Interesting Analysis of Trayvon Martin Probably Cause Affidavit

I have not really posted on Trayvon Martin (except to comment on NBC's corrupt editing of the 911 tape) because a) high-profile criminal cases don't really have the hold on me they seem to have for many other Americans**; b) I have nothing to add; c) I have a bias that would make my commentary suspect.

But since I am about to post on the case, and may in the future, I should explain the bias.  We have a problem from time to time with campground workers we call the "badge-heavy" syndrome.  They get obsessive about rooting our rules violations.  They stalk campers.  They follow people around.  The spy on campers, looking for violations or crimes to report.  The folks they pick out for such treatment are often chosen because they are somehow different from the employee.

This is just awful for customer service.   It drives me crazy.  It is the absolute first thing we discuss at every training session.  Employees who demonstrate that they have this mentality are generally shown the door as fast as possible.  Government-run recreation facilities actually have this problem much worse, because 1) they give all their park staff a law enforcement title, a badge, and a gun, which tends to just encourage this kind of over-zealous harassment and 2) it is almost impossible for them to fire someone for this type of thing (because in the government employee heirarchy of values, enforcement of and consistency with rules is far more important than customer service or visitor satisfaction).

So this is a hot button issue for me.  And my first thought in this case was that Zimmerman's actions seemed just like those of my badge-heavy employees that I frequently have to fire.  So I am not very predisposed to by sympathetic to him, so thus my bias.

Anyway, keeping with my habit in this case of commenting more on issues at the periphery rather than of the case itself, this post from Ken at Popehat (I believe a former US attorney and current defense lawyer) is quite interesting.  Here is the bottom line:

I'm in a rush, but I can't avoid commenting on the affidavit of probable cause submitted in the matter of George Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon Martin.

It's a piece of crap....

This is not the worst affidavit I've ever seen — but it's damn close, and the decision to proceed based on it in such a high-profile case is stunning. Cynics may say that I've been spoiled by federal practice, where affidavits are on average considerably more careful and well-drafted, particularly in some districts. But if it takes a high-profile case to highlight shoddy practices in everyday cases, so be it. An affidavit like this makes a mockery of the probable cause process. There's no way that a judge reading this affidavit can make an intelligent or informed decision about the sufficiency of the evidence — even for the low hurdle of probable cause.

** footnote:  I lived in Boulder through the whole Jon Benet Ramsey case.  I believe this was like aversion therapy, the equivalent of your dad forcing you to sit in a closet and smoke three cigars to put you off smoking, which has turned me off high profile criminal cases forever.


  1. Samsam von Virginia:

    Your auto-correct still seeks to destroy you. You need to take a tent stake -- a *wooden* tent stake -- and pound it thru the heart of that thing.

  2. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:

    Here's the fallout of the Trayvon Martin case:

    ‘Trayvon' shouted as group attacks Good Samaritan

    And yet you should read the comments section of it for comments by Felipe Echeverri, who claims to be one of those stopping the purse snatcher.

    According to him the headline is an outright and total lie.

    It certainly appears as though the media is actively and perniciously attempting to foment racial violence.

  3. Goober:

    I will not use campgrounds on federal lands or parks anymore for that very reason. My wife and I camped three days at Glacier National Park, out of a planned 5 day trip, before we packed up and came home early because of the constant hounding and harrassment by the Rangers there. They seriously had one ranger for every three campsites in the camp I was in. They would constantly watch for any sign of activities that could "attract bears" and would be there with threats of fines and jail time within three seconds of any bear attracting activites.

    Such activities that i was warned about included washing may hands outside (the soap attracts bears) and draining my cooler's melt water on the ground (the food smell from the cooler water attracts bears) despite the fact that I showed them that the cooler only contained canned beverages and couldn't possibly have any food smell in it.

    When I parked my boat temporarily (it was there about 5 minutes and the engine in the truck was running, indicating that I was only there temporarily) so that the skeg of the outboard very partially blocked the entry to the UNOCCUPIED SITE next to us, and was threatened immediately with fines and being evicted from the campground, I packed our stuff and we left.

    There is nothing worse than badge heavy people haranguing you while you are trying to enjoy yourself.

  4. Mesa Econoguy:

    He's not the only one who feels that way.

    None other than Alan Dershowitz has slaughtered it, saying the affidavit is "so thin that it won’t make it past a judge on a second degree murder charge.”

    Also, “There’s simply nothing in there that would justify second degree murder.”

    Now, for this administration, who are clearly pulling the strings here, to set up a scenario where either Zimmerman 1) might get off, or 2) might never go to trial (for murder), either of which will have Rodney King-esque consequences, is beyond irresponsible.

    Whatever happens here gets laid squarely at the feet of Obamalini and Sharpton.

  5. Shane:

    This case is very interesting to me because of the allegations of racism. I have seen every stupid color used to paint Zimmerman as a racist (that he is a "white" Hispanic is the most amusing). I am tired of race as an issue, and watching this disgusting display of race chicanery absolutely sickens me, but I am fascinated by what the real facts are and what the real truth is. In my perusal of the subject I have to take an opposing position to yours Coyote in that, Zimmerman was not per say the badge warrior that you think. First the neighborhood that he was patrolling had had many break ins and robberies, hence the reason for his patrolling. Second if you hear the 911 call and the blow by blow, it appears that Zimmerman was complying with the operator's request that he return to his car (unconfirmed). Third Martin was returning home from the store/minimart on a weeknight at 1:30 in the morning in a neighborhood that was not his home (but the fiance of his father), where he had just purchased Snapple and Skittles. Martin was allegedly suspended from school over an empty weed baggy (unconfirmed). Martin had just recently taken a swing at a bus driver (hearsay). Fourth Martin had gone back to his home and doubled back from his house to what appears to be confront Zimmerman (unconfirmed). Fifth the death takes place very near the path back to Zimmerman's vehicle. Sixth Zimmerman had defensive wounds that he was treated for (police report). And the final reason as to why I don't believe Zimmerman was a badge junkie is yet unknown and that would be the autopsy report. The report has been leaked and it stated that Martin had no defensive wounds, which would make him the instigator of the altercation. I think what happened was that Martin was a hot head and was going to teach the person that was following him a lesson. When the altercation occurred I am sure Zimmerman shot off his mouth which further inflamed the situation and Martin took the first punch, knocking Zimmerman down and taking his senses away. Then Martin jumped on the punch drunk Zimmerman and proceeded to pummel him for good measure. Fearing for his life Zimmerman pulled his weapon from his waistband and shot Martin in the stomach region. Whatever legal meaning all of this has I don't know, but the way that all parties are portraying it is just pathetic. This was not race based and it completely reminds me of the Duke fiasco that damn near hanged 5 (?) innocent kids. Can we be done with race as a national priority, cause this sucks.

  6. Mark2:

    Zimmerman may have been overzealous about trivial things, as you say happens in campgrounds, however for a gated neighborhood, this neighborhood had 18 break in robberies in the span of a year, before the community decided to institute a watch.

    The Sanford police should been a bit more helpful with the plight of this community probably. But I don't think Zimmerman was just out there looking for petty litterbugs - his neighborhood had a crime problem and he wanted people who do not belong, not to cross the gate.

  7. Doug:

    When state law enforcement fails, there's always the wild card: "civil rights violations." Just you watch: Zimmerman will be released on "insufficient evidence," and Holder will be right there with his Justice Department Civil Rights goons, where the burden of proof will be lower. The trial will then be staged in a black-heavy district (LA would be perfect), ensuring a guilty verdict! Zimmerman is about to be lynched by this Administration.

  8. W. C. Taqiyya:

    The reason these things get so sloppy is because there is no downside for the prosecution if the judge throws it out. Their only penalty is writing up a better one. Probable cause is supposed to be the fact based belief that a crime has been committed. That fact can be behavior or documents or physical evidence directly observed by the officer's five senses or the specifically attributed testimony from a credible witness or physical evidence, properly processed, linking the accused to the crime. Here, there are no directly observed facts, since those officers never met Zimmerman. Plus, the story they swear to is all stuff they picked up from someplace or someone else, but they don't say where or by whom. Not a good way to establish the factual basis part of probable cause. It sounds like they just watched a couple of news reports and paraphrased them for their affidavit. Typical. Yup, the much vaunted American justice system is not much to look at in the bright light of 'high profile'. It's much worse in real life cases where actual people feed the sausage making machine. I strongly encourage everyone to sit in court and watch sometime. Municipal, County, State, etc. It will open your eyes.

  9. me:

    Aw, man, Coyote, that's another reason why I'd want you for president... awareness that zeal in enforcing rules does not a good citizen make.

    Thank you.

  10. me:

    Also a great place for my latest rant... WA now has a new permit for state parks. Doesn't help if you have a federal permit, and of course it's only sold in separate locations from the federal pass. And they have the local police check trailheads twice daily to make sure the $30 receipt is properly displayed ($100 ticket). Fun.

    I never got this stupid way of enforcement. Why condition it on proper display instead of having obtained a permit? Just collect all the license plates, run them through a computer, and if they are not registered, fine, fine them.

  11. Brian Dunbar:

    Why condition it on proper display instead of having obtained a permit? Just collect all the license plates, run them through a computer, and if they are not registered, fine, fine them.

    It's easier to see the properly displayed receipt than to run all the tags in the parking area through a computer. Drive up, glance, go.

  12. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:

    Hrm. Link ephed.
    ‘Trayvon’ shouted as group attacks Good Samaritan

    And yet you should read the comments section of it for comments by Felipe Echeverri, who claims to be one of those stopping the purse snatcher.

    According to him the headline is an outright and total lie.

    It certainly appears as though the media is actively and perniciously attempting to foment racial violence.

  13. elambend:

    I've come around nearly 180 degrees on this thing. I still think there is enough question of fact for a trial, though judging by the prosecutor's affidavit, maybe not much. I'm sure that prosecutor was under pressure from the locals to do something, even if they though acquittal was the likely outcome.

    what has frightened the hell out of me is the actions of the media, are they trying ferment unrest? This is one more, though a strong one, indicator for me that I just cannot trust what I see on tv.

  14. me:

    @Brian: not really. It is when you follow standard procedure today - but it requires a police officer to go up there and examine every car in detail. Instead, have you could have a teenager drive by and take a series of photos of all parked cars, outsource the "typing in the plates" via Amazon at $0.04 per ten plates and automatically send bills to all plates that aren't in the state database.

  15. me:

    Here's what happens if a country follows the road that the US is on - make more and more law and zealously enforce all of them: it becomes Italy:

    Seriously, folks, this is the reason why we should strive for less law and more common sense. After all, that's what made the US great.

  16. elambend:

    @me: this is California's future. I've been calling this alternatively Greece on the Pacific and Italy on the Pacific for a while now and it's precisely because of the over-abundance of laws that makes like crazy there.

  17. Sam L.:

    elambend, you know that at least some of the media are doing their best(worst) to incite. Seem to have slacked off a little.

  18. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:

    >>> more common sense. After all, that’s what made the US great.

    Agreed... however, our modern edumacashunal system has been doing its absolute damnedest to eliminate that quality in the American populace. Attempting to argue with the edumacashunal system that some aspect of it doesn't make sense is an easy blue-in-the-face brick-wall-aspirin-seller.

    And women haven't exactly been doing their natural part as genetic supervisors to encourage it in the USA's gene pool, either. They tend to pick guys for whoever goes along with their own hair-brained notions, rather than the one showing the most "sense and sensibility".

  19. Pol Junkie:

    Taqiyya, I couldn't have said it better. I think the prosecutor just wrote the affidavit to fit what Trayvon's family wanted to hear. They did not cite any evidence except Zimmerman's 911 call. They used the word profiling intentionally, to mislead people into thinking they mean "racial profiling". They said that George "confronted" Trayvon, which could mean they merely met. They say Trayvon's mother believes that the screams were Trayvon's, without mentioning that George's family says the screams were George's (big surprise). It does not appear that that the prosecutor has any evidence whatever. Alan Dershowitz is right. The affidavit is flat out unethical.