Dissents Of The Day, Ctd

Jul 16 2013 @ 12:40pm

A reader quotes me:

I remain of the view that the best response to this case is to repeal these laws that empower vigilantes and all but encourage the murder of young black men – if you can find one alone, with few witnesses, and a semblance of a suspicion.

Why are you assuming that all “victims” of Stand Your Ground will be young black men? The above is a disgustingly inflammatory statement with no basis in fact. How about some balance in your argument here? All races of men and women have the right to defend themselves under Florida law. You assume whites will seek out and kill blacks because this law exists. This is sick. I, as a white man and a legal gun owner, find that so offensive.

I referred to vigilantes and “some whites” – not all white gun-owners. And my view that black men are disproportionately victimized by Stand Your Ground laws is not a guess. It’s statistically proven. Another defends me somewhat:

People keep saying that Stand Your Ground played no role in the trial, because the defense did not explicitly invoke it during the deliberations. But the judge DID explicitly use the Stand Your Ground language in her instructions to the jury. This is why people are saying the jury had no choice but to acquit Zimmerman. The attorneys for the defense presumably knew that this language would be in the jury instructions, so they could afford to ignore bringing it up themselves and focus generally on “self-defense.”

And yes, the juror interviewed by Anderson proved that this was a key factor in her judgment. Another reader:

I do not want to pile on, but I wanted to ensure that this post – “And he was told by the cops to stop his stalking. He decided to ignore them.” – was corrected. The transcript of the 911 call does not reflect your assertion:

Dispatcher
Are you following him?
Zimmerman
Yeah.
Dispatcher
Ok, we don’t need you to do that.
Zimmerman
Ok.

The transcript is clear, the 911 operator did not tell him to stop following Martin. Rather, the 911 operator’s comments (not a “cop” see infra) served to show that Zimmerman did not have an obligation or duty to continue to follow Martin. At no time did the operator tell Zimmerman to stop following Martin – this is an important distinction.

Furthermore, 911 operators are not police or cops; they are not deputized law enforcement officers. While this may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, here the 911 operator was not a deputized police officer.

Hanging the argument, as Will did, on a 911 operator saying “we don’t need you to do that” as opposed to “don’t follow him any further” is a slim nuance, it seems to me. If a 911 caller had told me that (in DC, I lived for twenty years on a street-corner named after a gang, and witnessed countless suspicious activity day in and day out, with several gun-murders outside my condo), I’d have let it go. But then I’m not a wannabe hero like Zimmerman. Another:

If you listen to the unedited 911 call Zimmerman made, and look at a map of the neighborhood, you see Zimmerman gets out of his car, follows Trayvon, and then loses track of him. Zimmerman is on the phone for several minutes after he can no longer see Trayvon, talking with the dispatcher, then tells the dispatcher he will meet responding officers at a different part of the complex. He is returning to his car when Trayvon confronts him and the fight ensues. In short, Trayvon could have easily made it home but opted to double-back to engage Zimmerman. This has rarely been mentioned in the media. But this is supported by all the evidence in the case – the 911 call, Zimmerman’s statements to law enforcement and Trayvon’s call to his friend.

The question remains: does engaging in bad thoughts and “profiling” constitute a legal or moral basis for assault? The answer to the former is no. For those who answer yes to the latter, such a position invites the same concerns with Stand Your Ground laws. Can I now shoot someone if I’m profiled?

Another shifts gears:

I have to disagree with your statement, “But Martin was effectively put on trial as well; and an almost all-white six-person jury of women doesn’t seem to represent either Zimmerman’s or Martin’s peers.” It seems to imply that you think the juror should mimic either the defendant or the victim. Logically speaking then, would a white male rapist of a black woman be tried by an all white, all male jury or an all black, all female jury? Would only Wall Street executives serve on the jury if anyone is ever tried for the crimes that lead to the financial crisis in 2008? Who then would serve on a jury if war criminals are brought to trial?

I’m not a lawyer, and can only go by my HS civics class, but I think the premise is that we are all citizens of this nation and in that respect, all citizens are peers. I agree that the jury selected was unusual, but I’d still say they were Zimmerman’s peers and even Martin’s. I hoped for another outcome personally, but with the little that I heard about the evidence, I can understand the decision of the jury. There may be a problem with the laws (self defense, gun and stand your ground), but the system worked as designed.

I don’t doubt that. But the overwhelmingly white jury – without a single man on it – was indeed unusual. An expert goes into further detail on that point:

An accused’s right to a jury in a criminal prosecution is not a “technicality.” It’s a basic entitlement written with crystal clarity in the Sixth Amendment. Constitutional rights are not technicalities; they are enshrinements of basic human dignity. Your long and admirable record of criticism against holding Gitmo prisoners without charges or trial, for example, reflects that you hold such entitlements in higher esteem than dismissing them as mere “technicalities.”

The Sixth Amendment requires, among other things, “a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury[.]” The word “peers” is absent. I stand to be corrected, but the common understanding is that “a jury of one’s peers” is (or was) an English, class-based practice going perhaps as far back as the Magna Carta: a nobleman was entitled to be judged by other noblemen, not by any commoner of a lower stratum. If that historical origin is accurate, the omission of the word “peers” from the Sixth Amendment is telling and characteristic of the Founding: all Americans are equal, none above or below another, before the law. It would be an ugly process indeed if every criminal defendant had the right to argue who is and is not worthy as his “peer” to consider the evidence against him and decide his fate. Racial politics would not always be the nastiest battleground in that regime.

The ideal of an impartial jury has been elusive, of course, but it did not evade Zimmerman or the people of Florida. Zimmerman had a jury of impartial fellow-citizens who deliberated well into a Saturday night whether or not to send him to prison. You’ve said yourself, and you are right, that they were equal to the task and clearly took it very seriously. He got what he was entitled to, under the law.

More reader pushback here.