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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
(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.