Trayvon Martin 6: Similar Mob Rule Events

Trayvon Martin 6: Similar Mob Rule Events
Human beings either function as individuals or as members of a pack. There's a switch inside us, deep in our spirit, that you can turn one way or the other. It's almost always the case that our worst behaviour comes out when we're switched to the mob setting. Jaron Lanier
No matter how obese we become physically, we are still capable of leaping to conclusions.  And people who rarely walk more than a few blocks can be champions at rushing to judgement.

As I am fond of saying, a collection of emotionally aroused, poorly informed individuals does not sum to the mythical “wisdom of crowds”. At best it results in groupthink and at worst a dangerous mob.

I am encouraged by the number of people who recognized the reaction to Trayvon's shooting as mob rule bordering on hysteria from the outset. I am also encouraged that some of them understand it is part of a pattern of such events.  Still, those who understand both are a small minority.

Let's review some previous mob rule type events. 

1987, New York State, Tawana Brawley. This 15-year-old African-American girl falsely accused some cops and a prosecutor of rape.  Brawley's two lawyers and Al Sharpton, notorious race baiter, whipped the media into a frenzy (see video of Al Sharpton here).  Even Bill Cosby got in on the commentary and supported Brawley, as did Spike Lee.

Brawley, her lawyers, and Sharpton were successfully sued for defamation by the accused prosecutor. Sharpton was found liable for seven instances of defamation.  But the prosecutor's life was already destroyed by the allegations.  And Al Sharpton's damages were paid by his supporters like Johnnie Cohrane.

1996, Atlanta, Georgia, Richard Jewell.   Jewell was pilloried in the media, accused of having planted a bomb at the 1996 Summer Olympics. The bomb had been planted by Eric Rudolph. Jewel successfully sued various media outlets, but died at a relatively young age of 44.

2006, Durham, North Carolina, Duke lacrosse. One of the best examples of mob rule is the Duke University lacrosse team case.  In that case Mike Nifong, the district attorney for Durham County, NC took an alleged rape case of an African American woman, Crystal Mangum, and used it to race bait his way into re-election.  There was absolutely no substance to the allegation that members of the Duke lacrosse team had participated in a rape, and that became clear as time went on, even before charges were laid.  But that didn't stop many Americans from castigating the lacrosse players.  

I can understand the prosecutor and the police cutting corners in an attempt to convict the innocent.  It happens all the time. I understand it, but certainly don't condone it.  The prosecutor's job is to ensure the truth is put before the court, not to secure a conviction.

But it was inexcusable for some of the Duke faculty (“the group of 88”) to publicly castigate the lacrosse players on zero evidence. And some of the students (the “pot bangers”) piled on with rallies, the most extreme advocating castration of lacrosse players.

Duke University President Richard Brodhead waffled on almost everything, offering little support for the legal presumption of innocence of the lacrosse players, and seemed intimidated by the “group of 88”. He would surely be a starter on the All-American Academic Wimps team.

But the mass media were the worst actors, in my opinion. The New York Times was especially biased in its coverage, as was a local Durham paper, the Herald-Sun. This piece of crap by Duff Wilson of the NYT is the point where they went into CYA mode, and began backpedaling.  You need a legal background and/or ongoing knowledge of the issues to understand how bad the article is.  People like Nancy Grace and Wendy Murphy stirred up the public with their indignation and inaccurate statements.

The blogger K. C. Johnson did a good job of explaining what was happening on a daily basis. A sample of what he wrote about Nancy Grace's coverage appears here.  Here's his dissection of Wendy Murphy.  Johnson's coverage was far superior to that of the mainstream media.

Al Sharpton went on Bill O'Reilly's show and as usual reiterated his theme of racism, and was encouraged that black organizations were supporting the "victim".  Jesse Jackson upped the ante by offering Rainbow Coalition money to pay for the "victim's" tuition.  The NAACP went into the fray early, attempting to interfere with monitor the investigation/prosecution.  Later, after Nifong had completed his media tour spouting lies about the lacrosse players, the NAACP said they would seek a gag order on the lacrosse players when they began to tell their side to the media.

There were numerous other persons involved in railroading the lacrosse players. The book Until Proven Innocent by Stuart Taylor and K. C. Johnson gives a good account of the entire debacle. Various law suits are still in progress, with lacrosse players seeking redress for harm done by the mob rush to judgement.

Incidentally, the prosecutor who replaced the disgraced Mike Nifong was fired recently for tirades against a judge. Read about the rise and fall of Tracey Cline here.  And if you didn't read the link to Crystal Mangum above, you might not know she is currently incarcerated on a murder charge, perhaps the last arrest of her troubled life.

2011, Durham, North Carolina, Alaina Giordano. Yes, Durham again. Only this one is not a criminal issue, but the actions of a mother upset with a child custody order. This was the case of Alaina Giordano whose husband obtained primary physical custody of the two children of the marriage.

Giordano had level four breast cancer and she mis-characterized the custody award as having been based on this factor alone. Giordano's case caught my eye because she made effective use of social media in addition to the always inaccurate, sensationalist mainstream media. A gullible public lapped it up and people vilified her husband, and signed an online petition to have the judge removed.

You may rightly assume that I have little respect for the analytical skills of the average citizen. I was amazed at how many people wrote highly opinionated messages without even reading the trial transcript. Of course the vast majority of those people would have no legal training and some would not understand the award even if they read it.

I read the transcript (three times) before I formed an opinion. It was a difficult case, and the judge said as much. The husband is not a person deserving admiration. But neither is the wife. She was the one consistently blocking the father's access to the children, not the other way around (as noted by the judge).

After reading the transcript I see no grounds for appeal. There are no controversial issues in a legal sense. The mental and physical capabilities of the respective parents to act in the best interests of the children, at present and into the future, are always considerations the court must take into account.

After seeing the mother's “bleeding hearts” con job in the media, I can guess at some of the behaviours and actions the judge observed in the four day trial, as well as those described in the court-mandated psychologist report.

One of the points made in the award is that the parents needed to stop using the kids as pawns in their disputes. So what did Giordano do after receiving the award? She went on national television with the kids, castigating the judge, and by implication her husband. Go figure! And of course none of the media interviewers asked her how putting the kids on national television was in their best interests. Disgusting!

As part of her disinformation campaign, Giordano had her publicist friend issue periodic press releases. As you can guess, those releases got picked up and published verbatim by the mainstream media. Many people responded to them as though each release was news, a form of investigative reporting by the outlet they read them on. Nitwits!

I had started an outline for a lengthy blog article on how Alaina Giordano deceived the public, and hopefully will get it up after I finish with Trayvon. As of today (April 27, 2012) Giordano is being discharged from hospital and entering hospice care (according to her Facebook site). The mainstream media have long forgotten about her, but a core group of gullibles hang out on her Facebook site.

Mob rule is not only an American thing.  I have lived in two Saskatchewan communities where citizens were wrongfully charged with satanic ritual abuse in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  One was in Saskatoon, and the other in Martensville, a bedroom community near Saskatoon. 

Most of the public had assumed guilt of the accused, because they were constantly told in the media, "kids don't make this stuff up".  But kids do repeat what overly zealous social workers, cops and prosecutors coach them to say. 

I knew one of the senior prosecutors who refused the cases for lack of evidence, but that didn't stop some of his subordinates from proceeding.  The employment and reputations of those wrongly implicated were seriously damaged. Some of them were awarded monetary damages later, but their lives were forever changed. Whenever their names come up people immediately think “child abuse”, not “wrongful prosecution”.

In 1969 I was living in Saskatoon about a mile from the Gail Miller murder.  After 23 years in prison David Milgaard was finally exonerated by DNA evidence that proved Larry Fisher was the murderer.  To this day some involved with the prosecution have not come to terms with the fact the wrong man was charged and convicted.  And some citizens are still convinced that Milgaard did it, and that there was some form of conspiracy to falsify DNA evidence.

The Saskatchewan events influenced my thinking greatly, having seen how normally rational people that I know personally can turn on others without a shred of evidence, merely lurid allegations made in the media. 

Please think of mob rule, rush to judgement, events like the above ones when encountering media reports on Trayvon Martin. How much is factual, and how much is merely allegation or opinion?


Trayvon Martin 5: My Theories on The Shooting

After George Zimmerman spotted Trayvon Martin loitering near or at the gated community clubhouse, both participants eyed each other carefully, perhaps nervously.

When Martin started running it was most likely because he was apprehensive of Zimmerman, not because he was doing anything wrong.  Zimmerman seems to have interpreted this as guilty action, that Martin had something to hide.  Remember there had been several recent break-ins.

It is not a known fact (to the public at least) that Martin was returning from the 7-Eleven; this is just one of many bits of hearsay advanced by Ben Crump, one of the Martin family lawyers.  Martin may have been to the 7-Eleven.  He may also have scored some dope, and may have been having a toke on the way home.  He also may have been surveying the houses for future yard thefts and/or break-ins.  All accounts of what he was doing prior to Zimmerman's call to police are supposition only.  The proof of one does not exclude the others.

If I were Martin, and wanting to avoid Zimmerman, I would want to stay in the well-lighted areas, while taking the most direct route home.  To maximize good lighting I would have gone straight east for about 400' to Retreat View Circle, then straight south about 400' on a (presumably) well-lit street to the front door of Brandy Green's townhouse.  Conversely, if I were afraid of Zimmerman cutting me off on Retreat View Circle with his SUV, I would want the most direct route, and would have gone straight east about 300' to the sidewalk tee, then south for about 400' along the less brightly lit sidewalk to the back door of Brandy's townhouse.  I would lean to the last possibility, because it would get Martin out of Zimmerman's line of sight sooner, and into a darker area where he is less likely to be seen.  He had a distance lead and probably was not afraid of Zimmerman catching him after the initial sprint.

The timeline makes it a certainty that Martin remained in the north end of the rows of houses, or if he went south, he doubled back to engage Zimmerman near the north end.  

What is not known is how the fight started.  I lean toward Zimmerman's allegations that Martin hit him, knocking him down.  Zimmerman had no motive to hit Martin.  All he needed was to keep him in sight until the cops arrived, which he could do simply by talking to him.  Martin, on the other hand, had not gone home, but had hid somewhere before confronting Zimmerman.  

While this is pure speculation, I see Martin as the more likely aggressor.  Zimmerman's allegations of Martin hitting him and knocking him down are supported by the police report indicating that Zimmerman had a bleeding nose, injuries to the back of his head, and a wet back as though he had been lying in the grass.

I grew up in a rough coal mining town in the middle of an oil patch.   It is hilarious to read the surmising of people who assume that George seriously outweighed Trayvon, and therefore Trayvon could not have been the aggressor.  Weight might matter in organized wrestling, but is hardly determinative in street fights which operate under less stringent rules, as demonstrated by Paul Newman in this video clip from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  

Zimmerman is not 240 pounds as Ben Crump would have you believe.  I took a screen capture of him in the cop shop, along with a screen capture of one of the officers taken as close as possible at the same spot for comparison.
While Ben Crump would have you believe that Martin was only 140 pounds, the partial police report listed his estimated weight at 160, which seems more likely from the more recent images of Trayvon I have seen.  I'm guessing they had about a 40 pound weight differential, not 100 pounds.

But the most hilarious part is that weight has little to do with it.  Mark Twain is credited with saying something to the effect that it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog that counts.  I had a classmate in grade 12 (about 5'11" and 140 pounds) whose favourite weekend pastime was beating up Junior A hockey players and big, dumb rig workers.

Serious fights are nothing like the sissy stuff shown on YouTube where people flail around endlessly, basically sparring with the air.  Most serious fights I have seen, and a few I have been in, are over within 5 to 10 seconds, when one of the combatants is stunned and goes down, often due to a sucker punch.  After that it's just the victor pounding or kicking the vanquished into submission.

I've seen several two-hit fights -- the first guy hits the second guy and the second guy hits the ground, or ice (hockey), or floor (bar), sometimes out cold.

Here's a YouTube video that starts as a drunken semi-serious sparring match.  Watch the smaller guy get in a good punch at the 19 second mark, and put the big guy down.  Sometimes that punch is the first one thrown. 

A gangly teenager like Martin could easily sucker punch Zimmerman and put him down.  And I think that's what happened.

Officer Timothy Smith wrote in his incident report that after handcuffing George and removing his handgun and holster:
While I was in such close contact with Zimmerman, I could observe that his back appeared to be wet and covered in grass as if he had been laying on his back on the ground.  Zimmerman was also bleeding from the nose and back of his head.
I am somewhat suspicious of the "as if he had been laying on his back on the ground" part; it sounds contrived and offers an opinion which was not needed.  Officer Smith says nothing about whether Martin's back was wet (he was found lying on his stomach), nor does Officer Ricardo Ayala, the first officer to make contact with Martin following the shooting.

If Martin's back was wet it means nothing.  They could have rolled over each other in their struggle.  But if it was dry, it most assuredly would indicate that Martin was the agressor.

I would like to know if the bullet exited.  Neither of the two short police reports mention an exit wound, but other officers, and certainly investigators with Major Crimes would have commented on the presence or absence.  I'm an amateur metal detectorist, and if the bullet exited and was in the area of the fight it would be relatively easy to find.  A bullet in the ground near the fight would not be good for Zimmerman.  The location of an exited bullet would say much about the respective locations of the combatants when the shot was fired.

I'm inclined to go with eye witness accounts that the two were wrestling on the ground when the shot occurred, although it is not clear who was on top.  From the evidence made public it would appear that Zimmerman was on the bottom.

Regardless, the coroner or medical examiner will undoubtedly have forensic evidence on bullet trajectory which could narrow down the possible locations of Zimmerman and Martin.  Also, the powder tattoo (or lack thereof) on Martin's clothing should define distance.  I got a good laugh out of the news report stating that a funeral director had determined that Martin was not in a fight.  Since when did funeral directors become medical examiners?

There is considerable conjecture as to who was doing the screaming heard on one of the citizen 911 calls.  Zimmerman and his family say it was him; the Martin family are sure it was Trayvon.  In the end it doesn't matter (other than partially discrediting Zimmerman's account if it turns out to have been Martin).  Martin could have been on top of Zimmerman, and then seen his handgun, and perhaps Zimmerman reaching for it.  Martin could well have been screaming for his life, knowing that if Zimmerman got the handgun out, his life might be over soon.  I haven't seen anyone else advance this theory. 

There has been considerable ink wasted on who saw what that night, and who heard what.  It's mostly irrelevant because eye witness testimony is one of the least reliable forms of evidence.  Many people have been wrongly convicted of major crimes by eye witness testimony alone, and sometimes executed, before conclusive evidence clears them.  But what is recorded on the citizens' 911 calls will be evidence for the timeline of the fight just before the shooting.

I learned about the unreliability of eye witness testimony back in 1969 when I was taking a law enforcement class from an ex-RCMP officer.  As he was droning on one day, the classroom door opened, a man entered, pointed a handgun at the instructor, said something, and fired some (blank) shots (loud!)  Then he left.  The instructor then gave us about 10 minutes to write down everthing we could remember about the incident. 

Then he gathered those accounts and gave us a specific questionnaire.  What was the shooter wearing?  What was his height and weight?  What hand was the gun in?  How many shots were fired?  How long between the first shot and each suceeding shot?  Did the man say anything (if so, what?)  What did he do with the gun after shooting?  What (if anything) did he say after shooting?  What did the instructor say (if anything) before or after the shooting?  What (if anything) did any member of the class say?  How long was the gunman in the room?  You get the drift.  If you've ever been in one of these exercises you'll understand why eye witness testimony is unreliable.

From the evidence made public there is nothing to discredit Zimmerman's claim of self defence.  I don't see how the "stand your ground" rule needs to be applied.  If Zimmerman was on his back, stunned, getting pounded, and in fear that he was going to be seriously injured or killed, he would be justified in using potentially lethal force with or without a "stand your ground" law.  

One of Zimmerman's spokesmen (probably brother or father) stated that the police had George walk the site and explain his locations and actions the morning after the shooting.  This would seem logical.  And there certainly could be some officers thinking George should be charged with manslaughter, e.g.  And a prosecutor could very well look at all the evidence available at that time and decline to support the laying of a charge at that time.

The public seems to be under the mistaken impression that someone injured or killed is entitled to his/her day in criminal court.  There is no such legal principle.  The principle is that an accused is entitled to his/her day in court, to have a fair trial before being sentenced or set free.  Ethically, a prosecutor should not proceed with a case where he/she does not have a reasonable chance of securing a conviction, regardless of personal feelings of culpability.  Or politics.

Now that Zimmerman has been charged with second degree murder, the Martin family should fade from the scene, because all they have asked for publicly is for Zimmerman to be arrested and charged.  If the Martin family, or more likely their lawyers, continue to make public statements then there is another agenda at work.  I will deal with this in a later post on why this particular story is deemed newsworthy.

There is nothing stopping the Martin family from seeking civil remedies against Zimmerman, and potentially the community association and the City of Sanford.  That's why Ben Crump is there; he's a civil litigator.  But the civil litigation can be planned more carefully if there is a criminal trial first.

I'd sooner be defence counsel than prosecutor on this one.  But at this point I know very little, only the small amount of evidence that is in the public domain.  That's only the tip of the iceberg; there is much more evidence that is not public.  There always is.

Trayvon Martin 4: Trayvon Lies in Wait (timeline analysis)

One of the first things I do in any investigation is establish a timeline of events, a concept most journalists seem unacquainted with.  For instance, some journalists reported that Trayvon went out to get snacks during the NBA All-Star game.  On March 13, Miami Herald reporter Fabiola Santiago (who supposedly taught journalism at two Florida universities) wrote:
It was the halftime of the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday, Feb. 26, when Martin left the townhouse in a gated community and went to buy snacks at a nearby 7-Eleven. He was wearing jeans, a hooded gray sweatshirt and red-and-white Air Jordans.

How stupid or lazy do you have to be to report something like that?  Trayvon was shot around 7:16 p.m. and the NBA All-Star game, being played about 20 miles south in Orlando, started at 7:30 p.m.  See why I have so little respect for journalists?  If the reporter can't even get this right, what else is wrong in the article?  Having questioned this reporter's competence, I now leave myself open to cries of "racist!" because the reporter was a Cuban refugee.

Below is a Google map of the gated community.  "GZ Vehicle" indicates the area on Twin Trees where George Zimmerman parked while observing Trayvon Martin. 

Next is the same map with different additions.  I have marked the tee intersection of the sidewalk as "0" (zero).  Then I scaled off distances in 100 foot intervals.  Those to the left (west) where Zimmerman parked are in aqua, the one to the right (east) is in lime green, and those down from the tee (south, towards Brandy Green's townhouse) are in blue.

You might want to click on this map below and print it off, or save it and load it in an image viewer, for easier flipping back and forth between discussion and map locations.
One thing that becomes evident (when combining this map with Zimmerman's call to police) is that the absolute maximum distance Trayvon had to travel from when George stated "He's running" is 800 feet (0.15 miles).  That would be from the 300' (aqua) mark on Twin Trees across from the clubhouse, to the 100' (lime green) mark on Retreat View Circle, then down to about the 400' (blue) mark to Brandy Green's townhouse.  I would estimate the minimum distance to be 500'.  The most probable scenarios put the distance between 600-700'.

I have also located the red X for the shooting location at the 100' mark south of the sidewalk tee, as a maximum distance from the tee for time calculations; it appears to have been less distance from videos. 

Here is a daylight image of the sidewalk tee (source).  Trayvon would have been shot on or near the sidewalk within 100' behind the woman.  Trayvon was staying less than 400' down that sidewalk.  The townhouse visible past the end of the sidewalk is on the far (south) side of Twin Trees Lane, about 500' from the tee.  Also note the location of the trash receptacle and the barriers between residences that would make good hiding locations.
The following images are screen shots from Fox News video coverage shot February 26 and 27, 2012.  It is the earliest coverage of the event that I found and is worth viewing.  Note that everything that Brandy Green and Tracy Martin say about what Trayvon was doing is self-serving hearsay.  They have no personal knowledge of Trayvon's travels, having gone out for a meal before Trayvon left Brandy's townhouse, and not returning until about 10:30 p.m., 3 hours after the shooting.  I was particularly interested in Brandy's hearsay statement "He was sitting on the porch" because this would have been a porch of a stranger -- not her porch or the porch of a near neighbour.

The first screen capture, from 49 seconds into the video, shows some of the police at the crime scene, standing on the sidewalk slightly to the east of the tee, with the shooting location less than 100' to the left (south).  Note the green trash receptacle near the tee.
The next screen capture is taken from 56 seconds into the video and shows Brandy Green and Tracy Martin, the next day (February 27), at the location they say was the shooting scene.  Note the sidewalk tee and trash receptacle in the background.
At this point it might be useful for the reader to listen to GZ's call to police, which can be found unredacted here or redacted here.  Also essential is the partial police report which can be found here.  This can be supplemented with the police dispatch logs of GZ's calls.  The original dispatch log by Sanford police that I used in my timeline disappeared, but this backup (note: large .pdf) seems to display identical information.  I used the entries by police dispatcher "snoffke" at Terminal 21, page 46 of the report, to match timeline points in the audio tape.

Following is most of the dialogue on GZ's call with times from the start of his call and the time "snoffke" recorded the same dialogue where applicable (Z for Zimmerman, D for dispatch, material in quotes is exact language to the best of my ability):
0:04 Z - break-ins in neighbourhood, suspicious guy
0:18 Z - looks like he's up to no good, on drugs or something
0:22 Z - it's raining, he's just walking around looking about
0:26 D - white, black, or Hispanic?
0:29 Z - "He looks black"
0:31 D - see what he's wearing?
0:34 Z - "dark hoody, like a gray hoody, and either jeans or sweat pants, and white tennis shoes"
0:42 Z - he's here now, just staring
0:47 Z - now he's staring at me
0:56 D - he's near the clubhouse now?
0:58 Z - "Yah, now he's coming towards me"
1:04 Z - got his hand in his waist band
1:08 Z - "he's a black male"
1:10 D - how old?
1:13 Z - "late teens" 
1:17 Z - "something's wrong with him"
1:22 Z - "he's coming to check me out"
1:24 Z - "he's got something in his hands -- I don't know what his deal is"
1:30 D - "we got them on the way" [officers]
1:32 D - "just let me know if this guy does anything else"
1:37 Z - "these assholes, they always get away"
2:07 Z - "shit, he's running" [19:11:59 on dispatch report]
2:09 D - "which way is he running?" 
2:10 [sounds like GZ exiting vehicle]
2:12 Z - "down towards the other entrance to the neighbourhood"
2:15 D - "which entrance is that?"
2:18 Z - "the back entrance"
2:20 [start of wind noise on GZ phone]
2:22 Z - [almost inaudible, sounds like "fucking coons"]
2:24 D - "Are you following him?"
2:25 Z - "Yah"
2:26 D - "Okay, we don't need you to do that."
2:28 Z - "Okay"
2:38 Z - "He ran."
2:41 [end of wind noise on GZ phone]
2:47 Z - [gives phone number to D]
2:54 D - do you want to meet with the officer?
2:57 Z - "Yah."
3:01 Z - straight past the clubhouse, make a left, go past mail boxes, look for my truck
3:19 D - "What address are you parked in front of?"
3:23 Z - "I don't know.  It's a cut through, so I don't know the address."
3:27 D - "Do you live in the area?"
3:32 D - "What's your apartment number?"
3:34 Z - "It's a home, it's one-nine-five-zero -- aw, crap, I don't want to give it out, I don't know where this kid is."
3:48 Z - "Could you have them call me and I'll tell them where I'm at?" [19:13:41 on dispatch report]
4:01 D - "Okay, no problem, I'll notify them to call you when they're in the area."
4:03 Z - "Thanks."
4:04 D - "You're welcome." [End of call]

Now let's match up two reference points on the phone call and the dispatch log.  At 2:07 GZ states "He's running" which appears at 19:11:59 on the dispatch log.  At 3:48 on the phone call GZ asks for the officers to call him on arrival; this appears at 19:13:41 on the dispatch log.  The time difference is 1:41 on the audio transmission and 1:42 on the dispatch log.  The two timelines are consistent.  The end of the call would be 19:13:57.  So George and Trayvon met up some time after 19:13:57.

Note that lawyer Ben Crump, acting for the Martin family, states that he has phone records showing that Trayvon was talking to his girlfriend from 7:12 p.m. to 7:16 p.m. at which point she states (via Crump) the call was dropped. 

Here are some pedestrian travel times used in my calculations:
3.0 mph = 264'/min, covers 100 feet in 22.7 seconds [slow walk -- me carrying groceries 1.5 miles, including wait times to cross streets]
4.0 mph = 352'/min, covers 100' in 17.0 sec [brisk walk]
8.0 mph = 704'/min, covers 100' in 8.5 sec [slow running rate that I averaged running 2 miles for conditioning when in my 30s]

Use the information above to develop your own timeline and distances Martin and Zimmerman may have travelled at various points.  Some of what I assume will turn out to be false.  But it's the best I can do with the info provided.

It seems illogical that Martin would have run easterly on Twin Trees Lane, and then around the curve to run south on Twin Trees to the first small cutout where he would go east again (Zimmerman probably would have followed with his vehicle which means it would no longer be on the east-west stretch as stated to dispatch).  Also, this would be south of the shooting area and would mean Martin went north from the cutout, away from Brandy Green's residence, not south, towards it.

The more logical assumption is that both Martin and Zimmerman went straight east on Twin Trees Lane to the east-west sidewalk that is the top of the tee.  I am also assuming that both actually were running, and that they ran at an average leisurely rate of 8 mph (704'/min).  I am assuming that Zimmerman ran for the 21 seconds that his phone had wind noise, and that Martin ran for 34 seconds from when George said "He's running" to when the wind noise stopped on George's phone.  Note that at 8 mph Martin could have been home (using max. distance of 800') in 1 minute 8 sec at the most.

At 8 mph Zimmerman would have covered 246 feet in 21 seconds, and Martin would have covered 399 feet in 34 seconds, assuming they stop running at the same time.  Zimmerman was on the phone for 1 min 23 sec after the wind noise stopped and his voice is normal, so he is either standing or walking during that time.

Let's assume Zimmerman stopped running when he reached the sidewalk tee, and calculate from there.  That would put his car at least 246' west on my aqua distance markers (plus any distance that he walked before running), in sight line of the clubhouse.  Let's assume (without deciding) that Trayvon started running before he got to George's SUV, say from the 300' aqua mark, within 100' of the clubhouse.  

By the time Zimmerman got to the tee Trayvon would have to be south of the point where he was shot, or on Retreat View Circle east of the tee (100' lime green mark), provided he kept moving at 8 mph.  The timeline suggests that he had more than 100' lead on George, probably 150' or more, and would have covered a minimum 400' of an extreme maximum 800' total distance to Brandy Green's residence from where he started running.  He may have had as little as 650' total distance (long way) or 550' (short way) if he started running after he reached Zimmerman's SUV.

Because Zimmerman was obviously trying to locate Martin for the remaining 1 min 23 sec of his call to police dispatch, it would seem logical that he checked both the north-south sidewalk between the rows of townhouses, and the sidewalk about 100' east on Retreat View Circle.  Obviously he never spotted Martin nor heard him talking on his phone. Remember that at 3:34 into his call he regrets giving his address because "I don't know where this kid is", leading to the inference that Zimmerman thought Martin could be hiding nearby.

What was Martin doing in the last 1 min 23 sec of Zimmerman's call to dispatch?  If he was walking home (as double hearsay from his girlfriend via lawyer Ben Crump would indicate) at a slow 3 mph, he would have covered 365', which would put him at least next door to Brandy Green's townhouse, if he took the long route via Retreat View Circle.  He would be home if he went down the sidewalk between the two rows of houses.

And what was Martin doing in the one to two minutes after Zimmerman's call to dispatch ended, and the time he met Zimmerman?  Obviously he either hid somewhere in the north end of the rows of townhouses, or he wandered around that area.  He could not have been walking home.

Note:  I am not stating that Martin did anything wrong by stopping or loitering in the area around the tee, because he was allowed to be there.  Similarly, Zimmerman was allowed to be there.  While dispatch told Zimmerman "We don't need you to do that", that is not a command to stay in his vehicle.  Dispatchers always advise citizens not to engage people they are reporting.  Everything Zimmerman did is consistent with him following Martin to keep him in sight until police arrived.  And he had a valid concealed carry permit for his handgun.  And he has no criminal record as is widely and falsely reported.  

Visitors to Florida might be surprised by how many citizens have concealed weapon permits -- 919,831 according to this article!  Women often carry hanguns in quick draw sleeves of their customized purses.  I suspect both Mickey and Minnie are packing; Orlando is a high crime rate area.  It's a gun(g)-ho culture.

To sum up this section, Martin wasn't running like a scared jack rabbit with a rabid coyote on his tail.  He started running, and then for whatever reason stopped and at some point decided to engage George.

I speculate on how that engagement may have unfolded in the next post: Trayvon Martin 5: My Theories on The Shooting.

Trayvon Martin 3: Spin on Trayvon

So fine, so fine the web you spin,
I come too close and I'm caught again!
In the web of wild design,
I do not know what fate is mine!
All the day sit and spin,
Spin your web and you draw me in.
Spin, spin, spin, spin!
     --Gordon Lightfoot, “Spin, Spin”

My first impression of this case was that the media was trying to spin the issue as a rogue vigilante white man pursuing and gunning down an innocent little black youth who was running desperately to save his life.  (Run, black Forrest, run!)  Why else would they run the following photo set, images of both taken several years ago? 
The shooting was February 26, but major news coverage began around March 8.  The family had no current images of Trayvon?  What first impressions did you get when looking at this display?

Now let's experiment by using more recent photos of the two, using an image Trayvon used on his Twitter account.
If that had been the first image set that you had seen, what would your first impression have been about who might be the more menacing of the two?

Now let's look at a photo set of two people not associated with this shooting.
What was your first impression?  Who looks more menacing?  The image on the left is Stephen King, popular writer; the image on the right is Ted Bundy, serial killer.  See how this game is played?  

In later sections I will deal with who is behind the spin, predominantly left wing media and left wing movements.  In the next post I debunk the premise that Trayvon was attempting to avoid George with a detailed timeline analysis: Trayvon Martin 4: Trayvon Lies in Wait.

Trayvon Martin 2: Community Crime Information

The city of Sanford, Florida has a crime rate significantly above average for the U.S. and for Florida as shown in the image below. (source)
Here are more images from another source on Sanford robberies and burglaries compared to U.S. averages (click any image in this post for sharper version):
I was unable to find source data for crimes committed within The Retreat at Twin Lakes, which is comprised of about 260 townhouses.  This community was built in 2004 and current market value of the units is roughly half of initial sales price; many units are rented, including Brandy Green's and George Zimmerman's.  There is high turnover and vacancy rate.  Assuming 2.5 inhabitants per townhouse, that would be equivalent to a small town of about 650 people.  But some of the townhouses are not occupied, so if 40 are unoccupied as one news report states, that would bring the community population down to 550.

I went to the news reports to see what they reported for previous crimes in The Retreat.  I'm unsure how reporters get their "facts".  I presume they interview a random stranger walking the neighbourhood.  The interviewee at some point states, "Well, I don't know much about it, but my cousin's wife's hairdresser said . . ."  What is said next is what I assume is reported as fact.  Understandably, different hairdressers may operate from different knowledge bases, so this leads to different "facts" in news reports from different reporters. 

What did the reporters write?  This account appeared in the Daily Beast on March 28, and details various crimes residents had reported, including a morning burglary by two men while a woman with an infant hid in a bedroom awaiting police response.  Journalist Amy Green wrote: 
The burglary of Olivia Bertalan’s home was just one of at least eight reported over the previous 14 months—several of which, neighbors said, involved young black men. 
Eight burglaries in 260 residences in 14 months in a community of about 550 seems high to me.

On March 17, Frances Robles, writing for the normally factually challenged Miami Herald, stated:
The answer may lie in police records, which show that 50 suspicious-person reports were called in to police in the past year at Twin Lakes. There were eight burglaries, nine thefts and one other shooting in the year prior to Trayvon’s death.
In all, police had been called to the 260-unit complex 402 times from Jan. 1, 2011 to Feb. 26, 2012.
A third article, written by Lane DeGregory for the Tampa Bay Times on March 25 stated:
By the time Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, 40 properties inside the gate were empty and more than half of the residents were renters. 
                     .  .  .
For the first two months of this year, at the Retreat at Twin Lakes, the Sanford police logged 51 calls for service. Half were just people requesting information. The others included eight burglaries, two bike thefts and three simple assaults.
The last article has an excellent photo showing a woman standing at the north tee in the sidewalk that I reference in my time line analysis.  It appears in a later post on my timeline analysis, with other images of the shooting location.

The next post will be:  Trayvon Martin 3: Spin on Trayvon

Trayvon Martin 1: Zimmerman Charged With Second Degree Murder

The right to search for truth implies also a duty: one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true.
     --Albert Einstein

Now I'm really confused.  Or maybe not.

Yesterday State Prosecutor Angela Corey charged George Zimmerman with second degree murder, which is initially puzzling.  What evidence could she possibly have to support that charge?

If you've been living under a rock and aren't familiar with the Trayvon Martin shooting, scroll down for the facts and my comments in the section entitled Introduction.

I had started writing a post on the shooting about three weeks ago, but the draft snowballed out of control, into several subsections.  I will break down my analysis into several posts.  The most important post is my timeline analysis (to be the fourth post) which shows that Trayvon Martin must have laid in wait for George Zimmerman, leading to a physical encounter, and finally the shooting.

Getting back to the second degree charge, it was a "WTF" moment for me.  I had anticipated that political pressure would have forced State Prosecutor Corey to charge Zimmerman with manslaughter, even if conviction was unlikely.  While I have not studied Florida criminal law, the requirements for conviction for murder in general require a "malice aforethought" element which must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.  Manslaughter does not require any premeditation.

What evidence could Corey have to support a charge of second degree murder?  Possibly forensic evidence like bullet trajectory and gunpowder "tattoo" (or more importantly, lack thereof) that might possibly show that the shooting was not at close range, and more like an execution.  Possibly the bullet exited Trayvon's body and was recovered from the ground at the shooting scene (showing Zimmerman must have been on top during the fight).  But these possibilities are pure supposition.

Without conclusive forensic evidence she must convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman exited his vehicle and followed Martin with the express purpose of doing him harm.  Or that after they met up in the dark area between the townhouses Zimmerman was the aggressor in the physical encounter between the two.  Eye witness testimony is unreliable and probably is not a major part of Corey's case.  There is evidence in the public domain (initial partial police report) that is supportive of Zimmerman's claim of self defence.

Remember that Florida has what I call a "shoot the burglar with impunity" law, which is most often referred to as the "stand your ground" law for another provision, not dealing with burglars:
(3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
I'm uncertain whether the "stand your ground" defence can be raised prior to the murder trial, forcing the prosecutor to overcome it before proceeding to trial, or whether it can be invoked only during the murder trial.  Defence counsel in news reports seem to indicate the former is a possibility.  Which means the second degree murder charge could get blown out of the water before trial, and Zimmerman walks.

It is possible that Corey over-charged Zimmerman with the intent of scaring him witless, and forcing a plea bargain of a manslaughter charge.  Over-charging by police and prosecutors seems to be relatively common.  Considering that about 95% of criminal offences are settled through plea bargains, this allows the defence counsel to bargain down to a sentence that the prosecutor thought was appropriate for the crime.  The down side to over-charging is that the accused may not negotiate and may demand either a trial or exoneration; overly greedy prosecutors can get caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

A final consideration is that this is a presidential election year in America and Angela Corey is up for re-election.  She was fired by her boss, the State Attorney, in 2006 when she announced that she would run for his job.  She was elected in 2008 to that job, and did a purge of supporters of her former boss.  

Corey has a reputation as a "tough on crime" prosecutor; her critics, which seem to be largely from minority races, contend she abuses the authority of her office.  Currently she has a troublesome case where she "bumped up" a 12-year-old minor, Cristian Fernandez, to adult court on a first degree murder charge, but later made public comments that she didn't intend to try the case, but was looking for a plea deal.  See my comments on over-charging and prosecutors getting caught with their hands in the cookie jar, two paragraphs above.

Everything is political in the Unforgiving States of America, including who gets the licence for the hot dog stand at small town Independence Day celebrations.  By charging Zimmerman with second degree murder Corey caters to the black voters who have been whipped into a frenzy by the shooting.  Most whites will still support her anyway because of her overall "tough on crime" stance.

I'm no longer puzzled.  It is likely the murder trial will commence, if at all, after the elections on Nov. 6.  This gives Corey time to remain "tough on crime" and make numerous public appearances before the election, and then sneak her hand out of the cookie jar after.

Isn't American "justice" fascinating?  Of course this is only my opinion.
UPDATE, April 13:  I posted the above material the morning of April 12 without checking to see what legal analysts had to say on the second degree murder charge.  This morning I came across this interview with Alan Dershowitz, famous defence counsel.  Note the similarities between what I wrote and his comments later that day on over-charging and politics.  

I would like to believe he reads my blog, but in reality those with legal training and a good analytical mind will tend to come to similar conclusions -- unless money, power, or politics intrude (and they usually do).

The material above and below this update remain unchanged.

A fatal shooting occurred on February 26, 2012 at approximately 7:16 p.m. EDT in a gated community named The Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, Florida.  The deceased, Trayvon Martin (TM), was a 17-year-old black male. The shooter was a 28-year-old part Hispanic, George Zimmerman (GZ), (white father, Peruvian mother).  

Trayvon had been walking in the rain, returning from a 7-Eleven (hearsay only) outside the community to his father's girlfriend's residence in the community.  George Zimmerman had been driving the opposite direction, leaving the community, when he spotted Trayvon acting in a manner that George thought was suspicious.

George was the head of the community neighborhood watch, formed in 2011 due to several break-ins in the community, and phoned the police to see if they could dispatch an officer to check out the youth.  That call lasted four minutes six seconds; at two minutes seven seconds George stated "He's running", and exited his vehicle to follow Trayvon; the police dispatcher advised him "You don't need to do that."

George followed Trayvon, sounding as if he was running for about 20-30 seconds, then talking calmly as though walking for the remainder of the call (about 1 minute 15 seconds to 1 minute 25 seconds).  He apparently lost sight of Trayvon early in the pursuit.  

George and Trayvon met, probably about one minute after his call to police dispatch ended.  Then there was a struggle with screaming for less than a minute, prompting several residents to call 9-11, and finally the fatal shot.  Police arrived a few minutes later.

Newspaper and television coverage has been shoddy sensationalism filled with inaccuracies, so I wouldn't advise accepting anything from the media as truth.  Lately some of the worst Zimmerman bashers have been backing off their aggressive, biased accounts.

One of the best descriptions, as of today, is the Wikipedia entry.  It has links to most of the events, including calls to police, and police reports. 

Below is an image of the area from the 7-Eleven (A) to Trayvon's destination (B), a distance of about 0.9 miles according to Google maps.  (click for larger image)
I expect future posts to be:
Trayvon Martin 2: Community Crime Information
Trayvon Martin 3: Spin on Trayvon
Trayvon Martin 4: Trayvon Lies in Wait (timeline analysis)
Trayvon Martin 5: My Theory on the Shooting
Trayvon Martin 6: Similar Mob Rule Events
Trayvon Martin 7: Why is This Newsworthy?
Trayvon Martin 8: Politics
Trayvon Martin 9: Conclusions