A judge has ruled that Marissa Alexander can remain free on bond after the Florida State Attorney filed a motion claiming that the defendant violated her release conditions numerous times, The Florida Times-Union reports. Circuit Court Judge James Daniel denied Assistant State Attorney Richard Mantei‘s request to revoke Alexander’s bail for “going out shopping for clothes, driving family members to the hair shop and airport, getting a new driver’s license, visiting the bank and seeing a sister-in-law.”
Mantei’s stated to the judge that Alexander, 33, was on home detention while performing her errands. The conditions of her detention prohibit her from leaving her residence except for court appearances, medical emergencies and to satisfy any requirements of her pretrial services program. She has been free on bond since Thanksgiving after getting a new trial in her aggravated assault case for firing a warning shot during an altercation with her husband, Rico Gray.
Alexander’s lawyer, Bruce Zimet, countered the state’s argument by saying that all of his client’s actions were approved by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, which angered Judge Daniel. Zimet said the court ordered Alexander to speak with Jacksonville authorities before making her trips, which they approved without checking with the judge. Since Alexander did not knowingly violate the bond, Judge Daniel saw fit to allow her to remain in home detention.
April Wilson, an 18-year veteran of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, was present for Friday’s hearing. Wilson approved all of Alexander’s trips, stating in her tearful testimony that her understanding of the court order would allow for these brief stops she made while under house arrest. After today’s hearing, however, it appears that both sides understand Judge Daniel’s orders and will move forward from there. “I think it was handled how it needed to be handled. The judge is now aware and everybody else is now aware of what was going on. Things got brought out in the open that’s always a good thing,” said Mantei, as reported by Florida Times-Union.
Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, told a Senate panel Tuesday that states must clarify their ‘stand your ground’ self-defense laws after the man who fatally shot her son was acquitted of manslaughter. (Matt Rourke/AP)
WASHINGTON — The mother of Travyon Martin, the Florida teen killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer, told a Senate panel today that stand your ground self-defense laws should be changed. Sybrina Fulton offered the tragic case of her son as Exhibit A of why she said such laws do not work. “He was simply going to the store to get snacks, nothing more, nothing less,” Fulton said of her son, who was shot dead by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla., in early 2012.
“He was minding his own business, he was not looking for any kind of trouble, he was not committing any kind of crime.” She added, “The person who shot and killed my son is walking the streets today. … The Law is not working.” Martin’s killing ignited a national debate about stand your ground laws and racial profiling. The debate grew even louder after Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges. More than two dozen states have some version of stand your ground laws, which let individuals use lethal force instead of retreating if they feel threatened with death or serious injury in public by another person.
Senate Democrats convened the hearing, which triggered a clash with Republicans on the Judiciary subcommittee who favor stand your ground laws. Sen. Dick Durban (D-Ill.) cited research that suggests about 600 homicides a year can be traced to such laws, with no apparent impact on overall crime deterrence. His view that such laws have done little else but accentuate a “shoot first” mentality among citizens was quickly disputed by the firebrand freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
NEW YORK – On Tuesday, the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis will testify on Capitol Hill. The topic: “Stand Your Ground” laws. Sybrina Fulton and Lucia McBath will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. The hearing, according to a notice on the Senate Judiciary Committee website is entitled “‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws: Civil Rights and Public Safety Implications of the Expanded Use of Deadly Force.”
Tallahassee, Florida-based state attorney William Meggs, and Harvard Law School professor and director of the Criminal Justice Institute Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. are also expected to testify, along with a senior fellow from the Libertarian Cato Institute and John R. Lott, Jr., Ph.D., President of the Crime Prevention Research Center in Swarthmore, PA.
Fulton is the mother of Trayvon Martin, whose shooting death and the acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman, on second degree murder and manslaughter charges touched off more than a year of controversy regarding Florida’s “stand your ground” laws and similar laws across the country. (Zimmerman didn’t use “Stand Your Ground” as his defense, but it was referenced by one of the jurors in the case in interviews after the verdict, and it altered Florida’s jury instructions in cases like Zimmerman’s.)
A foundation founded by Fulton and Trayvon Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, is working to amend “Stand Your Ground” laws in Florida and in the more than 20 other states with similar laws. George Zimmerman said he shot Martin in self-defense.
McBath’s son, Jordan Davis, was shot to death on November 23, 2012 at a Jacksonville gas station as he sat in a car with three friends. Michael Dunn is expected to use the “Stand Your Ground” self defense law in his upcoming trial for Davis’ killing. Dunn is expected to go to trial in January.
The mother of Trayvon Martin spoke out Sunday against the stop-and-frisk police practice in New York City, saying neither police nor civilians have the right to stop someone because of their race. Critics say the stops target blacks and Hispanics who aren’t doing anything wrong. Earlier this week, a judge told New York City that its policy was racial discrimination. The city plans to appeal. “You can’t give people the authority, whether civilian or police officers the right to just stop somebody because of the color of their skin,” Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Over the past decade, New York police have stopped, questioned and sometimes patted down about 5 million people; 87 percent were black or Hispanic. About 10 percent of the stops spur an arrest or summons. Police find weapons a fraction of the time. New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly defended the use of stop and frisk Sunday and said violent crimes would increase if the practice were abandoned. “The losers in this, if this case is allowed to stand, are people who live in minority communities,” he said on CBS’ Face the Nation.
Fulton’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, said the stop and frisk policy targeted people by race and noted it was still being used as the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech approached. “It actually takes us away from his poignant words of, ‘I dreamed my children would be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin,’” Crump said. Fulton has said neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman “got away with murder” in the 2012 killing of her son, largely because of Florida’s self-defense law.
Protesters had been occupying part of the Capitol in Tallahassee, calling for an examination of the Florida law since Zimmerman was acquitted last month. Zimmerman claimed self-defense in shooting the 17-year-old Martin during a fight; Martin’s supporters say Zimmerman profiled and followed him because Martin was black.
TALLAHASSEE — Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford announced Friday that he will order hearings this fall on the state’s “stand your ground” law, a victory for the young protesters known as the Dream Defenders who have spent the past two weeks protesting at the Capitol. “It’s a critical first step,” said Phillip Agnew, executive director of the Dream Defenders. “We’ve been here for three weeks. We know Democracy takes time. Progress takes time.”
They shouldn’t celebrate too hard. Weatherford assigned the task of chairing the hearings to a staunch supporter of the law, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach. “I don’t support changing one damn comma of the stand your ground law,” Gaetz said Friday. “It would be reactionary and dangerous to make Floridians less safe to pacify uninformed protesters.” Gaetz, the 31-year-old son of Senate President Don Gaetz, talks tough on crime. He passed a bill this year that expedited death row cases and has been known for pushing conservative causes popular in his Panhandle district. He expects the hearings to draw national attention, and he says he’s ready for the debate.
“I want to have hearings, it’s a good idea,” Gaetz said. “Right now, the only voices on stand your ground are coming from the radical left. I want an opportunity to give a full-throated defense of the law.” He said he’s not sure when he’ll hold the hearings, how long they’ll last, or how they’ll be structured. But he said his bias shouldn’t deter those holding out hope that hearings can lead to changes in the law. “Bills I don’t support occasionally pass my committee,” he said.
Weatherford agreed to the hearings in an op-ed published Friday. “Our evaluation of its effectiveness should be guided by objective information, not by political expediency,” he wrote. “Does the law keep the innocent safer? Is it being applied fairly? Are there ways we can make this law clearer and more understandable.”
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The second juror to speak publicly about George Zimmerman‘s trial tells ABC News that she feels the neighborhood watch volunteer got away with murder for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin. But she says there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him under Florida law.
Juror B29 told Robin Roberts in an interview made public Thursday that she favored convicting Zimmerman of second-degree murder when deliberations began. But by the second day of deliberating, she realized there wasn’t enough proof to convict Zimmerman of a crime. Juror B29 is the second juror to go public with what went on during deliberations earlier this month. She allowed her face to be seen and used her first name, Maddy, unlike JurorB37 who was interviewed on CNN last week with her face obscured.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Tracy Martin, the father of Trayvon Martin has joined an effort by members of Congress to focus more attention on issues disproportionately affecting black men and boys. Martin was appearing Wednesday before a forum convened by black lawmakers to discuss high unemployment, incarceration, racial profiling and other challenges faced by black men and boys.
Martin was scheduled to give opening remarks in an informal hearing before the Congressional Black Men and Boys Caucus. Congressional caucuses such as this one are made up of members of the House who share interest in a given issue and want to focus attention on it while suggesting possible legislative responses. Caucuses range from the party of the Democrats and Republicans to special group caucuses such as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Martin’s appearance comes a few days after President Barack Obama made remarks identifying himself with the plight of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager who was shot and killed last year during a confrontation with neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.
Ira Acree spent two hours passing out fliers in front of the Dirksen Federal Building in downtown Chicago, hoping to spread the word about a “Justice for Trayvon” vigil at noon Saturday — one of at least 100 planned in cities across the nation. On the way back to his car, Acree, a pastor, spotted a television in the lobby of the parking garage. A crowd had gathered in front, as if “watching the football game,” Acree said. President Obama was speaking.
In his first comments since a six-woman jury acquitted George Zimmerman of murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Obama spoke frankly and reflectively, relating his experiences with race and racial profiling. “Trayvon Martin could have been me,” the President said. Obama’s earnest words moved Acree almost to tears. “I just think that the president’s words may help whites across the nation at least understand us,” Acree said. “And be a little bit more emphathetic toward our actions tomorrow.” Acree chairs the board of a social justice group in Chicago called the Leader’s Network, which is helping organize Saturday’s vigil.
The 100-city “Justice for Trayvon” vigils, which the Rev. Al Sharpton announced Tuesday on the steps of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., will be staged mostly at federal court buildings across the country. In California, rallies are scheduled in Los Angeles, Oakland, Palmdale, Riverside, Sacramento, San Francisco and the Monterey County city of Seaside. Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, and Martin’s brother, Jahvaris, will attend a rally in New York City, along with Sharpton. Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, is attending a vigil in Miami.
This week, radio host and philanthropist Tom Joyner (pictured) appeared on Piers Morgan Live to explain why he felt moved to offer friend and star witness in the George Zimmerman trial Rachel Jeantel (pictured below) a free college education at any Historically Black College or University (HBCU) of her choosing. According to Joyner, both the media’s and lawyer’s treatment of Jeantel inspired him to make a lasting impact on her her future. (Video of Jeantel accepting offer below.)
For Joyner, seeing the barrage of criticism Jeantel received while she was on the stand disturbed him,“Well, it all started of course at the trial. And when she testified, the reaction to her testimony was very troubling to me. People were criticizing her and her education and communication skills. The way the lawyer was just beating her up on the stand just really moved me.”
Still, Joyner didn’t get the idea to offer her a college scholarship until she appeared on the “Piers Morgan Live” show Monday night, “And then last night when I saw her on your show, you did a follow-up question that [asked her] what do you want to do in life.
“That’s when the light bulb went off. I said I want to help her. We have a foundation that helps students in historically black colleges and universities. The Tom Joyner Foundation has been around since ’98 and since then, we’ve donated and raised more than $65 million to that end.”
To Joyner, seeing Jeantel being still in high school at the age of 19 and struggling with the tragic death of friend Trayvon made him come to one conclusion: “She deserves a chance. All this criticism about, you know, how the system has failed her or she’s failed the system. She’s 19 years old and she’s a senior in high school. Right, OK. So in the past year-and-a-half her life has been turned upside down. She’s been back and forth with depositions and appointments and everything, plus sad about her best friend being killed. So her senior year is all a wreck.”
When Piers Morgan asked Joyner whether he thinks Jeantel will manage in college, Joyner responded that he and his team are willing to do the work to get her ready, “It’s going to take some work, first of all, to get her high school diploma and get her ready for the SAT test … and then entered in to college. But we are going to do that…I told her she can go to any historically black college she wants to.”
WASHINGTON (AP) — Trayvon Martin’s parents plan to participate in separate vigils Saturday. Martin’s mother and her son, Sybrina and Jahvaris Fulton, will join Al Sharpton outside New York Police Department headquarters. Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, is set to be at a similar event at a federal courthouse in Miami. Sharpton’s National Action Network is planning rallies in 100 cities to press for federal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman. The Justice Department is investigating whether Zimmerman violated Martin’s civil rights when he shot the 17-year-old during a confrontation last year in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman says he fired in self-defense. He was acquitted last Saturday of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.