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  #1  
Old 03-11-2012, 08:53 PM
monstro monstro is offline
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Why hasn't the Neighborhood Watch shooter been arrested?

Story here.

Synopsis: A teenager visiting relatives in a gated community is seen by the neighborhood watch captain, who calls 911 to report a "suspicious person".

The operator tells the captain not to do anything and just wait for the police to arrive.

When they do, they find the teenager dead, killed by the captain's gun. The guy, who admitted firing the gun, showed signs of being in a scuffle. However, the boy was found without any weapon.

This happened a couple of weeks ago.

I'm wondering, along with many other people, why hasn't he been charged yet? The 911 tapes haven't been released yet, but based on the known facts (guy left vehicle to confront the kid after having been told not to do anything by authorities, shoots the kid, kid has no weapon, kid has no history of violence) there doesn't seem to be a good reason why he hasn't been charged with SOMETHING.

I do not want to jump to conclusions and start with accusations of unfairness if they aren't warranted. So that's why I'm trying to understand what could be possibly going on to make this not an open-and-shut case. Anyone have any ideas?
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  #2  
Old 03-11-2012, 09:06 PM
beowulff beowulff is offline
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I don't know if this is an appropriate answer for GQ, but: "It's Florida."
  #3  
Old 03-11-2012, 09:16 PM
RickJay RickJay is offline
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White guy, black kid.
  #4  
Old 03-11-2012, 09:33 PM
guizot guizot is offline
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I'm curious, too--I wonder if the fact that this occurred in a gated community could have anything to do with it. I wouldn't think so, but maybe there's something going on behind the scenes.
  #5  
Old 03-11-2012, 09:41 PM
Shmendrik Shmendrik is offline
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I don't see why the 911 operator's instructions are relevant. All that matters is whether the guy was legitimately acting in self defense.
  #6  
Old 03-11-2012, 09:45 PM
needscoffee needscoffee is offline
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Maybe they're figuring out what degree of crime he can be reasonably convicted of based on scant evidence? Murder vs manslaughter, 1st degree, 2nd degree, etc. At this point there's only his word on what happened, and they need evidence to get a conviction. Just a guess.
  #7  
Old 03-11-2012, 09:49 PM
running coach running coach is offline
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Originally Posted by Shmendrik View Post
I don't see why the 911 operator's instructions are relevant. All that matters is whether the guy was legitimately acting in self defense.
911 told the caller to stay in his vehicle. therefore he was not in any danger and had no need to confront the kid.
He escalated the situation. Maybe the victim fought back because a gun was pulled on him.

Last edited by running coach; 03-11-2012 at 09:50 PM..
  #8  
Old 03-11-2012, 09:57 PM
Shmendrik Shmendrik is offline
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Originally Posted by runner pat View Post
911 told the caller to stay in his vehicle. therefore he was not in any danger and had no need to confront the kid.
He escalated the situation. Maybe the victim fought back because a gun was pulled on him.
So what? Disobeying the 911 operator (are they even actual cops?) is not an actual crime, is it? And if he then found himself in legitimate fear of his life, he may have acted in self defense.

Not saying that's necessarily what happened, of course.
  #9  
Old 03-11-2012, 10:53 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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Right, the order from the 911 operator might be relevant in a trial but the fact that "something went down" after the order isn't proof in itself of a crime.

Maybe there was a legitimate reason the guy had to get out of his car, maybe the guy got out of his car for a stupid reason, but still end up getting attacked and used his gun in self defense. That would make the shooter unwise, but it isn't a crime for him to say, try to stop the kid from committing a crime.

It would be a crime if he say, saw the kid breaking into a car and opened fire (you generally can't shoot someone to stop them from breaking into an unoccupied car.) But if he saw the guy breaking into a car, tried to go over to yell at him to stop, and the guy came at him and attacked him, then he shot the kid, that would be self defense.

There are a lot of scenarios I can see where this neighborhood watch guy would be acting in a manner that would fit the definition of self defense under many American jurisdictions. There are also many scenarios I can see where it is everything from cold blooded murder to some other lesser crime.

Is there any information about what the neighborhood watch guy's side of the story is? If we don't know, then there is really no way to say. I'm guessing police have already discussed the matter with prosecutors and the prosecutors are probably reviewing it. That can take some time.

In Baltimore a few years back a Johns Hopkins student had his apartment robbed. Later in that day him and his roommates heard some suspicious noises and started looking around their property, one of the students with a legitimate (not show or replica) sword. When the student entered his garage he found the intruder, who then lunged at him, the student slashed at him and caught him in the wrist and chest. He severed his hand completely and caused a deep chest wound, the burglar died (I believe from the blood loss from losing the hand.) It took weeks and weeks for the prosecutors to decide if they were going to charge the student, with family of the burglar (who was black, student was white) saying the student should not get away with killing their brother/son/etc. Eventually though, the Baltimore prosecutors said that it was not a crime and he would not be charged.

Could be the prosecution is going over this guy's story to decide if:

a) if he committed a crime if his story is true
b) if his story is true / sounds credible / sounds like bullshit
c) if, in their opinion the story is bullshit and/or it's true but reflects a crime, do they have sufficient evidence and ability to convict him of anything

Even if they have a belief the guy committed a crime, if there is no physical evidence, and he didn't say anything damning in interviews with police, it may essentially be impossible to convict because they have no way to disprove his assertion of self defense.
  #10  
Old 03-11-2012, 10:58 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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From reading the article it sounds really unlikely the kid was trying to commit some sort of crime. What I imagine the shooter might have told police is that he confronted the kid and asked him his business, just based on the news article's description of the shooter he probably asked in the manner and tone of an asshole. That could have pissed the kid off and lead to a confrontation. If I had to guess the shooter would describe the story as "I asked this guy what he was up to and he got angry at me and then attacked me, I feared for my life and had to stop him with my gun." If the shooter was smart enough to say that, even though he sounds like an asshole that probably escalated the situation, I think it'd be hard to convict him.

Last edited by Martin Hyde; 03-11-2012 at 10:59 PM..
  #11  
Old 03-11-2012, 11:04 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is offline
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Self defense

The guy is bleeding, that implies he got jumped and was getting his butt whupped. He thought the teen was a criminal and was in fear of his life.

The bleeding tells us the fight happened first and then the shooting occurred. He didn't casually just get out of the car and shot a scared kid holding a bag of skittles.

Quote:
A police report indicated that Zimmerman, who was armed with a handgun, was found bleeding from the nose and the back of the head, standing over Martin,

Last edited by aceplace57; 03-11-2012 at 11:08 PM..
  #12  
Old 03-11-2012, 11:09 PM
Lumpy Lumpy is offline
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Originally Posted by beowulff View Post
I don't know if this is an appropriate answer for GQ, but: "It's Florida."
Relevant in one way: Under current Florida law, there is no "duty to retreat"- a person claiming self-defense in a homicide does not have to offer an affirmative defense by proving that retreat from the confrontation was not possible. In my home state of Minnesota the governor just vetoed a bill the legislature passed that would have established a similar law.

As far as the Florida shooting, pretty much what's been said: what happened, is the shooter's version of events true, and what do the authorities believe they could adequately prove?
  #13  
Old 03-11-2012, 11:32 PM
Rand Rover Rand Rover is offline
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Originally Posted by RickJay View Post
White guy, black kid.
I suppose you have a cite for this fact? We are in GQ after all.
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Old 03-11-2012, 11:35 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Since the OP is asking for opinions, let's move this over to IMHO.

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  #15  
Old 03-12-2012, 12:22 AM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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Originally Posted by Rand Rover View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by RickJay View Post
White guy, black kid.
I suppose you have a cite for this fact? We are in GQ after all.
From the Miami Herald, "Crump [the attorney for the victim's family] said he believes Martin’s death is attributed to racial profiling. Martin was black. Zimmerman is white. The community where they lived has families of all racial backgrounds."

Last edited by Dewey Finn; 03-12-2012 at 12:23 AM..
  #16  
Old 03-12-2012, 02:04 AM
Cheshire Human Cheshire Human is offline
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The simple answer to the OP, "Why hasn't the Neighborhood Watch shooter been arrested?", is "The cops/prosecutor don't yet have enough information/evidence to support an arrest." That's it. No other reason. They won't arrest him until they do have enough, which may or may not happen quickly, or at all. That's the answer to all questions of that nature.
  #17  
Old 03-12-2012, 02:59 AM
enomaj enomaj is offline
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One of the commenters on the story quoted this Florida statute. The statute uses the word provoke. I interpret this as not being to start some shit, get your ass kicked and then claim self defense after using deadly force.

The problem is how much provocation is the initial aggressor allowed. "Do you belong here" is not that significant though it would piss me off. Invasion of personal space* might be enough provocation to render self defense defense unavailable.

*He walked up on me so I pushed him.
  #18  
Old 03-12-2012, 12:14 PM
handsomeharry handsomeharry is offline
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Originally Posted by Martin Hyde View Post
From reading the article it sounds really unlikely the kid was trying to commit some sort of crime. What I imagine the shooter might have told police is that he confronted the kid and asked him his business, just based on the news article's description of the shooter he probably asked in the manner and tone of an asshole. That could have pissed the kid off and lead to a confrontation. If I had to guess the shooter would describe the story as "I asked this guy what he was up to and he got angry at me and then attacked me, I feared for my life and had to stop him with my gun." If the shooter was smart enough to say that, even though he sounds like an asshole that probably escalated the situation, I think it'd be hard to convict him.
I don't think that your imagination is enough to arrest even a white person that shot a black 'kid', even in Florida.
Could be wrong, tho.
  #19  
Old 03-12-2012, 12:22 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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Originally Posted by handsomeharry View Post
I don't think that your imagination is enough to arrest even a white person that shot a black 'kid', even in Florida.
Could be wrong, tho.
Right, and it should be clear to anyone who bothered to read my posts I wasn't suggesting that, so excellent work soundly burning that strawman!
  #20  
Old 03-12-2012, 12:48 PM
handsomeharry handsomeharry is offline
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Originally Posted by Martin Hyde View Post
Right, and it should be clear to anyone who bothered to read my posts I wasn't suggesting that, so excellent work soundly burning that strawman!
Hmmm...in perspective, it seems that I DID read your post...only every other word!
Sorry about that, Martin Hyde!

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  #21  
Old 03-12-2012, 12:51 PM
you with the face you with the face is offline
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For those who say there is not enough evidence to bring about a charge, what kind of evidence would be necessary? There's a dead body. There's a suspect. It's been established by multiple individuals that the kid was a visitor, not an intruder. There's evidence that the captain--who was carrying a weapon--instigated a conflict by confronting someone who was not carrying a weapon. There is evidence that a scuffle took place, but since it takes two to scuffle, that alone is not an evidence for who started what. But it's evidence of something, okay.

How is the above not enough evidence to arrest the guy so that a warrant can be issued in the event he decides to skip out on court? Isn't that one of the purposes of making an arrest? If comes out there that is insufficient evidence to convict the guy of murder or manslaughter, charges can be dropped. But you don't have to have rock solid proof just to charge someone.

All I know is that if Bubba Jenkins shot someone who was lawfully going about his/her business, and the only other witness to the event was dead by Bubba's hands, it would matter very little what he claimed the truth was. He'd be arrested first, then the questions would be asked.
  #22  
Old 03-12-2012, 02:10 PM
Telemark Telemark is offline
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Originally Posted by you with the face View Post
For those who say there is not enough evidence to bring about a charge, what kind of evidence would be necessary? There's a dead body.
True.
Quote:
There's a suspect.
We haven't established that a crime has been committed yet, so it's not clear that he's a suspect.
Quote:
It's been established by multiple individuals that the kid was a visitor, not an intruder.
True, but not directly relevant to what happened after.
Quote:
There's evidence that the captain--who was carrying a weapon--instigated a conflict by confronting someone who was not carrying a weapon.
What evidence is that?
Quote:
There is evidence that a scuffle took place, but since it takes two to scuffle, that alone is not an evidence for who started what. But it's evidence of something, okay.
Again, evidence of what?

Quote:
But you don't have to have rock solid proof just to charge someone.
You also don't get to charge someone with a crime just because you have a dead body. You must have a pretty good case before you can charge someone with a crime.
  #23  
Old 03-12-2012, 03:09 PM
madmonk28 madmonk28 is offline
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Since we are not longer in GQ, another vote for white shooter and black kid.
  #24  
Old 03-12-2012, 03:30 PM
you with the face you with the face is offline
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Originally Posted by Telemark View Post
We haven't established that a crime has been committed yet, so it's not clear that he's a suspect.
What is the minimum amount of evidence needed to establish that a crime has taken place when the only witnesses to the event are either dead or the shooter?
  #25  
Old 03-12-2012, 03:35 PM
MacCat MacCat is offline
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"Sanford neighborhood Crime Watch captain George Zimmerman has previously been arrested in 2005 for suspicion of battery on a law enforcement officer, but the charges were dropped for an unknown reason."

Zimmerman 2005


"Investigators plan to turn the case over to the Seminole-Brevard State Attorney's Office, the agency responsible for making a charging decision.

Sanford's mayor, chief of police and city manager plan to hold a news conference this afternoon at 4 p.m."

Orlando Sentinel
  #26  
Old 03-12-2012, 03:43 PM
Lumpy Lumpy is offline
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Originally Posted by you with the face View Post
What is the minimum amount of evidence needed to establish that a crime has taken place when the only witnesses to the event are either dead or the shooter?
With the shooter as the only witness, evidence of a crime would pretty much have to be forensic- physical evidence that contradicted the claim of self-defense.
  #27  
Old 03-12-2012, 03:51 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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Originally Posted by MacCat View Post
"Sanford neighborhood Crime Watch captain George Zimmerman has previously been arrested in 2005 for suspicion of battery on a law enforcement officer, but the charges were dropped for an unknown reason."

Zimmerman 2005


"Investigators plan to turn the case over to the Seminole-Brevard State Attorney's Office, the agency responsible for making a charging decision.

Sanford's mayor, chief of police and city manager plan to hold a news conference this afternoon at 4 p.m."

Orlando Sentinel
And all of that is probably making the police and prosecutor want to look at this guy, but remember those sort of facts couldn't be part of the trial, the prosecutor has to feel he has a case he can convict on.

We don't know what story the shooter told police. In many cases of defensive gun use, the person claiming self defense will be the only witness to the crime. So if he has a credible story that is either backed up by physical evidence, or not contradicted by physical evidence, it's not going to be easy to bring charges or win conviction.

Without knowing the physical evidence or what story the shooter told police I don't know how anyone, based on what we know, can know better than the prosecutor whether charges should be filed already.
  #28  
Old 03-12-2012, 04:05 PM
Loach Loach is offline
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Originally Posted by you with the face View Post
What is the minimum amount of evidence needed to establish that a crime has taken place when the only witnesses to the event are either dead or the shooter?
Same as with anything else, probable cause to arrest and beyond a reasonable doubt to convict. But in the real world a prosecutor will not proceed if he does not think he can get a conviction.


Simply speculation but one reason for a delay would be to wait for the autopsy results. The preliminary results would be quick but toxicology takes a while. Even if there was no evidence of drug use they wouldn't want to charge and then find out a week later that the dead guy was hopped up on goofballs and pixie dust. Especially because there were no other witnesses.
  #29  
Old 03-12-2012, 04:07 PM
you with the face you with the face is offline
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With the shooter as the only witness, evidence of a crime would pretty much have to be forensic- physical evidence that contradicted the claim of self-defense.
The claim of self-defense is being made by the guy who did the shooting. Unfortunately, the other witness to the event is dead and so he can't confirm or deny this claim. Which means that as far as claims go, it means very little.

Of course he's going to claim self-defense, if has any sense in his head. If investigators had to find evidence to contradict these claims everytime they were made, few people would be arrested for murder.
  #30  
Old 03-12-2012, 04:24 PM
Loach Loach is offline
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Originally Posted by you with the face View Post
The claim of self-defense is being made by the guy who did the shooting. Unfortunately, the other witness to the event is dead and so he can't confirm or deny this claim. Which means that as far as claims go, it means very little.

Of course he's going to claim self-defense, if has any sense in his head. If investigators had to find evidence to contradict these claims everytime they were made, few people would be arrested for murder.
Bolding mine. So you think that they don't have to find evidence to refute a defendent's claims? You do realize the burden of proof lies with the prosecution?

Yes, every time that a claim of self defense is made and the prosecution presses charges they have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was not self defense. How else do you think it works?

Last edited by Loach; 03-12-2012 at 04:25 PM..
  #31  
Old 03-12-2012, 04:27 PM
Shodan Shodan is offline
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Originally Posted by you with the face View Post
If investigators had to find evidence to contradict these claims everytime they were made, few people would be arrested for murder.
I'm not sure what you mean by this, but investigators certainly need evidence of a crime before making an arrest.

So, if the shooter says "I shot him in self-defense", and there is no testimony or physical evidence to contradict this, then the shooter is entitled to the presumption of innocence and he walks. And it is a waste of resources to arrest someone you can't convict.

IANAL, but that is my understanding of how it works.

Regards,
Shodan
  #32  
Old 03-12-2012, 04:46 PM
Telemark Telemark is offline
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Of course he's going to claim self-defense, if has any sense in his head. If investigators had to find evidence to contradict these claims everytime they were made, few people would be arrested for murder.
They do. That's how our legal system works. You need evidence of a crime before you can charge someone with that crime. Everytime. Yes, it may mean that some crimes go unpunished, but so far no one has come up with a better system.
  #33  
Old 03-12-2012, 04:49 PM
you with the face you with the face is offline
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Yes, every time that a claim of self defense is made and the prosecution presses charges they have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was not self defense. How else do you think it works?
You are conflating the burden of proof necessary to score a conviction with that necessary to make an arrest. The burden for the latter is a lot lighter than the former. I agree that to prove murder, they need to rule out self-defense. But you don't have to do that to make a charge.

In the time it takes the government to finish its investigation of this "event" (since apparently it's too premature to call it crime), this guy could have high tailed it to Cuba or some place. That's the probablem with waiting until all evidence comes in before making an arrest.

Last edited by you with the face; 03-12-2012 at 04:50 PM..
  #34  
Old 03-12-2012, 04:51 PM
you with the face you with the face is offline
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They do. That's how our legal system works.
For some people apparently. I know it doesn't work like that most of the time.
  #35  
Old 03-12-2012, 04:58 PM
Lumpy Lumpy is offline
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Without evidence or witnesses to contradict a claim of self-defense, all a prosecutor would have to go on would be to take the case to trial and see if a jury considered the shooter's story believable. In that case it woud be the prosecutor attempting to tar the defendent's credibility, the defendent trying to look sympathetic, and the jury holding the defendent's life in their hands. If for example, the shooter had a prior history of dealing narcotics and the victim purportedly owed him money, the jury might not be too sympathetic to a claim of self-defense.
  #36  
Old 03-12-2012, 05:05 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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With a lot of bogus claims of self defense I imagine:

1. The defendant's story "doesn't hold water" as Cousin Vinnie would say. Meaning the defendant makes factual claims that are inconsistent or directly contradict the physical evidence. A bad story can be presented to a jury as evidence that the entire claim by the defendant of self defense is suspect.

2. You can establish a motive for the defendant to want the victim dead, which can undermine the self defense angle. For example you find out they are rival gang leaders, or you find out that the victim was sleeping with the defendant's wife and find evidence that the defendant knew that and had made threatening phone calls and death threats to both the defendant and wife.

3. Witnesses to the crime observe that it wasn't self defense.

I would bet #1/2 are big ones, most people who commit a crime are terrible at lying about it to police and say a bunch of stuff that the police easily see through. A lot of people in a situation like that, once their lies have been exposed, will confess.

A half smart criminal will realize the only thing they should say in a situation like this is "I feared for my life, and I need to have an attorney present to answer any further questions." If you say that, and then awhile later go with an attorney to explain what happened (after going over with your attorney what wording to use and etc), and the physical evidence supports or at least "doesn't refute" self defense, then I imagine it'd be very difficult for a prosecutor to obtain a conviction and thus it's unlikely they would pursue a case.

The physical injuries to the shooter in this case is one of the few pieces of physical evidence we know about, and on the face they would help a defense based on self defense.
  #37  
Old 03-12-2012, 05:06 PM
Loach Loach is offline
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Originally Posted by you with the face View Post
You are conflating the burden of proof necessary to score a conviction with that necessary to make an arrest. The burden for the latter is a lot lighter than the former. I agree that to prove murder, they need to rule out self-defense. But you don't have to do that to make a charge.

In the time it takes the government to finish its investigation of this "event" (since apparently it's too premature to call it crime), this guy could have high tailed it to Cuba or some place. That's the probablem with waiting until all evidence comes in before making an arrest.
Thank you for the lesson. But as a police detective I am aware of the process. I am also aware that unless its an on view arrest by the officers on the scene, prosecutors will not go forward with a case that they do not believe they can win. Not saying that they only go forward with slam dunks but they will not waste time with a certain loss. Sometimes there just isn't enough evidence to convict. And they will not make an arrest to keep someone from fleeing to Cuba if he is not a flight risk. At this point we sort of know what the shooter is claiming happened. We have no idea what kind of evidence they have either way. Each case is handled differently according to its own circumstances.

Last edited by Loach; 03-12-2012 at 05:07 PM..
  #38  
Old 03-12-2012, 05:10 PM
Loach Loach is offline
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Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee said this afternoon that his investigators don't have probable cause to arrest the man who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to death inside a gated Sanford community last month.

"In this case, Mr. Zimmerman has made the statement of self- defense," Lee told a crowd of reporters and Trayvon's family members and thier supporters. "Until we can establish probable cause to dispute that, we don't have the grounds to arrest him."

Lee said the department's investigation would wrap up Monday afternoon, and the findings would be sent to the State Attorney's Office Tuesday, where prosecutors will decide whether to file criminal charges against George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old volunteer crime watch captain.
As of 4:35 this afternoon.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/...,3967780.story

Last edited by Loach; 03-12-2012 at 05:11 PM..
  #39  
Old 03-12-2012, 05:14 PM
Loach Loach is offline
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Originally Posted by Lumpy View Post
With the shooter as the only witness, evidence of a crime would pretty much have to be forensic- physical evidence that contradicted the claim of self-defense.
Also the shooter's statement and if it contradicts the known facts. The truth is easy to remember. Lies are harder to keep straight.
  #40  
Old 03-12-2012, 05:17 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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As an outside observer, you have a 17 year old kid who left his dad's house to get a drink and a bag of skittles from a convenience store. He comes back, headed back home, and ends up getting killed by a neighborhood watch guy who (based on the media portrait of him) probably has a subscription to Soldier of Fortune and etc.

There is no logical reason why this kid would have tried to attack or hurt the neighborhood watch dude. There is also superficial evidence the neighborhood watch dude is prone to violence and escalating situations.

What I can see happening is he confronted the kid and a fight broke out. We don't know if the neighborhood watch guy antagonized the kid or if the kid himself has an ultra short fuse and decided it was time to kick ass.

That isn't a positive story for the neighborhood watch guy. If he intentionally provoked someone into hitting him, and then shot the guy dead and didn't genuinely fear for his life he deserves to be charged for murder. But based on the little narrative I just said, I can see how we might not like this neighborhood watch guy. But we can't send people to prison based on imagined narratives, we genuinely don't know what happened, and there appears to be no strong evidence to cast doubt on the self defense story.

If the neighborhood watch guy did something bad here (and my "gut" makes me feel he is at least culpable of something "wrong") I don't know what people expect law enforcement and prosecutors to do. Our criminal justice system is based on being able to use evidence to prove criminal acts to a jury. Even if we "know" from our seats in the 10th row back, this neighborhood watch guy did wrong, I don't really see what the police or State prosecutors are supposed to do if they have no evidence to work with. You can't convict people based on a hunch based on the fact the victim appears to be a decent kid and the neighborhood watch guy appears to be an asshole.

Last edited by Martin Hyde; 03-12-2012 at 05:19 PM..
  #41  
Old 03-12-2012, 05:23 PM
you with the face you with the face is offline
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Originally Posted by Loach View Post
Thank you for the lesson. But as a police detective I am aware of the process.
It's surprising that a detective would type "prove beyond a reasonable doubt" when we're talking about the minimum evidence necessary to arrest someone. If you know that for charges, it's not necessary to meet that burden, that's cool. But it certainly seemed like you were muddying the issue by using that terminology.

Quote:
Without evidence or witnesses to contradict a claim of self-defense, all a prosecutor would have to go on would be to take the case to trial and see if a jury considered the shooter's story believable.
(bolding mine)

I agree with this, with the caveat that sometimes what a jury is believes is not necessarily what is believable in the absolute sense.

Last edited by you with the face; 03-12-2012 at 05:27 PM..
  #42  
Old 03-12-2012, 05:29 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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It's surprising that a detective would type "prove beyond a reasonable doubt" when we're talking about the minimum evidence necessary to arrest someone. If you know that for charges, it's not necessary to meet that burden, that's cool. But it certainly seemed like you were muddying the issue by using that terminology.
I imagine a police detective doesn't like to get yelled at by his boss. Which is what I would expect to happen if you went and arrested everyone who you had probable cause to arrest but had nothing approaching a chance of getting a conviction. I learned most of my Law Enforcement from Miami Vice, Hill Street Blues, and Barney Miller, but I still think it seems pretty likely investigators who are in the business of making arrests on flimsy evidence get bitched at pretty quickly since you're essentially dropping unwinnable piles of shit on the prosecutor's desk.

Last edited by Martin Hyde; 03-12-2012 at 05:29 PM..
  #43  
Old 03-12-2012, 05:36 PM
Rand Rover Rand Rover is offline
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"Believable in the absolute sense" is a meaningless nonsense phrase. You just mean that sometimes juries reach decisions that you don't agree with. But juries always have info you don't have, and you have info the judge has ruled the jury shouldn't have, so your opinion of a jury's verdict is meaningless.

Also, your reaction here avows why "racism" will never go away. There is always someone willing to argue that the whole situation would be handled differently if the races were reversed (despite their lack of evidence for that position).
  #44  
Old 03-12-2012, 05:39 PM
you with the face you with the face is offline
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I learned most of my Law Enforcement from Miami Vice, Hill Street Blues, and Barney Miller, but I still think it seems pretty likely investigators who are in the business of making arrests on flimsy evidence get bitched at pretty quickly since you're essentially dropping unwinnable piles of shit on the prosecutor's desk.
I can imagine this too, but my definition of "flimsy evidence" would be hearsay or maybe one fingerprint that is a 45% match to the suspect's or something like that. Something flimsier than an admission of killing plus no evidence of provocation by the kid in addition to the guy having a prior history of violence. But if they say it's flimsy, I guess it is flimsy.
  #45  
Old 03-12-2012, 05:52 PM
Cheshire Human Cheshire Human is offline
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Originally Posted by you with the face View Post
I can imagine this too, but my definition of "flimsy evidence" would be hearsay or maybe one fingerprint that is a 45% match to the suspect's or something like that. Something flimsier than an admission of killing plus no evidence of provocation by the kid in addition to the guy having a prior history of violence. But if they say it's flimsy, I guess it is flimsy.
[bold added]

How do you know they have no evidence of that? All I've seen here are news accounts that are rather short of specifics. The cops rarely, if ever, tell the reporters everything they have, so I see no reason why I should assume you or I have all the facts, here. Additionally, the guy's prior history, while reason to suspect his story, isn't sufficient reason to reject it. That takes actual on-scene evidence that it's false. The news accounts give no indication of that.
  #46  
Old 03-12-2012, 05:58 PM
monstro monstro is offline
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It's good to know all I have to do to get away with murder is make sure I bloody my nose before the cops arrive and then admit I did it.

Really, I'm having a hard time imagining that if the kid had shot the neighborhood watch guy, we'd even be having this discussion.

This case is weird to me. Intellectually I understand what's happening, but my gut doesn't.
  #47  
Old 03-12-2012, 06:22 PM
guizot guizot is offline
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If he intentionally provoked someone into hitting him, and then shot the guy dead and didn't genuinely fear for his life . . .
How can you ever determine or judge if someone genuinely feared for his life--even when there are witnesses? It's a totally subjective proposition. Someone might just yell, "Fuck you!" at me, and even if I'm standing next to some other people who aren't particularly concerned about it, I can construe it as a genuine threat. Who's to say that I didn't genuinely fear for my life? It's even more pointless when a person is alone. I can perceive anything I want as a genuine threat, so that qualification seems pointless to me. So if the Neighborhood Watch guy tells police that he "genuinely feared" for his life, I don't see how they can give it much weight unless there is some other collaborating evidence that the kid did something to deserve getting killed. That's what the police haven't announced, yet, so naturally people are getting skeptical. Was the kid a "genuine" threat simply be being there?
  #48  
Old 03-12-2012, 06:23 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
It's good to know all I have to do to get away with murder is make sure I bloody my nose before the cops arrive and then admit I did it.

Really, I'm having a hard time imagining that if the kid had shot the neighborhood watch guy, we'd even be having this discussion.

This case is weird to me. Intellectually I understand what's happening, but my gut doesn't.
I'm assuming if there were signs of a scuffle on the shooter there was evidence of the same on the deceased (abrasions on the hands, things of that nature.)

If you tell the cops someone was attacking you and you had to shoot them to defend your life, and there is no sign of a struggle on that other person they're going to ask you a lot of questions you'll need to be able to answer in the heat of the moment without contradicting anything in the physical evidence.

If you see a guy walking toward you on a deserted street, and you bloody your own nose, then walk up to the guy and shoot him at point blank, and tell the police he was trying to mug you there is actually quite a good chance that would work. Assuming you can keep a straight story with the police.

The reason this doesn't happen very often is really think about it, how many people want to kill random people they've never met before on a regular basis? The number of people who want to go out and do that for no good reason is massively inflated by television, in real life it's very rare. Since most murders happen between people who know each other and for specific reasons, this tactic wouldn't get you off on most murders. "Yeah officer, my wife who was sleeping around tried to mug me, as you can see from my bloody nose, so I shot her in fear for my life." Just wouldn't work.
  #49  
Old 03-12-2012, 06:24 PM
Cheshire Human Cheshire Human is offline
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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
It's good to know all I have to do to get away with murder is make sure I bloody my nose before the cops arrive and then admit I did it.

Really, I'm having a hard time imagining that if the kid had shot the neighborhood watch guy, we'd even be having this discussion.

This case is weird to me. Intellectually I understand what's happening, but my gut doesn't.
He hasn't gotten away with anything, yet. He hasn't gotten away with anything until the cops close their investigation without charging him.

The sort of "immediate arrest" you seem to be advocating, here, is exactly the type of overreaction that is loudly protested when the races of shooter/victim are reversed. If the situation were reversed, and the kid had been arrested immediately, people would have been complaining that he was being assumed "guilty until proven innocent".
  #50  
Old 03-12-2012, 06:29 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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Originally Posted by guizot View Post
How can you ever determine or judge if someone genuinely feared for his life--even when there are witnesses? It's a totally subjective proposition. Someone might just yell, "Fuck you!" at me, and even if I'm standing next to some other people who aren't particularly concerned about it, I can construe it as a genuine threat. Who's to say that I didn't genuinely fear for my life? It's even more pointless when a person is alone. I can perceive anything I want as a genuine threat, so that qualification seems pointless to me. So if the Neighborhood Watch guy tells police that he "genuinely feared" for his life, I don't see how they can give it much weight unless there is some other collaborating evidence that the kid did something to deserve getting killed. That's what the police haven't announced, yet, so naturally people are getting skeptical. Was the kid a "genuine" threat simply be being there?
You're looking at it from the wrong perspective. The neighborhood watch guy doesn't have to prove that he genuinely feared for his life; the State has to prove that in his situation a reasonable actor would not have genuinely feared for his life. Since the State's only information about the situation is the shooter's word and the physical evidence, unless the shooter has inconsistent stories or stories that don't match the physical evidence the State has nothing with which to counter his defense. If you have a defense that isn't necessarily supported by anything other than the defendant's word, but a prosecution that has no evidence to go on in our legal system that's going to split for the defense every time. It isn't a balance system, it's weighted very heavily in favor of the defendant.

The State has to prove its case. The State has to prove a lot of stuff with any type of criminal homicide, be it murder, manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide or etc that it needs evidence for, and in this case the only evidence is the physical evidence and the shooter's word. We don't know what either of those are, but if the physical evidence is inconclusive it won't sustain a criminal homicide conviction without something else (like a motive, or the shooter's story indicating some criminal act.)

Last edited by Martin Hyde; 03-12-2012 at 06:30 PM..
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