The Brett Kimberlin Saga:

Follow this link to my BLOCKBUSTER STORY of how Brett Kimberlin, a convicted terrorist and perjurer, attempted to frame me for a crime, and then got me arrested for blogging when I exposed that misconduct to the world. That sounds like an incredible claim, but I provide primary documents and video evidence proving that he did this. And if you are moved by this story to provide a little help to myself and other victims of Mr. Kimberlin’s intimidation, such as Robert Stacy McCain, you can donate at the PayPal buttons on the right. And I thank everyone who has done so, and will do so.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Deep Analysis of the Tampa Bay Times Stand Your Ground Database (I)

The First Eighteen

Update: The second installment is here.

So yesterday we had dueling analysis of the Tampa Bay Times’ (“TBT”) database of “Stand Your Ground” cases.  On one hand you had an article in The Daily Caller that declared that Blacks benefit from Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ law at disproportionate rate.  And reacting to this piece, the Atlantic Wire posted a piece called No, Blacks Don't 'Benefit' from Florida's Stand Your Ground Law.

Now, first the database is useful to some degree.  For instance through it I have already seen a case where a black man successfully invokes self-defense in the shooting of a white man in questionable circumstances, and is not even charged with a crime.  This is a ready answer to the claim that no black person could get away with doing what George Zimmerman did.

But the idea that you can treat this as any kind of representative sample is just plain silly.  Here’s what the Tampa Bay Times says about its database:

The Tampa Bay Times used media reports, court records and interviews with prosecutors and attorneys to identify more than 200 “stand your ground” cases across Florida. The list, though incomplete, is the most comprehensive in the state and likely includes most fatal cases.

So they are telling us that the database is incomplete.  So how can we be assured that we are getting anything close to a true picture of what is happening in Florida?  Further, in all bluntness, I don’t trust media reports on this subject.  As you will see, they get things wrong.  Just in the first eighteen, I saw them leave out significant and relevant facts in the Trayvon Martin case, label people who would ordinarily be considered Hispanic as “white,” and incorrectly suggest that assailants who tried to run a guy down in a jeep was armed only with a bat.

The other problem was that looking through the database, I saw cases that had nothing to do with Stand Your Ground.  Now this point deserves a little clarification.  Stand Your Ground can best be associated with two features of Florida law that is shared by most—but not all—states.  The first is that there is no duty to attempt retreat unless you are the aggressor.  That is what “Stand Your Ground” most directly references.  As in you can stand your ground and defend yourself, instead of being punished if you choose not to retreat.

Further, there is another unusual rule in Florida law that provides for an immunity hearing before the criminal case begins.  More or less, if the Defendant can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he was acting in self-defense, they can skip the entire trial.  I have yet to hear anyone complain about this rule, but it was part of the package of reforms included in the Stand Your Ground legislation and is thus associated with it.

The rest of Florida’s laws are actually pretty ordinary and I think a great deal of the hysteria over the case involves people discovering what is actually in the law of most states for the first time.  In most states, if you reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to prevent death or serious injury, you can use such force.  Some of the hysteria comes from people not paying attention to all of the words involved.  I hear people say, “but you mean that if I think all black people are dangerous I can just start shooting black people?” or some other scenario involving a paranoid and unreasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.  And the answer is “no.”  That is why that word “reasonable” is up there.  Shooting a person because you think they are secretly a space alien or because you think all people of a certain ethnic group are “scary” is not reasonable.

So generalized findings that you were afraid for your life and justified in shooting as a result has nothing to do with Stand Your Ground, and indeed is not even an unusual feature in Florida law.  Likewise, it has nothing to do with Stand Your Ground is when a court rules that you have no duty to retreat in your own home.  You should consult your local laws, but I believe that there isn’t a single state in the union that requires you to retreat from your own home—at least from an intruder.  It is worth nothing that prior to Stand Your Ground being passed, that Florida required an abused wife to flee her home if possible.

So let me dig through the data.  I might very well publish as my analysis is in progress.  But I will show you whether the data demonstrates either Stand Your Ground No Retreat Rules (“SYG-No-Retreat”) or Stand Your Ground Immunity (SYG-Immunity)—meaning cases where the immunity hearing was granted—and anything else worth noting.

So let’s dig in, shall we?

First, I will refer to these cases by the name of the first victim listed, because it is as good as any method.  And please note that I will start with the fatal cases first.  I have not yet decided if I will explore the non-fatal cases.

Shervadia was nine and since the discussion is focused on race, she is black as were all of the men convicted in relation to her death.  Now of course you might reasonably wonder, “how can you claim self-defense against a nine year old?”  The answer is that sometimes in the course of exercising lawful self-defense you accidentally harm a third party.  I am not going to spend half an hour researching this point of law in Florida, so I will rely on Wayne R. LaFave and Austin W. Scott, Jr. Criminal Law 462 (2d Ed, 1986) when it says that the common rule is that if you are acting in lawful self-defense, you are only held liable for the injuries to third parties if you were acting recklessly.  Do consult your local laws on this subject and wholly apart from any legal duty, if you have to defend your own life or another’s exercise great care that you don’t harm anyone else.

The underlying facts involve a shootout, possibly over drugs.  This took place on the lawns of the gentlemen, but the no retreat rule for your dwelling doesn’t apply to your yard.  The described facts don’t make it clear who started shooting first.  But some quick research into the caselaw can give you a slightly more detailed understanding of the facts.  The short version is that Damon Darling said he perceived a threat from Leroy LaRose, and thus fired first.

Now, at first blush this appears to be a Stand Your Ground case, but there is an interesting wrinkle.  As the court noted,

Moreover, the "stand your ground" law specifically requires that the person invoking the defense "not [be] engaged in an unlawful activity." § 776.013(3); see also Dorsey v. State, 74 So.3d 521 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011) (holding that possession of a firearm by a convicted felon qualifies as an unlawful activity within the "stand your ground" law).

The court goes on to explain that Darling himself was a felon and thus was unlawfully possessing a firearm, thus fitting exactly within that precedent.  This didn’t mean he could never defend himself, but it did mean he had a duty to retreat.

So we have a failed attempt to invoke SYG-Immunity.  But otherwise this is not a SYG case, because the law didn’t actually allow him to stand his ground.

Okay part of me was tempted to make a joke about the late pop star, but we are talking about a dead fifteen year old, so I will avoid it.  This was another shoot-out, only the victim was allegedly at least in a gang involved in the fire fight.  So he was not an entirely innocent young man, although if you want to lament that a young life went down that path, I won’t disagree with you.

The case was in public (so SYG-no-retreat was involved), and two of the defendants were granted SYG-immunity.  A third man pled guilty to manslaughter, although it wasn’t clear what the basis was besides bringing Jackson to the gunfight.

The TBT says it is unclear who initiated it, but in all bluntness, the court records would have the judge’s findings on the subject, or at least a finding whether these Defendants who were granted immunity started it.

And since we are tracking race, everyone in this case was black.

This case involves multiple teenagers, including a victim and killer* who are referred to as “white” but with Spanish family names.  As you will see in a moment, the TBT seems to have a problem labelling as "white" people society normally considers to be "Hispanic."  As I have said, the only relevance of race is the persistence of racism, so the only useful definition of race is to predict what racists would think of them.  Would white racists hate them for their color?  Would Hispanic racists embrace them as one of their own?  One can only guess.

In any case, the victim was one of a group of guys who were bullying Savvedra and Saavedra pulled a knife and stabbed Nuno repeatedly, killing him.

There was no duty to retreat, but the facts suggest he was trying to anyway, so it is unclear whether SYG-no-retreat helped him.  But he was granted SYG-immunity.

By the way that is really nice of the TBT to put the fact that the killer was learning disabled in the article.  Glad everyone who Googles his name ever will know that, exposing him to a lifetime of discrimination.  That was a great thing for them to do.  (Note: I am being sarcastic.)

Two white guys, as part of two groups, maybe gangs.  This is how they described the defendant, Menard’s claim of self-defense:

Menard, who had a concealed weapons permit, said he fired because he feared being attacked and saw one of the opposing group members carrying what turned out to be a pellet gun shaped like an Uzi. Menard, 24, fired five times into the crowd, wounding two and killing Jake Couture, 17.

On its face that sounds like self-defense, but I will grant the jury the benefit of the doubt in determining that he was not acting reasonably.

And it’s worth taking a moment to explain this.  I always recognize the limits of my knowledge.  I didn’t see this guy as he testified.  I didn’t hear all the evidence.  So I am not going to second-guess the jury, without that base of information.  Of course juries do get it wrong now and then, but my baseline is that the jury is right until I see evidence convincing me they were wrong.  That is a significant difference between these case and, say, the Zimmerman case, where I heard all of the witness testimony, saw all the evidence, heard all the arguments.  I know as much as the jury knew in the Zimmerman case, so if they had reached the wrong conclusion, I would have felt comfortable saying that.

Since this was not on their property, this was a SYG-no-retreat case, but he failed to win it.  There is no suggestion he sought SYG-immunity.

I am going to skip over this case for the most part because it is pending.  So I don’t feel comfortable that the facts listed are accurate.  The only thing worth noting is that the victim is black and about the same age as Trayvon Martin and the killer was white and he was charged.  Beyond that and noting that it appears to be a probable SYG-no-retreat rule case, I don’t feel comfortable discussing the facts.

Well, we know all about this case, don’t we?  So for me it is interesting at best to see how they treat this case, as it informs how we look at the rest of their data.  The first thing to note is that they call Zimmerman Hispanic and do not pick one of the “angelic” pictures of Martin.  Here’s their description of the facts:

George Zimmerman was driving in his gated neighborhood when he spotted Trayvon Martin, 17, walking on a paved path between two sets of townhouses. Zimmerman, head of the Neighborhood Watch, called the police to report a suspicious person and began following Martin, first in a car and later on foot. Zimmerman's father said his son said Martin then threatened him, punched him in the nose and knocked him to the concrete. Zimmerman pulled a gun from a holster on his waist and shot Martin. Zimmerman claimed self-defense and was found not guilty by a jury on July 13, 2013.

As indicated in my last Zimmerman post, this undersells the facts slightly.  Martin actually broke Zimmerman’s nose and was still beating him when Zimmerman fired, or at least that is what the evidence supports.

It is also strange that they depict the prosecutor as making the decision, when in fact it was the jury that let him off.

Further, they stated that the victim did not initiate the conflict.  That is a dubious reading of the circumstances.  It all depends on what you mean by “initiated.”  If you mean had any interaction at all, it is probably fair to say Zimmerman initiated it.  But in terms of whether Zimmerman  was the aggressor under the law, there is absolutely no evidence of that.  But all of the evidence suggests that Martin did throw the first punch, although even that doesn’t necessarily make Martin the aggressor.  There might be no aggressor.

It also states that Zimmerman pursued Martin, a point that was contested in the trial, although it might not have been critical to the verdict.  And further, it states that the defendant could have retreated.  As I have said before, the relevant consideration is at the moment he fired and the evidence overwhelmingly showed he was pinned down and could not retreat.

It also claims no one witnessed the attack.  But in fact Good did see some of the fighting and there were plenty of ear witnesses.  So that is another dubious claim.

So this example demonstrates how poor the data might be.  Some of its weakness appears to come from ignorance of the law, and in other cases, they seem simply ignorant of the facts.

This should make us concerned about the rest of the data.

Two black men in their fifties come home to find two guys, one listed as Hispanic and one listed as white but with a Spanish family name, robbing their home.  One was killed the other injured.  All four men were armed.

While you are not allowed to straight up murder a person in your home, your freedom to use deadly force is considerably greater.  So honestly I see this case as a wash, not proving much of anything except arguably that two black men defending their homes were be treated like anyone else.  Charges were not even brought.

Since there were no charges, there was no SYG-immunity hearing.  And since this was the home, this is not about SYG-no-retreat.  In all bluntness, this case has nothing to do with SYG.

And here’s the case that most calls into question the TBT’s racial classification.  As you saw in the last case and in the Zimmerman/Martin case, they do call people “Hispanic” when they think it is warranted.  But in the case of the victim, Mr. Santiago, who looks like this...


...they describe him as a white male.  I think most people would call him Hispanic.  So they seem to be struggling with who is and who isn’t Hispanic.

Anyway, the killer was a black man.

This case bears some resemblance to the increasingly famous Alexander case, in that a warning shot was involved.  The killer, Corey, believed he heard someone trying to break in to his house and claimed he fired a warning shot.  Somehow that shot struck and killed the victim, who was actually trying to break into his home.

Since this was defense of the home, SYG-no-retreat doesn’t apply.  But the description suggests that SYG-immunity was invoked without opposition from the prosecutor.  Which is curious—if the prosecutor didn’t oppose invoking that law, why charge him in the first place?  Anyway, the immunity was granted.

This is another pending case, so I won’t comment much.  But it appears they are prosecuting a Hispanic man for the killing of a white man, since we are noting the races involved.

This case involved a black victim and a black killer.  SYG-no-retreat doesn’t apply because this was in the home, but I am at a loss to understand why SYG-immunity was granted on these facts:

Kunta Grant called 911 to report an altercation with a teenager for whom he was legal guardian. Grant was heard on the call saying, "I'm going to kill you." Police arrived minutes later to find the victim, Daniel Amore, dead in the doorway of the home. Amore had been stabbed once in the chest with a kitchen knife. Grant said Amore, 18, was being disrespectful and he told the boy to leave the house. Grant said Amore hit him in the mouth, then walked out to the carport and smashed a window. The two men then faced off in the doorway, and Grant said Amore punched him once again. Grant then stabbed the teen, killing him.

So it sounds from that description of the facts like it’s hard to understand why deadly force was justified.  But then again in the Martin case, the attack by Martin was described as mere punches as well, and it was much more severe than that.  So it may be the case that the TBT is not telling us enough of the facts.

Another black victim and black killer.  Basically a man heard his burglar alarm go off, opened his garage and saw two men running away.  He shot and killed one of them trying to escape, which is a very dubious assertion of self-defense (unless there is more to it I am not hearing, a distinct possibility).  But he was not even charged.

Since he was in his home when he shot, SYG-no-retreat doesn’t apply.  Since he was not charged, SYG-immunity doesn’t either.  In all bluntness this case doesn’t involve Stand Your Ground at all.

Hispanic victim, and a dubiously labeled “white man” as the killer.

Basically they were acquaintances smoking pot in the killer’s house.  For some reason the victim and a second man jumped him, and started beating him up, even breaking his nose.  Jimeno had a gun.  So the killer, Alexander Lopez-Lima, ran into his bedroom and got a gun and shot them.  It is unclear if he shot them in his bedroom or not.

SYG-no-retreat doesn’t apply because he was in his home.  There also doesn’t seem to be a SYG-immunity hearing.  The judge just dismissed the charges.  So this is another case where Stand Your Ground doesn’t seem to apply.

Basically, this was a fist-fight between two Caucasian girls.  Ludeman started the fight but she brought fists and Wade, her killer, brought a knife.  This was one of many confrontations over “the same boy.”  Wade was convicted of Second Degree murder, probably due to a finding of spite on her part.  There is no indication that Ludemann had injured Wade.

There is no indication of a SYG-immunity hearing.  But this does appear to be a failed attempt at a SYG-no-retreat defense.

Hispanic victim, white shooter.  Thomas Baker was jogging when two teens (the victim and a second man) attempted to rob him.  One took a swing at him and missed.  He pulled out the gun and started shooting.  Baker was not charged killing Mustelier.

So this was a SYG-no-retreat case.

Since there was no charge, SYG-immunity is irrelevant.

Black victim, white shooter.  Scott basically tried to rob Tyson Moore, and even had his hands in his pocket in a way that suggested he had a gun.  But he was not armed.  Moore’s friend started fighting with Scott, and as they fought, Moore stabbed Scott in the back.  When deciding to charge Moore, while the prosecutor cited SYG-no-immunity, these facts suggest that he was defending not just his own life but his friend’s.  Even in retreat jurisdictions he is not required to leave his friend behind before he is allowed to use deadly force to protect his friend, because that would be absurd.  So I would call this a dubious SYG-no-retreat case, and since he was not charged SYG immunity didn’t apply.

This case involves three victims, one injured, two killed, who are allegedly “white.”  But they have the Spanish surnames and with TBT’s sketchy record on this point we might suspect that society would construct them as “Hispanic.”  The killer, Norman Borden, is white.

The TBT says they were armed with bats, and indeed they had one, but they were also armed with a Jeep.  As in, they tried to run him down.  Borden shot five times as they charged him and then nine more times after they crashed.  The prosecutors only asserted that the shots after the Jeep stopped were not valid self-defense.

SYG-immunity was sought and denied.  But he was acquitted.

The facts also bear some resemblance to the increasingly famous Alexander case, because Borden left and came back with a gun.  That is, they had words, both parties left and then came back and the victims then charged him in their jeep.  But the difference was that at the moment Borden used force he was actually under attack—as in, a Jeep was charging right toward him in the first spread of shots.  So that is the moment, if he had a duty to retreat, when he would have had to try to retreat.  And a deeper understanding of the facts would be necessary to determine if that was viable.  If he could have ducked into an alley that the Jeep couldn’t have fit through, then it would seem he had the ability to retreat.  But he might not have.

A more difficult case is when he shot after they crashed.  Plainly he was not presently under attack, but he might have been afraid that if he didn’t act quickly he would have been again.  He might have reasonably believed that now was the best time to stop this attack, while the car was not moving and a relatively easy target.  He might have believed that if the jeep got moving again, the chances of him being able to effectively stop it would go down considerably.  This makes the jury’s acquittal sound reasonable (though in all cases, I am open to them being wrong).

Still if he had a duty to retreat, he might have been convicted.  So this case might involve SYG-no-retreat.

White male victim, (old) white male shooter, allegedly.  The shooter has a name, Jose Tapones, that makes you wonder again if society would consider him to be Hispanic . And I will add, an unarmed victim.  Basically they were having some kind of running dispute, and Cote knocked on Tapones door to continue their dispute.  Tapones answered the door and allegedly the victim tried to come in and he shot him twice with a shotgun.  The prosecutor argued that even if you buy self-defense for the first shot, it so debilitated Cote it didn’t justify a second shot.

Since he was allegedly defending his home SYG-no-retreat didn’t seem to apply.  But he was denied SYG-immunity.  But he was ultimately acquitted.

One dead white guy, and an injured allegedly white Joey Ruinato.  The killer was also white.  The victims were escorting a teen home who they believe the killer, Brandon Ward, was abusing in some fashion.  There is conflicting testimony about who started the fight, but the article makes it sound more like Ward attacked first.

SYG attempted to invoke SYG-no-retreat, but for whatever reason they decided it was murder.  The jury might have found that Ward attacked first.  If he did, then he would have a duty to retreat even in Florida.  If they didn’t find he struck first, they might have instead decided that he did not face death or great bodily harm at the hands of the victims.

There was no indication he sought SYG-immunity.

There are many, many more cases and I plan to at least dig through all the fatal cases and see what we can see with this improved—but flawed—data.  So consider this the first installment of many to come.  But what we are seeing so far is many cases that do not involve Stand Your Ground in any appreciable respect invoking it.  I would add that I don’t think most regular people would have a strong objection to a SYG-immunity hearing.  If the Defendant can actively prove s/he is innocent right at the beginning, what is the point of trying him or her?

We also see that they are using dubious racial/ethnic classifications when dealing with Hispanics.  We have seen one person most people would call “Hispanic” being called white and suspect many more instances.  This is relevant because if people think that juries are being unfair according to color, we need to nail down how they would be constructed racially and ethnically.  For instance, the suggestion early in the case that George Zimmerman benefitted from a white “good old boys” network seems less likely when we recognize that most white supremacist types are unlikely to recognize him as one of their own.

But this best seen is a post in progress.  I don’t know where precisely the data will lead me.

Let me finally say something else.  Those who say that support for Zimmerman is race-based, or that if a black man did exactly the same thing he would be in prison right now.  What is unique in the Zimmerman case is just how strong the evidence is in his favor.  O’Mara even suggested to the jury that they should write at the bottom of the form as “innocent” rather than just “not guilty” because he felt so confident in the evidence.  By comparison, the prosecutors often admitted that the evidence wasn’t clear on many topics.

There are a few critical questions as a matter of law in that case.

The first is: who struck first?  On that topic, there is literally no evidence supporting the claim that Zimmerman struck first.  Zimmerman says he didn’t and if you don’t believe him, you have... nothing.  So how can a jury find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Zimmerman struck first?  It can’t.

Second, is: when Zimmerman fired his gun, did he reasonably believe it was necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury?  Here the evidence gets a little better.  While no living witness besides Zimmerman saw him shoot, there is some evidence that tends to indicate Zimmerman is telling the truth.  We had one witness who saw from far away who thought she saw Zimmerman on top of Martin.  We had another who was much closer who saw the opposite.  And we had the screams on the 911 recordings.  Whoever was screaming was most likely the one on the bottom.  Martin’s parents said in court it was their son.  But Tracey Martin, his father, admitted that the first time he heard the recordings that he didn’t think it was his son and his brother’s testimony had similar problems.  By comparison, a parade of people swore it was Zimmerman: his mother, his uncle, his neighbors, and so on.  And the defense, not the prosecution, introduced forensic evidence that the bullet was fired from below.  And finally, Martin was found face down.

That seems to be reasonable doubt right there.

That is not to say that racism never plays a role in our system.  Often cases turn on whether a jury believes one person or another.  Often whether a person is charged is based on whether the police believe one person or another.  It is in these kinds of subjective judgments that racism is most likely to play a role.

But the Zimmerman case?  There is very little subjectivity involved.  Yes, I suppose you could believe the Martins when they say it is their son screaming on the call, instead of Zimmerman, but there was so much evidence in his favor, it’s really hard to see how that isn’t at least reasonable to doubt that he didn’t act in self-defense.

Anyway, that is part one.  When will the next part come?  When it is ready.  So stay tuned.


* Please note that my labeling of certain parties as “killers” is not an accusation of wrongdoing.  Zimmerman is the killer of Trayvon Martin, but by all evidence that was a lawful killing.  If I wanted to be pejorative, I would have called them murderers.



I have accused some people, particularly Brett Kimberlin, of reprehensible conduct.  In some cases, the conduct is even criminal.  In all cases, the only justice I want is through the appropriate legal process—such as the criminal justice system.  I do not want to see vigilante violence against any person or any threat of such violence.  This kind of conduct is not only morally wrong, but it is counter-productive.

In the particular case of Brett Kimberlin, I do not want you to even contact him.  Do not call him.  Do not write him a letter.  Do not write him an email.  Do not text-message him.  Do not engage in any kind of directed communication.  I say this in part because under Maryland law, that can quickly become harassment and I don’t want that to happen to him.

And for that matter, don’t go on his property.  Don’t sneak around and try to photograph him.  Frankly try not to even be within his field of vision.  Your behavior could quickly cross the line into harassment in that way too (not to mention trespass and other concerns).

And do not contact his organizations, either.  And most of all, leave his family alone.

The only exception to all that is that if you are reporting on this, there is of course nothing wrong with contacting him for things like his official response to any stories you might report.  And even then if he tells you to stop contacting him, obey that request.  That this is a key element in making out a harassment claim under Maryland law—that a person asks you to stop and you refuse.

And let me say something else.  In my heart of hearts, I don’t believe that any person supporting me has done any of the above.  But if any of you have, stop it, and if you haven’t don’t start.


  1. I also doubt Sybrina Fulton's claim that the voice was that of her son. Why? She did not raise him.

  2. Great piece. I look forward to the next installment. I will let people know about this in other threads I post on...