Jul 10, 2013 09:51 pm | Jeff Dunetz
The former police chief of Sanford Florida, Bill Lee told CNN tonight that his investigation was hijacked, that evidence was shared improperly and that he was pressured into arrest George Zimmerman, not in a quest for Justice but to placate the protesting public.
"It was (relayed) to me that they just wanted an arrest. They didn't care if it got dismissed later," he said. "You don't do that."
When his department first investigated the case Bill Lee said, they conducted a sound investigation and the evidence turned up no probable cause to arrest Zimmerman.
Zimmerman told police he killed Martin after the teen attacked him. While the evidence at the time corroborated that claim, the ex-chief said, Lee's lead investigator made a recommendation that Zimmerman be charged with manslaughter.
It was a matter of protocol, Lee said. Arresting Zimmerman based on the evidence at hand would have been a violation of Zimmerman's Fourth Amendment rights, he said. Thus, the Sanford police presented a "capias request" to the state's attorney, asking that the prosecutor determine whether it was a "justifiable homicide," issue a warrant for arrest or present the case to a grand jury.
"The police department needed to do a job, and there was some influence -- outside influence and inside influence -- that forced a change in the course of the normal criminal justice process," Lee said. "With all the influence and the protests and petitions for an arrest, you still have to uphold you oath."
"That investigation was taken away from us. We weren't able to complete it," he said.
One example involved the 911 tapes. The Sanford police wanted to keep the tapes to themselves until the inquiry was complete , because you can't publicize evidence amid an investigation.
But the mayor told him in mid-March the tapes had been released to Martin's family and the public.
The family was asked to help identify voices, Lee said, but if police were in charge of the investigation, they wouldn't have presented evidence to a group.
"It should be done individually so there's no influence on the other people in the room," he said. "Then, there's no questions that can be brought up about how (an identification) was obtained or whether it was influenced."
Releasing the evidence to the public was problematic, as well, because it created the potential for someone to concoct a "story about what they observed when they really didn't observe it," he said.
Whatever the result coming out of the jury, it becomes clearer every day that George Zimmerman was railroaded. Even if he is found innocent (which he should be) Zimmerman will be in fear for his life of his life for a long time. A simple self-defense case was turned into a racial-bias incident thanks to professional bigots like Al Sharpton, a liberal press, and the Justice Department who helped organize the protests. Zimmerman will be persecuted for defending himself but those who help turn this case into the mess it became will get off scot-free--and that is a crying shame.