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.
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.
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.
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.
Gun empowerment continues to give others an excuse to use gun violence. A 69-year-old Indiana man was charged with murder after he shot and killed a 27-year-old man who he said “verbally threatened” him on a downtown South Bend, Indiana street.
Police say Michael Young, of Mishawaka, Indiana, who is white, fatally shot Markest Flowers, an African-American, in the face about 10:30 p.m. on May 31, after the younger man allegedly uttered some threatening words to him during an altercation. Police have not said whether or not the incident was racially motivated.
It’s unclear what was said, but witnesses reported that Flowers, wearing a backpack, was walking back and forth holding a plastic cup as Young followed, when Young, a small man who stands at 5′ 7″ and weighs 150 pounds, grabbed Flowers by the backpack, spun him around, then without hesitation fired a shot point-blank into Flowers’ skull.
Young reportedly told police he was surprised when the gun went off but said he had experience firing the weapon, and admitted Flowers had not displayed a weapon or tried to physically attack him, but had “verbally threatened” him.
At a preliminary hearing on June 2nd, Young, who appeared without legal counsel, told a judge he is a Vietnam veteran who suffers from PTSD, and said he plans to hire a private attorney. He entered a plea of not guilty. No bond information was available. Young is due back in court June 16. It’s unclear if he will pursue a claim of self-defense.
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.