Hosted by Subhash Kateel. Segments co-produced by Bruce Wayne Stanley
|pic: Amber Stephens|
we are seeing unfold now is making me question many things. What is common
about common sense? Is reasonable doubt really reasonable? Does great power truly
require great responsibility? Is killing people really wrong? But regardless of
what side you take on the murder of Trayvon Martin, even if the fact that there
are sides to this ordeal personally horrifies me, aspects of this case give
everyone a right to question their faith in the system.
the years we’ve watched as civilians
became terrorists, wallets
became guns, victims became perpetrators, human
beings became aliens and the innocent became guilty in order to justify
murder. Few things, however, can shake your faith like an adult murdering a teenager
who was walking home from the store.
manages to make excuses for injustice. “Was
that 17-year-old child really a victim or a suspect?” “Maybe his murder was
justified.” “Even if it was wrong, the law doesn’t say it was illegal.”
a faith in pundits, personalities and professionals who have been wrong about
virtually everything, from where our money should go to how many carbs we
should consume to which country we should go to war with. Yet we entrusted them
to tell us how to feel about the murder of a child.
talking to Floridians from all walks of life who mostly gasped at the horror of
a high school student being killed and his murderer not being arrested. Who wouldn’t? Common sense dictated that the
killing of a teen was a GOD-awful thing.
would’ve behaved the opposite of how George Zimmerman behaved the night he
killed Trayvon. Ask Vic Grechniew, a firearms instructor from Central Florida who
teaches the classes that George Zimmerman would have taken before receiving his
concealed weapons permit. “If Zimmerman would have stayed in his car, none of
this would have happened,” he told me last year and reiterated again last week on my show.
But common sense stopped being common when self-defense started meaning killing
someone you were pursuing.
never helped. If anything, it may have harmed
the case irreparably. It’s easy to forget now that Stand Your Ground
started off as another excuse for injustice and incompetence. It was an excuse used first by the Sanford
police department and then the original prosecutor in the case, State Attorney Norm
Wolfinger, to explain away
improper investigations (e.g. not interviewing witnesses immediately,
securing crime scene or testing Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol) as well as the
failure to arrest and charge a murder suspect in a state where people have been
arrested immediately for letting
their pants sag.
over and over again by the debate-o-sphere (even supporters of Trayvon) and imprinted
into the minds of everyone, including potential jurors. “George Zimmerman will never do
prison time because Stand Your Ground laws gave him the right to kill Trayvon
of Florida’s laws and allowing that half-reading to become conventional
wisdom. The central question in this case should have never been whether George
Zimmerman had the right to stand his ground on the night he killed Trayvon
Martin. Instead, everyone should have asked if George Zimmerman provoked a
confrontation with the teen before killing him. If so, then he should have
never been able to justify his murder of Trayvon Martin in court.
badly written and poorly placed, they have the same exceptions as non-Stand Your
Ground states like New York. The
says that if you provoke an encounter with someone, you cannot claim you
are defending yourself unless you are in “imminent danger of death or great
bodily harm” AND exhaust every means
available to remove yourself from that confrontation.
the law exists (except for writers like Alafair
Burke) they failed to report one of the biggest injustices in the case;
this vitally important exception to claiming self-defense barely made it into
the public conversation, the courtroom discussion, the closing arguments or the
jury deliberations. In fact it never
made it into the jury
instructions! Zimmerman’s defense attorneys managed to keep the Florida
Stand Your Ground provisions, which
they never even brought up in court, in
the jury instructions while blocking prosecutors
attempt to explain in those instructions that you can’t claim self-defense if
you are the “initial aggressor.” What the jury was left to consider was Zimmerman’s
right to stand his ground when he
killed Trayvon Martin but not his responsibility
to avoid provoking a fight with him. If, as Juror B37 told
Anderson Cooper, half of the jurors were truly confused about Stand Your Ground
but still wished to convict Zimmerman, his fate may have been different had they
been correctly instructed on the law.
to new revelations, the jury wasn’t as “sequestered” as we thought. And while Zimmerman may have been tried
before a jury of his peers, Juror B37 never seemed to view Trayvon Martin as
her peer. Out of six jurors, none was African
American despite the fact that Sanford and Seminole County are 30%
and 12% Black respectively. Oddly
enough, at least some of the blame for such a melanin-deficient jury rests with
the prosecution, who allegedly struck one of the only potential Black jurors
from consideration because he
watched Fox news.
led by State Attorney Angela Corey, meant pinning hopes for justice on someone
accused of committing her own share of egregious injustice. To be sure, few
people know how to put someone claiming self-defense in prison like Angela
Corey. Not only did Corey manage to win a 20-year
conviction against Marissa Alexander for shooting at a wall instead of an
abusive husband, she also sent 65
year-old army vet Ronald Thompson to prison for 20 years for shooting at
the ground (he is now out on appeal). She also made a name for herself trying
juveniles as adults. She
allegedly did this by overcharging defendants with few resources and little
community support for offenses that come with stiff penalties, pushing them
into taking a guilty plea and punishing them if they don’t. For example, discharging a firearm in the
course of a felony in Florida, even if no one is hurt, unleashes a 20-year
mandatory minimum prison sentence.
community support and a far bigger war chest than most people prosecuted by
Corey and had zero likelihood of ever copping a plea. By overcharging him with second-degree murder
as opposed to manslaughter, which many
legal scholars think better reflects what he actually did, Corey’s team put
themselves in a position where they had to paint George Zimmerman as a horrible
person with evil intent and hate in his heart.
If they failed, some juror was bound to sympathize with him and at least one did.
manslaughter. It’s not unusual for a
defendant in criminal court to be charged with different crimes by different
agencies. But the Justice Department, who spent tons of resources investigating
George Zimmerman for civil rights violations could have charged Zimmerman more
easily for the financial
crimes he committed while trying to withdraw the small fortune he made via
his legal defense fund from his PayPal account without the Feds and his judge
finding out. Even though Zimmerman was caught
on tape committing the federal crime called “structuring,” (punishable by
five years in prison) it is yet another crime he may walk for.
faith in the system. But we are also
losing faith in our own ability to talk to each other about race. The fact is,
George Zimmerman made a mistake when he killed Trayvon Martin by assuming that
Trayvon was a suspect when he wasn’t.
That is something even his defense concedes. There is also no dispute that George
Zimmerman is not a Neo-Nazi skinhead. He
did disparage “Mexicans” on his old
Myspace page but he also spoke out
for an elderly Black man who was assaulted after being called the “n” word by a
Sanford police lieutenant’s son. But he
never needed to be a skinhead or a bad person to make a fatal error that ended a
that a kid with a hoodie and skinny jeans “looked” suspicious. The police, who
Zimmerman spoke out against previously, only had to be a little racist in
believing Zimmerman was a victim who was hit first by Trayvon (no one ever
corroborated that “first punch”). The
prosecutors only had to be a little racist when deciding not to charge
Zimmerman. The jury only had to be a little racist in believing Zimmerman’s
fantastic Wild West self-defense scenario more than Rachel Jeantel. And the public only needed a little racism to
believe that skinny jeans and a hoodie make a thug.
|unless you think he looks suspicious too|
people’s little racisms to create big injustices: the belief that people who
smoke crack are
worse than the ones who snort coke, that some high school students are
mischievous while others are
criminal, that witnesses who don’t sound like Anderson Cooper are less
credible or that someone who paid their debt to society cannot
serve on a jury. Those small
assumptions combine to make the criminal justice system profoundly,
indisputably and destructively racist.
It will remain so as long as good people believe that acknowledging
their little racisms makes them horrible people rather than believing that
denying those little racisms makes our system horrible.
with the misuse of mandatory sentences creates real incentives for people
defending themselves to kill so no witness can put them away for 20 years. Hotheads have incentives to pick fatal fights
so long as they create a plausible enough reason to claim self-defense. People can be acquitted or convicted based on
misreading of the law and misinterpretation by a jury.
faith in our ability to confront it doesn’t.
After the verdict, when cynics expected riots, youth commandeered cars to
occupy the Florida State Capitol. Instead of creating race wars, people created Tumblr pages
discussing white privilege. There are
several more things we can do to fix the system we should no longer trust.
|Dream Defenders and Power U at State Capitol|
push to change laws shouldn’t just prevent more Trayvons, it should prevent
Grants, Marissa Alexanders, etc. (the list goes on). Despite my
doubts about the role of Stand Your Ground laws in the murder of Trayvon
Martin, our self-defense laws do have to be re-examined. But that is not enough.
No law should give
rogue law enforcement officers the power to kill the unarmed and innocent
without ever being held responsible. No
jury should ever be able to consider the parts of the law that give you the
right to defend yourself without considering your responsibility to not provoke
violent fights. No prosecutor should
ever have more power than a judge to dish out harsh punishments that don’t fit
defendants’ crimes. No person who has paid their debt to society should be
prevented from serving on a jury.
that puts a victim of domestic violence in prison for 20 years for shooting a
wall but gives a man who
decapitates someone a 15-year sentence.
No prosecutor who failed to convict Zimmerman while managing to throw
several books at Marissa Alexander should spend the last year doubling
down on misinformation rather than restoring justice. People that stood up for Trayvon must learn about and start
speaking out for Marissa Alexander.
justice. In states like Florida,
prosecutors (state attorneys) are the most powerful elected position that few people
care to vote for. They often have more
power than judges and their actions help define how just or unjust the entire
system is in their district. A
prosecutor that cared about justice and feared their constituents would have
charged George Zimmerman immediately, wouldn’t have charged Marissa Alexander
at all or would charged her with a crime that wouldn’t carry a mandatory 20-year
sentence. Prosecutors across the state
that care about justice and fear their constituents would be more likely to
investigate corrupt cops and less likely to encourage the school to prison
pipeline or the overcharging of defendants. But they will only fear their constituents if
we make getting them in and out of office as important as electing a President,
Governor or Mayor.
ideas. The work being done at the
capitol by Dream
Defenders and Power
U doesn’t just regurgitate talking points. it captures the imagination while
creating new conversations. Members of
the Florida Rights Restoration
Coalition are forcing us to rethink the way we treat returning citizens who
have paid their debt to society. Sybrina Fulton
is no longer a mother mourning the death of her child, she is actively doing
the hard work of standing up for change.
The sooner we nourish new ideas the quicker old horrible systems will
talking and listening to each other.
The culture wars that this case created made listening to shock jocks a
stand-in for real conversation. A little
bit of all of us needs to change for us to restore and rebuild a society we can
believe in. Yes we have a right to lose faith in our system but we also have a
responsibility to not rest until it is fixed.
But fixing it means having faith in our ability to have hard
conversations with one another.
By Subhash Kateel
Online comment sections in most newspapers are rarely the best place for thoughtful dialog on controversial issues of the day. Which is why I glance at the comments under the Miami Herald articles covering Trayvon Martin’s shooting with very low expectations. But last week, I saw a brief conversation that I think summarizes most Floridians’ gut reaction to the killing and its aftermath. You see, the first few weeks after Trayvon was killed by George Zimmerman, I truly believe that the instinct of most Floridians was to think that the whole thing was a tragedy and that Zimmerman should be arrested. In my conversations with people from all walks of like, there was confusion as to why an arrest hadn’t been made in the case. As the weeks wore on, that instinctive and seemingly unanimous call for basic justice seemed to fade as a debate re-shaped along racial and political lines. Or has it?
A recent Gallup poll does indeed paint a bleak picture that confirms that new talk on Trayvon’s shooting has in fact fallen along predictable fault lines based on class, race, political affiliation, etc. According to the poll, barely 30% of “non-Blacks,” versus 70% of African Americans, believe that Zimmerman, who admitted to killing 17 year-old Trayvon, is guilty of a crime. While many people find those numbers alarmingly low, after watching the news for the past month, I was more shocked that after everything we are seeing, more than a third of all Americans (at least the ones that answered the poll) still believe George Zimmerman is guilty of something! After all, we’ve all been subject to confusing and conflicting reports on everything, including what both Zimmerman and Trayvon actually look(ed) like. But as someone who lives in Florida and witnesses some conversation about Trayvon everyday, I feel like the most significant thing about the Gallup poll is the questions it didn’t ask. Significant because those questions, and their answers, make their way into almost every conversation about Trayvon that I hear locally.
“Do you believe George Zimmerman should have been arrested?”
The fact that almost of third of any group isn’t sure if George Zimmerman is guilty of a crime may have a lot to do with the understanding that we live in a country where, no matter what, people are suppose to be innocent until proven guilty. But when you ask the simple question of whether or not Zimmerman should have at least been arrested, even the flame wars in the comment section of our newspapers simmer down in quick agreement.
In a recent article in the Herald, two frequent “contributors” to the comment section, one with the handle “Charles_Darwin” and the other “IntelligentLife” had what should have been the standard verbal cage match about the case in a piece appropriately titled, “Trayvon Martin’s shooting draws partisan battle lines.” It is important to note that Charles_Darwin’s photo associated with his handle seems to be a 1980s-era pic of the Rev. Al Sharpton us eighties babies saw on the news frequently as children. After a short back and forth where Charles Darwin calls out Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and other “leftists” and “race-baiting haters forming lynch mobs” and IntelligentLife responds that all the “right wingers” should be ashamed of themselves, they seem to settle in agreement on one fact:
Charles_Darwin: “Granted, an arrest should have been made…”
IntelligentLife: “We are pretty much in agreement then… But most of your fellow right wingers argue the guy should not be arrested at all.”
Charles_Darwin: “Some, but not all. Most people feel there should be an arrest, but through due process and not through the lynch mob mentality. I think you’d agree there is a little hyberbole on the far ends of both sides of the political spectrum.”
That agreement was reached in about two lines, after which Charles_Darwin and IntelligentLife returned back to trading jabs over the Sharptons and right-wingers of the world, respectively. How much did an older and thinner Rev. Sharpton’s words differ at a recent Miami rally for Trayvon when compared to the person who mockingly uses his younger and plumper photo for his online comments? Not much. At that rally on Bayfront Park in downtown Miami, Rev. Sharpton’s rallying cry wasn’t “kill Zimmerman,” “electrocute Zimmerman,” or “feed him to the sharks.” Instead, it was a rather straightforward assertion that he enlisted the crowd in repeating: “Zimmerman, tell it to the judge! Your daddy said this, your brother said that, your friend said the other. Line ’em up and tell it to the judge!”
For some reason, the Gallup poll failed to ask (or report) the question and answer that may be the only thing that Charles_Darwin, IntelligentLife, the real Rev. Al Sharpton and the Dream Defenders, a group that risked arrest to shut down the doors of the Sanford police department on Monday, don’t disagree on, that Zimmerman should have been arrested. I am not a polling company, but I live in Florida (Miami, to be precise). And there are a few things I hear most people agree on, right before they go back to vociferously disagreeing on everything else. One is that George Zimmerman should have at least been arrested and had a day in court for this case. The other, even among the people that defend Zimmerman as not being racist, is that the authorities (the Sanford police and prosecutors) really messed up in their handling of the whole thing. In fact, even the late night pundits that stick up for Zimmerman rarely rush to defend the people whose job it was to process this case properly. So is the debate on Trayvon Martin’s shooting dividing the country? Maybe. But if we take a step back and ask each other the right questions, we may be surprised at how much we agree on.
Don’t forget to tune into our show every Wednesday at 7pm.
Here is a little Monday morning perspective as people are already talking about “Trayvon fatigue” less than 45 days since he was killed and no arrests have been made in the case.
This guy: OJ Simpson…
1. Was arrested in 1994 and charged with murdering his wife and her friend.
2. Was given a jury trial.
3. Although acquitted, was sued in civil court for wrongful death in 1997 and lost.
4. In 2008, he was convicted of a completely separate crime of essentially stealing back his own memorabilia at gunpoint. Although this case had nothing to do with the 1994 case (well, almost nothing), he was sentenced to 33 years in prison. He is in prison as we speak.
5. AND SOME PEOPLE STILL TALK ABOUT HIS CASE ALMOST 18 YEARS LATER!
This boy: Trayvon Martin…
1. Was shot on February 26, 2012 (not even a month and a half ago)
2. George Zimmerman admitted to shooting him.
3. The police investigating the case categorized it as “homicide/negligent manslaughter” and requested an arrest warrant for the man that admitted to shooting this boy.
4. No arrest has ever been made in this case.
5. AND SOME PEOPLE THINK THAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT THIS CASE TOO MUCH AFTER 44 DAYS.
Perspective can be a…but people, I expect better from you. At least some folks aren’t fatigued, even after a 40 mile march to Sanford. Since it was Easter yesterday and although not all of you are Christian, some of you are, I will leave you with a verse from the Gospel.
Don’t forget to tune into our show, every Wednesday at 7pm, right here.
Family, welcome back for another week of real talk. This show won’t be an exception. We will update folks on the ongoing fight for justice for Trayvon Martin in the middle of the program (and don’t forget to check our other work on it here, here and here). And then…
1. Should anyone care about “Obamacare’s” individual mandate?
This week, the Supreme Court will be debating whether the individual mandate (requiring everyone to purchase insurance) is constitutional or not. On this show, we won’t talk about whether we need Health Care reform or not, because we sort of think it is obvious that we do (sorry people). What we will talk about is whether or not anyone that wants health care reform or even supports the other parts of the Affordable Care Act (i.e Obamacare nationwide and Romneycare in Massachusetts) should give a damn about what happens with the individual mandate. Our guests will include author, lecturer and documentary filmmaker TR Reid, Public Health Professor Dr. Steffie Woolhandler (CUNY-Hunter College and Physicians for a National Health Program), Bob Crittenden (Herndon Alliance), Dr. Mona Mangat (Doctors for America) and Jon Walker, a writer for Firedoglake. This should be fun.
2. Starting a business when you are broke…
So we talk a lot on this show about how messed up this economic system is. But through our ongoing “When You Are Broke” series, we try to tell our broke listeners what to do while changing the system or just waiting to become cogs in it. In this segment, we will talk to writer of the Bullish columns Jennifer Dziura, friend of the show and co-op creation know-it-all Rodney North (Equal Exchange), and childhood friend and barbershop builder Gianni Tata. If you are broke and have no plan on not being broke, you might wanna catch this one.
You know how we do…Tune in! Call in! and Let’s Talk About It!
|Be very afraid…there is a dart board on the wall|
By Subhash Kateel
(note: nothing on this page is meant to make light of Trayvon’s tragic death, only of the idiots trying to make up reasons why he deserved to die.)
So last week, people from all walks of life came together to mourn Trayvon’s tragic death and demand justice. Then, people decided to lose perspective on what this case is suppose to be about: a young boy killed by an armed man and cops who didn’t do their job and let him get away with it. Well, it turns out that this is the week that people decide to lose their damn minds, going to batsh*t insane lengths to justify murder. The worst example, is the sudden discovery of “thuggish” pics allegedly taken from Trayvon’s twitter account with the handle @NO_LIMIT_NIGGA. Because, seriously, what isn’t “thuggish” about a twitter handle named after the rap record label from ten years ago that once signed Lil Romeo.
Then there is the news that Trayvon was suspended for having either an empty bag of weed or spraying graffiti. Which still makes his rap sheet a lot less scary than Andy Warhol’s.
|But who wouldn’t follow this guy around a neighborhood with a loaded gun?|
The fact that anyone thinks that Trayvon’s pic above, or his less-than-Lindsay-Lohan “criminal history” make him scary or worthy of a bullet in his chest means they either need Jesus or a hobby. But it got me thinking, are there any pictures that are scarier than Trayvon’s scary “thug” pics? I was looking through my belongings and thought that putting pictures of old Indian aunties with gold teeth in an article would get me into a lot of trouble with my family (I know, I recycled a joke). But I did find a few pics that frightened me a hell of a lot more than Trayvon’s after doing some serious research on the web…for five minutes. So here goes…
1. Rick Scott, or the bad guy from Poltergeist II
|Don’t let your kids see this at night|
2. Geraldo Rivera, after getting punched by skinheads
|Imagine this guy walking around with a hoodie on?|
3. Rush Limbaugh, or the stay-puff marshmellow man on oxycotin
I bet he wished his packet of drugs was empty when he got caught.
4. Adam Tavss, former cop who stood his ground (and planted stuff in it) too many times
As I mentioned in my last post, Adam Tavss is a former Miami Beach cop who killed two unarmed men in one week on the job. He was cleared of wrongdoing in both cases, but was later fired after failing a drug test. He was then arrested after a marijuana grow lab was discovered in his house.
5. Anthony Mangione, ICE’s defender of human trafficking victims, viewer of kiddie porn
|Seriously, would you let him be around your kids?|
Anthony Mangione was the Special Agent-In-Charge of all ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) investigations in South Florida for the Feds. In 2009, he led a controversial bust of a human trafficking ring that arrested a bunch of people that had nothing to do with human trafficking and his agents were accused of assaulting several Guatemalan immigrants during the course of the collateral arrests. I was pretty involved in helping to document this case with two community groups (FLIC and WeCount!) back then. You can imagine my surprise when I found out that this heroic savior of human trafficking victims (who arrested people that did nothing of the sort) was later bagged after being caught with kiddie porn.
6. Oh yeah, then there is this guy
|What would you do if he was following you around a neighborhood at night?|
Let me know if you find any scarier pics. And don’t forget to tune in to our show every Wednesday at 7pm.
FAMILY, if you missed the show, download it here or press play below. Plus, subscribe to our PODCASTS on iTunes, and never miss our shows.
-The tragic death of Miami teen Trayvon Martin at the hands of self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman in Sanford Florida has sparked nationwide outrage and calls for Zimmerman’s arrest have echoed from every media source, so you know we had to talk about it! Listen to our conversation with Vic Grechniw, firearms instructor and the owner of Florida Ammo Traders in Tampa, where he talks about how firearms instructors in his circle of colleagues would never call Zimmerman did justifiable force in a concealed weapons class. We also speak with criminal defense attorney Marcus Tan about Florida’s now infamous stand your ground law and how it’s completely inapplicable in this instance. We get a check in call from protesters in Liberty City where 800 people took to the streets to protest and Jonathon Perri of change.org tells us about the viral media campaign to bring Trayvon’s story to the masses.
In the past year we’ve heard a lot of bad things about the banks and their role in our country’s financial crisis, but what do people on the inside think about the whole thing? Miguel Guerrero joins us to tell us about his experience as a loan officer at Wells Fargo and how he saw the focus shift from helping people buy homes and start businesses to squeezing money out of unsuspecting customers. He also tells us about the opposition he faced when he attempted to speak out against his employer’s crooked practices. Finally we talk to former analyst for Bear Stearns and author of Pants on Fire, Paul Christopherson about his book, and the lies that are preventing people from attaining the American Dream and what he believes needs to be done to change things.