The Zimmerman Verdict: Be Careful What You Wish For

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381 Responses

  1. David says:

    "Too often the collective belief of society is that a properly functioning justice system is one that produces a conviction."

    If an acquittal happens, it means something, somewhere, went badly wrong. Either the acquittal was the wrong verdict, or the person should not have been tried. Of course, if the person actually is innocent, they should be acquitted – but that's not a good sign if it happens often.

    "Too often the collective belief of our society is that the state, and law enforcement, are entitled to trust — not trust but verify, but uncritical trust, at least when the government actors wear a badge and carry a gun."

    The problem here is that if we do not believe police officers, nobody would ever be convicted of anything. Everything from the arrest to the chain of custody of evidence would be suspect. So absent other evidence, I think we do need to believe the police. Sometimes that trust is ill placed, but the alternative is a system that ceases to function at all.

  2. Kilroy says:

    Assuming facts most favorable: I find that since I don't attack people and try to back their heads against the cement, I have very little risk of being shot like TM was shot, and so have very little fear of the GZ's of the world. I expect your children are in the same boat.

  3. Kilroy says:

    bash, damn it, bash their heads in.

  4. Ken, thanks for saying this. I've been making many of the arguments you made above to my friends and and FoFs on Facebook since the acquittal was announced. You said it much better than I. It's amazing to me how many people don't understand that a change to the law that would have made it easier to convict Zimmerman would also make it easier to convict innocent people.

  5. Kerwin White says:

    OUTSTANDING. Sharing this post with everyone I know. Thank you.

  6. CaptainPugwash says:

    It was Agent K in Men In Black (Tommy Lee Jones) who said:

    A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.

    A lot of that sums up Ken's post here I think.

  7. nl7 says:

    David: the blanket default of trusting the authorities (or "believe the police" as you phrased it) is in incredible tension with the presumption of innocence. The presumption of innocence is the exact opposite – assume the accusations of witnesses, arrests by police, and charges from prosecutors are all baseless without credible corroboration.

    The ability of police to fib, exaggerate or lie is pretty well established. Police claim that in frisking for weapons they though small baggies of drugs might be deadly weapons used against them. Police claim to smell marijuana from closed homes a hundred feet away, in sealed containers inside dressers. Police accuse motorists of suspicious ethnicity of "swerving" as a pretext to pull them over. Police tackle people and then accuse them of fighting or struggling to justify their use of force later.

    Police are fully capable of lying. They are interested parties when it comes to criminal conviction, so we should assume that they are willing to lie on the stand.

    None of which is relevant in this case. The credibility of police was not really at issue, except for public pressure in the weeks before the arrest but after the murder.

  8. neil says:

    Great article, Ken!

  9. "If an acquittal happens, it means something, somewhere, went badly wrong. Either the acquittal was the wrong verdict, or the person should not have been tried."

    This is a gross over-simplification which I cannot agree with.

    There are many other possibilities. Maybe the prosecution did a bad job of presenting its case. Maybe one of the prosecution's witnesses was telling the truth but not credible to the jury. Maybe new evidence came to light during trial. Maybe the defense managed to stack the jury. Maybe the jury (or just one hold-out) did not behave rationally.

    "Of course, if the person actually is innocent, they should be acquitted – but that's not a good sign if it happens often."

    This, I agree with.

    "The problem here is that if we do not believe police officers, nobody would ever be convicted of anything."

    This, too, is a gross over-simplification. Police officers should be treated no differently from any other witness. Is their testimony credible? Is there evidence that corroborates their testimony? Does their testimony and the evidence they gather withstand robust cross-examination by the defense?

    I agree with Ken that law-enforcement authorities are no more or less entitled to our unquestioning trust than anyone else.

  10. whheydt says:

    I did not follow the case closely, but the one thing that did stand out to me was the police dispatcher telling GZ to back off and GZ going after Martin anyway. That to me is telling about GZs intent.

    But then, I though the DNA evidence in the Simpson trial was compelling, and he should have been convicted even if just on that basis.

    I guess it comes down to being a science oriented person. Trust the hard evidence and discount the–notoriously unreliable–witnesses.

  11. azteclady says:

    David,

    The problem here is that if we do not believe police officers, nobody would ever be convicted of anything. Everything from the arrest to the chain of custody of evidence would be suspect. So absent other evidence, I think we do need to believe the police. Sometimes that trust is ill placed, but the alternative is a system that ceases to function at all.

    Not necessarily–healthy skepticism is a good thing. Just because someone has a badge doesn't make them infallible, anymore than having a medical degree would. In lieu of a second opinion, striving to be more objective towards police and the legal system as a whole, seems like a good idea to me.

  12. That Anonymous Coward says:

    @David (I suck at block quotes bear with me)
    "The problem here is that if we do not believe police officers, nobody would ever be convicted of anything."

    And that belief is dropping at an amazing rate. With unions and boards to "investigate" alleged wrongdoing seemingly more interested in putting boots back on the street than dealing with a cop breaking the law, stories of bad cops are far more common than they should be.

    I give you Tony Bologna, NYPD. He peppersprayed women detained in a security net and one of his fellow officers before fleeing the scene and threatening more people on the street. He claimed he wasn't aiming for the women, but unknown males. The spokesman for NYPD backed his story 110% even as video of the incident showed him deliberately spraying the women. He has a history of violating the rights of citizens. He got a paid vacation as punishment.

    Beryl Howell, Federal Judge DC. Issued an opinion from the bench claiming that ISPs and their customers just HAD to do more to protect copyrights. This exceeds the law of the land by quite a bit, and she issued rulings favoring copyright holders and ignored clear jurisdictional issues with the cases before her. The fact she is a former RIAA lobbyist is not to be considered about her behavior and "unique" interpretation of the law.

    DoJ v. Wall Street… no evidence of wrongdoing. Oh look I work for Wall Street now.
    DoJ v. Kim DotCom… The company paid their bills! This is money laundering!!!!!
    DoJ v. RojaDirect (and or DaJaz1)… No your honor they haven't responded to the case, that we managed to keep secret from them. No the **AA hasn't provided any evidence to back up their claims we used to justify taking the servers.

    The system has huge cracks in it, and people like to look away because it hasn't effected them yet.
    There is wholesale spying on all Americans and if you dissent people wonder what your trying to hide… rather than wonder about when the Constitution for shredded.

    People want an outcome.
    A young man is dead, another man shot him.
    They assume and were fed bits and pieces to support a narrative they may or maynot have been true. People who make their money off of exploiting the misery of others told us to be outraged, that this is all about race. They rile the people up and walk away from the aftermath. See also Duke lacrosse case.

    Race is a hot button issue, so many people are willing to press to get a response. The fact we can not discuss it without the polarization happening immediately means we need to discuss it and deal with it. The world is not a zero sum game where everything is black or white, but the entire country has been moved this way by its leaders. It really is time that people stop hoping others will do something to fix it, and start doing it themselves.

  13. Clark says:

    @David

    "Too often the collective belief of society is that a properly functioning justice system is one that produces a conviction."

    If an acquittal happens, it means something, somewhere, went badly wrong. Either the acquittal was the wrong verdict, or the person should not have been tried.

    I strongly disagree.

    Proof by example: a woman is raped and killed. A man with a history of violence is agreed to have threatened her the day before the event. The man claims he wasn't there, and has evidence that tends to support his position – but imperfectly.

    It is entirely just to try the man.

    If the jurors conclude that the man is not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, it is just to let the man go.

    Reality, and our imperfect knowledge of it, creates shades of grey. Trials are flawed tools, but they are better than the alternative.

    …and that's an ANARCHIST saying that.

  14. Ken-Great work. Thanks. As with Brian Tannebaum's post over the weekend, I have no doubt that you are right and appreciate the intelligent analysis. That said, I still have a sense of disquiet about the role of race here. Trafficking in unknowables for a moment, I can't help but wonder what happens if Trayvon Martin has the gun, shoots and kills, George Zimmerman and winds up as the defendant. While it's no answer and no basis to change the outcome, I have suspect that acquittal is less likely because of the bias of the menace of a young African-American with a gun.

  15. David says:

    "The presumption of innocence is the exact opposite – assume the accusations of witnesses, arrests by police, and charges from prosecutors are all baseless without credible corroboration."

    I disagree with most of that. You assume the charges are baseless without evidence, yes. But the police testimony itself IS evidence. There may be times when the police are not credible, but should that be the default?

    Assume you're a judge in traffic court, faced with a police officer who says the defendant was speeding and he got him on radar, and a defendant who says he was not speeding. No other witnesses. Guilty or not guilty? If you say not guilty, you may as well throw the speeding laws away.

    "There are many other possibilities. Maybe the prosecution did a bad job of presenting its case. Maybe one of the prosecution's witnesses was telling the truth but not credible to the jury. Maybe new evidence came to light during trial. Maybe the defense managed to stack the jury. Maybe the jury (or just one hold-out) did not behave rationally."

    All of those either involve a guilty person being acquitted (in which case the acquittal was the wrong verdict) or an innocent person facing trial (in which case he should not have been tried). People aren't perfect, of course, and there may be unavoidable reasons that this happens sometimes even without anything malicious going on.

  16. Keith says:

    @whheydt – is it established fact that Zimmerman continued to pursue TM after the dispatcher told him to stop following? At least going off of the phone call, it seems that Zimmerman got out of his car to initially pursue TM, but after the dispatcher says, "We do not need you to do that [pursue TM]", Zimmerman goes back to his car. Rather, he says "Okay", so it's possible he continued pursuing.

  17. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    Let me just throw this out there;

    Trayvon Martin was a 17 year old male. I was a 17 year old male, once. As a group they tend to be on the risk-stupid side; prone to wandering onto other peoples' property for no very good reason, dressing a great deal more badass than they are, and letting their teen attitude get them deep into situations that they lack the skills, experience, and toughness to get out of. That description certainly applies to me; I was and did all those things, and I was a scrawny little white bookworm, not a fairly large kid from an ethnic background that the media is saturating with images of aggressiveness.

    I'm not saying that Zimmerman is a hero for shooting the idiot (and I say idiot because at the same age I was one one too). I'm saying that he was a moderately reasonable man, acting well within the range of reasonable behavior, whose actions resulted in a tragedy because Martin was acting like a goddamn fool.

    Acting like a 17 year old male can just have tragic consequences. As another example:

    http://blog.al.com/wire/2013/07/two_pennsylvania_teens_rescue.html

    Two teenage black kids, who did something moderately idiotic (chasing a car driven by a kidnapper while you are on a bicycle just isn't smart), and came up smelling like roses. Hooray for them, and I hope that they grow up with the same heart, if somewhat greater caution.

    The culture that made 'ganstas' into heroes for Martin bears some degree of guilt. So do his parents, his teachers, and his peers. But to a great degree, what happened to Martin is that he was 17, and no smarter than 17 year olds usually are. And Nature and evolution are hard on young males as they tend to be in excess of requirements.

    Nature abhors no vacuum more than one with ears on either side.

  18. MGrace says:

    You don't address the reason why the prosecution put on a lackluster case, and whether that in and of itself was due to race-based injustice. Florida didn't want to prosecute Zimmerman, they were shamed into it. State Attorney Angela Corey was practically smirking at the outcome. There was more than one level of race-based injustice present in this case and it did not lie solely with the perpetrator.

  19. Bearman says:

    Great great article.

  20. Dan Weber says:

    The man claims he wasn't there, and has evidence that tends to support his position – but imperfectly.

    It is entirely just to try the man.

    What threshold do you use? I believe that, before trying a citizen, the state should both (a) be convinced itself — using whatever methods it wishes, not constrained by rules of evidence — that he is guilty, and (b) that it is convinced that, when constrained by those rules evidence, it can convince a jury.

    Surely there is room for doubt on both those clauses, and "can convince a jury" is definitely different than "will convince a jury."

    I've asked myself these questions a lot and never gotten a good answer. It usually doesn't matter when arguing with others because I'm usually arguing with people who say things like "the defendant should welcome the trial as a chance to clear his name" and other such things that are way outside of whatever grey area I am navel-gazing.

  21. NE Patriot says:

    I'm given to wonder what would have happened if Martin and Zimmerman's roles were reversed: Martin being a lawfully permitted firearm holder, and Zimmerman being some "punk kid" out getting some iced tea. Would the black man have gotten a fair trial, and would the trial have generated nearly as much national attention, and how would that attention (and public reaction) have changed in the face of either possible verdict?

  22. Ken White says:

    Didn't the evidence show the dispatcher said "we don't need you to do that?"

    I don't dispute Zimmerman displayed cop wannabe aggression for questionable reasons.

  23. James Pollock says:

    Given that Zimmerman has received multiple, probably credible death threats, and that as an acquitted person, he's entitled to keep both his weapon and his carry permit, I'm forecasting that this does not end well.
    In fact, I'm tempted to see if there's a Vegas line on how many people are shot (lawfully in self-defense by people reasonably in fear for their lives) in the vicinity of Mr. Zimmerman should he remain in Florida.

    Any bets on the outcome of a civil trial, with its lower burden of proof?

  24. David says:

    @That AnonymousCoward:

    "With unions and boards to "investigate" alleged wrongdoing seemingly more interested in putting boots back on the street than dealing with a cop breaking the law, stories of bad cops are far more common than they should be."

    Very true. But much of the reason we ARE alarmed at these stories is that we DO give the police that measure of trust. The difference between when the police lie in court and an ordinary person lies in court is perhaps like the difference between a random person driving a car without a valid license and a random person driving a passenger train without a valid license. Driving the train involves a betrayal of trust of the passengers and a much greater capacity for harm than the ordinary driver.

  25. lexxius says:

    Good post!

    I wonder BTW if anybody noticed that police and procecution were really not working together in this case. Police chief complained that investigation was hijacked from them and it seems that police officers who testified actally supported GZ.
    The main problem for prosecution and the reson that the case were so weak was the same – political pressure. They were forced to grossly overcharge (whatever you think about the GZ, his actions were nowhere near Murder 2 or even manslaughter) without sufficient evidence and they did not believe their theory themselves. Hard to prove the case under such circumastances.

    I have one question: imagine if after the shooting TV is found to be actually involved in the previous break-ins in the community. Then think about your (and other people) reaction to GZ actions if he (a) did what he did (b) listen to 911 operator and stayed in the car and let another crime happen. Would it be the same? Then realize that GZ had no way to know one way or another.

  26. Aelfric says:

    Mr. Schofield–It is posts like yours that give me pause; how do you know any of that about Trayvon Martin? How do we know that a love of "gangstas" had anything to do with this? Or that he was failed by his parents? Is there no possibility that Mr. Martin was acting in reasonable self-defense? I don't think either of us know, even if we credit most or all of Mr. Zimmerman's recounting of the events.

    Let me be clear: I am with Mr. White on this one. I believe Mr. Zimmerman bears moral culpability for his act, but that a verdict of not guilty was appropriate. It is just amazing to me how people are able to see this tragic event through so many different kaleidoscopes.

  27. James says:

    Police can make bad decisions, and so can the people they interact with. However, when everything is on camera…

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/07/business/wearable-video-cameras-for-police-officers.html

    "Even with only half of the 54 uniformed patrol officers wearing cameras at any given time, the department over all had an 88 percent decline in the number of complaints filed against officers, compared with the 12 months before the study, to 3 from 24.
    "Rialto’s police officers also used force nearly 60 percent less often — in 25 instances, compared with 61. When force was used, it was twice as likely to have been applied by the officers who weren’t wearing cameras during that shift, the study found. "

  28. Albert says:

    "It's tragic that Trayvon Martin was killed, and I believe that George Zimmerman bears moral responsibility for his death. The banners of racism that have unfurled in defense of Zimmerman repulse me. I would be damn worried about my kids if I lived in George Zimmeran's neighborhood. But ultimately I am more afraid of the state — and more afraid of a society that thinks case outcomes should depend upon collective social judgment — than I am of the George Zimmermans of the world."

    Well if he bears a moral responsibility, he should also bear a legal responsibility (that is, specifically in this case, because it's a moral responsibility for a death, and our laws align with most moral compasses in regards to the seriousness of causing another's death).

    I can't say that I get upset when I read support from most people in regards to this acquittal, and someone as well-respected as yourself in the legal realm I surely cannot disregard as simply being racist. However, I certainly do believe that there is a significant racial bias here. Sure, I'd say a lot of people who were not on the jury are directly in support of the acquittal because of race (and surely almost as many are against the acquittal because of race as well), but that's always the case in our society. However, what is more significant to me is that, were this case in California, I seriously doubt he would have been acquitted. To be perfectly blunt, I think it is simply out of naïvety that you can't see the clear pattern here: you have never lived in the south. I grew up in California, and currently live in Massachusetts, but in high school my family moved to Florida. Living in California, I definitely saw some racist people and had what I believed to be a good grasp of the current extent of the scope in our country: there are pockets of racism, but it's not like it's the 60's and the KKK is running wild and rampant. But then we moved. Surely part of my ignorance can be attributed to being young, but it was just a wild contrast to see such blatant, widespread, pervasive racism everywhere. It's more of a deeply-ingrained, subconscious idea that the stereotypical differences between black people and people who aren't black can and should be generally accepted, but this shouldn't be explicitly stated so that everyone is in "political-correctness compliance". Take, for instance, my school. We had 3 sections of campus: West, East, and North. North campus was mostly freshmen (with a good chunk of upperclassmen thrown in there), but West was where every African-American kid went to class and ate lunch and hung out, and East was the white kids. Part of it (albeit a very significant part) was self-segregation, but it was also pretty clearly assisted by administration in assigning classes and locations. Another example was our advisors. We had most of them by last name (A-D, E-G, etc), but one advisor was just for the section of town that 95% of the African-American kids came from.
    In California, you have "those people" who are backwards and racist. And you have the pockets where it's all about race (gangs etc.). But it's not the norm and people look down on it. That's just not the case in the south, and it's hard to fully grasp how bad it is without experiencing it. The xenophobia is striated differently; in the south there are white people, minorities, then black people. And most people who are in it have either grown up with it or really don't want to see it and turn a blind eye.
    So as little practical knowledge as I have about criminal law and how to characterize the actual strength of the prosecution's case, it surely wouldn't be considered by anyone as a landslide, clear-cut win for the defense; I think even most respected authorities whose opinions I read/heard (lawyers etc.) thought it was a toss-up. But in any toss-up, it's going to land skinheads-up when the coin is weighted. I would have been very surprised if it had turned out any other way.
    A really interesting inquiry would be to take all the murder cases with ambiguity and characterize them by race and location. I'd bet a pretty penny that there's a significant correlation between being in the south and it turning out poorly for the African-American in cases where one person is black and the other isn't.

  29. Kirk Taylor says:

    IANAL BIPOOT

    My question for the lawyers is: was there a charge that Zimmerman could have been convicted of if the state had not charged so aggressively into murder.

    Murder or Manslaughter, I thought, were stretches from the very beginning. Reasonable doubt is too available in this kind of a case.

  30. Thank you for writing this.

  31. eddie says:

    Cops should be presumed to be lying. They have motivations and incentives to lie.

    That presumption could be overcome via sufficient corroborating evidence, of course.

  32. Dan Weber says:

    911 dispatchers aren't going to ever tell you to do anything.

    If you are barricaded in your bathroom with a shotgun and a cellphone while a maniac is cutting open the door with a chainsaw screaming "I am going to render your flesh into pieces" loud enough that the 911 dispatcher can hear, and you say "should I shoot him when he comes through?", the dispatcher will not tell you do to it.

    If you ask if you should make a sandwich, the operator will not tell you to do it.

    They aren't in the permission-granting business.

  33. Aelfric says:

    D'oh–sorry for the lack of blockquote up there. Teach me to try to be fancy.

  34. Robert says:

    Ken,

    Would a "Reckless Endangerment" charge have been appropriate for this case? It seems to me (with the little case detail I have) that they should have added this as a option if that was possible.

    I never believed that they would get a conviction on murder 2 or manslaughter based on what I had heard.

    Robert

  35. Albert says:

    Btw I obviously might be giving too much weight to the racial point because I don't have the same kind of legal context as a lot of the minds here for what is typically "strong-enough" for the prosecution's case. But keep in mind that the jury isn't exactly composed of lawyers either.

  36. Rich Rostrom says:

    Trayvon Martin would be alive if George Zimmerman didn't think he had a right and duty to confront people of the wrong color in his neighborhood…

    There is no evidence that Zimmerman noted Martin because of his color. The community has black residents, and Zimmerman knew many of them. Note that when the 911 dispatcher asked him "this guy, is he white, black, or Hispanic?", Zimmerman said "He looks black." Not "He's black." In, the dark, in the rain, under concealing clothing, Zimmerman could not clearly make out Martin's color. What he could make out was that Martin was a young male in a hoodie, who "looks like he’s up to no good" and was "just walking around looking about" in the rain.

    There is also no evidence that Zimmerman "confronted" Martin. Zimmerman's account, which is consistent with all physical evidence and all credible witness testimony, is that he lost sight of Martin, walked a few yards after him, and was surprise-attacked by Martin.

    The theory that Zimmerman was a race-driven vigilante who provoked Martin is entirely a creation of race-hustling "activists", abetted by the news media and the special prosecutors.

  37. Mike says:

    I think part of the frustration for me is there appears to be a pretty big donut hole in the criminal law where a George Zimmerman can follow a person (against common sense and 911 suggestion), wind up in a fight with that person, and have no criminal culpability if there is no camera present to show how the altercation started. Whether some race component plays into this is for each individual person to decide, and certainly trying to argue either way on that count simply clogs the internet after a certain point (which we likely passed long ago).

    As an attorney, I predicted GZ would be acquitted because the prosecution had a lot of trouble putting forth a coherent story. But I definitely found GZ's account to be very uncredible (incredible?). To believe GZ, I have to believe (1) this criminal-looking type has just circled GZ's car and then disappeared somewhere, (2) GZ lived in a community with three street names but didn't know the name of the street he was on, and (3) he would then get out of his car to go in search of a street address to give to the cops. Oh, and he wouldn't look at the street addresses of the houses facing him, but would rather go off the street through a cut-through in search of an address. It just seems like a clumsy story to try to hide from the likely scenario that he simply continued following Martin after being advised not to by police dispatch.

    The other difficulty I find with his story is his claim that Martin punched him 25-30 times, including an MMA-style ground and pound session, and bashed his head repeatedly on a concrete sidewalk. I look at the photos of his injuries and they just don't look even close to consistent with such an ass-whuppin'. It didn't help from my perspective that the defense insisted on putting forth this narrative that Martin was actually much more physically imposing than Zimmerman.

    So I disagree with anyone who is celebrating this result as a triumph of our system of justice over ignorant social and media consensus. I recognize that we all tend to sometimes get polarized by these cases to where an outcome can be viewed as validating our narrative of what the case stands for–such that if you disagree with the media portrayal and race allegations, an acquittal is a confirmation that the media and certain segments of society were wrong and your values were right.

    But for me, this comes down to a glaring example of a culpable wrong that is not adequately countenanced in our (or at least Florida's) criminal justice code. And while that means an acquittal for GZ, the real shame is that there will likely be other instances where it will mean a jury simply convicts a defendant for a higher, unsupported charge because the alternative–letting the defendant walk–is simply unpalatable.

  38. sorrykb says:

    @Kilroy:
    If someone came after me with a gun, I think I'd be quite likely to bang his head into the pavement. Should I be shot as well?

    The thing is, I'm a middle-aged white woman, so someone who shot me would be far more likely to be charged and convicted, because it seems clear that our society values the lives of middle-aged white people more highly than it does the lives of young African-American men.

  39. Well if he bears a moral responsibility, he should also bear a legal responsibility.

    Um… no.

    Our legal system is (supposed to be) weighted to prefer setting a guilty man free over convicting an innocent man. This is a foundation of our system of justice.

    That means that sometimes guilty people are going to go free.

    That's on purpose. The system, or at least that part of it, ain't broke, so don't try to fix it.

  40. Dan Weber says:

    Albert, a popular theme here is that if you defend free speech rights, you are very often going to be defended the free speech rights of (what society sees as) scum. Popular views don't need free speech protection, the ones that offend us do.

    Similarly, if you stand up and demand that the state actually meet all its requirements to put people behind bars, you are very often going to be defending (what society sees as) scum from the state.

    Undoubtedly, racists support Zimmerman. This doesn't mean Zimmerman is guilty, or that we should find Zimmerman guilty to strike back at those racists. It doesn't even mean provide any evidence that Zimmerman is himself racist (although you may use other facts to come to that conclusion if you wish).

    There are undoubtedly people crowing about the state's high burden who wouldn't say a damn thing when the defendant is black. Ken has even addressed that point before:
    http://www.popehat.com/2013/06/19/lady-justices-occasional-friends/

  41. En Passant says:

    NE Patriot wrote Jul 15, 2013 @10:45 am:

    I'm given to wonder what would have happened if Martin and Zimmerman's roles were reversed: Martin being a lawfully permitted firearm holder, and Zimmerman being some "punk kid" out getting some iced tea.

    I watched video recordings of much (but not all) of the trial. From that perspective I am very sure that if Martin's and Zimmerman's skin tones had been reversed, I would have still reached the same verdict that the jury reached.

    The state's case, both witnesses and arguments, simply did not even come close to proving to me that Zimmerman was not defending himself.

    Did other prosecution flim-flam antics that were not revealed to the jury affect how I formed my opinion of the testimony that the jury saw?

    Maybe. But I don't think so. The prosecution's case was purely speculative based on the examinations of key witnesses that I saw.

  42. Laura says:

    Thank you for such an important perspective. I feel that George Zimmerman committed a crime when he took the Trayvon Martin's life and I admit to disappointment that the justice system hasn't worked in this case to hold him accountable, but I also agree that people should not be tried by public opinion.

  43. SJD says:

    Anyone who disagrees with Sir William Blackstone is not welcomed in my universe. While I'm OK with debating with people who have radically different views on multiple subjects (a sizable portion of this blog's readers' views on copyright enforcement for instance), I actively avoid any contact with anyone who disagrees with Sir William Blackstone.

  44. Albert says:

    @Jonathan Kamens
    Oh you are obviously right about that. I'm just saying that he *should* be legally responsible in an ideal circumstance where there is sufficient evidence to *prove* that he should be morally responsible. I say this because I don't know if I would assert that someone should be morally responsible if I didn't think there was sufficient evidence to prove (in my jury of one) that they were actually responsible.
    I just don't think there should be a disconnect between saying "he should be held morally responsible" and "he should be held legally responsible, and if he isn't then there's something amiss with the jurors/justice system/etc". Rather there could definitely be a disconnect between "he should be held morally responsible" and "I think he will be held legally responsible", but I'm sure that's just a minor wording thing and was just something minor I wanted to mention.

  45. sorrykb says:

    As an aside, I was on jury duty (different case, different floor) in the L.A. Criminal Courts Building during the OJ trial, and witnessed the media (and public) circus outside every day.
    Sadly, news media sensationalizing trials is nothing new. I'd say it dates back at least as far as… the earliest news media (in which I'll include town criers).

  46. En Passant says:

    sorrykb wrote Jul 15, 2013 @11:23 am:

    @Kilroy:
    If someone came after me with a gun, I think I'd be quite likely to bang his head into the pavement. Should I be shot as well?

    I'd be more likely to do some very fast broken field running in that situation. But that was not the situation in the confrontation between Martin and Zimmerman, at least according to evidence presented at trial.

    There was absolutely no evidence presented that even suggested Zimmerman "came at" Martin "with a gun" — in the sense that Zimmerman was displaying a gun when he and Martin met.

    Zimmerman had a concealed carry permit. Even the prosecution's evidence was consistent that Martin did not perceive (and had no opportunity to perceive) a gun before he was straddled on top of Zimmerman and pounding Zimmerman's head into the sidewalk.

  47. wumpus says:

    My problem with the trial (as opposed to obvious issues about Martin's death) was that I really have no reason to believe that the jury was wrong about the case under Florida law.

    I find it hard to believe that Florida (I have been told about half of all other states, with Federal law leaning the same way) allows it citizens a CCW to basically to arm themselves, announce that they will go make sure "a fucking punk" doesn't "get away", chase down same after he avoids said confrontation, and finally kill him. The jury decided that the judge's instructions allowed exactly that (and from what I've hear elsewhere, it did).

    I wonder where CCWs will expand and where they will be restricted after they are shown to be simply a "license to kill".

  48. leo marvin says:

    @albert

    So as little practical knowledge as I have about criminal law and how to characterize the actual strength of the prosecution's case, it surely wouldn't be considered by anyone as a landslide, clear-cut win for the defense;

    Actually, yeah, it would. As someone whose disgust with what I knew about Zimmerman's behavior biased me toward hoping the prosecution had a persuasive case to justify its charges, I can't imagine any reasonable observer believing that convicting Zimmerman on the evidence produced wouldn't have been a gross miscarriage of justice.

  49. Albert says:

    @Dan Weber
    Very valid point, and I certainly don't think he should have been convicted just to balance out the racism of the past (which is equally racist in my opinion). I really just wanted to say that this verdict was nearly inevitable. The outcome was not clear-cut and subconscious racial discrimination by the jury is likely going to tip the scales in favor of the person-in-question-who-isn't-black, because a lot of people on the jury can understand where Zimmerman was coming from/empathize with his knee-jerk racism better in the south, even if they aren't directly racist themselves. Should we change the justice system to "fix" that problem by giving an advantage to some race? Certainly not. Should we work on removing this racial problem from our country's mindset? Definitely.
    (PS, plenty of racists undoubtedly are against Zimmerman as well; that coin is two-sided for sure)

  50. Reader says:

    "Banners of racism." Yes, the one that concerns me is the one that says, if you are not black ENOUGH, you don't get to defend yourself against young black males who are assaulting you. Zimmerman is as black as Homer Plessy. http://piersmorgan.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/10/mark-nejame-on-new-zimmerman-family-photo-he-really-has-significant-multiracial-multicultural-roots/?hpt=pm_mid

  51. En Passant says:

    leo marvin wrote Jul 15, 2013 @11:50 am:

    Actually, yeah, it would.

    Amen.

    I'm amazed at the fact-free nature of many comments grousing about the jury verdict. Fact-free in the sense of either ignoring facts presented to jury at trial, or assuming facts for which no evidence even exists.

  52. Albert says:

    @leo marvin
    If that's the case, I'll keep my change in my pocket. There's an awful lot of debate going on about something that you claim is clear-cut, but the media has to give us something to get up-in-arms about I suppose.

  53. Stuart says:

    Ken- Amazing article. What do you think about seeking to convict Zimmerman in Federal Court for violating Martin's civil rights? IANAL but it doesn't seem right to me to put people on Federal trial only because the state trial didn't produce the desired results.

  54. That Anonymous Coward says:

    @David
    "The difference between when the police lie in court and an ordinary person lies in court is perhaps like the difference between a random person driving a car without a valid license and a random person driving a passenger train without a valid license."

    I come from the world of the copyright troll.
    I have seen officers of the court lie through their teeth repeatedly in public and in court.
    I have seen the lackluster response from the bench, always giving the benefit of the doubt to them yet I have seen hellfire rain down on the accused for a misstatement.
    Because someone gives you a badge does not make you a better person, and you should not be granted any more leeway than anyone else.
    Time and time again we have seen people in "trusted" positions skate where a regular person faces the full fury.

    Until things are cleaned up, it will not get any better.
    Police statements being taken with a grain of salt would be a good start. Prosecutors actually being investigated for skipping cases because they might not win rather than a lack of evidence.

    We turned the law into a game. You get points for winning.
    One might notice how many of our professional game players are getting busted for violating the rules about enhancing their performance and yet are still beloved. The romance needs to end.

    @Aelfric – and this is why I never try to blockquote anymore, I always muck it up so I just stick stuff in quotes now.

  55. I find it hard to believe that Florida (I have been told about half of all other states, with Federal law leaning the same way) allows it citizens a CCW to basically to arm themselves, announce that they will go make sure "a fucking punk" doesn't "get away", chase down same after he avoids said confrontation, and finally kill him. The jury decided that the judge's instructions allowed exactly that (and from what I've hear elsewhere, it did).

    This was not the narrative told by Zimmerman's defense. Leaving aside your incendiary, begging-the-question formulation of the parts you included, you completely omitted two crucial aspects of Zimmerman's narrative: (1) Zimmerman claims that there was no violence in his initial confrontation of Martin, which means that it was perfectly legal; and (2) Zimmerman claims that he had walked away from Martin after that non-violent confrontation and then was attacked by Martin.

    If Zimmerman's claims are accurate, then they certainly establish reasonable doubt under Florida law, and they would probably establish reasonable doubt under the laws of any other state as well.

    The prosecution abjectly failed to disprove Zimmerman's narrative beyond a reasonable doubt.

    If they had disproved his narrative beyond a reasonable doubt, then we might have cause to discuss how flaws in Florida law allowed a guilty man to go free. But in fact, such a discussion is not justified by this particular trial or its outcome.

  56. Clark says:

    @David Sugerman

    the bias of the menace of a young African-American with a gun.

    But one of the two African Americans in the fight did have a gun.

  57. AL says:

    @sorrykb: "If someone came after me with a gun, I think I'd be quite likely to bang his head into the pavement."

    Why!? There's no better way to handle this?
    (Setting aside for the moment that it is quite misleading to suggest that Zimmerman brandished his gun at Martin in a conspicuous and threatening way; in all likelihood, Martin didn't know Zimmerman had a gun and if he had known, he probably WOULDN'T have attempted the head bashing you're saying you would attempt despite knowing about the gun!)

  58. David says:

    As you point out, Zimmerman bears a moral responsibility for the death of Trayvon Martin. I agree. But that is NOT the same as criminal culpability. Hence, I expect a civil wrongful death suit may well have a different outcome than this case.

  59. Mika says:

    While I agree with you about the necessity of proving beyond reasonable doubt that someone is guilty before convicting him, I think that the problem here is elsewhere (and some media are using this case to tell that story because telling stories instead of delivering analysis is what they do). The problem really is that there are laws which allow you to kill someone in certain situations. It is called "stand your ground" and exactly that is the problem: if you have to either run away or kill your attacker to save your life, then you run away. It is simple as this. For all the christians defending "stand your ground" I will just point at "You shall not kill.", for all the rational people not believing I will instead point at "the pursuit of happiness". No one will be happy after being shot. The root and reason of all well-meaning justice is not vengeance, but improvement of the offender's behaviour. He or she will not improve their behaviour after being killed.

    Of course, you can construct certain situations, where you have to either kill or be killed/seriously harmed. First, a society should take all reasonable precautions to prevent such situations. Second, if you are in such a situation and muster the courage to kill (I wouldn't without some training), you shouldn't be convicted for it, but each such case has to be investigated, a human's death should never be taken lightly.

    As you might tell from my english, I'm no native speaker, I'm from Germany. And while some laws over here are insane compared to american standards (free speech etc.), I am happy that people have to break the law to kill me, even cops and executioners. Of course, German cops are above the law just as they are in the US and usually get away with killing "suspects", but at least in theory, if someone kills me they are breaking the law.

  60. AL says:

    @whheydt: "I did not follow the case closely, but the one thing that did stand out to me was the police dispatcher telling GZ to back off and GZ going after Martin anyway. That to me is telling about GZs intent."

    Why do you believe that Zimmerman went after Martin anyway? On the 911 call, after the dispatcher says "we don't need you to that," Zimmerman can be heard saying "okay," which would indicate an agreement with the instruction. And according to what Zimmerman told police, he lost sight of Martin, so he couldn't follow Martin even if he wanted to.

    The claim that Zimmerman ignored the dispatcher's suggestion and kept following Martin anyway is repeated frequently by media pundits, with no explanation as to how they came to that conclusion.

  61. Eddie says:

    The amount of disinformation in this post and this thread is disheartening. I actually followed the trial, and has been noted on here, trusting the media is a mistake.

    Take the suggestion that TM would be alive if GZ didn't think he had the right and duty to confront people of the wrong colour in his neighbourhood. There are two media narratives at play there.

    First the 'wrong colour' argument. Zimmerman called the police operator because there was a person checking out people's houses and yards in the pouring rain. In the recorded call Zimmerman can only confirm the person's race when he approached his car. That's was played at trial and testified to by the operator.

    Secondly the 'need to confront'. Zimmerman repeatedly asked for a cop to be sent and made arrangements to meet the police. Those are not the actions of someone 'looking to confront' anyone. Maybe you have been roped in by the 'he was told to stay in the car' meme which was created by the tape being deliberately played out of sequence.

    GZ described the actions of TM to the operator, and after TM had eyeballed him for a bit apparently he ran away. When he told the operator that the individual was running away the Operator asked where was he going and that is when GZ exited his car to find out. After heading in the direction he though TM had gone the operator asked if he was following and when GZ confirmed the operator said 'you don't need to do that' and Zimmerman said Ok and started to discuss where to meet the police.

    This stuff is all on the tape which was played at the trial and testified to by the operator. At no point was he told, advised, suggested or any other verb that he should stay in the car. http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/326700-full-transcript-zimmerman.html seems like an accurate version if you do not want to watch the court recording. The only elements missing are the car door opening after the operator asking which way he is running and the breaks in conversation between there and the Are you following him? question.

    TM on the other hand may have made it home. His maybe girlfriend testified that he told her he was out back of his father's place, which is very plausible given the timelines and distances involved. But beyond that we have no evidence as to what he did after running away..

    The timeline and geography and recollection of the conversation with TM allow that he could have gone in home and that would have ended the situation. Timings were extracted from the phone calls GZ and TM were on, so there is documented evidence. The conclusion inferred is that TM went back and sought out confrontation with GZ. This is a far cry from being 'hunted down' Which is a narrative we never get from the media.

    But to this stage, nobody has committed a crime or done anything wrong, morally or otherwise. That is assuming that TM wasn't casing houses in the pouring rain and that GZ was mistaken

    That information, coupled with the eyewitness accounts of TM being on top of GZ and punching at him just prior to the shooting lead to the reasonable doubt verdict. There was also the fact that TM's only injuries were the gunshot and his fists, while GZ's head was a mess.

    So if we are looking for the morally culpable here, the question is who assaulted who first? And we don't know. There is evidence of who was definitely winning, but that doesn't prove he was the aggressor. We can look at their histories and proclivities, but that would at best give us probabilities, not proof. If TM assaulted GZ then it was self defence. If GZ assaulted TM and then shot him then it is probably murder. I say probably because I don't know if starting a fist fight negates self defence as a law technicality. I know morally it would be murder.

  62. James Pollock says:

    "There is also no evidence that Zimmerman "confronted" Martin. Zimmerman's account, which is consistent with all physical evidence and all credible witness testimony, is that he lost sight of Martin, walked a few yards after him, and was surprise-attacked by Martin."

    It fails the sniff test, though. "There I was, minding my own business, when this kid out of nowhere and for no reason decides to attack me."
    I don't buy that. The evidence that Zimmerman confronted Martin is that A) he said he intended to, and B) the confrontation occurred. Is that conclusive proof? No. Is it evidence? Sure is.

  63. sorrykb says:

    @AL: To clarify, and since we're now speaking of the hypothetical… Some random armed stranger approaches me on the street at night and I'm alone — If the gun's out, I'm going to assume the person intends to use it.
    If the gun isn't in hand but I see that the person is armed, I'm still going to see that person as a possible threat. (I'm not saying I'd resort to violence in this case.) Of course, anyone could be a possible threat, but if there's a weapon they move up a few steps on the probability scale.

  64. Niall says:

    @David, first comment, about acquittals meaning "something, somewhere, went badly wrong":

    From my point of view, I think you misread one important word from Ken White's article and which you quoted at the start. He wrote "a properly functioning justice system is one that produces a conviction" (emphasis mine), while your response sounds more like "a properly functioning criminal system is one that produces a conviction" (i.e. (law enforcement + justice).

    Yes, if the law enforcement side did their job properly (no lies, no abuse, corroboration of sources, no misconduct) and also put in the appropriate charge (murder when intent is unclear could lead to acquittal), then the justice side should produce a conviction if it "works" properly too.

    But – and Ken White is free to let me know I am wrong, of course – my interpretation of the quote you cited is that the justice half needs to be able to correct, if needed, misactions taken by the first half in order to "check and balance" it, in the times it has acted improperly. And sometimes, that first half acts improperly by botching investigation, or simply by applying the wrong charge, and a "murderer goes free" say papers, when it may be a "manslaughterer" (ugh) going free. Technical details? the justice system is all about technical details for reasons pointed rather explicitly in the post above.

    I mostly agree with you that should the whole system (made of disparate, and should remain disparate, parts) work, then all is fine, but people on both sides will twist it – but how often does it happen? We hear of comparably few, but is it only those that exist? You say if we can't trust the police, why bother with laws – well, yes, we should trust police, until it gives us enough reasons to not trust it blindly. Same as with anyone else, really. Having a gun should not protect them from the law. Having a badge should not make them untouchable. But again and again and again, we find cases (all over the world) where abuses happen, on the law side, or on the justice side. There are good cops, there are good judges, plenty of them. Most? Even possibly. But the proportion of the ones abusing their position is not 1% (which would already be grossly high in real numbers); it's possibly somewhat higher, though likely not over 10% in my mind. But even 1% is enough to render pure trust null and void.

    Also, many laws are themselves unjust, put there strictly to cause undue harm, or raise revenues through fines, or target a particular group – so is it a social good thing or bad thing to enforce them, or resist them? A constant debate, and protected debate, is needed to ensure that informed people can check and see what, if anything, must change with time as society changes. It's just that reading the paper or watching CNN is not, and has never been, a way to get "informed"…

  65. It fails the sniff test, though. "There I was, minding my own business, when this kid out of nowhere and for no reason decides to attack me."
    I don't buy that. The evidence that Zimmerman confronted Martin is that A) he said he intended to, and B) the confrontation occurred. Is that conclusive proof? No. Is it evidence? Sure is.

    1) Again, that is not the narrative that Zimmerman told during the trial and that the prosecution failed to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt.

    2) You may not buy Zimmerman's, but the jury did, and they're the ones who sat through the whole trial and heard and saw all the evidence.

    3) We don't, or at least shouldn't, convict people and put them in jail based on whether the evidence we are able to glean from media reports passes "the sniff test."

  66. James Pollock says:

    "Zimmerman is as black as Homer Plessy. "
    Only racists keep track of things like that.

  67. Shane says:

    @Ken

    I don't dispute Zimmerman displayed cop wannabe aggression for questionable reasons.

    I find this one of the more frustrating memes of this whole fiasco. If he was a cop wanna be he would have been a security guard for chrissakes. Put yourself in his shoes. You rent a townhouse in a questionable neighborhood, because that is what you can afford. You have a lease. You break it and you will struggle to find another place. Plus getting up the money for deposits on a new place utility connection fees etc … This is no small task so getting out is painful. So the consequences of leaving are greater than staying. So what do you do? Please answer that question, Please what are you supposed to do? Buy four deadbolts for your front door? Buy a security system? On a rental? What is supposed to be done? Live in fear and hope that you aren't the victim of a break in? Hope that they don't have guns? Who will stand up to the people that have set on making that neighborhood a criminal supermarket?

  68. Doug Roberts says:

    I was selected to be a juror for a sexual assault (rape) case in the 1980's. I very rarely second guess the verdict now. The general public doesn't have the same information that is presented to the jury and juries take their responsibilities very seriously.

  69. James Pollock says:

    "1) Again, that is not the narrative that Zimmerman told during the trial and that the prosecution failed to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt."

    You've cut the context. I didn't make any reference to the trial, the prosecution, or burden of proof. I responded to a claim that "there is no evidence Zimmerman confronted Martin."

    "2) You may not buy Zimmerman's, but the jury did, and they're the ones who sat through the whole trial and heard and saw all the evidence."
    Again, this has what, exactly, to do with questioning the statement "there is no evidence Zimmerman contronted Martin"? I don't believe the jury was asked this question, much less spoken on it, but you're ready to speak for them?

    "3) We don't, or at least shouldn't, convict people and put them in jail based on whether the evidence we are able to glean from media reports passes "the sniff test.""
    Um, duh? Are you under the spectacularly dim assumption that anyone holds the position that we should?

  70. Ryan says:

    Excellent post. I have a number of acquaintances on a forum I frequent maintaining that Zimmerman never should have been charged, period – which I think is patently absurd – but I think Ken has struck on a completely reasonable premise in this blog post.

  71. Dan Weber says:

    The word "confront" is doing a lot of duty here. It can mean merely talking to someone on the street, or it can mean to enter a confrontation. Watch out for people trying to mix the two senses.

  72. Quilly says:

    The popular opinion not too long ago was that if a black man touched a white women he was, ipso facto, a rapist. And worthy to be more hanging fruit. The pc has made us forget the struggles for real, blind justice under the law.

  73. Xenocles says:

    @James-

    Z intended to confront M on Z's own terms. He testified that the confrontation happened on M's terms. That would seem to negate your conjecture as evidence. Counter-example:

    1. I admit that I intended to paint my house blue.
    2. My house was found to be painted pink three days later.
    3. I deny having painted my house.

    Clearly the house was painted. But are my admitted intentions evidence that I did it?

  74. Shane says:

    @Albert

    The xenophobia is striated differently; in the south there are white people, minorities, then black people. And most people who are in it have either grown up with it or really don't want to see it and turn a blind eye.

    This sickens me. And the people spew it make me even more ill.

    One of my wife's co-workers came up to her today and had this to say about the situation "Why are there only two colors in this country, black and white?"

  75. Mike says:

    @ Shane – what does any of that have to do with this case? Trayvon Martin was nowhere near Zimmerman's house; there was no threat to GZ as he was driving.

    Maybe he wasn't a security officer guard because the neighborhood wouldn't hire him as one. He was, however, an active participant in the neighborhood watch program, so he wasn't just cowering in his home under his blankie.

    So to answer your question (So what do you do?): call the police and stay in my car.

  76. Seerak says:

    The banners of racism that have unfurled in defense of Zimmerman repulse me.

    That Kincannon stuff is pretty weak sauce compared to the rampant racism coming from the Left – and while Kincannon is no intellectual heavyweight, the worst and most brazen of the Left-racism is coming from their highest redoubt — academia. People like Aura Bolgado and George Cicciarelli-Maher deserves the John Derbyshire treatment, but they won't get it.

    Not that I'm asking for you to wade through the swamps to find me more Kincannons :P, as I don't doubt that they exist. Citing him as an example while remaining silent on the same from the other side of the divide simply weakens the net positive of this otherwise excellent post.

  77. Craig says:

    Ken, thank you. This article is an oasis of good sense in a desert of stupid emotionalism.

  78. James Pollock says:

    "Clearly the house was painted. But are my admitted intentions evidence that I did it?"
    Yeah, they are. Not conclusive evidence, no… but if you're the only one who's indicated an intention to paint the house, and the house is subsequently painted… that's evidence that you painted the house.

  79. James Pollock says:

    "The word "confront" is doing a lot of duty here. It can mean merely talking to someone on the street, or it can mean to enter a confrontation."

    "Confronting" someone in the street carries connotations other than "merely talking". If people are "merely talking" in the street, then I'd be far more likely to refer to it as "talking" than "confronting". YMMV.

  80. Shane says:

    @sorrykb

    If someone came after me with a gun, I think I'd be quite likely to bang his head into the pavement. Should I be shot as well?

    This is beyond silly. If someone came after you with a gun then they are intending to kill you, and they would have shot you already. So you are not going to be banging their head into a sidewalk, in fact what is will be happening is you are going to be getting dizzy and light headed and starting to bleed out as that person takes whatever he/she wants from you.

    And really do you go around pushing people down much less banging their head into the concrete just because you suspect they have a gun? I would think that this behavior would have serious repercussions whether the person had a gun or not.

  81. Brian says:

    For all his pontificating about media manipulation, Popehat got himself manipulated too.

    Popehat apparently thinks it's in evidence that Zimmerman thought "he had a right and duty to confront people," and that he did physically confront Martin. The prosecution didn't come close to establishing that it was Zimmerman who initiated the confrontation.

  82. Xenocles says:

    "…that's evidence that you painted the house."

    And the fact that it didn't even go close to according to plan is evidence that I did not. So it would seem to negate any evidentiary value.

  83. Shane says:

    @Mike

    Maybe he wasn't a security officer guard because the neighborhood wouldn't hire him as one.

    Does he have to be a security guard for his community? If you have dealt with security guards you would know that most want to be cops. GZ's day job was not Security guard. So the point?

    there was no threat to GZ as he was driving.

    Ok how is that relevant? Was he just supposed to keep driving? Is that what you are trying to say? That kinda defeats the point of the neighborhood watch. What if they guy GZ was following broke into a house? How on earth are the police supposed to know that that had happened? Well of course because GZ saw the broken window in the house and was able to tell the police what the address was.

    call the police and stay in my car.

    Freudian slip? Really the truth is that you wouldn't have done anything. You are reacting to the situation as a Monday Morning quarterback. You know what is going to happen, so you say what you would have done based on what you know is going to happen. We all know what happened, we pretend we know what is going to happen.

  84. James Pollock says:

    "And the fact that it didn't even go close to according to plan is evidence that I did not."
    In what universe does everything, or even a majority of things, go according to plan?
    "No plan survives contact with the enemy" – Sun Tzu.

  85. Shane says:

    @wumpus

    I wonder where CCWs will expand and where they will be restricted after they are shown to be simply a "license to kill".

    FYI this case scares the shit out of CCW's. And why you think that having a CCW is somehow a "license to kill" is beyond me.

  86. Erbo says:

    If Martin had gone directly to the apartment where he was staying, and stayed there, instead of doubling back to confront "creepy-ass cracker" Zimmerman, he would be alive today.

    If Martin had responded to Zimmerman's questions with mere words, rather than resorting to blows, he would be alive today.

    Even after having engaged in the fight, if Martin had merely knocked Zimmerman down, then turned and left, confident that he'd taught the "creepy-ass cracker" a lesson, he would be alive today.

    Instead, he chose to get on top of Zimmerman and start bashing his head into the pavement, to the point where he could have killed or seriously and permanently injured him…just the last in a string of poor decisions on his part.

    Sometimes, we pay for our poor decisions with our lives. Heinlein wrote that "Stupidity is always a capital crime; the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out immediately and without pity."

    Those who claim to want to "honor Trayvon" should "honor" him by avoiding making poor decisions of their own.

  87. Shane says:

    @Albert

    The outcome was not clear-cut and subconscious racial discrimination by the jury is likely going to tip the scales in favor of the person-in-question-who-isn't-black, because a lot of people on the jury can understand where Zimmerman was coming from/empathize with his knee-jerk racism better in the south, even if they aren't directly racist themselves.

    We have seen the enemy and he is us.

    Those that only see through the lens of race are …

  88. Christenson says:

    What came to me about the Zimmerman/Martin incident was this:

    A total failure of the police to protect the neighborhood created a tinderbox. Every neighborhood has a Zimmerman, a little bit off his rocker, and a Martin to set him off. Where in the world were the police when this was going down?? What were the police doing about all the incidents that had the tension way, way up, and everyone afraid their home would be next???

    The police in that neighborhood also bear significant moral responsibility for Martin's death.

  89. James Pollock says:

    "If you have dealt with security guards you would know that most want to be cops. GZ's day job was not Security guard. So the point?"
    Good question… what is your point?
    The fact that "most security guards are wannabe cops" does not imply "most wannabe cops are security guards." Most law students wannabe employed… what does that imply about unemployed people who are not law students? (Hint: nothing)

    "Was he just supposed to keep driving? Is that what you are trying to say? That kinda defeats the point of the neighborhood watch."
    If you look at the neighborhood watch manual, you'll see that it strongly suggests that members never place themselves in danger. It's called "Neighborhood Watch", not "Neighborhood intervene and get someone (quite possibly yourself) killed".

  90. A_Lurker says:

    Ken,

    I heartily agree with your analysis. Court cases are to judge guilt or innocent of a specific person(s) for specific crime(s) nothing else. And the average journalist is an idiot looking for a headline.

    On the OJ Simpson trial one aspect of the State's case the profundly bothered me was the sloppy handling of the evidence. I am a chemist and proper sampling handling is critical to valid data. When heard some of the "evidence handling" methods used in the case I gagged and flatly told people OJ would not be convicted because a competent jury could not trust the "scientific" evidence.

  91. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    If – and I emphasize IF – Martin was wandering about in people's yards, then he was already in the wrong. There was a time, not so long ago, when regardless of color, if you were on somebody's property without invitation, they had a legal right to shoot you.

    Now, I'm not suggesting that that was a preferable system. I am saying that that system is set in the foundations of our present system. Teenage boys, whatever their color or ethnicity, have no presumptive right to wander about in other people's yards. They further have no presumptive right to physically attack anybody who challenges them for doing so, no matter what Jesse "I live by extortion" Jackson and Al "Photographic negative of a Grand Klegle Klansman" Sharpton may say.

    Now, as I suggested in my previous post, being a 17 year-old boy is all about being where you aren't supposed to be, doing what you aren't supposed to do, and copping an attitude when you are called on it. But there was a time when acting the ass when you were 17, and dying as a consequence, was not considered proof that somebody else was a racist or a murderer.

    Trayvon Martin put himself where he had no cause to be, acted as he had no right to act, endangered somebody else because he was a) a street thug or b) a teenaged boy (read goddamned fool) fantasizing that he was a street thug, and was killed in self defense. Zimmerman, if he is the decent sort his defense has claimed, will bear that birder for the rest of his life. But some of it should be shared around to any and all parts of society that taught Martin to believe that he could whale on somebody MMA style and get away with it.

  92. Robert R. says:

    I have two questions at this point. Does the potential federal civil rights case against Zimmerman constitute double jeopardy? Does the acquittal in the criminal case (basically proving an affirmative finding of self-defense) pretty much negate Martin's family's ability to file a civil case against him?

  93. David Lang says:

    During the OJ trial I was working in a Radio Shack in the Los Angeles area, every channel was broadcasting the trial, so it was up on every TV in the store, all the time.

    Based on the poor case the prosecution presented, if I had been on the Jury, I would not have voted to convict either.

  94. sorrykb says:

    @Shane:

    If someone came after you with a gun then they are intending to kill you, and they would have shot you already.

    Not necessarily. People use guns to intimidate as well.
    But my point (which sort of goes along with yours) was I that I'm going to assume that anyone coming at me with a gun intends to kill me.

    And really do you go around pushing people down much less banging their head into the concrete just because you suspect they have a gun?

    No, and that's not what I said.

  95. Does the potential federal civil rights case against Zimmerman constitute double jeopardy?

    Legally, no, because the crime of violating someone's civil rights is considered different from the crime of murder or manslaughter for which Zimmerman was already tried.

    Morally, I've yet to hear a convincing argument for why it shouldn't be considered double jeopardy and disallowed, but alas, the law is the law.

    Perhaps Ken or one of the other lawyers here has a better understanding of the justification for this and can explain it.

    Does the acquittal in the criminal case (basically proving an affirmative finding of self-defense) pretty much negate Martin's family's ability to file a civil case against him?

    No. The acquittal may make it more difficult for Martin's family to win a civil suit (since it will be introduced by the defense in a civil trial as evidence), but the standard of proof in a civil suit is less than the standard of evidence in a criminal case, so they could still sue and win.

  96. Xenocles says:

    @Robert R:

    No on both counts. There's a loophole in the double jeopardy clause that allows multiple trials for the same incident, provided you charge different offenses. IIRC any charge from a different jurisdiction is automatically a different offense, even if they appear identical. For instance, a servicemember could be tried by the civil authorities for a crime and then by a military court if it suited the military, even if both trials are for the crime of murder. You see, "murder" in California is a different offense than "murder" in the UCMJ.

    As to the civil suit, the criminal verdict was not an affirmative ruling on anything, so the suit could proceed independent of it.

  97. Shane says:

    @James Pollock

    The fact that "most security guards are wannabe cops" does not imply "most wannabe cops are security guards."

    Actually it does because this is the closest that you can get to being a cop without actually being a cop. And people that are wanna be cops are going to do the thing that is closest to being a cop without actually being one.

    If you look at the neighborhood watch manual

    You are going to post this?

    "Neighborhood intervene and get someone (quite possibly yourself) killed".

    How is observing someone intervention? And if you come back with that GZ confronted TM then you are making shit up. No one other than GZ and TM know what happened on their initial encounter. No one.

  98. En Passant says:

    Robert R. wrote Jul 15, 2013 @1:48 pm:

    I have two questions at this point. Does the potential federal civil rights case against Zimmerman constitute double jeopardy?

    No. Regardless of whether the "federal civil rights case" is a criminal or civil complaint. Dual sovereignty doctrine permits even a criminal case brought by some sovereign besides the State of Florida. And double jeopardy applies only to criminal prosecutions brought by a single sovereign.

    Does the acquittal in the criminal case (basically proving an affirmative finding of self-defense) pretty much negate Martin's family's ability to file a civil case against him?
    No. It does provide some weight as evidence against the success of such a suit. Other evidence presented at the criminal trial might be even stronger. Some evidence not presented at the criminal trial might be even weightier evidence in Zimmerman's favor as well. But the last two are just my conjecture based on what I've seen in public media.

  99. NM says:

    Both sides in this debate do not seem to understand reasonable doubt.
    The pro-Zimmerman camp treats his not-guilty as an exoneration — a finding that the killing was justified. The anti-Zimmerman camp, the same (but see it differently).
    I personally think Zimmerman is probably guilty of at least imperfect self-defense manslaughter (and I think the jury was looking for something like that based on their question), however, probably does not rise to the level of reasonable doubt.
    At the end of the day reasonable doubt is supposed to be a thin, but reasonable doubt that some element was not proved.

    The condemnation of the jury bothers me because they did exactly what the judge told them to do — evaluate the facts they heard against reasonable doubt. They didn't create the laws, they didn't create the facts — they did there job and a good one. I will never critique a jury for taking reasonable doubt seriously.

    On the other hand, the pro-Zimmerman side has seemed to take this as some sort of vindication. As an old Public Defender here said, "Not guilty means just that and nothing less." It is not a vindication of his stupid actions and choices, it just means the state couldn't prove what he did was illegal. It doesn't mean the jury found that Martin attacked Zimmerman, it doesn't mean the jury found that he was a thug. It means somewhere in the case each juror (maybe in different parts of the case) found something where they could reasonably think "well, maybe it didn't happen the way the state says."

    This whole thing also bothers me because both sides (though certainly not all of each side) seem to take a different view on every other case. The pro-zimmerman camp is made up of many hang em high type persons who get outraged when someone is found not guilty, while the anti-zimmerman camp is some of the same people who decry the unfairness of the justice system daily. All reversed because each side somehow fits their narrative.

  100. Ann says:

    It worries me that Zimmerman was acquitted in a court of law and yet has been found guilty by the court of public opinion. Woe to any of us that we might run afoul of the legal system in some way–if our case ends up on TV, our lives will be ruined, whether we're guilty of a crime or not.

    I am a fervent believer in our justice system. If these women examined the evidence as presented and decided that the prosecution hadn't proved it beyond a reasonable doubt and all that jazz, it's a done deal. Was Zimmerman broadly "responsible" for the events that occurred? Sure. But it's not the same thing as being legally guilty.

    Remind me to never run into anyone, ever, for any reason, though, especially if they're a different race. God only knows how one or two mistakes could escalate into the next trial of the century.

  101. Shane says:

    @sorrykb

    Sorry, criminals use guns to intimidate. The law abiding use guns to protect. If you see a CCW's gun (or a cop for that matter) then there will be instructions on what to do so as to not get shot. If that CCW is using it to intimidate then he is a criminal and the justice system will deal with him as such. TV violence is not real life. Please don't conflate the two.

    If someone came after me with a gun, I think I'd be quite likely to bang his head into the pavement.

    Did you say this? Was I wrong attributing it to you?

  102. James Pollock says:

    "It worries me that Zimmerman was acquitted in a court of law and yet has been found guilty by the court of public opinion"
    I wouldn't say that so conclusively.
    There was a substantial and vocal pro-Zimmerman faction before, during, and after the trial; I'd say the issue remains one that is deeply split. In this case, where thinking he was guilty and thinking he shouldn't be charged aren't even mutually exclusive, it was doomed to be this way all along… and that's before the issue of race is tossed on the fire.

  103. Eddie says:

    It fails the sniff test, though. "There I was, minding my own business, when this kid out of nowhere and for no reason decides to attack me."
    I don't buy that. The evidence that Zimmerman confronted Martin is that A) he said he intended to, and B) the confrontation occurred. Is that conclusive proof? No. Is it evidence? Sure is.

    When did he say he intended to confront Martin? I've seen it in no statements, videos or depositions. I am happy to be corrected with some actual evidence.

    I have linked the dispatch operator call transcript earlier where he clearly asks for police to attend multiple times and arranges to meet them. You will need to listen to the audio yourself to confirm that he only exits the car in response to the query about where the individual is running. That also does not exhibit a desire for confrontation. In fact, why call 911 in the first place if you want some frontier justice?

  104. sorrykb says:

    @Shane: Read the second part of my follow-up post:

    If the gun isn't in hand but I see that the person is armed, I'm still going to see that person as a possible threat. (I'm not saying I'd resort to violence in this case.) Of course, anyone could be a possible threat, but if there's a weapon they move up a few steps on the probability scale.

    If I see someone with a gun, I'm going to be careful. Not violent (as I pointed out), but cautious. Hypothetical gun-toter may be a perfectly lovely and law-abiding person who happens to enjoy carrying guns, but I don't know that.

  105. James Pollock says:

    "Actually it does because this is the closest that you can get to being a cop without actually being a cop."
    Your logic skills are non-existent and your observational skills are just as laughably wrong. Some things you can be, if you want to be a cop, that are closer to being a cop than a security guard:
    A) a corrections officer
    B) a student in a CJ program
    C) A law-enforcement Explorer
    D) Reserve corps
    E) private investigator
    F) Bounty hunter

    "you going to post this?"
    OK.
    http://www.usaonwatch.org/assets/publications/0_NW_Manual_1210.pdf
    Check out the big box on page 22.

  106. Dave says:

    Shane — "Sorry, criminals use guns to intimidate. The law abiding use guns to protect. "

    Ive had the misfortune of having stared into the wrong end of a firearm both when the weapon was held by a criminal and by a cop. I can assure you that from the perspective of the receiving end, the difference between the criminal's use of the firearm to "intimindate" me into handing over my wallet and the cop's use to "protect" me into lying on the ground is semantic only.

  107. azazel1024 says:

    No it isn't double jeopardy and no, it does not negate a civil liability case. Especially in the later, resonable doubt is very much allowable. Granted my exposure on the criminal side is zero (outside of reading a bit of case law and procedures, etc) and my civil side is limited (but not zero)…but it probably isn't too far outside of the realm of resonable to say that in a civil case, if the balance of doubt falls at least slightly more on the "yeah, could be liable" side of things than the "Hmmm, I don't think they are liable", then you should side with the litigant.

    Unlike criminal trials, where you should only vote for conviction on the jury if you have no resonable doubts (IE outlandish "aliens could have maybe done it and covered it up if they were technologically sophisticated enough" doubts need not apply).

    Having followed the trial and reading a lot of the transcripts I am not entirely suprised at the result. I am still kind of saddened. At least to me, I don't think it was proven beyond a resonable doubt that he was guilty of murder, I did feel like there was pretty substantial evidence presented that he was at LEAST culpable in TMs death.

    I grant resonable doubt, and there WAS some, so I understand the outcome, however to me what GZ claimed just doesn't seem to jive with the result and the disapatcher and resident's accounts. TM simply "jumping GZ" makes very little sense with everything that was shared.

    However, we won't know and it is certainly possible, if not what I think is likely to have happened. I can't help feeling like it is highly probable GZ at least verbally or even physically incited TM in to attacking him (I assume not GZ's intent though). "Fighting words" and or a good sized shove aren't exactly going to show up as physical evidence.

    Of course that doesn't neccessarily mean murder 2, or even necessarily manslaughter, but beyond "the dispatcher told him not to", from what I have read of the court transcripts…he sounds like he is culpable in part for the death of TM…and not the crazy kind of "well people with heart conditions shouldn't break the law so they'd get tazed" kind of "culpable". I mean the, "well, he shoved him and then the other guy punched him and then kicked him in the ribs when he feel down" kind. But mine is merly a suspicion and suspicions do not equal a conviction under our criminal justice system (and I hope they never do).

    However, I do think under civil law, it is likely GZ could be found liable for TM death.

  108. Munin says:

    "It's tragic that Trayvon Martin was killed, and I believe that George Zimmerman bears moral responsibility for his death."

    There is far more of substance and worth that you also said in that article but I just wanted to thank you for including that. He did take a life and and his actions, against sound advice, at the very least made the confrontation possible.

    A friend of his was quoted as saying that he should have been feted by America rather than put on trial. I most definitely don't think his life should be made a misery but we should say loud and clear that this should not be feted. He has been acquitted of murder but he still has the blood of a young life on his hands and I hope he has some appreciation of the act he's committed.

    As an aside, I have been assaulted a few times in my life, including once being mugged by four youths and getting the shit kicked out of me whilst I was on the ground, and having been in these situations I just can't empathise with whatever drove him to draw a gun and shoot.

  109. Munin says:

    Just to quickly add; I condemn anyone who would now try to hound him or, god forbid, try to assault or kill him.He has been acquitted of his crime and should be treated as an innocent man.

    I have bewailed in the past how people acquitted of crimes are horribly discriminated against and hence can't re-integrate into society and this won't change my stance.

  110. Shane says:

    @sorrykb

    Here is what else you don't know. If they have a knife. If they have a club. If they are trained in a Martial Art. If they can run faster than you. If they have a prison record. These things are all things that you may have a hard time telling from just seeing someone. But may be very relevant to your survival.

    Honestly you should be careful regardless of they have a gun or not, because you just don't really know.

  111. Nicholas Weaver says:

    I (IANAL, IMO) find the "Dual sovereignty" unwritten exemption to the very plain language of the 5th Amendment disturbing.

    nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb

    I guess somehow my copy is defective and is missing that addition that "hey, its OK for the feds and state to hold separate trials"

    What I find even more disturbing is although the ACLU has, in the past, objected to such double prosecution as de-facto double jeopardy (most notably in the case of Stacey Koon, a principled stand in favor of a scumbag who really should have been convicted the first time but for proprietorial incompetence), is now explicitly calling for a Justice Department "Civil Rights" investigation.

  112. Shane says:

    @Jame Pollock

    And he is none of these. Which was my original point.

    Page 22 Big box

    Community members only serve as the extra “eyes and ears” of law enforcement. They should report their observations of suspicious activities to law enforcement; however, citizens should never try to take action on those observations. Trained law enforcement should be the only ones ever to take action based on observations of suspicious activities.

    So as a neighborhood watch volunteer I am to stand in place when I see something suspicious? I must never move from that moment on, because that is what the manual says?

  113. James Pollock says:

    "I (IANAL, IMO) find the "Dual sovereignty" unwritten exemption to the very plain language of the 5th Amendment disturbing."

    It becomes clearer when you take (oddly enough) Civil Procedure and learn how the rules of res judicata, particularly issue preclusion, are applied.

    What it boils down to is that the state and federal governments have separate interests in seeing that justice be carried out. A corrupt, inept, or otherwise fatally flawed prosecution by one sovereign isn't allowed to deprive the other sovereign of its chance to pursue its interests.

    Compare it to a negligent driver (D) who causes an accident that injures two people, A and B. You wouldn't complain if A sues D and wins, collecting damages and then B sues D and also wins, collecting damages. So… if A sues D and loses, should that mean that B cannot sue D at all? In our system we say no, the fact that A tried and failed is not prejudicial to B's case, since A was not representing B's interests and B had no control over A's presentation of the case.
    On the other hand, it seems fairly clear that if A sues and loses, A cannot sue again. And if B sues and loses, B cannot sue again. We even say that if A sues and wins, A cannot sue again (and ditto for B). As long as A and B are separate, they each get their own chance to make their case.

    So I guess it all depends on strongly you believe that A (state) and B (federal) really ARE different.

  114. James Pollock says:

    "So as a neighborhood watch volunteer I am to stand in place when I see something suspicious? I must never move from that moment on, because that is what the manual says?"

    Which part of "citizens should never try to take action on those observations" is confusing for you? Is it "citizens", "never" or "take action"?

  115. En Passant says:

    Nicholas Weaver wrote Jul 15, 2013 @2:49 pm:

    I guess somehow my copy is defective and is missing that addition that "hey, its OK for the feds and state to hold separate trials"

    Pro Tip: Never rob a federally insured bank on a Native American reservation.

  116. Dan says:

    Great conversation we're having here. It's much saner than the over-the-top outrage from websites like Slate and HuffPo.

    Anyway, I have a question. As some commenters have pointed out, the acquittal is just the beginning and that there are plans for a federal civil rights violation suit, and a wrongful death civil lawsuit.

    The federal suit will depend on whether Eric Holder feels up to it, but for the civil suit, I was under the impression that states with "stand your ground"/"castle doctrine" laws have some sort of anti-wrongful death provisions in self-defense situations. That means that, if the accused is acquitted in a criminal self-defense shooting, that s/he is immune from civil suits arising from the same self-defense incident.

    I am not aware of Florida's specific SYG law, whether it does have some sort of civil suit immunities, and that if it only applies to defendants who use SYG as a defense, or if it also applies to any successful self-defense situation. Anyone here who knows more about Florida laws?

  117. Xenocles says:

    @James-

    In your example you have injured two people, which is analagous to two distinct criminal offenses, no? I mean, it would be odd for the state to try you for connected murders separately, but I don't think it would be a problem under double jeopardy. Each murder is a crime on its own regardless of when it took place.

    That said, I would think that unless things were very strange an acquittal in the first murder trial would place a huge burden on the prosecutor for even bringing the second one to trial.

    Would a better example be if I break your window and get sued first by you – for emotional distress and whatnot – and then by your landlord – for property damage.

  118. sorrykb says:

    @Shane: It's always good to be cautious. So we can agree on that.

  119. Shane says:

    @James Pollock

    What action James? What action must I not take? Following someone to see where they are going? Is that the action that manual says that I must not take?

    This is silly. If I see someone that is acting suspiciously, I am going to follow them at a safe distance to see where they are going and what they are doing. This is not intervening.

  120. Shane says:

    @Dan

    IANAL but it is my understanding that since he didn't invoke SYG does not provide immunity for him.

  121. Christina says:

    @Shane, You're right, it's not WRONG, but if one is a registered member of a citizen's security organization and acting under that aegis, it does behoove one to follow the rules set forth by that organization one has voluntarily joined. I had an NPR talk show on this morning while driving, and the commentators said such an organization tangential to this case could easily become the defendant in a civil suit because of the disconnect between what they direct and what Zimmerman did. (I have no idea if the facts of Zimmerman's registered participation with such a group are proven or not.)

  122. Chris says:

    In regards to the gent that wrote "Which part of "citizens should never try to take action on those observations" is confusing for you? Is it "citizens", "never" or "take action"?"…

    I think you are improperly implying that "should" equals "must". Big, big difference.

  123. David says:

    @Christina: "could easily become the defendant in a civil suit because of the disconnect between what they direct and what Zimmerman did."

    I think that's totally backwards. They're not likely to lose a lawsuit, because they did NOT encourage that behavior. Under what legal theory does an organization become liable because a member does something that they were explicitly advised by that organization not to do?

  124. Shane says:

    @Christina

    This is a federal pamphlet from the Beurau of Justice Assistance FYI

  125. Tom says:

    SYG =/= self defense and has nothing to do with this case at all.

    And yes, the result in this case will likely make a subsequent civil suit impossible:

    Florida specifically bans lawsuits based on the use of justifiable force and awards fees and costs to those who have to defend such a suit.

  126. MCB says:

    Tom, do you practice in this area? I looked at the relevant statutes and it appears to me they would not bar a civil suit in this case.

  127. Tom says:

    MCB–I don't, but I'm (not sarcastically) curious what led you to that conclusion. I just glanced at it and it seemed to apply.

  128. Cameron W. says:

    @ munin

    Zimmerman didn't shoot Trayvon just because the thug broke his nose and repeatedly smashed his head against the concrete. If that was his defense, he would have shot him earlier instead of spending 45 seconds crying for help.
    He shot him only after Trayvon told him he was going to kill him and reached for his gun. It was either Travon's life or Zimmerman's. Luckily the better person survived.

    @Dan

    Eric Holder has already invoked race when deciding whether to bring lawsuits. For example he stated that he wouldn't bring a lawsuit against the Black Panthers for voter intimidation because it would make "his people" look bad. If he decides his cases based on race, then it stands to reason that he will charge Zimmerman just because he is white.

  129. AlphaCentauri says:

    For those wondering why Martin may have wandered off the path or may have backtracked after reaching his destination, if that is what happened: I have had the experience of being followed home by a "creepy-ass" guy who was following me in his car. No way was I going to park in front of my house and go in. I drove around in circles to make sure he was really following me, then drove to the nearest all-night pharmacy and confronted him in the parking lot in front of witnesses, which caused him to drive away.

    Martin wasn't in a car, so those actions weren't an option. It was dark and raining and he was in a neighborhood where people didn't know him. He had no idea what GZ's problem was, he likely thought GZ was stalking him with criminal intent, and he may have been concerned that he was a sexual predator. He may have felt that he had to make sure GZ wasn't going to watch what house he went into.

  130. Tarrou says:

    I disagree with Ken's read on some particulars, but the defense of the presumption of innocence is not to be improved upon.

    As for the commentariat, you'd think six months of disinformation and rampant lying would be enough to teach people not to swallow just anything the media lays out for them, and to question their initial sympathies once in a while. The only things in this case that were as originally reported were:

    1: The people involved were named Martin and Zimmerman.
    2: Martin had been shot.

    Everything else has been the subject of lying, wild speculation, purposeful obtuseness, and complete irrelevance. If you must engage in hypotheticals about the case, do try to stick to what is known.

  131. Shane says:

    @AlphaCentauri

    Ok I will go with that, but my question is this: why go back in the direction of the possible threat?

    In your narrative you drove around to see if he was still following. Why? If he is following you then he has now found you, if he is not following you then you have found out nothing. You went to a safe public location (+1) and then you confronted him (-50). Please do what Trayvon should have done … call the police.

  132. MCB says:

    Tom,

    The statute bars prosecution if the court finds that 776.012 applied. "if the court finds that the defendant is immune from prosecution as provided in subsection (1)." So, Zimmerman would have to make a showing by a preponderance that it was self-defense. The criminal trial won't usable to prove this this since the burden was on the prosecution in that case. Consequently, they should be able to litigate it. That's my reading.

    I could be wrong. I am not in anyway familiar with this area, so please correct me if I am missing something.

  133. Cameron W. says:

    @AlphaCentauri

    That doesn't explain why it took Trayvon more than 45 minutes to walk less than half-a-mile from the 7-Eleven to his home.

    Also, not even the prosecution would claim that Zimmerman followed Trayvon all the way home from his truck for numerous reasons.
    And sexual predators don't normally call for help, so there's really no good reason why Trayvon kept punching him while Zimmerman called for help, didn't fight back and kept at it even while John Good watched.

  134. David says:

    For folks trying to blockquote, here's how to do it:

    <blockquote>The stuff you want to quote</blockquote>

  135. Cameron W. says:

    @Tarrou

    It depends on your definition of "know". John Good testified that Trayvon was on top punching Zimmerman while Zimmerman called for help. The scientific evidence proved that Trayvon was on top since his clothes were several inches from his skin when he was shot which would only happen if he was on top. Furthermore, as per the evidence, Trayvon had no injuries (besides the bullet wound) anywhere but on his knuckles which proves that Zimmerman did not attack him.

    To me those are all know facts based on witness testimony and scientific evidence. None of those assertions were contested by the prosecution. Which left them with nothing besides emotion for the closing arguments.

  136. Tom says:

    MCB–The way I understand the verdict, the jury found that Zimmerman's use of force was justifiable. The elements of manslaughter were 1) Martin dead, and 2) Zimmerman intentionally caused Martin's death. There's no dispute over either of those. The jury instruction only allow two options for a not-guilty verdict: justifiable or excusable use of force. Excusable doesn't apply to this situation. Hence, the jury affirmatively found that Zimmerman's use of force was justifiable (at least as to manslaughter; there could have been state of mind problems with the murder charge).

    So I think if this verdict doesn't procedurally preclude a civil suit, it satisfies a preponderance standard easily.

    Not my area, no research, ten minutes of thought, etc.

  137. Sami says:

    One of the critical problems with how a lot of people look at criminal justice systems, to me, is that instead of a justice system, they want a vengeance system. Prison is punishment and "criminals" (since often the "crimes" for which people are convicted aren't, or shouldn't be) are sent there to suffer society's vengeance for their wrongs.

    There's a reason the Bloody Code was dismantled. It didn't and doesn't work and it's barbaric.

    And for an awful lot of crimes, if someone has been convicted of that crime and thereafter incarcerated, and that's all, I personally am not a huge fan of them being released into the community, since they're just about guaranteed to re-offend. It's all pointless.

    Prisons should be places of rehabilitation. Oddly, the few places in the world where prisoners are treated with courtesy, given education and assistance with overcoming the problems which led to the crimes they committed in the first place, and generally recognised as "people whose lives went off the rails" rather than, I don't know, "SCUM!" tend to have extremely low rates of recidivism.

    I think George Zimmerman should be in prison, but I also think that prison should be reasonably comfortable, and that the most notable feature of his time of incarceration should be counselling.

  138. Steven H. says:

    @Tom:

    "Florida specifically bans lawsuits based on the use of justifiable force and awards fees and costs to those who have to defend such a suit."

    Read the text of the relevant laws after you provided the link. The phrase "except deadly force" appeared several times, and pretty much covered anything outside your home/residence/vehicle.

    So, no, Florida Law does NOT make Z immune to a civil suit.

  139. Tom says:

    Steven H,

    Read them again. The cited statutes use that phrase exactly twice, and in both cases are followed by a "however" clause which allows deadly force under the described circumstances. The one relevant to this case is FL ST 776.012 (my emphasis):

    776.012 Use of force in defense of person.—A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. <strong/However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:

    (1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or

    (2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013.

    Here's a relevant part of the jury instructions (linked to above):

    The killing of a human being is justifiable homicide and lawful if necessarily done while resisting an attempt to murder or commit a felony upon

  140. Tom says:

    Or "(my html fuck-up)."

  141. Nicholas Weaver says:

    And for those with a thirst for judicial vengeance, remember Mrs Zimmerman still has a perjury count hanging over her head.

    I'd bet that the Florida prosecutors attempt to exact a bit of revenge for their loss by ensuring that they will take no quarter, accept no plea, and try for the maximum 5 year sentence.

  142. granny weatherwax says:

    "The jury instruction only allow two options for a not-guilty verdict: justifiable or excusable use of force."

    Or could not disprove Zimmerman's version of events, which would have been a tough call to do, given that the only other person directly involved was dead. Zimmerman does not have to prove anything, the court has to prove that his version is untrue beyond reasonable doubt.

  143. TerryTowels says:

    I think we've (in the US) got a bigger problem than the facts of an individual case.

    I think we're on the verge, if we're not already there, of anarchy. It sounds silly when I type it, but I've a deep feeling that we're close to the tipping point.

    When people no longer trust the laws to defend them from "over-zealous" "morally culpable" ordinary citizens, then there's a lack of legitimacy of government. (Isn't that why Z was carrying the gun? Because he didn't trust the government to protect him?)

    With everything that's happened recently– Prenda and their ability to create and continue in their scams (as an example of a much larger iceberg); the government (all three branches) creating and maintaining a domestic spy organization in what appears to be a violation of the Bill of Rights; and now this latest sadness in Florida– it does not bode well for the future (as if there's any healthy future for poor women in Texas and Wisconsin, among other states).

    Rather than nit-picking about the "facts" of a moot case, you might better spend your time trying to figure out how to insure that the justice system provides actual justice and that it gains back credibility.

  144. MCB says:

    Tom,

    To find self-defense in Florida does not require the defendant to provide a preponderance of evidence for self-defense. So, the evidence required for the civil proceeding would be different. Therefore they can litigate it again in the civil trial.

  145. MCB says:

    Nicholas,

    Perjury is usually a tough charge to prove. Do you know how strong the case is?

  146. Nicholas Weaver says:

    MCB: Slam dunk. She lied about financial transactions and assets movements in the bail hearing. Its why Zimmerman's bail got revoked for a while.

  147. TerryTowels says:

    Oh, it was God's plan:

  148. Tom says:

    Granny,

    That's why I backed off my original notion that this would procedurally bar a civil suit. My prediction is that a motion to dismissed based on 776.032 has a very good chance of success if any civil suit is filed against Zimmerman.

  149. granny weatherwax says:

    "That's why I backed off my original notion that this would procedurally bar a civil suit. My prediction is that a motion to dismissed based on 776.032 has a very good chance of success if any civil suit is filed against Zimmerman."

    No offense, but given that your original argument completely misunderstood the concept that it is the prosecution which needs to provide the weight of evidence in a murder trial, which was also a major theme of the article that we are currently commenting on, I am afraid I will take your legal predictions with a couple of buckets of salt and a rather angry lobster called Derek the Wonder-Lobster.

    You may of course be right, however I would suspect that if you are it may be more through luck than judgement.

  150. Jeremy says:

    The encounter between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman was a tragic misunderstanding of intention committed by both men that led to one of them initiating force on the other, and one of them legally utilizing lethal force in defense of his life, nothing more. They're both at fault, but neither of them criminally so. If this encounter had one more person nearby, they could have stopped the fight just by their mere presence. Trayvon would have been much less likely to start a fight with someone else watching (witnesses), and Zimmerman would have probably been corrected by a neighbor as to the intentions of Trayvon had they just been walking their dog at the time.

    It's just a misunderstanding that went lethal. This sort of thing happens all the time, and it's why fathers are supposed to teach their sons natural respect for other people. The race baiting media wanted a story for the likes of Nancy Grace and Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton to slobber over, and here we are.

    I, for one, hope this does turn into a national riot situation. I want to see the counter-outcry for civil charges against the race baiters for their blatant deceptions on calling Zimmerman a racist. Hell, even the FBI declared there was nothing racist to this case whatsoever.

  151. Jeremy says:

    As an aside, why is no one in the media making the suggestion that neighborhood watches be conducted in pairs? Seems like a simple solution to me (although possibly tougher to organize).

  152. Nigel Declan says:

    This strikes me as a case, like the OJ Simpson case, where the racial politics surrounding the case grew exponentially more rapidly than the underlying facts and law of the case. As a result, the media and public came to see the matter (wrongly, in my mind) as a referendum on race relations rather than a question of whether the State could prove its case against the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. I should note that the comparisons between the two cases largely end there, in my mind.

    In both cases, the propriety of the verdict (in terms of the prosecution meeting its burden) was seen as subordinate to what it represented about society and racial relations. Unfortunately, we seem to live in a time where we are encouraged, at the behest of politicians, media and even more unscrupulous members of the legal community, to decide on questions of guilt or innocence before even bothering to hear or consider the evidence, something even more prevalent where the case is seen as somehow representative of larger societal or political issues. As a result, questions of guilt or proof become questions of whether the outcome satisfies our uninformed or underinformed sense of what the "right" or "just" outcome is.

  153. Lizard says:

    "Is that conclusive proof? No."

    Ding!

    If we don't have conclusive proof, we have "reasonable doubt".

    If we have reasonable doubt, we vote "Not guilty."

    The defense did *not* prove Zimmerman innocent. The prosecution failed to prove him guilty. That doesn't mean he's not guilty. It just means the state couldn't PROVE he was guilty.

    Which is, pretty much, Ken's point, and the point of just about every opinion I've read on this case coming from a)an actual lawyer who is b)not working for a political group, the government, or the media.

  154. TerryTowels says:

    Apparently, the jury thought he was guilty. They just couldn't find the appropriate law:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-zimmerman-juror-20130715,0,5484479.story

  155. whites being genocided says:

    You should fear blacks murdering, raping, and killing you more than either. Looks up the stats. It isn't pretty.

  156. no white man to blame says:

    11,583 blacks have killed other blacks since Trayvon's death to the verdict.

  157. Clark says:

    @TerryTowels

    I think we've (in the US) got a bigger problem than the facts of an individual case.

    I think we're on the verge, if we're not already there, of anarchy.

    God, I WISH!

    When people no longer trust the laws to defend them from "over-zealous" "morally culpable" ordinary citizens, then there's a lack of legitimacy of government.

    We haven't had a legitimate government since FDR decided that he wanted a third term, and/or that he could pack the Supreme Court.

    Rather than nit-picking about the "facts" of a moot case, you might better spend your time trying to figure out how to insure that the justice system provides actual justice and that it gains back credibility.

    I continue to suggest a three step process:

    1) twenty million gallons of gasoline
    2) one match
    3) rebuild on the ruins

  158. mikhael says:

    Bravo! I was waiting for this to come up, kudos for saying it so clearly

  159. TM says:

    Some random thoughts

    Given how many possible charges there are for a state to bring against an individual, I truly believe that this whole thing blowing up into a national case was the worst thing that could have happened in this case. Once that happened, I think it was inevitable that the state would go for a politically motivated highest charge, regardless of the facts. I would imagine that had this not blown up, the state might have prosecuted an involuntary manslaughter or other lesser charge, but that's usually a misdemeanor isn't it? No one would have been satisfied with that after things went national.

    When I was young and stupid, I wound up in a situation where I was being if not chased then actively intimidated by an adult. I ran for it and never looked back. When you think someone might have intent to harm you and you can run, you should run. Getting into fights is a good way to get killed, gun or no gun.

    Some years ago, I was out walking the dogs one night and noticed the local small time drug dealers in the neighborhood again, I called the cops non emergency number and had them send a car out. As I was getting back, I saw the cop pulling up so I let the dogs back inside and proceeded to watch the goings on. As soon as the cop got within sight of where the dealers were the took off running. One of them ran right by where I was standing without noticing me (or at the very least without caring). I decided to give chase and see where he went. I purposefully stayed as far back as I could, but ultimately I did essentially the same thing Zimmerman did (except my guy was white) and for likely the same reasons. Frankly I was sick of these guys hanging around and nothing being done about it. It concerns me greatly that had the person in question, rather than get into a pickup as they did and drive off, decided instead to attack me that there are so many who appear to beleive I should not have a right to defend myself.

    On the comments with regards to Zimmerman's ability to recall the names of the streets, I live in a complex with 4 streets total. I don't know the names of any of them except the one I live on, I have no reason to know them. So it's perfectly believable to me that he wouldn't have known the names of the other streets.

    All in all, the whole situation sucks, but I can't see how anyone could think that acquittal wasn't the correct decision in light of the disaster of a case the prosecution put forth.

  160. Ken White says:

    I in not in the mood to have racist nutbags to come in and play the shit-banjo on my living room rug. I let a couple in for the feels, but please go play elsewhere.

  161. Matthew Cline says:

    Apparently, the jury thought he was guilty. They just couldn't find the appropriate law:

    IANAL, but isn't it the prosecution who decides on what law(s) the defendant is accused of breaking, leaving the jury no choice in the matter?

  162. Dan Ullman says:

    The major problem is that Zimmerman wasn't charged with manslaughter. They didn't have the facts for the charge they pushed so Zimmerman goes free.

    As far the media that is a familiar bitch. Ask any Airline pilot if the media is clueless about plane crashes after the fact and you will get a resounding yes. However, you do have folks like Patrick Smith who at least try to make folks understand.

  163. azteclady says:

    I find it very sad that, even if Zimmerman deeply and bitterly regretted having killed a young man, the immediate reaction of TM's family and of the media (racism! vigilantism!) made it impossible for him to express such regret without it being taken as an admission of guilt (because racism! vigilantism!). And I wonder if, after the hellish year he's had, and with the prospect of a civil suit looming in his future, he can still actually feel regret for the life he ended, rather than regret because of the consequences it brought him.

  164. 205guy says:

    I am pretty much disgusted with all the people defending Zimmerman for essentially racist reasons (and totally flawed logic such as "Trayvon had no injuries (besides the bullet wound) anywhere but on his knuckles which proves that Zimmerman did not attack him"), and even Ken's argument about justice and the court system. Because we know the court system and the poeple who decide things are part of the problem (prosecutors initially declining to prosecute). And actually, I am pretty much disgusted with America's fetish with guns, violence, and vigilante justice (CCW and "stand-your-ground").

    Frankly, I don't belive this case has anything to do with race. The dead guy could've been a Latino, same as the perpetrator, or even white for all the difference it would make. To me, it's all about people living in unsafe communities, fear-mongering in the media, wanna-be cops and vigilantes, gun nuts, and the out-of-control violence in America. I'll toss in thugs and gangs into the list to appease the other side as well.

    I agree with Mike (http://www.popehat.com/2013/07/15/the-zimmerman-verdict-be-careful-what-you-wish-for/#comment-1079556), how can a guy get out of his car, chase somebody, ultimately shoot him, and not be held liable for his death?

    I've had friends from Europe visit me and be totally appalled at the simplest "Neighborhood Watch" signs in my peaceful whitebread neighborhood. It really makes sense now. How free are you when the state sanctions your death-by-vigilante just because you're walking around your neighborhood?

    And to those who say, "yes, but the justice system is working the way it should" are just as blind (dare I say complicit) to the injustice and loss of freedom built into the system. The very fact that people want guns and condone all sorts of violence makes me less free than I could be.

  165. Dale says:

    "The very fact that people want guns and condone all sorts of violence makes me less free than I could be."

    I use my guns to hunt and put food on our table, along with the food we grow and raise, that allows us to eat on retirement incomes. Sorry if that make you less free.

  166. James Pollock says:

    "In your example you have injured two people, which is analagous to two distinct criminal offenses, no?"
    No, it's one act that creates two similar but separate harms.

    If Joe Criminal commits a crime, it harms both the state's interest in preserving order within the state, and the feds' interest in preserving order within the country (assuming that his one act offends both a state statute and a federal one, of course… there are crimes that only do one or the other.).

  167. perlhaqr says:

    It is unjust that moral wrongs go unredressed: such as, perhaps, the moral wrong that Trayvon Martin would be alive if George Zimmerman didn't think he had a right and duty to confront people of the wrong color in his neighborhood.

    I must object to this statement. There is no evidence that Zimmerman knew Martin's ethnicity when he began following him, and weak evidence that he did not know Martin's ethnicity until Martin turned around and came towards him in his truck.

    The most stringently correct statement that can be made is that George Zimmerman thought he had a right and duty to follow and report to the police people he did not recognize in his community. And given that GZ was in the neighborhood watch, and his community had in fact seen a string of burglaries, it is not a huge stretch for him to have thought that.

    I would be damn worried about my kids if I lived in George Zimmeran's neighborhood.

    Well, I certainly would be now. The people of George Zimmerman's (former, surely you don't think he's not going to move) neighborhood have been taught, forcibly, that the price of intervention is way the fuck too high. You could probably sell heroin and crack openly to kindergartners on any corner in that community and not have anyone even call the police.

  168. Facts&LawsTrumpFeelings says:

    @205guy

    I find it odd that you are disgusted with facts and laws. The law may be flawed and the facts may be distasteful to your personal sensibilities, but I find your Dunning-Krueger level pontification more deserving of disgust.

  169. Eddie says:

    @GrannyWeatherwax

    Or could not disprove Zimmerman's version of events, which would have been a tough call to do, given that the only other person directly involved was dead. Zimmerman does not have to prove anything, the court has to prove that his version is untrue beyond reasonable doubt.

    No it's an error many have made. The prosecution had to prove their version is true beyond a reasonable doubt. Even if they had picked holes in Zimmerman's version of events, the burden was on them to prove what actually happened.

    It was one of the prosecutions biggest failings, not having a narrative. They spent so much of their time speculating what might have happened that they smothered the case in doubt, and the defence beat them over the head with it in closing.

    In other jurisdictions self defence has to be proved by the defence, but in Florida the prosecution has the burden of proof that it was not self defence.

  170. Cameron W. says:

    @205guy

    What evidence do you have that Zimmerman "chased" Martin. I listened to the whole trial and I can't recall any evidence of that. It seemed that he got out of the car to see where Trayvon went and to find a street sign.

    And getting out of your car is not a crime. He doesn't lose his right to self-defense for getting out of his car.

    And even if he shouldn't have gotten out of his car, what else was he supposed to do when a drugged up thug viciously assaulted him?
    Personally, I would shoot any person who punches me in the face repeatedly, breaks my nose and smashes my head on the concrete (all of which we know that Trayvon did based on the witness testimony of John Good, AND the forensic evidence).

    The fact that Zimmerman instead spent 45 seconds crying for help and only shot Trayvon when he went for his gun and told him that he was going to kill him, makes Zimmerman as peaceful a person as I can imagine.

  171. Eddie says:

    @DanUllman

    The major problem is that Zimmerman wasn't charged with manslaughter. They didn't have the facts for the charge they pushed so Zimmerman goes free.

    He was charged with manslaughter. In Florida when you go with Murder 2, manslaughter is automatically included. The jury decision sheets had murder 2, manslaughter and not guilty options.

    It doesn't make a difference as they must have found self defence, and it invalidates all charges.

  172. James Pollock says:

    "drugged up thug"
    Seriously?
    Dude had traces of marijuana in his bloodstream, (which is detectable long after the effects wear off) and, um, marijuana makes people mellow and giddy, not assuault-prone thug machines.

  173. Dale says:

    "marijuana makes people mellow and giddy, not assuault-prone thug machines."

    I would testify to this!

  174. Eddie says:

    Apparently, the jury thought he was guilty. They just couldn't find the appropriate law:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-zimmerman-juror-20130715,0,5484479.story

    Half the jury thought he was guilty. And two of them wanted to find him guilty of something, which is not the legal standard. They aren't there to decide whether or not to punish him, which was remedied when they followed the process.

    But it is a great article and covers things that the media seem to miss. Like we believed he was in fear of his life. We believe they both could have walked away. We believe Martin attacked him.

    At the same time they believed Zimmerman had been reckless and shouldn't have put himself in that situation, so it isn't all one sided either.

    Someone earlier suggested they should have gone for a lesser crime, but George admitted to intentionally pulling the trigger, so they couldn't really go for either involuntary or negligent manslaughter.

  175. Matthew Cline says:

    Weakening the rights of the accused — clamoring for the conviction of those we feel should be convicted — is a damnfool way to help the oppressed.

    (Note that I say the following ONLY as a devil's advocate)

    You could set up a system where you selectively weaken the rights of individual accused by comparing the socioeconomic status of the alleged perpetrator and the alleged victim. For instance, if the alleged perpetrator is white and the alleged victim is black, you could do one or more of the following:

    * Allow the prosecution more peremptory dismissals that the defense.

    * Make the burden of proof "preponderance of evidence" rather than "beyond a reasonable doubt".

    * Ignore the exclusionary rule.

  176. Demosthenes says:

    I find it frankly amazing how anyone can say that someone who was on the ground, being straddled by an aggressor, having his head beaten…which is, let's face it, where all the evidence points…how anyone can say that this person "bears moral responsibility" for the death of the aggressor. To say such a thing belies not only a distinct lack of experience with physical assault, but a distinct lack of imagination — or perhaps a lack of willingness to use one's imagination — as to what that might be like.

    I'm sure someone will respond that George Zimmerman shouldn't have pursued Trayvon Martin after talking to the dispatchers. Fair enough, and he probably shouldn't have. Having said that, nothing he did in his pursuit was illegal, nor did anything that he did (that we have evidence for, I should add in all fairness to Martin) invite such a disproportionate response. I sincerely doubt that Zimmerman simply lay down on the ground and invited Martin to play a few rounds of "Soften the Cranium."

    And I find it telling that those who are most upset by Trayvon Martin's death seem incapable of looking at this through any other lens but race, and particularly — in defiance of the actual races of the involved parties — through a black/white dichotomy. I've heard several times today, "What if their roles had been reversed? What would white people be saying then?" Allow me to say, by way of turning the tables, that I'm fairly sure prominent members of the African-American community would still be railing against injustice — that Trayvon was even brought to trial. I mean, his head was smashed against the pavement repeatedly, and he was being beaten so harshly that he feared for his life. It's so obvious that he was the victim here. That time, at least, they would be closer to being right…though still driven by race, which is less than ideal.

  177. Dale says:

    Just my $.02, I don't believe this tragedy was about race, according to the juror interview on CNN neither did the jury, but that is only my belief based on my research into the case. I don't profess any legal intelligence what-so-ever, so take that for what it is worth, my opinion based on the legal proceeding I watched and read. I do know that with all the race rhetoric that is being tossed around, I feel less safe. It's probably all in my mind, and I live in a very rural area with very litttle racial diversity, but I will be much more alert due to the unrest this has caused.

    My personal belief is that the media made this into a race issue, the facts presented in court paint a deferent picture than what the media reported in my opinion.

  178. Dale says:

    deferent == different

    Sorry it's late and I'm not that smart to begin with!

  179. @AL: if Z had indeed stopped following M at that point, I don't see how they would have met. As far as I can see, Z had no other purpose for being where the incident occurred other than following M; have you seen an alternative explanation?

    @Erbo: was any evidence presented that M did actually double back? The most likely scenario, to my mind, is that he hid, either because he wanted a fight or because he was scared and didn't think he could find his father's apartment while running from a potential attacker. (I don't see any way to tell which.)

    @C. S. P. Schofield: I haven't heard a claim that M was in other people's yards – except that he may have hidden in one, which IMO would be a reasonable response if you think you are being stalked. Do you have a reference?

    @AlphaCentauri: quite. The other thing most people seem to be overlooking is that Z's testimony suggests that M was – if not actually lost – then at a minimum having difficulty finding his way. If you're even a little lost, running home is unlikely to seem like a good option.

  180. @Demosthenes: Hmmm. Doesn't that depend at all on who started the fight?

    In one of the previous comment threads, there was some discussion about the cultural differences in play, and I do think that may have been a factor both in the incident and the following debate. Simple questions you may not even think to ask at a conscious level, such as "is it OK to be suspicious of someone simply because you don't know them" and "is following someone in and of itself an aggressive act" are always viewed through a cultural lens and can provide a difference in perspective that is easily overlooked.

  181. James Pollock says:

    Oh, there's no doubt that part of the furor was about race. Another big part was about gun possession and carry permits. Both of these have tremendous emotional weight that causes people to pick their sides early on.

  182. Dale says:

    "Hmmm. Doesn't that depend at all on who started the fight?"

    I'm trained in self-defense, for what ever that means. If I don't mean you serious harm once your down, I'm outta there!!!

  183. Katherine says:

    Amen.

  184. BradnSA says:

    @Jame Pollock

    Zimmerman had a chance to upgrade from neighborhood watch to some type of official watchman, complete with a uniform and a vehicle.

    He turned it down, so I doubt he was a wannabe any more.

  185. Dale says:

    "Oh, there's no doubt that part of the furor was about race. Another big part was about gun possession and carry permits. Both of these have tremendous emotional weight that causes people to pick their sides early on."

    Yea, I understand this is about gun control as well, as I stated earlier; I don't have guns except to hunt; I do enjoy target shooting but that helps me be a more effective hunter. I'm against gun control only in that I don't believe ALL guns need to be banned, but I certainly have no problem with back ground checks and assault weapon bans.

  186. One thing that annoys me about this whole situation is that it affects all of us far more than it should. This was just a dispute between two men that turned sour; leave it to their families and their community to sort it out and work towards justice. The rest of us have our own problems in our own communities, and we should be free to work on those.

    But that's not what we get. This WILL continue to be all over the news, and people WILL continue to worry about it. This WILL affect the way cops behave, all across the USA, and perhaps abroad as well. This WILL have implications in case law and the development of new laws. This WILL affect the way people of different races interact, far past any point of rational concern. This may even affect international relations. And what for? Tribal affinity and busybody-ism.

    I'm not saying we shouldn't care about this situation. I'm saying we shouldn't HAVE to. But we do have to, and that is a problem in and of itself.

  187. Anony Mouse says:

    "If you have dealt with security guards you would know that most want to be cops…"

    Completely wrong, and rather ignorant too. Yes, quite a few security guards like to pretend to be cops, and they tend to piss off the rest of us. Most security guards are either young 20-somethings who need a job or retirees who… need a job. It's part of that ever-shrinking pool of jobs that doesn't require a college degree and isn't food service.

    Frankly, most security guards just want to earn their paycheck and avoid Paul Blart "jokes". It's a job, not a calling.

  188. wfgodbold says:

    "I'm against gun control only in that I don't believe ALL guns need to be banned, but I certainly have no problem with back ground checks and assault weapon bans."

    I know this is off-topic, but you're against gun control in the same way that someone who drinks but is fine with other mind-altering substances being banned is against intoxicant-control. It sounds like you're merely against being *your* guns being banned.

    Or, if you'd rather, "We've established what you are, madam. Now we are haggling over the price."

  189. Dale says:

    "I know this is off-topic, but you're against gun control in the same way that someone who drinks but is fine with other mind-altering substances being banned is against intoxicant-control. It sounds like you're merely against being *your* guns being banned."

    In what way are my guns a threat to you? I use my guns for hunting, to help provide for my family, in what way does that equat to mind-altering substances? I propose your's is a strawman arguement.

  190. Dale says:

    Jesus Christ! In full disclusure, I have used mind-altering substances, in the past! Not sure how that adversely effect my gun control statement thought!

  191. Dale says:

    My spelling is off, partially because it's late, and partially because I'm on my second mind-altering Brandy for the night. (I'm home, no thought of leaving!) I know there are folks out there who will only be happy when all firearms are outlawed, I simply don't agree. Make it harder for outlaws to have guns but let us who use them "legally" use them. I understand if you are a PETA member you're not going to agree, but aside from that insanity I don't understand the total ban mentality.

  192. James Pollock says:

    "Zimmerman had a chance to upgrade from neighborhood watch to some type of official watchman, complete with a uniform and a vehicle.
    He turned it down, so I doubt he was a wannabe any more."

    I'm not sure why this was directed at me.
    I don't follow the reasoning. If he wanted to be a cop, he wanted to be a cop, not "some kind of official watchman, with a uniform and a vehicle".

  193. Dale says:

    "I know this is off-topic, but you're against gun control in the same way that someone who drinks but is fine with other mind-altering substances being banned is against intoxicant-control. It sounds like you're merely against being *your* guns being banned.

    Or, if you'd rather, "We've established what you are, madam. Now we are haggling over the price.""

    Dude, I believe you've let you're insanity for gun control overide what I said, I use my guns to provide for my family!

    You don't have to, god bless! I use my guns to hunt, If you are an illegal intruder in my house…., who knows! If I have to protect myself or my family, it won't matter the weapon, only the results! If you just objects to guns, then you and I are on opposite ends of the argument and we will never agree!

    I do respect you're right to disagree though, can you say the same?

  194. Katherine says:

    @Albert

    The xenophobia is striated differently; in the south there are white people, minorities, then black people. And most people who are in it have either grown up with it or really don't want to see it and turn a blind eye.

    Albert I am a white woman who was born and raised in the south. In fact I am a third generation South Carolinian. And I am here to tell you that in South Carolina, we have no choice but to face our xenophobia. Our racist past is rubbed in our faces and vilified to the point of taboo. I find it difficult to even refer to someone as "black". Even for the purposes of this post I am finding it difficult. It would be easier for me to drop the f-bomb. And I never, ever hear anyone say "black" in a racial context without lowering their voice to a near whisper.

  195. Trent says:

    Lest anyone forget the tragic case involving the referee in Utah, but a single blow to the head can kill (where the spine connects to the skull is a very vulnerable point on the skull). Regardless of how it started at some point Zimmerman was having his head impacted with concrete (as confirmed by the patholigist as consistent with his injuries). IMO that becomes a textbook case of self defense because he was unable to flee and he was in imminent danger of severe or lethal head injury. Those injuries were all the reasonable doubt required IMO.

    As another poster mentioned I attribute much of this incident to "invincible youth" and a willingness at that age to engage in violence for even the most minor of offenses. Trayvon was a young man with the body and physique of a full grown man and the immaturity of a 16 year old child. I think Zimmerman exagerated the number of blows and outright lied about the "I'm going to kill you" statement. But I do believe there was a fight that Zimmerman was loosing badly and became in fear of his life and I believe a 17 year old kid is just stupid enough to grab for the gun when it was exposed during the fight. They tell people in CCW classes that, just like the police, in an altercation if some tries to take your weapon from you that you should assume they are going to kill you with it.

    The most racially motivated statement I heard in this affair was "white hispanic". I have no idea what that even means.

  196. JFM says:

    There are the facts of this case as presented and supported by the evidence and the feelings around this case, which, as far as I can tell, completely dwarf the evidence presented. Whoever threw the first punch committed a crime which resulted in one man injured and bleeding and another dead. This is what I believe, GZ is not a racist he lived in a crime-ridden neighborhood where the police couldn't stop crime. He was not a vigilante. Do vigilantes call the police? We all are second guessing his motives. I believe he felt he was trying to protect his neighborhood. Maybe he was taught that citizens get involved in making their neighborhoods safer. From the few non negative accounts about I've read about GZ he was involved with his neighborhood to a degree that seems strange, but once was normal. If this was a racial hate crime, why did he only fire one shot? One shot stopped the beating he was getting. I've been prefacing many of my statements with "I believe" because I don't know what happened. None of us know what happened that night beyond what the evidence tells us. One last "I believe"-I believe that GZ wishes that both he and TM were alive.

  197. Hel M. says:

    To quote goddessofcheese on tumblr-
    "He didn’t even get manslaughter

    You can hit somebody with a car by accident and still get manslaughter

    You can build a bad house that collapses and kills the people inside years later after the fact and still get manslaughter

    You can not wash your hands cooking food just once and still get manslaughter

    He chased down a child after being directly told by 911 not to exit his car and shot him in the heart

    AND HE DIDN’T EVEN GET FUCKING MANSLAUGHTER"

    Six people in Florida decided that a 17 year old walking home from getting snacks, who perhaps confronted the grown man following him, deserved to die. This after the cops didn't even arrest Zimmerman right away! Societal racism has played a large part in this, from the moment Zimmerman decided the Black kid walking alone looked suspicious.

    To say this isn't about race is to ignore the statistics on how much more often people of color are looked at with suspicion by individuals and law enforcement, to ignore how many more people of color have been killed under the stand your ground laws, to ignore all the obvious manifestations of racism. We can not make this society an equal one until we admit it is currently unequal. So long as we deny racism is manifesting in all the ways it manifests, we are complicit in that racism.

  198. 205guy says:

    Cameron W. wrote: "What evidence do you have that Zimmerman "chased" Martin."

    How can you imply that Z didn't chase M? La-dee-da, I just reported suspicious activity in my neighborhood, I have a gun, the guy just ran away, and I get out of my car to _______. Pretend this is madlibs and fill in the blank with something funny.

    But I'll be honest and say I haven't listened to or read all the transcripts, but the gist of these here comments is that no one has any evidence of how the altercation started. So what evidence do you have that he didn't?

    Cameron W. wrote: "It seemed that he got out of the car to see where Trayvon went and to find a street sign."

    Thanks for playing madlibs with me. And how is seeing where Trayvon went different from chasing Trayvon? Let's stop taking Z's point of view. Let's take M's point of view: "Car is following me as I walk through my neighborhood. I run away between some buildings where the car can't follow. Dude gets out of his car and is walking around looking for something. I'm not sure I can or should go home right now." What rights does M have to self-defense and not (having the perception of) being chased?

    Cameron W. wrote: "And getting out of your car is not a crime."

    Yeah, let's ignore that whole pesky context thing. Also, strawman! Nobody ever charged Z for getting out of his car. It was for killing someone, and getting out of the car with a gun demonstrated if not intent, at least extremely poor judgement that deserves punishment (IMNSHO).

    Cameron W. wrote: "He doesn't lose his right to self-defense for getting out of his car."

    I actually think this is the crux of the matter. When you have a gun, and you go looking for trouble, is that still self-defense? When he becomes the instigator, I think he becomes liable for any and all outcomes. What if he actually did witness a burglary, followed the suspects, and then same scenario? Does that change anything (other than public opinion)? What if a security guard with a gun confronts a burglar? Are security guards allow to assume the "stand-your-ground" rights of the actual owner? What about armed neighborhood patrols, are they allowed to shoot a burglar?

    What if he was patrolling around, saw smoke from a house, called it in, was told to stay in his car, but then for some reason got out of his car and ran into the smoky house, carried out a elderly white lady, but then his concealed weapon accidentally discharged and killed the lady (gun owners will tell me that's "impossible," but bear with me)? Certainly not 2nd degree murder, but how should our system deal with that?

    I'm really afraid that some people would say: "he tried to help the lady, it was an accident, she would've died if he'd left her in the burning house." What if the would-be rescuer slipped and fell, causing life-threatening injuries and ultimately death? In all scenarios but the last, he chose to have a gun, and he chose to interact with people, doesn't that make him ultimately liable for the death?

    But in our society, guns are treated as normal. They cause accidental deaths. Come to think of it, vehicular manslaughter (death by car accident) is rarely prosecuted as such either.

    A lot of people carry guns and want the power they give and protections the law affords them (self-defense, stand-your-ground). But there doesn't seem to be an liability to such a tool, or society (in the US) doesn't seem to enforce any. I feel there should be liability for killing, even accidental, with a gun (or a car).

    Cameron W. wrote: "Personally, I would shoot any person who punches me in the face repeatedly, breaks my nose and smashes my head on the concrete."

    But what if Z jumped M and was the instigator of the final fight? What if Z took a swing at M and M dodged it adroitly? Is M not entitled to self-defense, including the use of deadly force at that point?

    Cameron W. wrote: "The fact that Zimmerman instead spent 45 seconds crying for help and only shot Trayvon when he went for his gun and told him that he was going to kill him, makes Zimmerman as peaceful a person as I can imagine."

    See, this is exactly the kind of comment that disgusts me. My definition of peaceful does not include guns. Yeah, I realize that feeling is not shared by a majority of Americans, so I'm going to get called out for it.

  199. Hel M. says:

    Plus if Zimmerman was so "peaceful" why did he get out of his car with a gun in the first place, after being explicitly told by 911 not to? Why was he CARRYING a gun, when the neighborhood watch group had told him not to?

  200. STrRedWolf says:

    I am not sure this prosecutor was doing his/her job. There's reason to believe that there was some mishandling of evidence, given that he/she fired the IT director for whistleblowing related to the case:

    http://yro.slashdot.org/story/13/07/13/238229/whistleblowing-it-director-fired-by-fl-state-attorney

  201. Cowardly Anon says:

    I run away between some buildings where the car can't follow. Dude gets out of his car and is walking around looking for something. I'm not sure I can or should go home right now.

    THEN WHY GO BACK TOWARDS THE CREEPY ASS CRACKER???

    Why not use the four whole minutes that he cannot see you to put distance between the two of you?

    Why would you, if your sole desire is to get home, or to avoid trouble, remain within 50 feet of where the guy "chasing you" is sitting in his truck? Why not stroll the 100 feet to the house where you are staying?

    Clearly the sensible and completely understandable response is to start a fist-fight. Perhaps the "don't talk to strangers" that I was taught as a child needs to be updated to "don't talk to, or assault and try to kill, strangers"?

    But what if Z jumped M and was the instigator of the final fight? What if Z took a swing at M and M dodged it adroitly? Is M not entitled to self-defense, including the use of deadly force at that point?

    I can totally see how a man laid on his back, screaming for the beating to stop is a threat, especially when a third party attempts to verbally intervene. If this were indeed "self defense" why continue the beating even after there was an opportunity to retreat? Sure stand your ground statutes state you don't have to, but perhaps this would have been a good idea? Perhaps Trayvon would have stopped "but he aint breed nuff 4 me, only his nose"?

  202. Clark says:

    @Dan Ullman:

    The major problem is that Zimmerman wasn't charged with manslaughter.

    Yes he was.

    @205guy:

    The very fact that people want guns and condone all sorts of violence makes me less free than I could be.

    I can understand how people acting in certain ways can make you less free, but how can people believing and wanting things make you less free?

    If my freedom depends on what's in everyone else's heads, and your similarly, then there is no logical or possible way that any of us could ever be free.

    @205guy:

    totally flawed logic such as "Trayvon had no injuries (besides the bullet wound) anywhere but on his knuckles which proves that Zimmerman did not attack him")

    What's the logical flaw there?

    @Demosthenes

    I find it frankly amazing how anyone can say that someone who was on the ground, being straddled by an aggressor, having his head beaten…which is, let's face it, where all the evidence points…how anyone can say that this person "bears moral responsibility" for the death of the aggressor.

    In this case I don't see that Zimmerman did anything wrong, but in response to the general question, I certainly see how in other situations that match this template the person with the bloodied head can be morally responsible.

    If a person with a gun picks a verbal fight, escalates that into a shoving match, and then – when that escalates into fists – uses his gun, he picked the fight and he's responsible for the entire outcome.

    @Harry Johnston

    @Demosthenes: Hmmm. Doesn't that depend at all on who started the fight?

    Exactly.

    @wfgodbold:

    Or, if you'd rather, "We've established what you are, madam. Now we are haggling over the price."

    Zing!

    @205guy

    Cameron W. wrote: "What evidence do you have that Zimmerman "chased" Martin."

    How can you imply that Z didn't chase M?

    Your rhetorical technique == FAIL.

    Cameron asked "what evidence do you have?"

    You ignored his question and put a new one in his mouth. Cameron didn't either say or imply that Z did NOT chase M. He asked you what evidence you have that Z DID chase M.

    The distinction is huge and relevant.

  203. Demosthenes says:

    @ Harry J. and Clark

    Let's say that Zimmerman did start the fight. He's still not responsible for the details of how it played out…unless you want to say that Martin deciding to smash Zimmerman's head against the pavement even as he's pleading for mercy, verbally threaten the man's life, and then (allegedly) reach for his gun, is somehow all and solely a result of Zimmerman's choice. Seeing as how I actually give Trayvon Martin credit for being human and having free will, I don't subscribe to that picture of events.

    @ Hel M.

    "Six people in Florida decided that a 17 year old walking home from getting snacks, who perhaps confronted the grown man following him, deserved to die."

    WRONG.

    Six people in Florida decided that a man who was being severely beaten had a plausible reason to fear for his life, and therefore did not deserve to be sent to prison for the actions he took to protect it — actions which, in other circumstances, would certainly have been worthy of a lengthy jail sentence, and possibly execution.

  204. Conster says:

    So linking this blog post and the one about Justin Carter, a 15-year old in Zion, Illinois is being charged with a felony count of disorderly conduct for having tweeted "If Zimmerman leaves free imma shoot everybody in Zion causing a mass homicide, and ill get away with it just like Zimmerman", despite apparently having "no weapons and no access to weapons". I've included an excerpt from this article:

    One person on Twitter told Mark12394995, the Zion teen, that he was going to call the FBI.

    “I WAS JOKING SEE U JUST SAID I SHOULDNT JOKE SO THERE WAS NOO NEED FOR U TO REPORT ME,” reads a tweet in response from another person who said, “Threatening mass homicide on a social networking site is not something you do. Joking or not.”

    Another exchange read “You should NEVER EVER threaten to shoot up a school. It doesn’t matter if you are joking or not.” to which the Zion teen replied several times: “no cuz i have no time to do that and i know better not to do illegal stuff like that,“ “well i didnt know ppl would report me,” “why your lame for that i never do such a thing to my school,” “why you taking that shit serious?” “i never theaten to shoot up a school?”

    Another Twitterer posted a picture saying it was outside the Zion teen’s house and it showed a SWAT team unloading out of a van that was obviously just copied off a news website. Another posted “You still threatened it. Which is conspiracy to do that crime. That’s not something you do.” to which the Zion teen replied, “well i didnt know ppl would report me” Another person chimed in with “Mark, your tweet was a serious terror threat. The punishment that awaits you will be a serious lesson.”

    Yay for the internet policing itself, huh?

  205. Conster says:

    So apparently I can't have multiple empty lines in comments – the last line ("Yay for the internet policing itself, huh?") was mine, not the article's.

  206. Demosthenes says:

    In re-reading my previous comment to Harry and Clark, I feel I need to modify my statement to say that Zimmerman isn't responsible for all the details of how the fight played out. He was an active participant in the fight, after all…he's responsible for something. If that is all that both of you meant to say, then I think we're in agreement.

  207. Kirk Taylor says:

    I still hear people saying Z was explicitly told to stay in his car. I'm pretty sure that is made up media BS. I read the transcripts and can find it nowhere. The 911 operator asked if he was following TM, Z said yes, 911 said we don't need you to do that, Z said okay. The entire transcript after that is about finding an address and meeting the cops.

    If someone can show me I'm wrong, please do, but if not, let's get that fact straight.

  208. wfgodbold says:

    Dale, you have gotten my analogy exactly backwards.

  209. TM says:

    Albert I am a white woman who was born and raised in the south. In fact I am a third generation South Carolinian. And I am here to tell you that in South Carolina, we have no choice but to face our xenophobia. Our racist past is rubbed in our faces and vilified to the point of taboo.

    To echo this, I was born and raised in the north, prime blue state territory. I now have lived for almost the same amount of time in the south. It is true that in the south, I have encountered more open racists. People (of all races) who are blatantly and obviously racist and will say some horrible things. But the actual amount of racism I've encountered as a whole? Probably about the same if not less. The key thing I've noticed is that while there aren't as many open racists in the north, there are plenty of closeted ones and frankly they're the more insidious ones. When an open racist is openly racist, you can easily dismiss them out of hand. When it's someone who's more subtle, that's harder to defend against. Additionally, the parts of the south I've lived in is by far more integrated than large chunks of the north. Sure there are some backwater areas that haven't seen another race in 40 years but for the most part in the south, people are diverse and integrated living and working next to each other without the strong dividing lines that I found common in the north.

    @Hel M

    Plus if Zimmerman was so "peaceful" why did he get out of his car with a gun in the first place, after being explicitly told by 911 not to? Why was he CARRYING a gun, when the neighborhood watch group had told him not to?

    Please spend some time watching the testimony and reviewing the actual evidence in the case because you are grossly misinformed. Zimmerman was already out of his car long before the dispatcher thought to suggest to him that he should stay put.

    The dispatcher also testified that he is not allowed to and will not give instructions to a caller, that the best he can do is provide suggestions that are the most liability (for the dispatch center) reducing ones. That is to say, assume for a moment that there is a scared woman and her child holed up in a closet during a home invasion. She's on the phone with dispatch and while police are on their way, the invader is still coming. If the caller asks "should I shoot him if he comes through the door" the dispatcher can not and will not say "Yes you should", they also likely won't say "No you can't" because the dispatcher can not give instructions on what to do. BTW, that scenario did happen, and Sarah McKinley shot the intruder. My point is not to suggest that Zimmerman was as right as Sarah McKinley in his actions, but that dispatchers by a large carry no authority over your actions and are explicitly forbidden from giving you instructions on how to act.

  210. Shane says:

    @Hel M

    … after being explicitly told by 911 not to? Why was he CARRYING a gun, when the neighborhood watch group had told him not to?

    Do you even know how ridiculous you sound? Do you have any proof of these facts?

    Just because NBC says it doesn't make it true. Did you even bother to take a small look at the trial and it's evidence before you decided that you would post these complete fabrications?

    If you have an agenda at least use the facts to build your narrative, instead of some shit that was made up out of thin blue air from the media.

  211. John K says:

    Your castigation of the media didn't go nearly far enough. They deliberately modified the 911 call to 'gin up' support for TM and to demonize Zimmerman. Let's not forget that they called him first 'white' and then a 'white hispanic' to emphasize which side of the case they were on. Their repeated showing of old pictures of Martin rather than the much more accurate and recent 'gangsta' images added to their propaganda.

    Buoyed (or forced) by public sentiment this biased coverage caused, the prosecution forced a murder trial when the original investigators concluded there wasn't enough evidence to show any malice. Millions wasted by the taxpayers when unbiased legal observers were scratching their heads from day one about the tenuous merits of the case.

    Whatever you think about GZ's guilt, it's obvious that several media outlets were dedicated to lynching him using the power of their public forums (long before ANY real evidence other than the 911 had come out) and I hope Zimmerman sues their pants off to teach them to avoid that unethical behavior again.

  212. Shane says:

    @Cowardly Anon

    I would like to add:

    THEN WHY GO BACK TOWARDS THE CREEPY ASS CRACKER???

    … AND WHY DIDN'T HE CALL THE POLICE?

  213. Frank says:

    To piggyback on what you've written, and take it a bit further-

  214. Clark says:

    @TM:

    I was born and raised in the north, prime blue state territory. I now have lived for almost the same amount of time in the south. It is true that in the south, I have encountered more open racists. People (of all races) who are blatantly and obviously racist and will say some horrible things. But the actual amount of racism I've encountered as a whole? Probably about the same if not less. The key thing I've noticed is that while there aren't as many open racists in the north, there are plenty of closeted ones and frankly they're the more insidious ones.

    I've lived in both the North and the South and this is exactly my experience.

  215. James Pollock says:

    Oh, Shane.

    "Why was he CARRYING a gun, when the neighborhood watch group had told him not to?
    Do you even know how ridiculous you sound? Do you have any proof of these facts?"

    Did you not read the Neighborhood Watch manual after having it spoonfed to you?

    "AND WHY DIDN'T HE CALL THE POLICE?"
    Seriously? Have you, perhaps, read any OTHER articles on this blog?
    http://www.popehat.com/2013/07/12/if-you-dont-want-to-be-tased/#comments

  216. mud man says:

    Since Zimmerman really was stalking Martin, wasn't Martin justified in using force, in light of the stand-your-ground law? Seems like both had a legit claim to self-defense, even missing Martin's version of events. Which seems like a problem esp. in a land where carry is common.

    We had an incident of a semi-accidental or impulsive shooting here in the county where a landowner was injecting himself into some rowdy behavior among some people … judge said they guy "brought a gun to a fist fight", guilty (assault, as I remember) as charged.

  217. Shane says:

    @James Pollock

    Wow, so you just want to lash out at me.

    Seriously the neighborhood watch manual says that you can't be armed? Even if I have one of those pesky CHL's? Please cite? Do you even have the smallest clue what someone has to go through to get a CHL?

    Seriously? Have you, perhaps, read any OTHER articles on this blog?

    Really this is your defense for why TM didn't call the police. Because bad things could happen. Seems like other people in the community called about 476 times without this happening. And honestly since we are going to be Monday Morning quarterbacks, then wouldn't a night in jail beat an eternity in the ground?

  218. Cowardly Anon says:

    ince Zimmerman really was stalking Martin, wasn't Martin justified in using force, in light of the stand-your-ground law?

    By "stalking" you mean "walking around without knowing where he was and towards his truck"?

    If, and it's a reasonable assumption, though unsupported, you assume that Zimmerman followed Trayvon, you have to show why Martin would be fearful for his safety. Aside from watching him, did Zimmerman do anything aggressive or threatening? If I were allowed to attack anyone who followed me there would be a lot of dead security guards in WalMart.

    If and it's a *BIG* if (due to there being 0 evidence to support it) you are speculating that Zimmerman caused Martin to fear for his safety then yes, he could indeed have used force (even deadly force) to remove that fear. The problem is that once that fear ceases to exist his right to use force stops too.

    In much the same way that shooting someone once may well be justified, emptying the clip into them as they lay on the ground bleeding, probably isn't.

    In this case, *even if* Zimmerman caused Martin to be fearful, I think any reasonable person would agree that fear ceased when Zimmerman is laid on the ground with a broken nose pleading for the beating to stop…

  219. Shane says:

    @Mud Man

    Since Zimmerman really was stalking Martin,

    Please provide your definition of stalking.

    We had an incident of a semi-accidental or impulsive shooting here in the county where a landowner was injecting himself into some rowdy behavior among some people … judge said they guy "brought a gun to a fist fight", guilty (assault, as I remember) as charged.

    The incident as you describe it was not semi-accidental. It was intentional. If the person only got assault and someone is dead then the rowdies were deemed partly culpable.

    Every incident that involves a gun is not the same. Just because an incident involves a gun doesn't mean that the gun possessor is automatically guilty of …. something. There is a reason for that.

  220. James Pollock says:

    "Wow, so you just want to lash out at me."

    No, just your repeatedly-demonstrated stupidity.

    "Seriously the neighborhood watch manual says that you can't be armed? Even if I have one of those pesky CHL's? Please cite?"
    Id.

    "Do you even have the smallest clue what someone has to go through to get a CHL?"
    (snicker). Why, yes I do. In fact, I know exactly what someone has to go through to get a carry permit.

    "Really this is your defense for why TM didn't call the police."
    Yes. If you believe that cops only make things worse, you tend not to call them. Many teenage boys share this view.

    "And honestly since we are going to be Monday Morning quarterbacks"
    It's Tuesday.

  221. TM says:

    Since Zimmerman really was stalking Martin, wasn't Martin justified in using force, in light of the stand-your-ground law?

    No. Now, before I continue allow me to preface that IANAL and you should probably consult one before you go attacking someone (or better yet, don't attack them at all) but SYG (which isn't what this trial was about) doesn't allow you to use more force than standard self defense laws allow. SYG simply removes the "duty to retreat" requirement if you have a legal right to be where you are. So if you're out in your yard and someone comes up to you with a knife, you're allowed to fight back without first attempting to run back to your home. As a result, Martin was well within his rights (if stupid) to confront Zimmerman and tell him to leave him alone, just as (despite the talk to the contrary) Zimmerman was well within his rights (if stupid) to chase after Martin once he ran to see where he was going. Ultimately what this boiled down to was who threw the first punch (or at the very least made credible threats to harm the other) because up until that point, there was no physical violence and you're not allowed to simply attack someone who's following you, no matter how creeped out you might be.

  222. Trent says:

    Plus if Zimmerman was so "peaceful" why did he get out of his car with a gun in the first place, after being explicitly told by 911 not to?

    I won't address your false statement that Zimmerman was ordered by the 911 operator to do anything, others already have. Though I've not read the particulars of Florida's concealed carry weapons permit almost every state's law is identical because they were formatted on a draft provided by the NRA. It's very likely that the Florida statute like the other states makes it explicitly illegal for a permit holder to leave their weapon in their vehicle. In fact in most states it's illegal for a permit holder to do anything other than keep the weapon concealed on their person while outside their home. There are only a few exceptions adopted by the states and those involve institutions like schools, but even with those exceptions the permit holder isn't allowed to leave their gun in their car.

    Why was he CARRYING a gun, when the neighborhood watch group had told him not to?

    Probably because he was afraid of having his head bashed in and being killed after being jumped by someone he was reporting to the police. Zimmerman did nothing wrong in following a person he didn't know in his gated and walled community.

  223. Shane says:

    @Jame Pollock

    No, just your repeatedly-demonstrated stupidity.

    And here come the personal attacks.

    You didn't site the place in the manual that you referring to. I suppose that will be forthcoming with another round of personal attacks.

    (snicker). Why, yes I do. In fact, I know exactly what someone has to go through to get a carry permit.

    Because you have one? Because I seriously doubt that you do.

    Many teenage boys share this view.

    But I bet their parents don't.

    Oh wait he didn't even tell his parents either.

  224. Ted says:

    I'm hoping a lawyer with trial experience can answer a question I've had about the prosecution's presentation of the case. In his written statement about the moment his encounter with Martin escalated from verbal to physical, Zimmerman wrote "As I looked and tried to find my cell phone to dial 911 the suspect punched me in the face."

    This seemed to me like something the prosecution could have used to connect the dot: between "Martin approaches Zimmerman to find out why he was following him and was now waiting to intercept him" and the dot: "Martin and Zimmerman are in a fight that Zimmerman is losing." Martin believed Zimmerman was reaching for a weapon — a reasonable belief, given the circumstances, even if Zimmerman hadn't actually had a gun.

    I kept expecting the prosecution to bring this point to bear, at least in their closing arguments — initially, Zimmerman admitted that it was his own action that precipitated the physical confrontation, but after a bit of reflection, he realized that it so utterly trashed his claim to have been acting in self-defense, he needed to make up different versions that sounded better — but, nothing.

    I figure there must be some legal or strategic reason the prosecution didn't do this, or that its just far less relevant to the issue than I seems to me. What am I missing, misunderstanding, or am just plain ignorant about?

  225. Paul of Alexandria says:

    whheydt and others need to ensure that they have all of the facts before insinuating that Zimmerman did anything but defend himself:
    http://pjmedia.com/blog/deconstructing-the-trayvon-martin-narrative-nothing-left-to-argue/
    is a very good synopsis, and there are many other articles detailing the known facts at PJMedia and at American Thinker (americanthinker.com).

    One important factor that isn't mentioned by Mr. White is the political factor. This case was heavily politicized by Obama, primarily to provide a means of attacking gun owners (http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/07/the_obama_doctrine_of_control_through_dissension.html) but also as a way to garner black support through a divide-and-conquer strategy.

  226. Christina says:

    @Cowardly Anon
    "If, and it's a reasonable assumption, though unsupported, you assume that Zimmerman followed Trayvon, you have to show why Martin would be fearful for his safety."

    How about, for the same reasons Zimmerman was fearful/suspicious of Martin? Because they lived in a community where fear and suspicion were the status quo, where it was SOP not to trust a stranger who was doing nothing wrong, just because they were a stranger?

  227. Dan Weber says:

    I can appreciate people thinking that the laws are wrong, or that people shouldn't have guns, or many other things. Even if I disagree with them, I realize that it's an argument about values.

    But people who have no idea what was going on the case yet besides what they read on Tumblr make me think Mencken was right.

  228. Dan Weber says:

    My kingdom for an edit button!

    But people who have no idea what was going on the case besides what they read on Tumblr, yet feel compelled to tell others what really happened or what was really presented as evidence, make me think Mencken was right.

  229. Rich Rostrom says:

    Clark • Jul 15, 2013 @7:30 pm
    We haven't had a legitimate government since FDR decided that he wanted a third term…

    Say what?

    I've seen rants about the improper admission of Ohio to statehood, and the 17th Amendment, but FDR's third term? That's a completely new one.

    FDR's third term violated a long-standing tradition, but it was entirely constitutional. (I'm assuming you mean "since the start of FDR's third term, not "since the day in mid-July 1940 when FDR decided to run again".) How did it make the government illegitimate?

    BTW, when Theodore Roosevelt ran in 1912, he was also castigated for breaching the no-third-term rule.

  230. AlphaCentauri says:

    @Shane – Stalkers are generally cowards looking for the low hanging fruit, and letting them know up front that you aren't intimidated and getting witnesses involved usually terminates the situation quickly. It was late and I needed to go home, so I didn't have time for a lot of nonsense. Once I knew he was definitely following me, I drove to the drug store, and he surprisingly continued into the parking lot and parked next to me. The security guard was outside at the time, right in front of us, and I rolled down my window to tell him what the situation was. The creepy-dude rolled down his and denied he was following me. So I said, "Fine, you go in the drugstore, and I'll leave." At which point he looked exasperated and sped off. Nobody got out of their cars, and he didn't find out where I lived.

    As far as GZ, the 911 tape has him reporting that TM was running toward the exit of the community, and for at least part of the time, GZ was following him. That might have put GZ between TM and his original destination, or TM might have been too turned around to be sure where he was going at that point.

    I agree that since there was no other living witness to what happened other than GZ, it was proper to find him not guilty even though he wasn't "innocent beyond a reasonable doubt." But if other people don't seem to understand that, remember that it's not what usually happens in their experience. Defendants don't get the kind of representation that GZ got. Nobody starts defense funds for them, and the money provided for public defenders is ridiculously small, at least where I live. If TM had been the defendant and GZ were the victim, the prosecution would have brought insanely overreaching charges, and TM would have pleaded guilty to 2nd degree murder to avoid the chance of the death penalty.

  231. James Pollock says:

    "And here come the personal attacks."
    No, it would be a personal attack had I said "you're just stupid". Well, you're entitled to be stupid, but if you insist on demonstrating it over and over, you'll get called on it from time to time.
    It's your call, really.

    "Because you have one? Because I seriously doubt that you do."
    Good. I prefer it that way.

  232. Dale says:

    "Dale, you have gotten my analogy exactly backwards"

    My apologies. Perhap you believe it's an all or nothing argument?

    I don't think that's a winnable position is all, the government is against it.

  233. dmh says:

    Here is what this case boiled down to: Bad defense but even worse prosecution by far. However, when half the evidence is thrown out due to the mishandling of that evidence, the prosecution more or less was operating with one figurative hand tied behind his back. Given the burden of proof required, it is not surprising that there was an acquittal. If everyone on the lower end of the spectrum would have done their jobs and supplied that evidence, we may have had a different verdict. However they didn't and that evidence ended up being thrown out due to the tainted nature of it. With what little the prosecution was supplied with, it was too easy to break apart what the prosecution had. The defense attorney was a bumbling idiot during the case, but even with the mistakes that he made, the system below allowed him to be that bumbling idiot in front of the judge and still create that reasonable doubt. It turned into a nasty game of he-said-she-said, especially with the taped description of the event and the 11 witnesses versus 3 witnesses trying to say that the screams on the 911 tape were Zimmerman's or Martin's. If the state had their ducks in a row, there would be a different story. That starts at the police level.

    Now the guy can't be tried again. However, just like OJ… this isn't over yet. This is getting people talking about the law and its injustices. This will spur some changes and already has a little bit. Whether it will be enough to satisfy the times when it comes to equal protection remains to be seen. The SYG law was poorly written and therefore taken advantage of. Statistics show that. Even if the SYG law stays, it needs clarification or else it will leave itself open to lawsuits due to its uneven and unjust application so far.

  234. Xenocles says:

    @Rich-

    That was indeed the motive for the assassination attempt against TR.

  235. joshuaism says:

    Ken, two questions:
    INAL, but doesn't an affirmative defense shift the burden of proof onto the defendant? Shouldn't it have been Zimmerman's responsibility to prove by a preponderance of the evidence (or something lower than beyond a reasonable doubt) that this killing was justified?

    If so, I just cannot see how he didn't get manslaughter. Was there really no other explanation of how Zimmerman got his injuries other than that he was jumped by surprise? I mean, for all I know Zimmerman could have tripped over a dead body and busted his face.

    Second question: Since the prosecutor is elected, could she have given a halfhearted effort to convict, knowing that 50% of her constituency (for whatever various reasons) supported George Zimmerman's acquittal?

  236. TM says:

    @dmh

    What evidence was thrown out that would have changed the outcome?

    Also this:

    The SYG law was poorly written and therefore taken advantage of.

    The SYG law was not at issue here at all. It was never invoked by the defense and the defendant explicitly waived his right to have an SYG hearing before the trial and avoid the trial completely.

  237. Clark says:

    @joshuaism

    INAL, but doesn't an affirmative defense shift the burden of proof onto the defendant?

    IANAL either, but I am a Google user.

    An affirmative defense is a complete or partial defense to a civil lawsuit or criminal procedure that affirms the complaint or charges but raises facts other than those alleged by the plaintiff or prosecutor which, if proven by the defendant, would defeat or reduce a claim even if the allegations alleged are all proven.

    Regarding your follow on point:

    Shouldn't it have been Zimmerman's responsibility to prove by a preponderance of the evidence (or something lower than beyond a reasonable doubt) that this killing was justified?

    I'm confused on many levels.

    1) does your use of the word "should" refer to the existing legal universe we are in, or are you asking if Ken agrees with you that we "should" be under a different legal regime?

    2) with or without an affirmative defense, under Anglo-American law, no, it is never the defendant's responsibility to prove that what he did was justified. Defendants are innocent until proven guilty. Why should Zimmerman have to prove anything? Why should you have to prove that you didn't murder a hooker this morning before breakfast? The State proposed to put Zimmerman in a cage for the rest of his life, so under our system of laws the State has to show that Zimmerman is – beyond a reasonable doubt – guilty of something so heinous that he belongs in a cage for the rest of his life.

  238. different Jess says:

    [Shane] The law abiding use guns to protect. If you see a CCW's gun (or a cop for that matter) then there will be instructions on what to do so as to not get shot.

    Did you actually pass a CCW course? If you aren't police, don't pull your gun until it's time to kill someone. A gun is not a rhetorical tool, and if you pull one on me or mine your bullshit "instructions" will exit your head, but not via your mouth.

  239. Manatee says:

    @Clark,

    I am confused. This quote you cited,

    An affirmative defense is a complete or partial defense to a civil lawsuit or criminal procedure that affirms the complaint or charges but raises facts other than those alleged by the plaintiff or prosecutor which, if proven by the defendant, would defeat or reduce a claim even if the allegations alleged are all proven.

    which I infer you agree with, seems at odds with this statement you made:

    with or without an affirmative defense, under Anglo-American law, no, it is never the defendant's responsibility to prove that what he did was justified. Defendants are innocent until proven guilty. Why should Zimmerman have to prove anything?

    I'll speak generally to Anglo-American law, as you call it, and not Florida law post-2005. I've already stated elsewhere that Florida law lowers the burden of proof for raising self-defense substantially, and that under FL law this shouldn't have even gone to trial. As your quote says, an affirmative defense is a defense that the defendant must raise and prove. Yes, the government must prove that you shot and killed a guy, beyond a reasonable doubt. That is as it should be. However, if your defense is, "yes, I shot and killed Fat Tony, but it was justified, because of X," then yes, you absolutely have to give some reason why it was justified, and to present some evidence to support your claims.

    Generally, your burden of proof is lower than the state's. In Florida, it's apparently pretty low with the "competent evidence" standard. In other states, it's usually higher, but not nearly as high as the state's "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard. I think, with someone's freedom or life at state, it's more than reasonable to hold the prosecutor, with all the resources of the state, to a higher standard than a citizen defendant. However, if you raise an affirmative defense, you absolutely have to justify your actions.

    How unreasonable would it be to let a defendant say, "I am not admitting that I shot Fat Tony, but assuming arguendo that I did, I raise the defenses of duress, necessity, mistake of fact, and the public interest defense. Oh, and mistake of law. And no, I'm not telling you what happened, hypothetically. Now you guys go prove to a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that my alleged shooting of Fat Tony isn't justified by one of those defense."

    I am a lawyer, but my last substantial experience with criminal law was volunteering at legal aid during school. I am speaking to how I think things should be, on principle, and what I hope the law generally is on the trial level. I'm sure Ken or someone with actual criminal trial experience will correct me soon if my statements are very far from how the law actually is.

    You are correct in one regard: A defendant never has to prove anything because nobody is forcing him to raise an affirmative action. He always has the option of denying he committed the act and hoping that the prosecution screws the pooch enough to fail to meet their burden of proof.

  240. James Pollock says:

    "with or without an affirmative defense, under Anglo-American law, no, it is never the defendant's responsibility to prove that what he did was justified."
    This is not correct. The state STARTS with a requirement to prove that the defendant, did, in fact, commit the act. In this case, the state had a fairly easy job of proving the requisite facts. 1) Zimmerman shot Martin, and 2) Martin died as a result. At that point, the affirmative defense of justification kicks in, which shifts the burden of proof; the defense must demonstrate that the elements of the defense are present. Apparently, under Florida law, at that point the burden shifts back to the prosecution to prove that the justification claimed was not.

    "Defendants are innocent until proven guilty."
    No, defendants are PRESUMED innocent, which is not at all the same thing.

    "Why should Zimmerman have to prove anything?"
    Because the state could prove that he killed another human being.

  241. Manatee says:

    @DifferentJess,

    The Florida CCP course is ridiculous deficient in that regard. Honestly, I learned more useful information in the drivers' safety course you take to get points off of your license or lower your insurance rates (mine included a make your own sundae bar.)

    Political, I think it's generally a great thing that the state isn't impossible substantial barriers to firearms ownership and use by law-abiding citizens. As someone who can't really shell out the money for a members-only range and routinely meets firearms enthusiasts from… a very wide range of backgrounds, I do worry a bit that there are many people in my state who happily exercise their right to carry a firearm without any sense of responsibility to do it with reasonable care.

    Just to give you an idea of marksmanship and firearms safety standards: Imperial Stormtrooper Academy > NYPD > Florida Conceal Carry

  242. Manatee says:

    Clarification: My drivers' safety course came with the sundae bar, not my conceal carry course.

  243. Clark says:

    @differentJess

    Did you actually pass a CCW course?

    I've passed several.

    If you aren't police, don't pull your gun until it's time to kill someone.

    Worst. Legal. Advice. Ever.

    If you had passed a CCW course you'd know that a gun is not tool to kill someone with; a gun is a tool to stop an attack.

    You don't shoot to kill; you shoot to stop the attack. If that shooting kills someone, so be it. If that shooting merely renders the other party injured enough to be unable to continue their attack, so be it.

    A gun is not a rhetorical tool

    Except it can be.

    A: "I'm going to come in your house and rape your wife."

    B: < pumps shotgun > "No you're not."

    Are you suggesting that it's smarter for B to kill A at this point? Or, by your standard, should B wait until A has begun the rape his wife?

    and if you pull one on me or mine your bullshit "instructions" will exit your head, but not via your mouth.

    Please consider yourself on Official Popehat Timeout. You're being borderline abusive to another commenter. Chill out.

  244. Manatee says:

    @James,

    From how I read it, after the 2005 amendment a defendant can introduce competent evidence of self-defense at a pretrial hearing, at which point further prosecution and investigation by law enforcement is forestalled, and civil and criminal liability attach. I'm not sure how that may have affected or changed the burdens of proof once a case goes to trial, since presumably nobody who can prove self-defense should ever go to trial in Florida, but from how the trial has gone, the burden does seem to be competent evidence from the defendant, at which case the state must disprove the defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

  245. Shane says:

    @James Pollock

    And yet you have still failed to answer the questions that I asked.

  246. Shane says:

    @AlphaCentauri

    Honestly Alpha if this hadn't blown up into full stupidity, GZ's defense team would been something different and in my opinion, less. Seems ironic.

  247. Dan Weber says:

    In nearly all states (not just wacky Florida), self-defense is not an affirmative defense. You claim it and the state must disprove it.

    I used to use SD as the example of affirmative defense, but I was wrong.

  248. Manatee says:

    @Clark,

    Perhaps what Jess means is that a gun is never ONLY a rhetorical. The act of brandishing a firearm at someone is in itself an assault. In your example, pumping your shotgun would meet all the elements of an assault in many jurisdictions (intentionally putting someone in reasonable fear of imminent battery or however it goes). Now, in your example it's also justified by the doctrine of defense of others, since rape is considered a lethal threat, but it's somewhat disingenuous to imply that pumping your shotgun was just two people having a talk.

    I've never had to use my gun in self-defense. Just knowing the kind of guy I am, if I ever do, I will most likely at least try to stop the threat with only the threat of shooting, if there's any way I can do so without endangering myself. But I'm not going to kid of myself–the fact that I might exercise mercy towards someone when I have every right to shoot him doesn't mean that pointing a gun at him is somehow just harmless rhetoric. As my dad taught me when I was ten or so, you never point a gun at something you're not willing to destroy.

  249. Manatee says:

    @Dan Weber,

    That's worrisome.

    @Clark,

    In light of Dan's comment, it seems you are correct and I am not about how the law actually stands in the U.S. I still assert that I hold a much more fair position on how things should be.

  250. Shane says:

    @different Jess

    Did you actually pass a CCW course?

    Yes. And not only did I just take the CCW course I took several other courses. I have also done a ton of research on violent confrontation.

    If you aren't police, don't pull your gun until it's time to kill someone.

    Well said. I advocate this.

    A gun is not a rhetorical tool.

    True, that is way I carry every day.

    and if you pull one on me or mine your bullshit "instructions" will exit your head, but not via your mouth.

    So this is some sort of Silverback display? Is it ok for you to make threats to other gun owners (assuming of course you have a gun which is what I infer from this statement), because you are afraid of people with guns?

    Your position is not wise, I suggest that you reconsider it.

  251. different Jess says:

    Clark, I recommend you talk to your CCW instructors again, because you missed some things. How about Cooper's Second Rule: Never aim your weapon at anything you don't intend to destroy. IF you aren't justified in using lethal force, THEN there must not be a lethal threat, THEREFORE you are guilty of brandishing or menacing or whatever it is in your area.

    Of course I don't recommend shooting through locked doors. However, if someone enters your house uninvited, particularly after threatening your family, very few jurisdictions would charge you for what you do in response. If hearing a round racked is enough to scare off the perp, as I expect it would be in most cases, that's great. But your home is your castle, and criminals know that. In general, using firearms rhetorically is a predictable source of mayhem and heartache, and that's why the law takes a dim view of that activity. If someone is doing something you don't like, but which does not threaten anyone's life, don't take the law into your own hands. You take 'em to court!

    Maybe my language is coarse, but I'm trying to convey something important: you shouldn't draw your weapon simply to lend weight to your opinions and instructions. The argument is not worth the potential loss of lives and freedom.

  252. Shane says:

    Ok Clark you are right on don't pull your gun until it's time to kill someone. I got ahead of myself.

    You shoot to stop, but that indeed may result in death. I was jumping ahead of the game, to the conclusion that most people make about using lethal force in the form of a gun.

  253. Manatee says:

    @dmh,

    When you talk about the "Stand Your Ground law," I assume you mean the 2005 Florida bill that amended a lot of Florida's self-defense laws, including but not limited to removing the duty to retreat?

    I don't think the law was "poorly written" necessarily. It was amended specifically to curb malicious prosecutions in clear cases of self-defense. Notwithstanding what I said to Clark regarding burden of proof, I think that when the state can clearly see that a case is self-defense, forcing the defendant through the motions of a trial is immoral and dickish. As it is written, it seems to do just that, limiting prosecutorial discretion in some circumstances, while also clarifying my of the finer points of self-defense for the average citizen.

    "Poorly written" implies that the law is vague or full of loopholes. It doesn't strike me as any worse or better than most Florida statutes in that regard. My central concern with the amendment was how low it set the burden of proof on raising self-defense–but that was a deliberate decision, and not the result of poor drafting.

  254. wfgodbold says:

    "My apologies. Perhap you believe it's an all or nothing argument?

    I don't think that's a winnable position is all, the government is against it."

    I don't think it's a winnable position at present, either. And yet it is my position.

    We have too much gun control as it is, and most of it was passed in response to moral panics. I see no reason to give in to another such panic in a misguided attempt to implement impossible to enforce universal background checks or ineffective "assault weapons" bans.

    Heller and McDonald were steps in the right direction, but the ill-defined "common use" standard and the presumption of constitutionality for long-standing gun control laws does not inspire confidence in the judicial branch regarding the NFA and GCA.

    I don't have anything against you, Dale. I'm glad that you're involved in the shooting sports.

    I just wish you didn't approve of more gun control than we already have.

  255. Clark says:

    @differentJess

    How about Cooper's Second Rule: Never aim your weapon at anything you don't intend to destroy. IF you aren't justified in using lethal force, THEN there must not be a lethal threat, THEREFORE you are guilty of brandishing or menacing or whatever it is in your area.

    You're moving the goal posts.

    First we were talking about removing a gun from a holster.

    Now we're talking about pointing a gun at a person.

    I'm willing to debate either point, but I'm not willing to debate a shifting stance.

    Of course I don't recommend shooting through locked doors. However, if someone enters your house uninvited, particularly after threatening your family, very few jurisdictions would charge you for what you do in response. If hearing a round racked is enough to scare off the perp, as I expect it would be in most cases, that's great.

    Now you're contradicting yourself. A moment ago a gun was only to be unholstered (or, I presume, removed from a gun rack) when "it's time to kill someone" (your words) and that a gun is "not a rhetorical tool".

    Now you're agreeing with me that a gun can be used even when you're not ready to kill someone, and that a gun can be used to – if I may – "inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations." I.e. it is a tool of rhetoric.

    In general, using firearms rhetorically

    Shifting goalposts. We've moved from "a gun is not a rhetorical tool" to speaking in generalities.

    is a predictable source of mayhem and heartache, and that's why the law takes a dim view of that activity.

    I don't know to what the phrase "that activity" refers.

    Maybe my language is coarse, but I'm trying to convey something important: you shouldn't draw your weapon simply to lend weight to your opinions and instructions.

    Has anyone argued otherwise?

  256. Ken White says:

    If this thread could continue without people attacking each other instead of stating their arguments, I would be so happy.

  257. different Jess says:

    Perhaps I misunderstood, Shane. In the two sentences I quoted, were you not telling us to obey the instructions of the guy with the gun? In general, I decline to do so, with exceptions for the lawful commands of police.

    Of course I'm not "threatening" you. For one thing, I don't know who you are or where you are. How could I utter a credible threat? Are you sure about passing that CCW course?

  258. James Pollock says:

    "A: "I'm going to come in your house and rape your wife."
    B: "No you're not."
    Are you suggesting that it's smarter for B to kill A at this point? Or, by your standard, should B wait until A has begun the rape his wife?"

    At this point, it's probably smarter for A to shoot B. Is that the desired outcome?

  259. Sam says:

    Little late to this party. Excellent article and the comments have been (more or less) productive. Here's my two cents, which I haven't really seen articulated anywhere else.

    I'm a 29 year old white male. Similar to a previous commenter, I, too, used to be a 17 year old boy. On the night of that fateful encounter a 29 year old man shot a 17 year old boy to death. Regardless of legal culpability, my personal code of morality involves a healthy dose of older community members protecting younger community members. Whether anyone cares to admit it or not, Zimmerman and Martin were members of the same community. And in my opinion, while both Martin and Zimmerman made equally damning mistakes that night, one had the benefit of 11 years more experience living and should have behaved as such. There is no excuse for killing an unarmed boy. And if your response to this is arguing about whether Martin was still a boy I suggest that is motivated by a desire to dehumanize him and make him the Other.

  260. James Pollock says:

    "And yet you have still failed to answer the questions that I asked."
    Or did, twice, and you didn't notice because the facts weren't what you wanted them to be?
    It's definitely one of those.

  261. Allen says:

    I've sat on a jury where a person was charged with a major crime.

    Everyone (prosecution, defense, and judge) tells you to go with the facts as presented. They don't tell you in a nice way either. It's a little like being read the riot act.

    Now as to the law the Judge will give you some leeway there and provide some help, but they also covered most of that in the trial.

    What ever you think went down between Zimmerman and Martin, it really doesn't matter. You still have to sell it to the jury. BTW they make very clear what reasonable doubt is.

  262. Shane says:

    @different Jess

    IF you aren't justified in using lethal force, THEN there must not be a lethal threat

    This is true. What is not true is that if there is a threat, and you have neutralized it, that you may continue to shoot.

    If hearing a round racked is enough to scare off the perp

    This is a dangerous myth.

    In general, using firearms rhetorically

    What do you mean by rhetorically? I don't understand why you keep using this word?

    you shouldn't draw your weapon simply to lend weight to your opinions and instructions

    If a police officer draws his weapon on you he gives you "instructions" on how to not get shot e.g. "Drop your weapon". If a criminal pulls a gun on you he gives you "instructions" on how to not get shot e.g. "Give me your wallet".

    I did not say opinions. I used the term instruction for a specific reason.

  263. Richard says:

    [The pro-Zimmerman camp treats his not-guilty as an exoneration — a finding that the killing was justified. The anti-Zimmerman camp, the same (but see it differently).
    I personally think Zimmerman is probably guilty of at least imperfect self-defense manslaughter (and I think the jury was looking for something like that based on their question), however, probably does not rise to the level of reasonable doubt.]

    I don't think that is actually right. So consider two scenarios.

    Your are charged with murder. The State says you killed the person and you respond that you were in no way involved with this murder. In this scenario the State and Defense are in disagreement over the very premise of the case. If you are found not guilty it could follow you are in fact guilty but the State could not produce the evidence to support a conviction.

    Now someone tries rob you and during a struggle you pull your legally carried pistol and shoot the robber. The State then charges you with murder stating that you weren't being robbed, rather you were instigated a fight and then shot the other person. You claim that that the person was robbing you and therefore you were acting in self-defense. In this scenario you have to admit to killing someone and then alleging self-defense as defense against the charge. In this scenario the basis premise is agreed to by both the State and the Defense, you shot the deceased person. Now the only way to avoid going to jail for a long time is convincing a jury that you acted in self-defense otherwise you would have no other choice but to convict the defendant. I would like that a not guilty verdict would clearly indicate the jury felt that George acted in self defense.

  264. Shane says:

    @James Pollock

    I don't know. You didn't present the facts, that is why I asked the questions.

  265. Hasdrubal says:

    The Volokh Conspiracy, as always does a great job of education.

    A lot of people here seem to feel that, if Zimmerman provoked Martin (by "stalking" or "confronting" him) that he is guilty of at least manslaughter. In 49 states (but possibly not Arkansas or DC) that is not the case. Self defense is still self defense even if you're an asshat and even if you do stupid things, as long as you don't actually endanger the other person. This seems reasonable to me, we should expect adults to be able to respond to words without resorting to violence. (For the "white privilege" people, note that the controlling case in Florida, Gibbs v. State, 789 So. 2d 443 (Fla. Ct. App. 2001) the defendant was a black woman who provoked a white woman into attacking her by responding to a racial epithet "with a racial slur and an obscene ‘mooning’ gesture," who then attacked her. The appellate court ruled that she did not provoke her attacker in the legal sense and did indeed have a right to defend herself.)

    http://www.volokh.com/2013/07/16/provocation-and-self-defense/

    There's a whole bunch of posts on how the Stand Your Ground outrage is inaccurate and inappropriate. http://www.volokh.com/2013/07/15/new-york-times-editorial-vs-news-analysis/ is the newest and includes both the instructions the jury received in the Zimmerman case and the instructions they would have received before 2005.

  266. Manatee says:

    @Sam,

    Trayvon Martin didn't look like he was on track to grow up to be a particularly decent adult, but he didn't deserve to die. George Zimmerman seems to be, by all accounts, an overaggressive dick, and his actions ultimately resulted in a needless death, but he doesn't deserve to go to jail under Florida law. To some people, trying to reconcile both of those positions is too much cognitive dissonance for them to handle, so like you say, they demonize Trayvon Martin, because if he didn't deserve to die, their support for Zimmerman would seem somehow wrong. Americans are a simple people in some respects, we don't always do well unless there's a clear good guy and a clear bad guy.

    Racism is certainly a factor for some people–it's come up basically every time I've been to the range in the last year. I don't think it's fair to say that it's the case for anywhere here, though. The man/boy distinction is again about victims and bad guys. When you're in your late teens, if you're ever the victim, you're a boy or a girl. If you're ever the perpetrator, you're a man or a woman.

  267. James Pollock says:

    "What do you mean by rhetorically? I don't understand…"
    Obviously.

    "If a police officer draws his weapon on you he gives you "instructions" on how to not get shot e.g. "Drop your weapon". If a criminal pulls a gun on you he gives you "instructions" on how to not get shot e.g. "Give me your wallet"."
    Which of these categories do you represent? (Since you seem to think these two are all there are, I mean.)

    "I don't know. You didn't present the facts, that is why I asked the questions."
    Or did, twice, and you wanted to argue with them both times. Neighborhood Watch programs are very specific about what they want members to do (summary: observe, then call the cops and tell them what you saw. And that's all.) They're also fairly clear about whether or not Neighborhood Watch members should be armed (summary: no). Both of these are stated clearly in the Neighborhood Watch manual thoughtfully provided for you.
    However, even in the absence of the actual manual, a moment's use of common sense would reveal that there could be no other reasonable option. If the Neighborhood Watch program were telling people to take action… any action… then the Neighborhood Watch program would be at least potentially liable for the actions of various members. The program is designed (by professional law enforcement agencies) to gather information, and only to gather information, useful in prosecuting criminals. The program is designed to prevent crime by providing the deterrent of "if you commit a crime in this neighborhood, you'll be caught". It is not designed to prevent crime by the deterrent of "if you try to commit a crime in this neighborhood, some random armed guy will confront you".
    From this, you got "so I'm just supposed to stand there and I can't move, ever?", from which I inferred poor comprehension skills on your part. The idea that it's as easy for you to get a gun permit as it was for me scares me a little bit, maybe even more than a little bit. Such is the price of freedom.

  268. Clark says:

    @JamesPollock

    "What do you mean by rhetorically? I don't understand…"

    Obviously.

    Reign it in, please, James.

  269. Clark says:

    @Manatee

    Trayvon Martin didn't look like he was on track to grow up to be a
    particularly decent adult, but he didn't deserve to die. George
    Zimmerman seems to be, by all accounts, an overaggressive dick,

    By all accounts? Really?

  270. Manatee says:

    I think we just have a semantics problem. It seems like DifferentJess and I were operating under the idea that "rhetorical device" implied something short of a threat of physical violence. Clark seems to be taking it as "anything that conveys a message," regardless of whether or not the message includes a threat.

    I think we all agree that displaying a gun in as a show of force to threaten or intimidate someone is an aggressive act (except when it's defensive, I suppose.) It doesn't really matter whether we chose to call this a act mere rhetorical device.

    Though I suppose if you want to nitpick, a gun CAN be used as a non-threatening rhetorical device if the message is, "Look at how pretty this gun is. Watch as we put five thousand rounds through without cleaning and without a single jam. Buy it now."

  271. Shane says:

    @James Pollock

    Which of these categories do you represent? (Since you seem to think these two are all there are, I mean.)

    Neither. And I only gave two for illustrative purposes.

    They're also fairly clear about whether or not Neighborhood Watch members should be armed (summary: no)

    This is merely an assertion.

    Both of these are stated clearly in the Neighborhood Watch manual thoughtfully provided for you.

    But never cited. So once again merely an assertion.

    The program is designed (by professional law enforcement agencies)

    But the linked .pdf is from the federal government.

    From this, you got "so I'm just supposed to stand there and I can't move, ever?", from which I inferred poor comprehension skills on your part.

    Nope. What you didn't get was that the part of the manual that you referenced doesn't state that you can not pursue. It simply states that you must not intervene.

    It is not designed to prevent crime by the deterrent of "if you try to commit a crime in this neighborhood, some random armed guy will confront you".

    So if I am a CHL then I can't carry my gun on a neighborhood watch patrol? I was waiting for a cite on that question, and you have still not provided it.

    The idea that it's as easy for you to get a gun permit as it was for me scares me a little bit, maybe even more than a little bit.

    Why is that? Because you are superior in your understanding of guns and violent conflict to me? Because you know me personally? The CCW training was not the only training that I have.

  272. Shane says:

    Ok, I am going to stop dumping gas on the fire.

  273. Dan Weber says:

    In fact, the neighborhood watch in Zimmerman's community prohibits watch people from being armed, while on patrol. (He was not on patrol that night.)

  274. Dictatortot says:

    I've lived in both the North and the South and this is exactly my experience.

    I'll never forget my & my wife's first trip up North after spending our entire lives in Georgia. At one crowded, elbow-to-elbow Boston subway stop, a black couple walked up, stopped next to us, and began waiting for the train as well. After a minute, though, I noticed that the crowd noises had changed somehow, and looked over my shoulder.

    We were the only people at the stop who hadn't backed one or two full paces away from the couple.

  275. different Jess says:

    But the linked .pdf is from the federal government.

  276. Manatee says:

    @Clark,

    My mistake. "By many accounts." Any thoughts on any of my other points? (It's been a slow day at work, i've made quite a few)

  277. 205guy says:

    Dale wrote: "I use my guns to hunt and put food on our table, along with the food we grow and raise, that allows us to eat on retirement incomes. Sorry if that make you less free."

    I probably should've qualified my statement about guns. It is the indiscriminate use of guns in an urban setting that bothers me. I actually agree with the second statement you made: "I don't have guns except to hunt… I'm against gun control only in that I don't believe ALL guns need to be banned, but I certainly have no problem with back ground checks and assault weapon bans."

    That's the model (of culture, of society, of behavior) that I saw in Europe, and it seems sensible to me: guns are essentially banned from everyday use, except for hunting and hunting practice (obviously, I'm generalizing over the many countries of Europe, and my info might be 5-10 years old, but that was the general impression I got). It's a huge and tenous exception, but it seems to hold. Some people who live in the country have guns for hunting. Almost nobody else owns or, more importantly, covets guns. The guns that are available for hunting are limited to reasonable calibers for hunting, but not even highly regulated: I think you just need your hunting license to own one, no special gun permit. I believe sales of guns and ammo are highly regulated–no WalMart gun counter and definitely no gun shows. I believe there are a few handguns that aficionados (mostly retired military or police) use for target practice, but both handguns and target ranges are highly regulated (more like a CCW).

    There is still some gun violence in Europe. Every now and then a hunter (or someone who pretended to be) uses his gun to kill people, usually in a feud with family or neighbors. I knew someone whose dog was shot on purpose by hunters. Then there is some organized crime and bank heists and political terrorism that involve guns, obviously the illegal kind. But if you get mugged, it'll be with a knife. If gangs fight in the street, they'll throw Molotov cocktails at each other (or at police). Some punks probably wish they had guns, but they can't practically get them. The mentality of society as a whole that I observed in Europe was that handguns beget violence, and so why would we want that?

    The Martin shooting is just one example of the everyday gun violence in the US. Violence that is directly caused by the proliferation of handguns in urban settings. Z wouldn't go swaggering out of his car and getting into fights if he didn't feel confident because of his gun.

    More importantly, I want to leave the gun debate in the background (as if that were possible). Can someone explain to me the desire seen on this board (and everywhere else in the US) to debate the finer points of brandishing deadly weapons and killing people (out of necessity, usually)? And sorry to pick on the following commenters, because some of you made sensible non-gun-related arguments as well:

    different Jess wrote (and already got called out for): "A gun is not a rhetorical tool, and if you pull one on me or mine your bullshit "instructions" will exit your head, but not via your mouth."

    Clark wrote: "A: "I'm going to come in your house and rape your wife."
    B: "No you're not.""

    James Pollack wrote: "At this point, it's probably smarter for A to shoot B. Is that the desired outcome?"

    Is it fear? Is it fascination? Is it mature? Is it civilized? It seems like a vicious cycle: fear and violence beget guns and gun culture, guns beget violence and fear.

  278. Dale says:

    "I just wish you didn't approve of more gun control than we already have."

    We are closer than you think in our positions on this issue. I don't approve of more gun control, I'm just resigned to the fact that it will happen whether I want it to or not. Back ground check and assualt weapons bans are two things I can live with if something HAS to be done as the government is asserting.

  279. Shane says:

    @205guy

    For many in America guns represent independence. This might be hard for someone outside to understand. We value our independence and our freedom to act. We value our freedom to question. We don't generally act in groups. And we distrust collections of power. The individual is king here, and it is funny that many in other parts of the world want what we have but they sacrifice the individual to attain it, thus negating it. The Bill of Rights enshrines our belief that the individual when left to his own devices is superior to the collective. Not all Americans believe us and want the US to move more to a European style governments. This is were the conflict comes from. The sad truth is that the US can never achieve European style governments because there will always be someone who will use the cover of individualism to destroy any collective unity through corruption or fraud.

    Maybe that helps, I am sure others will comment.

  280. Shane says:

    @Dan Weber

    Do you have a cite for that? There are a list of places that are off limits that are delimited in the CCW coarse, but that doesn't seem to be one of them. Texas may be different so I don't know.

  281. 205guy says:

    Facts&LawsTrumpFeelings wrote: "@205guy I find it odd that you are disgusted with facts and laws."

    Hmmm, that's odd because I said I was disgusted with "all the people defending Zimmerman for essentially racist reasons." It was implied that I was talking about this comment thread. Also, I see that our host Ken pretty much agreed with the assessment that some comments were racist.

    Though I will grant you that it was implied through the rest of my comment that I am disgusted with the facts of violence in society and the laws and attitudes that enable it.

    Facts&LawsTrumpFeelings wrote: "The law may be flawed and the facts may be distasteful to your personal sensibilities, but I find your Dunning-Krueger level pontification more deserving of disgust."

    I had to look that one up. Yes, I am ignorant and I don't express myself very well. But wait, what an odd sentence of yours–let's parse it. You essentially said, I am allowed to have distate but not disgust at facts and laws that have a negative impact on society. Yet bad rhetoric on a comment thread late at night is deserving of disgust. Isn't that called a strawman when you hold up a bogus argument such as what is deserving of disgust, and ignore the actual argument (repeated here with no reduction in bombast or pontification):

    How free are you when the state sanctions your death-by-vigilante just because you're walking around your neighborhood?

  282. Manatee says:

    @205guy,

    I think part of it is, as you say, because there is so much violence in general, and gun violence in particular, these aren't abstract issues to us. There's a non-negligible chance that one of us or someone we care about will be put in real danger at some point in our lives, and we want to be able to defend ourselves, if need be, without being put in jail or put through a ruinous criminal trial. (On that note, a lot of us here are familiar enough with the court system to know how ruinous trials can be, even if you're not guilty.) At the same time, some of us are worried about a system that promotes a sense of hyper-vigilance, or permits oversensitive people to create that very threat by responding to completely innocent, reasonable behavior as if it were life-threatening danger.

    My personal dog in this is that I've been pretty heavily involved in martial arts and firearms, and I know more than a few people who have been affected in some way by this issue. One person I knew from my childhood went to jail for a bar fight someone else started, because he was bigger than the guy who punched him first and because he was in the military. I also belong to a small minority community that seems to have outsize history of being shot while unarmed by the police (not that such incidents haven't been pretty widely distributed lately. Must be affirmative action at work). So when I decide whether to carry a concealed weapon, I have to make a conscious decision to balance two risks. First, the chances that some criminal will threaten my life, and I will be hurt or killed because I didn't have a gun to protect me. Second, the chances that some concerned citizen or poorly trained police officer shoots me in the back because my shirt rode up on me. A slightly less important consideration is of course the chances that someone manages to kill me anyway, and finding my gun on my body, holstered, unfired, and completely hidden from view, is somehow used as an ad hoc justification.

  283. Xenocles says:

    @dJess-

    "How about Cooper's Second Rule: Never aim your weapon at anything you don't intend to destroy."

    The rule is "Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy." Clark's suggestion of pointing a gun at a rapist but not firing is perfectly within that rule.

  284. AlphaCentauri says:

    I'd love to gather together all the instructors from the various CCW courses you've all taken and have them come to unity on what the correct rules are. That would be worth the price of admission, it seems. ;)

  285. Xenocles says:

    For what it's worth if we appoint Google as a judge my version wins pretty handily.

  286. perlhaqr says:

    Sam: And in my opinion, while both Martin and Zimmerman made equally damning mistakes that night, one had the benefit of 11 years more experience living and should have behaved as such. There is no excuse for killing an unarmed boy. And if your response to this is arguing about whether Martin was still a boy I suggest that is motivated by a desire to dehumanize him and make him the Other.

    I'll take these in reverse order.

    Calling Trayvon Martin "a young man" rather than "a boy" at 17 is an effort to dehumanize him? Hardly. It's an effort to point out that he was (at least notionally) a person, and as such, capable of being responsible for himself.

    At the age of 12, I was larger than both Zimmerman and Martin. (That is, I was taller than Martin, and heavier than Zimmerman.) When I was 13, I had to shave off a full beard for my 8th grade graduation. I was mistaken for the instructor by the rest of the class on my first day of high school. Let there be no doubt in your mind that even though I was more of a "boy" than Martin was at 17, when I was 12, I was still perfectly capable of causing a great deal of harm, "unarmed".

    Which isn't to say that I agree with your claim that Martin even was unarmed, on two points. First, if Martin had been kneeling over Zimmerman and picked up a piece of concrete, there would be no question that he was now armed with a blunt object. Hitting someone in the head with a piece of concrete is not significantly different from hitting someones head against a piece of concrete. Second, Zimmerman testified that Martin saw his concealed firearm, and reached for it. As any of the CCW holders in this thread should be able to confirm for you, when someone goes for your weapon, they most likely mean to kill you with it.

    And finally, yes, both of them made mistakes that night. But Zimmerman's mistake was in getting out of his truck to walk into the dark to follow Martin. Martin's mistake was following Zimmerman once he was leaving, and attacking him. These are not errors of equal magnitude.

  287. perlhaqr says:

    Damnit, last line, third paragraph should read: "It's an effort to point out that he was (at least notionally) a rational person, and as such, capable of being responsible for himself."

  288. Manatee says:

    @perlhaqr,

    I disagreed with Sam and already stated why, but his position isn't exactly an ass-pull. Spend some time reading more partisan papers, or hold your nose and dive into a happy white-supremacist forum, and you'll notice exactly that phenomenon.

    Also, hitting someone with a piece of concrete is fairly different from hitting them on top of concrete for two reasons. First, I'm pretty sure you can get much greater acceleration and hit with greater force. That said, I'm sure either is enough to be fatal. To me the more important distinction is intent. If you pick up a piece of concrete, it's safe to say you intend to kill me, and I'd have no trouble shooting you, in pretty much any context. If, on the other hand, we're struggling on the ground, and you manage to get on top of me, you'd be in a position to smash my head against the ground, but if you did nothing, I'd still be in a position (albeit at a disadvantage) to defend myself pretty effectively. The danger to my brain is the same, but in this case, your actions don't imply that you made a deliberate choice to kill me, and suddenly context matters much more.

    Also, you're absolutely right, once you're in close range, you have to be aware that you're no longer the only person who can use your gun. It's why I was taught (again by my dad, and not by Florida's deficient conceal carry courses) that when you're carrying a weapon, you no longer have the luxury of getting into fights, and your first job is always avoiding trouble and deescalating any trouble you find yourself in.

  289. Bea says:

    I will never answer the question which Zimmerman was asked, "Is he white, Hispanic or Black?" I will refuse to answer on the grounds that by answering a direct question by a non-emergency dispatcher, that the Federal government will hunt me down like an animal. George Zimmerman was the model neighbor. He took a black girl to the prom. He was tutoring black children at the time of the crime. Both his black neighbors said that not only was he not a racist, that he had been the only one in the neighborhood to come over and introduce himself when they moved in, and offer his help. Zimmerman grew up for 6 years when he was young with black children living in his household. Zimmerman made a personal intervention to get justice for a black homeless man Mr. Ware, who had been beaten by the son of a cop. George organized people to get justice for him. The list goes on and on that his man, an altar boy for 8 years a nobel person trying to make a difference in a neighborhood which had seen 9 break-ins and one home invasion in the past few months. So when the dispatcher DARED ask him a simple question giving him the 3 options, White, Hispanic or Black, – ONLY then did George say – 2 minutes into the conversation, "He Looks Black." NBC is going to get their pants sued off for doctoring the tape by taking out the dispatcher's question. Shame on this author for saying he didn't follow the trial, then smearing George Zimmerman who had a right to defend his life in self defense, at the hands of a thug.

  290. James Pollock says:

    "Hitting someone in the head with a piece of concrete is not significantly different from hitting someones head against a piece of concrete."
    I disagree. If someone's shoulders are pinned to the ground, you can move their head, what maybe six inches away from the ground? Conversely, a piece of concrete in the hand gives you an unrestrained swing of perhaps 10 feet on a moment arm of about 3 feet. The physics say those are going to cause substantially different degrees of damage. Both will hurt, of course, but the odds of being killed by one are not the same as the odds of being killed by the other.
    They aren't even the same thing legally, otherwise, knocking someone to the ground would always be an assault with a blunt weapon.

  291. James Pollock says:

    "The program is designed (by professional law enforcement agencies)
    But the linked .pdf is from the federal government."

    Unclear on the difference between "written by" and "published by"?

    "They're also fairly clear about whether or not Neighborhood Watch members should be armed (summary: no)
    This is merely an assertion."
    An assertion backed by fact, and also common sense.

    "Both of these are stated clearly in the Neighborhood Watch manual thoughtfully provided for you.
    But never cited. So once again merely an assertion."
    So, you're unable to read the document cited? Or just unaware of what "cited" means?

  292. Bea says:

    Why did Trayvon come back to confront Zimmerman- twice? Once after Zimmerman was parked in the corner, and Trayvon came out of the shadows from the direction of Brandi's house to completely circle his car? George rolled up the window because he "didn't want to confront him." Trayvon ran off the second time. George crossed over the T and didn't follow Trayvon – and Trayvon was no longer anywhere near the T. When George told the dispatcher, "I can't find an address, just have them meet me back at the car," George headed back to his car – and teh ONLY way back to the car was to cross the Top of the T. Trayvon attacked George at The T. Only one person had a logical reason for going back to the T intersection. – George, who was headed back to his car. Trayvon obviously came back to confront him.

  293. Manatee says:

    "NBC is going to get their pants sued off for doctoring the tape by taking out the dispatcher's question."

    They should be. They probably won't be. News organizations are allowed to edit. Sometimes they "edit" by omitting certain key information in such a way that, were they selling something, they'd probably face charges of fraud. I can't think of any major suits that succeeded.

    Then again, Shirley Sharrod's libel suit against Breitbart.com for doing something similar survived an anti-SLAPP motion last I heard, so maybe the courts are now willing to entertain the idea than partial truth without context can be no better than a lie.

  294. James Pollock says:

    "So if I am a CHL then I can't carry my gun on a neighborhood watch patrol?"
    That would be between you and your Neighborhood Watch.

    "I was waiting for a cite on that question, and you have still not provided it."
    For the fourth time, the citation is See, generally, Neighborhood Watch manual. If you're IN a Neighborhood Watch, didn't they give you one? What does YOURS say?

    "The idea that it's as easy for you to get a gun permit as it was for me scares me a little bit, maybe even more than a little bit.
    Why is that? Because you are superior in your understanding of guns and violent conflict to me? Because you know me personally? The CCW training was not the only training that I have."
    Because you seem to struggle with understanding simple concepts which are spelled out in fairly simple terms, and refusal to admit that facts are not as you prefer, combined with a failure of common sense.

    If you want to strap on and go looking for bad guys, I neither have ability nor interest in stopping you.
    But I won't be surprised, or saddened, to hear that you ran into more trouble than you could handle after you went looking for it.
    (Regardless of what training you have.)

    In this case, Martin was not armed and yet still (according to Zimmerman's story) achieved a complete tactical surprise and would have completely subdued Zimmerman had Zimmerman not been the only one with a gun.
    Now that all the nation's young Martins know they'd better be strapped every time they go outside, what're the odds that the next time this happens, it's not the kid who ends up dead?

  295. Clark says:

    @wfgodbold

    I don't think it's a winnable position at present, either. And yet it is my position.

    I like the cut of your jib.

    @205guy

    It is the indiscriminate use of guns in an urban setting that bothers me.

    This is a strawman; no one has ever argued that "indiscriminate use of guns in an urban setting" is a good idea.

    fear and violence beget guns and gun culture, guns beget violence and fear.

    This is grade A liberal arts pop psychology.

    And it is nonsense.

    Violence has a very simple regression analysis. The vast majority of it is caused by the war on drugs and by a small percentage of low-IQ, short-time horizon individuals.

    As much as I'm against the police state, one of the reasons that violent crime has fallen over recent decades is because we've been locking up a lot of the criminal 5%. Often for things that should not be crimes, true, but none-the-less, you take violent people off the street, and violent crime falls.

    @Shane

    For many in America guns represent independence.

    Which is one large reason, I suggest, that certain psychographics are so against civilian gun ownership. The idea of independence (characterized as "reckless individualism", "anti social types", "autistic libertarians", etc.) is anathema to them.

    @Xenocles

    @dJess-

    "How about Cooper's Second Rule: Never aim your weapon at anything you don't intend to destroy."

    The rule is "Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy." Clark's suggestion of pointing a gun at a rapist but not firing is perfectly within that rule.

    Thank you.

    And, for the record, I wasn't even arguing in pointing a gun at a would-be rapist; I was merely defending drawing from a holster.

    @James Pollock

    "Hitting someone in the head with a piece of concrete is not significantly different from hitting someones head against a piece of concrete."
    I disagree. If someone's shoulders are pinned to the ground, you can move their head, what maybe six inches away from the ground?

    Ayoob had a reasonable point, but James Pollock wins the physics major award on this one.

    @Manatee:

    "NBC is going to get their pants sued off for doctoring the tape by taking out the dispatcher's question."

    They should be. They probably won't be. News organizations are allowed to edit. Sometimes they "edit" by omitting certain key information

    Indeed.

    See also Westmoreland v. CBS

  296. leo marvin says:

    @Richard

    Now the only way to avoid going to jail for a long time is convincing a jury that you acted in self-defense otherwise you would have no other choice but to convict the defendant.

    The only way to avoid going to jail is for the prosecutor not to convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that you didn't act in self-defense.

    I would like [to think?] that a not guilty verdict would clearly indicate the jury felt that George acted in self defense

    The not guilty verdict indicates the jury wasn't persuaded beyond a reasonable doubt that George didn't act in self-defense.

  297. 205guy says:

    Clark wrote: "I can understand how people acting in certain ways can make you less free, but how can people believing and wanting things make you less free?"

    I never said that people believing things makes me less free. I said people wanting guns and condoning all sorts of violence makes me less free. When people want things that they have the power and ability to attain or accept the status quo, say through majority vote, enactment of laws, and selective prosecution, then those things can impinge on theoretical freedoms I believe I (and everyone) could have if that majority didn't want, condone, and enact. Another example might be Jim Crow laws.

    Obviously, we need to distinguish between beliefs that are actionable (and can become wants and perhaps reality) and those that aren't. If I believe the tooth fairy is real and you don't, we can't really impinge on each other's freedom, unless I manage to enact a national mandatory tooth fairy tax.

    Clark wrote: "If my freedom depends on what's in everyone else's heads, and your similarly, then there is no logical or possible way that any of us could ever be free."

    Indeed, and I believe this is another fundamental paradox. I believe guns cause a certain loss of freedom and should be much better regulated. Others believe guns beget freedom and should be much more available. These beliefs are mutually exclusive and only one of these beliefs can be enacted in practice at a time[*]. My point is that the status quo on guns (and I believe violence) is based on a belief, not a fundamental truth, and that there are alternate beliefs out there.

    I wrote: "totally flawed logic such as "Trayvon had no injuries (besides the bullet wound) anywhere but on his knuckles which proves that Zimmerman did not attack him"," and Clark wrote: "What's the logical flaw there?

    I believe I gave an example a few paragraphs later: what if Z threw the first punch, but M successfully dodged, ducked, or parried it. He would have no injury from such an action, yet that would be defined as "Z attacked M," which is contrary to what was asserted as proven. QED.

    Unharmed, M would then have what options: run away and hope Z didn't catch up with him? Fight back and hope to incapacitate his attacker? If he could think about them, what would've been his legal options at that time: self-defense or not? Use of deadly force or not?

    [*] Please note that I am not a "ban-all-guns" zealot. As noted in another comment I support the rights of hunters to hunt with guns. It's the handguns in urban and suburban settings ("for personal defense") that I oppose (and that still clashes with the status quo). Further, I don't actually believe in banning guns per se, so much as making people realize they and their community aren't more free or more safe with guns. Change through changing attitudes. And yeah, I know, not gonna happen in America in my lifetime.

  298. Steven H. says:

    @205guy:

    "Unharmed, M would then have what options: run away and hope Z didn't catch up with him?"

    Well, considering that Z was overweight old guy and M was athletic kid, running like hell would seem to make sense.

  299. Manatee says:

    @Clark,

    Thanks for that link, I'd never heard of that case before. Even for a public figure, part of me wonders how you would justify seeking valuing your reputation at $120M. The other part wonders how you could ever discourage such a huge corporation unless you grossly overvalue reputation like that.

  300. 205guy says:

    Manatee wrote: "when you're carrying a weapon, you no longer have the luxury of getting into fights, and your first job is always avoiding trouble and deescalating any trouble you find yourself in."

    That's what I'm talking about. Though "luxury" isn't the word I would use, nor is it a "freedom," I would call it a moral imperative and obligation to society (your community if you will).

    James Pollack wrote: "Now that all the nation's young Martins know they'd better be strapped every time they go outside, what're the odds that the next time this happens, it's not the kid who ends up dead?"

    This is also what I'm talking about. Escalation of guns and violence (yeah, I know, I'm being stereotypically shrill about it). How did Z's actions (carrying a gun, driving around, AND getting out of the car to "look for" suspicious people) help his community? I wonder if property values have gone up or down in that neighborhood.

    wfgodbold wrote: "I don't think it's a winnable position at present, either. And yet it is my position." And Clark replied: "I like the cut of your jib."

    Now, now, let's not play favorites here. If I said "I don't think a turn-around of the gun mentality in the US is a winnable position, and yet it is my position," would you like me better?

    Clark wrote: "no one has ever argued that "indiscriminate use of guns in an urban setting" is a good idea."

    That's because you see weak CCW training and requirements, people with guns on the street, reckless behavior, and acquittal of manslaughter by gun all as exercises in good judgement. I believe the current situation can be described as indiscriminate due to weak background checks, loopholes for gun shows, etc. Actually, I think that just the fact that people want and can have guns not for hunting (in the wilderness) is indiscriminate. It will always result in situations like this, not to mention killings in lots of other situations.

    I wrote "fear and violence beget guns and gun culture, guns beget violence and fear," to which Clark replied: "This is grade A liberal arts pop psychology. And it is nonsense."

    Hmm. It is admittedly a simplification, a base appeal to emotion, and I'm sure you can offer studies to disprove it. Yet I find it to be good summary of the situation (just look at the comments on this thread) and that you only have weak arguments to refute.

    Clark wrote: "Violence has a very simple regression analysis. The vast majority of it is caused by the war on drugs and by a small percentage of low-IQ, short-time horizon individuals."

    And how is that not deemed right-wing pop psychology by the same brush?

    Clark wrote: " The idea of independence (characterized as "reckless individualism", "anti social types", "autistic libertarians", etc.) is anathema to [people against gun ownership]."

    Wow, so that is how you think your opponents see you? You're on a roll with the stereotypes, and I would add "irrationally paranoid" but then you'll say I'm personally attacking you and you'll put me in timeout.

    I liked Shane's tone a lot better, and I think he was trying to describe the opposing viewpoint, but it still deserves dissection: "For many in America guns represent independence. This might be hard for someone outside to understand."

    I think it is hard for certain Americans to understand. I'm sure pro-gun advocates feel that way, but is that a historically valid analogy in the American psyche or a recent revision of our history? When I think of guns, I think of muskets during the US revolution, the 2nd amendment, the frontier (Ohio to California), cowboys (and Indians), gangsters, WW2&Vietnam, the NRA, gang violence, and recent Tea Partiers. When I think of independence, I think of George Washington, the Bill of Rights, Manifest Destiny, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil war, the Statue of Liberty, immigrants, women's suffrage, civil rights, and fireworks every 4th of July. Those topics only really converge briefly during the American Revolution and then again during westward expansion. The latter is the key: settlers and Indian relocation; wild west and guns; cowboys and Indians. Ironically, the frontier is where the rule of law was the weakest and might made right. My interpretation is that parts of America are in deep nostalgia for the days when they could go take somebody else's land by force (backed by their guns).

    Shane continues: "We value our independence and our freedom to act. We value our freedom to question."

    And these have what connection to guns?

    Shane continues: "We don't generally act in groups. And we distrust collections of power. The individual is king here…"

    The choice of the word "king" is so ironic here. Independence from the king, so we can become kings of our own little kingdoms. None of that republic or democracy stuff for us, no rule of law, no matter what the constitution says. Private property kingdoms, gated neighborhoods and guns to protect them uber allles (oops, sorry to get carried away there =).

    Shane continues: "…and it is funny that many in other parts of the world want what we have but they sacrifice the individual to attain it, thus negating it."

    It is true that people in other countries pine for some of the freedoms that Americans have. It does not mean that they pine for all of them, or the exact same model. Nor do they "sacrifice" the individual, unless you mean the idea that everyone can be their own little king in their own little kingdom. Believe it or not, it is possible to have individual freedoms protected by a social construct that guarantees the most freedoms for everyone and perpetuates the social contract. At least I still think it's possible by combining the best ideas from different societies.

    Shane continues: "The Bill of Rights enshrines our belief that the individual when left to his own devices is superior to the collective. Not all Americans believe us and want the US to move more to a European style governments. This is were the conflict comes from."

    I don't see the Bill of Rights as an expression of the individual vs the collective, whatever that is. It is generally believed to be a limitation on government powers. It is you who are equating government with collective. Government could be an ambitious and tyrannical President, or it could be an oligargy of powerful corporations operating behind the scenes. It is clear that certain American have an irrational fear of something they view as a collective, European-style government, socialism, or communism. I'm not saying those are good or bad ways of doing thing (in fact all ways can be good or bad depending on how they are implemented), just that they have become the "other" to be shunned and opposed. I think it is time for Americans to hold 2 opposing views in their heads at the same time and not have their brains explode.

    Shane continues: "The sad truth is that the US can never achieve European style governments because there will always be someone who will use the cover of individualism to destroy any collective unity through corruption or fraud."

    I'm not as pessimistic about that, though I believe the hump of individualism will be difficult to overcome. Fortunately, it is by definition fragmented and susceptible to education.

    Clark wrote: "As much as I'm against the police state, one of the reasons that violent crime has fallen over recent decades is because we've been locking up a lot of the criminal 5%. Often for things that should not be crimes, true, but none-the-less, you take violent people off the street, and violent crime falls."

    So you're essentially saying you'll protect your own right to guns (because hey, they don't lead to violence and anyways, we have other ways of dealing with violence) over somebody else's right to a fair trial and legitimate laws? Bravo, glad we have that out in the open.

    But what if I told you you could have both? Again, look to Europe (I didn't say become Europe or become socialist or anything else–and I'm well aware that they have a ton of other problems). I'm just saying look, it is possible to have other attitudes towards guns. And I'm pretty convinced those other attitudes are healthier for individuals, for communities, and for countries.

  301. Trent says:

    As much as I'm against the police state, one of the reasons that violent crime has fallen over recent decades is because we've been locking up a lot of the criminal 5%. Often for things that should not be crimes, true, but none-the-less, you take violent people off the street, and violent crime falls.

    Although in general I disagree a lot with what you say, in this particular instance I don't but I thought I would point out one thing you may not be aware of. There have been several research papers that have indicated a strong correlation between the regulation of lead (in particular in gasoline and paint) and the drop in crime rates. Lead is an insidious poison to the brain and other studies have shown a link between violent behavior and childhood lead exposure.

    The Millennial generation had little childhood exposure to lead paint and depending on age, little to no exposure to air pollution contaminated by leaded gas emissions and their crime rates per capita are some of the lowest for any generation in the history of the US. Up until this generation Lead was an essentially unregulated industrial metal used throughout society and much of recorded history all the way back to the Romans (who made dinner plates and Wine Jugs out it).

    And not just violence there is a weak correlation between lead and other conditions like certain forms of mental illness. Research has shown that childhood exposure to lead results in chemical changes in the brain. It will be interesting if crime rates continue to fall as those with childhood exposure to lead continue to decline in number even if something like the war on drugs (or the war on people as I like to call it) is terminated and prison populations are wound down.

  302. grouch says:


    When I think of independence, I think of George Washington, the Bill of Rights, Manifest Destiny, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil war, the Statue of Liberty, immigrants, women's suffrage, civil rights, and fireworks every 4th of July.
    – 205guy

    I'll just pick the low-hanging fruit here…
    *George Washington — lots of guns aimed at agents of a tyrant
    *Civil Rights movement — it was not just the non-violent followers of Dr. Martin Luther King, there were also some armed black Muslims and some armed black deacons who made it clear there would be consequences and repercussions for attacks on their communities
    *fireworks on the 4th of July — a reminder that we've dealt harshly with tyranny in the past


    Shane continues:

    "We value our independence and our freedom to act. We value our freedom to question."


    And these have what connection to guns?
    – 205guy

    See above.

    Oh, by the way, for your entertainment:

    On this Thanksgiving Day, let me say this: God Bless America the only country on this shitty planet where you still have the freedom to build AKs in defense of Motherland! The only country where a shit shovel can become an awesome weapon of death and destruction.

    Please be aware that hiding in your garage, there may be dozens of Killy, high-clip-capacitated, school-penetrating, children-hating, Assault Weapons of mAss Destruction! Please send this message to all your libtard friends to make sure that they call 911 when they encounter anything that looks like a shovel. Thousands of hardware and home improvement stores are selling AKs through the "shovel" loophole to anyone!

    DIY: Shovel AK – photo tsunami warning!

    I don't agree with the guy's use of the term "libtard" and some other epithets, but I admire his workmanship. Besides, it's still almost a free country; he should be defended while exercising his right to be as nutty as any of the rest of us. I'd share a foxhole with him if it came to that.

  303. Anony Mouse says:

    @Dan Weber

    In nearly all states (not just wacky Florida), self-defense is not an affirmative defense. You claim it and the state must disprove it.

    I used to use SD as the example of affirmative defense, but I was wrong.

    It's been a decade or so since my last CJ class, but I believe Michigan would be an example you could use. I'm pretty sure self-defense is affirmative, just like insanity and "hot blood".

  304. Eddie says:

    I'm hoping a lawyer with trial experience can answer a question I've had about the prosecution's presentation of the case. In his written statement about the moment his encounter with Martin escalated from verbal to physical, Zimmerman wrote "As I looked and tried to find my cell phone to dial 911 the suspect punched me in the face."

    This seemed to me like something the prosecution could have used to connect the dot: between "Martin approaches Zimmerman to find out why he was following him and was now waiting to intercept him" and the dot: "Martin and Zimmerman are in a fight that Zimmerman is losing." Martin believed Zimmerman was reaching for a weapon — a reasonable belief, given the circumstances, even if Zimmerman hadn't actually had a gun.

    I kept expecting the prosecution to bring this point to bear, at least in their closing arguments — initially, Zimmerman admitted that it was his own action that precipitated the physical confrontation, but after a bit of reflection, he realized that it so utterly trashed his claim to have been acting in self-defense, he needed to make up different versions that sounded better — but, nothing.

    I figure there must be some legal or strategic reason the prosecution didn't do this, or that its just far less relevant to the issue than I seems to me. What am I missing, misunderstanding, or am just plain ignorant about?

    I am not any kind of a lawyer, but by that narrative Martin clearly started the fight. If you concede that Martin started the fight, even because he was mistakenly defending himself, you lose the whole narrative of 'he was hunted down and shot because of his race or a profile' or anything else.

    The state was aiming for Murder 2, killed due to spite/malice/ill will. Even if you claim Martin saw the gun and punched him because of that, you still cannot, I believe, get murder 2 out of that. In fact, if you concede that Martin struck him first and he wasn't threatening Martin with the gun, you have pretty much joined all the dots to self defence.

  305. Eddie says:

    Since Zimmerman really was stalking Martin, wasn't Martin justified in using force, in light of the stand-your-ground law? Seems like both had a legit claim to self-defense, even missing Martin's version of events. Which seems like a problem esp. in a land where carry is common.

    We had an incident of a semi-accidental or impulsive shooting here in the county where a landowner was injecting himself into some rowdy behavior among some people … judge said they guy "brought a gun to a fist fight", guilty (assault, as I remember) as charged.

    Maybe. If you believe Martin was at his father's house when Dee Dee says he told her he was, then the legal theory may have issues. Stand your ground means you do not have to retreat, but if you do retreat I don't think you can return to the conflict and still claim it.

  306. Eddie says:

    @HarryM

    @AL: if Z had indeed stopped following M at that point, I don't see how they would have met. As far as I can see, Z had no other purpose for being where the incident occurred other than following M; have you seen an alternative explanation?

    Have you looked at any maps of the area. The altercation happened within 100m of where the truck was parked. In a straight line. If, as he claimed, he walked through to the next street (still in a straight line) looking for an address, then he ends up at that T on the way back.

    In fact there isn't another good explanation really, because otherwise you have him standing around for the rest of the conversation, then standing around for another 4 minutes at that T. If he followed, tracked or anything else Martin, then the fight doesn't occur there, it occurs closer to M's house.

    @Erbo: was any evidence presented that M did actually double back? The most likely scenario, to my mind, is that he hid, either because he wanted a fight or because he was scared and didn't think he could find his father's apartment while running from a potential attacker. (I don't see any way to tell which.)

    Yet again the maps give you a topology. Martin being lost is pretty much out of the question, as there are two streets and two rows of houses with a path between them. There are no houses beyond he T where the altercation started. So Martin being lost really doesn't cut it. Even if he failed to identify the house in the dark, he should be at the other end of the houses, not up at the T junction.

    Add Jeantel's testimony that Martin told him he was out back of his father's place, and no, nothing apart form him deliberately going back to confront Zimmerman holds much water.

    @C. S. P. Schofield: I haven't heard a claim that M was in other people's yards – except that he may have hidden in one, which IMO would be a reasonable response if you think you are being stalked. Do you have a reference?

    The implication was at the start of the non emergency call Zimmerman made, when he said there was a person acting strangely, checking out peoples houses and yards in the pouring rain. Looking at the maps yet again, people in that estate don't really have defined yards, especially in the area where the fight and shooting happened. In the satellite photos I have seen while you could hide in the gaps between buildings, there are no yard structures or boundaries to hide with.

    @AlphaCentauri: quite. The other thing most people seem to be overlooking is that Z's testimony suggests that M was – if not actually lost – then at a minimum having difficulty finding his way. If you're even a little lost, running home is unlikely to seem like a good option.

    Yet again check the maps and see if you could believe he was lost. He departed in the direction of home, Jeantel said he said he was out back of his home, and the fight happened on the path where his home was. Surely if he was lost or worried he would have mentioned something in that call?

  307. Shane says:

    @Manatee

    … that when you're carrying a weapon, you no longer have the luxury of getting into fights, and your first job is always avoiding trouble and deescalating any trouble you find yourself in.

    Amen.

    I don't know if I would call it a luxury :)

  308. Shane says:

    @205guy

    That's because you see weak CCW training and requirements, people with guns on the street, reckless behavior, and acquittal of manslaughter by gun all as exercises in good judgement.

    FYI … this is for Texas the capital of the gun culture, so they say.

    You seem to want to believe that CCW's are the only ones that carry guns. You are wrong. There is a reason that people see the need to have hand guns of their own.

    I couldn't find the statistic, for CCW's that actually carry. The number that is thrown around is ~2.5% … my informal information agrees with that. There are 584,850 CHL holders in Texas. Texas has a population of 26,059,203.

    So 2% of the population of Texas can possibly carry, and informally only .05% actually carry. This in the gun friendly state of Texas.

  309. Given juror B37 and her faulty memory (whenever she wasn't just making stuff up), should the state videotape all of said trials, rather than expecting, rather, demanding, jurors in essence rely on their memories? We know eyewitness memory of crime scenes is fallible; ain't that of jurors, too?

    Second, do cases like this, in your opinion (because they do in mine) suggest that (quelle horreur!) we should consider some aspects of continental European jurisprudence, namely, a presiding judge who has his/her own cross-examination powers, and others?

  310. Shane says:

    @205guy

    Nor do they "sacrifice" the individual, unless you mean the idea that everyone can be their own little king in their own little kingdom.

    That is precisely what I mean.

    It is clear that certain American have an irrational fear of something they view as a collective, European-style government, socialism, or communism.

    Because Europe has produced some of the most tyrannical governments in history.

    But what if I told you you could have both?

    You can't. That was what the framers of the Constitution understood. Pick one.

  311. different Jess says:

    Amen.

    Shane I'm glad you agree with that. I don't see how anyone could classify Zimms' behavior as "…as avoiding trouble and deescelating trouble…", but whatever. Could you please answer my earlier question: what did you mean by this:

    The law abiding use guns to protect. If you see a CCW's gun (or a cop for that matter) then there will be instructions on what to do so as to not get shot.

    Before I got distracted by Clark's essays, I took this as meaning that if I accidentally rear-end some dude's car or his dog digs up my garden or whatever stupid reason causes us to have a public disagreement, and then that dude draws his firearm, my best course of action would be to kneel down and submit to his whims. I strongly disagree with that advice, but I agree with every statement made by Manatee. Since you seem to agree with him quite a bit, perhaps you could just clarify what you meant?

    Xeno, once again your google-fu leaves the faulty memories of mere mortals superate, but think it through. If you were ever charged with a crime related to your use of a firearm, would you want your freedom to hang on the difference between your intention to use deadly force and your willingness to use deadly force? Are you in fact willing to kill people you don't intend to kill? (Would you like a prosecutor to ask you that question?)

    That seems at least as bizarre as it does unethical, not to mention ineffective. A life-or-death conflict is not something to enter half-assed. Not even Zimmerman was feckless enough for that. When he decided it was time to use his weapon, he put one through the center of mass. (Those who foolishly recommend "wing" shots should probably criticize him since if there is any distance at which such shots are feasible then it must be "one to four inches", but we can't expect consistency from fools.)

    It's clear I'm not as brave as most commenters, because they're totally cool with everyone drawing firearms (what? as long as they don't aim at an innocent? as long as they don't rack a round while aiming at an innocent? just how fast is your quick-draw?) in contentious public disagreements, and I think that's insane. Then again, I'm not as chickenshit as most commenters, because I've had a few concussions, and I think shooting a kid because you've got a few scrapes on the back of your shaved head is quite immoral.

  312. Xenocles says:

    "Would the black man have gotten a fair trial, and would the trial have generated nearly as much national attention, and how would that attention (and public reaction) have changed in the face of either possible verdict?"

    Via Instapundit today. I leave the evaluation of this role-reversal to the audience; there are certainly not enough facts in this particular article to give this situation the full Zimmerman, but on the face of it it seems really close to a racial role-reversal.

  313. James Pollock says:

    "So 2% of the population of Texas can possibly carry, and informally only .05% actually carry. This in the gun friendly state of Texas."

    Unless, of course, Texas permits open carry. Does Texas permit open carrying?

  314. different Jess says:

    If it meant a person not losing their life, absolutely… Would I still have tried to stop what was going on? That I would have done. But if I knew ahead of time that I could do something to help somebody from losing their life, I don't want anyone to lose their life.

    Well that at least is a difference between Scott and Zimmerman.

  315. James Pollock says:

    "The state was aiming for Murder 2, killed due to spite/malice/ill will."
    You don't have to have killed due to spite, malice, or ill will to be guilty of murder. You just have to have wanted them dead when you did whatever it was that made them dead. If you knew the gun was loaded and pointed at a person when you pulled the trigger, that meets the intent prong of a murder charge. Zimmerman's defense wasn't that he didn't intend to shoot Martin, it was that the shooting was justified.
    You don't even have to have specific intent to kill anyone to be guilty of murder, if the state recognizes depraved indifference murder or felony murder.

  316. James Pollock says:

    "Because Europe has produced some of the most tyrannical governments in history."
    Sloppy logic. By that logic, we should not prefer any government practiced on Earth, because Earth has produced 100% of all the most tyrannical governments known to man.

  317. Xenocles says:

    "By that logic, we should not prefer any government practiced on Earth, because Earth has produced 100% of all the most tyrannical governments known to man."

    Do you have a newsletter I could subscribe to?

  318. Shane says:

    @different Jess

    … dude draws his firearm, my best course of action would be to kneel down and submit to his whims.

    Yes, if you don't want to get shot.
    I am armed, and I would comply. I did this very scenario in my Force on Force class. It was humiliating. But doing this does two things 1) it buys you time to come up with a way to deal with it. 2) it calms down the potential shooter, which can be viewed two ways, de-escalation, or false sense of security. I also watched 15 other people come away from the scenario and by the look on their faces it was very humiliating for them too, the most humiliated though seemed to be the ones with the bullet marks on their clothes.

  319. Shane says:

    @different Jess

    Finally found this. It is along the same lines as what we are talking about. It is a simulation, shows the "right" and "wrong" way.

  320. perlhaqr says:

    James Pollack: "Hitting someone in the head with a piece of concrete is not significantly different from hitting someones head against a piece of concrete."

    I disagree. If someone's shoulders are pinned to the ground, you can move their head, what maybe six inches away from the ground? Conversely, a piece of concrete in the hand gives you an unrestrained swing of perhaps 10 feet on a moment arm of about 3 feet. The physics say those are going to cause substantially different degrees of damage.

    Fair enough. I should have stated that as "Hitting someone in the head with a piece of concrete is not significantly different from a legal use-of-force perspective from hitting someones head against a piece of concrete." Alteration to original in bold text.

    And while you may be correct about the differences in the two scenarios from a physics perspective, especially given the formulations you used, they are not as different as you claim when one considers both physiology and pathophysiology. A person kneeling over someone is unlikely to be able to move their body in such a way as to get that full unrestrained swing, and also faces limits on how large of a piece of concrete they can hold. On the other hand, just because a person is kneeling over another doesn't mean the person on the bottom's shoulders are pinned. If the victim is grabbed by the neck, you can get a lot more than 6 inches of motion.

    In the case of the person swinging the rock, they are likely to cause skull fractures, but unless there is penetration of the cranium, there won't be the same sort of vessel tearing and brain impact trauma that one can get from sudden impact of the head against an unyielding surface. Epidural and subdural hematomas are two possible injuries from that sort of head trauma, and nothing to sneer at.

    ——

    Unless, of course, Texas permits open carry. Does Texas permit open carrying?

    No.

    For those who are curious about various laws in various states, http://handgunlaw.us/ is an invaluable resource. Well organized and frequently updated, it is my go-to source whenever I have a question regarding travel to another state with a firearm.

  321. different Jess says:

    "That certainly didn't go well, did it Mike?" Thanks Shane, that was good. I especially appreciated the attention to shooting angles/what's beyond the target. I'm not sure if they intended the implication of the last scenario: that only the presence of a lawful CCW guy caused the shooting, or even that his shot in the second scenario was unjustified. We don't get three chances at these things, and his advance toward the green jacketed woman was troubling from any angle.

  322. Ted says:

    I am not any kind of a lawyer, but by that narrative Martin clearly started the fight. If you concede that Martin started the fight, even because he was mistakenly defending himself, you lose the whole narrative of 'he was hunted down and shot because of his race or a profile' or anything else.

    My understanding is, under Florida law, self-defense is not applicable if the defendant has provoked the use of force by the other party. So if you're walking home in the rain, and you see someone following you, and you duck out of sight and hide in order to lose him, and then see him walking around and then take up a position directly in your path home, and then you walk up to him and say "Why are you following me?" or "You got a problem?", and the guy reaches for something he's carrying out of sight …

    … that sure seems like it might just provoke you to punch the guy in the face and jump on top of him in order to prevent him from getting whatever it was he was reaching for.

    But, note please, I'm not actually arguing about what happened. I'm trying to figure out why the prosecution never really challenged the idea that Martin punched Zimmerman without immediate provocation. There's a difference between attacking a guy who'd been following you, and attacking a guy who'd been following you and was reaching for something. Give the jury a reason to believe Martin was acting reasonably when he punched Zimmerman, it makes it easier to perceive Zimmerman's actions from beginning to end as unreasonable.

    The state was aiming for Murder 2, killed due to spite/malice/ill will. Even if you claim Martin saw the gun and punched him because of that, you still cannot, I believe, get murder 2 out of that.

    Since Florida is a "lesser included charges" state, there's really no penalty for the prosecution to level the greatest possible charge against a defendant. I suspect that if the prosecution had been required to make either a murder 2 or manslaughter case, they would have charged manslaughter.

  323. James Pollock says:

    "I'm trying to figure out why the prosecution never really challenged the idea that Martin punched Zimmerman without immediate provocation."
    The answer to that question is the sentence "Objection, assumes facts not in evidence".

  324. James Pollock says:

    "Unless, of course, Texas permits open carry. Does Texas permit open carrying?
    No

    Oops. Yes it does. They only restrict handguns.

  325. James Pollock says:

    "A person kneeling over someone is unlikely to be able to move their body in such a way as to get that full unrestrained swing.
    If they want that full, unrestrained swing, they can get up and take it. I don't recall the original hypothetical being limited to only situations where one person is kneeling over the other.

    Consider the childish prank where one person kneels behind the victim and another person pushes the victim backwards over the first. Charging them with "assault with a weapon" (where the weapon is the ground) seems… a tad much. Heck, with this formulation, just startling someone so that they trip and fall to the ground because assault with a weapon, even if the attacker never touches the victim.

  326. Ted says:

    The answer to that question is the sentence "Objection, assumes facts not in evidence".

    Zimmerman's interview with the detectives and his written statement were both in evidence.

  327. Ted says:

    In fact, here's the transcript of the interview with Serino:

    Serino: Um, this person jumped, jumped you from somewhere?
    Zimmerman: Yes, sir.
    Serino: From the darkness?
    Zimmerman: Yes, sir.
    Serino: Did he say anything to you?
    Zimmerman: Yes, sir.
    Serino: What did he say to you?
    Zimmerman: When he came up to me, he said, “You got a problem?” and I said no. And then I went to reach for my phone to find my phone to call 911 instead of non-emergency.
    Serino: OK.
    Zimmerman: And then is when he punched me. He said, “You have a problem now.” And then he punched me in the face.

    Here's what he wrote in his statement:

    "As I looked and tried to find my cell phone to dial 911 the suspect punched me in the face."

  328. perlhaqr says:

    "Unless, of course, Texas permits open carry. Does Texas permit open carrying?"

    "No."

    Oops. Yes it does. They only restrict handguns.

    Yes. That's true. Which, since the statistics quoted by Shane were about concealed handgun licenses, were the type of firearm under consideration. If, after having been given statistics about concealed handgun licenses, you wanted to know about open carry of all types of firearms, you probably should have specified that in your question.

    ——
    "If they want that full, unrestrained swing, they can get up and take it. I don't recall the original hypothetical being limited to only situations where one person is kneeling over the other."

    Allow me to quote myself then, from the comment the context was created in:

    "Which isn't to say that I agree with your claim that Martin even was unarmed, on two points. First, if Martin had been kneeling over Zimmerman and picked up a piece of concrete, there would be no question that he was now armed with a blunt object. Hitting someone in the head with a piece of concrete is not significantly different from hitting someones head against a piece of concrete."

  329. James Pollock says:

    perlhaqr, you say:
    "since the statistics quoted by Shane were about concealed handgun licenses, were the type of firearm under consideration."
    And, yet, the actual I responded to, begins:
    "You seem to want to believe that CCW's are the only ones that carry guns."
    The part I quoted also refers to "guns", not "handguns".

  330. @Eddie: The map I saw had the incident taking place around the corner from what I assume you mean by the "T junction", and my understanding of the timeline was that the dispatcher suggested that Zimmerman not follow the suspect very soon after he left his vehicle, i.e., at or before the corner, not around it. I may well have misunderstood the timeline, of course.

    Martin was behaving as if he was lost, and I don't think this is as unlikely as you suggest. He may not have had as good a sense of direction as you, and may not have been sure he was on the right street at all.

    "Even if he failed to identify the house in the dark," … I don't think he ever got as far as his father's house. He went round the corner and hid.

    "Add Jeantel's testimony that Martin told him he was out back of his father's place," … what does "out back" mean in Martin and Jeantel's slang?

    "he said there was a person acting strangely, checking out peoples houses and yards in the pouring rain" … to me, this means looking at, not entering. And, again, walking slowly and looking at people's houses equals lost. It's absolutely typical behaviour when you're not sure if you're on the right street or how near you are to your destination.

  331. Question: didn't Martin's cellphone have GPS? I'd have thought we'd know as a fact whether he reached his father's house or not.

  332. James Pollock says:

    "Question: didn't Martin's cellphone have GPS? I'd have thought we'd know as a fact whether he reached his father's house or not."
    People get lost even with GPS, and GPS is only helpful if A) you need to know where you are, or B) you have or can get GPS coordinates for where you want to be.

  333. @James: not my point. If the cellphone had GPS, shouldn't the police have been able to look at its record of where Martin was in the time leading up to the shooting?

  334. James Pollock says:

    "If the cellphone had GPS, shouldn't the police have been able to look at its record of where Martin was in the time leading up to the shooting?"
    A) If there's a record anywhere but at NSA.
    B) civilian GPS may not be precise enough to help.
    That really sounds like the sort of thing that would work on TV.

  335. @James: IIRC we're talking about a disagreement of a hundred meters or so here so civilian GPS should be OK. But whether the typical US cellphone keeps a record of its own travels I wouldn't know; being poor by US standards I'm still in the dark ages phone-wise. :-)

  336. Steven H. says:

    @James Pollock:

    "B) civilian GPS may not be precise enough to help.
    That really sounds like the sort of thing that would work on TV."

    Selective Availability was turned off during the First Gulf War, and has been off since.
    Which means that civilian GPS is just as precise as military GPS.
    Note that this is not meant to imply that Martin's phone might not have had a really crappy GPS chip, but in general, there is no longer a distinction between "civilian" and "military" GPS.

  337. perlhaqr says:

    And, yet, the actual I responded to, begins:

    "You seem to want to believe that CCW's are the only ones that carry guns."

    The part I quoted also refers to "guns", not "handguns".

    CCW stands for "Carrier of Concealed Weapons". Pretty much no-one attempts to conceal long arms and walk around that way. Actually, pretty much no-one walks around the city with openly carried long arms, either.

  338. SVT says:

    Mr. White – Your general point is correct. Your observations about George Zimmerman's "moral responsibility" are ill informed. If – as you admit – you didn't follow the trial closely, you ought to refrain from making such judgments.

  339. Ken White says:

    If – as you admit – you didn't follow the trial closely, you ought to refrain from making such judgments.

    I always appreciate an anonymous visitor telling me what I should talk about.

  340. Ahkbar says:

    @Steven H.

    Selective Availability was turned off during the First Gulf War, and has been off since.
    Which means that civilian GPS is just as precise as military GPS.
    Note that this is not meant to imply that Martin's phone might not have had a really crappy GPS chip, but in general, there is no longer a distinction between "civilian" and "military" GPS.

    You are correct about SA no longer being used but there is still a clear difference in accuracy between civilian and military GPS receivers. Military receivers have access to the encrypted P code signals on both L1 and L2, while most civilian receivers can only access the C/A code signal on L1. There are plans to place C/A code signals on L2 and L5 eventually, but the C/A code signals will not provide as accurate a position as the P codes or the upcoming M codes. There is of course more detailed information, but I believe the point is that as of current technology, in my opinion there is no civilian GPS that is as precise or accurate as a military GPS.

  341. Void says:

    The thing here is that Zimmerman has already been judged. The social lines split when this case first broke, nothing about the outcome will change anything in the social arena. He's not safe where he lives now, and probably wont ever be safe, and he definitely has a very short limit to his financial security as time ticks on and the racial groups and frenzy feeders who were tossing him money move on to a different drama fest.

    Now given that the state wasn't able to make it's case he shouldn't be in prison, whether or not I agree with it. My personal judgement though? A man who was stalking someone because of their location, age and race ended up killing that person. He was not coincidentally jumped, it was the result of a situation he engineered with the intent to cause conflict. He may not be in prison be he will not be receiving any sympathy for me for the socially imposed hardships he will be living with until the day he dies.

  342. GuestPoster says:

    I like a lot of this. I think the verdict was the right one – the evidence just wasn't there. Of course, I also think the defense was terrible, the witnesses were unreliable, Zimmerman himself contradicted his own statements time and again, and that at the end of the day he's guilty of SOMETHING, and that there SHOULD be a punishment of some sort. And I am rather annoyed that the cops did such a shoddy job, leaving the prosecution with far less evidence than there should have been – possibly even evidence which would have shown in advance that the trial was unnecessary. And I certainly wouldn't want a Zimmerman living, or working, or even visiting, within a mile of me.

    But it also frustrates me that we get 'experts' like Ayoob in a previous post, who claim that there is NO alternate version of events supported by the evidence other than what Zimmerman claims. For myself, I see one fairly clearly, from the exact same evidence: Martin saw Zimmerman, ran away. At some point, he hid (which is how Zimmerman lost track of him). At some point, Zimmerman came back, which might look to a hiding kid (or is it man? Or does it matter?) like he is being hunted, and not merely followed. Having to his mind failed to run and hide, he then struck first. When the gun came out, well… how hard is it to believe he felt the hunter intended to kill him?

    Those are a LOT of ifs, and a lot of assumptions. But I don't see any as greater than the assumption that ANYTHING Zimmerman said was true. And in the end, I suppose I'm just left with the question – what did Martin do wrong? He tried to escape, and failed. He tried to protect himself from a perceived threat, and failed. How do we protect ourselves from the Zimmermen of the world? Is it only self defense if you let yourself take damage first? Ayoob claims not: but does the other person have to verbally threaten you then? Is it really not sufficient to have someone larger than you, armed with a gun, stalk you in the dark?

    Sure, the government is a bigger bully. And frankly, I don't see a 'better' way to handle a justice system. And given the evidence, and the actual laws, Zimmerman SHOULD have been let go, so it's good that he was. But that doesn't change that Zimmerman had full control of the situation at almost all moments, and that nobody had to die. There's a system in place to protect ourselves from government. It's not great, but it's there. How do we protect ourselves from the vigilantes which the law protects and encourages?

  343. 205guy says:

    Looks like I forgot to address this one:

    Cameron W. wrote: "What evidence do you have that Zimmerman "chased" Martin."

    Clark wrote: "Your rhetorical technique == FAIL. Cameron asked "what evidence do you have?" You ignored his question and put a new one in his mouth. Cameron didn't either say or imply that Z did NOT chase M. He asked you what evidence you have that Z DID chase M. The distinction is huge and relevant."

    I think you both failed to read 3 paragraphs later where I wrote: "And how is seeing where Trayvon went different from chasing Trayvon?"

    And since I didn't read all the transcripts at the time, apparently, when the dispatcher asked "Are you following him?" GZ himself replied "Yes." Cameron W. calls that "It seemed that he got out of the car to see where Trayvon went and to find a street sign." I say the word "chase" is much closer to "follow" than "follow" is to "see where he went." And while I do not think GZ was in hot persuit (as in running behind him), I think the situation makes it fairly clear TM knew he was being followed (by car and by foot). That is not at all the same as "seeing where he went," which implies that the subject is not aware and not worried/feeling threatened about being followed.

  344. James Pollock says:

    "How do we protect ourselves from the Zimmermen of the world?"
    History suggests that the very best way to defend yourself from a person with a gun is to shoot first. It isn't the manly way, of course, but you're the one who gets to walk away.

    This message has not been lost on the surving Trayvon Martins of this world.

  345. James Pollock says:

    "Pretty much no-one attempts to conceal long arms and walk around that way."
    Duh. That's why the number of CCW permits doesn't tell you how many people are walking around with guns.
    On the one hand, if someone is shooting at me, I don't care so very much about what kind of gun they're using to do it with. On the other hand, if they're NOT shooting at me, once again I probably don't care about what kind of gun they've got (or don't got).

  346. Mark says:

    Do I believe that Zimmerman is probably guilty of at least Manslaughter? yes
    Do I believe the state made every reasonable effort to get as much evidence as it could to prosecute? Yes, after a little prodding
    Do I believe the not guilty verdict was correct? Yes, because the evidence does not establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

  347. Andy Lee says:

    Thanks very much for this piece. It is so much better than my attempts to organize thoughts along the same lines.

    The one point I am not sure about is this: "Weakening the rights of the accused — clamoring for the conviction of those we feel should be convicted — is a damnfool way to help the oppressed." This could be taken to mean that *anything* that broadens the rights of the accused is a good thing. I don't believe that and I don't believe you meant to imply it. Maybe I'm just quibbling with your wording.

    For example, some people have complained that all Zimmerman had to do was claim he was afraid, and that would have been a valid argument for self-defense. That was of course not the case, nor do I think his rights should have been broadened to make it so.

    There are lots of good comments here, but I confess I only read partway through. If you've already addressed this, my apologies.

  348. Andy Lee says:

    I meant to add — I am not comfortable with the aspect of Stand Your Ground that says you are under no obligation to choose the non-violent option, if you have one. I may be mischaracterizing SYG, or failing to understand valid arguments for this aspect of it, but it seems at least arguable that it over-broadens the rights of the accused.

  349. Jonathan Kaplan says:

    I don't want to dissect the verdict; I agree with some of the sentiments expressed above re: the police having done a poor job interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence at the start, and the "interview" with Zimmerman being less than ideal, etc. Given all that, and the oddly phrased and constructed laws in Florida, arguments about the appropriateness of the verdict itself are perhaps less than useful at this point.

    I do, though, wonder at the willingness of people to give Zimmerman the benefit of the doubt re: Martin striking him first. Except for Zimmerman's statements — which, everyone must admit, are, prima facia, self-serving — there is no evidence of that all. And, based on what little we know of the character and past behaviors of Martin, and the character and past behaviors of Zimmerman, I simply can't understand how a reasonable person would think it likely that *Martin* would strike out at someone *larger*, even if provoked — let along try to "jump him". There is nothing in his past behavior to suggest that he would do anything like that. Nothing at all. There is plenty in Zimmerman's record, on the other, to suggest that he would start a fight with someone smaller than him, especially given that he had a gun on him anyway.

    Can anyone *prove* that Zimmerman started the physical altercation w/ Martin? No, obviously not. I'm not suggesting that anyone can. But I am suggesting, based on what we know of the individuals involved, that it is a lot more likely that Zimmerman started the fight than that Martin "jumped him." Again, "a lot more likely" may well not raise to "beyond a reasonable doubt," so whatever. But I find people treating Zimmerman's on the face it completely bizarre account as "true" to be disturbing. And if you are inclined to believe that Martin's "jumping" Zimmerman was somehow "in character" despite there being nothing in Martin's record — school or otherwise — to suggest that he was prone to such violent outbursts, I think you need to ask yourself if Martin's race has anything to do with that. I think if one was honest, one would have to admit that, yes, Martin's race *does* have something to do with people being willing to assume the worst of him, while giving Zimmerman's violent history (and paranoid rantings) a pass. (And, Zimmerman strongly suggested on tape that he didn't want to "let" Martin "get away" — is it so hard to imagine that he *physically* tried to stop Martin from getting away? Grabbed him, tried to hold him, etc? Is that really *less* likely — less in character! — than that Martin tried to jump someone larger than him w/o provocation? Really?)

    Again, I want to stress that this has little to do with the way one feels about the verdict — one might think Zimmerman's story unlikely on the face, but given that there is no way to show that he is lying, and think that it at least passes the "reasonable doubt" standard. But I really think it is worth reconsidering your views if you think that *Zimmerman's* story is not just possible, but actually plausible.

  350. Andy Lee says:

    Jonathan,

    Speaking as an imaginary juror (putting myself in the jury room), I would have had to start with a presumption of innocence, *not* a gut feel for what was the most plausible scenario, and require the prosecution to construct a convincing argument for guilt.

    But I take your point about not dissecting the verdict, so… speaking as a *non-juror*, just a regular person, I think it's quite plausible that Zimmerman tried to restrain Trayvon, which would have been assault, or that he drew his gun in an attempt to pre-emptively intimidate and control Trayvon, which I've heard would also have been a felony.

    For me it hasn't been so much giving Zimmerman the benefit of the doubt as not having a clear narrative from the prosecution. Or if there was a clear narrative, I just haven't come across it. How do *they* say the killing went down, and why should we agree that it happened that way?

  351. Jonathan Kaplan says:

    Andy — Again, I really don't want to dissect the verdict. If someone argues that the jury, having been presented with Florida law and a possible self-defense scenario that wasn't crazy, was justified in acquitting, I really don't want to object.

    All I am objecting to is the posts above that *assume* that Martin started the fight; that call him a "stupid kid" (for example) and present the story Zimmerman told *as if* that story were the most plausible story available.

    I take seriously the claim that even if a juror believed that Zimmerman illegally started the physical fight under a "clear and convincing" evidence standard, that wouldn't be enough, technically, to convict, and "technically" is the *correct* standard to apply here. "Reasonable doubt" is stronger than "clear and convincing" and "clear and convincing" is stronger than a "preponderance of evidence." I'm fine with that.

    What I'm *not* fine with is people just assuming that Martin must have (or at least very likely) "jumped" Zimmerman — completely out of character (as far as we can tell), while Zimmerman stood around looking at street signs — completely out of character (as far as we can tell). *That* assumption strikes me as being very odd, and problematic, and *if* someone is making that assumption, then, *if* they are a person of good-will, I am asking that they consider, seriously, why they would believe such an odd scenario, and suggesting that they might consider the extent to which race plays a part in what they find "believable."

    Again, I don't want to suggest that even if the Jurors agreed with my take on the likelihoods of the scenarios, that they should have acted in any other way. I agree that the presumption of innocence is important, and, while I think the evidence is good that our justice system is horribly racist, I'd much, much rather see the presumption of innocence consistently and robustly applied to young black men than see it stripped from everyone else!

    But that shouldn't prevent people from carefully distinguishing between what, on reflection, they think is the most *likely* scenario, and what, legally, is a scenario that raises appropriate reasonable doubt. Again, it is the failure to distinguish these, and the posts above that write *as if* it was obvious that Martin *must* have been the aggressor, that I find so disturbing.

  352. AlphaCentauri says:

    It all could have been avoided if Zimmerman had just answered the damn question:
    "Why are you following me?"
    "I'm with the Neighborhood Watch. The police are on their way."

    But it never even occurred to him that Martin was a human being, with normal intelligence and normal survival instincts. It never occurred to him to think, "If he's asking me that question, maybe he really doesn't know the answer. Maybe he's not a criminal, and he doesn't know why I'm following him. Maybe he's a new neighbor who isn't familiar with the neighborhood yet. [Not a far fetched assumption if the neighborhood watch volunteer himself has to get out of his car to check street signs to know where he is.] Maybe he thinks I'm a mugger or the next John Wayne Gacy and feels he has good reason to be afraid of me. Maybe if I reach for my phone to snap a photo, he'll think I'm reaching for a gun and will go into fight-or-flight mode and behave unpredictably to try to avoid being killed. Maybe he's even a responsible adult who also has a CCW, so if I don't identify my role, he may shoot me as I reach for my phone."

    It doesn't have to be about race. It just has to be about "Me and the people in my monkeysphere are the only ones whose lives really matter." It makes people take extreme measures to protect "people like us" who work in office towers, yet fight against any restrictions on gun sales to straw purchasers in urban neighborhoods who just keep accidentally "losing" weapons that end up killing people in "Black on Black" crime. It makes them fight to preserve school funding structures that keep money in wealthy suburbs while poor people are required by law to send their children to schools the wealthy people wouldn't allow their own children to visit on a field trip.

    And that's a pretty normal human point of view from a biologic standpoint, to promote the welfare of those who are most similar to you, most emotionally attached to you, and therefore, those most likely to share your genetic makeup. But when people who call themselves Christian defend that mindset, and people who call themselves atheist call them out on it, well, it's not a very good showing for Christianity.

  353. Andy Lee says:

    There's a ton of replies here and I haven't read them all, although I've looked at occurrences of the word "jump" and seen some debate on the very question you raise.

    I suppose there are all sorts of possible reasons. People could be misinformed and think it was established in court that Martin started the fight. People could misunderstand what a "not guilty" verdict means and think it means the defense proved its story. People could be taking for granted that Martin started the fight for purposes of a particular discussion, without meaning to imply that was definitely the case.

    I really do think it may have to do with the prosecution not presenting a compelling narrative with enough detail to compete in our minds with the defense's narrative. I say this *not* to dissect the verdict, but because it may have affected public perception. One possible problem — I'm not sure, though — is that there's more than one plausible way Zimmerman could have started the fight in a way that would take away the self-defense argument. For example, as I've said, he could have grabbed Martin, *or* he could have pulled his gun without justification. I don't know if prosecutors can or should say "Here are two guilty scenarios, and we believe one of them happened but we don't know which." I doubt it — but maybe if "believe" is replaced with "can prove"?

  354. Bob says:

    Martin appears to have attempted to murder Zimmerman by bashing his head against pavement, because he didn't like the way Zimmerman talked to him. The gun came out when Martin refused to stop trying to kill a defenseless man. Zimmerman's first resort was to scream for help, again and again and again.

    We have that on tape. We have witnesses.

    You seem to have reached a CNN-based conclusion after all.

    If you don't like the way the facts of this case don't support your narrative about race, find a case that does. Don't repeat media nonsense about this one.

  355. Daniel says:

    I'm sorry but where do we have it on tape that he was bashing his head against the cement? Those injuries Zimmerman had are NOT consistent with having your head literally bashed against the ground the way the defense tried to play it up. If you were getting grounded and pounded by someone you'd look much, much worse than Zimmerman did and probably have a hard time calling for help with all of those fists in your mouth as he claims. We have no real info on who started the fight based on the available facts. People like Johnathan Kaplan and AlphaCentauri are more on point than just about anyone else I've spoken to about this.

    I'm not going to touch on who is responsible for what as that whole debacle is just a waste of time. This debate has split into three groups – people who don't care about what's said as Zimmerman was in the right to shoot someone as soon as a fight broke out, people who don't care what's said as Martin was 100% innocent and never got into fights and lastly the people who only care about the legal evidence. Nobodies mind is going to get changed. All I know is Zimmerman was found not guilty, not innocent even though some people in this thread seem to conflate the two.

  356. Clark says:

    @Daniel

    I'm sorry but where do we have it on tape that he was bashing his head against the cement?

  357. Jonathan Kaplan says:

    Bob –

    The idea that "Martin appears to have attempted to murder Zimmerman by bashing his head against pavement, because he didn't like the way Zimmerman talked to him" is utterly unsupported by any evidence, other than Zimmerman's story to the police, and I simply can't understand why you would choose to accept that story at face value. Zimmerman's has a history of violence, Martin doesn't. Zimmerman followed Martin, not the other way around. Why do you find it so hard to believe that Zimmerman might have tried to physically prevent Martin from leaving? Zimmerman was larger and armed, and strongly implied, on tape, that he wasn't going to "let" Martin get away. He got out of his car — to check a sign??? Please. He was a big guy with a gun who didn't want the kid he was following to "get away." Is it really so hard to believe that he got out of the car for the obvious reason — to *stop Martin from getting away*??? Is it really so hard to imagine that he did this not by politely asking that Martin wait for the police to arrive, but by physically grabbing him? Really? You think Zimmerman, based on everything that came out about him (which, btw, the Jury was *not* told about, because it was deemed irrelevant to the case at hand), was the kind of guy who, packing a gun, and faced with someone smaller and lighter, was gonna just play it cool *talk* to Martin? You really think that?

    So, to be clear, you think, Zimmerman — domestic abuser, resisting arrest, paranoid, angry, Zimmerman — calmly got out of his car to check a street-sign, and was jumped, out of the blue, by no-record of violence, smaller, Martin? Really? You are really telling me that, on reflection, you think that's the most likely scenario? Now, is it *possible* that that's what happened? Sure. But really, you are trying to tell me that that completely insane story is really most likely in your mind? And you don't think, for one minute, that race plays any role in how plausible you think the scenario of Martin hiding and leaping out of the bushes to attack Zimmerman is? Really? Domestic-abuse, resisting arrest, paranoid, violent Zimmerman is the guy who takes the first punch, not the guy who first lays hands on another person? First time for everything, I suppose, but come on. Really??

    And yeah, the concrete. Zimmerman got his head bashed in so badly that, rather than going to the hospital, he got "treated" in the back of a police car. And never got his injuries, you know, evaluated, until way after the fact. Is it possible that Zimmerman got really lucky and managed to kill the person killing him before he was badly enough injured to require actual treatment? Yeah, it's possible. But that's the story you are actually going to believe? Not in a "reasonable doubt" sense, but really believe? Really? And, again, you really want to tell me that race has nothing to do with your attitude? And you've really thought about this, have you? Really?

    Please.

  358. Andy Lee says:

    @Daniel

    This debate has split into three groups – people who don't care about what's said as Zimmerman was in the right to shoot someone as soon as a fight broke out, people who don't care what's said as Martin was 100% innocent and never got into fights and lastly the people who only care about the legal evidence.

    I agree, except that I would add: not only the legal evidence (facts and allegations presented in court) but the rules under which the evidence had to be evaluated (both the judge's instructions throughout the trial and her final instructions).

  359. John Bell says:

    The acquittal isn't the upsetting part.. that was made obvious when it took them 45 days to decide whether or not it (him murdering somebody) was even a crime and take action.. THAT is the part that is upsetting…

    The fact that we've created a culture that is so comfortable with the destruction of human life, that they would feel inclined to be able to end the life of another person, and the culture that when this happens, doesn't even consider it a crime.

    That is what we should be most concerned about.

  360. Shane says:

    @Jonathan Kaplan

    Zimmerman's has a history of violence, Martin doesn't.

    Martin does seem to have a history of violence. Sorry this doesn't fit your narrative.

  361. Shane says:

    @Jonathan Kaplan

    … was the kind of guy who, packing a gun, and faced with someone smaller and lighter, was gonna just play it cool *talk* to Martin? You really think that?

    Because people that pass extensive background checks and carry guns for 4 years just come unglued one day and start beating and shooting unarmed teenagers. Maybe this is the way that you would handle things if you had a gun because you think that guns bestow some kind of power on you, but that is not the reality of gun ownership.

    So, to be clear, you think, Zimmerman — domestic abuser, resisting arrest, paranoid, angry, Zimmerman

    - domestic abuser: (Truth) both GZ and his ex filed restraining orders against each other, no charges were brought or filed in this. This happened 10 years ago.

    - resisiting arrest (Truth) GZ was arrested for assaulting a police officer, he allegedly bit him, charges were dropped and GZ entered a diversion program. Once again 10 years ago.

    - paranoid (Truth) Your conjecture based on your narrative. Absolutely unfounded.

    - angry (Truth) Your conjecture based on your narrative. Once again absolutely unfounded.

    … rather than going to the hospital, he got "treated" in the back of a police car. And never got his injuries, you know, evaluated, until way after the fact.

    Because you have extensive medical background on how some minor wounds that don't seem to be much are non life threatening.

    … you really want to tell me that race has nothing to do with your attitude?

    As I have stated before people that only view lifes events through the lens of race are …

  362. Shane says:

    … took them 45 days to decide whether or not it (him murdering somebody) was even a crime

    It didn't take them 45 days it actually took a lot less. GZ had essentially been cleared by the police and the prosecutor wasn't going to file charges. It was only when it entered the national spotlight that the all of a sudden there was a case. This meant that the prosecutor had to be removed, that the police had to fired and the Grand Jury had to be avoided to bring this miscarriage of justice to trial. These things take time.

    The fact that we've created a culture that is so comfortable with the destruction of human life, that they would feel inclined to be able to end the life of another person, and the culture that when this happens, doesn't even consider it a crime.

    Apparently the "culture" does consider it a crime

    When your life is threatened (I am not speaking about the GZ case) then you do really need to be "comfortable with the destruction of human life" because it will be the person attacking you or you who ends up in the morgue, but either way a human life is going to be destroyed.

  363. Ken White says:

    I'm going to honor Greta Christina's request never to communicate with her again or visit her blog or follow her on Twitter again.

    I am not willing to host a debate about this on my blog. I am willing to host many debates on my blog, about many issues. I am willing to make my blog into a place for people to express many ideas and opinions with which I passionately disagree. This is not one of those issues, and this is not one of those times. If you have anything at all to say about this that even remotely hints at implying that what George Zimmerman did was remotely defensible, or that this verdict was anything short of grotesque… do not comment in my blog. Now, or ever. Do not read my blog. Do not follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Do not attend my talks. Do not buy my books. Get the fuck out of my life, now. Thank you.

  364. Shane says:

    @Greta Christina

    … It is also my moral obligation to do whatever I can to change the world …

    "Life is like a diaper, let someone else change it." – Bloodhound Gang

    … Do not attend my talks. Do not buy my books. Go away, now.

    Well that isn't very capitalist of you. Seems to me that you have someone else that makes the money in your family.

    I am willing to make my blog into a place for people to express many ideas and opinions with which I passionately disagree. This is not one of those issues, and this is not one of those times

    Methinks that you aren't really willing to post or allow anything with which you disagree. Tssk, tsskk … freethought indeed. Seems like it should be freefromyourbadthoughtscauseiamtheultimateauthorityofwhatisright.

  365. JR says:

    There are none so blind as those who will not see.

    Conversation and debate in many public forums (and especially the media) are becoming one-sided assaults against a position. Rebuttal is given short shrift, and scrutiny of their own position is automatically deemed a hateful attack on their person. This allows group thinkers to maintain their moral superiority high without having to go through the trouble of understanding their position well enough to explain why it is superior.

  366. There is a more generous interpretation that I can give to people who question this verdict: while it would be wrong to say that the verdict was incorrect (Zimmerman's defense was probably valid under the law in this case), one can reasonably question the law itself. To reform the law is not necessarily to weaken it either. One could imagine, for example, laws that made it more difficult for neighborhood patrollers to use fatal weapons like guns with impunity, encouraging the use of less-lethal weapons, or tax reforms that encourage better training of neighborhood patrol volunteers to handle situations like this. The law is not a simple continuum from anarchy to tyranny.

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  368. James says:

    People don't always know what to do with their legitimate anger. As admitted in this post, colour of skin has a lot to do with outcome, especially in cases of self defence. I really believe that if Zimmerman were black and Martin white then Zimmerman would be in jail right now.

    Maybe the verdict was right under the law, and maybe it was even right according to most people's sense of proper justice (if they knew all the facts) but we all know that facts of the case are one thing and race is another. If a verdict would go one way for a white-on-black killing and another way for a black-on-white killing with the same set of facts (and it is clear that some will) then which one of those is the right outcome kind of misses the point of what people are angry about.

    So yes, clamouring for rights to be taken away is the wrong way to approach the problem, but you won't get a reasonable hearing unless you are willing to say that there is a problem. This isn't a criticism of this post (which specifically mentions the race issue) but it is the point that is usually missed when people argue that the jury was right.

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