By Subhash Kateel

This past week another young
man from Miami with a promising life was cut down needlessly. Another mother is
left to mourn her son while spending the next several holidays staring at an
empty chair.  Another group of friends
will reflect in the past tense about a friend that is no longer with them.  And yet again, another killer will likely
walk the street, spend holidays with his family and hang out with his
friends.  This time the killer will probably
even get his job back…as a Miami Beach Police Officer. 
By now you probably know
that young man’s name is not Trayvon Martin, it is Israel
Henandez-Llach
. His friends call him Reefa.  He was killed Tuesday after police caught him
spray-painting an “R” on the wall of a vacant MacDonald’s in North Beach (where
most people are familiar with the building’s abandoned-ness and ugliness).  Several police chased the 18 year-old for ten
minutes before catching up to him and tasing him to death, reportedly to avoid “physically restraining him.”
There are plenty of
differences between Reefa and the also-needlessly dead Travyon Martin. Reefa was
originally from Colombia, Trayvon was born and raised in Miami.  Reefa was 18 when he died, Trayvon was 17.
Trayvon’s killer was a neighborhood watchman while Reefa’s killer is Miami
Beach Police veteran Jorge Mercado. 
Trayvon was never accused of a crime when Zimmerman started following
him, Reefa was tagging a vacant building when cops chased him, a crime
many consider an art form. But the similarities are important to note.  Like Trayvon, legions of Miamians loved Reefa.  In both cases, there
is plenty in the law
to charge and convict the killers of both teenagers,
but the system is stacked against either ever seeing a day in prison.  Finally, the way the public responds to both teenagers’
deaths has the potential to change the system so that no young person will ever
again meet their fate.
As
I have said a million times
, Florida law, however flawed it may be,
does not allow a person who provokes a conflict to categorically claim self
defense as George Zimmerman did.  He
should have never been able to claim he stood his ground.  But the system (the police, prosecutors,
judge and jury) never followed the law as it is written. The law in Israel’s
case is even more clear, yet the system is not used to treating law enforcement
officers as if the laws they enforce should ever apply to them.  In other words, officers who act above the
law have almost always been allowed to do what Zimmerman did, claim they are
standing their ground even when they aren’t.
Florida
State law
, (the same set of statutes that contain Stand Your Ground) clearly
says that an officer is justified in using force in three circumstances:
1. [In] which he or she reasonably believes [it] to be
necessary to defend himself or
herself or another from bodily harm
while making the arrest;
2. When necessarily committed in
retaking felons who have escaped; or
3. When necessarily committed in
arresting felons fleeing from
justice…
The Miami Beach Police Department’s own
guidelines
say that the first five factors an officer is suppose to
consider when using force are:
1. Seriousness of the crime committed;
2. Size, age and weight;
3. Apparent physical ability;
4. Weapons possessed by or available;
5. Known history of violence
Additionally, their guidelines
for when an “Electronic Control Device” (X26 Taser) is to be used on humans (as
opposed to animals) is limited to when:
a. The subject is not in the physical
control of the officer yet posses a
threat
; (misspelling is theirs, I assume it is meant to read “poses”) 

b. The officer, based on objective
reasonableness, perceives an imminent
threat of
physical force against himself, other persons, property or self-inflicted injury
Reefa’s detractors declare
that he was a criminal who tagged a privately owned building, however objectively
ugly and abandoned it may be, and was therefore asking to be tased to death. But the likely crime
he was tased for is a misdemeanor
(punishable by few months in jail and a fine) not a felony as the law kind of indicates it should be if police are
going to use force.  Furthermore, by all
accounts, Reefa stood about 5 foot 6,weighed 150 pounds and “hardly
posed a threat to anyone
.”  He had no
weapons and no criminal history.  Under
no objective measure could he be seen as a threat to several well-armed
police officers who
allegedly high-fived
each other as his tased body lay dying in the
street. 
Those are the facts based on
the law and on the Miami Beach Police Department’s own policies.  With those facts there is enough evidence for
the Miami Dade State Attorney (prosecutor) Katherine
Fernandez Rundle
to file criminal charges against Officer Jorge Mercado immediately.  There is enough evidence for the US Attorney
in Miami (a federal prosecutor)Wilfredo Ferrer  to file Federal criminal
charges
against Mercado immediately. 
There is also enough evidence for the Miami Beach Police Chief, Raymond Martinez,
to fire Mercado immediately.  Every
minute that goes by that none of these things happen is a minute in which the agencies
that are tasked with upholding the law are failing at their jobs. 
In the coming weeks there is
bound to be a plethora of spin, excuses and justification for why the man who
murdered Reefa is not really a murderer, why Reefa is not really a victim and
why his killing is not really illegal. People will talk about how safe Tasers
are as opposed to real guns, even though over 500
people have been killed by them since 2001
, more than have been killed in mass
shootings
during the same period.  The
officers will likely claim that they felt threatened by Reefa, even though
their alleged actions seem to indicate the opposite.  Prosecutors will likely say that the law
prevents them from charging Mercado, even though the letter of the law
disagrees. Lastly, there are bound to be tons of Internet trolls that cast Reefa
as a thug and the cop who killed him as a hero. 
The loved ones, friends and supporters of Reefa should acknowledge all
of these things for what they are, excuses for murder, and prepare themselves
for the long fight for justice.

UPDATE:  Check our show on Israel “Reefa” Hernandez-Llach here:

To listen to our segment on Wisconsin, click here or press play below…

To listen to our segment on the gang truce in El Salvador, click here or press play below…

1.  Did Walker win Wisconsin because he had the money or because the Democrats sort of sucked?
Last year, Wisconsin erupted when its controversial Governor tried to take out worker rights such as collective bargaining, occupying the Capital before occupying became a thing.  What happened next was a recall.  But after spending record money in the race, Governor Scott Walker came out victorious.  Is that the only story being told?  Listen to excerpts.
 2.  The Anatomy of a Gang Truce
LA-originated-turned-multinational rival gangs MS-13 and 18th street are often considered among the most “notorious” in the world, especially in their “native” country of El Salvador.  But something else is happening that has the potential to bring peace to streets across Central America and the United States, a historic gang truce.  Listen as we talk about a true attempt at anti-violence and a real road to redemption from El Salvador to LA and then some.  Guests include Alex Sanchez (Homies Unidos),  Luis Rodriguez (Tia Chucha Cultural Center) and Aquil Basheer (Maximum Force).

Plus check out the realest coverage of the Marissa Alexander Case here, here and here and on the Fake Zombie Apocalypse here.

1.  If Marissa Alexander “stood her ground,” then why is she is jail?
While the debate about Florida’s Justifiable Force (aka “Stand Your Ground”) law rages on, the debate seems to be missing the story of what happens to people that really feel that they must use force to defend themselves.  One of those people is Marissa Alexander.  The 31-year-old mother is sitting in a jail cell in Duval County, the same county where Angela Corey (Trayvon Martin’s “special prosecutor”) heads up the local State Attorney’s office.  Although Marissa didn’t hurt or kill anyone, has a documented history of being a victim of domestic violence and was a lawful gun owner, she faces 20 years in prison for what she claims was a warning shot to defend herself against an abuser.  Is a mother of three really about to go to prison for 20 years for defending herself while not hurting anyone?  Find out on our show tonight as we talk to Marissa’s ex-husband and current advocate Lincoln Alexander and her sister Helena Jenkins.  You can also check the Change.org petition here.
2.  Do the rich pay their fair share in taxes?  If not, should they?
This week is tax week, and it is one of those times that we are reminded of just how much we pay in taxes.  Congress almost voted on the “Buffet rule” this week, inspired by billionaire Warren Buffet’s plea to his rich friends to pay a little more of what they owe.  But do the rich really skirt their responsibilities?  Do they really pay their fair share?  Find out as we talk to friend of the show,  economist Marshall Auerback and as well as the American Enterprise Institute’s Alex Brill.
3.  Remembering the BP Oil Spill
This week marks the two-year anniversary of the British Petroleum Oil Spill.  And while most Floridians are happy that they don’t have to swim in sludge, we aren’t quite sure what the long term impacts of the spill will be.  Join us as we talk to Dr. Doug Inkley, Wildlife Biologist and friend of the show Captain Dan Kipnis as we look at the long term impacts.

By Subhash Kateel

It almost hurts me to write anything about Trayvon Martin.  Since he was killed, there has been a massive outcry amongst almost anyone with a beating heart.  As I was preparing for my radio show dedicated to Trayvon’s murder, what struck me about this case is that virtually every person I talked to, White, Black, Brown, liberal or conservative, gun owner or not, is outraged at Trayvon’s murder and the actions/inactions of the Sanford Police Department and local prosecutors.  It hurts even more to criticize people I respect who I feel are making a huge mistake putting Florida’s “stand your ground,”“shoot first” or “self-defense” law (depending on your perspective) on the same trial as Trayvon’s killer George Zimmerman and the cops who failed to do the right thing.  In the end, I think the insistence on making this as much about “stand your ground” as it is about Trayvon, the man that murdered him and the police that didn’t do their job is hurting the case.
If you don’t know by now, 17-year-old Miami native Trayvon Martin was visiting his father in Sanford, Florida, a small town north of Orlando.  Volunteer neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman called the police, follows Trayvon against the advice of a 911 dispatcher,  confronts him and shoots him to death with his legally owned 9 mm pistol.  The cops come and don’t arrest Zimmerman, calling the killing a justifiable homicide.
It is not easy to say that people I look up to (and not because I am short) may be hurting Trayvon’s case, and I don’t think it is intentional in any way.  That doesn’t stop my belief that entangling Trayvon’s murder with “stand your ground” is counterproductive. For example, one of my favorite broadcast journalists, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, spent ten minutes of her Tuesday program talking with guests that labeled attempts to repeal “stand your ground,” “Trayvon’s reversal.”  One of my favorite state senators, Oscar Braynon (D-Miami Gardens) is calling for hearings on “stand your ground,” telling the Miami Herald that “this is a perfect case of where it goes awry.” Mother Jones, a magazine I read often, ran an article yesterday referring to it as “the law protecting Trayvon Martin’s killer.” Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, an organization I once featured on my show, did an entire analysis of the bill in a Huffington Post article claiming that the law is “arming Zimmerman’s” defense.  Even a Facebook friend of mine declared on my wall yesterday that Zimmerman was “within the limits of the law.” I could literally go on for pages.
There are many, many, things wrong with this all of this.  For starters, accepting that “stand your ground” is the reason Zimmerman is not in jail requires us to believe that Zimmerman was actually defending himself and that the cops who responded to the case actually did their job and were just following the law.  It also means not believing Trayvon’s family lawyer,  Jasmine Rand, who insisted on the exact same Democracy Now program mentioned above that there is more than enough evidence for cops to arrest George Zimmerman and for prosecutors to prosecute him, if only people in power would do their jobs.  Furthermore, almost every person talking about Trayvon’s murder and “stand your ground” in the same breath are either not reading the law, misreading it or reading the wrong parts of it.  In the end, insinuating in any way that Zimmerman, the cops or the prosecutors simply acted within the limits of the law and that the law is the primary problem in this case, not only creates reasonable doubt in the court of public opinion where there should be none, it unnecessarily turns a clear cut case of right vs. wrong, illegal vs. legal, and murder into an unhelpful ideological and culture war that doesn’t benefit Trayvon, his family or justice.
If you look at the mountain of evidence in the case, from the 911 tapes where a dispatcher tells Zimmerman to not follow Trayvon into the neighborhood, to the conversation between Trayvon and his girlfriend where he fears he is being followed by someone, to the eyewitnesses in the case who told Anderson Cooper that right after hearing Zimmerman (who outweighed Trayvon by 100 pounds) shoot Trayvon, they saw Zimmerman on top of him,  the idea that Zimmerman was using deadly force to prevent imminent death, great bodily harm or a forcible felony (as the law requires) quickly falls apart. 
If people who are much smarter than me would just read the law in its entirety, and not just the parts they like or dislike, they would see that Florida’s “Justifiable Use of Force” statutes (it is not called “stand your ground,” “shoot to kill,”or “yippie ki yay, I’m a cowboy”) include a section (776.041) that few people (even those defending the law) mention which explicitly prohibits a shooter from using self defense as an excuse, when they are the ones provoking the use of force.  In fact, in those cases, the law requires exactly what Senator Braynon and Josh Horwitz want, that people provoking a confrontation must try to escape it, and not just shoot first. 
On my show yesterday, Tampa Gun Shop owner and firearms instructor Vic Grechniw, who teaches the same classes that Zimmerman was required to take before getting his Concealed Weapons Permit, not only insists that he sees nothing justifiable in Zimmerman’s actions, he states that he doesn’t know any firearms instructors that would.  The irony of the whole situation is that he believes if you read Florida’s law in its entirety, there was one person that had the right to “stand his ground” against a perceived “imminent” threat, and that person was Trayvon Martin. 
But he is not alone,  the Republican lawmakers that crafted Florida’s specific “stand your ground” provisions don’t get why Zimmerman hasn’t been charged yet.  A former Miami Dade prosecutor told the Herald that if Zimmerman was asked to back off (which a 911 dispatcher did), then “he’s not covered by the law.”  Miami criminal defense attorney Marcus Tan told me on my show that if the cops did their jobs, there was more than enough to make an arrest.  By constantly invoking existing Florida law as the primary barrier, some of my friends speaking out for Trayvon while saying that the cops acted within the current law, seem to be the only ones that disagree.
If anything, after reading the entire Justifiable Use of Force statute, what troubled me most wasn’t its newer “stand your ground” provisions, but its older provisions (776.05) giving law enforcement officers (as opposed to wannabe cops) a whole lot of leeway to use “any force”(including lethal force) in a wide variety of situations.  Is this the law used to let crooked Miami Beach Cop Adam Tavss off the hook for two questionable shootings in one week two years ago right before he was arrested for growing drugs in his basement?  If so, should the people newly interested in “stand your ground” be interested in reviewing all of it?
The reason all of this is important is twofold.  As a practical matter, if this case does go to trial, in criminal court or civil court, it will not be in my old home New York, Washington DC, or California.  It will be in Florida, and likely require a jury of Floridians.  The jury pool may very well consist of people that own guns, have concealed weapons permits, agree with “stand your ground,” but still think murdering a young boy is a GOD-awful thing to do.  The more this is about issues that invoke a culture war and a shooter that acted within “the limits of the law,”and not a clear case of unlawful murder of a young boy and incompetent cops that didn’t make a proper arrest, the more it muddies the minds of people that may serve on a jury.
But perhaps more importantly, it is patently unfair to expect Trayvon’s family,  anyone mourning Trayvon’s murder,  hashtagging his name on twitter or saying a prayer for his family to recount, research, or recite the long history of race relations, self defense laws, gun ownership or anything else in order to achieve justice for Trayvon.  If this is a race issue, a gun issue, or a culture war issue, it is  because a man murdered a young boy and the specific cops in the case neither followed the law nor did their job.  Can we all stand our ground, together, on that fact?
Don’t forget to tune in to our show every Wednesday at 7pm.