Mark Walters’ nationally syndicated radio show and podcast, Armed American Radio, is one of my favorites. I’m a regular listener and an occasional guest. This past Sunday night, after Mark had completed one of my two-day, twenty-hour MAG-20 Armed Citizens Rules of Engagement courses, I joined him on the show along with Claude Werner, The Tactical Professor, who hosted the class in Atlanta. Other scheduled guests included Gail Pepin, Amber Kunau, Beth Alcazar, and famed instructor Rob Pincus.
During the second hour, listeners got an unexpected surprise guest: George Zimmerman called in.
If you’ve ever heard the Internet BS of “a good shoot is a good shoot” or “if you’re acquitted, nothing else matters,” you’ll appreciate the reality of what Mr. Zimmerman had to say. He spoke in detail about how profoundly the massive media campaign against him, and of course the ordeal of the court proceeding itself, impacted him and his family. That impact is still huge, still cruel, and yes, still ongoing.
This is, to my knowledge, the first time George Zimmerman has discussed this side of things publicly.
The entire three hour show (mostly self-defense issues in the first hour, and mostly women’s gun selection and self-defense issues in the third hour with the three famous female authorities), are available if you download the entire podcast at: http://armedamericanradio.org/show-archives
Thanks to Mark Walters and his sponsors for making this much needed dose of reality available to a nation which was widely lied to in regard to this matter.
The grand jury concept has been much in the news of late. People with axes to grind (including multiple talking heads on CNN) decry the fact that grand juries in Missouri and New York exonerated the police officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson and the one who grabbed Eric Garner and pulled him to the sidewalk in NYC. Benjamin Crump, the plaintiffs’ attorney for the families in the Brown case, the Garner case, and the Trayvon Martin death before that, has called for a prosecutor to indict without sending the case to the grand jury in yet another racially –charged case.
I know many defense lawyers – and many citizens from the far left to the far right – who hate the grand jury system and believe it should be abolished. Having worked within the American criminal justice system in one way or another for more than four decades – as arresting officer, as police department prosecutor, as expert witness for both sides – I have to profoundly disagree.
When people hear the word “jury,” they think of the regular, “petit” jury: normally six to twelve people with some alternates as “spares” who determine guilt or innocence in a full-blown criminal trial, or apportion responsibility between plaintiff and defendant in the trial of a civil lawsuit. The grand jury is exclusive to the criminal side of the justice house, and is called by the prosecutor to determine whether or not there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, or at least, enough question thereof that the matter should be sorted out in a full-blown trial. The grand jury will return either a “true bill,” which means that the person in question is now a defendant, stands indicted, and is fully inserted into the gullet of the criminal justice machine, or “no true bill,” which essentially exonerates the potential defendant, though that’s not exactly 100% because the prosecutor can usually re-file the case.
The grand jury is the province of the prosecutor. Often, a defense lawyer for the “person of interest” won’t even be allowed in the room, and if he is, he won’t be allowed to advocate for his client. This is what led to the famous saying that “a prosecutor can convince a jury to indict a ham sandwich.” The members of the grand jury hear what the prosecutor allows them to hear. This is what ticks off absolutists on both far left and far right.
And of course, if you are the one who wants to lead the lynch mob that hangs the defendant, you’ll be ROYALLY pissed off if the prosecutor actually allows exculpatory evidence which convinces his or her fellow citizens to return “no true bill.” This is apparently why Benjamin Crump does not want people he hopes to pillory to go in front of grand juries, and it is why CNN’s Sunny Hostin, a former prosecutor herself, was outraged that exculpatory evidence was presented to the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri.
Having been on both sides of this two-way street, I support the grand jury concept, and I applaud prosecutors who perform their duty as ministers of justice to allow exculpatory evidence (indicative of innocence) to go before the grand jurors as well as inculpatory evidence (indicative of guilt). Their job is as much to exonerate the innocent as it is to prosecute the guilty.
Some say, “But if the prosecutor is the sole arbiter of the evidence, he can get anyone he wants indicted!” To which I say, “SO WHAT?”
Please understand: IN MOST JURISDICTIONS, THE PROSECUTOR CAN INDICT ON HIS OR HER OWN WITHOUT A GRAND JURY ANYWAY, under what is generally called an “offer of information.”
In the cases currently under media scrutiny, the grand juries heard both sides of the story, while the public and the talking heads only heard one side’s narrative. Before anyone joins in the howl of the lynch mob, they should ask themselves one question: “If I was the one accused, would I want my side of the story and the evidence supporting me to be heard, before I was sent to trial in a case that would likely cost me six figures worth of dollars and incalculable suffering for myself and my family, before the decision was made to put me through that ordeal?”
The grand juries in the Brown death in Ferguson and the Garner death in New York did hear both sides. Having heard that, they each issued no true bill.
I for one respect that, and the prosecutorial authorities who allowed those grand juries to hear both sides.
Much of America, including CNN’s Attorney Sunny Hostin, can’t seem to grasp how Officer Darren Wilson could have been justified in shooting an ostensibly unarmed man. If Ms. Hostin got through law school without learning the definition of “disparity of force,” well, she wouldn’t be the first to do so.
DISPARITY OF FORCE is the legal principle which recognizes that even without a per se weapon, a violent attacker may have such a physical advantage over the intended victim that if the assault is allowed to continue, the totality of the circumstances indicate that the victim is likely to be killed or crippled. This authorizes the victim to use an actual deadly weapon in self-defense. That situation would exist if the attacker was significantly larger and/or stronger than the victim. It would exist if the attacker had complete freedom of movement and leverage, and the victim did not, a situation known as “position of advantage.” Another element that could create disparity of force would be that the victim was already handicapped or injured, even in the course of the instant assault, impairing the victim’s ability to fight back, escape, or evade or block continuing blows. ALL OF THESE WERE PRESENT WHEN THE 292-POUND MICHAEL BROWN WAS SMASHING OFFICER WILSON IN THE HEAD WHILE WILSON HAD VERY LIMITED RANGE OF MOVEMENT INSIDE THE PATROL CAR.
(There are other elements of disparity of force as well, such as male attacking female, multiple assailants attacking lone victim, and more, but none of them seem to have been in play in this encounter.)
This initial attack warranted Wilson drawing his gun and ordering Brown to get back or be shot. Then, Brown went for Wilson’s gun – as proven by bloodstain evidence and Brown’s DNA on the gun – and something else kicked in. BROWN WAS REACHING FOR A GUN, and Wilson testified that Brown had turned the muzzle into Wilson and was trying to pull the trigger when Wilson shot him the first time. This is no longer an unarmed man, it’s a man attempting to kill a cop with his own gun. Thus, shooting him at that point was justified.
Brown ran. Wilson followed police protocol and pursued. He testified that when Brown stopped and turned toward him, one of Brown’s hands went to his waistband as if to draw a gun of his own. This is apparently confirmed by Brown’s bloody handprint on that area of his own clothing. This is what is called a FURTIVE MOVEMENT, in this case a movement consistent with going for a gun and not reasonably consistent with anything else, and at law satisfies the requirement of a reasonable belief that the opponent is armed with a deadly weapon and attempting to draw and use it. This in and of itself, in assaultive circumstances where the opponent is close enough to kill you with such a weapon, justifies deadly force. Simultaneously, he lunged toward Wilson according to the majority of credible eyewitness testimony, consistent with attempting to disarm him again, and was close enough to do so very quickly. It was at this point that Wilson fired his second series of shots – and between the furtive movement and the forward attack, WAS JUSTIFIED IN DOING SO TWICE OVER.
After a short pause, witnesses for the most part agreed, Brown lunged again: another disarming attempt, which again justified shooting. Wilson fired his third and final string of shots, Brown fell, and it was over. Note that each time Brown stopped attacking, Wilson immediately stopped shooting.
These are facts which the grand jury must have taken into consideration. These facts explain why the narrative of “unarmed teen shot by armed jack-booted thug” totally fails the reality test.
Feel free to share with others who, like Attorney Hostin, “just don’t get it” … or, perhaps, don’t want to.
On this day of giving thanks, I hope you’re all with friends and family and, if you’re caught in the Northeast storm, I hope you get through it OK.
And if you’re in Ferguson, Missouri, well, condolences. I hope you get through that storm, too. If you’re NOT in Ferguson, you have one more thing to be thankful for.
For me, I’m thankful that I only have to watch CNN, currently the “all Ferguson, all the time” network, when I want to. Not until last night did they even mention the murder of the young black man who may have witnessed the Michael Brown shooting and given honest testimony that favored Officer Wilson. However, CNN didn’t make that connection. Conservative Treehouse did, a day or two before. Thanks, Treepers! . Indeed, some of the most incisive commentary on this whole case can be found at the Treepers’ main website This element of the case needs more investigation…
A lesson: mad dogs bite anyone, including their own. Among the casualties are the burned-down African-American church that Michael Brown’s biological dad attended. And the bakery of the nice black lady who, throughout the whole mess, had been providing free food for protesters. The difference between mad dogs and rioters is that no one blames you if you shoot rabid dogs.
Meanwhile, a couple of New York Times reporters have published the new address of Officer Wilson and his new wife. If that home is burned down, I think those reporters and their paper will bear significant responsibility. (Someone on the conservative side has, in turned, put the addresses of the two reporters on the Internet. Please, folks, encourage everyone to leave that alone: don’t let them turn “us” into “them.”) It would seem that some elements of the lynch mob have already put a price on Darren Wilson’s head.
Thanks to all the emergency service personnel who are sacrificing their holiday with their families for the safety of the good citizens of Ferguson and other locales that have caught the sparks of civil disturbance.
“No good ever came of mass emotion. The audience that’s easily moved to tears is as easily moved to sadistic dementia.” — P.J. O’Rourke
We’d have to be hermits not to know what happened in Ferguson, Missouri when the no-bill from the grand jury came in on Officer Darren Wilson on the 24th. It was what many had predicted. And, as also predicted, the embers from that conflagration flew a good distance, and sparked protests elsewhere, though none yet so violent as at Ground Zero.
This week I attended a large law enforcement training function where a police chief said, “It would be hard to imagine how this could have been handled worse in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.” What he was talking about was law enforcement’s failure to make certain things clear to the public about what the preliminary investigation was already revealing.
Back in 1972, when they first pinned a badge on me, I was told that we were the keepers of the secrets of the community. We owed the suspect/defendant and the victim alike their rights to privacy. We learned to say, “No comment” to reporters. “It will all come out in court.”
What I realized early on and have preached to brother and sister cops in the decades since is that this doesn’t work when the cops themselves become the accused. An accusation of wrongdoing that goes unanswered is seen as a silent plea of nolo contendere, which translates roughly from the Latin as “we do not contest the charge against us.” The general public doesn’t see much difference between that and a plea of Guilty…and “pleading nolo” generally results in a penalty remarkably similar to what would accompany an actual Guilty verdict.
On the evening of the 25th, on CNN, I watched Anderson Cooper speak as an impartial voice of reason alongside Mark O’Mara, who has performed much the same function for that network since he became a resident specialist there on legal issues. The clarity with which Missouri prosecutor Robert McCullogh explained the evidence the grand jury reviewed leading to their decision was ignored by those who came to Ferguson to act out – they started running toward their long-planned violent goal before they could have possibly heard it. Their minds were made up, and they didn’t want to be distracted by facts. But the reporters had to listen – cramming sleeplessly on the long transcript of what the grand jury had heard, or at least, what their research assistants gave them in digest form – and could no longer ignore the reality.
A four-way dialogue included O’Mara, Cooper, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and Sunny Hostin. Toobin, apparently, had been convinced by the conjunction of the fact evidence and the eyewitness testimony of several African-American eyewitnesses with the account of the officer who pulled the trigger, and who spoke publicly last night for the first time on ABC. Only Sunny Hostin, who had been one of the leaders of the CNN “lynch the defendant” mob in both the Zimmerman trial last year and the Wilson hearing this year, disputed the facts that had come into evidence. The other three seemed incredulous, and she looked almost embarrassed to find herself still defending the now-discredited narrative of helpless child gunned down by racist cop. “He was unarmed,” she all but screamed, and seemed oblivious when O’Mara explained that when Brown was killed, he was lunging for the cop’s gun for the second time.