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These are facts: on February 26, 2012, George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin. You already know all about these facts and have been debating their significance for a couple of weeks: Trayvon Martin was 17 years old, unarmed, wearing a hoodie, and had with him a cell phone, iced tea, and Skittles; George Zimmerman had a gun.  The Sanford, Florida police refused to arrest George Zimmerman, claiming I think incorrectly that Florida law prevented his arrest.  He’s been at liberty since.  He’s been uncharged since.  Almost a month later, on March 22, 2012, when no arrest had been made and public opinion about the case was boiling over in demonstrations and media attention and criticism, Special Prosecutor Angela Corey took over from the local Prosecutor. She will be the one who decides what charges, if any, are warranted. The whole world is watching.  And the Feds are doing their own parallel investigation to decide whether to bring a civil rights prosecution in federal court regardless of what Angela Corey decides.  We are now 37 days after the death of Trayvon Martin. We are now 9 days after the appointment of Angela Corey. And there is still no arrest.

I’m impatient.  And fearful. I wonder aloud whether the delay in making this arrest is stupidity, incompetence, racism, politics, or a combination of some or all of these.  I wonder why justice is delayed in this case.  I wonder why George Zimmerman has not been arrested.  And I am sorry to admit that I fear that the delay means that Florida will not charge George Zimmerman with a crime.

How long does it take to decide whether to charge George Zimmerman with a crime?  

Even if one were to discard virtually everything from the initial Sanford Police investigation, even if one were to start all over again from the top with new, more detailed interviews of the very few witnesses who saw or heard anything, even if one were to review and re-examine whatever forensic evidence there is, how long can it possibly take to develop enough information to make a decision, to decide whether to charge George Zimmerman with a crime?

And how long can it possibly take to decide whether to charge police officials with obstruction of justice or official misconduct or tampering with witnesses? How long can all of this take?  Apparently it can take a very long time.  How long should this actually take? Not long.

This isn’t a complex bank or securities fraud or terrorism conspiracy case. No. This is, sad to say, an all too common homicide case. We know who the victim is. We know who the shooter is. We have some witnesses who saw or heard something. We have whatever physical evidence was accumulated.  We have whatever medical and other forensic evidence there is. This, when all is said and done, is not a complicated case.  It’s a sensitive case, yes.  It’s an important case, yes.  But above all else, it’s not a complicated one.

Let’s remember, if we possibly can, that the ultimate decision about whether George Zimmerman is guilty is definitely not the decision prosecutors now face.  That ultimate decision, the decision of whether Zimmerman committed a crime, has to be made by a court or a jury, and his guilt has to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt by competent evidence at a trial. And that’s not the decision the prosecutor now faces.  It’s not.  The present decision is simply this: charge Geroge Zimmerman with a crime, or don’t.

You can formulate this question in other ways.  You can ask whether there is enough evidence to charge George Zimmerman with a crime.  Or you can ask whether there’s enough evidence to believe that Zimmerman probably committed a crime.  You can parse the standard. You can evaluate the words.  You can formulate the words in many different ways. But ultimately it’s not complicated: the prosecutor has the discretion to charge George Zimmerman if she believes there is probable cause that he committed a crime. She’s not required to charge him with anything.

How long can it possibly take to make that relatively simple determination? Not long. In routine homicide cases, the decision is usually made within hours. And then there’s an arrest.  In more complicated homicide cases, there’s an arrest and a prompt grand jury presentation, usually within days.  How many cases can anybody cite in which it’s taken more than a month to decide whether to charge a shooter (who is not a policeman) with a homicide? How many cases can anybody think of that are in this category?  I’ll tell you: I can’t think of one. Tell me I’m wrong if you can find a single one.

So I am impatient. It’s a truism that justice delayed is justice denied. And now, here we are, nine days into the second prosecutor investigating the case, and more than a month from the death of Trayvon Martin, and still no arrest. And no communication from the prosecution.  This is a disgrace. And it’s a dishonor to Trayvon Martin and his family.  So I am impatient.

And I regret to say that I have begun to fear that the quest for justice for Trayvon Martin will include the refusal of Florida prosecutors to charge George Zimmerman with a crime. What else, I ask you, could take this long?

-------------
cross-posted from The Dream Antilles

Originally posted to davidseth on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 02:56 PM PDT.

Also republished by Inherent Human Rights and Bloggers Against Torture.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Justice delayed is justice (14+ / 0-)

    denied.

    Justice for Trayvon Martin.

    Please read and enjoy my novella, Tulum, available in soft cover and eBook formats.

    by davidseth on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 02:53:23 PM PDT

  •  A grand jury is scheduled to convene April 10 (8+ / 0-)

    Although it was called for by the previous prosecutor, Norm Wolfinger, and Angela Corey could bypass it, I would go with the assumption that it will go as scheduled, in which case it would probably take no more than a week and possibly significantly less time for a decision on charges to be made.

    Were I the prosecutor in the case, I would probably wait for the grand jury and decline to comment until afterwards.  (IANAL)

  •  david - I am no expert at this (8+ / 0-)

    But having known many state and federal prosecutors I don't think they share your view of their role. As they explain it to me they will not charge a person until they feel they can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It may also be that given the FBI is investigating a potential case that Martin's civil rights were violated, that the special prosecutor is being extra cautious so she is not embarrassed by the FBI by overlooking some piece of evidence. It does not appear that Zimmerman is a flight risk and his counsel has said that he would surrender if charged, so I would be patient. If Zimmerman is arrested the trial would not start for six to twelve months.  

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 03:26:04 PM PDT

    •  Even if that is motivating the prosecutors, (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Avila, linkage, Smoh, worldlotus

      and I suspect it isn't, how long does it take to decide? How many times can you go over the same evidence? How many times can you see that no case is perfect and that, yes, you might lose the case, that it's not a slam dunk?

      If the standard is not charging unless we're absolutely sure we can convict (yes, I'm exaggerating a little), we'd be better off charging nobody who doesn't fully confess to police.

      Please read and enjoy my novella, Tulum, available in soft cover and eBook formats.

      by davidseth on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 03:29:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I heard that as of yesterday (5+ / 0-)

        Treyvon's girlfriend had not yet been interviewed so I would think the Special Prosecutor is still early in her investigation.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 03:40:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That sounds a lot to me like (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Clio2, Smoh, live1, Hunter Huxley, Avila

          footdragging or stonewalling. What could they possibly doing if they haven't interviewed one of half a dozen live witnesses?

          Please read and enjoy my novella, Tulum, available in soft cover and eBook formats.

          by davidseth on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 03:42:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  combing through the entire gated complex (5+ / 0-)

            inteviewing e very single resident, for one.

            interviewing everyone on the police staff not only that night, but everyone who ever worked with smith or ayala or the other two cops who were on the site that night, for two.

            interviewing the emts, for three.

            waiting for reports from the fbi labs in d.c., for four.

            doing forensics on the 911 calls, for five.

            interviewing tracy martin, sabryina fulton and brandy green, for six.

            she was appointed march22.  she has had at best 6 full days on the job, and she has 2 assts.  that's it.

            Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounding yourself with a-holes - William Gibson.

            by doesnotworkorplaywellwithothers on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:51:47 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  C'mon (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Avila

              you make a mountain out of a mole hill to justify the delay.

              Every single resident? The cops should have canvassed the place over a month ago to see who heard or saw anything. They have to have a list.

              Interview the cops? They should have written reports a month ago. They could re-write them, and then be interviewed. How many cops are involved? Fewer than 6, right?

              The FBI reports/forensics? Telephones are made to get these things in a hurry. 6 weeks is a lot of time already.

              There were already forensics on the 911 calls by the media. Surely they didn't beat the prosecutor to the punch on this.

              Interviwing three people? C'mon.

              You're bending over backwards for the prosecutor. If there were a good reason for doing so, I'd join you. I just disagree: I don't think there's any reason. It's taking too long.

              Please read and enjoy my novella, Tulum, available in soft cover and eBook formats.

              by davidseth on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 05:00:26 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  nope. everything dones on the previous (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Avila, Justanothernyer, erush1345

                investigation would have been scrapped and they would have started all over.

                i don't suppose you considered that they interview people - family, cops - and then come back and do it again to see how they hold up, did you?

                i was in a very small civil rights cases, nothing on the order of magnitiude of a murder.  it took 9 months for everyone to interview me and then interview me again, and then and then again.

                i'm not bewnding over backwards for the prosecution, anymore than we all should be doing.  6 full working days is nothing.

                i'm wondering how much you know about how these things work if you think forensics by the media would be even used.

                Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounding yourself with a-holes - William Gibson.

                by doesnotworkorplaywellwithothers on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 05:34:10 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  All I was saying was that if the media (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Avila

                  had forensics done in this time, it's reasonable to expect that the prosecution could get it done as quickly.

                  One assumes the civil rights cases you were in was as a party or a witness, and that it was a civil case. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that experience doesn't really travel to this case.

                  Please read and enjoy my novella, Tulum, available in soft cover and eBook formats.

                  by davidseth on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 06:16:00 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

      •  It can take a while (6+ / 0-)

        The highest profile case that Angela Corey was previously in charge of was that of Cristian Fernandez, a 12-year-old who was tried as an adult for murder.

        Google tells me that the death in question occurred in March 2011 and he was not charged until a grand jury indictment in June 2011, two and a half months later.

        Don't have expectations about how long the process is supposed to take based on watching Law & Order.

  •  Well, you correctly said that it all comes down (7+ / 0-)

    to whether or not the prosecutor has probably cause to believe that a crime was committed. In this case, we have a shooter who claimed self-defense. If the police report is to be believed, all of the evidence found at the scene and all of the testimony of the various witnesses interviewed by the police, corroborated the shooter's claim of self-defense.

    The reason justice is delayed IMHO is because nobody feels very comfortable with that result, and so there is a search on to turn over every rock to determine if there is additional evidence that would refute the shooter's claim of self-defense and create probably cause to support the bringing of charges against the shooter.

    So far, I don't know that there has been any disclosure of what evidence the prosecutor is looking at beyond the information that was available to them that night. Certainly, quite a few additional details have come out in the media circus that has sprung up around this case, but that has little to do with that the prosecutors may or may not actually be looking at.

    I suspect that the delay in this case is favorable towards the concerns of those who believe that charges should be brought. They are "turning over every rock" so to speak looking for evidence to refute the shooter's story.

  •  So what if it takes a while to put (6+ / 0-)

    together a case and make an arrest. If this thing is hurried, the likelihood of acquittal is higher. There is no reason to hurry this. If you are so impatient that you just can't stand the wait, maybe focus on other things in your life other than Trayvon Martin and then, before you know it, this will be resolved.

    •  That's how I have felt. (4+ / 0-)

      It is very frustrating to sit by watching when it seems like nothing is being done.  I'm placing a lot of my hope on the Feds.  I took umbrage with another diary that made use of the "truism" that justice delayed is justice denied.  Who defines delayed?  Does it help Trayvon's case to rush?  I think we are all so afraid of Z escaping justice in the end that we are ready to scream!  If it would help, I'll be happy to scream.

      Cats are better than therapy, and I'm a therapist.

      by Smoh on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:13:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Diane Gee, Avila

      I don't think that's so.  It is not a hurry to spend 9 days on a case with fewer than 10 witnesses. Seriously.

      Why are we cutting so much slack to this prosecutor? Do we have any reason to believe she's an honest player, or are we just giving her room to dump the case after a "thorough investigation."

      I have a lot of other things in my life. Thank you for your concerns for my wellbeing. What I anticipate here is that this is the prelude to no charges and an announcement that, well, there was no evidence to refute Zimmerman's version of the events. I hope I'm wrong, but my sense is that I'm not.

      Please read and enjoy my novella, Tulum, available in soft cover and eBook formats.

      by davidseth on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:52:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  no and nothing it would seem will (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SquirrelWhisperer, Avila

        convince you to feel otherwise.

        there is plenty of reason to believe corey will bring charges if at all possible and then will prosecute to the hilt.

        Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounding yourself with a-holes - William Gibson.

        by doesnotworkorplaywellwithothers on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:56:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  On what do you base that? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Avila

          I'm telling you why I think this is footdragging and delay and the prelude for no charges, no arrest by the state.

          Why do you think it's something else? I'd love to think it was, so help me find a reason for that.

          Please read and enjoy my novella, Tulum, available in soft cover and eBook formats.

          by davidseth on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 05:01:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  her reputation. she has a considerable reputation (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            SquirrelWhisperer, Avila

            for fighting for the families of violent crime victims.  and she is known for a bulldog tenacity in prosecuting - expect no plea bargains from this lady at all.  expect her to plough right on through to conviction and the longest possible prison term.

            and for that matter, you've given no evidence of her footdragging.

            Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounding yourself with a-holes - William Gibson.

            by doesnotworkorplaywellwithothers on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 05:37:09 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  As far as I can tell, (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Avila

              this bulldog reputation comes from beating up on street criminals, many of whom have confessed. It's easy in those cases to be tough and to makes speeches about the victims.  She's also a big pal to the cops. A reputation for being a bulldog isn't necessarily inconsistent with an expedient choice in this case not to prosecute. Or to let the grand jury toss the case.

              George Zimmerman isn't looking for a plea bargain. He's looking for the cops not to arrest him, and for the prosecution to dump the case. We'll see whether the prosecutor lives up to her reputation.

              Please read and enjoy my novella, Tulum, available in soft cover and eBook formats.

              by davidseth on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 06:18:56 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  george zimmerman is going to be plenty lucky (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Avila, a2nite

                to get a plea bargain and manslaughter charges.

                oh, and by the way, chris serino, the #1 good guy in this miserable piece of steaming crap, has said that he is very optimistic that the truth will come out now that corey in on the job.

                not guardedly optimistic.  not hopeful.  but very optimistic.

                Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounding yourself with a-holes - William Gibson.

                by doesnotworkorplaywellwithothers on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 06:22:04 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  I don't see a reason (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Avila

        To believe she is a dishonest player.  That she is a conservative Republican is not enough to make me suspicious.

        At worst, I would suspect her of going slow and wanting to go the grand jury route rather than charge Zimmerman by information because it is easier for any future political aspirations if she avoids any possible mistakes that could occur because of a rush to action.  That same concern suggests that it is highly unlikely that Zimmerman walks if there is enough evidence to convict.

        •  So if she decides not to prosecute this (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Avila

          after a kabuki investigation, then what?  She went slow, allegedly, she was thorough, allegedly, she made an independet decision. Tell me that hurts her politically in Jacksonville and Florida politics. People will still talk about how tough she is on "street criminals," and cares about victims, and won't plea bargain.

          Please read and enjoy my novella, Tulum, available in soft cover and eBook formats.

          by davidseth on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 06:20:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Would you feel better (4+ / 0-)

    if they rushed ahead, charged him with ... something, and then found out there wasn't the evidence to overcome reasonable doubt?  

    •  No, of course not. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Avila

      I would be happy if they did a professional, competent job of marshalling the evidence, and made a choice. What I am afraid of, as I've said before, is that this "investigation kabuki" leads to the prosecutor saying, well, we tried, but you know, there wasn't any evidence to charge Geroge Zimmerman, so we had to not arrest him.

      I hope I'm wrong, really I do. But the choices are not "rushing" or "footdragging." I think I'm seeing footdragging, stonewalling, posturing, trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

      You can disagree, of course. But the choices are not either or, rush and lose or spend an inordinate amoutn oftime and win. It doesn't work that way.

      Please read and enjoy my novella, Tulum, available in soft cover and eBook formats.

      by davidseth on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:55:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  tis is not a complex case (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    davidseth

    this is not enron- no financial or global investigations.

    one admitted shooter. one victim
    they even have audio recrds

    i agree. it is ridiculous to even take a week

    "It's never too late to be who you might have been." -George Eliot

    by live1 on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:17:39 PM PDT

  •  This reminds me of my Arizona youth. (0+ / 0-)

    The horse is saddled, the knot is tied, the branch is picked out. All that's left is the trial.

  •  and all the doctoring of (0+ / 0-)

    evidence.  This is awful.

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