Why lack of grand jury might be a good thing for Trayvon

If you have been reading the news, which the PartyBlog always does, you have been watching tv, or just generally don’t live under a rock, the lost city of Atlantis and/or at Walden Pond, you likely have heard about the tragedy that is the Trayvon Martin case.  Yes, it is a tragedy, regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of the issue.  It is an undeniable tragedy.  An unarmed teenager walking home (or more accurately to the house in which he had been invited to by his father’s girlfriend and therefore legally had the right be at the Retreat at Twin Lakes development in Sanford, FL) is (by what PartyBlog has surmised in the media) shot without having provoked an encounter with a neighborhood watch block captain George Zimmerman, who had been informed by 911 not to follow and not to initiate contact with Martin.

Such an event occurs, with no arrest, and there will inevitably be calls for the Zimmerman’s head.  Two factions have predictably emerged.  While the more conservative wing has come out in support of Zimmerman’s right to defend himself, the overall tragic nature of this event has seemingly been missed by those who are quick to defend Zimmerman and vilify the ultimate victim here, the teenage Martin.  The other wing may also be guilty of portraying Zimmerman as a gun nut, a vigilante, taking the opportunity not to mourn this tragedy, yet making a politicized episode calling for changes to the Stand Your Ground law and Florida’s gun-happy policies in general.

Sadly, these two sides seem to miss the point.  Here are the facts — there is no dispute that a youngster, walking around in an area where he was permitted, unarmed, was shot and killed.  This itself is a tragedy of grand magnitude, and as anyone would acknowledge, if Martin were your relative, brother, boyfriend, son, or friend, you would be calling for Zimmerman’s arrest as well.

The PartyBlog was confused by the decision announced by special prosecutor Angela Corey on Monday, April 9, 2012, not to charge Zimmerman before a grand jury.  However, after reviewing numerous articles about the issue, it seems that by avoiding the grand jury, it also prevents the prosecutors from “passing the buck” of a politicized case to a non-public, non-accountable grand jury to answer the question, and possibly to condone not only Zimmerman but the Stand Your Ground policy in general that has gripped the entire country, regardless of which side you lend your support.  By the nature of this case, the decision of whether to prosecute has taken on so much more meaning, especially in the shadow of an upcoming presidential election, after the president himself has given public support to Martin’s cause, the same president who has been effectively branded as an anti-gun advocate despite having failed to pass a single piece of legislation that would point to such a conclusion.  Yet, the ultimate message that seems to have been lost is the simple tragic nature of this case.  We have a killing, potentially done in cold blood against a young man, who was unarmed, therefore the decision to prosecute should be an easy one, so that the family of this fallen victim may have their day in court.

Unfortunately for the Martin family, this tragedy occurred at a time when Florida, by way of the “Stand Your Ground” law, promoted by lobbyists when it was passed, likely against the perceived threat against gun ownership in this country, has essentially turned traditional self-defense law on its head.  Under the common law, self defense was only available as an affirmative defense, meaning that if you undoubtedly killed someone, it was your duty to prove that you acted in self-defense.  Without engaging in an in-depth legal analysis of the “Stand Your Ground” law, it appears that the Florida law provides that if a suspect claims self defense, and makes a minimal showing in support thereof (for example, by saying “I was in fear of my life”), it becomes the duty of the prosecutors to prove it was not the case (this is a simplification, but this is how the law seems to operate based upon reporting on the issue), a challenge once the victim is dead.  Certainly, many experts of the Florida law have even stated publicly that the Zimmerman prosecution will be a difficult case to win, especially due to the contradicting stories, which, if true (that Zimmerman’s head was in fact “slammed” into the pavement by Martin, or that Martin punched him while Zimmerman was on the ground) would indicate that Zimmerman may have acted in accordance with self defense per the Florida Law (even though, having been around and involved in many street fights, PartyBoy Geezy never feared for its life in such a situation, even when getting slammed into the ground, obviously, because a PartyBoy doesn’t need to carry a gun to make noise, and it would follow logically, that only an individual intending to use a gun in a fight would feel threatened with one’s life once the fight turns against him, because the cheapy-fighter who resorts to gun battle in hand to hand combat would probably assume the other party would use the same type of dirty tactics).

Again, however, the PartyBlog wants to highlight problems with Florida’s self-defense law, for it does not seem to discourage aggression.  The main issue the PartyBlog has with the Stand Your Ground is that it does not discourage an individual from acting aggressively in an explosive situation.  So in any type of situation, including fights in da club, once fists break out, guns can quickly break out too, and the shooter can walk free.  The entire purpose of the self-defense in the common law is to discourage fighting and the use of deadly force – to invoke the defense, traditionally, one could not be the aggressor, or initiate the contact.   Like abortion, it should be rare and necessary.  Once Zimmerman allegedly gives chase to Martin, it would seem that common law self defense would not be available to Zimmerman, because Zimmerman seems like the aggressor and Martin seems like the one defending himself.  Under traditional self-defense, you cannot be the aggressor and the individual privileged to act with deadly force.  Are these not questions that should be decided in a court-room, as opposed to a public debate which has devolved into arguments about the victim’s facebook account, thuggery, and vigilantism?

Ultimately, this case is rife with questions:  Why would Martin run away, only to return by swooping around Zimmerman’s car to attack his would-be pursuer? Who is telling the truth when Zimmerman claims that Martin was on top of Zimmerman punching him and slamming his head into the pavement when witnesses have told the press otherwise?  What about the calls for help heard on 911 that witnesses claimed belonged to Martin but Zimmerman claims to be his own?  If Zimmerman was defending himself in accordance with the Stand Your Ground law – this case has raised to the surface the a law that the PartyBlog would deem a sheer and utter failure in preventing violence (the ultimate purpose of these laws) by permitting an individual to start a fight or chase somebody then claim self defense after the shooting occurs.

It is the opinion of the PartyBlog that due to all of the bad reporting, questionable circumstances and contradictory stories surrounding this story that the most appropriate venue to determine the propriety and reasonableness of Zimmerman’s actions is a court of law.  For that reason, the decision to avoid a grand jury was a good one, eliminating the the risk that a grand jury would make the political decision to throw out this case.   Under normal circumstances, a grand jury proceeding is like a rubber stamp for the prosecution.  Do not be fooled, however, this is not a normal case.  Everybody has an opinion, and it’s getting ugly.  One side seeking to demonize an average teenager who may have made mistakes in his life yet certainly was no thug, the other side seeking to demonize Zimmerman who is innocent until proven guilty, the Florida Law of self defense, and possibly the Sanford police that let Zimmerman walk. Ultimately, even a grand jury might let their prejudices (based upon which camp you are in) dictate the decision.  Best to wait until a public trial to let a jury decide the matter.

Fact of the matter is, if Florida declines not to prosecute, Zimmerman can be and likely will be prosecuted by the Federal government.  So it is better to allow Corey to make the decision herself, without turning a grand jury into a referendum for the country-at-large.  Ultimately, if Corey is the reliable and tough prosecutor she’ll see what the PartyBlog sees, that this case — with the contradictory accounts and the questions surrounding this tragedy, which left a young man, who was unarmed, dead within moments of being shot in the chest on the front yard in a quiet subdivision — should be handled in the good old fashioned American way, in a court of law and not in the court of public opinion.  Also, party people, be aware that what happened to Trayvon can happen to anyone caught off guard, in the club, honking at the car in front of you while frustrated at traffic.   It reminds us partiers to keep our cool, and be prepared to try to defuse a situation if someone else is the aggressor.  Because if you fight back, you don’t know who knows [insert racial group here] “judo” (as the inappropriate and racist joke goes)…judo know I gotta knife, judo know I gotta gun…the joke seems funny until it’s not a joke anymore, and you realize it’s both really offensive and really scary because judo know whose got one – white black yellow Peurto Rican or Hatian.  And above all else, partypeople, recognize this whole politicized debate as what it really is, an American tragedy.

 

PARTY UPDATE — as of April 11, 6 PM, special prosecutor Angela Corey has charged Zimmerman with 2d degree murder.  This means that the prosecution believes it can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman acted with the intent to harm without regard to human life, and that Zimmerman did not act in accordance with Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, but the murder was not pre-meditated.  Often prosecutors will seek the harshest punishment possible, and then juries may downgrade the crime to a lesser degree, such as manslaughter, in order to split the baby.   Second degree murder is the harshest penalty Florida prosecutors may seek in this instance, without convening a grand jury.  Feel free to comment or ask the PartyBlog and its legal experts (by way of comment) any questions you may have about the ongoing developments of this case. 

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