You can stand your ground if you’re white, and you can use a gun to do it. But if you stand your ground with your fists and you’re black, you’re dead.
In the state of Florida, the season on African-Americans now runs year round. Come one, come all. And bring a handgun. The legislators are fine with this blood on their hands. The governor, too. One man accosted another and when it became a fist fight, one man — and one man only — had a firearm. The rest is racial rationalization and dishonorable commentary.
If I were a person of color in Florida, I would pick up a brick and start walking toward that courthouse in Sanford. Those that do not, those that hold the pain and betrayal inside and somehow manage to resist violence — these citizens are testament to a stoic tolerance that is more than the rest of us deserve. I confess, their patience and patriotism is well beyond my own.
Behold, the lewd, pornographic embrace of two great American pathologies: Race and guns, both of which have conspired not only to take the life of a teenager, but to make that killing entirely permissible. I can’t look an African-American parent in the eye for thinking about what they must tell their sons about what can happen to them on the streets of their country. Tonight, anyone who truly understands what justice is and what it requires of a society is ashamed to call himself an American.
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Thank you so much for writing this. I have no idea what to do with any of my feelings about this verdict. The whole system is fundamentally, for lack of a better word, fucked.
I still think Melissa Harris-Perry said it best: ‘Trayvon Martin was tried and convicted of his own murder’.
Thank you for this essay, Mr. Simon, and thank you even more for your spirited and passionate defense of it. There is still hope, even if it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt now that I am a second-hand citizen in my own country, in the state of Florida. This was NOT why my parents came to this country. Thank God the rest of my family doesn’t live in this cesspool of a state.
As an African American father who has a son the same age as Trayvon when he was killed(they share the same birthday even)As much as I am dismayed to learn that a man got away with the homicide of an unarmed teenager I just need to say this………
As much as one could fault Zimmerman for instigating the whole incident by profiling(whether racial, or not) and forcibly ending it through one lethal bullet to the chest, you need to also fault Mr. Martin for being a participant in the confrontation that ended his life. There is no concrete evidence of who first swung at who so I won’t bother making blanket deductions that will never have an substantive backing other then the flimsy recollections of sole survivor of this travesty–Zimmerman, however evidence such as Martin’s friend(who was on the phone with him the very night he died) testimony revealed that Martin manage to elude Zimmerman and escape his sights, and in aftermath was only minute home. Keep in mind, there is other valid evidence that suggest Martin had managed to lose sight of Zimmerman such as the 9/11 calls Zimmerman made while he was profiling the child where he exclaimed “Shit, he’s running.” If you logically piece together those pieces in this puzzle then it’s safe to conclude Martin returned to stand his ground against Zimmerman, which eventuated into a brief altercation, and worsened into a deadly physical event. The kid wasn’t aware Zimmerman was in possession of a firearm prior to that, which is very vital information to determine if you should confront or reprimand in physical force. Whatever folks say something in regards to what could been done to prevent this thing from occurring they always narrow it down to Zimmerman and his actions(obey the dispatchers orders to not follow, remain inside in his vehicle) they very rarely highlight what Martin could have done differently(understandable, since Martin didn’t start this). It is of utmost negligence to confront someone that you’ve never met, and don’t know how dangerous they could be–especially if you don’t know if they have a firearm or not and being a participant in fist brawl with them or assault. Forget about being hard, throw that tough, macho mentality away and run. Run damn it and don’t turn back. Be a cowardly pussy– at least you’ll live to see another day. Zimmerman shouldn’t have had the gun, he shouldn’t have profiled Martin however Martin should have used common sense and just not even bother with fucker and pay even an iota of his time. Zimmerman was not worthy of the skin of Martin’s knuckles. However justified he may have been in his decision to confront Zimmerman, he was in the wrong in that course of action he took and I’ll fault him on that front. Does that mean Zimmerman was right in killing Martin? Of course not. However it does mean Martin’s actions that night did factor into the circumstances that lead to his untimely demise. You never if someone has a gun or not, you can never be too careful. It’s a shame. As I nod my head in disbelief, shame try to internalize what just ultimately just happened. I darken into a more cynical figure about our justice system by the day. The only thing I could do is only snicker at how morally bankrupt at some of the country’s laws.
Mr. Martin made mistakes, to be sure.
Apparently, we are now at the point when a seventeen year old boy, unarmed, must make all the correct judgments during a confrontation with a grown man in order not to be shot to death. I’m sorry. I can acknowledge errors in judgment on both sides. What I can’t do is see much equivalence between Mr. Martin and a grown man who brought and used a gun to take a life. There is bad judgment, and then there is something beyond that.
This is the most succinct and elegant argument for manslaughter that I’ve read.
I think the problem is that self-defense law has shifted over time. And you’re right that SYG – while not applied in this case – has contributed to that. We no longer ask defendants to bear the burden of proof that lethal self-defense was necessary. It is not the law. And it should be.
But it’s not. And so I cannot find fault with the jury that made this decision. They followed the letter of the law. There was reasonable doubt as to whether Mr. Martin initiated the fight, and pressed it too far. He was, it would appear, on top of the man before the gun was fired.
Did Mr. Zimmerman truly fear for his life? He should have had to prove that he did. But no. The state had the obligation to prove that he did not. And they failed to do so. Because it’s damn near impossible.
The fact that this decision followed from the law as I read it doesn’t make me less outraged. It makes me more so. We shouldn’t have a system where this result. SYG needs to go. And self defense should go back to being an affirmative defense.
I love how everyone who says trayvon shouldve done this and that. Zimmerman shouldve done the even more right thing and not followed trayvon. No one told trayvon what to do…the police did for zimmerman. And he didnt follow.
[…] of “The Wire,” shared his thoughts on the Zimmerman verdict fray with a short, pungent post on his site. The key […]
I love this. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Simon, for once again distilling the issue down to its essence.
I wrote this as a response to an old school friend, and accomplished attorney, who disagreed with my comment comparing the “sidewalk” defense to the “twinkie” defense. He described the verdict as a “tribute to the jury system.
Allow me to respond.
First of all, if you read what I wrote carefully, you’ll see that I was referring to the defense, not the verdict. The verdict may have been “a tribute to the jury system” and, within the narrow confines of the trial, correctly arrived at. The “sidewalk” defense, however is another matter.
Clearly, the Florida “stand your ground” law, which allows the use of weaponized force whenever a (white) person feels, for whatever reason, threatened, is one of the larger issues.
In the Zimmerman case, we know there were fisticuffs (note the word). We have only Zimmerman’s word that he felt threatened. Do we have Trayvon’s? Could that young man have felt threatened? Did that fear, real or imagined, justify his weaponizing the sidewalk? If this was a bar-room brawl, and there were witnesses, does the guy on the floor have a right to draw a gun and shoot the guy on top in the heart?
We only have Zimmerman’s account. Dead boys tell no tales. And we have a somewhat dubious attestation from a witness. The problem in a circumstantial murder case that happens in isolation is that the victim is eternally mute and cannot supply his (her) narrative. This is how OJ got off.
So now let’s move to the larger question of “was justice done”? Here, I proudly admit that I am, indeed, highly partisan.
This verdict, as all verdicts, must be contextualized. First of all, I place it in the long line of unjustified killings of black men in the United States, particularly in the South. Some were out and out lynchings (Emmet Till). Some were unsolved for years. (Medgar Evers). Some were “tried” in a court of “law” — (Amadou Diallo) and the killers absolved of all guilt. I contextualize the verdict in the overwhelming population of young black men in prison and on death rows, young black men in “stop and frisk” situations, and white people absolved in the murder of black people.
One can only come to the conclusion that, in these United States, white life is considered more precious than black life, and that the semiotics of the young black male body can, itself, be a set of signifiers that cue hatred in the American white cultural construct: the hoody, the dark skin, the rippling muscles, the slouched walk — signifiers that led George Zimmerman to use the word “punk” and Fox News to flash threatening pictures of Travon 24/7.
I contextualize the verdict in the frame of the “stand your ground” law itself. A year ago, a judge and jury found a black woman who fired into the air when her husband was about to attack her unjustified in using the “stand your ground” law as a defense. She received the maximum sentence of over 20 years.
I contextualize historically. We once had a country where black people were routinely stopped by ANY white person and asked to justify their presence on any sidewalk, in front of any house, in any car. Just as people had to produce their papers in Nazi Germany, it was (is) the right of a white guy to question a black guy’s presence, but not, of course, the reverse. This verdict justifies that. More, it justifies the white guy taking out a gun and executing any young black “punk” for the crime of existing while looking suspicous.
You may remember, Jim, the Guardian Angels an organization founded by a Prep alumnus, Curtis Sliwa. The New York City Police Department clamped down on them early and often. They were absolutely prohibited from carrying guns and they had to undergo intensive training.
Supposing our George had fired his weapon and the bullet had missed Trayvon’s heart and struck a child in a window?
What we have operating in the United States is a quasi-vigilante system, very often justified by the police and the courts, complete with high-priced attorneys, compliant judges, and juries with race in the back of their minds. All of this in a country that worships the gun and has a history of denying the value of black life dating back to the slave markets — and extending right up to the Roberts Court.
I know these, and other, assertions I make are moot in a court of law. But they are entirely relevant to the larger society.
So I don’t retreat on my statements about this trial.
[…] we are faced with the aftermath. People are angry. and I don’t think it will be long-lived or effective. People have short attention spans and […]
From a purely legalistic perspective, how does the state convict a man for manslaughter under the current law? Bare in mind the forensic evidence demonstrated George Zimmerman was the only one who suffered wounds from a fist fight and that Trayvonn Martin’s clothing was two inches away from skin when shot – indicating a horizontal position and hence on top.
I won’t defend Zimmerman or his actions that night. Clearly the man is a fool. And has serious issues he needs to address. But the defense destroyed the state’s case. In this country, we don’t ( or at least shouldn’t) interpret the law based on what feels good but what the evidence suggests.
Thank you for your time.
Even leaving race issues aside, how would anyone react if a stranger crawled along in a car behind you, then got out of their car and started following you on your way home? You would either run like crazy, causing you to look guilty of something,which might cause that pursuer to pursue you even harder, or you would “stand your ground” and confront that person who was chasing you — both options provided to that American boy were bad, and only because someone took it upon themselves to pursue him. How utterly twisted our thinking has become when we are more concerned about the “correctness” of this court verdict, rather than the fundamental reality that theoretically any kid could go to the store, try to make it home, get pursued by a self-made vigilante, be afraid of the person pursuing him in the dark, respond to that vigilante out of fear like a lot of people would – regardless of race – and end up getting killed in the process. There is no way around the fact that if a self-made vigilante armed with a lethal weapon hadn’t been there that night, that American citizen, that kid, would have just made it home from the store with his groceries, uninterrupted — and not dead. That frustrated vigilante and the environment that enabled him to be a “legalized” pursuer and shooter are most definitely responsible for that boy’s death.
David, in case you haven’t see this: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/07/trayvon-martin-and-the-irony-of-american-justice/277782/
A great piece that gets to the bottom of why I still feel sick about this verdict. There was no miscarriage of justice. It was American justice, as designed by (some) Americans. And that is an existential tragedy.
Agree. It was a legal manslaughter. Strictly by the book.
[…] I were a person of color in Florida, I would pick up a brick and start walking toward that courthouse in Sanford. Those that do not, those that hold the pain and betrayal inside and somehow manage to resist […]
[…] experience, working with criminals and law enforcement agents. Well, David came out this weekend with some writing on his blog, and though you can read all of it by clicking on that link right there, to sum up what he said […]
David, Thanks for your post, and for answering the posts of those who disagree with you. I wish everyone who doubts the truth of your words could spend a week on the streets of Baltimore.
I find no small bit of irony in the fact that Zimmerman’s brother is worried about him being a “target for those who want to take the law into their own hands.” Feels a little different when you’re the one fearing vigilantes, doesn’t it, George? I’m afraid that he may be incapable of it, but I hope that the fear he will feel everytime he steps out of the house for the rest of his life will give him some insight and empathy for what it means to be a black male in America.
I’m a white male who has owned guns all my life. I support the Second Amendment, but it disgusts me how the NRA and its supporters talk only about the “right” to own guns, while doing everything possible to divorce that right from any corresponding responsibility. Exempting gun manufacturers from lawsuits over the misuse of their products (lawsuits that could drive rapid improvements in the safety and security of guns). Exempting gun owners from the consequences of using deadly force, both inside and outside the home. Fighting efforts to hold gun owners accountable for leaving loaded and unsecured weapons around to be stolen or misused by children, with horrible consequences.
Even criminals know that you don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. If you carry a gun, you should be prepared to face the consequences of choosing to use (or misuse it).
Thank you, Mr Simon. Your critique breaks thru the usual trap of “America is racist” “No its not!” I am a teacher (and filmmaker) at a suburban private school and observe that the issue is more of one’s social economic background and lack of historical context. For example Every year I show the film Freedom Writers about inner city teens in LA in the 90s and hardly any of these teens know who Rodney King is much less has any clue about the LA riots. And when we talk about issues of racism and cases like Trayvon Martin or Oscar Grant its typically seen as overreacting to call it racism. But they have two major disadvantages to understanding the problem. One is that many of them never have lived or even visited the neighborhoods like South Central or West Oakland or Annacostia in DC. I was the same way because I grew up in the suburbs but spending three years living and working Columbia Heights DC showed me what the real impact of racism and classism are. Secondly most of the students study civil
Rights movement but hardly anyone really looks at what happened after. Your work, The New Jim Crow and The House I Live In hopefully will not only set the record straight but get into schools. One of my greatest hopes is that as we see in the progression in gay rights and marriage, the media can play a positive and significant role. There was a study that showed that shows like Modern Family were making a real impact on how all Americans view gay people. Just like Michelle Alexander points out that the Nixon administration used barely coded racist language and imagery to stigmatize African Americans (and we see that how folks talk about Trayvon) progressive artists can make a difference in the opposite direction with enough visibility and popularity. Keep up the fantastic work and let’s hope the plague of these stereotypes and ignorance will be healed by understanding and empathy. Peter
I do not like the verdict, but do agree with a previous commenter that in this case “beyond a reasonable doubt” could not be established (may want to blame the prosecutor for some of this). He is guilty though, whether it can be legally established or not. Hopefully there is a civil case coming.
I would like to comment on the lack of a violent response to the verdict. I was shocked by the level of racial assumption by many in the media. Can we gather all the footage of the people who predicted a violent response to a not-guilty verdict and hold them accountable for their views, or at least ask some follow-up questions? How about a news show that is just a compilation of publicity seeking, 24 hour news cycle fueled commentary on major networks and following up with those commentators.
On top of a call to address Florida’s “Stand your Ground” law, this whole situation is another Master Class study on our broken news culture. Sorkin needs another crack at “The Newsroom”.
Can I throw in my 2 cents if there is no objection. If manslaughter should have been the charge, and I think there is a possibility it could have stuck, the State should have charged based on that originally. They spent the whole trial trying to prove 2nd degree Murder and ignored manslaughter until it was added onto the end. There is also the problem that the Prosecution withheld evidence from the defense, which almost certainly would have been grounds for an appeal.
I do not know what went on that night, and I believe the Stand Your Ground law is atrocious. However, the only way to change things is to start one by one changing that law.
As for the justice system, we live where you are innocent until proven guilty. As I stated, I would rather live in a country where the Prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the guilt of a party, otherwise our jails would be filled with likely double the number of inmates.
As for the other posters on the board who may be nasty or racist, I am afraid there are extremists in every group. My suggestion is educate and work to change the laws like Stand Your Ground, rather then try to change the system.
Disagree on one point fundamental. It is always incumbent on the prosecution to prove the crime, never on the defendant to disprove it. However, it is helpful to see a self-defense as a legal subset or strategy that exists within the larger context of that overall proof.
The prosecution must prove that Mr. Martin shot and killed Mr. Martin and that there was probable cause to believe that in doing so he committed a manslaughter at the least. They did so, in my opinion. Mr. Zimmerman did not contest the fact that he shot and killed an unarmed man, and medical experts established that the injuries from the altercation were entirely modest, obviating any corroboration for Mr. Zimmerman’s claim of fearing for his life.
Nonetheless, a self-defense argument is still certainly permissible before a jury. But it is then a responsibility and perogative of the defense to argue and corroborate, if they can, such a defense. Absent sufficient proof for such a claim, the defense should, of course, fail.
Point being that at moment that the overt acts of a crime are conceded and self-defense is invoked, the burden of proof for that claim of defense shifts. Or at least it does in jurisdictions that have not embraced the bloodletting that accompanies SYG laws.
As proven by many comments. Black children in America are not allowed to be children make mistakes, learn, grow, and succeed. They are put in adult situations and expected to act like adults and when they misbehave we criminalize, dehumanize, and other them. To many Trayvon’s passing was an isolated incident, to others he reflects the daily struggle by young black men in America. Thank you for the article.
Thank you, Mr. Simon. As usual your critique is clear and logical and cuts thru the trap that these debates usually enter into. IE “America is racist.” “No its not. Not anymore.” I’m a teacher and see my privileged students respond to the cases of Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant with indifference or when someone mentions racism they resp
This was never about race until the race peddlers Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton made it about race. ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN should all be held liable for creating this storm by editing audio 911 calls so it looked like it was a one sides conversation and Zimmerman was calling him out for being black. Editing video so it looked like Zimmerman wasn’t as badly hurt as he was. Known facts. There were break ins and home invasions. They were perpetrated by young men wearing hoodies. Trayvon wan walking in between homes and back yards instead of on the sidewalk. Having those three pieces of evidence Trayvon was not profiled for walking while black but for fitting a description of the alleged burglars. When Zimmerman stop following Trayvon, Trayvon was 150 yards from his dad’s front door. Instead of walking home, he backtracked and confronted Zimmerman. Where is RACE in any of that.
As a man of color and the father of a Black male child it pains me to think that the combination ofthese two circumstances constitutes probably cause in America. Shame on you state of Florida! I will think long and hard before I ever bring him to you “fair” state!
Zimmerman is white? I guess he’s close enough to suit your toxic, racist agenda.
And exactly what was Martin using his fists and a cement slap to stand his ground against? Zimmerman’s imagined attack? The one you’ve conjured in your silly little head? Your bigotry hasn’t gone unnoticed.
I hope a guy like Martin, whose texts revealed was no stranger to violence, decides to “stand his ground” with you some day. That’s the only way people you will wake up to what’s actually taking place in the real world. You’ll be packing a gun and singing a different tune the following day, you racist.
To be a called a racist by someone who can pen such a posting is truly a delight. I thank you for it, and while I normally consign such screeds to the trashbin, yours will remain to affirm the reservoir of hate, fear and resentment that undergirds such things as stand-your-ground barbarism. It is unreasonable to tar with your vitriol others on this site who disagree with me on the merits. They are endeavoring to argue something more than white rage. So we will stand you apart from them. Nonetheless, you are evidence of that pathology which puts teenagers at risk every day in this nation, should they have the effrontery to walk down the street talking on a phone and eating candy.
“Procedure is the last refuge of a vanishing majority.”
I’ve been thinking about that line a lot, lately. It comes from Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, in a conversation between Hunter Thompson and Rick Stearns, on the Humphrey campaign’s doomed attempt to subvert McGovern’s nomination on the convention floor.
I think it explains a lot, though, about what conservatives have been up to in America these last few years. You can’t examine the results of the 2010 elections and fail to conclude that an extremely small number of people, harboring both a bizarre world-view and a gnashing rage at the election of Barack Obama, decided the outcome. And ever since, the great issues of the day have been at the mercy of their procedural sabotage.
The strategy is crystal-clear and ice-cold: Massive public support for gun control legislation? Micro-target key senators and kill the bill. Massive Congressional support for renewing the VRA? Use litigation and a one-vote Supreme Court advantage to cancel decades of social progress. Congressional supermajorities for health care reform? Challenge it in the courts and rest its survival on a narrowly drawn gray area in the law of interstate commerce.
And that is exactly what Stand Your Ground is, too: a procedural innovation which (quite un-conservatively) overturns generations of common-law wisdom and our own intuitive, human sense of justice. For hundreds of years, questions of aggression and retreat have been crucial to determining whether a killing was justified self-defense, or whether it was murder. We needed those questions, because we valued human life, and we weren’t prepared to let the taking of it go unpunished if those questions didn’t have satisfactory answers.
Stand Your Ground puts those questions to the torch, and creates a new moral and legal wasteland, a state of nature where the armed do what they can, and the unarmed suffer what they must.
The only consolation–if indeed we can call it that–is that this behavior is manifestly the calling-card of a shrinking majority. (It’s a poker tell, but we don’t even need that: demographic data tells us the same thing.) Will a majority coalition of formerly oppressed minorities do better, be wiser and stronger, than their oppressors? Maybe, maybe. But I’m remembering this, by Auden:
I and the public know,
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
The comment and responses have been at least as good as your original post.
There are a few facts that get in the way of the generally accepted scenario.
TM drew GZ’s attention, not because he was black, but because he was acting unusually. It was raining and he was wandering looking at houses. This can be the MO of a peeping tom or a burglar. It could also be innocent, but GZs response of calling non-emergency was correct.
TM made it to his dad’s GF’s house. DeeDee testified to this. How did he get from there to the Tee, 400 ft away and why.
TM was wearing a button memorializing Cory Johnson at the 7-11 and when GZ first spotted him. At some point, he removed the button and put it in his pocket. Could be an innocent act, could be a pre-cursor to an attack.
In the transcript of the GZ phone call, other than the flash of anger at the punks getting away, GZ is non-aggressive. There is no evidence that he got out of the car to “stalk” TM, only to follow for a location. If TM made it to where he was staying, as DeeDee testified, then he was there at least 2 minutes before the encounter. There is no way GZ caught him at the Tee two minutes after he was at the house.
The other inconvenient fact is that TM was carrying Arizona Watermelon Fruit Punch (not iced tea) and Skittles. These could be an innocent snack, they are also 2/3 of the ingredients of Purple Drank. TM stated on his social media several times that he was a user of Purple Drank. While this may not be relevant to the case, it is interesting that after more than a year, the media and others, still refer to the drink as “iced tea”.
My final point is an opinion, based on my experience. TM was raised in a pretty tough environment. Per his social media, he was a fighter. My opinion, is that the reason his dad did not originally ID Trayvon as the person yelling for help is that he knew his son, better than anyone. He knew that his son considered himself a man and probably a tough man. He knew that Trayvon would never yell for help. If he was being beat, he would take the beating in silence rather than it be know that he yelled for help. GZ, not so much. He called the cops frequently. He didn’t fight his own battles. He carried a gun, in my opinion, because he was afraid.
Hate to break it to you, but looking at houses in a suburban neighborhood is not probable cause or indicative of anything. What should he have been looking at? A chorus line? A drive-in movie? Nor is the rest of your mitigation worth anything at all as P.C. for what Mr. Zimmerman ultimately achieved in terms of the encounter and death of this teenager.
Your speculation about who the victim was and how nicely Mr. Zimmerman spoke to the police dispatcher, other than to vent about the punks getting away with crimes in his neighborhood is just embarrassing.
I was a police reporter in one of America’s most dangerous cities for a decade and a half. There isn’t a competent peace officer or prosecutor who would look at the paragraphs you just offered with anything other than weary contempt.
Weak stuff. Not even close to the full, and relevant details of the story.
An important detail imo. Do you deny that Zimmerman had a right to defend himself in this situation?
Actually, the physical evidence shows that however you want to describe the altercation and how it proceeded, Mr. Zimmerman suffered treat-and-walk-away injuries that were both modest and not at all indicative of an aggravated or serious assault. Weak stuff, indeed, trying to manufacture a more violent conflict than the physical evidence actually corroborates.
You don’t get to kill another human being for a common assault. If you did, the bars and ballyards and backyards of America would be full of dead people who slapped or threw a punch. And the death rate would be astonishing. The standards for self-defense in America were, until recently, operating with the preservation of human life as a priority. Not anymore.
I understand that you are okay with this. But it is barbarism. And shameful.
Far be it from me to assume the media reports things accurately, largely due to incompetence and lack of expertise, but it sounds like the specific “Stand Your Ground” law cited so strongly by the media wasn’t even at play in the trial. It was not in the jury instructions, was it? No one seemed to say it was. The only specific quote I found in any media was the typical Justifiable Homicide, which dates back to the Common Law, was the standard used to excuse a manslaughter.
Certainly the prosecution had done nothing to prove a murder, by the law. But a manslaughter can generally be assumed (since no one disputed Mr. Zimmerman was the killer. It was practically stipulated). All that remains is whether the killing was justified.
For me, the issue there was whose burden was it to prove this? I found this to be unclear in media coverage and it is NOT the same throughout the US. Was this by preponderance of the evidence (that is to say, based on the evidence presented it is more likely than it was not) or was the defense shouldering the burden to show it was? This was completely unclear to the point that I’m not sure many of the sensationalist media even cared. Certainly the people at home don’t care.
I’m interested in seeing the law applied properly and at this moment I am unsure if it was. I was not presented with the evidence (I didn’t stay home to watch the trial). I don’t trust media soundbites as they are slanted one way or the other. I didn’t see the juror’s instructions. I didn’t get to ask the judge to clarify the legal standard for justifiable homicide.
It’s entirely possible the verdict is proper based on being not guilty until proven guilty. Just because most of us can plainly state Mr. Zimmerman created most of the situation, if not all, and the whole thing didn’t have to happen does not mean that is the LAW.
Of course, based on what I see in the news, many many people no longer care about the law. Certainly our leaders do not. They care about it sometimes, when it suits them, and other times they say they have a higher duty. Such anarchy in the leadership weakens democracy. It means what the leaders pass into code is meaningless and the voters really can’t envision what their vote means, since it will be changed when the need suits the leaders.
With this verdict, Trayvon’s murder has become a retroactive state-sponsored lynching.
It seems to me that as abhorrent as this verdict is to many of us, it is the logical end product of the far-right distrust of government. Let us buy all the guns we want. Let us carry them around anywhere we want. If we get into (or start) a fight, let us defend ourselves any way we want. Their view is that the government has no business telling me whether or not I can kill someone I feel is threatening my life, even if I made bad decision after bad decision after bad decision to force that situation to exist.
If I were a Florida Tea Partier, I’d be rejoicing this decision, because it finally proves that the government no longer exists (unless you’re a woman needing reproductive healthcare of any kind, of course).
So no Zimmerman is a white man killing a black child? Nice race baiting. His mother is hispanic, just like Obama’s mother is white. Do we call Obama a white president or do we just choose the one race that fits your agenda?
The fault lies with the prosecution, not the jury. They went after Murder 2 which was never going to happen. The facts show Zimmerman did not just shoot Trayvon. Trayvon was on top hitting him, it was proven by not only the defense but the dumb prosecution. If they went after manslaighter from beginning they would have gotten it, but the media wanted to make this a giant race war and this is what they get. Good job
The racial equivocation is yours. That weak-sister semantic dance has been answered repeatedly elsewhere in this thread a dozen times. You may find it if you wish.
This is about race. Some things in America are actually about that, whether the media wants to discuss it or not.
Thanks, Mr Simon, for this posting. I felt the same way only you expressed it much more eloquently and efficiently than I could have done. I guess that’s what being a writer is all about. I hate how this poor kid has had his name and reputation dragged through the mud and he is not here to defend himself. It really sickens me. I hope Trayvon’s family and legal fund sue Zimmerman in civil court, and drive him into the dust of history.
Imagine if Martin had bested Zimmerman in the scuffle, maybe even killing him. Would he have been allowed to use the Stand Your Ground defense? Doubtful.
He should certainly have tried, opting for a trial by a judge. Because a trial by five whites and one Latina would not have done him a lot of good.
SYG doesn’t work so well if you’re Black. Compared to White-on-White SYG claims, Black-on-White claims are far less than 50% as successful.
Imagine if Zimmerman had decided to stay in his car the way he was advised to and not decided to confront Martin and his Skittles with a gun?
I completely disagree with you. If Trayvon Martin had won under this set of facts, if one of those blows to the head gave Zimmerman deadly head injury he probably would walk free.
This is because Trayvon Martin is entitled to the same presumption of innocence that Zimmerman is and it would be pretty difficult to say you are not entitled to defend yourself against a person with a gun.
This is the thing that makes me angriest about the entire sad situation: Zimmerman initiated the conflict between the two. We may never know exactly how that conflict played out, but it makes me sick that Zimmerman could claim self-defense when he shot a teenager that he himself had been antagonizing.
Martin would, at the very least , be serving life and, probably, on death row.
If you actually followed the proceedings you would know that George Zimmerman’s lawyers waived any claim of the “stand your ground” defense and elected to go to trail for the murder charge. Later after it was obvious the prosecutor failed miserably the add on charges of manslaughter and child abuse were brought forward as an attempt to continue with what is an attempt of a modern day lynching by mob mentality. To hell with the courts, to hell with the facts, lets hang him anyway. I know, lets get the proverbial dirt-bag Sharpton on the case; he is such a seeker of truth.
If you followed the case, you would know that SYG influenced the systemic failure of the police investigation in the early hours after the shooting as police failed to retain evidence, work the crime scene properly and obtain critical statements from witnesses in the initial hours. Why? Because they did not think they had a chargeable case because of the SYG logic. You would also know that jury instructions in the trial were in concert with the logic of SYG. Moreover, if you thought about it, you would realize that the presence of a SYG standard in any state is deeply influential on the juror pool and on the legal culture to begin with.
You want to believe in this revolution, okay. You want to pretend it isn’t an inversion of previous generations of self-defense standards in American law, no. There will be many more cases like this to come if these laws stand. Your hyperbole is bullshit. No one except you — in ridiculous sarcasm — is saying to hell with courts or facts. We are seeking a return to a legal standard and ethos that has existed since the English common law. Also tarring your opposition with Al Sharpton — and tarring Al Sharpton for the hell of it, is a marvelous ad hominem that is irrelevant to anything. But thanks for playing.
“Would he have been allowed to use the Stand Your Ground defense? Doubtful.”
Zimmerman didn’t use it either, so that’s a moot point.
No, but the police did when they went inert in the investigative window immediately following the shooting. As did the judge when he offered comparable language to the jury. As does the state of Florida, when they revolutionize the understood standards for self-defense among the jury pool by maintaining such legislation.
Don’t pretend that SYG hasn’t had a fundamental influence here. And beyond this case? Read the Tampa Bay Times project on the death toll in Florida for the last six years.
My problem is with the media acting like this is the norm and that this kind of crime is on the rise and that young black men should be afraid of walking down the street if there’s a middle aged white guy anywhere near. That’s not even close to being the case, at all. This was an isolated incident. There really aren’t many George Zimmermans in the World who stand by their window looking for a suspicious character to run outside and then question while carrying a gun in his pocket. The fact that there are a few guys out there like that is a problem and should be dealt with accordingly, but the fact that the media wants to put all its focus onto this while pretty much ignoring the other major problems in this country while this case is the “hot topic” bugs the living hell out of me. The media just loves a good race-baiting story where evil whitey is evil. And the fact that you’ve bought into that line of thinking Mr. Simon disappoints me verily. Season 5 of The Wire you set out to expose the media’s bullshit, yet you still fell for it here. The media gave very little coverage to the bodies stacked up in those abandoned houses, but as soon as a sick psycho killer came along, all of the sudden it’s everywhere you look… tv, newspapers, everywhere. And the media cared a couple of homeless killings because it obviously involved sick, evil whitey being sick and evil, while at the same time putting all the murders in the abandon houses on the back burner. I don’t see the difference between that and what’s happening right now. This is literally the same thing! I know other people have bought up the killings in Chicago and you scoffed at that, but dude, it’s the exact same point made in Season 5 of The Wire. The only reason this case got to you as much as it did was because the media decided to cover it and shove it down people’s throats. Bottom line.
What happened to Trayvon was a tragedy. Zimmerman deserved a manslaughter sentencing. People should be upset that he didn’t get it. But acting like this is the biggest problem currently in America? Get a grip on reality.
I also hate how people act like race relations aren’t improving at a rapid rate in this country. Is there still racism? Of course, but it takes time. When the older generation dies off and the newer generations grow old, do you really think racism will be that big of a deal in this country assuming there’s no catastrophic event that wipes the majority of us away? Come on. We’re advancing. It might not be at the pace we’d all prefer, but we are advancing.
Get ready for the next case. Middle-aged white guy opens fire, kills young black male by firing repeatedly into his car at a gas station after an argument that commenced because a radio was playing loudly. Defendant has invoked stand your ground statute. Florida, again.
The law has changed — and the culture of legal self-defense is changing — in a revolutionary fashion. There will be more of these cases now. Not less.
Remember, George Zimmerman self identifies as hispanic. He’s not a “middle aged white guy”
Doesn’t it more matter what jurors, and those initial investigating officers (who wrote “white” in their report and then failed to perform basic investigative function) and society as a whole regards him as? Isn’t that the applicable reality, Eric?
Are you clinging to this semantic crumb to somehow suggest that a part European, part Latino citzen with a German surname is subject to the same vulnerabilities as a young black male walking on the streets? Do you honestly believe that? If so, you’re not thinking right. If not, then examine what you are doing here, trying for a racial equivalence that doesn’t actually exist.
I look forward to your explanation of how Zimmerman’s & Michael Dunn’s cases were “really different” when Dunn is convicted after not employing ‘Stand Your Ground’ which is not applicable (as it was not in Zimmerman; You do know this, yes?) in this case.
Dunn will do time, as he should.
The only similarities in these cases are a male adult who is not black shooting a teen who is. Is it skin color, age, guns or zeitgeist? I don’t know, but then again, I’m not trying to influence people by pretending I do…
The influence of SYG in the Zimmerman case is profound. In the failure to retain and acquire evidence in the critical hours after the shooting because the police department felt SYG impaired their ability to charge, and in its echo in the judge’s instructions to the jury. Moreover, it has cast a pall over the twenty states in which it has been implemented, influencing the juror pool to a lesser standard for the use of lethal force and diminishing the deterrent against homicide. It is opposed by every responsible police agency and prosecutorial group in the United States.
Why don’t you go to the Tampa Bay Times site and look up their accounting of the bloodletting in the last six years in Florida alone, and then resume your Talmudic assessments about when this horror show might or might not produce a better outcome in a case?
I wonder if the names Michael Dunn and Jordan Davis are in his radars yet, David.
BTW, prosecuting attorneys hate these laws:
I would also add that there are far more travesties using these “get away with murder” laws than just Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. In fact, they lead to totally absurd results–but don’t expect USMSM to report on them.
That’s the grand joke. These laws are opposed by every responsible law-and-order group, from prosecutors to police agencies and organizations. These statutes kill people.
I always appreciate your perspective, and can certainly understand the anger, Mr. Simon.
But isn’t it worth acknowledging that there are striking differences between the two cases? There was no physical altercation in this horrible gas station shooting, and I don’t doubt for a minute that the perpetrator will be sentenced to life in prison. Stand Your Ground is not going to cut it.
And if you’ll note, Stand Your Ground was not even invoked in George Zimmerman’s trial. There was a lot of sturm and drang about it (and rightly so – its an absurdity), but in the end he claimed traditional self-defense and his attorney’s hinged the case on a claim that Trayvon Martin was unaware of the gun, struck first, and pressed the fight until ZImmerman feared for his life. The jury believed this, at least to the point of reasonable doubt.
It seems unlikely that Zimmerman truly feared for his life, and I think conceal and carry laws, not to mention the entire 2nd Amendment could use another look. But given the law as it is written, I think it entirely possible that if the races had been reversed, the outcome could have been the same. It was a nightmare fact pattern for the prosecution.
Trayvon Martin should be alive today, and it’s Mr. Zimmerman’s fault that he’s not. But that doesn’t preclude the possibility that he is legally not guilty, and it has always – and will always – be thus in a nation where there exists the presumption of innocence for the accused. As there must be.
Why don’t you go to the Tampa Bay Times site, assess the project that they published showing the casualties in total, and take your fucking pick of all the cases in which this new legal standard has been invoked in the wake of bloodshed. Why don’t you then focus on the systemic, just for laughs and relevance?
Mr. Simon, I appreciate your work, but you’re wrong. In the other case you’re alluding to, the defendant is likely toast, because the evidence is not on your side.
Not only did Mr. Zimmerman show a lot of reasonable doubt as to whether he acted in self defense, the weight of the evidence actually supported the idea that it was Martin who decided to confront Zimmerman, not the other way around. Keeping an eye on someone is not, and never was, a crime or justification for someone to attack you.
I appreciate your initial complement, but you are wrong. And while this is unsuitable for the jury’s consideration, I know. But if there was a reasoned scenario by which this shooting had to occur, why did Mr. Zimmerman not offer it in court and assume the risk of a cross-examination. If he did what he said he did, the better to inform the jury of his reasonableness in the chronology that led to the use of the handgun? I don’t buy it. Not for a minute. Mr. Zimmerman’s account as outlined by his attorneys without the risk of any probative reply from prosecutors is as uncorroborated as can be. And what physical evidence we do have suggests a common assault, not an aggravated assault, as the worst possible provocation for the use of a gun in the willful slaying of Mr. Martin.
Re: cross-examination. It’s a terrible risk to put a defendant on the stand, because attorneys are very adept at picking apart even the best witness. Basically you only put a criminal defendant on the stand when it’s vital to your case, and in this one it was not, because Zimmerman’s statements to cops were already introduced, and the state’s case was circumstantial and weak.
I know why they didn’t do it. I accept the tactical reasons. But acknowledge that the full opportunity to corroborate or impeach the gunman’s claims did not occur in this court contest. Legally, that is not for the jury to contemplate. But this is website. I’m contemplating it and saying it pisses all over these broad claims of corroboration for any account by Mr. Zimmerman of this confrontation.
I think the bottom line is this:
Based on the evidence presented in court, I don’t think the state proved BRD that self-defense didn’t exist here. I know that sounds conclusory, but it’s too exhausting to go into all the evidence.
Briefly, I think the most damning evidence for the State’s case was the timing of the events. Based on the distance from the truck to the house where Martin was staying, and the 4 minute window in which Martin had to go 100 yards, and Ms. Jeantel’s testimony that Martin was right by his dad’s house at one point, it seems probable that Martin doubled back to the T in the sidewalk to confront Zimmerman.
David Simon’s portrayal of the media using stories to drive ratings doesnt diminish what he is saying or representing. The funny thing is that no one of substance or common sense is accusing zimmerman of being this big KKK racist; we are saying that he profiled martin on the basis that he was a young, black male. IF anything, zimmerman was prejudiced. Is it disgusting that the media ignores the killings in chicago? Hell yea. It would also destroy the anti-gun narrative being pushed because Chi-town has some of the most stringent gun laws and the highest murder rates in teh country. But that has nothing to do with this case and the fact that you bring it up is pretty sad.
IF the justice system did what they were supposed to do, this situation wouldnt have been as big. If the police notified trayvons parents immediately and held george zimmerman in custody as they are supposed to do, and if the police investigation went as it was supposed to, this case wouldnt be as big. Remember, the police chief retired because of the botch job he did on the case. Also, the reason why people like david simon got into the case isnt merely because it was reported through the media, its because he was actually notified of it and developed a response to it, as did many others. Are there opportunists who only follow it because of media coverage and no, yes, they are guys like sharpton and even the juror who is now writing a book.
I find it disgusting that people say this wasnt predicated on race or that we should care about the kids in chicago, as if people around the country dont. Is it because we arent marching or protesting for peace? Or is it because the economies are piss poor in chi-town and detroit or the cops in chi-town have been greatly decreased and have been informed to only follow calls for certain crimes? Racism is alive and well and its not just this zimmerman case. Its institutionalized now and i hate it when people who arent subject or victim to it make the general statements that its decreasing. Is it decreasing, yea i guess compared to the 60’s, but its much more subtle and institutionalized. People dont even play the race card as much nowadays, and even when it should be played, others try to deter people from rightly doing so.
I just want to know why people think zimmerman followed trayvon. Because he was committing a crime? No. Because he looked suspicious? Wearing a hoodie in the rain? No. And non-black people love hoodies, go to a local college and see for yourself. I digress, but it angers me that people arent truthful. Again, if I follow you home in your own neighborhood, what would you do? If you dont question me or defend yourself if I attack or provoke you, you would probably allow real criminals to destroy your neighborhood right in front of your eyes. Racism isnt just KKK wearing hoodies; its rasheeda or laquiisha having similar credentials to blair or kelly and being denied for a job because of her job. Its pulling your purse when on a bus with minorities. Its putting blacks in the back of your restaurant to work and informing them to pick up checks at the back of the restaurant. its jenna 6. And in this case, even though its more so prejudice than racism, its profiling a kid who lives in your neighborhood because of how he looks and not for what his doing.
We live in two different Americas – this type of incident is not as isolated as you think. Granted, all the GZ’s running outside questioning ‘suspicious strangers’ may not carry guns, but believe me, most black men, and a good number of black women, can tell of at least one instance where they were accosted, with varying degrees of civility, by a GZ type. Often, these encounters happen in a place where the black person has a legal right to be, while said black person was doing nothing wrong. Not all of them escalate to violence, but when white strangers feel entitled to demand answers from another human being based on appearance alone, the law of averages dictates that, every now and then, someone will get hurt. And by answers, I really mean a justification of existence. The basic question is, after all, why are you, Mr./Ms Black person, existing somewhere I, white stranger, think you don’t belong?
This is the norm.
As Mr. Simon has already pointed out, there is another trial scheduled to take place a few months from now, also in Florida. A white man named Michael Dunn, with a sketchy history and a criminal record (like Zimmerman) gunned down a 17-year-old named Jordan Davis because Davis and his friends wouldn’t turn down the music in their car.
Dunn claimed he felt “threatened: by the black teenagers even though all were in their cars and no one got out of their cars. Once he shot up the car, Dunn raced away from the scene of the crime. Dunn later told police he thought he saw a gun in the teens’ car but no gun was ever found. Every witness at the scene backs up the teens’ version of events, not Dunn’s. Yet I’m still not convinced Dunn will be found guilty, even though all the evidence is against him.
The reason I bring up Dunn? Because Dunn is trying to invoke Zimmerman’s “self-defense” garbage. Now that Zimmerman has gotten away with killing a black kid, Dunn probably feels emboldened to do the same. I expect the Dunn defense team to smear Davis the way Zimmerman’s defense team tried to smear Martin. They saw how successful Zimmerman’s attorneys were at portraying Trayvon Martin as a “thug” who got what he deserved.
If yet another white man gets off for killing a black teen using this defense, you don’t think this isn’t going to be duplicated elsewhere? Get real. This is a terrifying precedent to set: That a black teen can be killed simply because he wasn’t “compliant” enough and because he didn’t follow a white man’s orders. Welcome back to the 1950s and 1960s.
I’m assuming you are not black. And that’s just an assumption. It’s based on the first few sentences you wrote. You said “My problem is with the media acting like this is the norm …that young black men should be afraid of walking down the street if there’s a middle aged white guy anywhere near. That’s not even close to being the case, at all.”
Before I grew to be a young black man, I was a little black boy. And like many little black boys, I was instructed and sometimes scolded by my parents about the way I had to act in public. If I was with white friends, I couldn’t always do the “fun” things they did. If I was with white adults, I had to speak intelligently but not speak too much. I had to always be aware that I was black, even if white people didn’t realize they were white. If I ever met a cop in uniform, I would have to lose my pride, and sometimes my dignity, even if I did nothing wrong, so that I wouldn’t be put in handcuffs.
If I was walking along a street alone, I couldn’t walk to quickly, I couldn’t keep my hands in my pockets, I couldn’t look around to make sure no one was following me, I couldn’t show fear on my face no matter how dark it was because doing that would make me look suspicious.
Young black men are afraid to walk down the street everyday. Because of a middle-aged white man. Because of a young white woman. Because of a cop of any color. Because the probable cause to stop us or think we look suspicious is in the color of our skin.
This isn’t an exaggeration, it’s a reality that so many people like me live in this country. I don’t want to be part of an argument. I just want you to know that young black men are so much more afraid than you think.
Injustice happens all the time in our courts. Guilty go free on a daily basis. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Zimmerman did not disengage as the dispatcher suggested. Neither did Martin. Donwe really think Zimmerman approached him, gun in hand, threatening him? Most likely not. He probably harrassed him a bit and asked him what he was doing in the neighborhood. Did he have a right to be there…yes. Did he have to start beating Zimmerman…no. What a reasonable person does is just continue to walk away and go about there business.
One man had a gun. He used it against an unarmed man. He had, just prior, expressed his frustration with criminals and then he took the life of someone who was not engaged in criminal activity.
Why do you feel the need to mitigate these fundamentals?
Wasn’t punching someone in the nose & banging his head on the ground, criminal activity?
Mr. Zimmerman’s injuries were treated-and-released minor, as characterized by medical experts. Do you believe that common assault — and indeed that assault may have been mutual combat, as we can never know who first laid hands on who — is punishable by summary execution. American law and the standards for self-defense used to say no. Stand-your-ground says yes.
Or worse, do you think “criminal activity” is grounds for the use of lethal force? Property crime? Trespassing?
Minor because the conflict ended before they could become something more? No doubt had Zimmerman not killed him Trayvon would have stopped on his own?
At any rate, there is no requirement that Zimmerman show that he was injured to any particular degree. He only needed to show that deadly force was necessary to defend himself from imminent death or great bodily harm. A key word here is “imminent.” In some circumstances this can be done without the presence of any injuries at all.
Imagine if Mr. Martin had put a hand in his pocket or gone to the waistband of his bands. By your logic, he needed be shot at that moment, given that he might be pulling a gun. Better to shoot and kill than to wait until the conflict “could become something more.”
With every rationalization for the slaying of an unarmed teenager, with every speculative shred of uncorroborated bullshit about what might have happened or what could have happened, the defense of Mr. Zimmerman’s crime becomes more untenable and hideous. You should be ashamed, brother.
First the Florida legislature failed by passing such a loosely written law. On top of that shame on the FL legislature for allowing the NRA to influence or persuade them with political pressure and financial incentives.
Second Trayvon’s friend testified that she heard Zimmerman ask Trayvon “what are you doing here?” Putting myself in Trayvon’s shoes the simple response is, my mom lives hear, or I am visiting and walking back to my moms house, or I am walking home. Aside from these statements or something similar I find it odd that Zimmerman would react with violence or threat with his gun. Unfortunately it seems Trayvon responded with violence. Maybe he felt Zimmerman was a creepy cracker but two wrongs do not make a right. Trayvon’s actions resulted in his death and Zimmerman’s decision has ultimately changed his life forever, effectively a life sentence in it of its own.
As for the quote of “these punks” I can apply it to any group of kids and to me it doesn’t ring of racist overtones. I am middle eastern and have dealt with my fair share of racism. I feel as though racism is only where you choose to find it. You can either look at the cup have full or always have empty. At the end of the day you determine how you look at and perceive the world.
With all due respect, we weren’t there so none of us know what truly happened. So to speculate that Trayvon was innocent in all of this is foolish. He did knock down Zimmerman who was twice his size. He did manage to punch him out and bang his head against the concrete and make him bleed. If he could do that to someone twice his size he could be extremely dangerous to someone his size and smaller.
Someone who has nothing to hide does not come out swinging. Why do people need to portray him as an innocent kid. Innocent kids just stop and chat, they don’t come out swinging. I don’t give a hoot what color he is, if you are innocent and have nothing to hide you just speak you don’t attack.
As for using the race card. Isn’t Zimmerman Hispanic? How does this become a black and white racial issue? How do you and others have the nerve to use that card??? Seriously.
Maybe the answer is that kids need to learn common decency and respect. If kids want to be respected then they need to understand that they have to behave with respect for others as well and not take on attitude. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, learn to be respectful of others. And don’t think that because you are a black kid you can use your race to hide behind. You have the same responsibility as everyone else to be responsible and accountable for your actions.
So if you want to analyze the situation and ask why Zimmerman HAD to pull his gun, go back and ask why Trayvon HAD to attack? Why not just have a normal conversation on a normal afternoon? Without the attitude the outcome would have been totally different. Don’t be so quick to give a free pass for inappropriate behavior it leads to dangerous situations. Ask yourself to be honest and think of what you would have done if a kid that got the best of you, and may have been physically stronger than you, knocked you down on the ground and was bashing your skull against the concrete? You have a split second to react, a split second, not all the time in the world like all of you to think and rethink your positions.
I feel terrible that this happened. Zimmerman will have to live with his own nightmares about this for the rest of his life. He is NOT happy that he took this child’s life. But to think that he did it happily and because of the color of the kid’s skin is sick on so many levels. He is NOT the monster you make him out to be, YOU are the monsters to believe that anyone would be pleased with themselves or would choose to end a child’s life.
This was unusual circumstances. They were both engaged in a terrible situation and it ended badly. YOU say it didn’t have to turn out that way and I say it didn’t have to happen at all.
Indeed. Speculation gets us no where. Mr. Zimmerman could be complicit. Mr. Martin could be. Both may have made grand errors in judgment and violated the rights of the other. We can’t know. And since Mr. Zimmerman declined to testify, we can’t even know how he might have answered probative questions about his account. Mr. Martin is dead, of course. He can’t answer in any forum.
Here’s what we do know.
One man expressed anger and frustration about the punks who always get away with crimes in his neighborhood. He complained of such to police. He was driving in his neighborhood and he encountered a young black male who was engaged in no criminal activity and who demonstrated no probable cause to suspect otherwise. A conflict ensued. It might have originated with Mr. Martin, or Mr. Zimmerman might have laid hands on the youth first. Or it might have been mutual combat. We can’t know. But the man who had expressed anger and frustration at the activities of punks in his neighborhood then produced a gun. It was the only lethal weapon present during this encounter. He used the gun to shoot the other, unarmed man.
These things we know. And in knowing them, I am saying that Mr. Zimmerman is responsible for the death of a teenaged boy and he should have been found guilty of manslaughter on the merits of the known case.
Exactly. Stand your ground says his actions are legal under Florida law. Like I said before, you can not like the law, you cannot like the outcome, you should think the law should be changed, but you cannot argue that his actions were legally allowed under Florida Law.
It was a legal manslaughter. He took a life and escaped rightful judgment and sanction. I believe I have spent a couple days saying so — and criticizing both the legal framework and the racial attitudes inherent in a Florida jury pool for contributing to the outcome. Have you been reading any of this mess?
I really appreciate your article and the post replies from you because they’ve helped find clarity. Normally I do not post comments on the internet but this tragic situation has compelled me to do so. This is proof of just how far we have not come as a nation with equal treatment among the races.
In respond to Greg’s post about “What a reasonable person does is just continue to walk away and go about their business.” … Zimmerman refused to follow the dispatcher’s request to not approach Martin and then saying “They always get away.” Therefore I doubt if Zimmerman would have ever allowed Martin to just continue to walk away and go about his business. Zimmerman should have never approached Martin and waited for the police to question Martin. Even if Martin refused to wait for the police Zimmer should have just stayed behind and allowed the ploice to pick up the pursuit (Even though Martin hadn’t done anything wrong). I believe Zimmerman was intent on capturing Martin and I believe he was also hoping to see a reason, real or imagined, to shoot the teenager. Now … a young life has ended for no good reason and the shooter will be looking over his shoulder and held in contempt the rest of his life.
Can you clarify? I agree, criminal activity is not grounds for the use of lethal force. But if someone is prone, being restrained and assaulted (if, as the evidence suggests, Trayvon was straddling him UFC style), why isn’t that a self-defense situation?
For the hundredth time, we do not know how this confrontation proceeded to a fistfight. It could be mutual combat in which case it is not criminal activity. It could also be that Mr. Zimmerman made the first physical contact, in which case the charge is common assault by him. Or it is a common assault of which Mr. Martin is guilty.
But from the physical evidence, it is a common assault. Walk away, treat-and-release injuries. It is not an aggravated assault, meaning no one’s life was in jeopardy when one man — the one with a gun — elected to unilaterally escalate the violence and willfully take a human life.
Common assault is criminal activity. It is a misdemeanor. So are property crimes, or trespassing.
Aggravated assault is a felony.
One of these justifies the use lethal force in self-defense. Can we stop playing jive-ass semantic games and focus on the substance of the argument against taking a human life unless the threat absolutely requires it? Or can you never allow yourself to focus on this core legal value and my defense of it?
It has nothing to do with punishment, or summary execution. The law is quite clear on when one can use deadly force to defend oneself, and Martin’s attack on Zimmerman crossed that line.
It crossed it in every state, with or without SYG. It crossed the line even if Zimmerman followed him.
While we can debate endlessly if this was mutual combat, if you watch the evidence and testimony offered by the state, it’s clear that they could not prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, nor in my opinion could they have even proven it to a lesser preponderance of evidence standard.
In Florida, this may well be true. In the civilized world, which includes smaller and smaller stretches of these United States, now that the NRA is ghost-writing our legislation, this is not true. Nor should it be true.
Mr. Zimmerman took the life of an unarmed man when it was, by all measure of the corroboration or lack thereof, unnecessary. You wanna stand with Florida, I’m sure there’s plenty of room for you. But it is barbaric. And shameless. And worthy of the contempt of those who place real value on the preservation of human life. Sorry.
Isn’t that kind of action self-defense against someone who came after you with a gun?
Speculation as to when the gun came out, of course. But that’s the point.
No one knows the chronology here to that degree.
What we do know is only one man had a gun, produced, and used it against an unarmed victim.
If someone was stalking me, following me around and demanding to know who I was and what I was doing even though I was in my own neighborhood, yeah I might be punching someone too, especially if they’re hostile about it as Zimmerman probably was (just listen to the 911 calls and you can hear his anger and frustration). Unless you’re a police officer, I have the right to tell you to fuck off. You want me to tell you who I am, fine call the police and wait until the police get there. I’ll tell the police my story, not some douchebag stranger.
If a complete stranger was following your daughter, sister, mother, girlfriend around would you tell them to try and defend themselves or would you tell them to be a “good little girl” and comply with whatever the stranger asked for. Think about it for a moment. If someone attacked them would you want them to hit back or sit there and take it?
Also, how do we know Martin started the fight? He may have been defending himself. Zimmerman may have started the fight. We don’t know because we weren’t there. Zimmerman is the only who knows and he has told multiple versions of his story and picks out the one he thinks sounds best according to the audience he is talking to.
Basically you’re saying Zimmerman has the right to defend himself but not Trayvon Martin.
If had stayed in his car, he would never been beaten. He was the instigator. It’s his own fault he got beaten by a teenage boy and it’s his own fault that teenage boy is now dead.
Let’s be intellectually dishonest and ignore all pertinent information that does not conform to our preconceived notions and then proceed to react emotionally. For example, let’s merely say that Trayvon was “unarmed.” If we do that we can allow ourselves to ignore the fact that murder doesn’t require a weapon. Bashing someone’s head against pavement certainly can’t result in severe physical injury or death. If it could we might then be forced to conclude that that would be the crime that little Trayvon was engaged in when Zimmerman took his life. Let’s avoid all of that and keep things simple right?
This is beautiful.
Here we have a word “unarmed.’ Everyone engaged in this discussion knows what it means when we use it. It means he did not have a knife or a gun or a ratchet or any other object that can be used to cause bodily harmed. That is what it means legally. That’s what it would mean to every sentient investigating officer. That’s what it means to everyone reading this right now.
But “unarmed” is not how you wish to see Mr. Martin described. It is unpleasant. It is inconvenient. It is a fact that gets in the way of the narrative you wish to embrace, that of Mr. Martin’s lethal potential. So let’s discard that word and focus on the potential for killing someone without a weapon.
Never mind that it is actually — and any pathologist will tell you so — much, much, much harder to kill or seriously maim another human being without a gun or knife or blunt object. Indeed, it is much harder to kill someone with a blunt object or knife than a gun, as any death investigator can assure you. But fists? Yes, it is possible for a lucky punch to take a life. Or for a combatant to fall and hit his head. Or for the odd assailant, not a seventeen year old really, but Mike Tyson or whoever to have a lethal right cross. Let’s ignore all the probabilities and say that Trayvon Martin was armed. He had his fists! He had his feet! He had teeth in his head. He might have bit Mr. Zimmerman to death, for all we know.
The intellectual corruption that you are willing to undertake in order to excuse the slaying of an unarmed teenager is astonishing and contemptible. Unarmed means unarmed. Which was what Trayvon Martin was. Whereas, Mr. Zimmerman exited his vehicle armed with a loaded handgun and used it to kill the unarmed market. The misshapen paragraph you wrote to avoid these fundamentals and excuse your dishonesties reveals everything about the emptiness of your arguments.
You can be angry, but the court upheld the law. You cannot like the law, you cannot like the outcome, but based on the evidence presented, there is no way you can convict this man. There are only two people who really, really truly know what happened that night. One of them is dead(Zimmermans innocence does not change this, nor would a guilty verdict), and other says it was self defense.
In America, you are innocent until proven guilty and based on the evidence presented, not what you think happened, he has not been proven guilty. You cannot convict someone because it feels wrong, or your angry, that is what makes America and if you don’t like you can change the rules, but “justice” as contained in the letter of the law was done.
I disagree with the verdict. Wholly. He is guilty of manslaughter. Most certainly. He will not be punished for it. But he is decidedly guilty of using lethal force with intent against an unarmed man.
George Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed teenager, and if there is a hell, he is going there. But I my impression from reading the controlling statutes in Florida on manslaughter and 2d degree murder is that the burden of proving self-defense is eliminated in favor of the prosecution being required to prove that the defendant didn’t act in self-defense. Without eye witnesses, that’s basically impossible.
The idea of needing a “stand your ground” statute is ridiculous. According to FBI stats, the rate of violent crime in America is lower today than at any point since 1960, when they started keeping track of national crime rates. Every day, America is safer from crime, yet its citizens continue to act like they’re living in a war zone, escalating their paranoia, buying more guns, and assuming the worst of everyone. A couple in Florida this week refused to let a naked, beaten rape victim into their house when she was screaming for help because they assumed it was part of a scam to make themselves victims. I’d rather die a fool than live my life knowing I’d turned her away. Why would anyone want to live knowing they’d refused refuge to a rape victim? When did American hearts turn to stone?
Your rage should be directed at the incompetent Florida prosecutors. The jurors appear to have made the only decision they could rationally make based on the law and facts presented to them. This is similar to the Casey Anthony trial; the prosecutors were useless there, too. Do you think that case, a white woman and a white child, was racially charged? Of course not. Jurors are not allowed to use external information; they must rely on the law and facts presented during the trial.
I have plenty of rage to go around thank you very much. I can spare some for the legislators who have worked so hard to create a culture that devalues human life in favor of an alternate philsophy that holds real estate or property crime higher than life itself. I have some for a governor that in the wake of so many needless shootings in Florida refuses to reconsider the law. I have some for Mr. Zimmerman, of course, who has taken a life for no good reason. I have some for the Sanford investigators who doomed the case from jump by showing fealty to the SYG logic and deference to a suspect who had, in fact, shot an unarmed man to death. And I don’t agree as to the jury’s decision in any respect. The injuries to Mr. Zimmerman were modest and indicative of common and not aggravated assault. I agree that murder was unproven, but manslaughter was well within their reach.
I hold you free from any anger of course. We merely disagree in our opinions.
Prove beyond a reasonable doubt Zimmerman had intent.
The Prosecution couldn’t and neither could you. The letter of the law was rightfully upheld.
Unless Florida criminal law is fucked up in yet another dynamic, intent can be established in the seconds that it takes to point a weapon, a lethal handgun, at another human being and pull the trigger. In Maryland, that is sufficient for a charge of second-degree murder, never mind manslaughter.
In Florida, its not manslaughter because of stand your ground.
Stand-your-ground law states that a person may justifiably use force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of an unlawful threat, without an obligation to retreat first.
Under these legal concepts, a person is justified in using deadly force in certain situations and the “stand your ground” law would be a defense or immunity to criminal charges and civil suit.
Now if you want to ignore stand your ground(for som reason), then you should be angry with the prosecution, who decided to charge him with murder and not realize till the absolute last possible second to maybe add a manslaughter charge. This screamed of desperation and if you truly believe it was manslaughter, they should’ve charged him w/ that from the beginning.
There’s a lot to be mad at here. I’ve explicated elsewhere and in detail where SYG is relevant to this case, right back to the behavior of the police in the initial, critical window of investigation. Why don’t you pause and go read the Tampa Bay Times analysis of the net effect of SYG legislation in the past six years? Then tell me that the world hasn’t changed for the worse and that the very tonality of justice in Florida hasn’t been blanketed by this dehumanizing trend.
On the one narrow point about what is the legal burden for a self-defense claim, you stated to LTDIABLO (and forgive me for not replying to that directly, but my computer didn’t show a REPLY button, for some reason):
“For that, the history of American jurisprudence has required a defendant to prove that he was in fear for his own life or those of others. And of course not merely to say so, but to provide corroborate evidence of such.”
I’m not a lawyer, so take the following legal analysis with a huge grain of salt. However, actual lawyers say your version of the self-defense burden of proof is incorrect. See, for instance, http://bit.ly/1aFfFwo, excerpted in relevant part here:
“Six years ago in Murray v. State, 937 So.2d 277, 279 (Fla. 4th Dist. 2006), the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Florida ruled that once a defendant in a criminal case has introduced proof that he acted in self-defense the jury is entitled to consider the defense, and the jury may not convict the defendant unless it finds beyond a reasonable that he did *not* act in self-defense.”
You also wrote:
“Until stand-your-ground was introduced, the burden of proof for a claim of self-defense was not on the prosecution, it was on the defense. Entirely. If you took a human life in America, you were obliged to bring corroborative evidence of the absolute need for that act into a courtroom and convince a jury, or prior to that, to convince a grand jury not to indict.”
That also appears to be incorrect. See UCLA School of Law Professor Eugene Volokh at http://bit.ly/1aFfFwo:
“Who should bear the burden of proving or disproving self-defense in criminal cases, and by what quantum (preponderance of the evidence, clear and convincing evidence, or beyond a reasonable doubt), is an interesting question. But on this point, Florida law is precisely the same as in nearly all other states: In 49 of the 50 states, once the defense introducing any evidence of possible self-defense, the prosecution must disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.”
So, you are entitled to your opinion that this standard of law is unjust. But you are not entitled to dispute the fact that it is the law, and in 49 states – the majority of which do not have a Stand Your Ground statute.
I am as outraged as you are that Mr. Zimmerman chose the actions he did, resulting in the senseless and tragic death of Trayvon Martin. (I won’t ask you about the “brick” comment because you’ve amply explained yourself, and readers are free to agree or disagree on whether you were responsible in using it. I happen to disagree with you on that.) And believe me, I feel that Congress’s failure to take any meaningful action against gun violence in this country is a continuing stain on our nation.
But the Zimmerman jury’s decision, based on the evidence presented, that the prosecution failed to meet its burden to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt is not per se evidence that the jurors acted out of racism. Maybe some post-trial interviews by jurors will present that evidence. And you’d have to be blind to argue there’s no racism in the legal system, in Florida or everywhere else in this country. But let’s not convict these particular jurors of that very serious charge until and unless they’ve proved themselves worthy of it.
You have mischaracterized what I said. I in no way suggested that a defendant could not argue self-defense and that a jury could be prohibited in any way from considering such. I argued that prior to SYG, it was not incumbent on the prosecution to disprove or corroborate a claim of self-defense. That burden of proof, once it had been established that a defendant had killed someone, was on the defense.
Now, because the standards for the use of SYG are so lax, almost any uncorroborated claim can effectively derail an investigation from the earliest stages, as it did in this case with regard to the performance of the Sanford police investigators. To understand in detail how the terrain has shifted, why don’t you review the opposition that comes from prosecutorial and police organizations nationwide to these laws, or go to the Tampa Bay Times site and read their analysis of all those killed — and many of those who go unprosecuted — for six years of SYG slayings in the state of Florida.
That’s not the legal standard for manslaughter in the state of Florida.
Are you citing statute in the state of Florida as a moral imperative. Good for you. I am not alleging that Mr. Zimmerman was guilty under Florida law. I am saying he is guilty by any rational jurisdiction’s application of evidence and any common-law understanding of manslaughter. Florida is currently a state in which you can jail a woman twenty years for firing a warning shot into the ceiling to fend off a violent spouse. It’s a state in which you can defend real estate or property or respond to a common assault with the willful use of lethal force. It’s the state in which state-your-ground shootings are now on the rise and citizens are dying at a higher rate because rationality has been abandoned.
Citing Florida law at this point, after this verdict, is what is known as a circular argument.
But there was evidence that when he fired the gun, he had been getting the crap kicked out of him for a minute or more. What do you make of that? Just ignore it? You don’t think having someone on top of you, unrelenting, for a minute or more, is grounds for a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury?
The injuries were treat-and-release abrasions and cuts, such that medical experts testified that they were indicative of a common — not an aggravated or life-threating assault. What do you make of it? That anyone who throws a punch in America, or is in the process of winning a weaponless fistfight is open season for whoever brings a gun? Is that the legal precedent you are arguing for?
I have to disagree that the injuries were minor. I have seen people put away in prison for 10 years plus because they pushed a person about to start a fight and that person fell, hit their head and died. Manslaughter. Even if they did not intend the crime. Head wounds are always serious and can easily escalate from minor scratches, your words, to one hit and he has internal brain damage.
Yes, well, I will go with the medical testimony, thank you very much.
I’m sorry David, but didn’t the defense pathologist with around 43 or 50 years experience in the field say that the wounds were consistent with being struck against the concrete 10 or 15 times? And frankly, as an attorney, I can get 2 different doctors to say 2 different things about an assault. Its an opinion, as it has always been.
I am sure the defense witness did say so. And I am sure that this was Mr. Zimmerman’s uncorroborated claim as well. The prosecution’s medical experts said quite the opposite. What to do with this contradiction?
Well, was Mr. Zimmerman hospitalized? Not at all. Refused treatment at first. Treated for those injuries on the night, without complication. Ergo…
Another expert had slightly different testimony, if you recall correctly.
And the standard is reasonable fear of harm, not that the defendant actually has to wait until his injuries become severe to defend himself.
Two people engaged in a willing barfight is completely different, in my view, from a back alley unsupervised ground and pound. I’ve seen plenty of fights, and they usually last about 30 seconds. If I saw one guy mounting another guy and not relenting, I think deadly force would be justified in that situation.
Again, injuries are consistent with a common assault at worst. Treat and release, with a walk away, as they say in the E.R.
If the legal standard for the use of lethal force in Florida is “reasonable fear of harm,” meaning any harm at all, then Florida is void of even fundamental morality. If you can shoot and kill someone by statute for anything from a faceslap to a kick in the ass, you are in a jurisdiction that embraces barbarism, plain and simple. I will stay in Maryland, where the legislature, for all its faults, seems to place some modest value on human life.
But David, the injures he suffered at the time were possibility not life threatening. But could they have become fatal? Quite easy.
I was speaking carelessly. The actual standard (at least in my jurisdiction – probably FL) is that at the time of the killing the defendant had to have “a reasonable fear of serious bodily injury or death,” or something along those lines. You’re correct that fear of a minor injury. For instance, if a 70-pound child was threatening me with a junior-sized baseball bat, could I shoot the kid and successfully claim self-defense? Probably not. There’s no reasonable fear of serious harm there, because it’s just a little kid and I’m a grown man.
The situation in the Zimmerman trial was more clearly self defense, at least in my opinion. One bad hit in a one-sided fight can be fatal or lead to serious brain injuries. The fact the fight lasted so long I think helped Zimmerman’s case.
Thank you for correcting. I was about to think the law was even more of an ass than SYG has made it.
We disagree about the severity of what Mr. Zimmerman was facing. Absent any evidence of an aggravated assault here, I go with the severity of the injuries and the expert testimony of medical authorities about those being consistent with a common assault.
George Zimmerman was innocent until proven guilty, and he even admitted he pulled the trigger.
Trayvon Martin was guilty until proven innocent of walking home.
There was no justice in that verdict.
Trayvon Martin is dead because he didn’t just go home or call the police to deal with his perception that a “creepy assed cracker” was stalking him, but instead started throwing punches. It may well be that he and many black children are taught to hate people of other races, not just whites, and interpret all actions by others as hostile and “disrespectful” so that they believe they are in the right to initiate violence. (I know in Washington, D.C. some black teens scream offers of sex, make threats about enslaving non-blacks in the future, or throw rocks at the cars of men and women of various races who come into contact with them on the streets.) This situation is not made any better by a federal and local governments whose policy outcomes include double digit black teen unemployment and 40% urban high school drop out rates. As well as a probably well-informed belief that if you are black and call the police to solve a dispute, you will end up arrested yourself.
You’re a racist, Mr. Majors. An ugly one from the above paragraph. It is self-evident to any sentient reader on this site, and I assure you, those who have taken the opposite position from mine and are arguing on behalf of Mr. Zimmerman’s acquittal on the merits are decidedly unhappy to have you represented among their cohort. Their best arguments are founded on ideas other than race-hate, and for you to arrive, unbidden, with such venality reflects unfairly on them, shaming their best efforts by mere proximity.
Get some help, if such a state of mind is even amenable to therapy.
Normally we send stuff to the kill file. But here, on this thread, we will let your comment stand, as it is certainly in opposition to the argument that Mr. Martin did not walk on the street — and no young black male walks on the street — without the reality of some measure of racial hate and fear accompanying them. That you are in the world is evidence of a core level of hatred on the part of some white Americans that underlies our national dynamic.
Thanks for writing and serving this purpose so well.
THE absolute MOST articulate article and/or blogpost on this or any subject involving, race, justice, crime, guns, civil disobedience, numbness, and desensitization. My new prose hero.
Ah, everyone’s favorite word.. but I see no racism present in Bruce’s post. Seriously.
“Trayvon Martin is dead because he didn’t just go home or call the police to deal with his perception that a “creepy assed cracker” was stalking him, but instead started throwing punches.” – This is in summary a true statement. His decision to start throwing punches led to his death.
“It may well be that he and many black children are taught to hate people of other races, not just whites, and interpret all actions by others as hostile and “disrespectful” so that they believe they are in the right to initiate violence.” – This is a proposed theory. An attempt to explain some of the behavioral foundations.
“(I know in Washington, D.C. some black teens scream offers of sex, make threats about enslaving non-blacks in the future, or throw rocks at the cars of men and women of various races who come into contact with them on the streets.)” – This is presented as a fact. If it is, then these are simply facts of behavior and cannot be taken as racism any more than saying “old people are old” constitutes ageism. If not, then I will give you some credence to your racism claim as only then would you have some ground to stand on.
“This situation is not made any better by a federal and local governments whose policy outcomes include double digit black teen unemployment and 40% urban high school drop out rates.” – Another presented fact. No racism here.
“As well as a probably well-informed belief that if you are black and call the police to solve a dispute, you will end up arrested yourself.” – Another proposed theory to explain behavioral foundations. Which, if you are not a member of a particular community, is really the best you can offer aside without going out and taking an official poll.
Then you and he should have dinner.
I grew up in D.C. All of my people are there. I visit as a matter of routine. His depiction of African-American life in that city, alone, on its face is the work of a race-hating, lying sonofabitch. That it passes your muster colors anything else you, or Mr. Majors, might venture on this site.
“Trayvon Martin is dead because he didn’t just go home or call the police”
So what you’re saying is that he um, stood his ground?
I know David Simon would disapprove of my use of ad hominem here, but you are one racist sack of shit, Majors. I have lived in the D.C. area my entire life in predominately African-American neighborhoods, and your characterization of black teens is disgusting, reprehensible, and just plain wrong.
“Trayvon Martin is dead because he didn’t just go home or call the police to deal with his perception that a ‘creepy assed cracker’ was stalking him.”
No, he’s actually dead because “creepy assed cracker” George Zimmerman declined to follow the police’s directive and refrain from pursuing unarmed Trayvon Martin. Remember that phone call? I do. I’m no lawyer, but the case, for me, hinges less on who threw the first punches and more on Zimmerman’s initial vigilante provocation. He instigated it, and Martin committed no crime other than being black and wearing a hoodie.
I called him a racist, too. But that assessment, based on his post, simply speaks for itself. Sometimes, the evidence is in and there is nowhere else to go.
DCs crime amongst blacks has actually been declining. And unemployment is not a factor because blacks or minorities are beasts that love to have sex and kill. Its because of the socio-economic situations that exists in the community. Drug abuse is higher amongst the white demographic. Yet why arent they profiled for it as you are doing for blacks. I actually think you are a troll. Trayvon didnt get instructions to do anything, and if it were my son and someone was following him, i would teach him to protect himself.
And to provide a clear picture for you, i have lived amongst both black and whites. And living in brooklyn, i dont hear black families instructing their childrens to hate whites. And with whites now pouring into my current neighborhood, there isnt much blowback or this growing hatred for non-minorities. I have lived in wilton ct, and the situation made me more cynical and introverted based on how racist and prejudiced people were with regards to both adults and the kids i went to school with. However, not everywhere is the same. So i cant make useless generalizations like you did because i am educated or at least have common sense. Why am i even responding i think you are a troll.
[…] To see Simon’s full statement click here. […]
As an Europian (Dutch) I can not understand how a man can be aquitted when a) he followed the victim b) he shoots and kills the UNARMED victim. What did this 17 yr old kid do to deserve this? Give a big mouth? Threatened Zimmerman? Maybe even hit him a couple of times? That’s enough to get killed these days?
For us in Holland, we also have problems between white and black: mostly Moroccan immigrants second and third generation, this case seems not all too improbable to us. White (native) Dutch people are getting sick and tired seeing these mostly young Moroccans on scooter ‘screwing’ things up in ‘our’ country. Perhaps someone should DO something. And I’m no saint: most of these young Moroccan criminals are real douchebags. But maybe 1 in 100 falls in that category. I still judge the person, not the race.
Looks like it here too: White guy, fed up with black kids robbing, stealing and getting away with it. But Trayvon didn’t do anything. He was the victim off an overzealous amateur. That’s what happens when you give everyone the right to carry guns. Americans probably have to make more of an effort to get a driver’s license then a legal gun.
This is simple, colourblind math: man 1 kills unarmed man 2. Man 1 should be punished for something. You can not do that. Otherwise you might be next. If you’re not white anyway. Maybe Zimmerman can become a security guard on Wall Street. Pop some real criminals
It’s hard to understand. You’re not American. When it comes to guns and race, as I’ve said, it’s a formidable pathology. The fever isn’t upon you.
David, you are an intelligent guy. The article above is prove of this. Already knew it: I saw you an interview once on Dutch TV, you were interviewed by Raoul Heertje, who is a comedian by trade. Go figure.
Anyway, do you think this is the last time an acquittal like this wont happen again? Stand your ground or not: isn’t the real problem here putting a complicated legal question in front of laymen who do not strife the same goal as a Judge? I can tell you if you put 6 or 12 white, Dutch men land women on that jurybench the outcome won’t be too different 8 out of 10 times.
You can it anything you want: the regular Joe does what he thinks best, not what he thinks he law makers really meant 400 years ago. This should not surprise you.
Trial by a jury of peers has its problems. As with much of democracy, it is a flawed structure. But to paraphrase Churchill again, of all the flawed structures, it is the best. There is a measure of protection in asking other citizens to do this duty, and not to have the power to convict and sentence wholly within the control of the state itself. Sometimes juries do the right thing, sometimes not. But they are at least a possible check on prosecutorial overreach.
Yes, I agree. It’s the best system we (well, you. We don’t have jury’s. We are a democracy though!) have, if flawed. But in it comes a margin of error. What percentage is acceptable? I have no idea. But this one, for me, falls into that margin of error. Debate all you want, make it a legal discussion or a history lesson or even a philosophical discussion. The normal guy just wants enough vacation days, watch the Superbowl and make love to his wife 3 times a week. But above anything else, he wants to feel SAFE. And people scare easily. You have troops fighting in foreign countries for that reason. Because people are scared. They are not scared of white men in suits who (sometimes) steal billions. They are scared of young black men who (sometimes) steal 10 bucks worth of Dr. Pepper. You say
Not surprising, but that’s the best piece I’ve read about this injustice.
Thank you for articulating the thoughts of so many Americans better than almost anyone else can!
I just can’t fathom why Zimmerman took it upon himself to police the streets. There is a place for community watch projects, but should it really go as far as them going out on patrol, armed, hell no Why is walking in the rain constitute as suspicious criminal behaviour, and looking at peoples houses? What should he be doing on his journey, look too and only the ground? So it’s a crime in America to be young, part of an ethic minority, and walking in the rain. I just don’t understand this faulty logic, and I can’t understand why people are justifying it. How was travyon supposed to react, to a confrontational where someone is indirectly accusing him of being up to no good, and how often had this type of confrontation happened to this kid.?
It’d appear that logic and reason seems to be taking a back seat in this age.
So you are encouraging people to violently protest with bricks. How is that going to help? The court system said he was innocent and now that you’d on like the outcome you tell people to pick up weapons and protest? Would you have said the same to his supporters?
Try reading my actual language — the whole paragraph, please — and think harder about what I am saying and what I am not saying. Seriously. Or go elsewhere in these comments, if you need more of a clue. Asked and answered.
And here we have another person incapable of actually comprehending English language. If you actually read it properly, and used that special matter between your ears to comprehend what you were reading, you would have understood that he is pointing out the strength others have in the face of such injustice.
Yes the strength to resist armed confrontation that Mr. Simon seems to Fruedianly support. He is subtley calling for violent response while praising those that have the patience to resist his deep seated inhibitions. Perhaps the real story here isn’t race at all but rather, did the justice system protect a man that by every constitutional right was innocent until PROVEN guilty. Was freed for the very reason that the prosecution could not provide factual evidence to support even manslaughter. Emotion is a poor substitute for fact.
I did not call for a violent response at all. I expressed admiration for its absence, given that such a response — in light of the betrayal and marginalization of African-American citizenship inherent in this verdict — would be wholly rational rebellion. This isn’t a complicated concept, but it requires the complex application of a dependent clause or two. You might read more slowly, or inquire of others if you still can’t discern my actual meaning. i’ve done what I can to help.
But false claims and mischaracterization are poor substitutes for fact, as well.
Speaking of the English language…
You might want to learn something new today and read this: http://grammarist.com/usage/that-who/
Let me understand this. I am endeavoring to engage everyone who writes into this website in a free-wheeling discussion and debate on this case. I am getting hundreds of posts every hour and sincerely addressing myself to them, without time to rewrite or proofread in any fashion, and here comes Mr. Planetwish to lecture me on the uses of “that” and “who.”
What follows is a sentence fragment. It is merely an imperative. I know that it lacks a verb: “Bite me.”
I apologize, my previous comment was meant for David, not you, Conran.
Thanks for this, Mr. Simon.
This is what Florida law used to be like:
“The law disparages the kind of ‘self defense’ which would subject human life to ‘the mercy of cowardice or capricious impulse of one whose easily awakened fear prompts him, who is armed with a deadly weapon, to strike upon what at best may be called a hostile demonstration on his victim’s part.’ Collins v. State, 1925.
Now there are a bunch of cowards with guns roaming around with a license to kill because the juries are also filled with cowards who buy even the flimsiest story. Well depending on who the victim is of course.
Thank you for the cite.
The comments section here and in many other places is sickening. White culture is totally dysfunctional and evidence of deep pathology at work.
I’m doing my best with ’em.
You can lead a thirsty horse and all that…
You are amazingly patient. I just looked at the jury summary, and with this jury I am sure that a video of Trayvon Martin trying to back away while Zimmerman grabbed him and shot him in cold blood (which is the likely scenario anyways) would not have been enough to convict. One of the jurors referred to protests demanding that Zimmerman be charged as “riots”.
All I will say is that there are a LOT of white folks like myself who are horrified by what’s happened in Florida. I don’t claim any special knowledge or insight, but I know that when I was dating a black girl for awhile I would get very different looks on the street than when I walk down by myself. There is a lot of prejudice, and there are good people who don’t want to admit it because they want to believe that America is a fair, just place. Realizing that these kinds of things happen, still, in America forces these folks to realize their own privilege and their own existence on the benefit side of an unjust society. And that makes even decent people uncomfortable. So they start trying to do anything in their power to explain that crap away and pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s our job to remind those that want to ignore it. White, black, and every other race or ethnic group. We have to WORK to make the world better than it is. I have to work at it. David has to work at it. We all have to. We can’t take it for granted and quote Dr. King anymore, because we plenty of real problems of our own to fight right now. If Martin’s death can be good for anything, it is revealing the deep injustice and prejudice that still exists. He paid the price to reveal that to us. In my opinion, the cost is already too great, but we can work to make sure that others don’t continue to follow.
While black culture is harmonious and thriving! Thank you for participating with articulate arguments.
Juries get it wrong all the time. Try and get 12 people (in Florida’s case it’s six, but in my jurisdiction it’s 12) to decide where to go to lunch. Now try and get them to convict someone of murder. I don’t know how we convict anyone, ever.
All those people saying “the jury has spoken” and acting as if a jury is some infallible body can put a sock in it. Juries get it wrong all the time and they got it way, way, way wrong here.
The defendant got out of his car and created the situation after being instructed by law enforcement not to. Is that illegal? No, but it tells you a lot about the defendant’s intent.
The defendant tried to detain a stranger. The stranger, doing nothing wrong, refused to be detained. Then, when the situation he created didn’t go the way he envisioned it, the defendant shot the unarmed stranger. That’s murder, at best manslaughter. All day every day.
The thing that poisoned this case was the media attention. I see it over and over again. When a case becomes entertainment..when the “former prosecutors” (how I loathe those words) appear on television and begin to bloviate…that’s when cases get lost. The case becomes less about the facts and more about “sides”. Tiny pieces of the case get blown out of proportion. The 24 hour news monster has to be fed, so the hair-do’s that have maybe tried “a” case in their lives dissect the case beyond the point of recognition.
When that happens it alters the way juries look at cases. It becomes less about facts and evidence, more about “sides”. Justice never wins that fight.
Trayvon Martin is one of many victims that the system has failed. Unfortunately, the public only has the capacity to care about the cases that the media tells them to care about.
Sorry about the completely rambling rant, but I am reviewing the cases I just got in and there are 2 dead babies in the mix, one under six months, both blunt force trauma. There is also a 16 year old kid that was killed for a bag of weed, and a 56 year old lady killed for a flat screen. The Trayvon Martin case is a tragedy, no doubt. However, it’s a tragedy in an ocean of tragedies. Guess I just wish the general public would spread some of the outrage around.
Mr. Simon it would be very beneficial if you could enumerate the evidence you have that proves what happened was racially motivated.
Helpful to who? Have you asked yourself why a young black male pedestrian eating candy and talking on a cellphone, absent no other probable cause, would be of any particular interest and passion to an armed vigilante who had just finished telling a police dispatcher about the young punks who always get away with their crimes? Are you so obtuse that you will not accept that basic construct as racial profiling? I guess so.
You’re outraged. I get it. Science has shown that anger lowers a person’s IQ. It happens to all of us. That doesn’t excuse an unnecessary ad hominem attack. Nor does it justify dodging a simple question. You’re obviously convinced it was racially motivated but I’m not sure how to start your list of facts. Does the following suffice?
1. Trayvon was black, George Zimmerman is not black and something horrible happened between them.
Well that’s not going to work as a fact. There’s also that pesky fact that George Zimmerman’s great grandfather was part African.
So you’ll just have to guide me through the process that made you so convinced. Perhaps it was the edited NBC audio of the 911 call… No – you must be aware the producers responsible were fired and NBC will be sued for defamation.
So let’s start over.
Fact #1 is:
Not outraged. Weary at some oblivious replies.
That’s not argumentum ad hominem. Critiquing as obtuse an opponent’s query — offered in full view of an incident of racial profiling led to an unnecessary confrontation and the use of lethal force against an unarmed teenager, followed by a court trial at which a jury that included no member of the victim’s racial cohort as being is wholly and entirely sufficient to affirm the racial dynamic — is an attack on another’s rhetorical performance. I did so criticize it. It is scarcely incumbent on me, having written not only this essay, but the linked op-ed in the Miami Herald, and then all of the attendant commentary already on this site, to reiterate my arguments in detail for your singular benefit in detail because you either can’t find, or acknowledge or believe them. They are there, and they are summarized again, in the sentence above.
On the other hand discussions about an opponent’s IQ. Now that, my friend, is argumentum ad hominem. Precisely and without equivocation.
Happy to offer this helpful distinction to you.
Failing to provide any facts implies that you have none. What you have is a narrative. One you want to believe. Once you start asking yourself what facts were used to construct the narrative you so happily believe in, you may find that there never were any. What’s more, that clear imagery that plays in your head when you think about what happened that night is wholly unfounded in anything real accept an edited 911 tape and a lot of speculation by newscasters who cashed in on a rush to judgement.
Failing to survey a prolonged argument that has been going on for hundreds of posts and two essays implies laziness.
Failure to acknowledge that Mr. Zimmerman’s version of events is wholly uncorroborated and that much of what occurred is beyond anyone’s ability to discern retroactively is corruptive.
Acknowledging Mr. Zimmerman’s stated motivations to police, his approach of a black teenager who had demonstrated no probable cause to suspect criminal activity, and the lethal results of that approach are wholly sufficient to justify a narrative of racial profiling.
I know you disagree. We must, therefore.
I’ll try to keep this brief and be on my way as I assume you must be getting exhausted. You say “his approach of a black teenager” What evidence do you have that he approached Trayvon? It’s either George Zimmerman’s testimony or the 911 tape. Those are the only possibilities. Whatever your answer is, I cordially beg you to revisit the entire unedited transcript or audio with an open mind.
The country still has a lot of racial issues, but holding this particular case up as symbolic of a greater problem is a complete disservice to the people who suffer real discrimination and hate crimes.
Thanks for some brevity. I appreciate it.
How about we use Occam’s Razor here: Mr. Martin is a pedestrian. Mr. Zimmerman is patroling the neighborhood in his car. Mr. Martin is exposed, as he is not encased in a metal box with locks on all portals. Mr. Zimmerman is within such a box, protected from any physical conflict. Also, oh yeah, Mr. Zimmerman has a firearm. Mr. Martin does not.
If Mr. Martin does not want to confront Mr. Zimmerman, he cannot outrun him, certainly not without trespassing from the public thoroughfares. If he does want to confront Mr. Zimmerman, he still has the problem of presenting any fucking threat to the man whatsover, the boundary between the two being a locked, metal box known as a motor vehicle. On the other hand, if Mr. Zimmerman wants to avoid Mr. Martin he can surely outrun him by stepping on the accelerator. Only the fourth possibility makes much sense: If Mr. Zimmerman wants to confront Mr. Martin, he can exit the vehicle and, for insurance, carry a loaded handgun with him.
That you rush from the fourth and most likely scenario to the improbabilities of the other three is indicative not of anyone doing any disservice to the reality here. It is you, Mr. John, seeking to mitigate what actually occurred to that young man on that street and doing so by bending the probabilities to a more palatable, but less probable scenario.
None of us know what happened. What we know is that one man had a gun. A conflict began. Injuries to the gunman were modest and indicative of mutual combat or a common assault, not an aggravated assault. But the gun was produced and fired and a seventeen year old kid who was walking with a phone and candy was killed.
I call that manslaughter. I have no problem whatsoever operating on the known only. But if you wish to speculate, Mr. Zimmerman’s horseshit account of only getting out of the vehicle to read a street sign in a neighborhood whose name eluded him in a community he was so proud to patrol and defend causes me to speculate in the opposite direction. But I can’t know. He didn’t take the stand and tell the tale. And he killed Mr. Martin, so no answers there.
Saying that the confrontation was racially motivated is very different from saying the shooting was racially motivated. The commenter says enumerate on whether “what happened” was racially motivated. It seems like unless there is evidence that racial motivation carried over to the shooting itself, the fact that racial motivation played a role in the confrontation is irrelevant to the legality of “what happened” by which I mean the shooting that was on trial.
Zimmerman was carrying a gun–legal, but perhaps racially motivated in the context.
Zimmerman confronted Martin–legal, but likely racially motivated and legal but morally alarming profiling
Zimmerman and Martin fight– speculation about why, I would assume you would say this was racially motivated, while the defense would say otherwise. This is why we have jurors.
Zimmerman shoots Martin when losing the fight* which may have been mutual or one-sided, severe or not severe (again, why we have prosecution, defense, and jurors)
* David, what evidence is there that the shooting of Martin after/during the assault, was racially motivated, not the confrontation, but the shooting, itself?
Also, across comments, it seems unclear to me when you are talking about what is legal/illegal vs. what should be legal/illegal vs. what used to be legal/illegal vs. what is moral/immoral. Do you think that Zimmerman’s shooting was legal under current FL law? I ask this because, sure if the race roles were reversed, Zimmerman might have been found guilty (based on the statistics on the racial bias in the application of the laws). However, this could either mean that Zimmerman should have been found guilty in this case, or that blacks that are in Zimmerman’s role should also be acquitted under current law.
A side note, it seems out of line to call a commentator obtuse for posing a respectful question to you, which just might have been vaguely worded. There have been plenty of disrespectful comments to you, but this one seemed fairly harmless. I think many came here to engage over the substance of your post not to call or be called names.
Just so. As I said, I don’t think Mr. Zimmerman is by any necessity a racist. But his calculations and his behaviors were racially motivated. There is a distinction that is meaningful to Mr. Zimmerman and relevant, certainly, at the point of contemplating a post-conviction sentence. But that distinction is lost on Trayvon Martin. He’s dead either way. And he didn’t need to be.
I watched the whole trial and even read some of the more complicated testimony, but from all the evidence at the trial am unable to agree with you that Zimmerman’s “calculations and behaviors were racially motivated.” I did not see it or hear it on Zimmerman’s part (the “cracker” comment came from Martin). In fact Zimmerman did not even bring up race. When the dispatcher did, Zimmerman replied that he “thought” the figure he saw was black. When Zimmerman referred to “punks” and “assholes” you may hear an unspoken “black” adjective, but of course punks and assholes come in all races.
Since the trial, I have read that Zimmerman’s business partner was black, that he did volunteer work to help poor black children and that in 2011, he testified in court on behalf of a homeless black man who had been manhandled by a white police officer. Honestly, I don’t get your “racially motivated” imputation.
Let’s take away the racial component for a second because it hurts your feelings.
You basically suggest that Zimmerman had the right to pursue Trayvon Martin because it was late at night and the latter was walking around, talking on the phone and wearing a hoodie. The police told Zimmerman not to pursue Martin, but he proceeded to anyway, and as a result a teenager is dead and Zimmerman has not even been charged with manslaughter. These are the actions you wish to defend? You’re for the indiscriminate vigilante killing of teenagers who wear dark clothes at night? Have fun with that.
I have read these arguments with great interest. They are being made on both sides it seems to me by people with an unusually high regard for rigorous thinking, given that this is an internet forum. However, from a British perspective, as is very often the case, it seems to me obvious that the single absurdity, almost the singularity at the root of both parallel moral universes posited, is the legislation itself. That the likes of Zimmerman is allowed to carry a gun at all, that his right to use it is defined by “Stand your Ground”, leaves nowhere safe or sensible for any Judge or Jury to go.
Clearly, even if the facts of the case don’t tell us anything about race in Florida, the reaction to it does. But equally clearly, once you allow a man like Zimmerman to wander the streets, armed, and making arbitrary interventions in the activities of those he believes to be suspicious, then things are going to escalate every once in a while to the use of lethal force, regardless of race issues. To argue how disproportionate, and/or unlawful, his response, to question whether in some way racially motivated, or springing from racial contempt, is to begin from a hopeless position – there simply is no good reading of the law once the absurdity of his being armed in the first place is allowed. The fact is, once he was in the process of getting beaten up, your stupid, stupid law does indeed suggest that he is entitled to shoot his way out of it.
I doubt either of the men involved in this case would have been types I would have instinctively warmed to, to be honest. But neither of them are really to blame. US gun law, and that of Florida in particular, is a grotesque almost without parallel in the developed, democratic states. Trying to come to ethical judgements while under its jurisdiction is like to trying to lead a good life while clutching a Bible written by a madmen.
Mr. Simon, let me propose an hypothetical. What if you were in Martin’s shoes–You’re a black teenager being followed/profiled by an unknown person how would you react? Fear for life, would you run or would decidedly try to confront the man to give him a piece of your mind. I’m just curious, it isn’t very much relevant to the case but I’m only curious.
It isn’t relevant at all. An American citizen is allowed to engage in a common assault without being gunned down by someone else escalating to lethal force. The first is a misdemeanor and punishable by certain moderate penalty. The second is a felony punishable by more severe sentencing. That there are people commenting here that can’t carry that fundamental forward brings us back to Fitzgerald’s dictum about a first-rate mind. Not even, given that to consider both independently isn’t really to consider two contradictory ideas.
And the game of white people putting themselves in the shoes of black folk and saying what they would do in such-and-such a circumstance is an ugly and dangerous one. Invariably, the majority is subject to imagining themselves — with their own actual resources, life experiences and entitlements — in a given circumstance, and going from there. The actual journey would be more than a change in melanin.
But if it were me, David Simon, walking down the street and being confronted by someone in a situation in which I had given no cause for such, I think the first sentence out of my mouth would have been: “Who are you?” And if Mr. Zimmerman were polite and respectful, and not at all presumptive that he had a right to question me or to suspect me, but enlisting my help as a fellow resident who could provide information, I might cooperate. If he leaned at all on his presumed authority, or implied any disrespect to me, or made any accusation, I would tell him to go fuck himself. And if he laid hands on me or attempted to restrain me in any way, I would physically resist.
Not that any of that matters, morally or legally, to Mr. Zimmerman’s subsequent decision to produce a lethal weapon and use deadly force.
“An American citizen is allowed to engage in a common assault without being gunned down by someone else escalating to lethal force.” Is this a real statement? I’m presuming this is the feeling of one that does not believe in personal accountability? If one engages in assault – one must accept any and all consequences. What are you implying? That there are rules to a street fight? That there are gentlemen-like guidelines to this confrontation? Were you raised in a fairy-tale?
The reason you and everyone else deride George Zimmerman is because of his apparent over-zealous, vigilante attitude towards this young black male. The fact that a George Zimmerman is walking in every neighborhood and every dark street is the very reason one cannot, in any situation, ever engage in an assault with the idea that the meeting will be contained by misdemeanors.
No, that is the reason that we cannot create a new legal standard that allows all of the George Zimmermans to summarily execute other people in circumstances in which any assailant is not threatening their lives or the lives of others. That goes back through all of our legal history. It is the mark of a civilized society.
Killing people who don’t need to be killed is a standard for a much uglier, much more barbaric culture.
Do you think that if this Jury was more diversified–with black females, or males would this be a different story? This might be a rhetorical question.
You don’t have much trust in citizens… so a half latino, half black jury would have resulted in a tie, because people necessarily come to a verdict in favor of one of their race.
I certainly have little regard for the systemic. It failed an unarmed black teenager who was accosted and shot to death, yes.
I agree, at least in part, with your broader points. But isn’t there some tension between these two statements?
“And the game of white people putting themselves in the shoes of black folk and saying what they would do in such-and-such a circumstance is an ugly and dangerous one.”
“If I were a person of color in Florida, I would pick up a brick and start walking toward that courthouse in Sanford.”
Context helps some, though. The first statement acknowledges that it is a delicate, problematic thing to transport oneself to another cultural, racial and socioeconomic cohort. I followed that caution by attempting to do so, in answer to a question, as best I could. Which is pretty much the same outcome as the second quote.
I did it both times. I just acknowledged in the first instance that it was an intellectually fraught exercise.
Do the pro-gun people think that Martin should’ve been carrying a gun too in order to protect himself from overzealous neighborhood watchmen?
I’m not really anti gun. I realize that the gun/anti-gun/”stand your ground”/etc. debates are just the same argument (individual vs. state) stated in different ways. That thought just popped into my head.
Oh, and I think Zimmerman should’ve been guilty of at least manslaughter seeing as he was the only one with a gun and the only one living now. Still though, I think your “pick up a brick” comment was kind of dumb.
Did you read the full comment, including the ensuing sentence? The comment is not actually advocating such as a course of action, but you must read more carefully to see its actual rhetorical purpose.
I’m not pro-gun, but apparently in Florida, if a black person has one and fired nothing more than a warning shot, he’d be serving 20 years.
This happened to a white male, years before the Marissa Alexander case. As with the Alexander case, there are conflicting arguments from Prosecution and Defense. Defense for both cases argue that it was a warning shot. Prosecution from both cases argue that the bullet came close to harming another individual. Both defendants also had clean records at the time of their arrests. The only reason why this case isn’t being publicized the way the Alexander case is, is because Orville Lee Wollard is white. I’m not saying Wollard’s story wouldn’t have been ignored if Wollard was black, but what’s happening with Alexander and Wollard should be an issue with this state’s, my own Florida, minimum mandatory gun laws. It shouldn’t be about race, but that’s what the media makes it out to be. What makes Alexander’s case exceptional from Wollard’s, is that she has claimed “Stand Your Ground” which contradicts Florida’s (loosely worded) minimum mandatory law for firing within a dwelling.
So, please, research before you speak.