A JD student at the University of Miami School of Law–and a long-time fan of “The Law of Self Defense”–contacted me recently to share a notice he’d received from the school. It seems for the Fall 2014 semester they will be offering a “short course” (good for one credit) with a focus on the Trayvon Martin case, entitled “Legal Advocacy, Media and the Pursuit of Social Justice.”

The first note of interest is that the course is being “taught” by none other than Jasmine Rand, an attorney with the firm of Crump & Park. Benjamin Crump, of course, was the public legal face of the Martin family, as he is currently the public legal face of the Mike Brown family in the Ferguson shooting. Attorney Rand herself “leads the firm’s Civil Rights Department. Her evolving practice focuses on civil rights, wrongful death, civil rape, and catastrophic personal injury.”

Ms. Rand is perhaps most memorable for her appearance on the Greta Van Susteren show on Fox News in the aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial. Zimmerman was, of course, unanimously acquitted by the jury of all charges after mere hours of deliberations. In the course of her four minutes or so of air time Ms. Rand expressed her view that the jury in that trial had not delivered “justice.” When asked if it was not her duty as a lawyer to accept a duly empaneled jury’s verdict, Ms. Rand responded that she has a greater duty than being a lawyer, and that was to be a “social engineer.”  Good stuff:

Of course, neither Crump & Park in general nor Ms. Rand in particular had anything directly to do with the only trial involving the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, which was the criminal prosecution of George Zimmerman. That prosecution was handled exclusively by the State of Florida. Indeed, what little involvement Crump & Park may have had in the months leading up to that prosecution almost certainly made the State’s efforts to achieve a conviction more difficult–e.g., Rachel Jeantel’s “cursive” note and the orchestrated playing of the 911 tape for Martin’s parents contrary to investigator’s wishes.

Rachel Jeantel testifies at Zimmerman trial

Rachel Jeantel testifies at Zimmerman trial

A short-course on the Zimmerman trial could, of course, be utterly fascinating, if taught by the attorneys actually involved: Angela Corey, Bernie de la Rionda, and John Guy for the State, and Mark O’Mara and Don West for the defense. The trial strategies and tactics involved, the various decision-points and choices made, how set-backs were overcome, or not overcome, would all be vastly insightful.

Mark O'Mara with mannequin

Defense counsel Mark O’Mara with mannequin during Zimmerman trial

Alas, that is not what this course is to offer. Its focus will instead be far less substantive: social justice, generally, and a great many specifics never actually relevant to the trial. Among these are:

  • “federal civil rights violations”–none were ever found, despite tremendous resources devoted by the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • “Stand Your Ground”–never at any point relevant in either the physical confrontation nor the criminal trial
  • “international human rights standards”–oofah

At it’s heart, of course, the Zimmerman trial was simply a very straightforward and traditional case of an aggressor committing a vicious aggravated assault upon an entirely innocent victim, that victim lawfully defending themselves with a legally carried pistol, and the aggressor dying as a result of that lawful act of self-defense.

There’s not much room for “social justice” there, however, so instead in this course  “. . . students will engage in non-traditional legal analysis, exploring the literature on the sociological intersection of race and the law, and examine and reflect on complementary forms of advocacy, such as the use of the media as a tool of advocacy . . . ” (emphasis added)

“Non-traditional legal analysis”? “Sociological intersection of race and the law”? “Use of the media as a tool of advocacy”? Yeah, that sounds like Crump & Park, alright.

Question: How’d that work out for them in the Zimmerman trial?

But wait, there’s more: “The course will highlight . . . the ability of music to communicate messages that impact legal reform.”

Music.  Oofah.

Hey, Dean White, if you’d be interested in a traditional legal analysis of the Zimmerman trial, call me. I caution you, however, that my presentation will be pretty light on music, and will place substantially greater emphasis on the relevant evidence and law than it will on “social justice.” (By “substantially greater” I mean 100%.)  For reference you can peruse “The Zimmerman Files: Aggregated day-by-day live coverage & analysis.”

Anyway, the official course description distributed by the University of Miami School of Law is below:

Course Description: LEGAL ADVOCACY, MEDIA, AND THE PURSUIT OF SOCIAL JUSTICE

Students will explore a dynamic and multidimensional approach to legal advocacy by focusing on the historical trajectory of the Trayvon Martin case in all its facets. Emphasis will be on decision points and strategic choices that faced legal advocates, the role of the lawyer in shaping the course of litigation, and the dilemmas and opportunities raised by media attention. Students will be led through an examination of the following aspects of the case as it unfolded: civil law; criminal law; federal civil rights violations; Stand Your Ground, and the application of international human rights standards. In this course, students will engage in non-traditional legal analysis, exploring the literature on the sociological intersection of race and the law, and examine and reflect on complementary forms of advocacy, such as the use of the media as a tool of advocacy, tempered by professional regulations and ethical obligations. The course will highlight the emergence and role of the social justice movement that accompanied the litigation, and the ability of music to communicate messages that impact legal reform. The course will challenge students to conceptualize law as an evolving process, rather than a static system; taking students beyond application of legal precedents to creation of law and systemic change by combining traditional litigation skills with alternative forms of advocacy.

Jasmine Rand is an attorney with Parks & Crump, L.L.C. in Tallahassee, Florida, where she leads the firm’s Civil Rights Department. Her evolving practice focuses on civil rights, wrongful death, civil rape, and catastrophic personal injury. Notable representations include: a police brutality case involving an eighty-one year old man shot to death on his own property; a policy brutality case involving a mentally ill inmate beaten and tasered to death by officers; premise liability rape cases; and a wrongful death action in which a diver was killed in the propeller of a yacht in the Bahamas. In her first year of practice, Jasmine prepared a Petition for Rehearing for an employment discrimination case before the United States Supreme Court. When necessary, Jasmine represents her clients against law enforcement agencies, insurance companies, and large corporations in State and Federal litigation.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle). He also holds Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and provides free online self-defense law video lectures at the Law of Self Defense Institute and podcasts through iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere.