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“Another Nigger fried. No big deal.”
-- April 16, 2011, Statement by New York City Police Officer Michael Daragjati, boasting of his false arrest of another African-American male.
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Posted: June 28, 2012 9:32 AM - Updated: Jan 15, 2013 11:31 AM PDT
HOUSTON, TX - Retired Houston firefighter Raul Rodriguez (pictured left) was sentenced Wednesday to 40 years after he claimed that Texas' version of a stand-your-ground law allowed him to fatally shoot a neighbor over an argument about a noisy party. Rodriguez, 46, was convicted of murder on June 13 for the 2010 killing of 36-year-old Kelly Danaher, an elementary school teacher. Angry about the noise coming from a birthday party at his neighbor's home, Rodriguez went over to Danaher's house and got into an argument with her and two other men.
In a 22-minute video he recorded on the night of the shooting, Rodriguez told a police dispatcher "my life is in danger now" and "these people are going to go try and kill me." He then said, "I'm standing my ground here," and fatally shot Danaher and wounded the other two men.
At trial, defense attorneys said Rodriguez, who had a concealed handgun license, was defending himself when one of the men lunged at him and he had less than a second to respond. Prosecutors called Rodriguez the aggressor and said he could have safely left his neighbor's driveway any time before the shooting, and the said Rodriguez had a history of not getting along with Danaher and other neighbors.
One neighbor testified that Rodriguez bragged about his guns and said a person could avoid prosecution in a shooting by telling authorities you were in fear of your life and were standing your ground and defending yourself. During the trial's punishment phase, neighbors, former co-workers and Rodriguez's ex-wife testified that Rodriguez was abusive, a bad neighbor and once shot a dog.
Rodriguez's attorneys also called for more than a dozen witnesses during the punishment phase, including his wife and sons. They and other family members testified that he was not abusive, always stressed the importance of gun safety and was not cavalier with his weapons. One son said Rodriguez shot the dog because it was attacking his family.
Rodriguez's defense was similar to that used by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who is citing Florida's stand-your-ground law in his defense in the fatal February shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. Rodriguez's case, however, was decided under a different kind of self-defense doctrine.
Texas' version of a stand-your-ground law is known as the Castle Doctrine. It was revised in 2007 to expand the right to use deadly force. The new version allows people to defend themselves in their homes, workplaces or vehicles. The law also says that a person using force cannot provoke the attacker or be involved in criminal activity at the time.
Posted: Jun 13, 2012 12:07 AM PDT - Updated: Jun 15, 2012 1:25 AM PDT
HOUSTON, TX (WCJB) - A retired Houston-area firefighter was convicted of murder Wednesday for gunning down his unarmed neighbor during a dispute over a noisy house party, with jurors rejecting his argument that he was within his rights under Texas' version of a stand-your-ground law. Raul Rodriguez, 47, faces up to life in prison for the 2010 killing of Kelly Danaher. Jurors deliberated for about five hours after having received the case following closing arguments earlier Wednesday.
During closing arguments, prosecutor Kelli Johnson said Rodriguez (pictured left) started the confrontation when instead of calmly asking Danaher to turn down the music he armed himself with a handgun and a camera and proceeded to harass people at the party. Johnson said Rodriguez lured and provoked Danaher and two other men to come out onto the street and threatened them by brandishing his gun. Rodriguez did have a concealed handgun license. She said Danaher and the two other men were unarmed and that Rodriguez's life was never in any danger. Danaher's widow had told jurors her husband was not a confrontational person. "This is not what stand your ground is," Johnson said. "Stand your ground is something the law takes very seriously. The law makes it very clear" when the law can be used.
Rodriguez was angry about the noise coming from Danaher's home, where the family was having a birthday party for Danaher's wife and young daughter. Rodriguez went to the home and got into an argument with Danaher, a 36-year-old elementary school teacher, and two other men who were at the party. In a 22-minute video he recorded the night of the shooting, Rodriguez can be heard telling a police dispatcher "my life is in danger now" and "these people are going to go try and kill me." He then said "I'm standing my ground here," and shot Danaher after somebody appeared to grab his camera. The two other men were wounded.
Rodriguez's reference to standing his ground is similar to the claim made by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who is citing Florida's stand-your-ground law in his defense in the fatal February shooting of an unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin. Rodriguez's case, however, was decided under a different kind of self-defense doctrine.
Texas' version of the law, which is known as the Castle Doctrine, was revised in 2007 to expand the right to use deadly force. It allows people to defend themselves not only in their homes but also in their workplaces or vehicles. Legal experts say the expansion also gave people wider latitude on the use of deadly force. The law also says a person using force can't provoke the attacker or be involved in criminal activity at the time. Johnson said Rodriguez can't hide behind the stand-your-ground law because he provoked the confrontation and then brandished his weapon against an unarmed individual, which is a crime. Johnson told jurors prosecutors don't have any problems with guns in Texas. "But with that comes a lot of responsibility. It has to be used as a last resort," she said.
However, his defense attorney said he doesn't believe Rodriguez did anything illegal. He said Rodriguez went to complain and was confronted by Danaher and the two other partygoers, and that he didn't pull out his gun until he was standing in the street and Danaher approached him in a threatening manner. "He had a right to be (in) the street. He was not provoking anybody. He was not engaged in any criminal activity. The (stand-your-ground) law is not only for home invasions. That's why the law was changed," Davis said. An acquittal of Rodriguez would not "say everyone in the city of Houston is going to turn into the wild, wild west," the attorney said.
Danaher's wife, Mindy, said she cried tears of joy and sadness after the verdict was read. "I'm just glad that he can't hurt anybody else. That's my main thing," she said outside the courtroom. "I love my husband and I miss him so much."
Rodriguez's attorneys left the courtroom without speaking to reporters. His family, who sobbed after hearing the verdict, declined to comment. His attorneys did not present any witnesses in his defense. The trial's punishment phase, which will include further testimony, was scheduled to begin Thursday. A Houston criminal defense attorney who was not involved in the case but who followed it, said a conviction in a case like Rodriguez's might prompt some clarification of Texas' stand-your-ground law that would more clearly define what it means to provoke someone. But he said the outcome of the case, conviction or acquittal, would not lead to major changes in the law.
Published: Friday, 27 Jan 2012, 3:17 PM PDT
Updated: Tuesday, 27 Jul 2011, 4:04 PM PDT
Published : Tuesday, 26 Jul 2011, 7:28 AM EDT
(The DeKalb County sheriff's office says three detention officers have been charged in relation to a scuffle involving an inmate. The sheriff's office says officers Nelson Seals, Jean Bruno and Deborah Grier were arrested Monday.)
DECATUR, Ga. - The DeKalb County sheriff's office says three detention officers have been charged in relation to a scuffle involving an inmate. The sheriff's office says officers Nelson Seals, Jean Bruno and Deborah Grier were arrested Monday. Officials say an argument on May 15 between Seals and the unidentified inmate over restroom use became physical. The inmate was being held in the DeKalb County Jail on a disorderly conduct charge.
Sheriff Thomas Brown says all three officers, along with an unidentified officer, have been suspended without pay.
June 22, 2011
Unarmed & Killed
Agent Norman Wielsch
The Grim Reaper!
“The plaintiffs herein seem to me, by their testimony, to be convinced that there was a conspiracy between the five black firefighters who passed the test and the fire chief. The only evidence of that is that the chief knew and met with those persons at times prior to the test. He also knew and met with the other candidates, but the difference is that (and the only difference is) of skin color. Propping a conspiracy theory on skin color is unreasonable.”Less than a year later, on October 24, 1996, Robert Gremminger shot and fatally wounded Anthony Lamont Gilbert at the Great Mall of Milpitas in broad day light at 12:07 p.m., with a gun that he did not have a permit to carry. Gremminger claimed that the gun was a 30 year old off duty weapon that he had from his days as a Mountain View Police Officer and prior to this incident, he had never fired the gun. Gremminger also claimed that he initially retrieved his gun from his red Corvette licensed “Hotstuff” on the basis that he thought a security guard needed help after he had confronted Gilbert over an alleged shoplifting incident in the parking lot. Gremminger did not know what the confrontation was about, nor did he ask the security guard did he need help. After Gremminger returned from retrieving his gun, he claimed that he shot his gun because he thought that Gilbert was going to run him over. At the time of the incident, Gilbert’s car was moving at the rate of one mile per hour. The whole incident with the exception of the actual shooting was captured on videotape by the Great Mall’s cameras. Gremminger was later charged with second degree murder. GREMMINGER’S WIFE DEFENDS HIS ACTIONS On November 4, 1996, Judi Gremminger called Gremminger a “hero” in the shooting and killing Anthony Lamont Gilbert. She also said “He was really trying to help someone.” Judi Gremminger also stated that if the killing had involved a “black man who shot a black man, or a brown man who shot a brown man, we wouldn’t be here today.” THE BAIL HEARING When Gremminger was arrested, he was originally held without bail. The prosecution argued that Gremminger should not be released on bail, because he was a danger to the community. On November 8, 1996, Gremminger’s attorney Ken Robinson presented over 70 letters supporting that bail should be set. Among these letters were letters from Deputy District Attorney Rod Braughton and Deputy District Attorney Lynn Knapp. Braughton was Gremminger’s former supervisor when they worked together at the Mountain View Police Department in the late 1960s. Knapp had previously worked with Gremminger at the San Jose Fire Department. To the African American community’s dismay, bail was set at $1,000,000 by Santa Clara County Municipal Court Judge Jerome Brock. On the Monday before the Thanksgiving, Gremminger posted bail (with the help of San Jose Police Officers and Firefighters) and was released. SPECIAL TREATMENT GIVEN BY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT After returning from spending the Thanksgiving holiday with his family, on December 2, 1996, the defendant Robert Gremminger was escorted in and out of Superior Court through the hallways which are reserved for judges and escorted out of the back door of the court room. The Sheriff’s office claimed that the reason for the special treatment was that it was necessary to ensure public safety. No one from Gilbert’s family had threatened Gremminger. Many members of the African American community were outraged by this unfair treatment. The NAACP intervened and requested that the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department stop providing Gremminger with special treatment. GREMMINGER FILES FOR PENSION In November 1996, the City of San Jose issued a statement saying that Gremminger was no longer with the department. However, it refused to state whether Gremminger had been terminated or had resigned. Through the San Jose Branch of the NAACP’s investigation, it discovered that Gremminger had applied for retirement benefits when he had turned 55 in November 1996. Under the City Ordinance, the City of San Jose was required to provide an employee with retirement benefits unless he is convicted of a felony or he has committed treason. Because Gremminger had been only charged with a felony, the City of San Jose was required to provide Gremminger with his retirement benefits. As a result, on December 16, 1996, the Police and Fire Retirement Board issued Gremminger’s pension in the amount of $47,000.00 per year. THE TRIAL AND ITS JURY POOL On October 6, 1997, the trial of Robert Gremminger finally began. The jury pool of 180 prospective jurors consisted largely of whites. There were only a handful of African Americans. One African American man testified that he could not be fair and impartial, because his family had gone through a similar incident. As a result, he was excused from the jury duty. The final jury picked was composed of 8 white women who were mostly middle aged and senior citizens, 1 white man, 2 Latinas, and 1 Asian American woman. The San Jose Branch of the NAACP was disappointed by the composition of the jury. However, because there was no legal ground for the NAACP to challenge the composition of the jury, the NAACP was unable to take any action. EVIDENCE THAT THE JURY NEVER HEARD The jury was presented evidence of the videotape, Gremminger’s testimony, the security guard Gary Petrakowitz’s testimony, Milipitas police officer Steven Petrakowitz’s testimony and about a half dozen witnesses who saw the shooting and killing of Anthony Lamont Gilbert. The jury also visited the scene of the crime. However, the jury was never presented evidence relating the following incidents: 1) Gremminger’s shooting of a man in the late 1960s in the arm, 2) the reverse discrimination lawsuit in which he alleged African American firefighters had cheated on the Battalion Chief’s exam, and 3) testimony from Mr. Olmos in which he would have alleged that Gremminger as a Mountain View Police Officer had called him racial epithets in 1960s. Because Gremminger never presented evidence relating to his character, the prosecution could not present any evidence which related to his character. As a result, the jury was never provided with the above evidence. GREMMINGER’S ATTORNEY’S ARGUMENT In his closing argument, criminal defense attorney Ken Robinson pointed out problems with the videotape. Prosecutor Joyce Allegro in her rebuttal later pointed out to the jury that in Robinson’s opening statement, he had said “Thank God for the video. This is the best evidence that we have.” Robinson noted the defendant had dedicated his entire life to protecting people. Robinson pointed to Gremminger’s past careers as a police officer and a firefighter. Robinson also pointed out that Gilbert had assaulted security guards in the past when he had other shoplifting incidents. Robinson also noted that self defense does not require that the individual retreat from danger. Under the law, the individual has the right to stand his ground and defend himself. Robinson noted that he would have left and summoned help. However, given Gremminger’s background in helping others, he was under no duty to retreat. He had the right to defend himself. Robinson also pointed that other witnesses supported Gremminger’s testimony that he felt his life was in danger. He concluded by telling the jury that he was turning over the fate of Gremminger’s life to them. THE PROSECUTION’S ARGUMENT In her closing argument, veteran prosecutor Joyce Allegro pointed to the videotape as the best evidence of Gremminger’s intent to kill Anthony Lamont Gilbert. Allegro refuted Gremminger’s claim that he had retrieved his gun from his car in order to protect the security guard who was in the middle of a confrontation with Anthony Lamont Gilbert who was a driver of 1989 Pontiac that was boxed between other vehicles. Not once did Gremminger ask the security guard did he need help or what was going on. Allegro also pointed out if Gremminger were so concerned about the security guard’s safety why did he turn his back to him when he went to his car to retrieve the gun. She also noted that Gremminger had not run to his car to retrieve the gun, rather he “sauntered” over to his car. Allegro also refuted the defense’s allegation that Gilbert intended to run over Gremminger after he returned. She noted at the time of the shooting, Gremminger had stated the car was going one mile per hour. Allegro pointed to other evidence that Gilbert’s foot was on the brakes and it took several men to remove Gilbert from the car. She also stated that even if Gilbert had been accelerating, shooting him would not have stopped the car. She compared Gremminger to acting as “judge, jury, and executioner” and practicing vigilantism. Allegro asked the jury “Since when do you get the death penalty for petty theft?” THE JURY’S DELIBERATIONS AND ITS VERDICT After jury instructions were given on November 4, 1997, the jury began its deliberations. At the end of the day, one juror informed the court that she could not continue to serve, because she had a prepaid airline ticket. As a result, she was replaced with a white male juror and deliberations began all over again on November 5, 1997. The jurors never really entertained the issue of race. One white male juror noted that they discussed the issue for five minutes and that issue was later put to rest. Initially five of the jurors wanted to acquit Gremminger on theory that he had acted in self defense. Two wanted Gremminger to be convicted of second degree murder. Others felt that Gremminger had acted negligently in firing into a crowded parking lot during noontime. After two days of deliberations, the jury decided to reach a compromise. On Thursday November 6, 1997 at approximately 5:15 p.m., it announced its verdict of involuntary manslaughter. The members of the family of the victim were shocked by the jury’s findings. THE COMMUNITY’S RESPONSE TO THE VERDICT The San Jose Branch of the NAACP, San Jose Million Man March and the Human Rights Defense Committee held a community forum at the African American Community Service Agency on the night of the verdict. The civil rights organizations advocated that Gremminger should receive the maximum penalty under California law and he not be given probation, because probation was totally unacceptable. They also advocated that because Gremminger had been convicted of a felony, the City of San Jose Police and Fire Retirement Board should exercise it discretionary powers and revoke Gremminger’s pension. SAN JOSE CITY COUNCIL MEMBER ALICE WOODY’S RESPONSE San Jose City Council Member Alice Woody who [wa]s the only African American member of the San Jose City Council and a member of the San Jose Police and Fire Department Board will place on the January agenda of the San Jose Police and Fire Department Board the line item of whether the Board should revoke Gremminger’s pension. THE FAMILY OF THE VICTIM FILES 7.5 MILLION DOLLAR LAWSUIT On November 7, 1997, Rodney Moore who is the attorney for the family of the victim Anthony Lamont Gilbert announced that the family had filed a 7.5 million dollar lawsuit against the City of San Jose, City of Milpitas, Great Mall of Milpitas, and Robert Gremminger. The San Jose Branch of the NAACP has vowed that it will support the victim’s family in its civil lawsuit. RACIST BACKLASH IN THE FACE OF THE VERDICT Since the announcement of the verdict, the San Jose Branch of the NAACP has received several racist messages on its answering machine. One message from an unidentified white male stated: “F--k the struggle. You guys are a bunch of n----rs. This n----r got shot for shoplifting. Deserves what he got. He f-----g steals from people. That’s what I call justice. That’s what I think.”
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