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Sanford Police Recommended Charging Zimmerman With Martin’s Death, But Police Chief Claimed ‘No Probable Cause’

By Judd Legum on March 28, 2012 at 11:30 am

"Sanford Police Recommended Charging Zimmerman With Martin’s Death, But Police Chief Claimed ‘No Probable Cause’"

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Then-Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee with investigator Chris Serino

Then-Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee with investigator Chris Serino

The Miami Herald reports that the Sanford Police Department, at the conclusion of its Trayvon Martin investigation, recommended that the prosecutor file charges against the shooter George Zimmerman. Angela Corey, the special prosecutor now assigned to the case, confirmed the report:

“As far as the process I can tell you that the police went to the state attorney with a capias request, meaning: ‘We’re through with our investigation and here it is for you.’ The state attorney impaneled a grand jury, but before anything else could be done, the governor stepped in and asked us to pick it up in mid-stream.”

A capias is a request for charges to be filed.

State Attorney Norman R. Wolfinger, who was initially assigned the Trayvon Martin case, failed to act on the recommendation for charges against Zimmerman.

This new information directly contradicts the public statements that Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee (who has now “temporarily” stepped down) made on March 12, the day he turned the case over to the state attorney. He claimed that, at the time, there was not enough evidence to charge Zimmerman with a crime and arrest him:

Police Chief Bill Lee said there was not enough evidence to arrest George Zimmerman, who followed Martin in his SUV and ended up confronting the teen before shots were fired.

“In this case Mr. Zimmerman has made the statement of self-defense,” Lee said. “Until we can establish probable cause to dispute that, we don’t have the grounds to arrest him.”

These statements now do not appear to reflect the actual views of the Sanford Police, as communicated to the prosecutor. It only adds to the serious questions about the conduct of Lee and other members of the Sanford police in this case. While Lee was in charge of the Sanford Police, they did not test Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol, “corrected” a key witness, and amended the police report to bolster Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense.

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