The Next Phase in the Martin-Zimmerman Case

There’s a Twitter search #shitzimmermansays that is hysterical — sample —

Ta-Nehisi Coates ‏ @tanehisi
George thought he had a problem when Trayvon said “I came to chew skittles and whip honkies. And I’m all outta skittles.”

This is via a post from Angry Black Lady, which also includes an amazing Nancy Grace video. Yeah, I know, it’s Nancy Grace. But even Grace got so disgusted with one Zimmerman friend/apologist that she cut off his mic.

George Zimmerman’s Invisible Injuries

A police video of George Zimmerman after he shot Trayvon Martin shows no apparent injuries.

Granted, it’s possible Zimmerman had some minor abrasions that can’t be seen clearly in this video, and if his head had really been slammed into pavement maybe he had a concussion, which also wouldn’t be apparent from the video.

And maybe the reason police didn’t photograph his “injuries” is that there was nothing to photograph. I still can’t believe even an incompetent police department wouldn’t have photographed Zimmerman’s injuries if he had any.

Some rightie bloggers are saying that the video doesn’t change anything, but to me it underscores the fact that we can’t trust any information coming out of the Sanford Police Department. Think Progress has a list of five unanswered questions in the case, and they all focus on police conduct.

Update: Some lame-brained idiot (or else a Breitbrat social media provocateur) has a twitter page calling for open season on George Zimmerman. As of this writing the page has all of 130 followers, which is not exactly a mass movement. But the Breitbrats want President Obama to apologize for it. Give me strength …

Update: Ta-Nehisi Coates explains why it will be really difficult to prosecute George Zimmerman under Florida law.

Sanford Cops Wanted to Arrest Zimmerman

Here’s a new wrinkle in the Trayvon Martin killing, from the Miami Herald

Despite public claims that there wasn’t enough probable cause to make a criminal case in the Trayvon Martin killing, early in the investigation the Sanford Police Department requested an arrest warrant from the Seminole County State Attorney’s office, the special prosecutor in the case told The Miami Herald on Tuesday.

A Sanford Police incident report shows the case was categorized as “homicide/negligent manslaughter.”

The state attorney’s office held off pending further review, The Miami Herald has learned.

I don’t know what they were going to “review,” since there was a shocking inattention to collecting evidence at the scene.

The development is in stark contrast to the statements repeatedly made by Bill Lee, the Sanford police chief who has since stepped aside and was lambasted for his handling of the case. Lee publicly insisted that there was no probable cause to arrest Zimmerman, leading many critics to say he came across more like a defense attorney for the security buff.

“Zimmerman provided a statement claiming he acted in self defense which at the time was supported by physical evidence and testimony,” Lee wrote in a memo posted on the city’s website. “By Florida Statute, law enforcement was PROHIBITED from making an arrest based of the facts and circumstances they had at the time.”

Yesterday ABC News reported

The lead homicide investigator in the shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin recommended that neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman be charged with manslaughter the night of the shooting, multiple sources told ABC News.

But Sanford, Fla., Investigator Chris Serino was instructed to not press charges against Zimmerman because the state attorney’s office headed by Norman Wolfinger determined there wasn’t enough evidence to lead to a conviction, the sources told ABC News.

Police brought Zimmerman into the station for questioning for a few hours on the night of the shooting, said Zimmerman’s attorney, despite his request for medical attention first. Ultimately they had to accept Zimmerman’s claim of self defense. He was never charged with a crime.

Serino filed an affidavit on Feb. 26, the night that Martin was shot and killed by Zimmerman, that stated he was unconvinced Zimmerman’s version of events.

Possibly the Sanford police department has entered the “every man for himself” ass-covering phase of the investigation. As in, “Hey, don’t look at me. I’m not the one who let the jerk go.”

The Right, which has been on a sickening “smear the dead kid” binge for the past several days, has now seized upon the information that George Zimmerman is a registered Democrat. Ed Kilgore: “aha! The whole thing was a Blue Team fragging of some sort, and nothing Real Americans should care about.”

Race-Obsessed Radicals and Guns

The Breitbrats are still “vetting” Derrick Bell and his critical race theory. Apparently to even suggest that U.S. institutions might be rigged to favor white people is an outrageous lie promoted by “race-obsessed radicals.” Worse, say the Breitbrats, critical race theory is even being used “as a foundation to encourage teachers, students, and school systems as a whole to talk about race,” at taxpayers’ expense.

Wow, imagine that. Just you watch; next schoolchildren will be indoctrinated with the idea that it’s not nice to beat up gay people, or something.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department is taking an interest in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American male killed by a “neighborhood watch” captain. Martin had been walking from a 7-11 holding a suspicious bag of Skittles and a very threatening can of Arizona Ice Tea.

This would normally have been a local case, but law enforcement officials in Sanford, Florida, seemed disinterested in prosecuting the shooter, George Zimmerman. And the forensic evidence plus eyewitness testimony plus a 911 call made by an obviously hysterical Zimmerman all suggest that Zimmerman chased down, assaulted and shot Martin for no rational reason. But Zimmerman claimed the shooting was self-defense, and the local police bought that and were making no effort to investigate further.

Part of the problem here is that Florida self-defense laws are so broad and loose that just about any shooting — well, unless perhaps the accused shooter is a black gang member and the victim is a comatose nun — could be considered self-defense. Pretty much all the perpetrator has to do is say it was self-defense, and it’s like holding a Get Out of Jail Free card. The prosecution has such a high burden of proof to meet to declare otherwise that it’s pretty much open season for homicide in Florida. Remarkably, Louisiana has a higher homicide rate than Florida, which makes me wonder what the bleep is going on in Louisiana.

For the details in this case, please see Adam Weinstein, Charles Blow, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. For possible future further developments, see Steve M.

Pepper Spray Cop Outed

The NYPD “pepper spray” cop also “stands accused of false arrest and civil rights violations in a claim brought by a protester involved in the 2004 demonstrations at the Republican national convention,” the Guardian says. An injunction was filed against the cop, identified as deputy inspector Anthony Bologna, and is expected to be heard sometime next year, or whenever somebody gets around to it, apparently.

The Village Voice reports the hacker collective Anonymous helped identify the cop with a close up of his badge. However, Anonymous also released his possible phone number, address, and names of family members with the warning “Before you commit atrocities against innocent people, think twice. WE ARE WATCHING!!! Expect Us!” (Yes, but how will anyone know who you are?)

Patrick Bruner of Occupy Wall Street and pepper-spray victim Chelsea Elliott condemned the release of Bologna’s personal information.

I agree with Mistermix.

Defenses: Insanity

Jared Loughner’s federal court arraignment is today. It is expected that he will plead “not guilty,” and that at trial his lawyer will offer an insanity defense. Insanity defenses rarely get a defendant acquitted, but an insanity defense might help Loughner avoid a death penalty.

I’m already seeing a re-hash of the same misinformation about “insanity” that was sluicing around after the massively psychotic Andrea Yates drowned her five children in 2001. For example, some genius always points out that the mentally ill are, statistically, no more likely than the general population to be violent. Which I believe is true. Therefore, they figure, mental illness doesn’t cause violence.

Let’s assume that, statistically, people with heart disease are no more or less likely to cause traffic accidents than people without heart disease. And then let’s say someone has a sudden heart attack while driving, loses control, and causes a five-car smash-up on an interstate. How logical, then, is it to say that the heart attack was not a factor in the accident because statistics tell us heart diseases don’t cause accidents?

By the same token, while mental health experts agree that most mentally ill people are no more likely than anyone else to become violent, I doubt many of them would willingly lock themselves in a room with an armed paranoid schizophrenic.

The next thing we’re gong to hear, and I’m sure it’s been said already, is that Loughner “knew” what he was doing because he planned it. But as I understand it, people with some types of schizophrenia are perfectly capable of making plans and carrying them out. The issue is that the motivation to act largely is being generated by the disease. Dr. Beatriz Luna, an associate professor of psychiatry and psychology, wrote in the New York Times:

For example, Jared Loughner’s criminal act appears to have involved careful planning that required voluntary and well-thought out steps. However, the aim of this planned behavior may reflect a disordered, diseased state. Neuroimaging studies could show that such a criminal engages brain systems to support voluntary acts in a similar way as the normal population. However they could also show abnormalities in brain processes that support the ability to have empathy and control over anger, or show that reported hallucinations recruit brain processes that support real sensory experiences. Although such a person would be able to operate in a voluntary planned manner, their acts would reflect brain abnormalities that contribute to their urge to commit crimes.

The larger problem is that “insanity” is not a medical term. The best psychiatrist in the world couldn’t tell you if Jared Loughner is “insane” under the law, because psychological science doesn’t recognize a condition called “insanity.” The insanity defense is based on antiquated ideas about mental illness that don’t apply to reality.

Dr. William T. Carpenter Jr., a professor of psychiatry, writes in the New York Times:

In the post-Hinckley era, the standard in many states has become a simple cognitive test that has little relationship to the scientific or clinical knowledge regarding psychotic illness. Rather than state of mind and the defendant’s understanding of his or her actions, the standard is close to simply whether the defendant knew the act was unlawful. Insanity acquittals, already rare, now face an almost impossible standard.

One wrinkle in this issue is that Arizona is, I believe, the only state with a “guilty, but insane” verdict. I’m not sure how this works, but I think this gives the court the ability to sentence the convicted-but-insane person to a secure psychiatric facility, but if he gets better and no longer needs hospitalization he is transferred to a prison to finish his sentence. I guess we’ll learn more about this when we get into the state proceedings.

Mississippi: The Land That Time Forgot

I had heard something about Gov. Haley Barbour releasing a woman from prison on condition that she donate her kidney. Wow, what will small-government conservatism come up with next, I thought.

But today I read the details in Bob Herbert’s column. Two sisters named Jamie and Gladys Scott have been serving double consecutive life sentences for taking part in a robbery in which $11 was stolen. That’s right, $11. No one was harmed during the robbery, Herbert says, and the sisters had no prior criminal record. The Scott sisters have been in prison for 16 years.

This is from Human Rights:

The Scotts, who were 19 and 21 when the robbery occurred, have been incarcerated for 16 years. Meanwhile, three male acquaintances also convicted in the robbery are free after serving just a couple of years in prison. The men reportedly received lighter sentences in exchange for providing the prosecution with incriminating information against the Scotts.

“The authorities did not even argue that the Scott sisters had committed the robbery,” writes Bob Herbert of the New York Times. “They were accused of luring two men into a trap, in which the men had their wallets taken by acquaintances of the sisters, one of whom had a shotgun.”

Jamie Scott now has a life-threatening kidney disease. In his announcement of the suspension of the sentence, Gov. Barbour expressed no concern for Jamie Scott’s health. Instead, he said, “Their incarceration is no longer necessary for public safety or rehabilitation, and Jamie Scott’s medical condition creates a substantial cost to the state of Mississippi.”

So, the only reason the outrageous sentence was suspended — not commuted — is that Jamie Scott’s health care was costing the state too much money.

(But I assume the sisters have no insurance, and Mississippi is notoriously chintzy with Medicaid. So I suspect they may have to rely on charity to pay for a transplant. We’ll see.)

Bob Herbert wrote today that the sisters were not informed of the suspension, but learned about it on television. Nor was Gladys Scott consulted about donating her kidney, although she said it was something she wanted to do, anyway.

Herbert continues,

I was happy for the Scott sisters and deeply moved as Gladys spoke of how desperately she wanted to “just hold” her two children and her mother, who live in Florida. But I couldn’t help thinking that right up until the present moment she and Jamie have been treated coldly and disrespectfully by the governor and other state officials. It’s as if the authorities have found it impossible to hide their disdain, their contempt, for the two women.

The prison terms were suspended — not commuted — on the condition that Gladys donate a kidney to Jamie, who is seriously ill with diabetes and high blood pressure and receives dialysis at least three times a week. Gladys had long expressed a desire to donate a kidney to her sister, but to make that a condition of her release was unnecessary, mean-spirited, inhumane and potentially coercive. It was a low thing to do.

I posted a photo of the sisters just so we’re all clear about where this contempt is coming from. You might recall Gov. Barbour’s recent bout of amnesia regarding the civil rights movement? And this guy is considered by some to be one of the GOP’s more respectable potential presidential candidates in 2012.

And then there’s the gender issue. In 2009, Randy Radley Balko reported in Slate that Gov. Balko Barbour had “pardoned, granted clemency to, or suspended the sentences of at least five convicted murderers, four of whom killed their wives or girlfriends.” (emphasis added).

Well, you know, killing a wife or girlfriend is not like real murder. They probably had it coming. (/sarcasm) Note that all five of these men had been in a prison program that assigned them to do odd jobs around the governor’s mansion.

See also: Scott Sisters Kidney Donation Threatens Organ Transplant Laws

Update: See E.R. Shipp in The Root:

The judge who essentially sentenced the Scott sisters, Jamie and Gladys, to life in prison was downright lenient in 2005 when it came to sentencing one of the ringleaders of the lynching of three civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964 — Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney. That despicable human being was given 60 years — 20 years for each murder? — but left free while appealing his conviction.

Jeebus, people, you might as well go back to wearing sheets and burning crosses and stop pretending. You aren’t fooling most folks.

As Governor, Huckabee Found Some Prisoners More Pardonable Than Others

I’ve just learned the man being sought in connection with gunning down four Lakewood, Washington, police officers is an ex-convict who was freed by then Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

Maurice Clemmons, the 37-year-old Tacoma man being sought for questioning in the killing this morning of four Lakewood police officers, has a long criminal record punctuated by violence, erratic behavior and concerns about his mental health.

Nine years ago, then-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee granted clemency to Clemmons, commuting his lengthy prison sentence over the protests of prosecutors.

Several people have noted that Clemmons didn’t have a record of homicides; his convictions were for burglaries and aggravated assaults. Even so, why would a governor go out of his way to give clemency to a convict over the protests of prosecutors? (I have a theory, which I’ll get to in a minute.)

Josh Marshall points out,

Those with long memories will remember that this is not the first Huckabee commutation with a bad ending. The case of Wayne Dumond got a good deal of attention in the 2008 presidential campaign.

Wayne Dumond was a convicted serial rapist whom Huckabee arranged to be released. After his release, Dumond raped and murdered at least one other woman and possibly others.

I wrote about Dumond and another Arkansas convict, Frankie Parker, almost two years ago in “A Tale of Two Prisoners.” For reasons explained in the earlier post, Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, was pressured by the Christian Right into pardoning Dumond.

But the Christian Right kept silence on Frankie Parker, who was executed in 1996 over the objections of Mother Theresa and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In fact, Governor Huckabee was so keen to execute Frankie Parker that he intervened to move the execution date up by six weeks so that Parker could be executed sooner. He was so keen to execute Parker that moving up the execution date was Huckabee’s first official proclamation as Governor of Arkansas. Clearly, this was an itch that Huckabee was rarin’ to scratch.

It is true that Parker was convicted of committing two murders while under the influence of drugs. He admitted he had done this. He wasn’t asking for a pardon; just life.

What made Frankie Parker’s life so untenable? In prison, he had acquired a copy of the Dhammapada, which inspired him to convert to Buddhism. He corresponded with a Zen priest and also worked with a Little Rock Buddhist group to learn the practice. He became a spiritual leader within the prison. A Buddhist spiritual leader. Can’t have that.

So if people are wondering why Mike Huckabee took it upon himself to grant clemency to Maurice Clemmons, look for a religious angle. I don’t know that there is one, but I’ll be surprised if there isn’t.