One of the most infamous trials in modern history ended on July 13th, 2013. A Florida neighborhood watchman was acquitted in the murder of an unarmed high school teenager.
Now, five years later, a six-episode television series from Paramount Pictures – “Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story” – is coming this July. Executive producers are Trayvon Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton & Tracy Martin, along with Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, Chachi Senior, Michael Gasparro, Jenner Furst, Julia Willoughby Nason, and Nick Sandow.
The series is based on “Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin” a book by Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, and the network claims it will delve into the killing of Trayvon Martin with a “story about race, politics, power, money and the U.S. criminal justice system”.
Tears and gasps of anger were heard inside a Virginia courtroom on September 8, reports KIVA-TV, when a judge granted a $250,000 bond for Kempton Bonds, a 19-year-old man accused of second degree murder. He posted bond and was released on house arrest, amid vocal protests the victim’s family and friends.
Bonds is claiming self-defense in the stabbing death of 35-year-old Tyonne Johns, a popular chef who was catering a wedding at a park in Fairfax County, Virginia. Bond’s attorney, Peter Greenspun maintains his client was scared and being attacked when the stabbing occurred.
But even if he felt a little intimidated by the imposing female chef, it appears to have been unfathomable that he would take her life. Virginia is for lovers and a wedding should be an atmosphere of new life, not death.
According to The Washington Post witnesses said the incident was sparked by an argument over folding chairs, which Bonds claimed belonged to the park, for whom he was working as a maintenance man during the wedding.
Jones’ friends and other witnesses who were in attendance at the wedding reportedly said Bonds appeared agitated throughout the evening event, and had gone so far as to shut off power during the festivities, before the fatal stabbing.
A pre-trial hearing in the murder case is set for October 31st.
Among the myriad of stories pouring in about dangerous Pokemon Go game experiences happening in the world of AR (Augmented Reality), along comes news from Florida (of course) about a real-world “stand your ground” type of incident which fortunately was not deadly – but could have been.
According to a report from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, on Saturday morning (July 16) about 1:30 a.m., a man fired several shots at the car of two young men who were playing Pokemon Go outside his home in Palm Coast, Florida.
The 37-year-old man said he was awakened by a noise, looked outside his home, and saw a white car. He thought that two teenagers, 19 and 16-year-old, were burglars ransacking houses when he reportedly heard them ask each other “Did you get anything?”
The man told police that he stepped in front of the vehicle and ordered the teens not to move. He said the vehicle accelerated toward him, causing him to jump out of the way. He then fired a gun several times at the vehicle because he thought they were trying to run over him.
The teens reportedly later told police that before the shooting they heard someone ask, “Did you catch him?” and one of the teens said, “Yeah, did you?”
They heard the gunfire as they sped off. They didn’t call police or tell their parents because they weren’t injured and had not seen any damage to the car.
But in the light of day, when the vehicle was found to have a flat tire and several bullet holes, they realized how deadly the encounter could have been, and the mother of one of the teens then called police.
Due to Florida’s infamous stand your ground law, it’s unlikely the unidentified homeowner will be arrested or face any charges, but it is possible.
law enforcement officials everywhere advise citizens to call 911 immediately with as much information as possible when you suspect someone is trying to break into your home, and avoid leaving the protection of your home to confront suspects.
Here are additional tips from Flagler County Sheriff’s Department:
Pokemon Go players are urged to follow these safety guidelines
Use common sense, be alert at all times and stay aware of your surroundings. In law enforcement, we call this situational awareness.
Watch where you are going.
Do not drive or ride your bike, skateboard, or another device while interacting with the Pokemon Go app. You cannot do both safely at the same time.
Do not trespass, go onto private property or into any area you usually, would not if you weren’t playing Pokemon Go.
Understand that people can use your location to lure you to “PokeStops” so they can victimize you.
Take a friend with you.
If you are a minor, check with a parent before going anywhere and tell an adult or law enforcement officer immediately if anything happens.
Parents of Pokemon Go players
Talk to your kids about strangers and set limits on where your kids go.
Be aware of third-party software apps claiming to enhance the gaming experience. Unfortunately, many of these apps allow access to sensitive personal data.
A paradigm of just how badly stand your ground can go wrong is when a Black man brutally attacked by a group of White men is charged with murder, testifies that he didn’t intend to kill one, but did, and then a judge decides he is not immune from prosecution – because the self-defense was unintentional.
It happened in Georgia, and the story of Jesse Murray, as revealed in media and police reports, goes beyond blatant disregard for the stand your ground law he tried to use, after becoming the victim of a brutal racist attack.
It reportedly all begins at a sports bar in Clayton County, Georgia, where 33-year-old Murray met with his estranged wife, Traci, for a meal, to discuss their relationship and children. The couple had once been regular customers of the business and were known by employees there.
After their meal, the Murrays tried their hand at a game of pool while having a few drinks, as a party was taking place nearby. Nathan Adams, a White male who was allegedly drunk, along with a woman, stumbled into Traci, and Murray, who is Black, tried to stop them from falling.
Adams – who just happened to be an ex-cop – offered no apologies, but allegedly warned Murray not to touch him again, as Murray stood between Traci and Adams and told him to get away from his wife.
A drunken Adams reportedly told Murray, “You need to f*cking leave” as four other White men, apparently Adams’ friends, appeared to surround Murray, and Adams pushed him in the chest.
Murray said he walked away from the men, went outside to his car, grabbed his licensed handgun and headed back toward the entrance to go back inside to bring his wife Traci out. He put the gun in his pocket.
As he tried to go back into the bar, Adams’ group blocked the door. Murray told the men to let his wife come out of the bar, but they refused, and instead moved toward him into the parking lot.
Several men accused of attacking Murray reportedly claimed they were concerned Murray was going to get a gun, had made threatening statements, and had called the woman who was with Adams an offensive name.
WSB-TV reports that Murray testified, “I was scared. I was definitely, at that moment, I was in fear. I was scared,” He also said, “They just made trouble happen for no reason.”
Adams threw a punch at Murray and all four men jumped in, kicking punching, and tackling Murray to the ground, then choking him as Adams held him by the arm.
In chilling court testimony, Murray testified that, “As he [Adams] was pulling on me I just remember him grunting.” Murray said soon after that Adams appeared to reach for (or his hands got close to) the gun in Murray’s pocket.
“At that point, when I pulled back, that’s when my gun discharges.” Murray was then able to escape – as one of the men shot at him – and run to a nearby business, from where he called police.
When police arrived, Murray surrendered his weapon and tried to explain what happened, but was handcuffed by the responding officer. While Murray was cuffed, one of Adams’ friends allegedly ran up and punched Murray in the head.
Responding officers didn’t arrest the man who punched Murray, who was then placed into a patrol car, as a white officer (off-duty and out of uniform) – who was another of Adams’ friends – arrived on the scene, and shouted, “Do you know who we are? We’re going to fry your black ass!” reports rollingout.com.
Adams was pronounced dead at a hospital. Murray was transported to jail, where he was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated assault. No one else was charged with a crime that night.
After a stand your ground hearing in June, Clayton County Superior Court Judge Albert R. Collier denied stand your ground immunity for Murray, stating that Murray was not in fear for his life. If convicted, he now faces up to 15 years in prison.
The judge responded that it doesn’t appear to the court “that the other men in the vicinity were acting in such a way that would cause the defendant to reasonably believe that deadly force was necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or a third party.”
The Judge’s ruling also states that, “The court cannot reconcile the defendants asking for immunity under a self-defense statute, by stating that the use of deadly force was justified, and then also stating that the use of deadly force was unintentional.”
Murray’s defense attorney Mawuli Mel Davis plans to file a Motion to Reconsider.
Curtis Reeves, Jr. will probably never again be a free man. He will likely die behind bars – or perhaps while out of prison on house arrest – in a stand your ground case that’s taking a noticeably long time to go to trial.
Reeves – a retired Tampa, Florida police captain and former SWAT leader – was charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault. But he asserts that he fired in self-defense and is claiming immunity under Florida’s notorious stand your ground law.
If convicted, he faces a life sentence. But at his age, even pleading guilty to a lesser charge could mean that he will die behind bars, reports the Tampa Bay Times.
Now, almost three years, dozens of court sessions, and multiple depositions after the fatal shooting, it may seem as if Reeves’ defense team is trying to keep him out of prison as long as they can.
“(This case) should have gone a long time ago,” Pinellas-Pasco Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett told the Tampa Bay Times. “Factually, it’s just not that complicated. It happened in a movie theater, in a matter of minutes, and it’s over and done with.” Bartlett said the stand your ground phase of a case like this is typically decided within 18 months or two years at most.
A stand your ground hearing was originally set by Circuit Court Judge Susan L. Barthle for January 25, 2016, and postponed to May 26, then postponed again to June 29, 2016. Now, Judge Barthle has set a date of February 20, 2017.
Reeves’ defense attorney Richard Escobar denies any deliberate stall tactics and attributes the delays to the complexity of the case and a multitude of some 170 witnesses.
Escobar is hopelessly optimistic about what seems to be a clear case of murder, and once said he thinks Reeves has a “pretty solid stand your ground case.” He told the Tampa Bay Times, “We believe that when we go to trial, Mr. Reeves will be acquitted of all charges.” Read the Tampa Bay Times story.
NOTE: This article was edited after it was originally posted to include the third paragraph.
After a violent week of shootings by and of police in the U.S., government in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas said it has “taken a note of the recent tensions in some American cities over shootings of young black males by police officers”, and issued an unprecedented advisory to its citizens traveling to the United States, just as the islands began a weekend celebration of their 43rd year of independence from the British.
In a press release, the Bahamas Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration said they expect many Bahamians to travel abroad, and warns its citizens traveling to the U.S., but “especially to the affected cities, to exercise appropriate caution generally.”
The statement goes on to say, “In particular, young males are asked to exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police. Do not be confrontational and cooperate.”
The Ministry advises Bahamians, to “not get involved in political or other demonstrations under any circumstances and avoid crowds.”
Protests and marches took place throughout the U.S. in the immediate aftermath of deadly police shootings in Minnesota, Louisiana, and New York of unarmed Black men.
The Bahamas has consular offices in New York, Washington, Miami and Atlanta and honorary consuls in Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago and Houston.
This Bahamian advisory is a bit unprecedented, but there have been warnings in the past from other nations for their citizens to avoid road rage and to watch out for guns in America, or more subtle but obvious safety advisories about air travel, warnings about American rip-offs, or unusual cautions like avoiding U.S. prostitutes, public urination, and nudity.
Details are still emerging in the July 4th fatal shooting of an unarmed convicted felon by an off-duty New York City police officer during a road rage incident shortly after midnight.
Reports are that, as the two men were at a red light, 37 year-old Delrawn Small, who was driving with his girlfriend, Zaquanna Albert, 35-years-old, and her two kids to a fireworks show, got out of his car and approached a car driven by off-duty Officer Wayne Isaacs, who had just finished working a shift, but was not in uniform.
A witness reported that Isaacs’ car had cut off Small’s car as they approached the traffic signal. When Small got to Isaacs’ car, he allegedly punched Isaacs twice in the face. Isaacs responded by firing a gun as many as three times, fatally shooting Smalls.
The New York Post reports that Small, a father of three, had been drinking at a barbecue earlier in the night, and has a criminal record with around two dozen arrests, which include armed robbery and drugs.
Some reports say Isaacs did not exit his car, but one report quoted a witness, Lloyd Banks. a 43-years-old construction worker, as saying, “Delrawn and the cop’s car almost hit each other. And Delrawn got out of the car and the cop just jumped out and started screaming. He just shot (Small) right there on the street.”
Police have classified the case as a road rage incident, but have not released any available surveillance video, and have not stated whether or not the shooting was justified. Isaacs has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation by the state’s Attorney General’s office.
Small’s family is enraged, threatening to “hunt him [Isaacs] down”. His niece, Zoe Dempsey, 23-years-old told the New York Post, “We will seek our justice’’ — and get violent if necessary. “This is war, she said, “I’m from Brooklyn. This is our neighborhood.”
Dempsey said she and her friends “are hunting [Isaacs] down’’ if justice doesn’t prevail. “So if I’m going to find him, he’s going to get what he deserves . . . If this hits trial and I have to pull up with my homies and we beat his ass, then I’m with that, too,’’ she said.
Small’s family has also set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds for his funeral.
The city of New York recently settled a lawsuit involving a racially charged false arrest case with Isaacs as one of two officers accused, in which the plaintiff was “punched, kicked and struck several times in the head and body,” and also called a “n—-r”.
Even though he faced a minimum of 15 years in prison, Paralympic gold medallist sprinter Oscar Pistorius was sentenced today (July 6) by a South African judge to six years in prison for the 2013 Valentine’s Day murder of his girlfriend, 29-year-old model Reeva Steenkamp. It is the latest ruling in a drawn-out case that transfixed the nation.
Sherdavia Jenkins, a 9-year-old girl playing outside her Miami home with her siblings didn’t deserve to die. Especially not the way she did – caught in the crossfire of gang warfare and felled by a bullet from an AK-47. Even more hurtful was the fact that the shooter had the audacity to invoke Florida’s stand your ground law.
Her death in 2006 horrified the community and solidified her name as a rallying cry against the gun violence that has plagued Miami for decades.
It would later be denied, but the insult of using stand your ground law as an excuse for accidentally taking the life of an innocent 9-year-old was an affront to the futility of having such a law – a law that wastes precious court time, and allows a defendant the luxury of a possible excuse.
In observance of July 1st, 2016 – the 10th anniversary of Sherdavia’s death – the Miami-Herald reports on reflections of her family, community, and the remorse of one of the gunmen, as her family is carrying on, preparing to send Sherdavia’s sister to college and wondering what their bright, beloved daughter might have accomplished had she lived. Read the full story at MiamiHerald.com
Prosecutors and attorneys for a retired Florida cop who killed a man during an argument over the man texting on a cell phone in a movie theater have agreed to postpone a stand your ground hearing – again, and again, and now again – until next year.
A hearing on an immunity claim of self-defense under stand your ground law was originally set by Circuit Court Judge Susan L. Barthle for January 25, 2016, and postponed to May 26, then postponed again to June 29, 2016. This time, Judge Barthle has set a date of February 20, 2017.
Retired Tampa Police Captain Curtis Judson Reeves, 73-years-old, of Brooksville, is charged with second-degree battery and second degree murder in the shooting death of 43-year-old Chad Oulson and wounding Oulson’s wife, Nicole. The incident, which some people call the “popcorn shooting”, occurred inside a movie theater in Pasco County on January 13, 2014.
Theater surveillance cameras captured multiple images from different angles of the venue seating areas and lobby, with one scene that appears to show popcorn, then what appears to be a cellphone being thrown by Oulson just before Reeves fires the fatal shot.
A stand your ground hearing would determine whether or not Reeves is immune from prosecution. If he loses at the hearing the case would then go to trial. If his plea is successful, he will not have to stand trial.
SB656, a bill designed to change Missouri’s self-defense laws – and make Missouri the first state since the Trayvon Martin incident to pass a stand your ground law – was vetoed by Governor Jay Nixon today (June 27). After sailing through the state’s Senate and the House, the bill had been awaiting approval or veto by Nixon since May 13.
It is possible for a gubernatorial veto to be overridden by the state legislature.
Nixon, a Democrat, faced enormous pressure from the Republican-led Missouri legislature to enact the law. The bill has been widely considered “veto-proof”; however, a bill which faces opposition by the Governor after passing through the legislature can be challenged with a veto override in the next legislative session, and still become law in the future.
SB656 would have allowed deadly force to be used by anyone who has permission to occupy private property, such as a house guest, and also make it a misdemeanor, and no longer a felony, for anyone carrying a concealed weapon into a place that has restrictions on concealed carry.
The bill also would have allowed open-carry without a permit, and expanded the state’s self-defense laws to include the words “does not have a duty to retreat from a dwelling, residence, vehicle, private property that is owned or leased, or anywhere else a person has a right to be – the very definition of stand your ground law – making Missouri the first state since Trayvon Martin incident to pass such a law.
South Carolina’s Supreme Court recently ruled that a North Charleston woman legally used deadly force in 2012 when she fatally stabbed her boyfriend at their home. The ruling on May 18, 2016 helps clarify how South Carolina’s “stand your ground” law applies to domestic violence.
In October, 2014, a trial judge in Charleston dismissed a murder charge against 26-year-old Whitlee Jones, who claimed immunity from prosecution under the state’s Protection of Persons and Property Act. The law allows people in certain situations to use force when faced with serious injury.
Whitlee Jones (photo: Cannon Detention Center)
Jones was the first of three North Charleston women charged with murder during a two-year span in the stabbing of a boyfriend or a roommate. Judges dismissed charges against all of them. Read the full story at postandcourier.com