George Zimmerman Trial: Nobody Wins?

George Zimmerman Trial: Nobody Wins?

One of the potential jurors for the George Zimmerman trial was asked to summarize this case in three points: She replied, “One man lost his life, one man is fighting for his life, and nobody wins”.   As the trial has unfolded, many people have privately expressed their concerns with the exact same sentiment, “nobody wins”.

Sanford Pastors Connecting

At face value, I understand the thought.  Even in the best legal outcome for George Zimmerman, he will always carry the burden of that night and this trial.  In a recent interview with CNN, defense attorney Mark O’Mara stated:

“My client will never be safe.  There are a percentage of the population who are angry, they are upset, they may well take it out on him.  So he’ll never be safe”.

Screen shot of Local 6 News VIDEO of George Zimmerman Trail Courtroom Scene

Tracy Martin testifies concerning his grief over the loss of his son in the George Zimmerman murder trial

The loss is greater for the Martin family. Even if George Zimmerman is found guilty of murder, no measure of human justice will ever be adequate to bring back their son. Nobody wins.

A concern being voiced throughout our community is that there will be negative public reactions to the outcome of the trial. There are fears that violent forces and outside groups might use the occasion of this trial to bring trouble to the Sanford community. Nobody wins.

But, there are some good things that can come from this bad situation. Romans 8:28 promises   “God works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.” All things?  Even this tragic encounter?   Even this community disruption?  Do we have the eyes to see the good that is being brought forth by the Lord even now?

I want to name some “wins” for the kingdom of God from this trial.  Sanford Pastors Connecting is a good thing which has come as a direct result of this trial. There is now a denominationally diverse, multi-racial group of clergy, representing rich and poor who are having regular conversations and prayer with one another.  Sadly such communications have been far too long in coming. But now, there have been frank exchanges, offers of repentance and forgiveness. We have swapped pulpits, and we served the community together. While we may have different perspectives on the issues related to the trial, we share a common posture of prayer. We are united under one Lord, reconciled in Jesus Christ.

Sanford Pastors Connecting

Sanford Pastors Connecting meeting with law enforcement officials.

Another great development coming from this trial is a new level of community conversation and engagement between law enforcement and the community. Mistrust in this particular relationship is one of the main challenges this trial has highlighted. The good news is that Sanford and Seminole County law enforcement officials and the community, represented by the pastors, are now sitting at the table together developing a relationship and sharing hopes, concerns and fears with one another. This is an unprecedented opportunity for mutual understanding and trust to develop within our community.

Finally, we have been given an incredible opportunity as a community to learn from others about our own mistakes, prejudices and reactions. Human anxiety can see and assume the worst in each other.  One of the main lessons we can learn from this experience is the need to speak words of grace and to be charitable in our assumptions about those whom we do not yet know.

Only the Lord sees the motivations of the heart.  He perceives the thoughts of our minds. Indeed, all of us have a sin nature capable of accomplishing great evil and harm. However, every person is also made in the image of God and capable of great good.  Rather than assuming and calling forth the worst in one another, we can seek and summon the better virtues.

Here are some questions for discussion: What good do you see coming from the challenges of this trial? What lessons can we learn as a people from this experience?

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Jury Selection in the George Zimmerman Trial: Sanford Pastors Connecting

These past two days, I have sat in on the afternoon sessions of the George Zimmerman trial. This week the focus in the court room is on jury selection.

Pastor Joel Hunter at George Zimmerman Trial

My involvement as a pastoral observer is by invitation of Mr. Thomas Battles from the United States Justice Department, Reconciliation Division. Prior to this case, I actually was unaware that the Justice Department had such a division. My understanding is that the agents in this division are not so much involved in law enforcement and investigations, but in drawing along side a community where there is a high potential for, or occasion of, social unrest.  They are seeking public peace and resolution of division, in other words, peacemaking.

Personally speaking, I am a little wary of government involvement in church opinions and activities. However, to this point I have never been asked to say or do anything which would violate my Christian call. On the contrary, we are being invited by the governing officials, both local and national, to do the very thing we are eager to do, and that is being servants of the ministry of reconciliation in our community. Pastors along with all Christians are called to a ministry of reconciliation through the Gospel. As Jesus taught us, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

The agents from the Justice Department have facilitated several informational meetings providing the pastors of the Sanford/Seminole County community with direct information from the law enforcement officials of the Seminole County Sheriff’s Department, the Sanford Police Department, the Sanford City Staff and the Mayor. The meetings have been helpful to the clergy by clarifying the legal process related to this case.

In these meetings, there has also been the desire to facilitate a healthy dialogue with the clergy of Sanford and the city officials in order to constructively address community concerns even beyond the particulars of this case. The clergy represent diverse perspectives and backgrounds, large and small congregations, differing denominational and non-denominational affiliations. The clergy in the group are diverse racially and ethnically. Perhaps more than any other group in the community, we have the ability to bridge socio-economic, racial and political divides and seek true unity. As a group, we are calling ourselves Sanford Pastors Connecting.

Many of these clergy including myself have also been meeting and working together outside the official Justice Department group purposefully seeking spiritual renewal and reconciliation in our community. Our common desire is to continue to build a stronger Christian community and witness in Seminole County long after this trial has faded from public attention.

The George Zimmerman trial is obviously under intense scrutiny both within and outside the Sanford/Seminole County community. The hope for the clergy participation is to provide a prayerful presence for all who are involved in the case and to be an encouragement and source of support for the larger community.  Many of the employees of the court have already personally expressed gratitude for our presence and support.

In the courtroom, there is substantial reserved seating for the media. In fact, five of the seven rows on the defense side of the court room are reserved seating for the media–the first two rows being reserved for the Zimmerman family and their legal representation. On the prosecution side, the first row is reserved for the prosecuting attorneys and the second for the Martin family. The public is provided seats in the remaining rows behind the Martin family. This public section is where you will see the clergy sitting as the case unfolds.

Pastor Joel Hunter at George Zimmerman Trial

Pastor Joel Hunter at George Zimmerman Trial. The Sanford Pastors Connecting will be sitting in the Public seating located on the prosecutors side. There are four or five rows of seating reserved for the public directly behind the two rows reserved for the Prosecution legal team and the Martin Family.

As pastors, we have consistently offered prayer with one another, for George Zimmerman, for the Martin family and for the Zimmerman family. We have prayed for the law enforcement, for the court officials and for the attorneys. We have prayed for those working in the media. And we have been especially concerned in our prayers for the well-being, peace and support of our community as it comes under national attention. We must continue to live together long after the outside spotlight leaves our community.

As I have sat through two days of the jury selection, I am very mindful of the individuals who have been asked to serve as jurors. The attorneys from both sides are indicating that the trial could take up to one month. This is a tremendous sacrifice for anyone, but for some it would represent a major financial challenge and sacrifice. When a potential juror or group of jurors enters and leaves the courtroom, etiquette calls for all to stand out of respect for them. They do deserve the community’s respect.

I heard many perspectives and concerns of the community by listening to the juror’s answers. Some were clearly concerned about the mass demonstrations in Sanford; one young man called them “rants and riots”, another called it a “circus”, others were not so concerned and saw it as an expression of free speech. More than one expressed sadness at the events of the case itself. One juror, when asked to sum up the case in three points said, “A young man lost his life; another man is fighting for his life; and no one is a winner.”

Often, it seemed to me that both the jurors and the attorneys were putting the media on trial today. There were many questions related to media bias and misinformation in the media, such as their publishing earlier photos of Trayvon Martin as a younger boy compared to his current age.  The media initially stated that George Zimmerman had no injuries, and later reported that he did. One juror indicated that such misreporting led to wrong opinions at first. Some were asked whether it seemed that the media was “taking sides”.

Media Side of the Gallery at Zimmerman Trial

The defense side of the gallery at the George Zimmerman Trial. There is no public seating on this side as the rows are entirely reserved for members of the press save two rows for the Zimmerman family and the defendant’s legal team.

More than one juror indicated that they “tuned out” the media coverage or treated the news with certain skepticism, with “a grain of salt”. Many expressed frustration with excessive media coverage of this case, and their promotion of negativity.  One juror questioned, “How long is the media going to avalanche us with this?”

I have been impressed by the expressions of commitment on the part of potential jurors for their willingness to serve, regarding it as a civic responsibility in spite of the challenges. There is a motion being considered by the judge to conceal the juror’s identities for an extended period a time. They will have an important job and they deserve our prayers for protection, provision and wisdom. They are worthy of appreciation for serving the system of human justice in our community.

Many of the potential jurors have appeared nervous as they were asked a multitude of questions. Mr. Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, asked one juror if she understood what we were doing in the jury selection process. She replied, “Working to give Mr. Zimmerman a fair trial.”

I was impressed by how this is accomplished in our system. Both the prosecutors and defense (including Mr. Zimmerman) have the opportunity to veto a limited number of prospective jurors without cause. Personally, I had not realized that Mr. Zimmerman has the civil right to object to any juror. At the end of each day of jury selection, Mr. Zimmerman was asked directly by the judge whether he approved of his lawyer’s questions and selections from the jury pool. He replied, “Yes, your honor.”

The jurors being interviewed have been pre-screened by a questionnaire as to whether they have formed an opinion regarding the outcome of the case. The pool of jurors being interviewed has indicated that they have not formed an opinion.

I was struck by the fact that it was these individual jurors unwillingness to draw conclusions, make assumptions and pre-judge the facts and parties involved in this case which makes them uniquely qualified to become the ones who will ultimately determine this trial’s verdict. How many of us can say that we have reserved judgment, that we have not assumed? How many of us have spoken words without full knowledge or judged the parties involved without all the facts?

Indeed, the dangers and pitfalls of making “assumptions” and “pre-judgments” reside at the very heart of all that is involved in this case both inside and outside the courtroom. Humanly speaking it is very difficult to give the benefit of the doubt, particularly when our past experiences and personal histories include hurts and violations. There are important lessons to learn in all of this, if we only have eyes to see and ears to hear.

The pastors who have committed to attending the trial have a united commitment to seek the well-being and peace for our community and the unity of the Church under one Lord Jesus Christ; please join us in praying to this end.

Still healing, Sanford braces for George Zimmerman’s trial

Excerpt from Larger article:

…Part of that strategy has been turning to the city’s spiritual leaders to defuse simmering racial tension and guide the city to reconciliation. With the start of the trial, they will add courtroom observer to their role. About a dozen pastors, part of a larger group of clergy, are working with the U.S. Department of Justice and Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, and will attend the trial each day, then report back to their congregations and the public. The pastors, representing an ethnic and denominational cross-section of the area, will rotate among four reserved seats in the courtroom.

“We are going to be a witness, watch how the system works, watch the case unfold and share that,’’ says Rev. Charles Holt, of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in neighboring Lake Mary. “The role of the clergy in this case is to call on the community to be responsible in its response. This case and trial has the ability to divide.”…

…Holt said he is hopeful the public, from Sanford or elsewhere, will respect the verdict.

“This trial will either divide our community or bring us together,’’ Holt said. “We can let the demons rule or the better angels rule. We have to make the choice.’’

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/06/08/v-fullstory/3440736/the-healing-of-sanford.html#storylink=cpy

 

Sanford: The Untold Story

The black, hispanic and white pastors of Sanford continue to meet and build relationships and work on the racial issues. This video captures the spirit of some of the meetings that marked the beginning of that relationship in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting. The emphasis is on prayer, reconciliation and peacemaking. This good work is continuing to go on even though the cameras have stopped rolling.

Clergy Meeting with Angela Corey, Special Prosecutor

The local church and the Trayvon Martin situation

Dear all:

Clergy Meeting with Angela Corey, Special Prosecutor

I would like to give you all a bit of an update on the Trayvon Martin situation here in the Diocese. I will not fill you in on the things that you get from the news but some of the things you may not know.

The first thing that I would say is that it is not helpful to engage in inflammatory rhetoric such as pre-judging the verdict of Mr. Zimmerman’s trial. The justice system in the US is human and imperfect. Yet it is the best the world has to offer. In this instance, it is working.

Much of the lesson of this case is about making pre-judgments before facts are known or processes have played out. As a church, we must do better than the world. Also, recognize that many of the leaders involved down here are our fellow Episcopal parishioners and part of our mission field. They do not need the larger church making their jobs more difficult by rash statements. This is a plea for us all to speak wisely.

The shooting took place at an apartment complex less than two miles from St. Peter’s (my congregation) and across the street from my daughter’s school. Several days ago a police car was parked on the school grounds as a deterrent. The next day it had been riddled with bullet holes.

Half the kids did not show up for school that day.

Fr. Rory Harris and I are the rectors of the two closest parishes and we are very much publically involved in the community especially in this issue. The first was in organizing an ecumenical Good Friday Prayer service for local ministers at Holy Cross Episcopal Sanford (read my sermon here). Over 60 clergy from a wide variety of denominations and ethnic/race groups were represented in the leading and participation. We took the entire situation to the foot of the cross.

The various clergy of Sanford and Seminole County are coming together in Holy Spirit appointed ways through this human tragedy. I will share with you a report that I wrote to the Bishop and clergy of Central Florida

yesterday:

Three significant clergy meetings were held in our area today (4/12/12) related to the Trayvon Martin case.

The first was at noon at Allen Chapel AME, Valerie Houston, Pastor. She was one of the preachers at the Good Friday clergy prayer gathering.

Many are referring to that church as “ground zero church” because that is where the initial public outcry began.

At this meeting the state special prosecutor, Angela Corey, and the newly assigned prosecuting attorney, and the Federal Justice Department community relations person, Mr. Battles, all presented and opened up for discussion with about 30 local pastors mostly from the local black churches. Dr. Raleigh Washington, president of Promise Keepers, was also present.

Corey revealed that she is a member at St. John Episcopal Cathedral in Jacksonville. They were all very open about their faith and called on the pastors to lead in the community and become the voice of the community rather than allow unauthorized spokespersons who may not represent the community well.

They spoke about the importance of patience, their passion for the victims of crimes and the need for justice for Mr. Martin and due process for Mr. Zimmerman. They asked for our prayers for ALL involved.

The second meeting was with Raleigh Washington and the black ministers of Sanford. I did not attend that meeting.

The third meeting at Charisma Media (formerly Strang Communications) in Lake Mary was very well attended, probably about 100 pastors and church leaders, 20 or so from Sanford. Some, but by no means all, of the black clergy that were at the other two meetings came to this as well.

Dr. Washington spoke from 2 Corinthians 5 about the need for the church to seize this opportunity to bring the ministry of radical reconciliation as ambassadors of Christ. He was great actually! Lots of other folks spoke and shared thoughts. One of the significant words came from Joel Hunter, Northland, that a leader from Sanford needed to be raised up.

Toward the end of the meeting a young black minister, Rev. Derek Gay, felt the call. He has been connected with some of the key meetings with leaders in the city and the Martin’s particularly the one about whether to release the 911 tapes. In a very moving moment Sam Hinn, pastor of the Gathering Place and yes Benny’s brother, knelt and committed to being Rev. Gay’s, Aaron. Then all of the other ministers from Sanford in the room stood with young Rev. Gay and pledged support and action.

Raleigh Washington sealed the moment in prayer as a divine commission and work. We all committed to stepping up and being the leaders for such a time as this.

Many spoke of the possibility that national renewal and revival might begin with Sanford Florida if the church will repent, pray and lead toward relationship. Relationship being the key word in Raleigh Washington’s challenge. It was also recognized by several that any renewal must have at its heart (and even must begin with) the youth.

Tomorrow there will be a press conference on the steps of Holy Cross Episcopal Church at 10 am. The entire event at Charisma Media was filmed. Reported Here and full press conference.

Personally, I believe the Lord is going to use this tragic moment to bring our community together in some very good and profound ways. He will be glorified in this, we have seen it. Certainly there is lots to pray about. Please pray for Sanford and the Lord’s leading and protection of the people of our community.

Charlie Holt

What shall I say about the Trayvon Martin shooting?

My daughter’s school bus passed by the apartments where Trayvon Martin was killed. She observed a crowd gathered with signs, she saw the flowers, pictures and crosses left at the gate. Later that day she asked me, “Is that for that boy, Trayvon, who was shot?”  As a local pastor, I asked myself whether I should get involved in the situation.  There is a side of me that wants to stay out of it.  But with my daughter’s question, it hit home. God has placed me in this community to be a witness to the Gospel.

Trayvon martin

When contemplating his looming death on the cross, Jesus faced the choice of whether to get involved in the mess of human sin and struggle when he asks, “What shall I say, Father save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:27-28) Jesus could have remained uninvolved, but that is not what he came to do. Like him, we have a choice. What shall we say “Father save us from this mess, or is it for this very moment that we are called to be a light for Jesus in the very midst of community’s pain and struggle?

This morning, I participated in a Good Friday prayer service with over 60 Christian clergy from various denominational, racial and ethnic backgrounds to pray for the whole situation and our Sanford community.  Earlier in the week, I had sent an encouragement to other church leaders to attend the gathering and I received this criticism: “I am appalled that you would hijack this precious day [Good Friday] on behalf of a political, pandering and sad episode in our community.”

The “sad episode” certainly has been hijacked by political opportunists. When I see how the case is being handled and miss-handled in the media and by some national personalities and groups, I too get cynical. When I hear the commentary breaking along the same old political divisions, liberal and conservative, Republicans and Democrats, black and white, I cannot help to agree that there are those who are using a tragedy in our community as an opportunity to pander to a political agenda.  I think to myself, “What a mess! Satan is having a field day with all of this and with us.”

But does not this day, Good Friday, of ALL days speak into this sad, angry and tragic mess?

All of the worst aspects of human existence were present on the day Jesus was crucified: the mob “justice”, vigilantes, corruption in the governing authorities, political and financial opportunism, leaders “washing their hands” of responsibility, twisted media coverage, denials of truth, false witnesses, racial prejudice, criminals going free, wrongful prosecutions, the crucifixion of the King of kings. Yet it was God’s design to take the mess, the tragedy and the ugliness of our human sin and use it to bring redemption and salvation to the whole world.

“Jesus said, ’Now the prince of this world will be driven out. But when I am lifted up on the earth I will draw all men to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.” (John 12:31-33) In being lifted up on the cross, Jesus puts an end to Satan’s dividing and destroying of the people of God.

The occasion of Trayvon Martin’s tragic death can merely be an opportunity for the evil one to destroy our relationships and our community. But, the Lord would have us see it as an opportunity for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to shine. As Jesus is lifted on the Cross, people are redeemed, restored and drawn together. We, the people of the cross, are called to be the salt and light of our neighborhoods. We cannot accomplish that role if we hide the light of the Gospel in the moment when it is needed most. The cross is God’s answer to all human struggle and tragedy. He made the sad episode, a precious Good Friday. He will do the same in our day, if we will follow him in his way. Jesus is the redeemer of sinners and the lover of our souls.

A call for prayer and thoughtfulness in the Trayvon Martin situation

I would like to ask your prayers for our Sanford/ Lake Mary community. Many of us have been watching and reading the media coverage of the shooting of Trayvon Martin. It is a needless tragedy and a bad situation from the start which appears to have been poorly handled. Our prayers need to go out to the Martin family in their grief over the loss of their young son. We also need to pray for George Zimmerman.  Again, please pray for our neighbors and fellow parishioners, the people of Sanford.

The presence of national personalities within our community assures a national media circus. Unfortunately, both the media and the various national personalities often feed on incidents like this to promote themselves. Bad press sells.  We are likely to bear their presence for some time.

Although such media attention can cause a certain jadedness just coming off the Casey Anthony saga, we must remain mindful that real people are involved and that these are our neighbors. We need to see this occasion as an opportunity to show a more excellent way, the way of truth and love—may our better angels reveal themselves. Guard your hearts and your tongues, be thoughtful, charitable and mindful of God’s presence in your actions and speech. Prayerfully examine your prejudices and your judgments by putting yourself in the other’s shoes.  Pray that justice and peace will prevail as the governing authorities discern the correct response.

As we approach Palm Sunday and Holy Week, we must be mindful of the larger context of human sin and failings and God’s mighty acts to redeem us. It was by a perversion of justice that our Lord was crucified for our transgressions. All of the worst aspects of human existence were present that Holy Week: the mob “justice”, the vigilantes, corrupt policing, political opportunism, twisted media coverage, denial of truth, false witnesses and injustice, criminals going free, wrongful prosecutions, the crucifixion of the rightful King. Yet it was God’s design to take the mess and ugliness of our human condition and use it to bring redemption and salvation to the world. He made the day of the Cross, a Good Friday. He is the redeemer of sinners and the lover of souls.

Below my signature is a thoughtful and informative letter from Fr. Rory Harris, the rector of Holy Cross Sanford which was shared with the diocesan leadership today.

I am faithfully yours in Christ Jesus our Lord,

Charlie Holt+, Rector, St. Peter’s Lake Mary

 

From: Rory Harris

Date: Thursday, March 22, 2012 1:26 PM

Subject: Trayvon Martin Rallies

“Justice should be blind, but is never deaf or unable to speak” Fr. Rory HB Harris +

Several of our diocesan clergy have expressed concern and interest in the emerging Trayvon Martin death and shooting that has engendered a call for justice across our nation.

Please pray for the City and community of Sanford as we attempt to seek justice while maintaining a peace that honors this young man’s life, and moves our community to wholeness and healing.

There are two rallies planned for those who want to express their concerns over how the matter of Trayvon Martin has been handled after his shooting death by George Zimmerman on February 26th.

Tonight, March 22nd, Thursday at 7 p.m. the Rev. Al Sharpton, whose mother died this morning (R.I.P.) will conduct a rally at the Fort Mellon Park on East 1st Street (Rte. 46) with some 2,000 to 20,000 expected to attend. There is some concern that this rally may get out of hand (a word of caution). The rally was originally scheduled to be at the Shiloh Baptist Church on Elm Street but has just recently been moved to Fort Mellon Park.

The main rally will be on Monday, March 26th at 4 p.m. at the Sanford Civic Center off Commerce Street and Sanford Avenue – 1 block north of 1st Street – Rte. 46. The Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson are expected to lead the rally prior to the City of Sanford’s City Commissioner meeting at 5 p.m. I plan to attend this rally as a member of the Sanford Ministers Fellowship, and as Vice Chair of Seminole Action Coalition Serving Our Needy (S.A.C.S.O.N.), a faith based community working on issues surrounding homelessness and the needy.

I will have part of our parish parking lot allotted for parking for Monday’s rally. Our lot is at 4th Street and South Park Avenue (400).

This issue has become a national issue over the conduct of Sanford’s police department in not arresting George Zimmerman who was the Home Owners’ Association head, who apparently stalked Trayvon Martin after being told by a 911 operator not to follow him, that the police were being dispatched and would handle this.

Zimmerman continued to follow Martin who was entering the gated apartment complex where he was staying with his father and his father’s fiance. He had just come back from a 7-11 with a box of Skittles and a soda, when Zimmerman started following him in his truck and eventually got out of his truck and ostensibly forced a confrontation that led to Zimmerman feeling threatened for his life and shooting and killing the 17 year old Trayvon Martin (this is Zimmerman’s side of the story).

Since the incident on Feb. 26th, the Police Department released the 911 call from Zimmerman which shows he was asked not to follow Trayvon Martin, and his family obtained records which clearly show that Martin was on the phone with his girlfriend back in Miami (where his mother lives) and that he was afraid that someone was following him, and was advised by his girlfriend to run away.

The issues surrounding this tragic event relate to the actions of the Sanford Police who arrived on the scene after the shooting. The officers did not arrest or take Zimmerman into custody, nor did they confiscate his weapon (a Kel Tec 9 mm semi-automatic handgun), nor test Zimmerman for alcohol or blood test for drugs, nor run a back ground check on his criminal record. They took his story that he was attacked from behind and defended himself, carrying a gun under the Florida “Stand Your Ground” law. The police did check Trayvon Martin’s blood and alcohol content, but did not go door-to-door to ask if a teenager resident was missing!

The initial police report does not show that Zimmerman had a bloodied nose, or wet T-Shirt from a wrestling struggle with Martin, those were disclosed in a second police report a day later.

The City of Sanford City Commissioners voted a “no confidence” vote against Police Chief Bill Lee last night by a 3 to 2 vote. Mayor Jeff Triplett voted “no confidence” as did Commissioners Velma Williams (our African American Commissioner) and Mike McCarty who initiated the motion, and has been asking the Police Chief to resign because he didn’t feel the Chief was arresting enough panhandlers and homeless persons. (Politics makes strange bedfellows, as Mayor Triplett and Velma WIlliams have been working positively on the studied panhandling ordinance and homeless issues after Sanford was featured on two episodes of 60 Minutes concerning having two-thirds of the homeless population in Seminole County).

The continuance, suspension or firing of the Chief of Police, Bill Lee is entirely in the hands of City Manager, Norman Bonaparte, Jr. who has called for a Inquiry of the Sanford Police Department before making his decision.

Personally, I feel that Police Chief Bill Lee has been a good chief for Sanford.

He is a compassionate man who I serve with on the City’s Task Force on Homelessness. I do feel, however, that his thoroughness in investigating this matter and lack of timely release of information (“communication” issue cited by Mayor Triplett), the non-arrest of Zimmerman, and a history within Sanford’s Police Department of giving latitude to those connected to the police department have led us to a “no confidence” situation with Chief Lee.

I ask your prayers for the City of Sanford, which was feeling very positive and proactive about itself and its steps to address the homelessness issue through a Transformation Center before this incident erupted. I ask your prayers for the Martin family, the Zimmermans, the Lee family and our community — all caught up in a very human tragedy.

In Christ’s love and service,

Fr. Rory Harris +

Rector of Holy Cross Episcopal Church

The Mother Church of the Diocese of Central Florida