Tag Archives: Florida

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.

Not So United States of America

The United States of America
The United States of America

Here, in the later part of the year in 2012, the United States of America is again fielding the topic of mass states’ secession. People all across the country have signed petitions to have nearly 40 states secede from the Union. The petitions have been officially filed with the United States government and some have gotten large enough to garner a response from the White House. The petitions recently popped up days after President Obama was reelected, but petitioners are saying it wasn’t the reelection or the president that sparked it, but the policies and the federal government itself. The idea of seceding from the nation or for any state or governing body is not a new concept to the United States, as everyone knows we’ve seen it before, 150 years ago when southern states felt it was in their best interest. Secession didn’t work out well then, and any effort since has hardly been considered credible, but now are we supposed to take the concerns of well over 100,000 people serious?

Last year, the White House created a section on their website, whitehouse.gov, where people could petition the current administration’s policy experts. All one has to do is go to the website and register a free account in the “We the People” petitioning section. If the petition gets a certain amount of attention and receives 25,000 signatures within 30 days the administration will issue an official response. An official response is a far cry from action being taken, but hearing something from your government on something you’re passionate about is a step in the right direction. Whether this whole secession movement as a whole is a step in the right direction is another story.

The most serious secession movement that the United States faced was defeated in the American Civil War. Eleven states angry over slavery rights attempted to secede and caused a war with the rest of the country. Over the past century several different states and counties have talked about secession from other localities. We often hear about it with Texas or even with Alaska. Some counties try to secede from their states to other states or to their own sovereignty. In either case, some of the disputes are met with genuine political discussion, while others are just for pride and fun. This situation where states like Texas with close to 77,000 signatures, Louisiana with nearly 30,000, and other states like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee who all have over 20,000 signatures, are concerned with the government spending and policies that are made for every state to follow. It’s not just limited to southern states as you may think. New York and California are also on the petition website with a growing list of petitioners. All with the common GOP gripe of big national government complaints.

Not for nothin’ but who needs to leave the country, when you can leave the country. We often hear the threat of people saying they want to leave the country if their certain political preference does not get elected, but this is a new twist on it. I mentioned before that we’re seeing states other than the traditional “red” states mentioned, but just as people vote differently in those states seeing such petitions should come as no surprise from anyone who does not support the current administration. In all of the case of each state we have seen little to no support from the state government or legislature. Even Republican governor of Texas Rick Perry backed away from it. But crazier things have happened. It caused a war before. Also another super-power, the Soviet Union, has also split into several different nations. But in this case, secession is just as likely as a Romney presidency in 2012.

The Face of Fraud?

Colin Small
Colin Small, accused of voter registration fraud in Virginia

A 23-year-old is becoming the newest face of voter fraud in America. Collin Small, was arrested last week and charged with several counts involving voter fraud after he was caught throwing away voter registration forms in Virginia. Wednesday, Virginia’s State Board of Elections has asked the state’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to investigate the case as Democratic Party officials are alleging this instance is part of a widespread effort of the Republican Party suppressing Democratic votes. There are strong cases out there where new legislation is threatening people’s right to successfully cast their vote. Maybe it’s not as blatant is it was 50 or 100 years ago, but Democrats and Republicans are involved in disputes across the nation over voter ID laws. There’s also a case where a GOP consulting firm is being investigated for suspicious voter registration forms that had been submitted in Florida. Is this case of the young man tossing forms one battle in the never-ending voter fraud war, or an isolated incident not intended to manipulate votes as many have suggested?

Colin Small was working for the Virginia Republican Party when he was seen throwing a bag of voter registration forms into the private dumpster of a local business. He was arrested and charged with four counts of destruction of voter registration applications, eight counts of failing to disclose voter registration applications, and one count of obstruction of justice. Small, who describes himself as a grassroots field director for the RNC, is becoming the poster-child of what Democrats are saying Republicans are trying to do across the country. Immediately after hearing news of someone working for the Republican Party throwing away voter registration forms, it’s easy to assume that it was intentional and those names on the forms were likely Democratic supporters. After it happened Democrats called on the attorney general’s office to investigate and they also have requested a federal investigation into it as well. After firing him, the Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins released a statement saying, “The Republican Party of Virginia will not tolerate any action by any person that could threaten the integrity of our electoral process.”

So now, apparently we are to believe that 23-year-old Colin Small is the mastermind behind getting Mitt Romney the presidency by implementing a voter registration scheme in the crucial swing state of Virginia in favor of the Republican Party. Either that or he’s just a pawn, or secret operative, put in place by higher-ups in the Republican Party to alter votes. But looking further into the case of young Colin Small, we know it was just eight forms he’s accused of discarding. While every vote counts, eight votes would hardly swing the pendulum. In addition, Small was contracted by the Republican Party of Virginia to follow-up with voters whose registration forms were incomplete. Even though Virginia does not require voters to register by party, those forms that were trashed were likely potential Republican voters. The day the offense took place was on the same day of the voter registration deadline. It would seem that Small missed the deadline and chose what he thought was the easy way out. So he unwittingly chose arrest over getting fired for not doing his job properly.

Not for nothin’ but let’s not jump to conclusions. If anything, we probably should congratulate Colin Small for actively being involved and “trying” to get others involved in the election process. While there does seem to be some efforts out there to suppress votes, specifically those voters who are voting for the Democratic ticket, I don’t think this is one of those. Republican lawmakers are creating laws, modifying them and interpreting them in a way where people may not be able to vote. Perhaps there is a valid claim to want to prevent voter fraud, but in reality people will be prevented from voting. It has not been officially determined that Colin Small intended on doing either. However we can say he’s not in office and not influencing any laws. So part of a conspiracy, probably not. But no disrespect, he’s probably just a dumb kid who didn’t know any better.

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.