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What the State has to prove

George Zimmerman is charged with 2nd-degree murder.  In Florida, that’s described as “the unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by an act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual, is murder in the second degree and constitutes a felony in the first degree … ”

So what does that mean for the prosecution?  It means they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trayvon Martin is dead and that Zimmerman’s act caused Martin’s death, but also that Zimmerman’s act was one “imminently dangerous to another and demonstrated a depraved mind without regard for human life.”

That “imminently dangerous act” is described as, among other things, one that is done from “ill will, hatred, spite, or evil intent.”

Has the prosecution met its burden based on Florida law?


Killers going free?

In 2007, a man shot another in the back of the head as he retreated.  The shooter claimed self-defense, and he was acquitted by a jury.

In 2008, a man fired 15 shots at a his ex-wife’s boyfriend who was sitting in a car, killing him.  The shooter wasn’t prosecuted based on the “stand your ground” law.

In 2010,  a man shot another man who was laying on the ground.  He was granted immunity based on “stand your ground.”

In 2011, a man shot and killed two unarmed men. His case was dismissed based on “stand your ground.”

As we watch and wait of the outcome of the George Zimmerman trial, it’s worth noting other cases in Florida where people used the “stand your ground” law.  Take a look at this database compiled by the Tampa Bay Times.  It highlights hundreds of “stand your ground” cases.

Also, do you know if you live in a state that has a “stand your ground” law similar to the one in Florida?  Check the list.

And, here’s the actual text of the Florida statute on justifiable use of deadly force.  In particular, look at paragraph 3.


The Zimmerman Trial

Opening statements and witness testimony in the trial of George Zimmerman got underway Monday morning.  And, as many of you noticed, I was anchoring coverage of the trial on HLN.

The Zimmerman trial is not just a newsworthy event.  It’s an important trial that forces us to examine difficult issues of race, profiling, fairness, and stand your ground laws.  I’m so pleased and grateful that the opportunity to contribute to HLN’s trial coverage presented itself.  And, I’m especially grateful to be contributing at a network and at a company (Turner) where I’ve already spent so much time.  I’m excited to once again be working with old friends and colleagues I’ve respected for years and who are some of the best in the business.

As always, thank you for your support and interest.  I’ll be seeing you throughout the trial.

T. J.

My hoop dreams

As soon as the final buzzer sounded at Monday night’s NCAA championship game, a slew of underclassmen started declaring for the NBA draft.  Sophomore Cody Zeller of Indiana and his teammate, junior Victor Oladipo, are gone.  Freshman Ben McLemore of Kansas, sophomore Michael Carter-Williams of Syracuse, junior Phil Pressey of Missouri are leaving.  Louisville junior guard Russ Smith is headed to the NBA, if you believe his dad.  Many expect Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke to declare.  And, freshman Ricky Ledo of Providence has declared for the NBA draft even though he never played a game in college.  He was academically ineligible.

Most of these guys are expected to be lottery picks and make big money in their first NBA contacts.  While it may make sense for a few elite players to pursue the NBA, their high-profile stories can take away from the idea that a college education is important, even for athletes.  (The bench player who graduates with a degree in biochemistry and goes on to work as a researcher won’t get as much press coverage.)

So, for your high school-aged son, nephew or neighbor who may have NBA dreams, give them this reality:  there are about 550,000 boys playing high school basketball in this country.  There are about 5,200 young men playing major college basketball.  There are about 450 players in the NBA.  Do the math.  If they can’t handle that equation, they clearly need to stay in school.

Please, don’t wait

I got word at 2:30 a.m. that a family member had passed away.  We were the same age.  This is someone I had spent a lot of time with when we were growing up, but I hadn’t talked to him in years.   As is often the case, we had fallen out of touch as our lives and careers took us away from home and in different directions.
A death in the family is always hard.  But it’s harder when you’re left with a feeling that you didn’t do or say what you could have when you had the chance.  Sometimes, it’s as simple as calling to say, “how are you doing?”  I didn’t, and now, I’ll never get the chance.
I beg you: don’t wait.  Don’t wait to call to check on a friend.  Don’t wait to tell someone how you feel about them.  Don’t wait to call a family member you haven’t talked to in a while.  Don’t wait to tell someone ‘thank you.’  Don’t wait to forgive. Don’t wait to say you’re sorry.
Don’t wait.  You may never get the chance.

Missing Roland already

I’m in touch with Roland Martin just about every week, and sometimes, several times a week.  And, depending on what’s happening in our worlds, we might talk everyday.  So, it seems strange that I would be missing him.

I already miss Roland on CNN.  I know, I know … there are plenty of other places I can see & hear him.  But, I liked seeing and hearing him in that particular place.

Roland has established himself as a prominent voice in national political discourse through CNN and other platforms.  To his credit, as his national profile reached new heights and his message reached new audiences, Roland has always kept strong ties to black media.  He has also been a proponent of black publications, websites, and networks, including networks that compete against TV One where his show “Washington Watch” airs.  And, I personally know he has gone to bat for black journalists at CNN and advocated for reporting stories on the network that are relevant to the community.

Having CNN recognize Roland’s value by hiring him 6 years ago was a win.  It was a big deal and something that benefited black media.  As Roland said himself, he understands that new management wanted to get new people in and there always comes a time to move on.  I get that.

Still, I’ll miss him on CNN … ascot and all.