Criminal Justice

Speculation abounds in law prof's slaying; delayed response to his shooting questioned

  • Print.

The fatal shooting of Florida State University law professor Dan Markel has produced an abundance of speculation about the perpetrator.

Observers have pointed to his representation of a rabbi and threatening Internet posts by an apparent student, the Jewish Daily Forward reports. Police have said Markel was shot once in the head, he appeared to be the intended victim, there is no indication the shooting was tied to a robbery, and they are investigating the case as a homicide.

A neighbor had found Markel bleeding in the car in his garage on July 18 and called 911, telling the dispatcher, “I don’t know if somebody tried to shoot him or if he shot himself, or what I don’t know,” the Tallahassee Democrat reports. The 911 operator who took the call gave it a lower priority than he should have, and the ambulance didn’t arrive for 19 minutes, according to Timothy Lee, director of the dispatch agency.

In an email obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat, Lee told county and city officials that the dispatcher “missed the initial communication from the caller of Mr. Markel’s perceived condition.”

“Specifically,” the email said, the dispatcher “did not hear the caller reference a gunshot wound.” The delay has led one city council member to call for an investigation of the dispatch agency.

One news report by WCTV says Markel helped represent an Orthodox rabbi accused of kidnapping and beating Jewish men who refused to grant their wives a get, a Jewish religious divorce, even though a civil divorce has been granted. A lawyer for the rabbi said Markel had been hired as an expert on conspiracy law.

Speculation has also centered on threatening posts by blog commenters, including one on Inside the Law School Scam who said “all means necessary” are important to “shutting people like YOU down,” the Jewish Daily Forward says, citing an earlier story by the Tallahassee News. When Markel said he felt threatened by the posts, the writer responded, “You’re worried about your home and private life being a target? What about your graduate’s homes and private lives? (Or lack thereof?) YOU’VE RUINED THEIR LIVES YOU FOOL.”

Another commenter claimed Markel was stifling discussion at PrawfsBlawg, the blog Markel co-founded. “To put it charitably folks who have never even met you are inclined to see you as an obsessive, egomaniacal control freak,” the commenter wrote.

The commenters’ accusations are at odds with friends’ descriptions of Markel, who said he was devoted to his children, outgoing and enthusiastic.

Markel was engaged in a custody battle with his ex-wife, FSU clinical law professor Wendi Adelson, who has cooperated in the investigation. Her lawyer said she was “distraught, devastated, scared to death” after the shooting.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.