I’ve decided to avoid presidential politics this morning, but I have a variety of interesting news links that I hope you’ll enjoy.
I’m going to begin with some crime stories. Do you remember Amy Bishop? She was the University of Alabama Huntsville biology professor who was turned down for tenture and later murdered three of her colleagues and wounded three others at a department faculty meeting in early 2010. I wrote a couple of posts about her at the time, see here and here. Today Bishop was sentenced to life in prison.
A former Alabama biology professor who pleaded guilty to killing three colleagues and wounding three others in a 2010 shooting rampage was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Monday after a jury convicted her in a shortened trial.
Amy Bishop avoided a death sentence by admitting earlier this month to gunning down her colleagues during a biology department staff meeting at the University of Alabama at Huntsville.
Alabama law requires a jury to decide the punishment and confirm a guilty plea for a capital murder charge.
Bishop’s defense attorneys did not contest the facts of the case during the abbreviated proceedings on Monday.
“She has admitted she did these terrible things,” defense attorney Robert Tuten said in his opening statement.
A few days ago, there was some interesting news in the Trayvon Martin case.
Forensic tests made public Wednesday show that George Zimmerman’s was the only DNA that could be identified on the grip of the gun used to fatally shoot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
The results rule out Martin’s DNA from being on the gun’s grip. Zimmerman’s DNA also was identified on the gun’s holster, but no determination could be made as to whether Martin’s DNA was on the gun’s holster, according to the report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
I wonder if that will affect Zimmerman’s decision to go through with the stand-your-ground hearing that his attorney Mark O’Mara has scheduled for next year?
O’Mara is also trying to get access to Trayvon Martin’s school records even though they couldn’t be introduced at trial because they are not relevant to the crime, according to prosecutor Bernie de La Ronda.
In a new pleading, Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda asks Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson to seal whatever those records show and in the future to keep O’Mara’s subpoenas a secret.
O’Mara is entitled to go on a fishing expedition to find out about Trayvon’s past, according to court paperwork de la Rionda filed Wednesday, but “he is not allowed to chum the waters and then, by innuendo or otherwise, to publish irrelevant items … to the media in an attempt to influence public perception or otherwise curry favor with potential jurors.”
De la Rionda also Wednesday filed a new evidence list – his eighth. It shows that a book and television appearance by Zimmerman’s self-proclaimed best friend, former Seminole County deputy Mark Osterman, are now officially part of the case prosecutors are building against Zimmerman.
Osterman’s self-published book, written with his wife, is titled “Defending Our Friend: The Most Hated Man in America.” From Examiner.com:
A new book claims that before being shot in the chest and dying, Trayvon Martin grabbed the gun of George Zimmerman, as the two struggled during a violent encounter, according to a report Thursday. This, despite the findings released this week that none of the teen’s DNA was found on the weapon….
The Miami Herald reports that Osterman was the first person Zimmerman’s wife called after the shooting. A former U.S. air marshal, he was with his friend during Zimmerman’s first three police interrogations.
According to the Herald, Osterman’s account of what took place the night of Martin’s death is “a sharp deviation from the versions Zimmerman gave…”
In his book, Osterman quotes Zimmerman as saying, “I desperately got both of my hands around the guy’s one wrist and took his hand off my mouth long enough for me to shout again for help.”
The quote continues, “For a brief moment I had control of the wrist, but I knew when he felt the sidearm at my waist with his leg. He took his hand that was covering my nose and went for the gun, saying, ‘You’re gonna die now, mother*****.’ Somehow I broke his grip on the gun where the guy grabbed it between the rear sight and the hammer. I got the gun in my hand, raised it toward the guy’s chest and pulled the trigger.”
I also have an update on the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting. Accused shooter James Holmes recently appeared in court with short brown hair and a few days’ growth of beard.
Seeking to avoid any delays in the Colorado movie theater shooting case, prosecutors gave up their fight to see a notebook the suspect sent to a university psychiatrist and instead argued for a palm print to compare with one found on the inside of a theater exit door.
James Holmes appeared in court Thursday with short brown hair instead of a wild shock of orangish-red hair and seemed more animated than he has been in the past. He smiled and glanced around the courtroom, looking at his lawyers and reporters covering the hearing. He appeared to be moving his mouth but not actually talking.
Prosecutors believe they still have good arguments for getting access to the notebook and will continue to fight for it. Oddly, some victims’ families refuse to believe that Holmes is mentally ill.
Family members receiving updates about Holmes from the courtroom said it’s all an act by the former University of Colorado, Denver, neuroscience graduate student to appear mentally ill.
“He’s just putting on a show,” said Greg Medek of Aurora, whose daughter Micayla, 23, died in the shooting. “I don’t think he’s crazy. He’s just evil.”
The last crime story is about the New York man who jumped into a tiger cage.
Before his now-infamous tangle with a Bronx Zoo tiger, David Villalobos adorned his Facebook page with New Age odes to Mother Earth and affirmations like, “Be love and fearless.”
Police said Saturday that Villalobos had told detectives that it was without fear that he leaped from an elevated train into the animal’s den. His reason, they said, was that “he wanted to be one with the tiger.”
Villalobos also recounted how, after he landed on all fours, the 400-pound beast attacked him and dragged around by his foot, said New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne. Despite serious injuries, he claimed he was able to get his wish and pet the tiger — a male Siberian named Bashuta — before his rescue, the spokesman added.
Based on those admissions and a complaint from the zoo, police charged the hospitalized Villalobos with misdemeanor trespassing on Saturday. It was unclear if the 25-year-old real estate agent had an attorney, and attempts to reach relatives were unsuccessful.
There’s much more weird info at the link.
Here’s a bloodcurdling historical story for you from The Daily Beast. It’s a review of a new book, “Soldaten: On Fighting, Killing, and Dying: The Secret WWII Transcripts of German POWs” by Sönke Neitzel and Harald Welzer.
How much did World War II German soldiers know about the Holocaust? Publicly, many of them denied knowledge. But a long-lost cache of secret recordings that the British intelligence service made of German prisoners of war show that, in private, they chatted openly and casually about mass-murdering Jews, demonstrating what Hannah Arendt called “the banality of evil.”
The book consists of transcripts of conversations secretly recorded by British intelligence. I’m not going to include an except, because the material is pretty gruesome. You can read it all at the link. But this certainly will be a valuable addition to the history of Nazi Germany and WWII.
The Foxconn plant in China where apple products are manufactured has been shut down because of riots that took place over the weekend.
SHANGHAI — Foxconn Technology, a major supplier to some of the world’s electronics giants, including Apple, said it had closed one of its large Chinese plants Monday after the police were called in to break up a fight among factory employees.
A spokesman said some people had been hurt and detained by the police after the disturbance escalated into a riot involving more than 1,000 workers late Sunday.
The company said the incident was confined to an employee dormitory and “no production facilities or equipment have been affected.” It said the cause of the disturbance was still under investigation.
One Foxconn employee reached by telephone Monday afternoon, however, said the incident began when workers started brawling with security guards.
Unconfirmed photographs and video circulated on social networking sites, purporting to be from the factory, showed smashed windows, riot police officers and large groups of workers milling around. The Foxconn plant, in the Chinese city of Taiyuan, employs about 79,000 workers.
The Chinese state-run news media said 5,000 police officers had been called in to quell the riot.
This one is for Connie: Stranded 655-pound turtle reluctantly released.
A 655-pound leatherback sea turtle that had been stranded in thick mud in Truro on Wednesday night was released off the coast of Harwich Port Saturday morning, New England Aquarium officials said.
A Massachusetts Audubon Society staff member spotted the 7-foot-long black male turtle in Pamet Harbor Wednesday night as high tide approached, said Connie Merigo, the aquarium’s rescue director.
Aquarium staff and volunteers, along with staff members of the Audubon Society and International Fund for Animal Welfare, brought the turtle to the aquarium’s Animal Care Center in Quincy near dawn Thursday.
The sea turtle was about 100 pounds underweight and had low blood sugar and an old injury on his front right fin, Merigo said.
“When he first got here he was fairly lethargic, especially out of the water,” head veterinarian Dr. Charles Innis said.
Innis said the turtle was treated aggressively with “injectable sugar solution, vitamin and mineral supplements, steroids, and antibiotics to stave off infection.” It wouldn’t have been possible to keep him any longer, because leatherbacks are so stressed by being in captivity that they usually don’t survive long.
That’s all I have for now. I hope you enjoyed the break from politics. I know I did. Now what are you reading and blogging about today?
The prosecution evidence that was given to George Zimmerman’s defense last week was released by Special Prosecutor Angela Corey’s office this afternoon. You can read the documents here.
Before the release, someone managed to get out a bit more information favorable to Zimmerman, specifically the fact that Trayvon Martin had traces of THC in his blood and urine when he was killed. From CNN:
Martin’s blood contained THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, according to an autopsy conducted February 27 — the day after the teenager was shot dead.
Toxicology tests found elements of the drug in the teenager’s chest blood — 1.5 nanograms per milliliter of one type (THC), as well as 7.3 nanograms of another type (THC-COOH) — according to the medical examiner’s report. There was also a presumed positive test of cannabinoids in Martin’s urine. It was not immediately clear how significant these amounts were.
Concentrations of THC routinely rise to 100 to 200 ng/ml after marijuana use, though it typically falls to below 5 ng/ml within three hours of it being smoked, according to information on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website.
While some states have zero-tolerance policies for any drug traces for driving while impaired, others set certain benchmarks, the website of California’s Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs notes. In Nevada, that equates to 2 ng/ml for THC and 5 ng/ml for THC-COOH — also known as marijuana metabolite. The cutoff level in Ohio is 2 ng/ml for THC and 50 ng/ml for THC-COOH.
THC is detectable for weeks and sometimes longer after use, so it doesn’t sound like this is a big deal. Leaked information from his school file had already revealed that Trayvon had be caught with a plastic bag containing pot residue. The fact that a 17-year-old smoked pot is not exactly an earthshaking revelation, although I’m sure the defense will make much of it.
The autopsy also showed that he was shot from “intermediate range.” From Fox News:
Dr. Michael Baden, the former New York City medical examiner, said “intermediate” in such cases is defined as the muzzle of the gun being one to 18 inches away from the entry point when fired.
“If the muzzle is right against the skin, that’s a contact wound,” Baden said. Anything beyond 18 inches is considered “distant” range in coroner’s parlance, Baden said.
The only other injury to Trayvon’s body was a small cut on his “left ring finger below the knuckle, 1/8 to 1/4 inch long.
I plan to read as much of the evidence as I can, but for now there are several summaries available in the media. The Miami Herald reports some witness statements:
Conflicting witnesses described agonizing calls for help, and some thought they heard two shots.
The witness statements include one eyewitness who said he saw a man in a red shirt getting hit by someone else. When he returned for a second look, the man who was hitting the other was dead.
“I heard yelling out back in the grass area,” the unnamed witness said. “…I opened door and saw a guy on the ground getting hit by another man on top of him in a … position hitting a guy in a red sweatshirt or red top. I said I was calling the cops and ran upstairs then heard a gun shot. … The guy on top who was sitting the guy … layed out on the grass as he had been shot.”
Another witness saw a “broad man” on top hitting another. The evidence list shows Zimmerman wore a size 38. His shirt was red.
“First we heard like a howling sound. And then the second time we heard a more-clearly ‘help’ sound,” the witness said. “I know after seeing the TV of what’s happening — comparing their pictures — I think Zimmerman is definitely on top because of his size.”
According to The Orlando Sentinel, police said the “Encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin ‘avoidable,’”
Newly released evidence in the case against George Zimmerman shows that Sanford Police believed the encounter between Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was “ultimately avoidable,” if Zimmerman had “remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement,” according to hundreds of pages of evidence in the case released this afternoon.
The Sentinel article says that Trayvon had “a scratch on one hand” in addition to the small cut on his left ring finger. The article contains a more complete description of Trayvon’s girl friend’s report on their conversations.
An unnamed girl, the one identified by the Martin family attorney as Trayvon’s girlfriend, told Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda that she and Trayvon talked on the phone daily and had known each other since Kindergarten.
The girl told the prosecutor that she and Trayvon talked on and off as he went to the store to buy a snack. She said Trayvon told her he took shelter from the rain under an overhang while walking back to his father’s girlfriend’s home.
Minutes later, she said, Trayvon told her a white man in a vehicle was watching him. Trayvon started walking, and the call cut off, she said. When she called back, “he said he’s walking, and he said this man is still following him.”
The girl said Trayvon started running, “and then, he said he lost him [Zimmerman],” she said, adding that the teen’s “voice kind of changed… I could tell he was scared.” The girl said she told Trayvon to keep running, but “he said he ain’t gonna run. He said he’s right by his father’s house.”
“And in a couple minutes, he said a man’s following him again, he’s behind him,” she said. “I say, ‘run.’”
She said Trayvon was breathing hard. She said Trayvon asked “Why are you following me for?” and a man’s voice said, “What are you doing around here?” Then, she heard a noise and the call cut off.
Police found several blood spots on George Zimmerman’s shirt, but the blood was all Zimmerman’s.
ABC News, which has seemingly become the George Zimmerman support network, concludes that all the evidence supports Zimmerman’s story. Based on ABC’s reporting, you have to wonder why Angela Corey even bothered to charge Zimmerman with a crime.
According to ABC, Trayvon Martin’s father told an investigator that the voice calling for help on a witness’s 911 tape was not his son. That will certainly be problematic for the prosecution, although the mother swears the voice was Trayvon’s.
A couple of other bits of news related to the case.
TPM reports that contributions to Zimmerman’s defense fund have slowed down.
Late Wednesday, Zimmerman’s defense team said he had only been able to raise about $15,000 since the new site went live on May 3. The biggest donation was $3,000, they said, while most ranged between $25 and $100.
While that still averages more than $1,000 a day, it’s a far cry from the rate Zimmerman was hauling in on his own.
The Smoking Gun has obtained a letter that George Zimmerman wrote to a supporter while he was in jail. Here’s the money quote:
Days before bonding out of a Florida jail, George Zimmerman wrote that he believed “this will all work out for me in the future,” adding, “I have given my burden to the Lord and he has blessed me with tremendous patience!”
Well, goody for him.
ABC News has gotten hold of a medical report from George Zimmerman’s doctor.
A medical report compiled by the family physician of accused Trayvon Martin murderer George Zimmerman and obtained exclusively by ABC News found that Zimmerman was diagnosed with a “closed fracture” of his nose, a pair of black eyes, two lacerations to the back of his head and a minor back injury the day after he fatally shot Martin during an alleged altercation.
Zimmerman visited a doctor the day after he shot Trayvon Martin.
The record shows that Zimmerman also suffered bruising in the upper lip and cheek and lower back pain. The two lacerations on the back of his head, one of them nearly an inch long, the other about a quarter-inch long, were first revealed in photos obtained exclusively by ABC News last month.
But the report also shows Zimmerman declined hospitalization the night of the shooting, and then declined the advice of his doctor to make a follow-up appointment with an ear nose and throat doctor.
In addition to his physical injuries, Zimmerman complained of stress and “occasional nausea when thinking about the violence.”
It’s interesting that ABC News has been the recipient of a number of leaks in the Trayvon Martin case. It’s difficult not to suspect that this one came from the defense. I suppose it could also have come from someone at the Sanford Police Department who is sympathetic to Zimmerman.
The leaked medical report revealed some surprising information. We’ve learned that Sanford Police investigator did not test Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol, but the report indicates that he was taking Adderall and Temazepam. Adderall is an amphetamine generally used to treat ADHD.
The combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine is used as part of a treatment program to control symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; more difficulty focusing, controlling actions, and remaining still or quiet than other people who are the same age) in adults and children. Dextroamphetamine and amphetamine tablets are also used to treat narcolepsy (a sleep disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden attacks of sleep). The combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine is in a class of medications called central nervous system stimulants. It works by changing the amounts of certain natural substances in the brain.
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, we called it speed. Here is a portion of the warnings that go along with using this drug:
The combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine can be habit-forming. Do not take a larger dose, take the medication more often, or take it for a longer time than prescribed by your doctor. If you take too much dextroamphetamine and amphetamine, you may find that the medication no longer controls your symptoms, you may feel a need to take large amounts of the medication, and you may experience symptoms such as rash, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, irritability, hyperactivity, and unusual changes in your personality or behavior. Overusing dextroamphetamine and amphetamine may also cause sudden death or serious heart problems such as heart attack or stroke.
Tell your doctor if you or anyone in your family drinks or has ever drunk large amounts of alcohol, uses or has ever used street drugs, or has overused prescription medications. Your doctor will probably not prescribe dextroamphetamine and amphetamine for you.
Temazepam is a benzodiazapine, in the same family as Valium and Xanax. It is generally prescribed for people who have difficulty sleeping. Someone taking Adderall might have difficulty going to sleep and staying asleep. This drug also is not to be prescribed for someone who drinks alcohol.
I’m quite curious about why George Zimmerman was taking Adderall. I haven’t read anything so far to indicate that he has ADHD. Adderall could certainly cause someone to be anxious, jittery, hypervigilant, and/or paranoid.
In other news, WFTV Orlando reported this morning that the FBI “may charge George Zimmerman with [a] hate crime.”
SANFORD, Fla. — WFTV has learned charges against George Zimmerman could be getting more serious.
State prosecutors said Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, profiled and stalked 17-year-old Trayvon Martin before killing him, so the FBI is now looking into charging him with a hate crime.
FBI investigators are actively questioning witnesses in the retreat at the Twin Lakes neighborhood, seeking evidence for a possible federal hate crime charge.
This morning prosecutors released a list of the evidence that was handed over to Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara yesterday.
So far O’Mara has been stalling the public release of evidence, but now that someone is presumably leaking information favorable to the defense side, media organizations will soon begin to demand that it all be released. Florida has a very strict sunshine laws that require release of all documents related to trials.
I am going to tell you three stories, about guns…protecting yourself and standing your ground. All three scenarios are from Florida…and all three question the use of the popular GOP/ALEC backed law also known as “Stand Your Ground.”
In a little section of Hillsborough County Florida, called Valrico, David James was playing basketball with his 8–year old daughter on a community basketball court. While they played together, a skateboarder who was also on the court caught the attention of another man…Trevor Dooley, who lived across the street.
Skateboards were banned on the basketball court, yelled Dooley to the kid with the board, and James spoke up to defend the skateboarder…where was the sign stating kids were not allowed to skate?
Dooley and James got into an argument that turned violent, and Dooley, who had a concealed gun permit, took his gun and shot James.
Dooley was arrested and charged with manslaughter.
In Jacksonville, Florida, a woman who had documented proof of past physical abuse from her husband, was in yet another situation where an argument between her and her husband made her feel threatened. Marissa Alexander, in the process of leaving the house where the altercation was taking place, realized when she got into the car that she forgot her keys. She took her gun and went back into the house where her husband and two sons where also leaving the house. Alexander took the gun and fired a warning shot to keep her husband from coming forward and attacking her.
She was arrested and charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
And in yet another part of Florida, this time in a town called Sanford, an unarmed young black teenager was walking home from a 7 Eleven….you all know the rest of that story.
All three situations invoked the “Stand your Ground” defense. Only two resulted in immediate arrest of the shooter.
We have talked extensively about the case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, a situation where a boy was killed, shot point-blank in the chest by a man who was never arrested and charged with a crime. That is until public outcry brought about an investigation by the states attorney’s office.
Just last week, Marissa Alexander was convicted of aggravated assault, and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The jury took only 12 minutes to return that verdict of guilty.
Just today, a judge has denied the motion from Dooley’s attorney regarding the use of the “stand your ground” law in his defense.
The point of this post is not to debate the guilt of each of these people who used a gun, in what they describe as necessary force against a life threatening altercation.
We discussed the lack of arrest in the Trayvon Martin murder, and our outcry was against a police department and district attorney who obviously “neglected” to charge George Zimmerman with any sort of crime.
Here then are two examples of a case where in similar circumstances, an arrest was made and charges were immediately brought against the suspect.
Dooley and Alexander both are African-American. Zimmerman is a white Hispanic.
All three are proof of an undeniable bias in the criminal system…and that is exactly what brought about my protest against this “system” that let Zimmerman go free, while his victim lay dead in the morgue.
For more information on the cases I described above: