Trayvon Martin trial: Prayer instead of protests

Pastors leading weekly vigil at Sanford church

James Harper | 7/7/2013, 11:16 a.m.
Driving up to the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center in Sanford, no one would know a case that garnered international ...
One lone picketer talks in the front courtyard where picketers were expected to rally as George Zimmerman's trial in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin gets underway at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center on June 24 in Sanford, Fla. Alex Menendez

Proud of officer

Smith said there will be information coming out during the trial that will clear up some misinformation that has been put out during the past 18 months about the officers of his department.

He was proud of testimony of police patrol Sergeant Anthony Raimondo, who was one of the first to arrive on the scene, giving Martin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation without a protective mask.

“He tried to extend the man’s life. A lot of people didn’t know that. The Sanford Police Department does care about people. That officer put his life at risk doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.”

Smith: Procedures followed

In reference to the police department’s handling of Zimmerman the night of the shooting, Smith said the officers followed procedures.

“We do not charge; state attorney does,” he pointed out.

Smith hinted that an arrest should have been made the night of the shooting by saying, “[We have] the right to detain a person as long as we need. If the individual was detained, next we talk to state attorney office,” he stated.

The chief said his main concern is the arrival of out-of-town protesters as the verdict gets closer. He worries the media will report what is not the voice of Sanford residents.

Nine-point city plan

As the trial continues, Sanford officials are working to deal with the black eye the city received after the shooting.

Sanford Community Relations Coordinator Andrew Thomas presented a nine-point plan to the community a year ago at Second Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church.

Bonaparte said the purpose of the plan is to “move the community forward.”

He admitted that parts of the plan have not been addressed such as the creation of a local human relations commission, hiring of a director of community relations and the creation of a panel to take a critical look at the Sanford Police Department.

Sanford Pastors Connecting

Bonaparte also said an interfaith group has been formed called Sanford Pastors Connecting.

As a result of the group, pastors were given four seats in the courtroom for the duration of Zimmerman’s trial so they can tell parishioners what is going on.

Bonaparte said the pastors also have organized a “call for prayer’’ on July 8 and July 15, starting at noon at area churches.

He said they also are working on programs to reach out to youth before they become part of the penal system.

Bonaparte wanted to make it clear that, in spite of Zimmerman’s trial, life goes on in Sanford.

He noted they are being proactive in working on lessening crimes in the city and doing what they can to prevent incidents such as what happened between Martin and Zimmerman.

Bonaparte said the case involving Martin and Zimmerman is not representative of the people who live in Sanford.

“This was a tragic encounter of two individuals in a city of 54,000,” he said, explaining that most people don’t know Zimmerman had lived in the city only three years and that Martin was visiting his father from Miami.

“Sanford is friendly, welcoming and accommodating,” Bonaparte added.

Protester stands his ground

The lone protester at the courthouse on Tuesday was James Fraleigh, a 54-year-old White man from Casselberry, holding up a sign reading “Stand your ground, Nelson Lied.”

Fraleigh was referring to Judge Debra S. Nelson, the judge in the Zimmerman murder case.

In December, she had rejected Fraleigh’s “stand your ground” claim in an unrelated case in which he was charged with whacking his neighbor in the head with a shovel.

Initially, Zimmerman had planned on using the “stand your ground” defense, but chose to go with a self-defense claim.

“I’m here for justice for everybody. The law has to be applied fairly and just. The case should invoke everybody’s sensibility,” Fraleigh added about the Zimmerman trial.