What substance does the prosecutor's affidavit of "probable cause" actually contain?
Most people have responded to Angela Corey’s decision to charge George Zimmerman with second degree murder in one of two ways: they have applauded her or they have cautioned people to wait for the trial -- in which we will hear all the facts. Very few people have accused Angela Corey of filing these charges for political reasons, despite her affidavit of probable cause not demonstrating probable cause, or indicating any new evidence that her predecessor didn’t have. Indeed nothing new has become public that would indicate significant new evidence since March 13, when the Sanford police concluded their investigation.
Prior to removing himself from the case, the District Attorney, Norm Wolfinger, disagreed with the lead investigator who wanted to bring charges. Wolfinger had agreed to put the evidence before a grand jury and allow them to decide whether to bring charges. The new prosecutor, who was appointed after public protests and major media attention, decided to forgo a grand jury and present a judge with an affidavit of probable cause. Assuming no significant new evidence has been uncovered (and we have no reason to believe it has), then either Corey is right or Wolfinger was right, but not both.
The major reason why one would not charge George Zimmerman with a crime is that, as Sanford police chief Bill Lee said:
“When the Sanford Police Department arrived at the scene of the incident, Mr. Zimmerman provided a statement claiming he acted in self defense which at the time was supported by physical evidence and testimony.”
In fact one of these eyewitnesses has come forward and spoken with the media. He related seeing a man wearing red lying on the ground screaming for help while another man was beating him. He ran to call police, and when he looked outside again the guy on top was lying dead in the grass from a gunshot wound.
One of the few documents that has been released to the public (now taken down) was the partial initial police report; this document contains the statement of Officer Timothy Smith, the first person to arrive at the scene. He states that George Zimmerman had blood on his nose and back of his head, along with grass on his back. While the media has raised a hue and cry over grainy security cam footage, we have the sworn statement of the first officer to arrive at the scene.
As Alan Dershowitz and others have pointed out the prosecutor's affidavit of probable cause doesn’t contain either probable cause to charge Zimmerman with second degree murder, or any indication of new evidence. Manslaughter consists of an act which is neither reasonable nor justifiable and results in another person’s death; all murders could also be considered manslaughters. First degree murder involves deliberately killing another person as part of a preplanned plot or scheme. Second degree murder involves killing another person without premeditation, “by an act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind showing no regard for human life.”
The prosecutor’s affidavit of probable cause doesn’t contain a description of anything remotely resembling that, nor do any facts available to the public point in that direction. The prosecutor claims (in the affidavit) that Zimmerman followed and confronted Martin, something happened, and Zimmerman shot Martin. The sole piece of evidence she presents to back up her claim is the statement of Trayvon Martin’s mother that the voice heard in the background of a 9-11 call is Trayvon’s.
As Alan Dershowitz correctly pointed out, and another lawyer has told me, the right to self defense is never forfeited. As long as George Zimmerman reasonably feared death or serious injury, and lethal force was his only available escape, then he is protected under the traditional rules of self defense. And given the presence of at least one eyewitness who saw George Zimmerman pinned to the ground and screaming for help, Zimmerman has a basis for that claim. Nothing in the affidavit contradicts George’s claim to self-defense.
When this prosecutor decides to file charges after months of protests, media criticism, threats of violence, and actual violence, without actually presenting any new evidence, what other possibility (besides political motivation) exists? Further, the charges she files are more severe than any of the lawyers or police who investigated the incident contemplated. Perhaps she overcharged as a negotiating tactic, but given the circumstances how could she possibly accept a plea to a lesser charge? Especially after statements such as Frederica Wilson’s that Trayvon Martin “was hunted down and shot like a rabid dog.”
And the evidence that outside factors influenced her decision is not merely circumstantial; her April 11 press conference started off by referencing the “sweet parents,” of the victim. She then went on to thank the Martin family’s legal representatives, who have “stayed in touch daily.” Given Mr. Crump’s and Mr. Park’s strong feelings about the case, do you think they’re interested in a plea agreement?
Those who are not yet convinced that George Zimmerman is guilty of murder need to stand up and say so. It doesn’t suffice to say that we should “wait for the facts.” Of course we should wait for the facts and if the facts change, then our opinions should change with them. People should always be open to the possibility of new evidence, but when the facts lead them to conclude that a prosecution for second degree murder is motivated by politics and not facts, then they should speak their minds.
Ben Cohen is an unrepentant liberal libertarian who was recently banned as a poster from the Daily Kos over his opposition to the mob hysteria that has all but convicted George Zimmerman of cold-blooded, racially motivated murder in the absence of evidence or trial. He has told his story in the FrontPage article, Another Thought Criminal Banished by the Daily Kos.
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