Tag Archives: current-events

No, it’s not what you think

marissa alexander 1America’s new hot button trial of the year is one by many eyes looks strangely familiar. A Florida woman has been granted a retrial after she was convicted last year in Jacksonville, Florida on three counts of aggravated assault for firing a gun to scare off her “threatening” husband.

Marissa Alexander has seen a lot of support from family and friends, but more specifically the public after she claimed Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, but had it rejected and wound up getting sentence for a mandatory 20 year sentence.

At the center of this case we find Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, the same law in which George Zimmerman used in his defense to get acquitted of the murder charge he faced in the death of Trayvon Martin in the same state. But for many people, still feeling raw about the Zimmerman verdict, who want to see justice avenged in this case, don’t know is that the two cases are vastly different, which is exactly why under the same Florida courts we saw two different results.

This story only gained national exposure after Zimmerman was arrested, and a group of family and friends wanted desperately to point out the same defense posture that was deemed valid for Zimmerman, but invalid for Alexander. Sure, just hearing the headline its easy for anyone to be outraged. “Woman who claimed Stand Your Ground after firing a warning shot at her abusive husband sentenced to 20 years.” But if you found that foul, then you yourself would be guilty of not looking at the facts.

Marissa Alexander said she was threatened by her husband after the two got into a confrontation over text messages. She then retrieved a gun and fired a warning shot. But after reading court documents and police reports, one can really find out what really happened.

marissa alexander 2Alexander claimed that her husband Rico Gray prevented her from leaving a bathroom in which she locked herself into. Eventually, Alexander not only made it out the bathroom, past Gray, but also out of the house. She then went into the garage to leave, but decided to get a gun. She said the garage door was broken, but there was no evidence to prove that. She instead chose to go back into (and not exit the house through another door, mind you) and confront her husband. There goes her Stand Your Ground argument, by the way. So now feeling re-threatened, she fired a “warning” shot, not in the air or ground, but toward his direction, even with her kids in the house nearby. One child who even testified in court that he was in fear of his life.

Oh yeah and speaking of domestic abuse, only one of the two of them have a record of arrest of spousal abuse. And I’ll give you a hint, it’s not the guy. Yes, after being found battered and bloodied, Rico Gray had to call the police on his wife a second time (second, as in this was after the shooting incident) after she found her way back at his house against court orders preventing contact between the two.

So with all of this, can one really be surprised it took a jury 12 minutes to convict her of the assault charges? While anyone can agree that the 20 year sentence may be a bit excessive, but under state law its mandatory, considering there’s a deadly weapon involved. The retrial that was granted wasn’t because of some new evidence, or because there was reasonable doubt. It was because of an error in jury instructions. Kudos to her attorney for finding that. It may work out in her favor with a new jury. But keep in mind, she still cannot use Stand Your Ground, so maybe not.

Not for nothin, but this is not the poster trial of racial inequality. Nor is it your excuse to bash the state of Florida for a case where you were not involved in as a defendant, prosecutor, defense attorney, juror, or judge. This was just a poor decision made, seemingly out of anger and not fear.

Zimmerman trial star witness puts America on trial

rachel jeantelGeorge Zimmerman is on trial for 2nd Degree Murder for the death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old boy, who the state says was pursued and eventually killed by the neighborhood watchman in February of last year.

Thursday, was the second and final day of the prosecution’s star witness, Rachel Jeantel. She was the female friend of Trayvon who he was speaking with on the telephone that fateful night when he was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida.

When Jeantel was called to the stand to testify, no one could imagine that she would become the internet sensation across Twitter, Facebook and several other social networking sites, being the talk of the nation. But that talk is what is dividing America. It’s that talk that could decide the outcome of this trial. Not just if jurors believe her testimony, but if they can believe in what she represents.

The testimony of Jeantel provided some colorful moments to say the least. If it wasn’t the way she presented herself in this nationally televised court case, or the back and forth between her and the defense attorney cross-examining her with the judge giving them both warnings, or even the vernacular she was using; all of which are contributing to her being the most talked about witness of any highly publicized trial we’ve seen since Cato Kaelin.

Some people are surprised that she admitted to lying about why she didn’t attend the funeral, while others are surprised that she admitted to regularly calling white people and black people crackers and n-word respectively, and even others are more surprised she admitted that she can’t even read cursive.

Meanwhile, it becomes increasing unbearable to watch young Rachel Jeantel on the stand. But is it unbearable because she’s describing the events of the death of a dear friend, or is it because she’s describing anything at all?

So in comes the backlash. Calling her racist, disrespectful, and uneducated. And those are more of the kinder ways of putting many comments we’ve seen over the past two days in relation to Rachel Jeantel. Many are mocking not just her, but the prosecution for making her the star witness. It’s going from if we believe her to if she’s believable.

It’s becoming divisive with one side seeing a young black girl being hostile, offensive and abrasive and the other side seeing a nervous and scared teenager in an unfamiliar setting to her. But nonetheless our opinions were formed. People amazed at this young lady and even more stunned at what’s being said about her. So are they ugly comments, or is it an ugly truth?

Not for nothin’ but if you’re ashamed or embarrassed, be ashamed or embarrassed because she represents America. As irregular as she may seem, Rachel Jeantel represents a new normal in America. She is not unlike many teens we see these days in a culture where outlandish and outspoken behavior is amplified through popular reality television stars.

Not saying that all of our youth are at a point of no return, but ask any inner-city educator to see if any of this sounds familiar. So if you’re shocked and in awe and the nature of a 19-year-old Florida girl, be in shock and in awe of yourself for doing your part in letting it get this far.

Children Killed in Connecticut

Connecticut School Shooting
Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting

Twenty children shot and killed, along with six adults who are also dead, after a gunman opened fire at an elementary school in Connecticut Friday morning. Just to reiterate, 20 children were killed. Information is still being developed several hours after the first shots were fired. What can be confirmed is the name of the shooter who has been identified as Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old man whose mother worked at Sandy Hook Elementary School where this tragedy took place. Including the 20 deceased children and the six adults, we also hear there may be other victims in related scenes. Now the one thing that many of us are now wondering on is why would someone do such a thing. The gunman, who is also deceased, would be the only one who can give us an accurate answer to that. We will never know what’s in the mind of those who do things like this.

This massacre is the second deadliest mass shooting in American history, and the second major one just this year. This summer, dozens were shot and several people were killed after a gunman opened fire on a crowded movie theater. And with each unfortunate incident we’re reminded of previous shootings like the one in Aurora, Colorado, the shooting in Virginia Tech from 2007, the Gabby Giffords shooting last year, and of course the school shootings at Columbine. All of these join the growing list of places where no one expects violence to breakout like a shopping mall, a place of worship, and a military base. Hundreds of lives have been directly impacted after losing a loved one to random acts of senseless violence.

A common cry for gun control and weapon bans across the nation are a natural response for many after every incident like this. There are some statistics that say there close to 300 million guns owned by citizens in the United States. Thousands of crimes are committed each year by offenders using a gun. The debate goes on and on year after year between those for and against gun rights in America. But, perhaps another debate should be with health care evaluations and making it more accessible for all. For someone to shoot and kill innocent people, much less defenseless children, there’s no way they can be in their right mind.

Not for nothin’ but whether criminally involved, mentally ill, or just evil, if someone wanted to kill another person bad enough, the lack of a gun would hardly stop them. Guns just make it easier. It’s a shame that a whole town has lost 20 of its children, children who shouldn’t know crimes, sickness or evil on this level. We can’t go back and change the past, so new gun laws will not bring these children back to their families. And if some type of compromised reasoning is found to be the motive behind this shooting, we can only hope to help others who are struggling with the same demons. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of all the victims and with the families of the children and employees in Sandy Hool Elementary school who had to witness this horror.

Isaac and Mitt Make Friends

Tropical Storm Isaac
Tropical Storm Isaac

Tropical Storm Isaac has formed in the Caribbean and is on a direct path to barrel over anything in its way. The storm is threatening immanent hurricane status within the next couple days and the usual suspects, as far as hurricane alley is concerned, will be hit first. Hispanola and Cuba will see the effects of the storm as they appear to be primarily in its path. But the storm’s route will bring it to some parts of the United States as well, and exactly where, naturally has thousands of people concerned. But now a handful of political figures are fielding a valid concern too. One possible projection of Isaac has it skating across the west coast of Florida in the Gulf early next week. Also in that same region, the America’s conservative party will be gathering from across the nation and headed to the Gulf Coast for the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Unless there’s a drastic change in course for the storm, the Republican National Committee may be in for a long and not as much of a pleasant week as they originally planned.

In May 2010, Tampa was selected as the host city for the convention. There’s been a lot of build up and coverage for this coming general election. After debate over President Obama’s health care law, the release of Romney’s taxes, and medicare the convention season is something that both sides have been looking forward to for months. As of now, the convention is supposed to go on as planned and Mitt Romney will officially be named the Republican nominee for president for the November election. When the convention kicks-off on Monday, Tropical Storm Isaac is scheduled for a likely hit with Florida.

Of course it’s not yet known how the storm will impact the convention. But as storms go, we can naturally expect high winds, heavy rains and potential flooding. The official schedule of the event hasn’t been released, but there’s a host of political figures slated appear. Whether or not their travel to and from the convention will be effected is not known. Fortunately for the GOP and convention, they will be inside of the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Not so fortunate for various groups of protestors who are planning demonstrations outside of the forum. That’s one way to “wash” away the negative energy. Florida Governor Rick Scott has released a statement on Tropical Storm Isaac. He says, “Florida’s state emergency management team and local emergency teams have been working closely with convention officials and have been planning for this event for more than a year, and the possibility of a hurricane hitting the convention has been part of that planning process.”

Not for nothin’, but if this storm does happen at the same time the Republican National Convention then the celebration of the GOP’s candidate for president will probably not be the focus of the media that week. That doesn’t bid well for the political party. I’m sure they’d want as much press as possible going into the election. But we can only pray that Isaac misses the state or significantly weakens. Not for the sake of the RNC, but for the safety and security of those who would have to live through it.

Pussy Rioting

Pussy Riot
Pussy Riot

A Russian rock band has found themselves in hot water. Not just hot water, but they found themselves in jail. Members of the band known as Pussy Riot were recently sentenced to prison for a charge known as hooliganism. In February, the feminist and politically active rock group performed an impromptu show at a Russian Orthodox Church. The show at the church was in protest against the re-election of President Vladimir Putin, but apparently a big no-no specifically because the concert was done at the church in what prosecutors called “religious hatred”. Accused, arrested, tried and convicted in just six months, three members now face two years in prison each. Two years in prison over what many are saying is too harsh of a punishment. Public opinion in Russia is split on whether the punishment fit the crime. Internationally, dozens of musicians, politicians and other public figures are lending their support for Pussy Riot. However disproportionate or not, this incident is showing us a lot about the Russian legal system, religious freedom in Russia, or just freedom of speech in Russia.

Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Nadezhada Tolokonnikova are three of the four woman who broke into the service at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior to perform their song, “Mother of God, Put Putin Away”. The performance only last just about a minute before they were escorted off the premises. A couple weeks later, two of the members were charged with hooliganism on the grounds of religious hatred. While hooliganism, is actually a punitive crime in some countries, many Americans may not have heard of it before. It’s essentially an amplified disturbing the peace charge. It’s almost to the point of inciting a riot, or even participating in one. The hooliganism in this case though was in a religious reference. The trio said, in their defense, that they had not meant any offense, but only wanted to make a political statement in reference to the growing relationship between the government and the church.

We’re fortunate that in America, we don’t see any of our musicians going to jail (at least for their music) thanks due to our freedom of speech. We’ve seen artists’ work get rated and censored, but with songs that go as far as describing the killing of police officers, such as Iced-T’s “Cop Killer” record, there’s virtually no end to what can be said in lyric and receive no punishment. But in regards to Russia’s Pussy Riot, they knew there had to be limitations to their music. Their whole gag is performing in mask to spontaneous locations. But even still, is their fan base right? Is the growing list of musical artists like Madonna, Bjork, Paul McCartney, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers support in the proper place? It may have given the Pussy Riot defendants the benefit of just two years of the possible seven-year maximum. Maybe under the eyes of Russian law they should be fortunate.

Not for nothin’, but let’s remember what’s important here. Supports need to focus more on the fact of what they’re going to prison for, as opposed to the outrage of the extent of their punishment. I’m not referring to their charge either, but the fact that they decided to do this in protest of the country’s president. Without the proper knowledge and education, it’s hard to imagine what life is like under President Putin. Is it bad enough to risk two years in jail making a song about it? More importantly, is the freedom to make such songs, disappearing altogether there. Was it a hate crime, or hate speech?