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Jul 13 2013

Not Guilty

The verdict is in; they found, of course,
With many tears and much remorse,
We have the right to deadly force
Provided it’s with a gun.
If someone stalks you with their car—
Without a gun, you start to spar—
The law is clear (though quite bizarre)
He’s clear to shoot you, son.

It happened in the dark of night
You both were in a state of fright;
The jury found, he simply might
Have shot while fighting back
You stood your ground, and tempers flared
He had a gun; he came prepared
He had to shoot—the man was scared….
It’s just too bad you’re black.

Not guilty. No surprise, really; black men are scary, apparently, and when you are afraid, and can legally stand your ground, and have a gun, there’s really no other course. But when you are afraid because someone is following you with their car, and you are afraid, and can legally stand your ground, and don’t have a gun–only your hands–you need to know that the rules are different.

Deadly force, or nothing.

21 comments

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  1. 1
    Cuttlefish

    On CNN now, Zimmerman’s brother is (quite reasonably) concerned for his brother’s safety, because there are people who will want to take the law into their own hands.

    Yes. Yes, there are.

  2. 2
    Randomfactor

    The next black man Zimmerman tries to kill will be armed. And will be convicted of his murder.

  3. 3
    Rocker Allnight

    The prosecution failed in their job, via lack of evidence, to show that Zimmerman did not act in self defense. meanwhile the defense presented a multiple forms of evidence that supported Zimmerman’s claim of self defense. The evidence that any of Zimmerman’s actions were racial motivated are next to nil. And while I agree that defending yourself with force is not justifiable when you’re simply “afraid”, Zimmerman’s wounds speak to being more than being emotional “afraid”. The not guilty verdict was just.

  4. 4
    dan4

    @”Yes. Yes, there are.”

    This part of your post is a little cryptic. Are you simply recognizing the fact “there are people who will want to take the law into their own “hands” regarding this matter (as in, “yes, 1+1=2″), or are you actually mentioning said fact with approval?

  5. 5
    Cuttlefish

    I am noting that Martin is dead because Zimmerman is the sort of person who took the law into his own hands.

  6. 6
    Michael Brew

    @3

    That’s bull. Zimmerman was the initial aggressor. He didn’t stand his ground, he rolled his ground right over Martin. He didn’t go after him because he or anyone else was in imminent danger. He didn’t have any reason to believe anyone was in danger, unless you accept being a black teen walking home at night a reason. The verdict sets the precedent that people can go looking for trouble and kill anyone they don’t like as long as you can’t prove that the other person didn’t attempt to defend themselves physically. Even if that’s seen as legal in Florida, it is anything but just.

  7. 7
    slc1

    Re mihaelbrew @ #6

    Before the lynch mob forms to hang George Zimmerman from a sour apple tree, consider the analysis of the entire affair by George Washington Un. law professor Jonathan Turley.

    I have said from day one that the case was overcharged. Recall that the police officer who was in charge of the crime scene, after interviewing the ambulance technicians and Zimmerman, wanted to charge him with manslaughter, which advice was rejected by the DA. That was the correct charge. The charge of 2nd degree murder was piffle and political. As Turley says, the prosecution put on a weak case with many of their witnesses helping the defense case. Don’t accuse the jury of jury nullification, as all too many “experts” charged the OJ Simpson jury with. Based on the law of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecution didn’t come close to meeting that burden.

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/07/14/jonathan-turley-on-zimmerman-case/2515397/

  8. 8
    RSC

    Unless I missed where the defense proved that Martin pulled Zimmerman from his car while he was trying to drive away. Zimmerman started a fight which ended in Martin’s death solely because Zimmerman didn’t like the way Martin looked while walking in Zimmerman’s neighborhood..

  9. 9
    slc1

    Re RSC @ #8

    Excuse me, the defense doesn’t have to prove anything. It’s the prosecution that has the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This, as Jonathan Turley demonstrated in his USA Today article linked to in comment #7, they failed to do. They didn’t even come close.

  10. 10
    Trebuchet

    Don’t forget, Trayvon Martin was armed, according to the defense, with a deadly sidewalk. That makes it all ok, right?

  11. 11
    georgewiman

    The law is full of contextual aggravations. For example, in Florida if you fire a gun in the commission of a crime, even if no one is hurt, you get 20 years. The context of the crime changes the firing of the gun.

    In this case the context was that Martin was literally minding his own business, walking down the street not bothering anybody. That much is beyond dispute. The law needs a contextual aggravation that if you started the confrontation, you don’t get to hide behind “Stand Your Ground”. The aggressor should never get that defense.

  12. 12
    slc1

    Re georgewiman @ #11

    Georgewiman obviously is unaware that the defense did not use the stand your ground law in their case so this comment is irrelevant.

    Re Trebuchet @ #10

    The only apparent fact that one can conclude from the evidence presented is that Martin and Zimmerman got into a fight and Zimmerman was getting the worst of it. No evidence was presented to allow the jury to conclude who started the fight.

  13. 13
    Freeman

    First of all, good analysis of the trial by Turley. It’s almost as if the prosecution wanted to make a good show of it, but didn’t really want to win this one.

    Second, does it strike anyone else as odd that Zimmerman claims that he got lost in his own neighborhood, which he regularly patrols, couldn’t read the street sign from inside his truck, and had to get out to figure out where he was?

  14. 14
    Freeman

    Weird. When I first tried to post the above comment, it was flagged as “possible imposter” because my username and email were the same as a registered user (me) and I wasn’t logged into FTB. But there isn’t any way I could find to log in to leave a comment here on Cuttlefish’s site. I had to go to Ed’s blog (which requires login) and log in to post a comment there, before the site here would allow me to post the comment.

  15. 15
    georgewiman

    SLC1, nearly all the public discussion has included “Stand Your Ground” whether it is part of the trial or not. That is the public-awareness context that will drive future individual decisions to carry a gun, confront another person, etc.

    SYG is an extension of long-accepted self-defense law, but it is an illegitimate extension. The defense stood on the ground of simple self-defense, which makes sense only if we tune the channel at the moment where Zimmerman was on his back. But the aggressor should not be granted self-defense – all he had to do to be safe is leave the other guy alone.

  16. 16
    Trebuchet

    @13, Freeman:

    It’s almost as if the prosecution wanted to make a good show of it, but didn’t really want to win this one.

    I’ve been saying this for a couple of weeks now. Remember, this is the same prosecutor’s office that declined to prosecute for manslaughter as recommended by the police until the national publicity and appointment of a special prosecutor by the state forced their hand. Had they done their job in the first place, none of us would ever have heard of Martin or Zimmerman, even if Zimmerman had been acquitted of manslaughter.

  17. 17
    Lee

    The defense, in its closing statements and throughout the trial, has stated that the prosecution in this case must prove that Mr Zimmerman DID NOT act in self defense.  This seems a rather tall order given the all-but-impossible nature of proving a negative.  If the law states that it is incumbent upon the prosecution to prove this negative claim, then I am not surprised by the verdict. But that doesn’t mean the law is just. 

    The concept of innocence until proven guilty is great because it forces those making the positive claim “Mr Zimmerman killed Mr Martin” to prove their case.  However when no one denies that fact, the case now becomes hinged on another positive claim, made by the defense, “Mr Zimmerman acted in self defense when killing Mr Martin.”  With this new claim should come a burden of proof, otherwise its sets a dangerous precedent.  What would keep someone from committing murder if there were no other witnesses but the victim?  Afterall it would be nearly impossible to prove that they DIDN’T act in self defense. 

    When a defendant pleads not guilty by reason of insanity they inherit the burden off proof, having to prove they weren’t of sound mind when they committed their crime.  Otherwise the prosecution would be saddled with the unfair burden of proving that the defendant was not insane at the time of the crime.  Self defense cases are similar in that they don’t deny the act, but for some reason in Florida defendants get a pass on inheriting the burden of proof even though they are the ones making the positive claim. 

    Regardless of personal opinions about Mr Zimmerman’s guilt, any law which forces someone to do the impossible and prove a negative is an unjust law. 

  18. 18
    The Ridger

    The law was correctly applied, because it is a horrible law. Also the prosecution really did a piss-poor job. The almost bottom line is that Martin is dead because Zimmerman got out of his car and confronted him. The law permits that, though. So the bottom line is that this is not the last killing Florida will see licensed by this law. Not by a long shot Not unless they change it.

    ps – I HATE your website’s commenting software. It just “logged me in” as some bizarre collection of alpha-numerics and held my comment for moderation.

  19. 19
    Cuttlefish

    Ridger, I’ve forwarded your complaints to the powers that be, on a couple of occasions. Damned if I know why the site hates you. For me, I need to use the left-most button (the FTB button) before it will let me comment, if I am not already logged in. That works for me, and worked for at least one other person. Maybe it might work for you? In the mean while… I’m really sorry. I hope it is all fixed when we (finally) do the whole site upgrade. Which should be… any month ago.

  20. 20
    georgewiman

    Great article at Balloon Juice – Turns out the invisible hand has a trigger finger. Of special note are the jury instructions citing Stand Your Ground.

  21. 21
    Madeleine Begun Kane

    Very well said!

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