Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New Twist in Trayvon Martin Case: What the Media is NOT telling You About the Law

Read PART 1

Yesterday, George Zimmerman’s defense attorney, Mark O'Mara, said that he will not be using the much-debated “stand-your-ground” defense after all. O'Mara said that they will instead likely try to use a traditional self-defense argument to have the second-degree murder charge against his client dismissed.

How it works is, if a defense team uses the stand-your-ground defense, the judge will determine whether or not the law applies. Zimmerman would have to take the witness stand and be cross-examined by the prosecution. If the judge were to apply the stand-your-ground law, the case will be dismissed and never even make trial. Using a traditional self-defense argument, however, the jury must decide whether or not self-defense applies to the case.

Zimmerman’s attorney would have you believe that he is abandoning the stand-your-ground defense because he believes the judge to be bias against his client. In fact, O'Mara filed a motion today asking a Florida appeals court to reconsider a ruling by Judge Kenneth Lester refusing to step down from the case. In a motion filed last month, O’Mara claimed Lester made “gratuitous” and “disparaging remarks” about Zimmerman and showed bias in a July 5 ruling that raised Zimmerman's bond from $150,000 to $1 million. The bond increase came after prosecutors presented evidence Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, misled the judge about their finances. Shellie Zimmerman was later charged with perjury.

Nonetheless, a closer look at the actual Florida Statute might paint a better picture of why O'Mara has likely abandoned the stand-your-ground defense.

Chapter 776 of the Florida Senate Statute— JUSTIFIABLE USE OF FORCE—(776.012) states, “A person is justified in using force…to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force…[and if] He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another.” However, later in chapter 776, as described in code 776.041(2), “The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who: (2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself.”

The reason why this lawful wording is important to point out is because Zimmerman is the one who was stalking Martin in his car. Zimmerman described the situation to the 911 operator, that he witnessed the “suspicious looking” Trayvon Martin start to run away. The 911 operator urges Zimmerman not to follow him, as he (Zimmerman) is not lawfully allowed to do so; yet, Zimmerman exits his car and chases Martin on foot. At this point, Zimmerman becomes the “aggressor,” and therefore stand-your-ground status is in question, and as the law reads, does not apply to Zimmerman as a suitable defense.

Consider the situation, one that no one is really breaking down to its simplest form. You are walking down the street. You see a man in a car driving slowly near you and starring at you. This person then begins stalking you and intensely starring at you while on the phone. You start to run, scared that this person is going to possibly harm you. As you are running away, you notice that this person is running after you. Now, you have two options: you can continue running or “stand your ground” and fight. Note: because Trayvon Martin is dead, we do not get to hear his story. Was he attacked first by Zimmerman? Maybe he was attacked by Zimmerman and overpowered him. Should a person being attacked then be lawfully killed because he or she actually fights off their attacker? In any event, Zimmerman was clearly the aggressor, bottom line. Zimmerman had no right to chase down Martin, just like no one has the right to chase you down on the street at nighttime while you are walking alone. On what planet does George Zimmerman have the right to claim self-defense, let alone stand-your-ground???

Monday, August 13, 2012

Polygraph Testing in Private Sector & Criminal Justice System

Ever since the inception of polygraph (lie detector) tests there has been considerable disagreement regarding its validity. Even in the face of conflicting scientific field studies, advocates of the system still claim a 90-100 percent accuracy rate. Moreover, polygraph has little validity with scientists. Currently there is no scientific field evidence that polygraph tests can be used effectively as a valid test in criminal investigations or to prescreen employees. A 1997 survey of 421 psychologists estimated the accuracy of a polygraph to be at approximately 61 percent, which is slightly better than chance. Even so, law enforcement agencies across the nation are devoted proponents of this unscientific device; even the American public, at large, seems to believe in its validity as well.

At the turn of the century, polygraph was given another try by the scientific community. Ten popular field studies were done to test the validity of polygraph once again, which included a survey done for purposes of applicant screening and security clearances for employees using the polygraph. With these studies, scientists were trying to answer vital questions about its scientific validly. The answer to the first question—are polygraph examinations valid?—provided results that polygraph examinations detected deceptiveness and nondeceptiveness better than chance, but some cases also showed a high error rate, particularly in nondeceptive subjects. Scientists also found that there was a great deal of variability in the results. For instance, results for correct innocent detections ranged from as low as 12.5 percent to as high as 94.1 percent; or results for false positives ranged from 75 percent to zero percent in two studies.

Although many of these tests indicate that polygraph testing is better than chance at differentiating deception from nondeception, there is also enough scientific proof to hold this system as unscientifically proven. Scientific analysis puts the error rate of the polygraph between 10 and 25 percent, which means that a large number of incorrect decisions would be made if the lie detector was widely in use. Furthermore, in United States v. Scheffer (1998), the Supreme Court [majority] stated, “There is simply no consensus that polygraph evidence is reliable: The scientific community and the state and federal courts are extremely polarized on the matter”. So clearly, if the Supreme Court holds this position on the polygraph, why should it then be used in the private sector or criminal justice system to prescreen employees? It shouldn’t.