The Martin family attorneys take a different view from a few Congressman on the impact of Florida's Stand Your Ground law.
Several Congressional Black Caucus members have introduced a resolution that memorializes 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and calls for the repeal of controversial gun laws that allow shooters to claim self-defense.
When they fix their link it will take you to H. Res. 612:
Honoring the life of 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin, urging the State of Florida and others to repeal the Stand Your Ground law, and admonishing involved parties to pursue full investigations into all homicides, regardless of defenses asserted by the offender.
They also believe that SYG compromised the right of the police to investigate, which is absurd (and not the view of Ben Crump, the Martin family attorney - see COMPROMISED? below). That said, the law does raise the bar for a probable-cause arrest and subsequent conviction, and I am sure some police force somewhere dropped an investigation because they could see no way to clear the self-defense hurdle. From the statute (my emphasis):
776.032 Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.—
(1) A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.
(2) A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.
Well - expecting Congressman to understand a bill before they pass it may be a bit much. Probable cause for arrest is the legal norm, but was added by Florida lawmakers for emphasis here.
But wait! This bill is presumably just a base-rallying, publicity-seeking attempt to force Evil Republicans to cast a vote favoring the random gunning down of black teenagers. Or so it will be spun - the actual text is irrelevant.
KEEP IN MIND: Probable cause, or its absence, is the basic right protecting us at traffic stops.
BIASED: The resolution asserts that Mr. Zimmerman was racially biased.
COMPROMISED? Was the Sanford Police Department investigation compromised by the Stand Your Ground law? Martin family attorney Ben Crump does not think so, as reported in the Times:
But Mr. Crump and Natalie Jackson, the lawyers for Trayvon’s family, said that the law does not preclude the police from properly investigating a homicide: collecting evidence, thoroughly interviewing the suspect and aggressively questioning witnesses — much of which, they maintained, did not occur in the death of Trayvon Martin.
For example, the lawyers said that as of late last week, no investigator had interviewed Trayvon’s girlfriend.
That is an unimpressive example since Ben Crump has previously said he would only let the young lady speak to Federal investigators (although I agree the Sanford investigators should have found her sooner). In any case, other leaks have indicated that the lead investigator, Chris Serino, never liked George Zimmerman's self-defense alibi and was determined to shake it.
Jonathan Capehart, who writes for the WaPo, is betting on Serino:
Despite being overruled by superiors, Serino never gave up on trying to have Zimmerman arrested. He filed that affidavit hours before delivering the tragic news to Martin. As more information emerges, we all know with greater clarity why Serino felt he was on to something.
However! The Orlando Sentinel had this on April 2:
Two weeks ago, during an exclusive interview with the Sentinel, [suspended police chief] Lee disclosed certain details of the investigation and during that session, attended by Serino and others, Serino said his investigation turned up no reliable evidence that cast doubt on Zimmerman's account – that he had acted in self-defense.
"The best evidence we have is the testimony of George Zimmerman, and he says the decedent was the primary aggressor in the whole event," Serino told the Sentinel March 16. "Everything I have is adding up to what he says."
Now, if Serino was complaining that because of his skepticism he was re-assigned to traffic duty, or all his warrant requests were denied, or his lab test results slow-walked, or he got no manpower support in looking for witnesses, that would be one thing. But he's not reported as making those complaints.
Per the reporting, Serino was skeptical of Zimmerman from the outset, had a free hand in running his investigation, and came up empty. Well, even though that never happens on Law & Order, I bet in real life police officers sometimes come up empty, regardless of their suspicions.
I imagine the current (or soon to be revised) theme from the "What Do We Want? An Investigation" crowd is that the cover-up conspiracists were so confident of their machinations that they left a skeptical lead investigator in charge with no impediments. Because they knew they were That Good!
Well, let's hope the Feds and the state investigators are even better; my guess is that in a few weeks we will be informed that they, too, are part of the cover-up. Can't quite see it? Try these.
In any case, Congressional resolutons notwithstanding, the Martin family attorneys are not blaming the Stand Your Ground law and Martin supporters are not faulting the lead investigator.
For folks who want more on the Trayvon Martin shooting, law prof Bill Jacobson has a fascinating look at the difficulties of voice matching in 1997; getting the reported match of scream to the spoken word into a 2012 courtroom looks very unlikely.
However, Tom Owen, who has been widely visible reporting his non-match of Zimmerman's voice to the screams heard in the background of a 911 call, is rolling out new voice matching software at $4,995 per, so we expect he will maintain his media profile.