Drug Raid – The Cupboards Were Bare

Drug Raid - in Dudley, United Kingdom

By Judy Berman

Minutes after an undercover police officer made a drug buy from the back window of a house, I heard him over the police radio.

“It’s a go. There are three people in there.”

Then, six police officers, dressed in black, ran down a city street and around the corner.

With guns drawn and two mighty whacks with a battering ram, they knocked down the door and ran in.

The suspect tossed $350 and 12 baggies of crack cocaine out the window. Investigators said the suspect had 11 baggies on him, and he’d just sold three.

It was like the movies. Only, this time: no guns blazing or suspects jumping out of windows to avoid arrest.

This is from the way-back files when I was a cops reporter in Utica, New York.

It was a rare behind-the-scenes look for me at what goes down during a drug raid. Utica Police Chief Benny Rotundo gave the go-ahead to me and to one of the Observer-Dispatch’s photographers to join the investigators.

We wanted to be in on the action from the get-go. But they were overly cautious – and with good reason. What if something happened?

“You never know what’s behind that door,” said Sgt. Angelo Partipelo, the department’s senior investigator of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

Liability concerns and safety are the reasons why many police agencies hesitate to grant this kind of access to reporters and photographers.

I told the police chief that a story I was working on – about 7 ½ years of drug arrests by SIU – would look a lot better if it was tied to a drug arrest – with me and a photographer along.

Rotundo was a savvy man. He agreed.

Once inside, the investigator, who wore a Stetson, smoked a huge cigar as he searched for evidence. He wore plastic gloves because “these places aren’t the cleanest,” and to protect himself if one of the suspects was bleeding.

He’s hearing nothing but polite denials and excuses from one of the women in the house.

“No, officer, I just came here to see my cousin, Angel,” she claimed.

The officer disagrees.

“You’ve been seen coming to this drug house several times and were inside when a drug buy was just made,” he said.

Then, he starts singing “Angel in the Morning.”

In the kitchen, there’s a box of baking soda on the counter. A cigarette butt is out in the drain.

I gingerly open a fridge door by using my pen on the handle until one of the investigators gives me plastic gloves. Inside, there’s only a can of Sprite.

Utica drug bust - UPD Sgt. Angelo Partipelo and me (Judy Berman)

Other than salt-and-pepper shakers, the cupboards are bare.

After the raid, Deputy Chief Nick Yagey joked that I was a con artist and had hoodwinked investigators into letting us go inside the drug house.

“You weren’t supposed to take any photos identifying SIU members,” he said.

Yagey claimed he could ID one who was bent over searching thru a couch for evidence.

“You couldn’t pick that face out of a crowd,” I challenged, knowing that SIU had vetted the photos before publication so no undercover officer was put in jeopardy.

“His butt, maybe,” I laughed.

Fortunately, Yagey was laughing, too, when I left his office a few minutes later.

 

Kudos to the police officers in the Utica Police Department who often assured my safe passage as a cops reporter at some very dicey scenes – especially Utica Police Chief Benny Rotundo, who died in 2010, and Sgt. Angelo Partipelo, who died in 2001.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie Trailer: The French Connection (1971) – Undercover cop Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) in his famous high speed chase in pursuit of a criminal – great film. But this is reel life – not real life. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nP_7ZopT6oM  

Music Video: Bad Boys (1992) by Inner Circle. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVBB2upbVys&feature=kp  

Video: Dragnet (1951) – TV show starring Jack Webb as Sgt. Friday. The just-the-facts ma’am detective. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hj-qhIGTXdU  

Main Photo: Drug Raid – in Dudley, United Kingdom – taken Feb. 22, 2013 by West Midlands Police from West Midlands, United Kingdom  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3a/Day_53_-_Early_morning_drugs_raid_in_Dudley_%288497719406%29.jpg/640px-Day_53_-_Early_morning_drugs_raid_in_Dudley_%288497719406%29.jpg

Photo: Utica Drug Raid – Sgt. Angelo Partipelo and me (Judy Manzer Berman) at the scene of a drug bust in Utica, New York.

 

The Mob Built This City

Las Vegas - Flamingo Road

By Judy Berman

Did the mob once run Las Vegas? Some dispute that, but few would quibble about the explosive growth in Sin City as a result of the Mob’s presence.

This reputation is one that The Mob Museum in Las Vegas capitalizes on. The $42 million museum opened two years ago on Feb. 14, 2012.

That date is probably no coincidence. One of the artifacts on display on the third floor is the actual wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929.

A Chicago Tribune newspaper clipping reported that gunman dressed as policemen lined seven men of George “Bugs” Moran’s gang up against the whitewashed wall and gunned them down.

“It was the most infamous of all gangland slayings in America, and it savagely achieved its purpose – the elimination of the last challenge to Al Capone for the mantle of crime boss in Chicago.”

Mob Museum - Las Vegas - Wall of Mobsters

The way the museum tells it: “This is truly the underworld uncovered.” It’s billed as “An authentic exploration of the endless tug-of-war between organized crime and law enforcement.”

Last July, my husband and I spent more than two hours in the museum and, truthfully, we could have spent much more time there if we didn’t have a pressing engagement. (No. Forget the scene in Goldfinger when James Bond referred to a dead mobster who was entombed in a crushed car.)

On the second floor of the museum is the courtroom. This is the same federal courthouse where the 1950-51 Kefauver Committee hearings were held to expose organized crime. Here, you can see film clips of those hearings.

Las Vegas - Mob Museum - July 2013 055

Longtime locals are fond of saying that Vegas was better when the Mob ran the casinos. They felt there was less crime and the mob took care of – policed – their own.

The tour quickly dispels that notion by showing some of the innocent bystanders who were rubbed out by those “connected” to the Mob – along with a few of the bad guys, of course. The focus is not just on the Mob that infiltrated Vegas nightlife, but on major cities throughout the U.S.

Some of the exhibits aren’t for the faint-hearted. There are gory ones that show what happens when you run into the wrong end of a gun. For example, you can see the barber chair that mobster Albert Anastasia was murdered in on Oct. 25, 1957, in Manhattan, New York.

You can listen in on authentic Mafia Omerta induction ceremony or to actual FBI surveillance tapes on wiretapping equipment.

For a more glamorized look of the mob, sit a spell in the theater room and watch clips from gangster movies.

Parting words from philosopher/mobster Al Capone, “You can get much further with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.” This quote is just one of the souvenirs I picked up from the gift shop at the Mob Museum.

Hey! They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. But I took an oath not to reveal it.

Not to be a Wiseguy, but you can get the total scoop on the cost of admission, hours and attractions at The Mob Museum’s web site: http://themobmuseum.org/

Movie Trailer: Casino with Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBjmiE1kf_Q 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Video: 60 Years: KLAS-TV Documents Mob’s Rise, Fall in Las Vegas     http://www.8newsnow.com/story/22881346/60-years-klas-tv-documents-mobs-rise-fall-in-las-vegas

Main Photo: Las Vegas – Flamingo Road – Taken April 24, 2012, by curimedia http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/50/Flamingo_road%2C_Las_Vegas_%287314950038%29.jpg/640px-Flamingo_road%2C_Las_Vegas_%287314950038%29.jpg

Photo: Mob – The Skim at the Flamingo – my photo collection

Photo: The Mob Museum – Las Vegas – Wall of Mobsters – Taken Feb. 14, 2012 by Kremerbi http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/72/Las_Vegas_Mob_Museum_Wall_of_Mobsters.JPG/640px-Las_Vegas_Mob_Museum_Wall_of_Mobsters.JPG

Hoax: Tried in the Media

A hoax spun out in the media has more plot twists than the Twin Peaks TV show.

A hoax spun out in the media has more plot twists than the Twin Peaks TV show.

By Judy Berman

The Manti Te’o story has more plot twists than the Twin Peaks TV show, and just as many odd characters.

Did a friend dupe Te’o into believing he had a girlfriend named Lennay Kekua who died last September of leukemia? Turns out, there is no girlfriend. Everyone has come under fire in this story, including the reporters who should have been more skeptical and dug deeper.

It is a cautionary tale for reporters who are too close to those they cover. The adage to new reporters is: “If your mother tells you she loves you, get a second source.” That’s not just typical newsroom dark humor talking. It’s experience.

The Te’o story is still unraveling. Not all the facts are in. As the story unfolds, some cringe-worthy moments might emerge and reputations might be tarnished.

But this story needs to be put in perspective with other “tall tales” that have had a devastating impact on those involved.

Rev. Al Sharpton has championed equal justice in crime cases. In this photo in 1989, he's protesting the murder of Yusuf Hawkins, 16, a black teen in a white neighborhood. Two years earlier, he was criticized for his actions in the Tawana Brawley case - later labeled a hoax.

Rev. Al Sharpton has championed equal justice in crime cases. In this photo in 1989, he’s protesting the murder of Yusuf Hawkins, 16, a black teen in a white neighborhood. Two years earlier, he was criticized for his actions in the Tawana Brawley case – later labeled a hoax.

* In November 1987, I was working late at WHEN-AM radio in Liverpool, New York, when a shocking story crossed the wire. A Wappingers Falls’ girl, who had been missing for four days from her home, was found in a trash bag. The 15-year-old girl (Tawana Brawley) was dazed, covered in feces and had racial epithets scrawled across her torso. The Associated Press wire story stated that the teen was reportedly abducted, held captive, and raped by a gang of white men.

The Rev. Al Sharpton and Brawley’s lawyers accused Dutchess County prosecutor Steven Pagones of being one of the men who raped Brawley.

The story quickly became a feeding frenzy for the media – each news outlet intent on being the first in pursuit of “hot news.” Mike Taihbi and Anna Sims-Philips covered the story for WCBS-TV, and their investigative reporting didn’t jibe with the daily press conferences. Their book, “Unholy Alliances: Working the Tawana Brawley Story,” (1989) outlined how the case unfolded.

I interviewed Sims-Philips. She said their findings angered the Brawley advisers and supporters. They received death threats, demonstrators protested outside the station, and pressure was put on the network to remove them from the story.

In 1988, a grand jury found that there had been no rape, that the case was a hoax. Authorities said Brawley’s story was made up to avoid punishment for running away and missing school.

“But, in the end, something changed,” the authors wrote. “Pieces of the truth were forced into the open air, not the whole truth; that’s still hidden. But enough of it emerged, through the efforts of forensic scientists and investigators and, yes, the press, so that there was room and time at last, away from the noise of the headlines and the six o’clock news, for people to measure those bits of truth and privately choose what was worthy of belief. The rhetoric has been silence. The silence, though, remains.”

“In 1998, Pagones won a defamation lawsuit against Sharpton, Brawley and her lawyers. (Alton H.) Maddox was found liable for $97,000, (C. Vernon) Mason for $188,000, and Sharpton was ordered to pony up $66,000,” according to a Dec. 23, 2012, story by the New York Post.

“Brawley was ordered to fork over $190,000 at 9 percent annual interest.” The New York Post reported that all but Brawley paid up.

Once a media darling, New York State Trooper David Harding was later found guilty of framing Shirley Kinge in connection with the 1989 murders of the Harris family - a case that her son, Michael, was the primary suspect in before being killed in a shootout with a New York State Police SWAT team.

Once a media darling, New York State Trooper David Harding was later found guilty of framing Shirley Kinge in connection with the 1989 murders of the Harris family – a case that her son, Michael, was the primary suspect in before being killed in a shootout with a New York State Police SWAT team.

* What the press – and the public – knows in the beginning stages of a news story is often limited. Details are few and everyone is clamoring for answers and – when there’s a crime – an arrest.

Two days before Christmas in 1989, the murders of the Harris family in Dryden, New York, was eerily similar to Truman Capote’s story, “In Cold Blood.” Warren and Dolores Harris, their daughter, Shelby, 15, and their son, Marc, 11, were bound, blindfolded, shot and killed. Before Shelby was killed, she was raped. The primary suspect, Michael Kinge, then doused the house with gasoline and set a fire before he fled.

Credit cards taken from the Harris home, used during a shopping spree, were traced back to Michael Kinge and his mother, Shirley.

“On February 7 (1990), members of the New York State Police SWAT team burst into the duplex apartments where Mr. Kinge and his mother lived. Mr. Kinge, holding a shotgun, according to the police accounts, was shot dead. Mrs. Kinge was first charged as an accessory in the Harris murders,” The New York Times reported.

The drama didn’t end there. In the courtroom, Trooper David L. Harding charmed the press with his stories about the case. He was likable, friendly, and always available for an interview.

Harding bragged about how he befriended Shirley Kinge at her workplace. He had a cast on his arm and asked her to address some letters to be sent to Harrisburg. (This was done to see how she wrote the victim’s name when she used the credit cards.)

Harding also got her fingerprints off a glass of water she brought to him. Kinge’s prints were a match  to those on a gas can found at the Harris family crime scene. Kinge was convicted of burglary and arson. She was sentenced 17 to 44 years in prison.

This was based on Shirley Kinge’s presence at the murder scene.

Only it wasn’t true. About 2 ½ years into her prison sentence, she was released from prison after an investigation found that David Harding planted her fingerprints from the glass at her workplace onto the gas can in the Harris home.

It wasn’t the only time that Harding and a few other troopers took shortcuts to gather “evidence” to convict someone they thought was guilty of a crime.

Harding pleaded guilty to perjury in two of the four cases investigated. He was sentenced Dec. 16, 1992, to 4 to 12 years in prison and fined $20,000 for fabricating evidence in the four documented cases, according to Wikipedia.

In 2009, New York Court of Claims Judge Nicholas Midey Jr.awarded Kinge $250,000 “based on the emotional and mental anguish she suffered and her loss of privacy and liberty while imprisoned,” according to the Ithaca Journal.

“Midey found that Kinge was the victim of malicious prosecution and negligent supervision of a state police investigator who planted phony fingerprint evidence and gave false testimony linking her to the Harris family slayings.”

These cases serve as a reminder that everyone – the media, police, the public – need to be skeptical about the facts and the evidence.

When I wrote “Tried in the Media” for WHEN, a newspaper executive offered this hopeful insight: “The truth will emerge. Not instantly and always, but it will emerge.”

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo: Twin Peaks http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/twin-peaks/images/4244602/title/twin-peaks-wallpaper

Court of Claims case: Shirley Turner Kinge, Claimant v. State of New York, Defendant – filed Dec. 13, 2007 http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ny-court-of-claims/1427693.html

Photo: David Harding – book cover “Good Cop Bad Cop” by Rebecca H. Cofer with David McElligott http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51T0F0370RL._SL500_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-big,TopRight,35,-73_OU01_SS500_.jpg

Photo: Rev. Al Sharpton – Protest March – 1989 – Brooklyn, NY                                    In another case that drew national attention, the Rev. Al Sharpton led the first of dozens of protest marches after 40 white teenagers murdered Yusuf Hawkins, 16, a black teen in the (then) white neighborhood of Bensonhurst in Brooklyn. He led marchers every week for over a year despite catcalls and threats to his life. In 1991, he was stabbed during another march in Bensonhurst. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/06/Al_Sharpton%2C_1989_Protest_March%2C_Brooklyn_NY.jpg/640px-Al_Sharpton%2C_1989_Protest_March%2C_Brooklyn_NY.jpg

Runaway Justice or Face the Music

John Cusack in the movie "Runaway Jury."

John Cusack (as juror Nicholas Easter) in the suspense thriller, “Runaway Jury.”

By Judy Berman

Few things can speed up your pulse quicker than jogging, a one-third-off sale on designer jeans, or an order to appear in court.

I, of course, got the latter.

Imagine my surprise! I was being fined $25 for failing to license my dog. Only one problem – I didn’t have a dog.

Our neighbor called to tell us that she saw a summons had just been taped to our front door. I wondered how she could tell from that distance that it was a summons. One look outside explained it all.

There, prominently displayed was a summons nearly the size of a billboard. Discreet! I ripped it off the door and slinked back inside our house.

Should I contact the best criminal lawyer in town?

Judging from a scenario in the suspense thriller, “Runaway Jury,” that doesn’t appear to be the go-to option. Gene Hackman (as Rankin Fitch) is a ruthless jury consultant who will do anything to win in a court trial involving a major gun manufacturer.

Gene Hackman as ruthless jury consultant Rankin Fitch in the movie, “Runaway Jury,” based on a novel by John Grisham.

Hackman sums it up this way: “Trials are too important to be left up to juries.”

Despite the millions spent, there is a hitch, as Hackman battles Dustin Hoffman (as attorney Wendell Rohr) for the hearts and verdict of the jurors.

A juror on the inside, John Cusack (as Nicholas Easter), and a woman on the outside, Rachel Weisz (as Marlee), conspire to manipulate the outcome.

The tension in this film pales compared to my own dilemma. It appears the odds are stacked against me.

So, should I ignore the summons? I began to visualize the following scenario … (key daydream sequence gone awry).

I return to our neighborhood after a blissful afternoon of window-shopping. The block has been cordoned off. Patrol cars are lining the street in front of our home. A hail of bullets is riddling our home, and a cop is on the bullhorn shouting, “All right, scofflaw, come on out. We know you’re in there.”

I’d been the victim of a computer foul-up before. So, I debated with myself: Should I retaliate? After all, it was the principle of the thing. They’d besmirched the family name.

Briefly, I weighed the odds of challenging not only the bureaucracy, but a computer as well.

Only one question nagged at me.

Should I plead guilty and throw myself on the mercy of the court?

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo: Gene Hackman as ruthless jury consultant, Rankin Fitch, in the movie “Runaway Jury” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rankin_Fitch_from_Runaway_Jury.jpg

Photo: John Cusack as juror Nicholas Easter in “Runaway Jury” http://www.fanpop.com/spots/john-cusack/images/8609499/title/runaway-jury-photo

Video clip: “Runaway Jury” – trailer

Spam, spam, spam, spam

By Judy Berman

While I was out, intruders have been trying to make their way into my home. Despite security, their attempts have been relentless.

That’s how I feel about spammers constantly trying to hijack my blog with their unsolicited and typically irrelevant comments in an effort to advertise a product, a service – sometimes pornographic – or make an appeal for money.

It seems I spend almost as much time cleaning out the detritus as I do creating stories to post.

Akismet’s web site says it filters out comment and track-back spam on blogs so bloggers can focus on more important things. It defines “spam” as the “unwanted commercial comments” on blogs. (No disrespect is intended to the wonderful folks at Hormel Foods Corporation who make Spam.)

So, even if you’re a vegetarian and you’ve sworn off meat, you’ll still be clamoring for more “ham” content on your blog. “Ham,” Akismet says, “is what we call (spam’s) counterpart, legitimate comments.”

How do you separate the “spam” from the “ham?” That sounds like a job for Monty Python’s “Spam” and “Sir Spamalot.” It does get that ridiculous.

Imagine that you are at the Green Midget Cafe in Bromley, surrounded by a group of Vikings. In this Monty Python sketch, everything on the menu/comments contains Spam.

You, the disgruntled diner/blogger ask for “an item with the Spam removed.” The waitress does not oblige, and the Vikings chant “Spam, lovely Spam, wonderful Spam.” (The skit can be found at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anwy2MPT5RE )

Instead of thoughtful, funny comments to your blog, you get spammed – a lot.

This is not a freedom of speech issue. It’s about “consent, not content,” according to The Spamhaus Project. “Whether the Unsolicited Bulk Email (“UBE”) message is an advert, a scam, porn, a begging letter or an offer of a free lunch, the content is irrelevant – if the message was sent unsolicited and in bulk then the message is spam.”

Spamhaus says the sending of Unsolicited Bulk Email (“UBE”) is banned by all Internet service providers worldwide. Violators could wind up losing their Internet accounts and access if they send UBE, according to Spamhaus’ website.

What can you do to limit or stop spam? Do not respond to it. Filter it out of your e-mail and complain to providers about it. You also can take action through anti-spam organizations and thru any laws that might apply in your state.

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What do you think can be done to stop this unwanted intrusion? Comment below.

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Graphic: No spam  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:No-spam.svg

Photo: Excalibur – Monty Python’s Sir Spamalot  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Excalibur-spam.jpg

article on spam at The Spamhaus Project  http://www.spamhaus.org/consumer/definition/

Vigilante or Self-Defense?

By Judy Berman

Let’s say you meet a stranger in a dark alley. Someone is killed. The survivor claims self-defense. There are no witnesses. Only one side of this story is available because the other person is dead.

That image of the vigilante who takes the law into his own hands was popularized in Hollywood. Think: Charles Bronson (as Paul Kersey) when he avenged his wife’s death in “Death Wish” (1974). Many cheered him on when he sought revenge.

But two recent cases in Florida, that appear to have taken the same path, ended in the deaths of two young men under the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law.

Make no mistake. This is not about anyone’s right to “bear arms” and protect themselves. This is about rights guaranteed to U.S.citizens in the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution.

Rights such as the right to a fair trial “decided by a jury” of your peers. There’s not much chance of that happening if someone apparently takes justice into his own hands.

“The 2005 law eliminated a citizen’s duty to retreat when attacked, leading critics to say the statue fosters vigilante justice and allows criminals to get away with murder on a claim of self-defense,” according to The Miami Herald.

Florida Statute 776.013 (3), known as the “stand your ground” law, allows people to use deadly force if they think their life is in danger, or other lives are in jeopardy.

  • On Feb. 26th, an unarmed 17-year-old in Sanford, near Orlando, Trayvon Martin, was gunned down by 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman. Martin was returning to his parents’ home after going to a convenience store to buy Skittles and ice tea. Zimmerman told dispatchers that Martin looked “suspicious.”
  • On Wednesday, March 21st, Miami-Dade Judge Beth Bloom tossed out a case against Greyston Garcia, who was charged with second-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Pedro Roteta. 26, on Jan. 25th. “Police said Roteta was stealing Garcia’s truck radio.” Garcia chased Roteta more than a block before the fatal attack. Roteta had a pocket knife, but it was unopened and in his pocket, according to The Miami Herald.

In the Martin case, Zimmerman ignored police advice not to confront the teen. He followed Treyvon Martin in his sport utility vehicle and then on foot. The two allegedly got into a fight. The devastating outcome has been the subject of protests and national news coverage.

The Miami-Dade judge’s decision on Garcia angered Miami police Sgt. Ervens Ford, who supervised the case. The Miami Herald quotes Ford as saying the decision was a “travesty of justice. How can it be Stand Your Ground? It’s on (surveillance) video! You can see him stabbing the victim … “

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office may appeal the judge’s ruling.

The Miami Herald reports that “in the first five years the law was in effect, it was invoked 93 times. In the last year and half, it has been invoked at least an additional 37 times. ‘Justifiable homicides’ reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have increased threefold since the law went into effect.”

The state of Florida should take action now to re-examine the Stand Your Ground law. What happened to Trayvon Martin … and to Pedro Roteta … could have happened to anyone’s child. This law is a matter of concern for all citizens who want safe passage on our streets and in our neighborhoods.

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UPDATE: On June 26, 2012, Greyston Garcia, 26, was killed in Liberty City, Fla. shortly after he left his job at a convenience store. “Investigators suspect the shooting was between two rival gangs and Garcia was an innocent victim.” CBS Miami reported. http://miami.cbslocal.com/2012/06/27/police-seek-gunmen-motive-in-double-murder-in-liberty-city/

UPDATE: On July 13, 2013, George Zimmerman was found not guilty of killing Trayvon Martin. Here is the link to USA Today’s story: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/07/13/george-zimmerman-found-not-guilty/2514163/

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

* Main photo of Charles Bronson taken in 1973. In 1974, he starred in the vigilante film, “Death Wish” http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bronson_1973.jpg           Attribution: Fish Cop at en.wikipedia

* Editorial cartoon: courtesy of Jeff Parker, Florida Today 

* Miami judge decides fatal stabbing was self-defense, a news article in The Miami Herald. http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/21/2706789_miami-judge-stabbing-in-the-back.html

* Number of “stand your ground” cases rises as legislators rethink law, a news article in The Miami Herald. http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/22/2708767_number-of-stand-your-ground-cases.html

* The Bill of Rights http://www.ushistory.org/documents/amendments.htm