Law & Order

There may be nothing new under the sun, but in the Sunshine State, the Feds say identity-theft tax fraud is an epidemic that's spreading to other states. 

And it's only going to get worse. 

It seems Florida inmates are sharing "how-tos" in prison.  

George Zimmerman's attorney is asking that the judge in the case be removed over a possible conflict of interest. Yahoo News reports:

Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman's attorney, requested that Seminole Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler be removed after she revealed that her husband works with Mark NeJame, a CNN legal analyst. Last week, after O'Mara agreed to take Zimmerman as a client, NeJame revealed that he had been approached by Zimmerman—the 28-year-old neighborhood watchman accused of second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin—about representing him.


Zimmerman was turned away by NeJame, but not before NeJame recommended other defense attorneys, including O'Mara.

Zimmerman stands accused of 2nd degree murder for killing teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford in late February.  It happened after neighborhood watch captain Zimmerman flouted the advice of a 911 operator and followed Martin and the two had some sort of confrontation.

The National Bar Association will present a town hall meeting titled, “Standing Our Ground for Justice” at noon Thursday, April 19. The public forum will be held at the Beulah Baptist Institutional Church,  1006 Cypress St.  in Tampa.

The meeting will provide an update on the Trayvon Martin case, as well as the legal and social effects that have been compounded by the case and led to a nationwide movement for justice.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

Routine patrol early Sunday morning turned out to be anything but for Hillsborough Deputy Juan Lazu.

Around 1:00 a.m. he was hit nearly head-on by a driver in a Ford Excursion going the wrong way with his lights off on Bearss Avenue westbound near the Jimmy B. Keel Public Library. 

The impact sent the squad car spinning and Deputy Lazu was able to radio for help.  Other deputies pulled him from the squad car before it and the Ford exploded and burst into flames.  Deputy Lazu had minor injuries and is expected to recover fully and get back to work. 

Second Degree Murder Charge for Zimmerman

Apr 11, 2012

George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who admits to shooting unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, has been charged with second degree murder.

That announcement came at an afternoon news conference in Jacksonville by State prosecutor Angela Corey.

Corey said her investigative team did not come to the decision lightly.

"We do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition. We prosecute on the facts of any given case, as well as the laws of the state of Florida.

The Washington Post is reporting that George Zimmerman will be charged in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

The newspaper cites an unidentified law enforcement source close to the investigation.

The special prosecutor, Angela Corey, said Tuesday night she would make an announcement about charges within 72 hours.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says the Selmon Crosstown Expressway may need to be closed down during certain parts of the National Republican Convention in August, but nothing is for sure.

There's a subcommittee focusing entirely on transportation issues for the National Republican Convention. They're currently working on ways to balance security and convenience. But final transportation plans aren't expected to be announced until 4 - 6 weeks before the convention.

There's a story in the Tampa Bay Times about a pretty nasty chemical that's been found at a Tampa facility that makes synthetic marijuana.

The Tampa Bay Times says EPA and OSHA investigators have been called in to evaluate the safety of a Tampa warehouse after police did a routine inspection of the facility. The officers were overwhelmed by the fumes which burned their eyes.

The man behind the Tampa Epoch newspaper for and about the homeless has been found dead at his newspaper's office. Police say it was suicide.

Bill Sharpe, 59, launched the newspaper to help panhandlers make money legitimately after local governments passed restrictions and bans on panhandling.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that police and the medical examiner have not released the exact cause of death:

Stand Your Ground: The Woman Behind Florida's Law

Mar 29, 2012

More than any single person, Marion Hammer is responsible for Florida's Stand Your Ground law. She’s the powerful lobbyist for the National Rifle Association in Florida and a grandmother who stands all of 4-feet-11-inches tall.

Hammer lobbied and pushed for Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in 2005, among the most aggressive gun rights legislation in the country.

Police say George Zimmerman wasn’t arrested for shooting Trayvon Martin precisely because he stood his ground and claimed to defend himself.

Hammer declined to speak with National Public Radio for this story.

Just in time for the Republican National Convention in August...Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is proposing a so-called "Clean Zone" in the area surrounding the the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Buckhorn says he's just trying to keep everyone safe during the convention. No weapons would be allowed in the zone, and protests involving 50 people or more would require a permit.

Protesters would be encouraged to stay in an enclosed "public viewing area" which would be within sight of the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

There are reports from The Miami Herald and CBS News that police in Sanford, Fla., were looking to arrest George Zimmerman on a manslaughter charge for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26.

TAMPA - An East Tampa Church was overflowing Tuesday night as community members came out in support of the family of slain teenager Trayvon Martin.  Nearly a thousand people packed the pews at the 34th Street Church of God, standing and swaying to the orators who evoked the plight of Martin as a return to the early days of the civil rights movement.

The man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in an incident that has reignited the national conversation about race relations told police that the younger man knocked him to the ground and slammed his head into the sidewalk, the Orlando Sentinel just reported.

TAMPA - While thousands protested in Sanford in support of the family of slain teenager Trayvon Martin, a group of activists gathered in Tampa at the University of South Florida to call for justice in the Martin case. 

Emmanual Catalan is chair of the USF College Democrats.

 " I, as an African-American, should not be fearful of walking down a street and worry about the prospects of me being gunned down, because I fit the stereotype of a criminal because I'm wearing a hoodie, " he said, "and most importantly, I happen to be black."

Racial Tension Runs Through Sanford's Roots

Mar 23, 2012

In Sanford, Fla., historic wrongs against the local black community go back a long way. The memory of those events is still fresh, and they are getting another airing in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, which protesters have called racially motivated.

Modern Sanford is built on the shoulders of several historically black communities. Goldsborough, incorporated in 1891, was one of the earliest black towns in Florida.

Trayvon Martin was "a typical teenager who would end up in a casket, buried in white suit with a powder blue vest," the Miami Herald writes.

Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law says you do not have a duty to retreat if you feel threatened. It's come under renewed scrutiny because of the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

But two legal experts say the law may have little affect on Martin's case, or whether self-appointed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman goes to jail.

Here's what Stetson Law professor Robert Batey told us in an e-mail:

As national attention continues to be focused on the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., last month and the questions it resurrects about race relations in the U.S., The Orlando Sentinel today adds to what's known about George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old man who pulled the trigger.

Trayvon Martin apparently was being followed by self-appointed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman before Zimmerman shot and killed the unarmed teenager, according to ABC News.

The case has gained national attention for its racial overtones (Martin was black, Zimmerman white) and how it raises questions about Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law.