Police missteps in Trayvon Martin case hurt prosecution

 

Image: Video image of George Zimmerman under arrest

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Sanford Police Department  /  Reuters file

George Zimmerman, center, walks through a police station in Sanford, Fla., in this image from police video dated Feb. 26.
By SERGE F. KOVALESKI

updated 5/16/2012 7:24:23 PM ET 2012-05-16T23:24:23

SANFORD, Fla. — The killing of Trayvon Martin here two and a half months ago has been cast as the latest test of race relations and equal justice in America. But it was also a test of a small city police department that does not even have a homicide unit and typically handles three or four murder cases a year.

An examination of the Sanford Police Department’s handling of the case shows a series of missteps — including sloppy work — and circumstances beyond its control that impeded the investigation and may make it harder to pursue a case that is already difficult enough.

The national furor has subsided for the moment. But as the second-degree murder case against the defendant, George Zimmerman, moves from the glare of a public spectacle to the grinding procedures of the court system and eventual trial, the department’s performance, roundly criticized by Mr. Martin’s family as bungling and biased, will be scrutinized once again, though in more meticulous detail.

With doubts shadowing the quality and scope of the police work, the prosecution and the defense will be left to tackle critical questions even as they debate the evidence. And ultimately, what happened on the rainy night of Feb. 26 may come to rest on the word of one man, George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer who fired the fatal shot.

In interviews over several weeks, law enforcement authorities, witnesses and local elected officials identified problems with the initial investigation:

  • On the night of the shooting, door-to-door canvassing was not exhaustive enough, said a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation. If officers had been more thorough, they might have determined that Mr. Martin, 17, was a guest — as opposed to an intruder — at a gated community called the Retreat at Twin Lakes. That would have been an important part of the subjective analysis that night by officers sizing up Mr. Zimmerman’s story. Investigators found no witnesses who saw the fight start. Others saw parts of a struggle they could not clearly observe or hear. One witness, though, provided information to the police that corroborated Mr. Zimmerman’s account of the struggle, according to a law enforcement official.
  • The police took only one photo at the scene of any of Mr. Zimmerman’s injuries — a full-face picture of him that showed a bloodied nose — before paramedics tended to him. It was shot on a department cellphone camera and was not downloaded for a few days, an oversight by the officer who took it.
  • The vehicle that Mr. Zimmerman was driving when he first spotted Mr. Martin was mistakenly not secured by officers as part of the crime scene. The vehicle was an important link in the fatal encounter because it was where Mr. Zimmerman called the police to report a suspicious teenager in a hooded sweatshirt roaming through the Retreat. Mr. Zimmerman also said he was walking back to the vehicle when he was confronted by Mr. Martin, who was unarmed, before shooting him.
  • The police were not able to cover the crime scene to shield evidence from the rain, and any blood from cuts that Mr. Zimmerman suffered when he said Mr. Martin pounded his head into a sidewalk may have been washed away.
  • The police did not test Mr. Zimmerman for alcohol or drug use that night, and one witness said the lead investigator quickly jumped to a conclusion that it was Mr. Zimmerman, and not Mr. Martin, who cried for help during the struggle.

Some Sanford officers were skeptical from the beginning about certain details of Mr. Zimmerman’s account. For instance, he told the police that Mr. Martin had punched him over and over again, but they questioned whether his injuries were consistent with the number of blows he claimed he received. They also suspected that some of the threatening and dramatic language that Mr. Zimmerman said Mr. Martin uttered during the struggle — like “You are going to die tonight” — sounded contrived.

The Sanford police — who contended that their 16-day investigation, done in consultation with the original prosecutor in the case, was detailed and impartial — also encountered other obstacles. One involved the investigators’ inability to get the password for Mr. Martin’s cellphone from his family, who apparently did not know it. That was significant because Mr. Martin had been talking to a girl on the phone moments before he was killed, but the young woman did not contact the police after Mr. Martin’s death was made public.

Out of reach
From what is known of the investigation and the available evidence, what exactly happened in the dimly lighted residential development that Sunday night may remain out of reach. Given Mr. Zimmerman’s assertion that he was acting in self-defense, and lacking enough evidence to the contrary, the original prosecutor in the case, Norm Wolfinger, whose jurisdiction includes Sanford, filed no charges against him.

That decision resulted in an increasingly strident public outcry. After Gov. Rick Scott of Florida contacted Mr. Wolfinger and had a conversation with him in late March, the prosecutor recused himself, citing, among other things, an unspecified conflict of interest.

The governor selected another state attorney to handle the case, Angela B. Corey of the Jacksonville area. On April 11, after nearly three weeks of investigation, Ms. Corey charged Mr. Zimmerman with second-degree murder. An accompanying affidavit said that Mr. Zimmerman had “profiled” Mr. Martin and had assumed he was a criminal.

Image: Sanford, Fla., Police Department Chief Bill Lee Jr.

Mario Tama  /  Getty Images file

Sanford, Fla., Police Department Chief Bill Lee Jr. temporarily stepped aside in March to quell the furor and later offered to resign.

Ms. Corey declined to be interviewed, as did Mr. Wolfinger. Governor Scott also declined several requests for an interview about how and why he selected Ms. Corey for the case.

In announcing the charge, Ms. Corey praised the Sanford Police Department’s work, indicating that it had conducted a “thorough and intensive” inquiry and was a “tremendous help” to her office. What appears unchanged since the beginning, however, is that investigators say they do not know who started the fight. Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, which has come to shadow a number of homicide cases since it was adopted in 2005, justifies the use of deadly force in certain threatening situations but does not require a person to retreat. The law became the framework within which the police and prosecutors had to work after Mr. Zimmerman claimed that Mr. Martin confronted and pounced on him.

Mr. Zimmerman had called the police from his vehicle to report what he believed was a suspicious person in the Retreat, something he had done numerous times in the past. He later told investigators that he got out of his vehicle and followed Mr. Martin but lost sight of him. As Mr. Zimmerman was returning to his vehicle, he told them, Mr. Martin emerged and then attacked him. Mr. Zimmerman told investigators that at one point, Mr. Martin had his hand over his mouth. And before he shot the youth, he explained to the police, Mr. Martin had reached for Mr. Zimmerman’s gun.

“There is a perception that we were trying to protect George Zimmerman,” the Sanford police chief, Bill Lee Jr., who temporarily stepped aside in March to quell the furor and later offered to resign, said in a recent interview. “We think that what he did was terrible. We wish that he had just stayed in his vehicle.”“There was no bias in the investigation. We did not lean one way or another. We were looking for the truth,” he said.

Chief Lee declined to discuss specifics about the case, but he added, “I have been frustrated by the negative attention the police and the city have received that does not accurately reflect who we are and what we have done in this investigation.”

Eight minutes
At 7:09 p.m., Mr. Zimmerman, who was driving to a Target store, made his call to a police dispatcher.

Within eight minutes, Mr. Martin was dead from a gunshot wound to the chest, his body crumpled on a stretch of grass behind a row of town houses. When the first officer arrived at 7:17, Mr. Zimmerman was waiting not far from the body. He raised his hands in surrender before relinquishing his 9-millimeter pistol from the holster in his waistband.

and taken into “investigative detention” at Sanford police headquarters, where he was read his Miranda rights and answered questions without a lawyer present. Investigators described him as unhesitatingly cooperative. At some point, Mr. Zimmerman provided the police with a permit allowing him to carry a concealed weapon. His clothes were taken into evidence after his wife came to the station with a new set.

A law enforcement official said officers did not seize Mr. Zimmerman’s vehicle because they thought that he had been on foot. They did not realize that he had been driving until after his wife had moved the vehicle, the official said.

The official said he believed that the police, in the hours after the shooting, sought to determine whether Mr. Zimmerman was wanted for any crimes. But he said they did not have a complete background check in hand until midmorning the next day — after Mr. Zimmerman had been released. The records showed a domestic violence dispute with a woman who identified herself as his ex-fiancée and a run-in with a state alcohol agent, neither of which resulted in a conviction.

As for the officer at the scene who took the single full-face photo of Mr. Zimmerman — he suffered a nose fracture and other injuries during the struggle — he called an investigator “in a panic” over his failure to download it sooner, according to a person familiar with the case. Other photos of Mr. Zimmerman’s injuries were later shot at police headquarters, although he had been cleaned up by paramedics by then.

Identification delayed
Another investigator briefed on the case said officers should have been more thorough as they knocked on doors in the neighborhood: they might have learned Mr. Martin’s identity early and that he was staying at the town house of his father’s girlfriend and was not trespassing. At the time of the shooting, the girlfriend’s 14-year-old son was waiting for Mr. Martin to return from a 7-Eleven store, where he had bought a bag of Skittles candies and a can of iced tea. Mr. Martin was not identified until Monday morning, about 12 hours after he was killed, when the police learned that his father, Tracy Martin, had reported him as missing.

One witness said a police investigator twice declined her offer to show him the close and unobstructed vantage point from a partly opened bedroom window where she had watched and heard the struggle between Mr. Martin and Mr. Zimmerman. The witness, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition she remain anonymous because the investigation is active, said the detective taped part of her account.

She also recalled telling him that night that she was haunted by the cries for help she believed came from Mr. Martin during the struggle. But she said the investigator seemed to have already formed an opinion about what had happened. He told her, she said, that it was Mr. Zimmerman — not Mr. Martin — who was the one screaming, an assertion that remains in dispute.

More than a month later, she and her lawyer, Derek Brett of Orlando, met with two investigators from Ms. Corey’s office. Mr. Brett said his client was subject to only 15 minutes or so of “substantive questioning.”

“This surprised me because when something is not done properly, in this instance by the police, you sit down and do more than just fill in the blanks,” he said.

On the night of the shooting, the police were assisted by the Seminole County sheriff’s office, which sent a representative to the scene with a live fingerprint scanner to see if a match showed up for Mr. Martin. It did not.

Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the Martins, said that Mr. Martin was carrying a T-Mobile Comet phone and that the police contacted his father a day or two after the shooting to get the password, but he did not know it.

Autopsy: Trayvon Martin shot from ‘intermediate range’ A law enforcement official said that the phone had died not long after the police retrieved it, and that it took days for the authorities to get a charger and an expert to try to get into the device. If the police had been able to get access to it, they could have interviewed Mr. Martin’s friend about what he had told her in those final moments of his life and what else she had heard. The police eventually subpoenaed Mr. Martin’s cellphone records, but did not receive them in a timely fashion.

The official said that while the police never tested Mr. Zimmerman for alcohol or drugs, such decisions are left to the discretion of investigators based on whether they have reason to suspect the person is under the influence. (The medical examiner in the case did a routine toxicology screening of Mr. Martin; the results have not been made public.)

Department defended
Sgt. David Morgenstern, spokesman for the Sanford police, said he could not say much about the case because the investigation was continuing. But he said of the officer who took one photo of Mr. Zimmerman at the scene: “I don’t think that is wrong because subsequent photos can be taken within hours. They might not be as graphic but they still will depict the injuries somebody might have.”

Over all, Chief Lee, whose resignation was not accepted by the City Commission last month in a surprise vote, said in an interview that his department’s work was as fair and thorough as possible.

Video: New evidence in Trayvon Martin shooting (on this page)“I am confident about the investigation, and I was satisfied with the amount of evidence and testimony we got in the time we had the case,” he said.

“We were basing our decisions, which were made in concert with the state attorney’s office, on the findings of the investigation at the time,” he added, “and we were abiding by the Florida law that covers self-defense.”

Sorting the evidence
The Sanford Police Department assigns homicide cases to its five investigators who handle major crimes. Their wide-ranging responsibilities cover everything from sex crimes to carjackings. On the evening that Mr. Martin was fatally shot, the head of the major crimes unit was on vacation. The rotation supervisor on call was a sergeant who works narcotics cases. In all, more than a dozen officers and department superiors were on the scene of Mr. Martin’s killing — which the police said was Sanford’s first homicide of 2012 — including Chief Lee, who joined the department last May.

In the two weeks after the shooting, the police were in regular contact with the office of Mr. Wolfinger, the first prosecutor in the case, sharing their findings and suspicions with him and his staff.

The police conducted a lie-detection procedure, known as voice stress analysis, on Mr. Zimmerman that he passed, and they had him re-enact the encounter with Mr. Martin back at the Retreat the day after the shooting. But the operating belief was that the police did not have enough evidence to establish probable cause for a manslaughter charge and an arrest, according to officials with knowledge of the case.

At one department meeting a few days after Mr. Martin’s death, a representative from Mr. Wolfinger’s office was told about the inconsistencies the police saw in Mr. Zimmerman’s account. The prosecutor told them he understood that the police were trying to build a case against Mr. Zimmerman, though they did not have adequate evidence, according to a law enforcement official. It was decided that more work was needed on the case.

As the national uproar intensified, the Sanford city manager, Norton N. Bonaparte Jr., and Mayor Jeff Triplett were growing eager to have the police send the case to Mr. Wolfinger to get it moving through the justice system. The police did so just over two weeks after Mr. Martin’s death. They included a recommendation that Mr. Zimmerman be charged with manslaughter, a position that one law enforcement official described as “weak,” and that the prosecutor did not act on.

Ms. Corey’s decision to charge Mr. Zimmerman with second-degree murder fueled even more criticism of the police. Mr. Zimmerman has since entered a written plea of not guilty.

This article, “Trayvon Martin Case Shadowed by Series of Police Missteps,” first appeared in The New York Times.

Copyright © 2012 The New York Times

America’s New Slavery: Black Men in Prison

The U.S. leads the world: it has the highest fraction of population in prison, 0.7% vs a world median of roughly 0.1%. With 5 percent of the world population, the U.S. hosts upward of 20 percent of the world’s prisoners. It imprisons more people per capita than any other country on earth. In 1980, there were about 220 people incarcerated for every 100.000 Americans; by 2010, the number had more than tripled, to 731. No other country even approaches that. The U.S. incarceration rate has roughly quintupled since the early 1970s. About 2 million Americans currently live behind bars. States like California now spend more on locking people up than on funding higher education.

The following article by Charlene Muhahmed fleshes out the statistics.  It is an important issue, for all of us, white black and brown.

By Charlene Muhammad -National Correspondent-

(FinalCall.com) – A new American slave trade is booming, warn prison activists, following the release of a report that again outlines outrageous numbers of young Black men in prison and increasing numbers of adults undergoing incarceration. That slave trade is connected to money states spend to keep people locked up, profits made through cheap prison labor and for-profit prisons, excessive charges inmates and families may pay for everything from tube socks to phone calls, and lucrative cross country shipping of inmates to relieve overcrowding and rent cells in faraway states and counties.

Advocates note that the constitution’s 13th amendment, ratified in 1865, abolished slavery in the United States, but provided an exception—in cases where persons have been “duly convicted” in the United States and territory it controls, slavery or involuntary servitude can be reimposed as a punishment, they add. The majority of prisoners are Black and Latino, though they are minorities in terms of their numbers in the population.

According to “One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008,” published by the Pew Center on the States, one in nine Black men between the ages of 20-34 are incarcerated compared to one in 30 other men of the same age. Like the overall adult ratio, one in 100 Black women in their mid-to-late 30s is imprisoned.

“Everyone is feeding off of our down-trodden condition to feed their capitalism, greed and lust for money. They are buying prison stock on the market and this is why they want to silence the restorative voice of Minister Louis Farrakhan, because he is repairing those who fill and would support the prison system as slaves,” said Student Minister Abdullah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam Prison Ministry.

The report states that the rising trend stems from more than a parallel increase in crime or surge in the population at large, but it is driven by policies that put more criminals in prison, extending their stay through measures like California’s Three Strikes Law.

Atty. Barbara Ratliff, a L.A.-based reparations activist, said the prison industrial complex’s extension of the slave plantation plays out in a pattern of behavior that Black people must study in order to survive. “I’m not talking about behavior of the individual incarcerate, but the pattern of treatment that digs into institutional racism. Corporate profit from prisons is no different than how slave owners received benefit from their labor, and that impact remained even after slavery. For instance, freed Blacks were arrested and put on chain gangs for their labor which continued to benefit slave owners, so this is no accident,” she said.

Inmates produce items or perform services for almost every major industry. They sew clothes, fight fires and build furniture, but they are paid little or no wages, somewhere between five cents and almost $2.

Phone companies charge high amounts for collect calls and inmate care packages can no longer be sent from families directly. Inmates must purchase products from companies to be sent in, which feeds capitalism, activists charge.

Although the costs of prisons is skyrocketing and consuming state budgets, money continues to be spent to push more Black youth into prison, activists assert. Many education and prison advocates charge there is a plot to populate U.S. prisons based on the dumbing down of America’s youth. Figures show those most likely to be incarcerated and to return generally have the lowest level of education. The report said, “While states don’t necessarily choose between higher education and corrections, a dollar spent in one area is unavailable for another.”

U.S. spending on prisons last year topped $49 billion, compared to $12 billion in 1987. California spent $8.8 billion on prisons last year and 13 states spend more than $1 billion a year on corrections.

Data from the National Association of State Budget Officers indicates:

• Vermont, Michigan, Oregon, Connecticut and Delaware spent as much or more on corrections than on higher education;

• For every dollar spent on higher education, Alaska spent 77 cents on corrections;

• For every dollar spent on higher education, Georgia spent 50 cents on corrections;

• On the average, all 50 states spent 60 cents on corrections for every dollar spent on higher education; and

• For every dollar spent on higher education, Minnesota spent 17 cents on corrections.

Between 1985 and 2005, Texas’ prison population alone jumped by 300 percent.

“All we have to do is follow the logic to see this connection between prisons and enslavement. When you look at prison costs and they say it cost $45,000 to house one prisoner, where does that break down? There’s only three square meals a day. The prisoners make their clothes and bedding in sewing factories and about 90 percent of the items they use in the prisons,” said Nathaniel Ali of the National Association of Brothers and Sisters In and Out of Prison (NABSIO).

He believes the majority of prison costs support guard unions and pay enormous base and overtime salaries of prison guards and other staff.

“They receive these exorbitant wages regardless of their education and training. You don’t have an I.Q.; all you have to have is the ability to be brutal” to command these wages through this new slave system, he said.

Mr. Ali said the public school system has become the feeder to prisons and their slave populations by increasing the heavy presence of school police and sheriffs on middle school campuses and penalties students face for often trivial offenses, other activists added.

Prison watch groups note corporate-owned prisons feed job-starved communities where businesses have disappeared. By incarcerating so many people, America deals with warehousing them and not finding out why they are incarcerated in the first place, advocates said.

“The fact is, it’s a business and a readily accessible, ‘free’ workforce removes prisons’ incentive to rehabilitate, especially those that are owned by corporations,” Atty. Ratliff said.

Laini Coffee, a self-described “unity activist” said, “At current trend, we could very well see the number of so-called free Blacks rival to the same number of those that are incarcerated. The answer is simple: Unity.”

Neighborhood Bully

The Republican Party seems determined to make the Presidential race about hate, and division.
After President Obama’s statement saying “All Americans are equal under the law, “
Romney couldn’t get to a microphone fast enough to say, “I believe marriage is between one man and one woman.”
His grandfather didn’t believe that however, his grandfather, a Mormon priest, believed marriage was between one man and as many women as one could obtain.
I think the President felt compelled to speak out on this issue in his statement Wednesday
, saying his evolution on the issue was in part brought about by conversations with his children, who being young children, haven’t learned to hate yet, as the young Romney apparently did.
In High school, as most Americans now know, Romney assaulted, with the aid of his “posse”, a young gay man and forcibly cut his hair while his friends held the terrified young man down.
He also, according to several witnesses, tricked a blind professor into walking into a wooden door that Romney pretended to open.
The witnesses said Romney laughed hysterically at the Professors pain and embarrassment.
This is further reinforced by an interview he gave on an obscure Fox radio program.
When asked if he had assaulted a student in the way described by fellow students, Romney laughed.
Then he said, when asked if he had committed a hate crime, by attacking a gay youngster he responded, “We didn’t talk about homosexuality in the ’60’s. Unfortunately for Romney, anyone born and coming of age in the “60s, knows that was is not true.
We knew about gay people.
Most people called them “queers” back then.
Most people refer to them as “gays” today, Romney however, calls them “Homosexuals”.
This is the man who said, for the record, “I am not concerned about poor people”, and, “I enjoy firing people.”
 
Romney, if elected President, would give new meaning to the term, “Bully pulpit.”
 

“I was in love with the idea of Obama.”


Urgent! The White House announced that in a big speech tomorrow, President Obama will do what no Republican President has been able to do: Put Medicare and Medicaid on the table for potential cuts.

Many former Obama volunteers, donors, and voters are deeply disappointed. A Democratic Congressman said on MSNBC last night that Obama needs to “act like a Democrat.”

Will you sign this urgent pledge, which we’ll deliver to the Obama campaign?

“President Obama: If you cut Medicare and Medicaid benefits for me, my parents, my grandparents, or families like mine, don’t ask for a penny of my money or an hour of my time in 2012. I’m going to focus on electing bold progressive candidates — not Democrats who help Republicans make harmful cuts.” Click here to sign.

Below are some amazing notes from Obama volunteers who worked passionately for the President in 2008.

Many people still want to believe in President Obama. But the White House needs to understand that their actions now will have real consequences for 2012. The level of grassroots enthusiasm will be determined by whether the President fights for bold progressive change — and takes cuts that hurt grandparents, the disabled, and kids firmly off the table.

The White House will absolutely be watching the progress of this petition. And we’ll deliver the pledge signatures to the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago.

Please sign today — then, pass it to others who worked to elect President Obama in 2008.

 


NOTES FROM ACROSS THE NATION:

Susan Carpenter, Obama volunteer from Ohio:

“Like many volunteers on his campaign, I was in love with the idea of Obama. I haven’t given up on him quite yet, but I’m mustering the energy to work on the resistance. He needs to know who we are.”

John Rotolo, Obama volunteer from Florida:

“I’m almost too heartsick to comment…I’m at a loss.”

Barbara Louise Jean, Obama volunteer from Nevada:

“It’s ludicrous to cut Medicare for seniors when Wall Street created this mess without being held accountable. At 69, I’ll be in financial trouble if Medicare benefits are lowered.”

Joelle Barnes, Obama volunteer from Pennsylvania:

“This is like a knife through my heart! This is a Republican thing!”

Suzanne Fair, Obama volunteer from Maryland:

“I know he has to compromise sometimes, but it seems that he is caving to the Republicans far too often. We elected him for real change and I would like to see him stand strong against the corporate rich.”

Margaret Copi, Obama donor from California:

“I contributed more to Obama’s campaign than I have to anything else in my life, but no more dollars from me and definitely not a moment of volunteer time, unless he makes huge shifts and starts to fight for the peoples’ interest.”

Frankie Perdue, Obama volunteer from Colorado:

“I do not think that Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security should be on the negotiating table at all. Have the corporations pay their fair share of taxes.”

Deborah Finn, Obama volunteer from North Carolina:

“This is wrong! We did not elect Obama to have him make cuts in valuable, important programs. He needs to stand up to the Republicans. And he needs to speak to the American people about why it is morally wrong to cut the programs.”

Michaele Bonenberger, Obama volunteer from South Dakota:

“This does not sound at all like the Barak Obama that I worked so hard to get elected in 2008.”

Dotty Hopkins, Obama volunteer from California:

“It makes it hard to gin up enthusiasm for 2012. More like hold your nose and vote again! As a former Obama volunteer, I’m already worrying about my lack of desire to do any campaigning and I’m on our County Central Committee for heaven’s sake.”

The White House needs to hear your voice — sign our pledge today. Then pass it on to others.



President Obama: Born in the U.S.A.

It seems crazy that people, some people, anyway, still cling to the belief or possibly the hope, that President Obama is not a citizen born in the U.S.

A poll of Republicans recently indicated that 40% of them were “unsure” about whether or not the president was born in Hawaii.

Here are the facts, reprinted for our reader’s knowledge and to put the issue to rest, so that we can go on to the more important question of how we are going to unite the majority of Americans in their own self interest when the de facto rulers of the country prefer to see us divided. Michael

More photos and documentation on:  http://www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/born_in_the_usa.html

The truth about Obama’s birth certificate.
Summary
In June, the Obama campaign released a digitally scanned image of his birth certificate to quell speculative charges that he might not be a natural-born citizen. But the image prompted more blog-based skepticism about the document’s authenticity. And recently, author Jerome Corsi, whose book attacks Obama, said in a TV interview that the birth certificate the campaign has is “fake.”

We beg to differ. FactCheck.org staffers have now seen, touched, examined and photographed the original birth certificate. We conclude that it meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship. Claims that the document lacks a raised seal or a signature are false. We have posted high-resolution photographs of the document as “supporting documents” to this article. Our conclusion: Obama was born in the U.S.A. just as he has always said.

Update, Nov. 1: The director of Hawaii’s Department of Health confirmed Oct. 31 that Obama was born in Honolulu.
Analysis
Update Nov. 1: The Associated Press quoted Chiyome Fukino as saying that both she and the registrar of vital statistics, Alvin Onaka, have personally verified that the health department holds Obama’s original birth certificate.

Fukino also was quoted by several other news organizations. The Honolulu Advertiser quoted Fukino as saying the agency had been bombarded by requests, and that the registrar of statistics had even been called in at home in the middle of the night.
Honolulu Advertiser, Nov. 1 2008: “This has gotten ridiculous,” state health director Dr. Chiyome Fukino said yesterday. “There are plenty of other, important things to focus on, like the economy, taxes, energy.” . . . Will this be enough to quiet the doubters? “I hope so,” Fukino said. “We need to get some work done.”
Fukino said she has “personally seen and verified that the Hawaii State Department of Health has Sen. Obama’s original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures.”

Since we first wrote about Obama’s birth certificate on June 16, speculation on his citizenship has continued apace. Some claim that Obama posted a fake birth certificate to his Web page. That charge leaped from the blogosphere to the mainstream media earlier this week when Jerome Corsi, author of a book attacking Obama, repeated the claim in an Aug. 15 interview with Steve Doocy on Fox News.
Corsi: Well, what would be really helpful is if Senator Obama would release primary documents like his birth certificate. The campaign has a false, fake birth certificate posted on their website. How is anybody supposed to really piece together his life?

Doocy: What do you mean they have a “false birth certificate” on their Web site?

Corsi: The original birth certificate of Obama has never been released, and the campaign refuses to release it.

Doocy: Well, couldn’t it just be a State of Hawaii-produced duplicate?

Corsi: No, it’s a — there’s been good analysis of it on the Internet, and it’s been shown to have watermarks from Photoshop. It’s a fake document that’s on the Web site right now, and the original birth certificate the campaign refuses to produce.

Corsi isn’t the only skeptic claiming that the document is a forgery. Among the most frequent objections we saw on forums, blogs and e-mails are:
The birth certificate doesn’t have a raised seal.
It isn’t signed.
No creases from folding are evident in the scanned version.
In the zoomed-in view, there’s a strange halo around the letters.
The certificate number is blacked out.
The date bleeding through from the back seems to say “2007,” but the document wasn’t released until 2008.
The document is a “certification of birth,” not a “certificate of birth.”
Recently FactCheck representatives got a chance to spend some time with the birth certificate, and we can attest to the fact that it is real and three-dimensional and resides at the Obama headquarters in Chicago. We can assure readers that the certificate does bear a raised seal, and that it’s stamped on the back by Hawaii state registrar Alvin T. Onaka (who uses a signature stamp rather than signing individual birth certificates). We even brought home a few photographs.

The Obama birth certificate, held by FactCheck writer Joe Miller

Alvin T. Onaka’s signature stamp

The raised seal

Blowup of text

You can click on the photos to get full-size versions, which haven’t been edited in any way, except that some have been rotated 90 degrees for viewing purposes.

The certificate has all the elements the State Department requires for proving citizenship to obtain a U.S. passport: “your full name, the full name of your parent(s), date and place of birth, sex, date the birth record was filed, and the seal or other certification of the official custodian of such records.” The names, date and place of birth, and filing date are all evident on the scanned version, and you can see the seal above.

The document is a “certification of birth,” also known as a short-form birth certificate. The long form is drawn up by the hospital and includes additional information such as birth weight and parents’ hometowns. The short form is printed by the state and draws from a database with fewer details. The Hawaii Department of Health’s birth record request form does not give the option to request a photocopy of your long-form birth certificate, but their short form has enough information to be acceptable to the State Department. We tried to ask the Hawaii DOH why they only offer the short form, among other questions, but they have not given a response.

The scan released by the campaign shows halos around the black text, making it look (to some) as though the text might have been pasted on top of an image of security paper. But the document itself has no such halos, nor do the close-up photos we took of it. We conclude that the halo seen in the image produced by the campaign is a digital artifact from the scanning process.

We asked the Obama campaign about the date stamp and the blacked-out certificate number. The certificate is stamped June 2007, because that’s when Hawaii officials produced it for the campaign, which requested that document and “all the records we could get our hands on” according to spokesperson Shauna Daly. The campaign didn’t release its copy until 2008, after speculation began to appear on the Internet questioning Obama’s citizenship. The campaign then rushed to release the document, and the rush is responsible for the blacked-out certificate number. Says Shauna: “[We] couldn’t get someone on the phone in Hawaii to tell us whether the number represented some secret information, and we erred on the side of blacking it out. Since then we’ve found out it’s pretty irrelevant for the outside world.” The document we looked at did have a certificate number; it is 151 1961 – 010641.

Blowup of certificate number
Some of the conspiracy theories that have circulated about Obama are quite imaginative. One conservative blogger suggested that the campaign might have obtained a valid Hawaii birth certificate, soaked it in solvent, then reprinted it with Obama’s information. Of course, this anonymous blogger didn’t have access to the actual document and presents this as just one possible “scenario” without any evidence that such a thing actually happened or is even feasible.

We also note that so far none of those questioning the authenticity of the document have produced a shred of evidence that the information on it is incorrect. Instead, some speculate that somehow, maybe, he was born in another country and doesn’t meet the Constitution’s requirement that the president be a “natural-born citizen.”

We think our colleagues at PolitiFact.com, who also dug into some of these loopy theories put it pretty well: “It is possible that Obama conspired his way to the precipice of the world’s biggest job, involving a vast network of people and government agencies over decades of lies. Anything’s possible. But step back and look at the overwhelming evidence to the contrary and your sense of what’s reasonable has to take over.”

In fact, the conspiracy would need to be even deeper than our colleagues realized. In late July, a researcher looking to dig up dirt on Obama instead found a birth announcement that had been published in the Honolulu Advertiser on Sunday, Aug. 13, 1961:

Obama’s birth announcement

The announcement was posted by a pro-Hillary Clinton blogger who grudgingly concluded that Obama “likely” was born Aug. 4, 1961 in Honolulu.

Of course, it’s distantly possible that Obama’s grandparents may have planted the announcement just in case their grandson needed to prove his U.S. citizenship in order to run for president someday. We suggest that those who choose to go down that path should first equip themselves with a high-quality tinfoil hat. The evidence is clear: Barack Obama was born in the U.S.A.

Update, August 26: We received responses to some of our questions from the Hawaii Department of Health. They couldn’t tell us anything about their security paper, but they did answer another frequently-raised question: why is Obama’s father’s race listed as “African”? Kurt Tsue at the DOH told us that father’s race and mother’s race are supplied by the parents, and that “we accept what the parents self identify themselves to be.” We consider it reasonable to believe that Barack Obama, Sr., would have thought of and reported himself as “African.” It’s certainly not the slam dunk some readers have made it out to be.

When we asked about the security borders, which look different from some other examples of Hawaii certifications of live birth, Kurt said “The borders are generated each time a certified copy is printed. A citation located on the bottom left hand corner of the certificate indicates which date the form was revised.” He also confirmed that the information in the short form birth certificate is sufficient to prove citizenship for “all reasonable purposes.”

–by Jess Henig, with Joe Miller
Sources
United States Department of State. “Application for a U.S. Passport.” Accessed 20 Aug. 2008.

State of Hawaii Department of Health. “Request for Certified Copy of Birth Record.” Accessed 20 Aug. 2008.

Hollyfield, Amy. “Obama’s Birth Certificate: Final Chapter.” Politifact.com. 27 Jun. 2008.

The Associated Press. “State declares Obama birth certificate genuine” 31 Oct 2008.

Nakaso, Dan. “Obama’s certificate of birth OK, state says; Health director issues voucher in response to ‘ridiculous’ barrage” Honolulu Advertiser 1 Nov 2008.

Copyright © 2003 – 2010, Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania
FactCheck.org’s staff, not the Annenberg Center, is responsible for this.

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Right wing Nuts Threaten Congress

On Rachel Maddows show this evening she replayed some tapes of Rep Stupak’s voice mail, the threats were disgusting and vile.
A right wing blogger has called on Republican’s to throw rocks through Democrats windows.
Former Governor Palin said, “Conservatives don’t back down, they reload”
Boehner said if Rep Driehause of Ohio voted for health care, “he is a dead man.”

These people call themselves patriots.
They are not.
They are wealthy people who would do anything to protect their privileged lives from the threats they see from those who are trying to make our country a little better for ALL Americans.

Nancy Grace, Judge, Jury, Executioner

The body of a child was found in a duffel bag, Correy Byrd, the boyfriend of the mother, was babysitting the child when he disappeared.
On tonights show, talking about the mother, the word “mother” dripping with sarcasm, and if the audience didn’t catch it, Grace said, and “And I use the term ‘Mother” very loosely in this case.”
The mother works all day at low wages. As a reporter commented, “I have been to her house, she is a good mother.”
This sent Grace into an angry tirade against the mother for dating a man with a criminal record.

This is typical of Grace.
A case is unfolding, and it does appear that the boyfriend had some involvement in the child’s death.
The mother is obviously distraught, she is poor, and black, but she obviously is in deep pain.
That is not enough for Grace however, Grace feels the need to completely smear and assassinate the mother’s character.

Nancy Grace once drove a young, female suspect in a child’s disappearance to commit suicide.

The mother in this case is a victim.
But to Grace she is evil incarnate.

To me, Nancy Grace is evil incarnate.