NEWS of the Day - July 14, 2013
on some LACP issues of interest

NEWS of the Day
on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...

We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...


Zimmerman acquittal: Cries for justice continue

CBS News -- Jurors reached this moment after 16 hours of deliberations. They found George Zimmerman "not guilty."

Not guilty of murder, and not guilty of manslaughter. The jury of six women agreed prosecutors had not proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Zimmerman shook hands with his lawyers. Behind them in the gallery, his wife Shelly wept.

Trayvon Martin's parents were not in the courtroom when the verdict was read.

Outside the courthouse, 100 demonstrators reacted bitterly, chanting "No justice! No justice!" Most of them wanted a murder conviction.

People also protested the verdict as far away as San Francisco

Since Zimmerman shot the unarmed teenager 17 months ago, this racially-charged case -- and his claim of self-defense -- have divided American public opinion.

Mark O'Mara, one of Zimmerman's defense lawyers, said, "Obviously we are ecstatic with the result. George Zimmerman was never guilty of anything except protecting himself in self-defense. I'm glad the jury saw it that way."

Prosecutors looked ashen after the verdict was read.

Bernie De La Rionda led the state's case against Zimmerman.

"What it boils down to, you had a 17-year-old kid who was minding his own business, wearing a hoodie, and gets accosted, gets followed by an individual who wants to be a cop," he said. .

Tracy Martin, the teenager's father, tweeted his reaction: "Even though I am broken-hearted, my faith is unshattered. I will always love my baby Tray."



What's next for George Zimmerman?

by Alia E. Dastagir

George Zimmerman is a free man.

After being found not guilty Saturday night in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the judge told Zimmerman that he would be released and his ankle monitor removed once he left the courthouse in Sanford, Fla.

Zimmerman could also be a marked man.

Robert Zimmerman Jr., Zimmerman's brother, spoke to CNN after the verdict and expressed concern for his brother's safety.

"He will be looking around his shoulder the rest of his life," he said.

Zimmerman attorney Mark O'Mara said that people who think Zimmerman killed Trayvon for racial reasons could react violently.

"He has to be cautious and protective of his safety," O'Mara said after the verdict.

Demonstrators outside the courthouse exclaimed disbelief, one by one, as they learned Zimmerman was found not guilty.

"The system has failed!" irate demonstrators chanted.

Zimmerman showed no emotion as the verdict was read. Afterward, he smiled slightly and shook hands with one of his lawyers.

Zimmerman may have to go into hiding and be unable to live a normal life for some time, said Jose Baez, the defense attorney who successfully defended Casey Anthony, a Florida mother accused of killing her daughter in a high-profile capital murder case.

"The end is not near for George Zimmerman," he said.




A new normale

by Deborah Weisberg

Tony Bock of Baldwin lost his older brother Albert to murder six years ago.

On July 5, Bock, a professional comedian, used humor to commemorate his brother's July 11 birthday and to generate support for the Center for Victims, the East Liberty-based organization that helps survivors of crime rebuild their lives.

He performed at Altar Bar in the Strip District, with a portion of proceeds going to the center. The event coincides with the center's production of a short documentary film — “Life After” — aimed at calling attention to the services it provides to victims of rape, domestic violence, assault and other crimes.

Bock, 29, says the center was pivotal in helping him and his family cope with their tragic loss.

“They give you a sense that you're not going through it alone,” he says. “We received pro bono counseling, and they offered my mother help with funeral expenses, although she declined.

“We sent younger members of our family to the center, including my nephew, who was there when my brother was killed, and just 13 at the time.”

Albert “Gumba” Bock was shot to death on his own front porch, where he was entertaining friends. Bock says a 17-year-old approached with two accomplices and demanded money. “I'd just gone into the house with my nephew when I heard the gunshots,” says Bock, who raced outside to find his brother gravely wounded. “He died in my arms.”

Bock says Albert was killed trying to keep the robbers from entering his home in order to protect him and his nephew.

“It's something I relive every day,” says Bock, who described the emotional stages that followed his brother's death. “At first, it was disbelief. Nothing felt real. I was numb. Then anger followed … anger about what happened and anger toward the people who did this.”

Bock's upset was heightened when, a year and a half later, he attended the trial of the young man who pulled the trigger and who now is incarcerated for his crime.

Albert's birthday is a painful time that Bock tries to balance by arranging celebrations, such as Pirates games or picnics, for family and friends.

Doing something this year to benefit the center will be especially meaningful, he says. “The feelings kind of lessen over time, but I'm not sure they'll ever go away. The center has helped us manage as best we can, and I want to give something back.”

Counseling is one of dozens of services provided by the center, which expanded a year ago after merging with Woman's Place, a McKeesport-based organization that offers victims of domestic violence emergency shelter and transitional housing.

“We're there solely for the victim, so they feel thoroughly safe and informed and know what their rights are,” Tracey Provident, the center's chief program officer, says.

“We serve all of Allegheny County — last year, it was more than 13,000 children and adults — with services ranging from legal advocacy to therapy and counseling to victim compensation.”

About 80 percent of clientele has been referred by police or the Allegheny County district attorney's office, which looks to the center to help victims and their families navigate the legal system.

“They are dealing not only with the impacts of abuse and violence, they're asked to go into a system unknown to them, which can be frightening and intimidating,” Provident says.

Some of the center's programs focus on crime prevention, particularly among at-risk youths. Expect Respect helps teens understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy behavior in dating relationships, while the Victim-Offender Dialogue Program provides eligible juvenile offenders with an alternative to court.

“If their crime wasn't serious, and the victim is willing, they are given an opportunity to sit down together with a trained facilitator and engage in dialogue about the impact of their crime on the victim and the community,” Provident says. “The victim gets a say in what sort of restitution the offender should make, and the offender is given a chance to turn his life around.

“If he genuinely takes responsibility for what he has done, it can be very powerful.”

But crime prevention is a relatively small part of the center's overall mission, and often the first to suffer from funding cuts, which are a constant threat to the agency's $3.5 million operating budget, says Provident, who notes that the center serves clients free of charge.

“Most of what we do is respond to the needs of people who have been victimized by crime,” Provident says, “particularly those involving physical injury.”

Many programs are provided for under the Pennsylvania Crime Victims Act of 1987, although the center has been assisting victims of sexual assault since 1983.

Services include 24-hour telephone support, individual and group counseling, and financial assistance with costs incurred by victims, such as crime-scene cleanup, funeral and burial expenses, transportation to and from trial and medical treatment.

The center's victim advocates accompany survivors to court. After a case has been adjudicated, victims can register through the center to be kept informed of a convict's whereabouts and eventual release from prison.

Those who have lost loved ones to crime find their lives are changed forever, and it can take years to process the fallout, says Molly Burke, a licensed social worker and center spokeswoman.

“We help them find a new normal.”

Candace Foster of Homewood-Brushton is receiving center treatment for the trauma she suffered when two nephews were gunned down within a month of each other in 2008. One was killed in front of her in July of that year.

Their deaths reflect a homicide rate among young African-American men in Pittsburgh that is 60 times greater than the city-wide average and 50 times the national average, according to Allegheny County statistics.

“You no longer have a comfort level. You lose that,” Foster, 45, says. “I want to feel normal again, but I can't. I still have anger, and I live in fear for my own children. I need to know where they are at all times.”

Foster only learned of the center this year from the family of another victim, and she says the specialized therapy she now receives has been more effective than help she sought elsewhere.

“They're helping me find answers and understanding,” she says. “They're a blessing, and I thank God they're there, because I needed them.”

‘Life After'

The Center for Victims will release a short documentary film about its work at a public screening at 6 p.m. Aug. 1 at Pittsburgh Filmmakers in Oakland.

Narrated by actor and activist Martin Sheen, “Life After” will tell the stories of people impacted by crime and how they were helped to achieve “a new normal,” says center spokesman Molly Burke, who is a licensed social worker.

“The stories are in their words, not ours,” she says. “They talk about what life is like for them now, and how crime changed their lives forever.”

Everyone who worked on the film including Sheen and director Ben Saks of Pittsburgh-based Float Pictures, donated their talents, Burke says.

Sheen agreed to narrate the film free of charge.

“We didn't even have to pay for studio time to record him,” Burke says. “His help, and everyone else's, made this a truly awesome experience.”

The purpose of the film is to raise awareness about crime in communities, as well services the center provides victims, she says. It is designed to reach donors and prospective donors, as well as the general public, which is increasingly concerned about gun violence and other crimes affecting communities.

“Awareness is always good,” Burke says. “When you hear these people's stories, you realize that you, or anyone, can become a victim at any time.”

The Aug. 1 screening is free and open to the public, but with limited seating, reservations are required.

Details: 412-482-3240, ext. 114