Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Georgia Stand Your Ground Law

O.C.G.A. § 16-3-21
Use of force in defense of self or others; evidence of belief that force was necessary in murder or manslaughter prosecution

(a) A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes that such threat or force is necessary to defend himself or herself or a third person against such other's imminent use of unlawful force; however, except as provided in Code Section 16-3-23, a person is justified in using force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or herself or a third person or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

(b) A person is not justified in using force under the circumstances specified in subsection (a) of this Code section if he:

(1) Initially provokes the use of force against himself with the intent to use such force as an excuse to inflict bodily harm upon the assailant;

(2) Is attempting to commit, committing, or fleeing after the commission or attempted commission of a felony; or

(3) Was the aggressor or was engaged in a combat by agreement unless he withdraws from the encounter and effectively communicates to such other person his intent to do so and the other, notwithstanding, continues or threatens to continue the use of unlawful force.

(c) Any rule, regulation, or policy of any agency of the state or any ordinance, resolution, rule, regulation, or policy of any county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state which is in conflict with this Code section shall be null, void, and of no force and effect.

(d) In a prosecution for murder or manslaughter, if a defendant raises as a defense a justification provided by subsection (a) of this Code section, the defendant, in order to establish the defendant's reasonable belief that the use of force or deadly force was immediately necessary, may be permitted to offer:

(1) Relevant evidence that the defendant had been the victim of acts of family violence or child abuse committed by the deceased, as such acts are described in Code Sections 19-13-1 and 19-15-1, respectively; and

(2) Relevant expert testimony regarding the condition of the mind of the defendant at the time of the offense, including those relevant facts and circumstances relating to the family violence or child abuse that are the bases of the expert's opinion.
March 19, 2012

Norman Wolfinger
Florida State's Attorney
107 West Gaines Street
Suite L-066
Tallahassee, FL 32399

Dear Mr. Wolfinger:

I am writing to encourage your office to carefully consider prosecuting Mr. Zimmerman for the death of Trayvon Martin. Neither the state of Florida, nor the nation will not be well-served by ignoring this matter. The longer it takes for prosecution to occur, the more it will grow and undermine the lawful authority of police and the courts. Our system of justice depends upon the consent of citizens to be governed. Whenever confidence in law enforcement is eroded, the entire society suffers.

This case is more about police failure to investigate and right-wing fear-driven, gun zealot takeover of Southern legislatures than anything else, including race. Zimmerman may be innocent. He may be guilty of manslaughter, or he may be a murderer. The State of Florida deserves its day in court to make its case. Many prosecutors in Florida opposed so-called Stand Your Ground Laws for the very reason they take away from prosecutors and jurors the consideration of whether deadly force in defense of self is reasonably deployed. These laws don't protect the public - they protect the careers of pandering activist legislators. At the time the Florida law was changed to remove a centuries-old "duty to retreat", it was predicted that the law would empower vigilantes. Now that is occurring. This is not principally about race, but about justice and the kind of nation we want to be.

These facts must be weighed in favor of prosecution:
a. A witness heard the scream of a “young boy”
b. Zimmerman followed Martin despite being told by the police not to do so
c. Zimmerman revealed his own bias in statements to the dispatcher
d. Zimmerman suffered no serious injury
e. Zimmerman initiated the confrontation
f. Zimmerman had an exit route – his vehicle
g. Martin had no apparent capacity to carry out a threat of serious bodily harm

We request that you respond to these questions:

1. What is the nature and source of Mr. Zimmerman’s special relationship to the Sanford police department?
2. What about Trayvon Martin’s behavior justified the use of deadly force?
3. Does Zimmerman contend that Martin had a weapon?
4. Exactly what is the nature of the imminent threat that Zimmerman feared from Martin?
5. Do you have ballistics or other test results to tell the distance between Zimmerman and Martin at the time the weapon was fired?
6. Why weren’t interested witnesses contacted?
7. Are any police staff being investigated for failure to take witness statements?
8. What was the condition of Martin’s clothing?
9. Was either person under the influence of drugs or alcohol?

Although many prosecutors disfavor them, you don’t have to oppose so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws to know that this case requires special attention. Failure to thoroughly answer these questions will only undermine future legitimate claims of self-defense. As you know, the prosecutor’s role is to seek justice. Justice demands answers to these (and other) questions and must be administered without fear or favor. The eyes of the world are watching whether justice can be achieved in Seminole County. I look forward to your prompt response.


Janice L. Mathis, Esq.

Cc: Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

NBCFAE and RPC Meet with DOT

For More Information
Contact pressdepartment@rainbowpush.org
(404) 525-5663

(March 17, 2012 –Washington, D.C.) Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., President and Founder of RPC, and Roosevelt Lenard, National President of National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees, met on Thursday, March 15, 2012, with US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Michael Huerta, Acting Administrator of the FAA, to discuss fairness in employment and contracting at the FAA. Acting Administrator Huerta admitted that despite recent efforts to improve representation of blacks, other minorities and women in jobs and contracts, that much more needed to be done. A recent study by the NBCFAE showed the FAA as the least inclusive agency in federal government.
Secretary LaHood committed to regular meetings between RPC, NBCFAE and DOT and FAA officials to work toward meaningful solutions. Huerta indicated that goal-setting and data collection do not run afoul of prohibitions against quotas. NBCFAE commissioned a study of FAA employment which revealed that in 2007 blacks, other minorities, women and people with disabilities were significantly under-represented at the FAA, especially above the GS 8 grade. For example, in 2007, white males comprised 79% of FAA employees, but only 68% of the federal civilian workforce and 72% of the civilian labor force. According to Mr. Lenard, “the disparity cannot be explained by a lack of qualified minority and female applicants.” Neither the FAA nor DOT disputed the findings of the NBCFAE study.
A barrier study to determine why blacks, other minorities and women are locked out of FAA was agreed to by the FAA more than two years ago, but has not yet been accomplished. Acting Administrator Huerta indicated that he had made completion of the study “a personal priority for the FAA.” If the barrier study reveals systemic patterns of exclusion of blacks, other minorities and women, it clears the way for narrowly-tailored solutions to address the issue.
The FAA also completed the Citizenship Education Fund’s survey of diversity and inclusion at the request of its Vice President, Janice L. Mathis, Esq., who attended the meeting, which also included FAA Chief Counsel Kathryn B. Thomson and U.S. DOT General Counsel Robert S. Rivkin. “Many of the survey questions focusing on contracting were incompletely answered due to lack of data. Administrator Huerta agreed that the FAA needed to do a better job of data collection to document whether or not federal contracts were being awarded fairly as required by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” indicated Mathis.
Transportation constitutes a potential linchpin for economic recovery in the U.S. On that point Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and Secretary LaHood were in complete agreement. LaHood pointed to recent progress in creating regional transportation plans in Illinois and Georgia as evidence that economic growth spurred by infrastructure investments transcends partisan divides. Jackson indicated that transportation projects create jobs and provide the means for communities plagued by high unemployment to access existing jobs.
According to NBCFAE board member Ron Bagley, “we are grateful to Rev. Jackson and RPC for setting up this meeting. And we appreciate the fact that the Secretary had many of the decision makers in the room. But of course, we must continue to work hard to make sure that real progress is made.” Rev. Jackson indicated that he expects to make fairness in transportation a focal point of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s annual meeting in Chicago, July 11-15.
For more than thirty-five years the NBCFAE has worked to promote equal employment opportunity for black, female and other minority employees and to provide an effective liaison between the FAA and federal aviation employees. The Rainbow PUSH Coalition works to level the playing field in civic and economic life.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Nation Must Analyze Teaching Methods

A new report appeared earlier this week that shows stark disparities along racial and ethnic lines in our country’s public schools. The new report from the Department of Education includes data from the 2009-2010 school year.
The New York Times reported from the study:
Although black students made up only 18 percent of those enrolled in the schools sampled, they accounted for 35 percent of those suspended once, 46 percent of those suspended more than once and 39 percent of all expulsions.
One in five black boys and more than one in 10 black girls received an out-of-school suspension. Overall, black, students were three and a half times as likely to be suspended or expelled as their white peers.
Over 70 percent of the students involved in school-related arrests or law enforcement referrals were Hispanic or black.
Additionally, the data showed all kinds of disparities in areas other than discipline. For example, schools with higher numbers of black and Hispanic students had fewer advanced academic offerings, lower average teacher pay, and teachers with less average experience.

Given these statistics, what must we do?
1. Improve teacher preparation and effectiveness
2. Build a durable bridge between parents, community and school
3. Select teachers for their ability to love and connect with all children
4. Devise incentives for best teachers to work in the schools that need them most
5. Give parents and children incentives to love learning and school
PUSH Excel has an excellent program of family engagement in public schools. More than 200,000 parents have taken the pledge to get to know their child’s teacher before there is a problem and to communicate frequently, honestly and openly with schools. Children tend to perform and behave up to parental expectations.
My parents were school teachers. They loved their work. They loved their pupils, who were all black and mostly low-income. Our study of this issue should not focus on child-centered factors such as poverty, family composition, race, ethnicity, to the extent that we ignore or exclude the other half of the equation. What characteristics do the most effective teachers share? What does it take to be culturally competent to teach all children? How does unconscious bias manifest itself? In order to solve this problem, we must solve on both sides of the equation – children and their teachers.