Sunday, March 25, 2012

Monday Musings: Trayvon Martin Edition

Regarding the Tawana Brawley O.J. Simpson Jena Six Duke Lacrosse Team Beer Summit Trayvon Martin killing, I'm about to apply some cold water. A few points concerning the racially-tinged outrage du jour, in no particular order:

First, this almost certainly has nothing to do with the Stand Your Ground law. The provisions of that law differ from standard self-defense laws only in that a person lawfully present in a public place or private residence is not compelled to flee an assailant. If George Zimmerman is to be believed, he was attacked while trying to retreat. This is a straightforward self-defense case. Either he is telling the truth, and it was self-defense, or he isn't.

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Insofar as the justice department is pretending to consider a hate crimes prosecution, it is doing so for the sole purpose of driving black turnout in Florida. The entire case would hinge on Zimmerman's being white (not a crime) and having uttered a racial epithet under his breath. The latter point is highly debatable (it sounds like Zimmerman says "punks", not "coons", an antiquated epithet that would be somewhat absurd in this context). It isn't going to stick.

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The line I keep hearing is that, if Zimmerman were black and Trayvon white, Zimmerman would be in jail. I'm not convinced this is so, and this is essentially non-falsifiable. What is certain is that, if the roles were reversed, nobody would refer to the clearly Hispanic Zimmerman as white.

To which, apparently, per hate crimes laws, a white Hispanic would be considered Hispanic if the victim of a hate crime, and white if the perpetrator of same. Process that. What a country.

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Is Zimmerman guilty? I don't know, and I haven't seen any compelling argument from those who seem to. The material question in this case is whether Zimmerman accosted Martin, or vice versa. To that end, what we know:

George Zimmerman is white (Hispanic): Irrelevant
Trayvon Martin was in possession of Skittles and Iced Tea: Apropos of nothing.
George Zimmerman followed Trayvon Martin for a spell: Certainly ill-advised, but not illegal. * 
George Zimmerman called 911 a lot: Essentially irrelevant, and certain to be thrown out in trial.
George Zimmerman wanted to be a cop: Irrelevant.
Trayvon Martin was photogenic: Entirely irrelevant.
Zimmerman had a broken nose and a cut on the back of his head: Really, really, like stratospherically relevant... Usually buried at the bottom of stories, and utterly ignored by the folks keen to politicize this issue.

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* - Quick note on the following business. If you don't recognize someone in your neighborhood, and suspect they are up to no good, I think it's irresponsible not to follow them if you have the ability. When you call 911 to report a possibly drunk driver, the dispatcher will ask you to follow that person. When burglars were robbing houses in my neighborhood, my neighbors got suspicious and followed them.

If, as Zimmerman claims, he followed Martin , then decided to meet up with police, and was attacked, he had the right to defend himself. If Martin was irate at being profiled, or worried he was being hunted, that's certainly understandable, but did not give him the right to break someone's nose.

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We will learn more facts as they present themselves. In the interim, those calling for the government to arrest Zimmerman first and ask questions later should really consider whether they approve of the unilateral use of that approach. Going to jail means suspending your life for months, incurring hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, and watching your family tear apart. Anyone have their hands raised to volunteer for all that? I think the cops made the right call here.

Even if you don't care about Zimmerman's rights (that would put you in the majority), if he is arrested, and the facts do not materialize for the prosecution, what you will have is a very high-profile acquittal. That will mean riots. Is that what you want?  

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If I had to guess, this will be more of a Jena Six debacle than a Duke Lacrosse debacle. Evidence will come to light that conflicts with the grievance-industry/media narrative. It will become increasingly clear Zimmerman is no hero, but the facts will remain sufficiently murky such that prosecution will be impossible.

Barack Obama will overplay whatever hand he is given. Lawyers will get rich. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and the other race hustlers will get richer. Two years later, everyone will be similarly outraged over some other perceived injustice about which they know next to nothing. 

There is nothing new under the sun.

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My guess could be wrong, of course... Except for Obama overplaying his hand. I can guarantee you he will do that. 

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And if anyone wants to juke me with the "can't we just be sad a teenager is dead?" line, once anyone utters the phrase "this is about the soul of our nation", that ship has sailed. Many teenagers died last week. 







6 Comments:

Blogger Zhuge Liang XVII said...

Your last paragraph says it all. You care more about scoring political points than about human life. Shame on you...

10:56 PM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...

No, that doesn't follow from my last paragraph. You are being intellectually dishonest, and doing so anonymously, which is utterly lame.

11:45 PM  
Blogger brgulker said...

I agree with you that we ought to trust law enforcement here, to an extent. None of us has all the facts, and this has quickly escalated and become very inflamed. However, I think a few points you make miss the mark.

"We will learn more facts as they present themselves. In the interim, those calling for the government to arrest Zimmerman first and ask questions later should really consider whether they approve of the unilateral use of that approach. Going to jail means suspending your life for months, incurring hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, and watching your family tear apart. Anyone have their hands raised to volunteer for all that? I think the cops made the right call here."

You won't see me volunteering for that, fair enough. But on the flip side of that coin, you won't see me "volunteering" to follow "suspicious" young people while armed, and you certainly won't see me pulling a gun on them "in self defense" after I've initiated volunteary pursuit in the first place.

As a citizen, it's not my legal role or responsibility to pursue people that I unilaterally deem suspicious.

Had Trayvon broken into Zimmerman's house, this is a different conversation, but he didn't, so it's not.

8:55 AM  
Blogger brgulker said...

"Even if you don't care about Zimmerman's rights (that would put you in the majority), if he is arrested, and the facts do not materialize for the prosecution, what you will have is a very high-profile acquittal. That will mean riots. Is that what you want?"

I care about Zimmerman's rights, but I think the issue is that Trayvon's right to not be shot dead while unarmed superseeds Zimmerman's rights to carry a gun and "stand his ground/defense himself/whatever semantics you want to use"

The facts that I think are pretty much indisputable are that Zimmerman was armed while Trayvon was not, Zimmerman initiated pursuit of a "suspicious" kid on his own gusto, and Zimmerman shot Trayvon dead after some type of altercation that become physical in some way.

The right not to be shot dead by one's neighbor seems to be a pretty important one, and in my view, the most important issue on the table currently.

W/r/t to acquittal, that's putting the cart before the horse. The issue here is due process and justice. I don't know if Zimmerman is guilty of anything other than stupidity. But I do know a young man is dead because of Zimmerman.

Yes, Zimmerman is innocent until proven guilty - that is his right, and you're correct to make sure we don't forget that.

But he killed an unarmed kid. He ought to be put through the process that establishes his innocence or guilt according to the law.

And if anyone wants to juke me with the "can't we just be sad a teenager is dead?" line, once anyone utters the phrase "this is about the soul of our nation", that ship has sailed. Many teenagers died last week.

Let's play a hypothetical game. What if, fifteen years in the future, your daughter goes to the store and is shot dead by a neighbor.

Which side of the current debate do you think you'd find yourself in that situation? Would you be more concerned for the killer's rights or those of your dead daughter?

Empathy, Kevin. Have some basic empathy for Trayvon's family, who just lost their son because a man decided to play vigilante. If it happened to you, you wouldn't be saying any of this, and your own blogging about you being burglarized is pretty good support of that.

If you answer the former, you're not being honest with yourself or anyone else.

8:56 AM  
Blogger brgulker said...

"Quick note on the following business. If you don't recognize someone in your neighborhood, and suspect they are up to no good, I think it's irresponsible not to follow them if you have the ability."

Is it, legally, your responsibility to do that? I don't know, and I'd imagine it varies from state to state.

But I think you should be clear if this is opinion or law here. Opinion, as you've said about peoples' opinions w/r/t race on this topic, are irrelevant. If this is just your opinion, then by the standards you present here, then it's irrelevant.



When you call 911 to report a possibly drunk driver, the dispatcher will ask you to follow that person. When burglars were robbing houses in my neighborhood, my neighbors got suspicious and followed them.

I have an anecdote that cuts the opposite direction. I recently reported illegal drug use, alcohol abuse, and drunk driving in my neighborhood that was occurring across the street.

The dispatcher told me to stay in my home and away from those individuals after I offered to go confront them and try to get them off the street.

Completely true story.

Whose anecdote holds any legal merit?

I don't know the answer, but I'd suspect neither.

More importantly, however, Zimmerman didn't call the authorities and receive authorization/direction to do what he did. Had he called the authorities and had the authorities told him to follow the kid, then I'd see your point here. But to my knowledge, that did not happen.

Citizens as citizens don't have the legal responsibility or authority to do the job of a police officer, at least insofar as I understand the law. It seems to me you're trying to set him on firm legal footing that doesn't actually exist.

"If, as Zimmerman claims, he followed Martin , then decided to meet up with police, and was attacked, he had the right to defend himself."

This is predicated on what I think is your faulty assumption that Zimmerman was legally obligated to follow someone that he himself - as a citizen, not an agent of the law - deemed suspicious.

If he felt threatened by a situation that he voluntarily initiated, it's much harder to explain his actions in terms of reaction (i.e., self defense).

If he initiated the situation, he's the aggressor, not the victim.

This is precisely why there needs to be due process here, because someone is dead, and we don't know why.

w/r/t the broken nose - isn't it just as possible that Trayvon was acting in self-defense? Isn't it possible that Trayvon saw a gun and flipped out in fear for his life?

I don't know, but again, that's why we should put the mane through the process.

"And if anyone wants to juke me with the "can't we just be sad a teenager is dead?" line, once anyone utters the phrase "this is about the soul of our nation", that ship has sailed. Many teenagers died last week."

That's awful Christ like.

I can respectfully disagree with you on several points, but on this one, I think the above comments are correct. That paragraph is shameful and the exact opposite of loving one's neighbor -- which is widely regarded as the second most important of Christ's commandments.

On this point, you're just dead wrong and flying directly in the face of what Jesus commands of his followers.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...

Every time this sort of debate comes up, someone tries to shut down the conversation by saying I should just be sorry someone is dead. I am, but that's not what this debate is about. You can't engage in a debate and then arbitrarily claim the high ground by asserting I am insufficiently remorseful about the fact someone died. If this is about the soul of our nation, we have moved on to an entirely different discussion.

Again, many teenagers died yesterday, and the day before. The debate here is not simply about a dead teenager.

You do not have a legal obligation to follow a suspicious person. I think you have a responsibility to do so. It is absurd to argue doing so constitutes initiating an altercation. Per the girlfriend's testimony, which everyone seems to think is so damning, we know Zimmerman asked what Trayvon was doing. I fail to see the wanton irresponsibility on his part.

If it were my daughter, and I made a national case out of her death, I would expect people to discuss the case itself, not express sympathy for me. Insofar as my daughter attacked someone, I would be concerned about their rights. If my daughter dealt drugs and Tweeted about beating people, I would probably, in my grief, surmise she might have had something to do with her own demise if the physical evidence suggested as much.

You assert he needs to be arrested simply because Trayvon was unarmed. I disagree with that premise. Zimmerman is cooperating with police, and they are free to continue the investigation. You do not make an arrest and hope evidence later materializes.

11:05 AM  

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