I have not really posted on Trayvon Martin (except to comment on NBC's corrupt editing of the 911 tape) because a) high-profile criminal cases don't really have the hold on me they seem to have for many other Americans**; b) I have nothing to add; c) I have a bias that would make my commentary suspect.
But since I am about to post on the case, and may in the future, I should explain the bias. We have a problem from time to time with campground workers we call the "badge-heavy" syndrome. They get obsessive about rooting our rules violations. They stalk campers. They follow people around. The spy on campers, looking for violations or crimes to report. The folks they pick out for such treatment are often chosen because they are somehow different from the employee.
This is just awful for customer service. It drives me crazy. It is the absolute first thing we discuss at every training session. Employees who demonstrate that they have this mentality are generally shown the door as fast as possible. Government-run recreation facilities actually have this problem much worse, because 1) they give all their park staff a law enforcement title, a badge, and a gun, which tends to just encourage this kind of over-zealous harassment and 2) it is almost impossible for them to fire someone for this type of thing (because in the government employee heirarchy of values, enforcement of and consistency with rules is far more important than customer service or visitor satisfaction).
So this is a hot button issue for me. And my first thought in this case was that Zimmerman's actions seemed just like those of my badge-heavy employees that I frequently have to fire. So I am not very predisposed to by sympathetic to him, so thus my bias.
Anyway, keeping with my habit in this case of commenting more on issues at the periphery rather than of the case itself, this post from Ken at Popehat (I believe a former US attorney and current defense lawyer) is quite interesting. Here is the bottom line:
I'm in a rush, but I can't avoid commenting on the affidavit of probable cause submitted in the matter of George Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon Martin.
It's a piece of crap....
This is not the worst affidavit I've ever seen — but it's damn close, and the decision to proceed based on it in such a high-profile case is stunning. Cynics may say that I've been spoiled by federal practice, where affidavits are on average considerably more careful and well-drafted, particularly in some districts. But if it takes a high-profile case to highlight shoddy practices in everyday cases, so be it. An affidavit like this makes a mockery of the probable cause process. There's no way that a judge reading this affidavit can make an intelligent or informed decision about the sufficiency of the evidence — even for the low hurdle of probable cause.
** footnote: I lived in Boulder through the whole Jon Benet Ramsey case. I believe this was like aversion therapy, the equivalent of your dad forcing you to sit in a closet and smoke three cigars to put you off smoking, which has turned me off high profile criminal cases forever.