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A Moderate Dissent on the Question of Judgment and the Martin Shooting

Let me state a couple of quick things:

1.  I agree with Doug Mataconis that in terms of legalities, the system must run its course.  I make no assertions about the legal guilt of George Zimmerman.  However, I do think that comparisons of Zimmerman to Richard Jewel or the Duke Lacrosse team are ill-founded as they are simply poor comparisons.  Jewel was publically accused of actions he did not partake of, and likewise there was no evidence of a rape in the Duke case, only accusations.  There is no dispute that George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin.  That fact alone makes this different from the other cases.  The issue, therefore, is not who shot whom, but rather the question remains as to what Zimmerman may be guilty of (morally and legally) that needs to be established.

2.  I find things like the New Black Panther Party’s call for the capture of Zimmerman to be reprehensible and I presume that that they are, in fact, illegal.

3.  My fundamental problem with this case is described in the following the Orlando Sentinel:

On Feb. 26, when Zimmerman first spotted Trayvon, he called police and reported a suspicious person, describing Trayvon as black, acting strangely and perhaps on drugs.

Zimmerman got out of his SUV to follow Trayvon on foot. When a dispatch employee asked Zimmerman if he was following the 17-year-old, Zimmerman said yes. The dispatcher told Zimmerman he did not need to do that.

If this account is accurate (and it is one that has been widely reported) then I cannot come to any other conclusion that had Zimmerman made his report and stayed in his car (if not driven home) then there would have been no fight and a 17 year old young man would not be dead.  This make Zimmerman morally culpable for the events that happened that night—based at least on the above account.

Other facts that appear to be widely accepted:

-Zimmerman considered himself a neighborhood watchman, although, did not follow the rules of the neighborhood watch program (source):

Chris Tutko, director of Neighborhood Watch for the National Sheriffs’ Association, said Zimmerman broke some cardinal rules.

First, he approached a stranger he suspected of wrongdoing.

“If you see something suspicious, you report it, you step aside and you let law enforcement do their job,” Tutko said. “This guy went way beyond the call of duty. At the least, he’s overzealous.”

Second, Zimmerman carried a handgun. Police departments and sheriff’s offices that train volunteers advise them never to carry weapons — though Zimmerman broke no laws by doing so because he has a concealed-weapons permit.

“There’s no reason to carry a gun,” Tutko said.

-Zimmerman appeared to have made it a habit of reporting “suspicious” persons to the point that it leads me to wonder about his judgment (source):

Records show Zimmerman, 28, called the cops 46 times between January 2011 and Feb. 26.

Many of the calls appear related to his crime-watch volunteer role. The most frequent reason for his calls — nine times — was to report a suspicious person, according to Sanford Police Departmentrecords released last week

-Zimmerman went around armed and this appears to have emboldened him in terms of following and perhaps confronting “suspicious” persons.

4.  I do not think, therefore, that it is a “rush to judgment” to assigned substantial moral culpability to Zimmerman.  Again:  if he stays in his car and lets law enforcement do their job then no one is dead and we would have all gone through our lives likely never hearing of either of these individuals.

5.  I am open to changing my opinion if new fact come to light that persuade me as such.

Related Posts:

About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    Good take(s), SLT. No problem with anything you’ve written here.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 38 Thumb down 3

  2. KariQ says:

    Hear, hear! With the additional observation that if the local law enforcement had taken this more seriously and done a more adequate job investigating, we wouldn’t be hearing about this case. What happened that night, beyond the facts Steve says, we don’t know. But, even accepting everything Zimmerman has said at face value, he is still responsible for the death of a teen who was doing nothing wrong.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 2

  3. We are all free, of course, to come to our own conclusions when it comes to moral culpability. That’s not really the concern that I have with the way that this case, like all other high profile cases before it, is proceeding at the moment.

    To my own mind, there’s a lot about what we know about Zimmerman’s actions that I find questionable and that, at the very least, I’d love to hear an explanation for.

    The problem comes when people take that moral judgment and turn into a moral certainty and certainty of guilt. I’ve seen a lot of that from certain commentators on this case over the past several days and it bothers me.In the same spirit, I’ve also seen, many on the right who have decided that the proper way to respond to this case is to smear Trayvon Martin based on questionable evidence, none of which (even if true) would be admissible at trial.

    Perhaps I am guilty of viewing this from a legalistic perspective to a greater extent than non-lawyers would, but I do think it’s important in the media age we live in to refrain from jumping to conclusions before we have all the facts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  4. Stan25 says:

    It wasn’t the general public that jumped to conclusions in this case, it was the state controlled media and the race pimps that did that. First of all it fit the meme of a white person (Zimmerman) doing all kinds of despicable things against black men. That hasn’t been proven to be true, yet. Next came the race pimps to stir the pot even more. This incident was tailor made for the kind of rabble rousing these pond scums are best at doing.

    From my perspective things are kind of unraveling for these people, as more of the facts come to light. If Zimmerman is found to be telling the truth, will these entities apologize and go quietly away? They won’t apologize but they will walk away from this one.. As Rush LImbaugh says, they go from one crisis to another and when that one dies down, they will move on to the next sensational story. Even if they have to make it up.

    I also knew as soon as Jessie Jackson, Al Sharption, Louis Farrakhan, the New Black Panther Party and the rest of the usual race pimps started flapping their jaws that something smelled to high heaven. I am really surprise that the Southern Poverty Law Center hasn’t chimed in with their two cents worth of vitriol.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 52

  5. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    For an unbiased, thought-out opinion, I immediately look toward people who use the phrase “race pimps.”

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 43 Thumb down 3

  6. JKB says:

    @Stan25:

    Do you mean unprofessional and incendiary media like this? This the most irresponsible thing I’ve ever seen passed off as “news”. It’s bad enough so many are latching on to this witnesses feelings. Notice she doesn’t actually have any information beyond she heard some yelling. But the news broadcast is just reprehensible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 9

  7. anjin-san says:

    I cannot come to any other conclusion that had Zimmerman made his report and stayed in his car (if not driven home) then there would have been no fight and a 17 year old young man would not be dead. This make Zimmerman morally culpable for the events that happened that night—based at least on the above account.

    If you commit a crime, and someone is killed during the commission of that crime, you may well face murder charges. Likewise if you start a fight and the other person is killed, even if there is no premeditation.

    Zimmermann lost any legitimacy he might have had from his association with neighborhood watch when his disregarded pretty much all of their guidelines. You can’t have it both way. If you want to be a legit neighborhood watch guy, you have to follow the rules. He compounded his descent into stalkerdom by ignoring the instructions of the 9.11 dispatcher.

    If what Zimmermann did is not a crime, the law needs to change.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 36 Thumb down 4

  8. Herb says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    “I’ve seen a lot of that from certain commentators on this case over the past several days and it bothers me.”

    Ignore them then…

    The certain commentators you mention have a different perspective on this because they have a completely different life experience. Racism is a live and well in this country and the subtle variations of it blare like horns to people who experience it.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 3

  9. ernieyeball says:

    As Rush LImbaugh says,..

    Another clue that the commenter has an Enquiring Mind!

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 2

  10. MM says:

    @Stan25:

    I am really surprise that the Southern Poverty Law Center hasn’t chimed in with their two cents worth of vitriol.

    Then you are interested in buzzwords, not what organizations actually do.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 3

  11. Dave E. says:

    A correction on one point, Zimmerman’s 911 call records go back to 8/12/2004, not 2011as originally reported. You can view a pdf file from the City of Sanford here:

    http://www.sanfordfl.gov/investigation/docs/911CallHistory.pdf

    I think even assigning moral culpability is too soon until we have all of the details. In situations like this culpability can shift quickly if an aggressor decides to back down and then the other party chooses to become the aggressor and continues the fight. It happens. I’m not saying that’s what happened here, just that we don’t know one way or the other at this point. It’s all speculation without all the facts of the investigations at our disposal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  12. I am one of the people who compared this to the duke case, and here’s my argument:

    We saw this before in the Duke non-rape case. Those Duke lacrosse players were accused of raping that woman and somehow people just knew that they were guilty. I remembered wondering immediately why they were so sure. Hopefully they at least read a few newspaper accounts, but they didn’t look in the alleged victim’s eyes as she described what happened to her, or in the eyes of the accused as they denied it. So for me the only logical position was to be agnostic—maybe they did, maybe they didn’t, we’ll have to wait and see. But these people were somehow sure. There was no word for it but prejudice. As I wrote in a different context:

    To pre-judge a person is to literally “judge before.” Before what? Before it is appropriate, before you have all the facts. Of course normally we think of prejudice as being based on specific traits. Racial prejudice is to judge a man by his skin color, rather than getting enough facts to judge him as an individual. But it can be based on anything.

    And there was definitely some kind of premature judgment in that case because eventually it was revealed that one of the accused was on video at an ATM at the time he was supposedly committing rape. And after that the entire case fell apart.

    Obviously this is not the same as the duke case in that now we know they were definitely innocent. But the rush to judgment is the same, and noxious. You can read this and a lot more here. Indeed, there is a ton of stuff at my blog about this, and probably more soon. And with respect, I think in that limited sense I am totally right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  13. Console says:

    The thing is, even if Zimmerman’s side of the story is true, Zimmerman is still an irresponsible idiot and someone is dead for it. That’s where the whole “don’t rush to judgement” thing is a bit annoying. Just what more is there to find out in the court of opinion?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 4

  14. superdestroyer says:

    The 911 calls are 46 calls since 2004, not 2011.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/03/22/george-zimmerman-s-history-of-911-calls-a-complete-log.html

    What is similar to Richard Jewel and Duke Lacrosse is that virtually everything that was initially reported in the media has had to be corrected. Look at how CNN and MSNBC are still using old pictures of the Martin and Zimmerman since it reinforces the incendiary nature of the story.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 19

  15. J-Dub says:

    Here’s a crazy idea, let’s determine Zimmerman’s guilt or lack thereof in a court of law! Not in the media, not in a rally, not by the police at the scene, not on Facebook or even OTB.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  16. @J-Dub: And so we can have no opinion of the information available until after there is a trial (and a series of appeals)?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  17. John Burgess says:

    @Steven Taylor: Sure, one can have an opinion, but the opinion is, essentially, worthless. That’s not to say ‘worthless’ isn’t harmful, of course. Opining in public can very much damage a case, poison a well, prejudice a jury.

    I’m very leery of uttering an opinion on this case because there are a lot of factors that are still unknown. I can envision details that could make all the difference in the world about whether a crime was committed and by whom.

    So far, I’ve come to the conclusion that Zimmerman was pretty much an asshole kind of guy. Had he taken certain steps, none of this would have come about. I don’t think there’s any dispute about that counterfactual. Hell, if he’d had diarrhea that night, he might have stayed home.

    The question is not whether he could have done differently. It’s whether, given the exact circumstances of whatever occurred, he was legally (and morally) required to do other than what he did given the exact circumstances. We do not know what those exact circumstances were. We do know what a lot of people think they were. What a lot of people think is not, in my book, a solid basis for forming useful opinion. Thus, I’ll hold my opinion in abeyance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  18. Tillman says:

    Here’s a crazy idea, let’s determine Zimmerman’s guilt or lack thereof in a court of law!

    We’re already doing that. But since I wasn’t selected for and had to duck out of for inscrutable reasons jury duty in the case, I’m gonna gossip.

    So, Louis Farrakhan. Keep seeing his name, ain’t seeing the point, am I right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  19. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Perhaps I am guilty of viewing this from a legalistic perspective to a greater extent than non-lawyers would, but I do think it’s important in the media age we live in to refrain from jumping to conclusions before we have all the facts.

    This is the motherhood argument. We’re all in favor of it including me. The problem with attempting to dismiss the court of public opinion in this particular case arises from the fact that no one would have ever of heard of it without public opinion since the local PD did nothing until it became a cause celebre. And then of course there’s the nature of the local PD which has to put it politely a very murky history. So pious platitudes are all very well but they do tend ignore the realities of what happened here. And the comparisons with the Jewell and Duke cases are entirely specious for the reasons Steven summarised.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  20. superdestroyer says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    The Duke case is relevant along with Tawana Brawley because the media did not let the facts get in the way of searching for the great white defendent.

    The media going on a two-minute-hate on Zimmerman is only because Zimmerman was perceived as white and Martin was black.

    If incompetent police was an important issue, the people would care more about the police in DC or Detroit, If a hate crime was the motive, then why didn’t the media go on a two-minute hate when Carter Strange was beaten. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2008252/Teenage-gang-charged-lynching-law-savage-attack-18-year-old-student.html

    The progressives keep changing the reason they claim to care about Martin and that demonstrates that progressives do not want to reveal their real motivation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 14

  21. @Brummagem Joe:

    I have said both in my comments to Steven’s post and the post I wrote last night that I supported the public outcry that erupted after this case got pushed under the rug by the cops. That attention was necessary to get the legal system to do what it is is supposed to do.

    Now that it has succeeded, though, I think it behooves us to withhold judgement — both as to Zimmerman and as to Martin given some of the information that is apparently coming out about him now — until the legal system has been able to work. We’ve seen people accused, tried, and convicted in the court of public opinion plenty of times and it never turns out well in the end.

    If Zimmerman committed a crime he should answer for it, but he isn’t guilty of anything until he admits his guilt or a jury convicts him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  22. PD Shaw says:

    This make Zimmerman morally culpable for the events that happened that night

    I think you’ve let your sympathy for the teenager to cloud your moral judgments. The person who first resorted to violence is morally culpable for what happened. Assuming that Trayvon is of the age of responsibility and he attacked Zimmerman, then he would be morally culbable. Otherwise, you would be claiming that “following someone” or “being a jerk” are legitimate provocations to violence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 11

  23. J-Dub says:

    My point was that we should have never heard of this case in the first place. The police should have arrested Zimmerman at the scene and he would have had his day in court. While Trayvon’s death would have been regrettable and preventable it would not have been national news.

    Now that it is, it’s going to be tough to put that genie back in the bottle and for Zimmerman, or Martin for that matter, to get a fair shake.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  24. J-Dub says:

    @PD Shaw: Aren’t you forgetting Florida’s Stand Your Ground law? If Martin felt he was cornered by an armed assailant he had every right to initiate an attack in order to save himself.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  25. mattb says:

    @PD Shaw:
    I have to slightly disagree…

    From a self defense perspective, an attack goes through three stages: emotional, psychological, and physical. All accounts seem to agree that Zimmerman was following Martin for some time. Zimmerman’s own account backs this up.

    Putting yourself in Martin’s position, it’s entirely possible that he things that Zimmerman wants to mug him or otherwise start trouble. And the fact is that Zimmerman gave him evidence to legitimately support this belief.

    The real question — and the one that can never be known for sure — is what happened in the actual confrontation. Zimmerman is claiming that he was returning to his vehicle when Martin attacked him. If that’s the case Martin was clearly in the wrong (if Zimmerman was retreating).

    Admittedly, that scenario doesn’t read quite right for me (in that Martin suddenly seems to snap). It seems far more likely that there was some sort of verbal confrontation. And depending on the content of that Martin might have had legitimate concerns that this stranger who had been following him, and perhaps wanted to detain him (Zimmerman made the comment that people like Martin always get away), was a threat (ironically underscored by the fact that of the two of them Zimmerman was the one who was carrying a concealed weapon).

    So everything in my mind hinges on what happened between Martin getting off the phone and that first punch being thrown. And that’s something that we’ll never know. All that said, Zimmerman had no right/authority to confront Martin or expect Martin to justify his presence there. And I am still of the opinion that Florida’s self defense law, as applied, only exacerbates this sort of situation.

    BTW, if I was in a similiar position to Martin, confronted by a stranger, asking who I was, and attempting to detain me, I would probably punch first and ask questions later (though admittedly, I’d be running as soon as the other person had hit the ground).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  26. Jay Dubbs says:

    @PD Shaw: It may turn out that both were in the wrong (if, as some are positing, Martin attacked Zimmerman immediately before being shot) but the simple fact is — if Zimmerman had done as he was advised, by the 911 dispatcher and by the Neighborhood Watch suggestions, this event would not have happened. As such, it is certainly not a rush to judgment to belief that Zimmerman bears a large amount of moral, if not legal, culpability for the resulting death.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  27. Davebo says:

    Regardless of how Florida decides to address, or ignore this, the civil liability will be brutal.

    And not just to Zimmerman. The HOA which gave him the “crime watch” position is on the hook as well.

    Perhaps it’s fitting that the home owners that created this scenario will have to pay. And I’m pretty sure it’s not covered under their insurance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  28. PD Shaw says:

    @J-Dub: I think the Professor is making a moral point, so I’m not considering the law.

    I’m not a believer in determinism, that the consequence of a sin is something bad happens. You can just easily imagine Zimmerman behaving the same and nothing bad happending if Martin had behaved differently (say he was a Quaker).

    I assume that Zimmerman is morally culpable for the instigation of a non-violent conflict. That said, both had a free choice to decide whether to escalate that conflict into a violent one. The initiation of violence eliminates many choices or rational decisions. Whomever committed the first act of violence is arguably morally culpable for what happened.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. Will says:

    The problem I have with Doug’s argument, and the similar arguments proposed by others, is that it sort of defeats the purpose of this blog. Or really any blog.

    Take an issue, any issue, and ask…

    Why are we here reading this stuff? Why are we writing this stuff? None of us are involved in the decision making process (of a trial, of an investigation, of Afghan war strategy, of republican primary political strategy). Also, none of us are fully informed. On each and every issue discussed on this blog there are salient facts which we do not know. So why are we here? Why not just shut down this blog and its discussions?

    Sure, we all have opinions, but those opinions are “worthless” as none of us is “fully informed.” So why bother?

    I acknowledge that to some extent we’re just pointlessly speculating about Martin and Zimmerman, but that’s different from every single other article on this blog…. how?

    Why is this the case where we draw the line in the sand and announce, “Hold on, ill informed speculation based off of incomplete facts is an inappropriate endeavor for a blog!” Why don’t we draw such a line when there’s a post about “What’s next in Afghanistan?” How in the world is an incredibly complex war half-a-world away more appropriate blog-fodder than a simple shooting?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  30. legion says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Whomever committed the first act of violence is arguably morally culpable for what happened.

    _Very_ arguably. As others have pointed out, the “Stand Your Ground” law in no way applies to Zimmerman’s pursuit, but it is entirely possible it could support Martin if he initiated an attack against an armed stranger stalking him & leaving his vehicle to confront him.

    Yes, that is a legal argument rather than a moral one, but if you tell people “this is what the law allows you to do,” and they do that, doesn’t it become more of a moral issue? If people are told they can use violence to defend themselves, using violence becomes less of an individual moral failing (but more of a societal failing, IMHO).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  31. @Doug Mataconis:

    Now that it has succeeded, though, I think it behooves us to withhold judgement — both as to Zimmerman and as to Martin given some of the information that is apparently coming out about him now — until the legal system has been able to work.

    Yeah, but what if the case is now irreversibly tanked because the police failed to properly process the crime scene and any evidence that might have been there is now gone? If it ends up being a case where we suspect Zimmerman is guilty but are unable to prove it because of police antipathy toward the victim, who pays for the crime?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  32. PD Shaw says:

    @legion: My problem with that argument is that I don’t see anything particularly novel about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law” as a matter of substance. It appears to be no different than the “no duty to retreat” concept that a majority of states embrace. This anecdotal situation would have to have numerous companions across various jurisdictions for the law to be having a significant behavioral impact.

    What people should be looking at more closely in terms of law and morality are the varrious laws concerning the rights of aggressors to self-defense. They reflect a different morality than either the Professor or I employ. It’s the morality of moms: “I don’t care who started it.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  33. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    have said both in my comments to Steven’s post and the post I wrote last night that I supported the public outcry that erupted after this case got pushed under the rug by the cops. That attention was necessary to get the legal system to do what it is is supposed to do.

    Okay so we’re in broad agreement. However, you are being a bit unrealistic about the nature of public outcrys which can’t be turned on and off like a lightswitch.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  34. Alanmt says:

    Thankfully, I come from a state in which, lijke Florida, the provoker of the confrontation still has the duty to retreat, and in which it is extremely difficult for aggressors to claim self-defense. That is the position Zimmerman is in here.

    There is probable cause to charge Zimmerman. The facts are very well established with respect to all parts of the confrontation except the fight itself. I would have no problem prosecuting this case.

    Given that ZImmerman didn’t suffer serious bodily harm, and that nonlethal shots or other lesser use of force may have been available, and that it seems unlikely (although the evidence isn’t firmly established on this question yet) that he exhausted every reasonable means to escape the danger of than the use of force, I tend to think he is guilty. If I were on the jury, I would wait to hear all of the evidence. I am not. But I am a reasonable man with legal training who can look at and evaluate a factual scenario and reach a reasonable opinion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  35. Brummagem Joe says:

    @J-Dub:

    If Martin felt he was cornered by an armed assailant he had every right to initiate an attack in order to save himself

    .

    And thereby you put your finger on the central flaw in this law. It exists entirely in the eye of the beholder.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  36. Jenos Idanian says:

    @anjin-san:

    If you commit a crime, and someone is killed during the commission of that crime, you may well face murder charges. Likewise if you start a fight and the other person is killed, even if there is no premeditation.

    All true.

    Zimmermann lost any legitimacy he might have had from his association with neighborhood watch when his disregarded pretty much all of their guidelines. You can’t have it both way. If you want to be a legit neighborhood watch guy, you have to follow the rules. He compounded his descent into stalkerdom by ignoring the instructions of the 9.11 dispatcher.

    Red herring. Zimmerman isn’t claiming any kind of special “neighborhood watch” privilege. Instuctions of 911 operators aren’t legally binding. By his account — which has not been successfully challenged yet — he did nothing illegal until the fight started.

    If what Zimmermann did is not a crime, the law needs to change.

    Sorry, you’ll have to find another rationale for your lynch mob mentality. That one you have now is full of fail.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 13

  37. anjin-san says:

    Sorry, you’ll have to find another rationale for your lynch mob mentality.

    Please show where I have called for any harm to come to Zimmermann. Or STFU.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  38. mattb says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    And thereby you put your finger on the central flaw in this law. It exists entirely in the eye of the beholder.

    @J-Dub: If Martin felt he was cornered by an armed assailant he had every right to initiate an attack in order to save himself

    Actually this is true of in most jurisdictions, regardless of the presence of “stand your ground” or not. Self defense is almost always entirely in the “eye of the beholder” and the local community.

    That said, a number of media outlets have done a good job at looking at the marked rise in average rate of “justifiable homicides” by civilians since the introduction of the new legislation. We know that the law has been used to defend gang members engaged in shootouts, cases where a verbal altercation escalated to self defense shootings, and at least one case where the “defender” pursued a fleeing perp and stabbed them in the back. Further, the Stanford Police chief cited the law as meaning that the police could not take Zimmerman into custody — even as a provisional step.

    Those are the aspects that many of us — looking from afar — find problematic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  39. An Interested Party says:

    Racism is a live and well in this country and the subtle variations of it blare like horns to people who experience it.

    Exactly right…it’s no wonder that what happened to Trayvon Martin reminds some of what happened to Emmett Till…but let’s forget all of that and scream about black-on-black crime, Richard Jewel, the Duke Lacrosse team, and Tawana Brawley…you know, things that have nothing to do with this case…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  40. Jenos Idanian says:

    @anjin-san: You’ve been calling for Zimmerman to be “punished” from the outset, regardless of whatever facts develop. You don’t recognize any possibilities that he might have acted legally, and his misdeeds might not rise to the level of a crime. “Screw the facts, screw the law, let’s just punish him” seems to be a pretty good summation of both your position and the average lynch mob.

    The Black Panthers with their bounty, and Spike Lee Tweeting his home address, are at least more honest about their beliefs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 12

  41. markf says:

    @Jay Dubbs:

    As such, it is certainly not a rush to judgment to belief that Zimmerman bears a large amount of moral, if not legal, culpability for the resulting death

    That’s the catch here. You don’t go to jail for ‘moral’ culpability. And without witnesses or physical evidence, the ‘legal’ culpability is very hard to prove.

    Zimmerman actions may be morally repugnant, but legal.

    As to the ‘rush to judgement’, blind justice doesn’t apply in the court of public opinion.

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  42. Jenos Idanian says:

    @An Interested Party: Perhaps we are permitted to discuss how the left invented a whole new ethnic classification for Zimmerman — “White Hispanic” — to sustain their hate crime narrative?

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 16

  43. Muffler says:

    Under the statement that the facts are not yet clear… one must think about an individuals right to defend themselves from harm… I speak directly to Trayvon’s right to defend himself if Zimmerman did not handle the situation correctly. The idea that the victim is to blame because he might Zimmerman leaves out the big question of Why would he attack Zimmerman except under the prospect of protecting himself. Zimmerman had no authority to detain or hold anyone and I myself would might have run or defended against it.

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  44. Brummagem Joe says:

    @mattb:

    Actually this is true of in most jurisdictions, regardless of the presence of “stand your ground” or not. Self defense is almost always entirely in the “eye of the beholder” and the local community.

    Of course it is, but this particular law substantially lowers the bar in the definition of self defense which was the point I was making and I think you are echoing?

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  45. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    You’ve been calling for Zimmerman to be “punished” from the outset,

    Really? Where? Be specific.

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  46. Rufus T. Firefly says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    No, because anyone who discusses anything with you is rendered dumber by the experience.

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  47. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    You don’t recognize any possibilities that he might have acted legally

    Did you take a larger than usual dose of your stupid pills today? Let’s scroll back up just a few comments and review my remarks…

    If what Zimmermann did is not a crime, the law needs to change

    I think anyone equipped with a basic grasp of English and the reasoning power of an eight grader would agree that that comment does indeed recognize the possiblity that what Zimmermann did was legal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  48. mattb says:

    @Muffler: Correct.

    All we know for sure is that according to his 911 call Zimmerman says that Martin saw him and attempted to RUN AWAY. Just to repeat that: Zimmerman pursued a fleeing Martin. We know that after that, at some point, Martin repeatedly struck Zimmerman. And we know that Zimmerman shot Martin.

    The greatest problem with this case (and other self defense cases) that occur where there are few if any witnesses, is that you have to rely on the surviving party’s account of the initial confrontation. And Florida’s stand your ground law is interpreted as giving a significant amount of immediate immunity to the last man standing, even in cases where the only other immediate witness to the event is dead.

    Zimmerman is not at dispassionate observer — that’s why again, looking at this from afar — his “I got jumped while I was returning to my car” sounds more like someone trying to CYA than anything else.

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  49. fact finder says:

    facts:
    1. zimmerman disobeyed the 911 advise to stop pursuing
    2. the 911 tape shows him muttering “f–ing coons”
    3. he approached and pursued martin with malicious intent and motive

    the big question here is was martin acting in self-defense when he attacked
    zimmerman? one could say that martin feared for his life after being
    maliciously pursued for no reason and was acting in self-defense…

    what do the laywers out there have to say?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  50. Herb says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    “By his account — which has not been successfully challenged yet — he did nothing illegal until the fight started.”

    Here’s why this “nothing illegal” line of argument will not work with the Al Sharpton’s of the world: Historically the black population of this country has been treated like subhumans. When we weren’t owning them on the plantations, we were hanging them from trees. When we weren’t denying them job opportunities, we were telling them which neighborhoods to stay out of. When we weren’t telling them which drinking fountains to use, we were telling them not to sit at the lunch counter or ride in the back of the bus.

    And all of this stuff was perfectly legal. Crack any American History book and it will be filled with the various legal means used to deprive black people of life and liberty.

    It doesn’t take much squinting to see the Florida law, especially in the light of the Zimmerman case, as an extension of that.

    Also presumption of innocence? Zimmerman must be presumed innocent only to the extent that he’s been charged with a crime. He has not been charged with a crime. Indeed, it seems the Martin shooting has been ruled legal and just before ever seeing a court room. I don’t think that’s how the system should work, and if that’s the way it does work, I don’t see why we should trust it.

    Oh and “lynch mob mentality?” Really?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  51. fact finder says:

    i agree with this:
    _”Very_ arguably. As others have pointed out, the “Stand Your Ground” law in no way applies to Zimmerman’s pursuit, but it is entirely possible it could support Martin if he initiated an attack against an armed stranger stalking him & leaving his vehicle to confront him. ”

    martin’s attack was a response to a armed stranger confrtonting him (leaving his vehicle to do so) , con and pursuing him (against advise of 911)..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  52. mattb says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    Of course it is, but this particular law substantially lowers the bar in the definition of self defense which was the point I was making and I think you are echoing?

    In general, yes.

    I just wanted to be clear that even in States without a stand your ground law, an individual can legally act in self defense based on a perceived threat even if no *physical* violence has yet occurred.

    To your point — and speaking to what PD wrote — IMHO, while the contents of the law might mirror those in other state, the wording of the law, and the way it’s been interpreted by local law enforcement, the courts, and juries, seems to have led to an overly broad definition of what constitutes “self defense.” This seems like something that the legislature should address.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  53. An Interested Party says:

    Perhaps we are permitted to discuss how the left invented a whole new ethnic classification for Zimmerman — “White Hispanic” — to sustain their hate crime narrative?

    Considering that you have pushed bogus claims about Trayvon Martin, you really have no room to critique what anyone else is saying about this case…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  54. Jenos Idanian says:

    @fact finder: 2. the 911 tape shows him muttering “f–ing coons”

    I live in a part of the country with real “coons” (raccoons,) and even we know that racial epithet is pretty much history. Better people than me have listened to that tape, and are convinced he said “F-ing punks,” which is a generic epithet.

    Let’s be honest here: if an angry Hispanic man in his mid-30’s were going to use a racial epithet against blacks, he’d reach for the N-word long before he’d use “coon.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  55. Jenos Idanian says:

    @An Interested Party: My bad. I should have realized that there were probably a zillion “Trayvon Martins” around, and been more careful.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  56. An Interested Party says:

    I should have realized that there were probably a zillion “Trayvon Martins” around, and been more careful.

    Well, there were pics on your link to go with the name…maybe to you, they all look alike…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  57. Jenos Idanian says:

    Considering the only picture I had prior to that was four years old and bore little resemblance to the high school football player that Martin was, I should have been more careful.

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  58. anjin-san says:

    Let’s be honest here: if an angry Hispanic man in his mid-30′s were going to use a racial epithet against blacks, he’d reach for the N-word long before he’d use “coon.”

    So it’s fine for you to guess about what actually happened, but when others do it, well, that’s different.

    My bad. I should have realized that there were probably a zillion “Trayvon Martins” around, and been more careful.

    Before you trashed a dead child who’s family is in mourning? Ya think?

    Still waiting for you to show where I called for Zimmermann to be “punished”.

    Also perhaps to acknowledge that I did indeed make comments that refer to the possibility that Zimmermann is innocent – in fact your yourself cited a remark I made to that effect in one of your own comments.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  59. Drew says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I have only a small quibble with Prof. Taylor, and I believe Doug’s response in the third comment is appropriate.

    The quibble is the notion that had Zimmerman stayed in his car none of this would have transpired. It may turn out to be true, but with the lack of evidence and evolving fact pattern I find it highly speculative. Doug mentioned his lawyers view point. I come at this in part as a former engineer. You build from data and hypothesis testing to conclusions. He who starts from a conclusion and then attempts to build a case, or he who just speculates inevitably gets into trouble.

    My real issue with this whole mess I expressed in snark fashion on another thread. Of the thousands and thousands of tragedies that occur, to jump on this one is obvious political opportunism. Any sane person knows Al Sharpton is a despicable human being, so we understand his actions. Same for the Panthers. But for our President to jump into the fray at this juncture truly shocks one. It shows horrible judgment. One hopes it isn’t a sign that he, like so many provocateurs, is just looking for yet another opportunity to divide by class, race and gender for political gain.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  60. An Interested Party says:

    But for our President to jump into the fray at this juncture truly shocks one.

    Ahhh, so being asked and answering a question about the case is now “jumping into the fray”? Or is it that the Justice Department getting involved means “jumping into the fray”? Considering that the local police department seemed more than happy to simply sweep all of this under the rug, perhaps the feds needed to get involved to provide justice for Trayvon Martin…speaking of horrible judgment, what does it say about someone with his own agenda that he would try to mash the President into a mix involving Al Sharpton and the Black Panthers? So much for the engineer’s view…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  61. anjin-san says:

    @ AIP

    what does it say about someone with his own agenda that he would try to mash the President into a mix involving Al Sharpton and the Black Panthers? So much for the engineer’s view…

    Well, come on now. Don’t be too hard on Drew. They are all black…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  62. anjin-san says:

    Well Jenos, I asked you twice to back up your claims about what i have been saying. To no ones surprise, you did not.

    Once more you are exposed as a liar.

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  63. Drew says:

    The comments section here is abysmal. A pox on almost all of you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  64. An Interested Party says:

    But for our President to jump into the fray at this juncture truly shocks one. It shows horrible judgment. One hopes it isn’t a sign that he, like so many provocateurs, is just looking for yet another opportunity to divide by class, race and gender for political gain.

    Indeed, quite abysmal…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0