and unreliable evidence based on a new untested theory or methodology.

We call it a Frye hearing because the first published case that dealt with this issue was Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir 1923). Judge Van Orsdell laid out the facts:

A single assignment of error is presented for our consideration. In the course of the trial counsel for defendant offered an expert witness to testify to the result of a deception test made upon defendant. The test is described as the systolic blood pressure deception test. It is asserted that blood pressure is influenced by change in the emotions of the witness, and that the systolic blood pressure rises are brought about by nervous impulses sent to the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. Scientific experiments, it is claimed, have demonstrated that fear, rage, and pain always produce a rise of systolic blood pressure, and that conscious deception or falsehood, concealment of facts, or guilt of crime, accompanied by fear of detection when the person is under examination, raises the systolic blood pressure in a curve, which corresponds exactly to the struggle going on in the subject’s mind, between fear and attempted control of that fear, as the examination touches the vital points in respect of which he is attempting to deceive the examiner.

In other words, the theory seems to be that truth is spontaneous, and comes without conscious effort, while the utterance of a falsehood requires a conscious effort, which is reflected in the blood pressure. The rise thus produced is easily detected and distinguished from the rise produced by mere fear of the examination itself. In the former instance, the pressure rises higher than in the latter, and is more pronounced as the examination proceeds, while in the latter case, if the subject is telling the truth, the pressure registers highest at the beginning of the examination, and gradually diminishes as the examination proceeds.

Prior to the trial defendant was subjected to this deception test, and counsel offered the scientist who conducted the test as an expert to testify to the results obtained. The offer was objected to by counsel for the government, and the court sustained the objection. Counsel for defendant then offered to have the proffered witness conduct a test in the presence of the jury. This also was denied.

Judge Van Orsdell then proceeded to define the new rule:

The rule is that the opinions of experts or skilled witnesses are admissible in evidence in those cases in which the matter of inquiry is such that inexperienced persons are unlikely to prove capable of forming a correct judgment upon it, for the reason that the subject-matter so far partakes of a science, art, or trade as to require a previous habit or experience or study in it, in order to acquire a knowledge of it. When the question involved does not lie within the range of common experience or common knowledge, but requires special experience or special knowledge, then the opinions of witnesses skilled in that particular science, art, or trade to which the question relates are admissible in evidence.

Numerous cases are cited in support of this rule. Just when a scientific principle or discovery crosses the line between the experimental and demonstrable stages is difficult to define. Somewhere in this twilight zone the evidential force of the principle must be recognized, and while courts will go a long way in admitting expert testimony deduced from a well-recognized scientific principle or discovery, the thing from which the deduction is made must be sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs.

We think the systolic blood pressure deception test has not yet gained such standing and scientific recognition among physiological and psychological authorities as would justify the courts in admitting expert testimony deduced from the discovery, development, and experiments thus far made.

(Emphasis supplied)

The issue Judge Nelson would have to decide, assuming she decides to hold a Frye hearing, is whether the methodologies used by the state’s experts are generally accepted by audiologists as capable of producing accurate and reliable results.

The Frye test has been described as a counting-heads test because it does not require the judge to understand the theory or methodology at issue. The judge need only count the heads of the experts in the particular field and decide whether they generally accept the methodology.

As I recall, two experts used different methodologies to compare the shriek to a voice exemplar provided by the defendant. One methodology has been used for many years and the other one, which was developed recently, involves the use of a software program.

Both experts have excluded the defendant as the source of the scream.

Since the first method has been used for many years, it probably has survived a Frye challenge in Florida.

The second method may be too new to have been challenged at a Frye hearing.

The glaring, and I believe fatal, omission in O’Mara’s motion for a Frye hearing is the absence of any supporting affidavits from experts in audiology that one or both of the methodologies used are not generally accepted by audiologists as capable of producing accurate and reliable results.

Nobody gives a damn about what the non-expert lawyer thinks. He is not qualified to express an opinion about general acceptance of these methodologies.

Therefore, I would deny his motion for a Frye hearing.

Notice that regardless whether Judge Nelson grants or denies O’Mara’s motion, the State will still be required to lay a proper foundation for each of its expert audiologists at trial pursuant to Evidence Rule 702 that the witness is a duly qualified expert in the field and the result obtained using the particular methodology in question will assist the jury to decide who is screaming.

In conclusion, if I were the prosecutor, I would be inclined to try the case without putting on any audiologists during my case-in-chief for the simple reason that I do not believe they are necessary. This is another illustration of the KISS rule.

BTW, all that sparring about whether Tracy Martin could identify Trayvon as the source of the shriek does not matter.

Hardly anyone ever shrieks like that and lives to tell about it, so it stands to reason that no one, including his father, ever heard Trayvon utter a shriek like that. This may explain why it may not be possible for any expert to positively identify the source of the shriek without considering the circumstances or context that produced it.

That’s why it sounds inhuman.

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The search of Trayvon Martin’s backpack in school was unreasonable and unlawful

May 6, 2013

Monday, May 6, 2013

Good morning:

I credit Lonnie Starr’s series of comments regarding the warrantless search by a school police officer of Trayvon Martin’s backpack for inspiring me to write today’s post.

The officer seized some women’s jewelry and a large flat head screwdriver that the officer described as a burglar tool. Trayvon was not charged with a criminal offense because no one had reported the jewelry stolen and the value of the jewelry was uncertain because no one had examined it to determine if it contained precious gems, or if it were worthless costume jewelry designed to look like real jewelry. The absence of a stolen property report suggests that it’s costume jewelry because, if it had any value, the owner likely would have filled out a stolen property report and filed an insurance claim.

IIRC, the suspension that resulted in his trip to Sanford involved a later incident.

Nevertheless, in response to demands from many of the defendant’s supporters at the Conservative Treehouse, defense counsel have commenced a snipe hunt into this closed matter in hopes of discovering that Trayvon was a member of a burglary ring in Miami. According to CTH logic, this would mean that Trayvon really was “up to no good” when the defendant encountered him walking home in the rain, presumably because once a burglar, always a burglar who must have continued burglarizing homes in Sanford.

Even if this were true, of course, the defendant would not have known it, and since the narrative description that he provided to the NEN dispatcher did not establish a reasonable suspicion to believe Trayvon was “up to no good,” he had no justifiable reason to follow and confront him. In addition, unless juvenile burglars in Miami are aggressive and violent MMA style ninja fighters who like to assault and kill people with their bare hands just for grins, the evidence would be inadmissible.

Therefore, this snipe hunt is going nowhere fast. It’s an absolute waste of time and money when the defense should be assembling a team of experts to review all of the reports, raw data and bench notes generated by the State’s experts.

Be that as it may, Lonnie has raised an issue of general concern to teachers and parents of school age children. Under what circumstances can a teacher search a student’s backpack for evidence of a crime without a search warrant?

The SCOTUS answered that question in 6-3 decision in New Jersey v. TLO, 469 U.S. 325, 328 (1985). Writing for the majority, Justice White described the facts as follows:

On March 7, 1980, a teacher at Piscataway High School in Middlesex County, N.J. discovered two girls smoking in a lavatory. One of the two girls was the respondent T.L.O, who at that time was a 14-year-old high school freshman. Because smoking in the lavatory was a violation of a school rule, the teacher took the two girls to the Principal’s office, where they met with Assistant Vice Principal Theodore Choplick. In response to questioning by Mr. Choplick, T.L.O’s companion admitted that she had violated the rule. T.L.O, however, denied that she had been smoking in the lavatory and claimed that she did not smoke at all.

Mr. Choplick asked T.L.O to come into his private office and demanded to see her purse. Opening the purse, he found a pack of cigarettes, which he removed from the purse and held before T.L.O as he accused her of having lied to him. As he reached into the purse for the cigarettes, Mr. Choplick also noticed a package of cigarette rolling papers. In his experience, possession of rolling papers by high school students was closely associated with the use of marihuana. Suspecting that a closer examination of the purse might yield further evidence of drug use, Mr. Choplick proceeded to search the purse thoroughly. The search revealed a small amount of marihuana, a pipe, a number of empty plastic bags, a substantial quantity of money in one-dollar bills, an index card that appeared to be a list of students who owed T.L.O money, and two letters that implicated T.L.O in marihuana dealing.

Mr. Choplick notified T.L.O’s mother and the police, and turned the evidence of drug dealing over to the police.

The New Jersey Supreme Court held that this warrantless search was unlawful, but the SCOTUS reversed. Justice White said,

There remains the question of the legality of the search in this case. We recognize that the “reasonable grounds” standard applied by the New Jersey Supreme Court in its consideration of this question is not substantially different from the standard that we have adopted today. Nonetheless, we believe that the New Jersey court’s application of that standard to strike down the search of T.L.O.’s purse reflects a somewhat crabbed notion of reasonableness. Our review of the facts surrounding the search leads us to conclude that the search was in no sense unreasonable for Fourth Amendment purposes.

The incident that gave rise to this case actually involved two separate searches, with the first — the search for cigarettes — providing the suspicion that gave rise to the second — the search for marihuana. Although it is the fruits of the second search that are at issue here, the validity of the search for marihuana must depend on the reasonableness of the initial search for cigarettes, as there would have been no reason to suspect that T.L.O. possessed marihuana had the first search not taken place. Accordingly, it is to the search for cigarettes that we first turn our attention.

The New Jersey Supreme Court pointed to two grounds for its holding that the search for cigarettes was unreasonable. First, the court observed that possession of cigarettes was not in itself illegal or a violation of school rules. Because the contents of T.L.O.’s purse would therefore have “no direct bearing on the infraction” of which she was accused (smoking in a lavatory where smoking was prohibited), there was no reason to search her purse. [Footnote 11] Second, even assuming that a search of T.L.O.’s purse might under some circumstances be reasonable in light of the accusation made against T.L.O., the New Jersey court concluded that Mr. Choplick in this particular case had no reasonable grounds to suspect that T.L.O. had cigarettes in her purse. At best, according
to the court, Mr. Choplick had “a good hunch.” 94 N.J. at 347, 463 A.2d at 942. Both these conclusions are implausible. T.L.O. had been accused of smoking, and had denied the accusation in the strongest possible terms when she stated that she did not smoke at all. Surely it cannot be said that under these circumstances, T.L.O.’s possession of cigarettes would be irrelevant to the charges against her or to her response to those charges. T.L.O.’s possession of cigarettes, once it was discovered, would both corroborate the report that she had been smoking and undermine the credibility of her defense to the charge of smoking. To be sure, the discovery of the cigarettes would not prove that T.L.O. had been smoking in the lavatory; nor would it, strictly speaking, necessarily be inconsistent with her claim that she did not smoke at all. But it is universally recognized that evidence, to be relevant to an inquiry, need not conclusively prove the ultimate fact in issue, but only have “any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence.” Fed.Rule Evid. 401. The relevance of T.L.O.’s possession of cigarettes to the question whether she had been smoking and to the credibility of her denial that she smoked supplied the necessary “nexus” between the item searched for and the infraction under investigation. See Warden v. Hayden, 387 U. S. 294, 387 U. S. 306-307 (1967). Thus, if Mr. Choplick in fact had a reasonable suspicion that T.L.O. had cigarettes in her purse, the search was justified despite the fact that the cigarettes, if found, would constitute “mere evidence” of a violation. Ibid.

Of course, the New Jersey Supreme Court also held that Mr. Choplick had no reasonable suspicion that the purse would contain cigarettes. This conclusion is puzzling. A teacher had reported that T.L.O. was smoking in the lavatory. Certainly this report gave Mr. Choplick reason to suspect that T.L.O. was carrying cigarettes with her; and if she did have cigarettes, her purse was the obvious place in which to find them. Mr. Choplick’s suspicion that there were cigarettes in the purse was not an “inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or hunch,'” Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. at 392 U. S. 27; rather, it was the sort of “common-sense conclusio[n] about human behavior” upon which “practical people” — including government officials — are entitled to rely. United States v. Cortez, 449 U. S. 411, 449 U. S. 418 (1981). Of course, even if the teacher’s report were true, T.L.O. might not have had a pack of cigarettes with her; she might have borrowed a cigarette from someone else or have been sharing a cigarette with another student. But the requirement of reasonable suspicion is not a requirement of absolute certainty: “sufficient probability, not certainty, is the touchstone of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment. . . .” Hill v. California, 401 U. S. 797, 401 U. S. 804 (1971). Because the hypothesis that T.L.O. was carrying cigarettes in her purse was itself not unreasonable, it is irrelevant that other hypotheses were also consistent with the teacher’s accusation. Accordingly, it cannot be said that Mr. Choplick acted unreasonably when he examined T.L.O.’s purse to see if it contained cigarettes.

Our conclusion that Mr. Choplick’s decision to open T.L.O.’s purse was reasonable brings us to the question of the further search for marihuana once the pack of cigarettes was located. The suspicion upon which the search for marihuana was founded was provided when Mr. Choplick observed a package of rolling papers in the purse as he removed the pack of cigarettes. Although T.L.O. does not dispute the reasonableness of Mr. Choplick’s belief that the rolling papers indicated the presence of marihuana, she does contend that the scope of the search Mr. Choplick conducted exceeded permissible bounds when he seized and read certain letters that implicated T.L.O. in drug dealing. This argument, too, is unpersuasive. The discovery of the rolling papers concededly gave rise to a reasonable suspicion that T.L.O. was carrying marihuana as well as cigarettes in her purse. This suspicion justified further exploration of T.L.O.’s purse, which turned up more evidence of drug-related activities: a pipe, a number of plastic bags of the type commonly used to store marihuana, a small quantity of marihuana, and a fairly substantial amount of money. Under these circumstances, it was not unreasonable to extend the search to a separate zippered compartment of the purse; and when a search of that compartment revealed an index card containing a list of “people who owe me money” as well as two letters, the inference that T.L.O. was involved in marihuana trafficking was substantial enough to justify Mr. Choplick in examining the letters to determine whether they contained any further evidence. In short, we cannot conclude that the search for marihuana was unreasonable in any respect.

Because the search resulting in the discovery of the evidence of marihuana dealing by T.L.O. was reasonable, the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision to exclude that evidence from T.L.O.’s juvenile delinquency proceedings on Fourth Amendment grounds was erroneous. Accordingly, the judgment of the Supreme Court of New Jersey is

Reversed.

New Jersey v. TLO, 469 U.S., at 343-348.

Using the reasonableness test the SCOTUS has approved of the use of random drug testing of student athletes in Vernonia School District 47J v. Acton, 515 U.S. 646 (1995), and eventually extended the rule to apply to all students engaged in extracurricular activities in Board of Education v. Earls, 536 U.S. 822 (2002).

The SCOTUS drew the line, however, in Safford Unified School District v. Redding, 557 U.S. 364 (2009), where school officials strip searched a girl in middle school for pills where the school lacked reasons to suspect either that the drugs (Ibuprofen) presented a danger or that they were concealed in her underwear.

Lonnie argues that the search of Trayvon’s backpack for the grafitti marker that led to the discovery of the jewelry and screwdriver a day after the police official claimed to have seen him mark-up a door in the school with WTF, violated his right to privacy and I agree that it did. Although reasonable minds might differ, I believe the search was unreasonable because the information was stale.

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Zimmerman: O’Mara admits he cannot prove defendant utters terrified shriek

May 5, 2013

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Good Evening:

Amanda Sloane of HLN TV reported last Tueday after the hearing before Judge Nelson:

Cries for help: Is it Zimmerman or Trayvon?

Defense attorney Mark O’Mara said Tuesday that a 911 call could be the key piece of evidence in the case against George Zimmerman. In the background of the audio recording, you can hear someone screaming for help.

If it’s Zimmerman, O’Mara said it shows that the night watchman was the one under attack “and documents his story completely — it also documents his injuries.” If, however, it’s 17-year-old Trayvon Martin’s voice on the recording, then it could show Zimmerman was “acting in a very aggressive way toward him,” O’Mara said.

So which one is it?

O’Mara told In Session correspondent Jean Casarez that witnesses for the prosecution and the defense can’t seem to agree. So, he wants to have a hearing to decide if anyone should be able to testify about the voice at all.

Should jurors be able to decide for themselves whom they hear on the call?

Translation of O’Mara-speak into ordinary English: O’Mara knows that Trayvon uttered the 40-second terrified shriek.

Quite an admission by the man who has been so certain in the past that his client uttered the shriek.

Most of us are not surprised because we figured it out last summer.

We have been wondering when everybody else would finally figure it out.

So, what does O’Mara want to do?

He wants to exclude the tape, so the jury will not even hear it.

There is absolutely no chance Judge Nelson will grant that motion.

The legal rule is that arguments regarding the identity of the person who uttered the terrified shriek go to the weight that the jury should assign to the opinion of each witness and not to the admissibility of the testimony itself.

Notice the disappearing defense.

No immunity hearing and now this damning admission.

Say good-bye, George.

Justice for Trayvon

(H/T to Elcymoo for providing the link to the HLN article)

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Zimmerman: Let there be thunder that makes the mountains tremble

May 4, 2013

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Good afternoon:

The defendant’s friend, Frank Taaffe, described the defendant’s state of mind the night that he stalked and killed Trayvon Martin.

He was mad as hell and he wasn’t going to take it anymore.

Given that Taaffe uttered this statement after he found out about the shooting, I believe we can reasonably assume that he believed the defendant pursued and confronted Trayvon with murder in mind.

Why did he believe that?

Why was the defendant so angry?

What was it that the defendant was not going to take anymore?

I have puzzled over Taaffe’s statement ever since I heard him say it.

Despite a lack of objective evidence that would support a belief that the gated neighborhood was besieged by burglars and thieves, the defendant appears to have believed that was actually happening, or he pushed that false narrative in hopes of creating a justification for the Homeowner’s Association to hire him to provide security.

He also appears to have believed that the burglars and thieves were Black and they always got away.

Frank Taaffe told us that the defendant was mad as hell about that and he was going to put an end to it.

The defendant said during the NEN call, “fucking coons,” and “these assholes, they always get away.”

This explains why he got out of his vehicle and hunted for Trayvon, ignoring the dispatcher’s request not to follow him.

Indeed, we can see by his actions that he was “mad as hell.” Acting as police officer, prosecutor, jury, judge and executioner the defendant decided that Trayvon was one “fucking coon,” one “asshole” who wasn’t going to get away.

A little over two minutes after the defendant ended the NEN call, after telling the dispatcher to have the officer call his cell phone when he arrived in the neighborhood, he hunted Trayvon down and shot him to death as Trayvon was telling Dee Dee about the creepy man who stalked and frightened him.

Trayvon never found out who he was or why he stalked and attacked him.

He died in the dark and cold rain begging for his life and shrieking in terror and disbelief.

Although Trayvon was a good kid, it would not have mattered if he were the Devil incarnate.

He was unarmed and he did nothing except try to escape from a creepy man who stalked him, first in a vehicle and then on foot.

The defense effort to demonize him and his family disgusts and infuriates me.

Demonizing Trayvon, even if successful, is not a defense and evidence of bad acts or character, assuming such evidence exists, is not admissible.

Defense counsel deserve harsh criticism and universal condemnation for pursuing this incredibly depraved and unnecessary course of action.

By attempting to exploit racial stereotypes and race-driven fear of Black males in a high publicity case, Mark O’Mara, Don West and everyone who supports what they do give us all a bad name.

Let there be thunder across this land that makes the mountains tremble,

Justice for Trayvon

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Zimmerman voluntarily waived his right in court today to an immunity hearing

April 30, 2013

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Today’s hearing was a judicial slam-down of the defense motions.

The most important thing that happened was the defendant’s waiver of the immunity hearing. After Judge Nelson placed him under oath, he acknowledged that he knew he had a right to a pretrial immunity hearing and he voluntarily waived that hearing.

In my opinion the waiver is bullet proof and will withstand appellate scrutiny.

At the press conference following the hearing, Mark O’Mara said that they had decided to waive the hearing because it would be better to let a jury decide the case. In my opinion, his explanation is pure spin designed to conceal that he knows his client’s credibility will be destroyed on cross examination. In other words, the defense has no defense.

BOTTOM LINE: He would not have waived the hearing, if he thought he had any chance to win. That overwhelming case for self-defense that O’Mara has been bragging about for almost a year is a bust. He folded when Bernie called his bluff.

Judge Nelson also ruled that the defense was not prejudiced by any of the alleged discovery violations, but she postponed consideration until after trial of whether to order the State to reimburse the defense for fees and costs incurred by alleged delays in providing discovery.

After Mark O’Mara questioned Don West on direct regarding the alleged discovery violations, Bernie de la Rionda did a nice job cross examining him by getting him to admit that the prosecution and defense discovered some information simultaneously, as in the case of Dee Dee’s hand written letter to Sybrina Fulton that she had placed in the family Bible together with other letters of condolence.

West’s effort to make an issue about BDLR failing to disclose that Sybrina Fulton sat next to Dee Dee when she was interviewed also came across as irrelevant nitpicking rather than a Brady violation.

BDLR also nailed West making him look foolish when West could not explain how Dee Dee’s hospital excuse about missing the funeral and wake because she could not face looking at Trayvon’s dead body had anything to do with whether the defendant murdered Trayvon.

We also learned today that the State recently sent the recording of the 911 call with the terrified-fear-of-death shriek to an expert to clean/enhance. The expert has not completed the process or issued a report.

True to form, Judge Nelson denied the defense motions without providing any basis to support a motion to recuse.

The next hearing will be May 28th with motions due no later than May 10th.

Writing articles every day and maintaining the integrity and safety of this site from people who would like nothing better than to silence us forever is a tough job requiring many hours of work.

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Fred


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