Saturday, July 6, 2013

v. Florida

In 1940, the U.S. Supreme Court decided an appeal of a murder conviction in a Florida court--Chambers v. Florida--by overturning that conviction (and death sentence). In his decision, Hugo Black wrote;
Under our constitutional system, courts stand against any winds that blow as havens of refuge for those who might otherwise suffer because they are helpless, weak, outnumbered, or because they are non-conforming victims of prejudice and public excitement. Due process of law, preserved for all by our Constitution, commands that no such practice as that disclosed by this record shall send any accused to his death. No higher duty, no more solemn responsibility rests upon this Court, than that of translating into living law and maintaining this constitutional shield deliberately planned and inscribed for the benefit of every human being subject to our Constitution—of whatever race, creed or persuasion.
Florida had had, for many decades, problems dealing equally with crimes committed by people of one race against people of another race. Too often, if evidence of guilt was lacking, it was concocted out of thin air by prosecutors eager to punish people solely for their racial heritage. At the time of Chambers, that prejudice was exclusively directed at black defendants.

Racial attitudes and prejudices in Florida (and elsewhere) have done an about face since then.  No better example illustrating that, is the working on the railroading of a semi-white defendant (George Zimmerman, for shooting a young black assailant in self-defense in Sanford Florida) in the courtroom of Judge Deborah Nelson. Judge Nelson, oddly, was only assigned this case after the previous judge (Kenneth Lester, Jr.) was removed by the Fifth District Court of Appeals, for demonstrating prejudice himself;
Grounds for his removal included comments he made during Zimmerman’s $1 million bond hearing last July. Lester referred to the defendant as a manipulator and accused him of trying to outsmart the criminal justice system to get ahead.
“Under any definition, the defendant has flouted the system,” he wrote at the time…. “The defendant has tried to manipulate the system when he has been presented the opportunity to do so…”
Judge Nelson is described in the above story as, ...known for handing down tough sentences and tends to be pro-state. She showed why it is said that she tends to be pro-state, to a national television audience yesterday, as she sat with a straight face and allowed the prosecution to tell blatant lies to her while contesting the defense's motion for dismissal of all charges. She had to know that the prosecutor was mis-representing the testimony he and his prosecutor colleagues had presented over several days in this very courtroom.

She had heard the prosecution's own star witness place the shooting victim, Trayvon Martin, near the back of 'his daddy's fiance's' townhouse in the gated community of Twin Lakes. That home being approximately 2/3 the length of a football field from the location where Trayvon's body was found by police who arrived shortly after he was shot by Zimmerman. The same witness told Judge Nelson that after she re-connected with Trayvon's cellphone (after being disconnected for several seconds) that he sound tired, as if he'd been running.

Another prosecution witness had also testified that she'd seen the motion of someone running past her curtained window 'from left to right', just before the shooting occurred. That 'left to right' would be, from the direction of Trayvon's 'daddy's fiance's' townhouse to where George Zimmerman was waiting for the police he'd summoned on his cellphone. So, we have two people testifying that, Trayvon had decided to leave the safety of his father's home and run approximately 200 feet toward a confrontation with George Zimmerman who was peacefully standing his ground in the community in which he was a homeowner.

 Yet, the prosecutor in the above clip tells the judge that 'a pursuit' occurred; implying that Zimmerman was in pursuit of Trayvon Martin. The judge knows this to be untrue from the prosecution's own witnesses. Which is not even the only inaccuracy from this prosecutor that the judge knows about. All of which the judge had to ignore to rule against the defense's motion to dismiss the case.

One can only be amazed at the brazenness of the judge's obvious racial prejudice in so denying. Florida rules persist even into the 21st century.

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