We have been hearing from several trusted investigators looking into the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. Without being there and having access to information, it is not possible to reach any investigative conclusion, and of course the investigation is (or should be) still ongoing. But what has been coming out lately is disturbing -- another rush to condemn using what is showing to be very different information from that being reported. There are also concerns being raised about the official investigation. As legal investigators, there is a responsibility to review and analyze all of the information, facts and evidence - including a critical analysis of the official investigation.We have seen the available police reports and listened to the full 911 call from the shooter. There are unconfirmed reports that the victim made a 911 call. We do not have a complete background of the events, shooter or victim. There are also online postings by racist groups spouting hate and using altered photographs of both the shooter and the victim.
There are special interests and activists exploiting a family that has not had time to even grieve for their son … yes, Trayvon Martin is someone’s son and George Zimmerman also has a family. These are all innocent people now forced to deal with traumatic events that most cannot comprehend. But that lack of comprehension has not prevented a rush to judgment.
Recently an elderly couple has been forced from their home because a celebrity re-tweeted their home address and called for action at that address to bring the shooter to justice. Words cannot express enough the irresponsibility of this reckless endangerment. When a person knows their words will reach far and wide, and be followed, they should not only choose them carefully but also have the foresight to see the minimal unintended consequences. There is no place for vigilante or self-justice. We are a people of thought and reason, not an uncivilized mob mentality.
The information initially reported included the shooter using racial epithets, asking why was he armed, questioning the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law in Florida, and many more. There has been use of misleading photographs by the media – from using an older and more innocent looking photograph of the victim in a football jersey, to using an older booking photograph of the shooter with no injuries. Was the shooting justified or not? We do not know. Was the victim the aggressor or not? We do not know.
Does this story sound somewhat familiar? It should.
On this day (March 28th) in 2006, Duke University officials suspend the men’s lacrosse team for two games following allegations that team members sexually assaulted a stripper hired to perform at a party. Three players were later charged with rape. The case became a national scandal, impacted by issues of race, politics and class.
The case raised issues of class and race because the accuser was a poor, black, single mother from the Durham area and the three lacrosse players were out-of-staters from affluent backgrounds. In April of 2007, the attorney general announced the three players had been wrongly accused and dismissed all charges against them. The disgraced district attorney was heavily criticized for his rush to judgment and his heavy reliance on the faulty testimony of the accuser.
We have worked many cases very similar to the Duke Lacrosse scenario. It is costly, just from an investigative perspective. We have all seen cases exploited by the media, special interest groups and those of stature for personal gain. Someday the whole issue of race would disappear. Imagine, for just a minute, how you would view this fatal shooting incident if you did not know anything more than one person shot another; then let the information, evidence and facts be sorted out. As professional investigators, we challenge the public and the media to begin reporting stories that way. Think of yourselves as jurors, not spectators. One of the greatest fears of a victim and person accused of a crime, or even suspected, is that of being not believed and to be victimized by injustice. Each person – from the media to law enforcement, from spectators to family, have a responsibility to let the information, evidence and facts be sorted out. It is appropriate to question the information, evidence and facts. It is not appropriate to act based only on the information and misinformation of others, regardless of any accuracy or inaccuracy. In fact, the public should hold themselves to a higher standard than those attempting to influence them. It is necessary that an investigation be conducted and completed, not just conducted and reported. To families of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin we owe respect and to each of them we owe the truth.
Our agency is currently working, pro bono, on a former death penalty case. The defendant was able to win his exoneration but not prove his innocence -- that is now our task. Similar to these two events, and many many others, the media exploited everyone and reported false and misinformation, one witness -- who later hanged himself -- provided false testimony, law enforcement did not complete an investigation having been satisfied with proving only probable cause, and the prosecution manipulated the minimal false evidence.
Information for this blog about Duke University was obtained from http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/duke-lacrosse-team-suspended-following-sexual-assault-allegations.
Dean is a Certified Legal Investigator and expert in criminal defense homicide and civil equivocal death investigations. He has lectured extensively and authored multiple articles, peer-reviewed white papers, and provided expert testimony on Protocols of Private Investigation, and Forensic Investigation of Injury Pattern Analysis. He authored Professional Locate Investigations and recently completed Practical Methods for Legal Investigations: Concepts and Protocols in Civil and Criminal Cases, released by CRC Press in February 2011. Their subject matter expertise is Death Investigation and Injury Causation.
In addition, he is actively involved in several associations for our profession. This includes the Board Chairman of the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado, Region 6 CLI Representative of the National Association of Legal Investigators with a column ‘Forensic Focus’ in NALI's trade magazine ‘The Legal Investigator’, Region 5A Director of the National Council of Investigation and Security Services, Member and Forensic Investigations Advisor of the Criminal Defense Investigation Training Council, Membership Ambassador (North America - West) for the World Association of Detectives, National Defender Investigators Association, Affiliate Consultant member of the National Association of Medical Examiners, International Association for Identification, and Mensa USA.
Karen earned her Bachelor's in Social Work from Colorado State University (Magna Cum Laude). Her background, education and experience with victim advocacy and counseling are valuable assets in working with families and victims of traumatic events. Possessing strong interpersonal skills and ability to reach out to people, she brings a unique perspective to cases, particularly lifestyle matters and mitigation. Her death investigation training and experience, together with her social work and general investigative skills and experience, are an asset to the medicolegal and criminal defense investigative processes. She is also a member of the Criminal Defense Investigation Training Council and National Defender Investigators Association.
She is also a member of the Criminal Defense Investigations Training Council, National Defender Investigators Association and National Association of Professional Women. She has been professionally published with 'The Basics of an Autopsy Report' (PI Magazine, Dec 2011), 'Understanding Suicide and its Prevention – Equivocal Death Investigations' (PursuitMag.com, Dec 2011), and 'False Confessions and Accusations' (PursuitMag.com, Feb 2012).
Their national consultation and investigation agency is based in Colorado and is primarily focused on Expert Consultations and Legal Investigations of Personal Injury, Negligence & Death in Civil, Criminal and Probate matters; including Critical Case Analysis. They are proud parents of Jeberly and Winter, and have three grandchildren - Jacee, and identical twin grandsons Gage and Cash.
From Karen, which speaks of our agency..."Equivocal Death Investigations/Analysis. Sometimes the death of a loved one leaves behind many unanswered questions. Helping clients understand the investigative process, answer questions to help ease their minds are the main goals of a death analysis. Helping clients with lingering issues surrounding a loved ones death is difficult yet necessary to assist in resolving issues that can sometimes take years. Hearing the words, "Thank you, you have helped me to understand" whatever questions they may have had tucked inside their minds is very rewarding."