Racists should be banned from jury service

June 13, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

Good afternoon:

Xena posted a comment to my post about Theodore Wafer advising that his hearing has been continued to next Friday, June 20th.

She also said,

Did you read the part where the defense wants to argue that Renisha mistook Wafer’s house for a drug dealer’s house? The defense’s argument is that someone who lived close to Renisha was arrested for marijuana after Renisha was killed.

This presents an interesting new wrinkle to putting a victim on trial for a homicide, so let’s break it down, take a look and estimate the probability that it will be successful.

Let’s begin by assuming for the sake of argument that,

(1) someone who lived near Wafer’s house sold marijuana,

(2) McBride had previously purchased marijuana from that person at that address, and

(3) she mistakenly believed she was knocking on that person’s front door when she knocked on Wafer’s front door.

I don’t believe that set of assumed facts, which Wafer did not know at the time of the shooting, helps his claim of self-defense because, regardless of her intent, he had to be in fear of suffering imminent death or grievous bodily harm and his belief had to be reasonable. That is, a reasonable person in the same situation also would have believed that he was in imminent danger of suffering death or grievous bodily injury.

The racist right wing hate machine skips over the word reasonable because its members devoutly believe that their opinions are reasonable.

They fail to understand that the word reasonable in a legal context means evidence-based, as opposed to opinion-based. Racial prejudice is by definition opinion-based, rather than evidence-based. Therefore, it is unreasonable and no verdict should ever be based on it.

Prospective jurors who are unaware of their racial prejudice, or who deny being prejudiced when they know damn well they are prejudiced, should never sit on a jury when a person of color is the defendant or a victim allegedly injured or killed by a white defendant.

Even if McBride had a gun and intended to kill Wafer, and there is no evidence that she did, nothing about the situation he was in would likely have caused a reasonable person to believe he was in imminent danger behind the two locked doors. Seems to me that opening the door demonstrates unequivocally that he did not fear death or grievous bodily injury.

That act is an evidence-based expression of his state of mind when he opened the door and it defeats his claim of self-defense.

The castle doctrine does not help Wafer because she did not attempt to break in or enter his house. She was unarmed and outside his house knocking on the door. He was inside his house in a safe location on the other side of two locked doors while armed with a loaded shotgun and he had a cell phone with which to call 911.

He cannot create a necessity to act in self-defense by opening the door.

We might have a different situation if he were living next to a drug house with all sorts of people coming and going at all hours of the day and night occasionally mistaking his house for the drug house, but even then he would have to have an objectively reasonable basis to believe his life was in danger, as opposed to being pissed off that someone was knocking on his door disturbing his sleep in the middle of the night.

As a matter of law, therefore, I believe the answer is easy. The evidence that the defense seeks to introduce is irrelevant and inadmissible.

Just as O’Mara and West did in the Zimmerman trial, the defense is attacking the victim’s character in an effort to say she deserved to die.

However, as much as right-wing racists want to believe that they have a right to kill any person who is young, black, drunk and/or stoned (e.g., George Zimmerman), especially if that person is listening to loud music and is disrespectful (e.g., Michael Dunn), the law recognizes no such right or privilege.

Finally, do not forget that Wafer did not initially claim self-defense. He told the police that his gun went off by accident.

Look for the defense to do everything it can to keep him off the stand at trial, so he does not have to explain to the jury which story was a lie and why he lied instead of telling the truth.

Trial lawyers love it when they get to ask, “Were you lying then or are you lying now?”

For all of these reasons, I believe the evidence the defense wants to introduce is irrelevant and inadmissible. I also believe a jury will convict him of murder, provided the prosecution identifies and eliminates all potential stealth jurors who would willingly substitute their racially prejudiced opinions about black teenagers for actual evidence.

We have seen jurors do that in two Florida trials.

The question is whether the prosecution will permit that to happen in Detroit.

Wafer’s trial is scheduled to start in five weeks, probably not long after Judge Thokozile announces her decision in the Oscar Pistorius case.

This is our 1082nd post. If you appreciate this analysis and our continuing effort to explain what is happening between the lines in our failing criminal justice system, please make a donation.

Thank you,

Fred


Frank Taaffe Expresses Change of Heart (Video)

May 10, 2014

posted by Crane-Station

-I owe a hat tip to someone for bringing it to our attention. Thank you, much appreciated. While I have not followed Zimmerman in a while, I do sometimes wonder if some have had a change of heart.

[correction, the hat tip goes to Xena. Thank you Xena!]

Former George Zimmerman defender now says he was guilty, racially profiled black men
By Tom Boggioni
Saturday, May 10, 2014 19:17 EDT


We shall overcome

October 12, 2013

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Good evening:

Crane and I were gone most of the day. Since we returned, we have been reading and talking about the awakening and renewed commitment to seek justice inspired by the shocking injustice in Kendrick Johnson’s case that so many of you have so clearly expressed.

We feel the same way and we intend to use this blog to not only seek justice for Trayvon, but to seek it for Jordan Davis, Kendrick Johnson, their grieving families and everyone else who has been denied their inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in a just and color blind society. Justice for Trayvon is the name and symbol of our quest.

In a comment this afternoon, Mary Davis said,

I know what happened in Trayvon’s case knocked the sails out of us, but we can’t stop now.

She is right and her comment got me thinking.

This is my answer.

The result in Trayvon’s case disappointed me, but it did not knock the sails out of me.

I have learned how to be patient doing death penalty work. In the Darrold Stenson case, for example, where material exculpatory evidence was withheld by the prosecution from me (I was defense counsel) resulting in a guilty verdict and a death sentence, the Washington State Supreme Court finally agreed with our argument and reversed the conviction and death sentence in the spring of 2012. The sentence was imposed in 1994, so justice took 18 years.

I am convinced that something far bigger than ourselves is dictating the direction and pace of events. Racism, corruption and injustice are rampant. Innocent people are being murdered and the perpetrators are not being held accountable.

Necessary change must happen but it cannot happen all at once.

Justice for Trayvon must necessarily be sought outside the legal system because the Double Jeopardy Clause prohibits a retrial and the prosecution is not going to appeal a case that it did not intend to win and cannot retry.

Justice for Trayvon will be found in the court of public opinion. I think this week’s episode of South Park capitalized on widespread interest in the case and the pervasive belief that George Zimmerman got away with murder. He did much to hang himself after the acquittal by swaggering around like the cowardly bully that he is. Result: he was portrayed as the government’s go-to weapon when it wants to silence a black troublemaker because he’s an expert at murdering black kids and getting away with it. However, he killed a white kid disguised in black face, so he was summarily executed in the electric chair.

Rather than offend our national sense of justice, which would have been the case if a majority of Americans believed he was a hero for defending himself against a crazed black thug who attempted to kill him, most people understood that the result of his trial would have been different if Trayvon were a white kid and they laughed at his execution on South Park.

I don’t believe anyone needed to have that explained to them.

I believe the only people who were offended by the show are the white right wing racists that make up the right wing hate machine.

I don’t know how the writers managed to pull that off in a nation of people shocked, dismayed, and still grieving about the injustice of the verdict, but they did.

And they mocked George Zimmerman and got us to laugh at him.

Nothing will bring back Trayvon Martin. I think a nation shocked by Trayvon’s death, the injustice of the verdict, and thoroughly disgusted with George Zimmerman is actually a better result than a conviction and life sentence.

George Zimmerman’s life will be a living hell, which is his just reward

Now we are witnessing a call for help to right a wrong in Valdosta, Georgia. Word is spreading like wildfire through the power of instant communication via the internet to reopen the investigation into Kendrick Johnson’s suspicious death. Experts in death investigation and forensics are stepping forward and speaking out. They are identifying the problems with the investigation and calling his death a homicide.

The cover-up is falling apart exposing yet another corrupt and incompetent local police department (the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office) and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which conducted the autopsy and reached the utterly ridiculous and indefensible conclusion that his death was accidental due to positional asphyxiation.

Unfortunately, during the long course of human history, most people have been far too willing to accept corruption and injustice as just the way it is, even when they, or someone they know, have been victimized. They felt too isolated and powerless to fight back. For example, more than 80 innocent defendants pled guilty to felonies they did not commit during the late 1990s and agreed to serve lengthy prison sentences without complaint. Every one of them was framed by corrupt members of the out-of-control Ramparts Division of the Los Angeles Police Department. At least one of them sustained multiple gunshot wounds for allegedly resisting arrest even though he submitted to arrest.

The horrible story unravelled when one of the rogue police officers was arrested for possessing cocaine in his locker. He snitched on his fellow officers in exchange for favorable treatment. Eventually the truth was revealed and all of the wrongful convictions were set aside.

Even though they were represented by counsel, not one of the more than 80 innocent defendants believed he had a realistic chance to be acquitted and not one of them was even willing to go to trial.

Tragically, corruption and injustice tend to thrive and be tolerated until some terrible tragedy occurs that so offends people that they finally say enough is enough.

George Zimmerman’s cold blooded execution of an innocent and unarmed Trayvon Martin screaming for help and his mother and begging for his life was such a tragedy. People all over the world were shocked and horrified. It brought us together here and it brought many others together at other sites. All of us watched the trial and we ultimately saw through the pretense of a serious prosecution. We have been changed forever by that experience.

Nine months after Zimmerman murdered Trayvon, we were horrified again when Michael Dunn murdered Jordan Davis at a gas station because Jordan refused to turn down the music he was listening to and did not show Dunn enough respect. Ironically, Dunn will be prosecuted by Angela Corey, the State Attorney who oversaw the failed prosecution of George Zimmerman and expressed satisfaction with the result.

We will be watching that trial and calling her out every time she fails to do something she should have done or does something she should not have done. I and others like me who are experienced trial lawyers will be watching every move she makes. She has a lot to prove and everything to lose. She will not get away with another lackluster effort to create the appearance of justice. We will call her out, if she allows another racist right wing nutcase like B-37 to get on the jury. We’ve seen the movie and we are familiar with the script. Never again.

And now we have Kendrick Johnson’s shocking case to grab our attention and galvanize us back into action.

Nothing will ever change unless we take action and make things change. Unfortunately, humans have to be shocked out of their generally passive and accepting everyday lives before they will come together, focus on solving a problem, and take action to git ‘r done. These three horrific cases are waking us up to what we must do to reclaim our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in a just and color blind society. We cannot ignore these tragedies. We cannot shrug our shoulders and turn our backs on Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Kendrick Johnson and their grieving families because those three beautiful, young, and innocent children could just have easily been our children or even ourselves.

Justice for Trayvon is justice for everyone and we now have three crystal clear examples that racism is alive and well in this country and our criminal justice system is aiding and abetting it rather than producing just results.

I could no more ignore the message conveyed by these three tragedies than stop breathing.

By working together using the power of the internet to communicate, we can and we will make the mountains tremble.


Unfinished forensics in Trayvon Martin case

August 2, 2013

Friday, August 2, 2013

Good morning to all of our friends:

I write this morning regarding unfinished forensics with Trayvon’s case and to urge Benjamin Crump to consult with someone who is knowledgeable about forensics before he decides whether to sue George Zimmerman for wrongful death.

Piranha Mom’s comment at 12:09 am inspired me to write this post.

If a civil claim is filed against Zimmerman by Trayvon’s family, Professor Fred and all of us must put together the DEFINITIVE narrative, citing each movement with justification and evidence, and supply it to Trayvon’s family and attorneys.

We know what happened.

We have had the forensic evidence at our fingertips — and we know it all by heart. We were open in our analysis.

We DIDN’T expect we had to provide this to the prosecution.

But they were so full of hubris and the big award Bernie was to receive, and paid little attention to evidence. Bernie even thinks Trayvon took part in the battle, not that he was struggling to get away. If the prosecutor has no faith in the victim, or in the chief witness for the prosecution, what could we expect to get?

The verdict we got.

Won’t make THAT mistake again!

Yes, Piranha Mom is right and here are three glaring examples.

Amy Siewart, the crime lab firearms analyst who examined Trayvon’s sweatshirts, apparently never read the autopsy report or conferred with Dr. Bao regarding whether the bullet holes in the sweatshirts aligned with the entry wound in Trayvon’s chest. Evidently, no one at FDLE or any member of the prosecution team thought about that possibility either.

Yet, that was the first thought that occurred to me when I read that first document dump and LLMPapa was all over that issue too. I wrote about it and he made several videos about it. Both of us discussed the implications.

We even argued with the self-described crime scene expert from Jacksonville, Michael Knox, about the proper conclusions to draw from that evidence.

Massive and inexcusable failure of LE and the prosecutor’s office not to see and comprehend the significance of that evidence.

Massive and inexcusable failure by BDLR not to use the State’s DNA expert, Anthony Gorgone, to clear-up the confusion created by the defense regarding whether rain can wash away DNA and whether packaging Trayvon’s sweatshirt in a plastic biohazard bag would degrade all DNA present, such that it could not be detected with STR/PCR.

Siewart also should have been questioned regarding (1) the unusually strong kickback of a KelTec 9 semiautomatic handgun when fired with one hand, and (2) whether the distance between the two spires on the rear gunsight match the distance between the two pinholes on the tip of Zimmerman’s nose that bled so copiously.

I believe those distances match and Siewart could testify that the gun could have caused the injuries to Zimmerman’s nose, if he fired the fatal shot within a few feet of his face while holding the gun with one hand as Zimmerman described.

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Zimmerman’s statements after the shooting are not admissible

June 21, 2013

Friday, June 21, 2013

Good evening:

Don West filed a written motion this afternoon identifying the defendant’s statements that he claims are admissible pursuant to the res gestae exception to the hearsay rule.

The statements are hearsay and not admissible pursuant to the res gestae or any other exception to the hearsay rule.

Mr. West describes the statements as follows:

Witness 13 and his wife heard a commotion in the back of their townhome. They heard yelling and then heard a shot. Witness 13 grabbed a flashlight and went outside to see what had happened. Within seconds of the shooting, W13 approached Mr. Zimmerman who was staggering, bleeding and breathing hard. The witness observed blood on Mr. Zimmerman’s face and the back of his head consistent with someone having been injured in a fight. Mr. Zimmerman asked W13 if he was bleeding? Witness 13 said “Yes” and W13 asked Mr. Zimmerman what had happened? Mr. Zimmerman told W13 that the other person was “beating me up” and he shot him.

Within a minute or so, Sanford Police Officer Tim Smith arrived on foot at the location where Mr. Zimmerman and W13 were standing. Officer Smith spoke with Mr. Zimmerman at the scene upo his arrival. Mr. Zimmerman acknowledged being the person who fired the shot and that he had a firearm on him. Mr. Zimmerman spontaneously stated that he had yelled for help and that no one helped him.

The defense bases its argument on Alexander v. State, 627 So.2d 35, 43-44 (1st DCA 1993), where the Court stated,

We conclude that the trial court erred in excluding the testimony of witnesses to the shooting that described appellant Alexander’s exclamations and actions immediately after firing the shot that killed the victim. This testimony was admissible under the res gestae rule now codified in sections 90.803(1), (2), and (3), Florida Statutes (1991), which define the conditions for admissibility of (1) spontaneous statements, (2) excited utterances, and (3) then existing mental and emotional conditions of the declarant. The statements about which these witnesses could testify were made almost simultaneously with the act of shooting, a period of time too short to support a finding of fabrication that would destroy the apparent trustworthiness of this evidence. The mere fact that statements are self-serving is not, in and of itself, a sufficient evidentiary basis for their exclusion from evidence. No legal principle excludes statements or conduct of a party solely on the ground that such statements or conduct is self-serving. State v. Johnson, 671 P.2d 215 (Utah 1983); State v. Wallace, 97 Ariz. 296, 399 P.2d 909 (1965); Commonwealth v. Fatalo, 345 Mass. 85, 185 N.E.2d 754 (1962). See also United States v. Dellinger, 472 F.2d 340, 381 (7th Cir.1972), cert. denied, 410 U.S. 970, 93 S.Ct. 1443, 35 L.Ed.2d 706 (1973). While exculpatory statements of the accused generally are excluded from criminal cases because of their hearsay character, 29 Am.Jur.2d Evidence § 621 (1967), the courts of this state have long recognized an exception to this general rule where the statements form a part of the res gestae of the alleged offense. Jenkins v. State, 58 Fla. 62, 50 So. 582 (1909); Lowery v. State, 402 So.2d 1287 (Fla. 5th DCA 1981); Watkins v. State, 342 So.2d 1057 (Fla. 1st DCA), cert. denied, 353 So.2d 680 (Fla. 1977).[2] Furthermore, Florida has followed a liberal rule concerning the admittance of res gestae statements. See Appell v. State, 250 So.2d 318 (Fla. 4th DCA), cert. denied, 257 So.2d 257 (Fla. 1971). Accordingly, we do not see any basis on this record for concluding that this testimony was lacking in apparent trustworthiness and probative value. Thus, we are impelled to conclude that the exclusion of the proffered testimony of res gestae statements in this case was an abuse of discretion and, under the circumstances of this case, cannot be treated as harmless error.

(Emphasis supplied)

Accord: Stiles v. State, 672 So.2d 850 (4th DCA 1996).

Therefore, the critical question for Judge Nelson to decide is whether the statements “form a part of the res gestae of the alleged offense” such that the Court can find that there is no basis to conclude that “the testimony [is] lacking in apparent trustworthiness and probative value.”

Contrary to the defense assertion that “within seconds of the shooting,” the witness saw the defendant “staggering, bleeding and breathing hard,” the evidence will show that the witness described the defendant as “calm and collected” and within a few minutes all of his vital signs were normal when an EMT checked him. Indeed, he was cool, calm and collected.

With the exception of a few minor injuries that did not require stitches, a trip to the ER or even a bandaid, the defendant did not even appear to have been in a fight. Moreover, the only witness who described seeing a fight subsequently retracted that statement.

The evidence also will establish that the terrified death shriek ended when the defendant fired the fatal shot and both of the state’s expert witnesses have excluded the defendant as the person who uttered that haunting scream.

The evidence will show that, at the time he uttered the statements, he knew that the police were on their way and due to arrive any second.

Finally, the evidence will show that, instead of using his cell phone to call 911 for an emergency vehicle and attempting CPR until medical assistance arrived, he mounted Trayvon, placed his hands around his throat and subsequently stood up and had a casual conversation with a neighbor about the type of gun and ammunition he used to shoot Trayvon.

Under these circumstances, unlike the two cases cited by Mr. West, there is no basis for Judge Nelson to conclude that the statements “form a part of the res gestae of the alleged offense” such that the Court can find that there is no basis to conclude that “the testimony [is] lacking in apparent trustworthiness and probative value.” In fact, quite the opposite is true.

Here is Wiki with a little more information on the res gestae exception, in case it remains unclear:

Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, res gestae is an exception to the rule against hearsay evidence based on the belief that, because certain statements are made naturally, spontaneously, and without deliberation during the course of an event, they leave little room for misunderstanding/misinterpretation upon hearing by someone else (i.e., by the witness, who will later repeat the statement to the court) and thus the courts believe that such statements carry a high degree of credibility. Statements that can be admitted into evidence as res gestae fall into three headings:

Words or phrases that either form part of, or explain, a physical act,

Exclamations that are so spontaneous as to belie concoction, and

Statements that are evidence of someone’s state of mind.

The defendant’s statements establish that he was in a full cover-up mode knowing that the police were en route and due to arrive any second.

Therefore, the cases cited by Mr. West do not apply and the defendant’s statements are inadmissible hearsay.

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Thank you


Father’s Day Card to Tracy Martin

June 16, 2013

Xena made this video:


Expert opinions about the death shriek are admissible at trial

June 9, 2013

Saturday, June 9, 2013

Good afternoon:

The defense presented the testimony of two expert witnesses yesterday, Dr. Peter French from the UK and George Doddington from the United States, who agreed with Dr. Nakasone of the FBI Crime Lab that there is insufficient information in the background of the recorded 911 calls with which to form an opinion regarding whether Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman uttered the terrified death shriek.

The three experts also agreed that there is insufficient information to support an opinion regarding whether there are any identifiable words or phrases in the background of those calls.

Note that the three experts have described the prosecution and defense effort to rely on expert witnesses to identify the source of the terrified death shriek, as well as any words or phrases that either of them might have used, as an absence-of-evidence problem. That is, they agreed that the methodologies used by the prosecution experts are generally accepted by audiologists and neither novel nor new.

This conclusion is all that is required to satisfy the Frye rule, since the rule is a counting-heads test that establishes a threshold requirement or legal foundation to introduce an expert opinion that is based on a novel scientific theory or new methodology. The expert’s conclusion is irrelevant.

In other words, there was no need for a Frye hearing since the prosecution experts based their opinions on long accepted methodologies. Therefore, their opinions are admissible.

How much weight should be accorded to those opinions is a separate issue that only the jury can decide.

Defense counsel have focused their effort during the Frye hearing on attacking the validity of the opinions expressed by the prosecution experts. They are going to have to repeat that effort during the trial.

I predicted long ago that expert opinion regarding who uttered the terrified death shriek would not play a significant role in the outcome of the trial.

If I were arguing the State’s case to the jury, I would emphasize the strength of the circumstantial evidence that proves Trayvon Martin uttered the shriek. I would briefly add that the conclusions reached by the prosecution experts independently confirm the circumstantial evidence.

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