Posted: 21 Jul 2013 10:02 AM PDT
The firearms and ballistics evidence in this case was very important, one reason why the Kel-Tec PF9 9mm death weapon was first and foremost in the minds of journalists reporting on Eric Holderís recent decision to have all evidence in this case held pending Federal investigation (again). One of the area newspapers reported in March that the death weapon was found with a spent casing still in the chamber. This would have been consistent with someoneís hand grabbing the gun and retarding the slide mechanism at the moment of the shot, and I surmised as much in the one blog entry I made on it at that time, prior to being contacted by the then-defense team and confidentiality issues kicking in from then on.
It turned out that this was not the case. The officers who recovered the evidence unloaded the death weapon. The spent casing from the one shot fired in the incident was recovered from the ground on which it had ejected, and another live round was ejected from the firing chamber after the officer removed the magazine. All eight cartridges, the gunís full capacity, were accounted for. The pistol had functioned normally, as designed.
Prosecutor John Guy, in his dramatic opening statement, made a big deal out of the fact that Zimmerman carried the Kel-Tec with a live round in the chamber, as if this implied malice and a man looking to kill someone. Over in CNN Headline News Land, Nancy Grace took up the same cry. Zimmermanís after-the-assault attackers even made a big deal out of the fact that he had a pistol with no dedicated manual safety. Ms. Grace claimed that he carried it with the safety off, and when a friend of Zimmermanís was on her show and told her the gun HAD NO safety catch per se, she yelled at him that he was wrong, she knew all about Kel-Tec PF9s, and implied that Zimmerman must have flicked the safety off beforehand. (Premeditation, donít cha know?)
Of course, the PF9 pistol DOESNíT have a safety catch. Ms. Grace apparently Googled ďKel-Tec PF9Ē and mistook the slide lock lever for a safety lever. Did any of you folks ever hear her apologize to Zimmermanís friend, who was right when she was wrong? Let me know, Ďcause I must have missed it if she did.
For perspective, very few American police officers carry guns with manual safety levers. The most popular police pistols donít have them, including the Glock and the SIG, the two most widely used. The Smith & Wesson Military & Police has an optional ambidextrous thumb safety, but most police departments order those guns without that feature, and the same is true for the majority of defensive pistols bought these days by Americaís armed citizens. The old style service revolver didnít come with a safety either.
Like those revolvers, semiautomatics such as the Kel-Tec are normally carried ready to fire with a simple pull of the trigger, i.e., with a round chambered.
Another element I warned OíMara and West about back in second quarter 2012 was that they could expect the prosecution to attribute malice to Zimmerman for loading with hollow points. Such ammunition is standard in virtually every police department in our nation, and is the overwhelming (and logical) choice of armed citizens. The expanding bullet is less likely to ricochet, and it is more likely to stop inside the body of the offender instead of passing through to strike an unseen bystander. It also, historically, stops gunfights faster, saving the lives endangered by the attacker who had to be shot. Finally, for that latter reason, it reduces the number of wounds the offender must suffer before he stops forcing good people to shoot him. Except for the ricochet factor, all of those elements were present in the Zimmerman>Martin shooting. The prosecution didnít harp on this as much as I expected, but prosecutor Richard Mantei did bring it up:George Zimmerman, Hollow Points and Reality | Stately McDaniel Manor .
Fortunately, the defense covered this superbly. They did so with the testimony of material witness Mark Osterman, the Federal Air Marshal who trained Zimmerman, told him to get a double action only pistol with no manual safety and carry it with a round in the chamber. His personal knowledge carried more weight than any outside expert could ever have brought to the game, but defense expert Dennis Root did a good job of batting clean-up and filling in other points. Together, they tanked the bogus allegations of the prosecution in this case insofar as guns, ammunition, and malice or premeditation that could be ascribed to either.
The take-away is not to avoid such unmeritorious courtroom attacks by carrying a .25 auto with an empty chamber. The take-away is, be able to logically explain your choice of gun and method of carry. The defense did exactly this, to their credit.
This case, of course, was about much more than guns, and weíll continue with that in the next entry.