Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A conspiracy of silence

One continues to search in vain for any story outside the odd blogger in regard to the Daniel Adkins affair, as if a conspiracy of silence is at play. The Seattle Times—whose recent Pulitzer Prize doesn’t mitigate its irresponsible reporting generally—has blaring headlines today concerning yet another sex scandal, this time concerning Secret Service agents and Colombian prostitutes (I confess my fascination with the fact that the sexual stereotypes applied to Hispanics seem to be conceptualized differently between the genders). Meanwhile, Adkins’ killer remains unnamed and uncharged. There is, however, a petition posted online by someone who claims to be a relative of Adkins, located at Naturally, it’s hard to find because of the zero interest by national media, including CNN and the Huffington Post. The Associated Press’ Phoenix bureau hasn’t even written anything about it, despite its clear similarity to the Trayvon Martin case, with the roles reversed but the right and wrong of it more clearly defined. My feeling is that the Latino community is too diverse and divided to put forward a common front against the injustices they face in this country--thus easily ignored, unless of course the story can be used to further demonize and scapegoat them.

In the meantime, the Martin case goes forward, where another silent conspiracy of a sort exists, also largely media-inspired. I suspect that even Martin’s supporters would admit that the second degree murder charge against George Zimmerman seems to overstep the bounds of common sense. A day after the charges were filed by special prosecutor Angela Corey, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told Michel Smerconish of MSNBC that not only was the affidavit justifying the murder charge “thin,” it was “irresponsible” and “politically-motivated.” The affidavit was so thin, that “it won’t make it past a judge”--although given the hyped atmosphere surrounding the case, that might be an overly optimistic assumption. Smerconish noted that the probable cause element would have been non-existent if the affidavit had included the testimony of witnesses who saw Martin beating Zimmerman, and unequivocally stated that it was the latter crying for “help.” The question then is why did Corey choose to bypass the grand jury hearing testimony on the Martin case, and determine that a murder charge was warranted on her own. The answer may be that Corey is in the midst of a reelection fight, and this case was the perfect campaign ad—showing both her “tough on crime” stance and “concern for victims.” To woo black voters to the Republican Corey’s tally sheet is obviously in her “interest.”

But there obviously much more to this story than meets the eye. Take this comment by Martin family lawyer Ben Crump, whose law firm specializes in personal injury cases, and received notoriety representing the family of Martin Lee Anderson, a teenager who was beaten to death in 2006 by guards at a Florida “boot camp” for young delinquents: “We don’t need a conviction, we simply need an arrest.” Which of course explains the disproportionate demonization of Zimmerman and angelic characterization of Martin--such as the description of the 6’3” Martin as a “young child” by attorney Ted Williams on Greta Van Susteren’s show. State Attorney Norm Wolfinger also expressed “outrage” at the “lies” told by Crump in his letter to the Justice Department justifying a civil rights investigation. The Martin family has also evaded questions concerning how they were going to pay the high-priced Crump, but he doesn’t seem to be worried about money now that Zimmerman has been arrested and charged. Why? Because under Florida law, a plaintiff has no legal standing in bringing a wrongful death case in civil court without a charge or arrest. Florida statute 776 on “Justifiable Use of Force,” which Crump was trying subvert, describes justifiable force, as applicable in the Martin case, as:

A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if…A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony…A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant…A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.

Other than noting that ordinary people are not permitted to protect themselves from the threat of lethal force by the police (unless there is reasonable cause to doubt the identity of the officer’s official function), the claim of “self-defense” is applicable if there is a determination of “lawful” use—thus the person employing lethal force cannot be subject to arrest and prosecution. However—as in the Corey affidavit—semantic gymnastics and mental legerdemain, no matter how tortured, is all that is required to “justify” a charge even when the knowable facts point to another determination, as Dershowitz noted. In order to charge Zimmerman with a crime, Corey was obliged to ignore all testimony favorable to Zimmerman, including the testimony of the two witnesses closest to the scene (who were clear in the fact that they saw Martin on top of Zimmerman and beating Zimmerman was calling for “help”), and add highly questionable "evidence"--such the purposeful presentation of an alleged racial angle that included the false allusion to alleged “racial” comments and “racial profiling,” and the deliberate misconstruing the suggestion (rather than the “command”) given to Zimmerman not to follow Martin. We cannot know for sure what the grand jury would have found, but it is fairly certain they would not have found sufficient grounds for a murder charge, and it is within the realm of possibility—if the grand jury had ignored mob and media pressure—that it would not have found grounds for a charge at all.

What this all means is that the intense pressure to bring charges leading to an arrest against Zimmerman had a dual purpose: To serve the reelection campaign of Corey, and to insure—even without a conviction—that there will be defendants to charge in a wrongful death suit; in a case that has reaped the kind of attention the Martin case has, this could amount to a significant payday for whom it may concern. Behind the tragedy, greed, opportunism and self-serving motives can be found rotting out the process.

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