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.
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.
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.
In November 2012, Trevor Dooley, now 75-years-old, was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 8 years in prison for the September, 2010 murder of a neighbor, 41-years-old David James, on a basketball court – as James’ 8-year-old daughter watched. Dooley was convicted in 2013, and served three years and three months of his sentence in prison.
Dooley’s first appeal was denied, but the Tampa Bay Times reports a second appeal has been granted because of an ineffective appellate lawyer and “erroneous” wording in the jury instructions on the justifiable use of deadly force. In Florida, that’s known as the “stand your ground” law.
When I heard that Trayvon Martin was killed, and that his killer was claiming Florida’s stand your ground defense, that law piqued my interest. I had not heard of stand your ground and wanted to know of other cases in Florida where the defendant claimed that defense.
Among the cases I found was that of Trevor Dooley. On January 23, 2013, I wrote an article on the significance of the Dooley decision. It is a Florida case where the defendant claimed self-defense….
After each mass shooting in America, a voice is heard somewhere in the wilderness of the gun control debate preaching the myth that “nothing stops a bad guy but a good guy with a gun.” This worn-out statement has been used in support of stand your ground laws, but it’s unlikely stand your ground laws would stop a mass shooting.
The good guy myth is repeated by the gun lobby – like a sales pitch for a reliable car – almost every time there’s a high-profile murder of innocent people, or a vigilante kills a perp, and it’s simply not true.
In the wake of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, at the Pulse night club in Orlando, we heard it again. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, an NRA supporter, is likely to have said it again by the time you read this.
Stand your ground is dangerous
Some gun owners may argue that engaging a threat is the best solution. In Florida – the birthplace of “stand your ground” laws – it’s highly possible that several patrons or employees of the night club were armed, and reports are that an armed security guard fired back at the gunman during the frenzy. It’s unclear if the club had a system to check for weapons at the entrance.
Chances are, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, like any other mass shooter, probably didn’t bother to make a normal entrance on his hours-long rampage, as he killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. it was only when police fired on him that the shooting ended.
Stand your ground law relieves a person of a duty to retreat. That means there is no obligation to try and escape any danger or call police in the face of a threat. It allows for the use of deadly force to meet deadly force.
But without any warning or firepower to match, who can stand their ground against an AR-15 assault rifle firing 45 rounds a minute – a weapon designed for war – wielded by a crazed gunman intent on carnage?
At it’s deadliest worst, there is also an increased chance during an active shooter situation that any number of innocent people may be hurt or killed by “friendly fire” from an untrained civilian – who happens to be a “good guy with a gun”. There could also be criminal or civil legal repercussions.
Manufacturers of these high-powered weapons of war are facing lawsuits from some families. Families of Sandy Hook victims have filed lawsuits against gun manufacturers they say made a weapon that shouldn’t be sold to civilians. In response to the Orlando shooting, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said “It reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets.”
There should be state and federal bans on assault-type weapons designed more for war than for hunting, such as was in effect from 1994 to 2004. It’s estimated that there are millions of these weapons in circulation. Efforts to reinstitute the ban have been underway but encounter resistance from the gun lobby.
It’s up to lawmakers in each state who recklessly feed into NRA rhetoric and NRA money to act now – with urgency – and address the epidemic of gun violence by enacting gun laws for safety that may protect us. Anything less will continue to diminish our pursuit of happiness.
Having a stand your ground law can’t help stop a mass shooting, but sensible gun laws can help. We must hold state lawmakers responsible if they want our votes. We must demand that they take action to make America SAFE again.
After receiving a fourth extension of time to file initial appeal briefs, attorneys for Michael Dunn finally did so, and asked a panel of three judges at Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals on June 7 to throw out his conviction in the death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis.
Dunn fatally shot the teenager at a Jacksonville gas station on November, 23, 2012 after a confrontation over loud music coming from a vehicle Davis was sitting in with three friends.
Dunn was originally convicted on February 15, 2014 of the attempted murders of Davis’ friends, but a jury deadlocked on whether Dunn was guilty of Davis’ murder. A new jury convicted Dunn of first-degree murder on October 1, 2014.
Dunn is serving a life sentence (with no chance of parole) for the shootings at an undisclosed Florida prison. He was not present at the appeal hearing. It could be weeks or even months before the appeals court issues a ruling. Read the full story at jacksonville.com
In the final chapter to a heartbreaking story, a Florida mother was sentenced on yesterday (June 6) to serve 13 years in jail for fatally shooting her daughter a few days before Thanksgiving in 2013.
Adele Bing, 54, of Winter Haven, Florida, had been charged with second degree murder, shooting a deadly weapon, domestic violence with aggravated battery, and child neglect without great bodily harm. She entered a plea of guilty on May 25 to the lesser charge of manslaughter with a deadly weapon for the death of her daughter, 25-year-old Ruby Bing, and to aggravated battery (without firearm) on her boyfriend.
Adele Bing will receive credit for 270 days already served, and be on probation for 10 years after she is released.
On November 25th, 2013 Adele Bing had a fight with her boyfriend, during which she hit him in the head. Bing told police he left, telling her he’d be back to kill her. He instead went to a hospital for treatment of his injury.
While he was at the hospital, Adele Bing claimed she heard a banging and kicking at her apartment door, and, thinking it was the boyfriend, went to the door holding a baseball bat in one hand and a .22 caliber pistol in the other. At the door was her daughter, 25-year-old Ruby, who was holding Adele’s 4-month-old grandchild.
Bing told police that as she opened the door, the gun accidentally went off, hitting Ruby with a single shot to the chest. She died at the scene. Luckily, the baby wasn’t hurt. Police arrived to find Adele Bing cradling Ruby’s body, begging her to wake up.
She reportedly made a statement to police that it was a “f–up accident” and stated, “How can I look my grandkids in their face and say I killed their mother? Y’all can lock me away for good.”
This and other recent incidents underscore the importance of gun safety and dangers of approaching a door in supposed “fear” while holding a gun, and of banging on a door at night, heightening the likelihood that a deadly encounter or a self-defense incident may occur.
Bryce Dejean-Jones of the New Orleans Pelicans’ NBA team was shot and killed after an early morning break-in on Saturday, May 28, at a Dallas apartment he believed to be his girlfriend’s, when he startled a man he didn’t know, the Dallas Morning News reports. Under Texas self-defense laws the shooter likely won’t face any charges.
Dejean-Jones, a 23-year-old 6′ 6″ guard for the Pelicans, reportedly kicked open the front door of the unit in the Dallas apartment building, awakening a man who grabbed a handgun,“called out”, then fired when he got no answer and Dejean-Jones kicked the door to a bedroom. Dejean-Jones died later at a local hospital.
Although Dejean-Jones was not armed, the shooter would be justified, and likely won’t face any charges, this should not be considered a “stand your ground” case.
Texas self-defense laws provide immunity from liability for a personal injury or death resulting from the use of deadly force to a defendant who is found to be justified.
Just like virtually every other state, Texas uses Castle Doctrine as a basis, defined such that a person is allowed to use deadly force to defend himself inside his home, if “immediately necessary”. The person using deadly force must know or have reason to believe that the person against whom the force or deadly force was used unlawfully and with force entered, or attempted to enter the person’s home.
The stand your ground portion of the law allows deadly use of force with no duty to retreat outside the home, such as in a vehicle, or place of business or employment; or anywhere a person has a legal right to be.
In either case, the person using deadly force cannot be committing or attempting to commit certain serious crimes; cannot have provoked the person against whom the force or deadly force is used; and cannot be engaged in criminal activity. Texas law does not state that the person must feel threatened or in fear for their life.
DeJean-Jones attended the University of Southern California and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, then transferred to Iowa State. He joined the Pelicans as a free-agent rookie last year for his only NBA season (which ended early because of a broken right wrist), starting 11 of 14 games and averaging 5.6 points with 3.4 rebounds. He had recently signed a three-year, $2 million deal with the team. Read the full story at Dallas Morning News.
(Correction: This article as originally published incorrectly named Judge Susan Barthle as having granted the defense motion to not file depositions. This has been changed as of June 8, 2016 to correctly name Judge Anthony Rondolino. Apologies for this oversight)
Florida Sixth Circuit Court Judge Anthony Rondolino has granted a motion by the defense in the theater shooting that allows attorneys for retired Tampa police captain Curtis Reeves to not file depositions from witnesses and others who may be deposed in relation to the case. Judge Rondolino’s May 24 ruling ensures that any pre-trial depositions will no longer be available for public scrutiny.
Reeves is claiming self-defense under Florida’s stand your ground law, saying he fired on Oulson after the younger man threw an “unknown object” at him, which turned out to be a box of popcorn, and presumably a cell phone.
The defense motion, filed April 29, asserted that the case had become a matter of public interest, and that news reports had contained incorrect, mischaracterized and/or otherwise inadmissible information. State prosecutors had responded by filing motions of their own against the defense motions.
Reeves’ attorneys had claimed that public access to depositions would violate the privacy of those who are deposed, and that media coverage leading up to any trial could potentially prejudice any prospective jury or harm Reeves, so he wouldn’t get a fair trial.
They also claimed that forcing them to file the depositions would cause a “wholly unpredictable and potentially devastating chain reaction in the media,” because the depositions contain “prejudicial, inadmissible, inflammatory, irrelevant, inaccurate, unreliable, demonstrably incorrect & false statements.”
Reeves’ attorneys argued that there was there was no possibility of media outlets not publicizing these things, which could possibly prejudice any potential jurors should the case go to trial.
By now, you’ve probably heard that George Zimmerman placed an online auction on the gun he used to fatally shoot Trayvon Martin. He said the U.S. Department of Justice returned the gun to him, after holding it since his acquittal on July 13, 2012.
When many of us saw the name of America’s human disaster trending on twitter last week, we were hoping he had died, right? This latest fiasco by a sick, troubled, publicity hounding, murdering nut who claims to be so “patriotic” means some disturbing, haunting emotions and memories America experienced three years ago will return.
My first reaction was not to publicly post or comment on this. To just let it ride, while America’s reactions played out on major news outlets, and give it time to blow over. Then my own emotions took control, and the anger, disgust, and pain seeped into the fingers typing these words. As I waited to observe the original online auction, it mysteriously disappeared right about the time it was scheduled to begin.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that GZ later sent a text which read that the auction site “was not prepared for the traffic and publicity surrounding the auction of my firearm.” That site later issued a statement saying it reserves the right to reject listings, and had done so with this one.
So he cut and pasted the gun and description onto another site, unitedgungroup.com, with the same starting bid of $5000. The site publicly changed their position regarding the auction, at first denying, then allowing the sale (presumably at the advice of their legal counsel), conceding he had as much right to sell his weapon on their site as anyone else did.
The description says that sale proceeds will be used to “fight BLM violence against Law Enforcement officers, ensure the demise of Angela Correy’s (sic) persecution career and Hillary Clinton’s anti-firearm rhetoric.” It ends with the Latin words Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum (If you want peace prepare for war).” –
If there was any good intention in this creep, he would have donated the gun to a museum, or had it destroyed. Instead, he claims in the sale description that he turned down a Smithsonian offer, but the museum has issued the following statement on twitter:
We have never expressed interest in collecting George Zimmerman’s firearm, and have no plans to ever collect or display it in any museums
This new auctioneer site reportedly crashed as the second auction began, but was back up the next morning. The auction was scheduled to run 4 more days. But after it was targeted by fake bidders, and reached a high bid of $65.4 million USD, that user’s account was deleted.
Then a new bidder posted a high bid of $485,000. The disturbed gun owner soon deleted the first auction himself, vowing to start over days later, and did so yesterday (May 17), with a starting bid of $100,000.
This time, only about three or four serious bidders and a couple of fake ones participated. In the end, it appeared the gun had sold to someone named David Thorne for $138,800 – although a hacker named John Smith (with a widely reported fake last-minute bid of $138,900) made several attempts to derail the sale with fake bids.
The auction was immediately deleted from the site after it ended. If all auction attempts failed, GZ reportedly claimed he still had several private offers.
The freedom to sell anything he owns would also apply to the vehicle he drove on the night he fired the fatal shot on Trayvon Martin, or the clothes he wore that night. Yet, for anyone to attempt to profit from a tragedy that shook the nation is as callous and unpatriotic as trying to sell hurricane memorabilia to storm survivors.
How sad. How utterly insulting, disgraceful, disrespectful, distasteful, atrocious, ignorant, shameless, selfish, and blatantly obnoxious. We could go on and on with adjectives that deliberately cut open wounds that haven’t healed, to describe how this feels, and what it means.
One thing that should never happen is that a murder weapon in a case like this can be used against the emotions of America. It’s an ultimate insult to the victim’s family – and all those who protested the outcome of one of the most famous trials in our history.
The reality of what the auction means is all too painful. It’s the ultimate slap in the face to everyone who thought it was a disgraceful injustice when a man who fatally shot an unarmed teenager walked free.
UPDATE: This article has been edited as originally published to include facts established by auction observation such as a widely reported last-minute bid of $138,900, which was established to be a fake bid.