The Tragedy Of Trayvon: Reax

Responding to George Zimmerman being found not guilty, Joyner writes that “the prosecution handled a weak case poorly and that an acquittal should surprise no one”:

Now, of course, juries sometimes get it wrong. Many innocent men have been found guilty and many people who plainly did what they were accused of doing are acquitted. In this particular case, there’s no doubt, reasonable or otherwise, that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, a teenage boy who did not deserve to have his life ended. But that wasn’t what the jurors were being asked to decide. Rather, they were charged with deciding whether Zimmerman committed second degree murder as defined by Florida statute. And, as contemptible as George Zimmerman is and as outrageous as Trayvon Martin’s death is, it strikes me as pretty obvious that he did not, regardless of what one believes about what happened after the events we hear on tape end.

I agree, as does TNC:

I think the jury basically got it right. The only real eyewitness to the death of Trayvon Martin was the man who killed him. At no point did I think that the state proved second degree murder. I also never thought they proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted recklessly. They had no ability to counter his basic narrative, because there were no other eye-witnesses.

But, in a later post, TNC puts the case in context:

The injustice inherent in the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman was not authored by jury given a weak case. The jury’s performance may be the least disturbing aspect of this entire affair. The injustice was authored by a country which has taken as its policy, for lionshare of its history, to erect a pariah class. The killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman is not an error in programming. It is the correct result of forces we set in motion years ago and have done very little to arrest.

A glimpse at those forces:


Cord Jefferson likewise connects the shooting of Trayvon Martin to society’s racial prejudice:

It is a complicated thing to be young, black, and male in America. Not only are you well aware that many people are afraid of you—you can see them clutching their purses or stiffening in their subway seats when you sit across from them—you must also remain conscious of the fact that people expect you to be apologetic for their fear. It’s your job to be remorseful about the fact that your very nature makes them uncomfortable, like a pilot having to apologize to a fearful flyer for being in the sky.

Meanwhile, Jazz Shaw dismisses any idea that the trial was about race:

In the post-Zimmerman era, anyone who winds up in a conflict situation where there is a racial difference between the parties can now stand up and say that the villain was profiling the other party. It provides the convenient mental imagery to lump them in with rogue cops and the rest of the story. Don’t look for this to end any time soon. Profiling is the new substitute for discrimination, even if the perpetrator has nothing to do with law enforcement, and I’m betting it’s going to have a long run.

But I fail to see how profiling wasn’t obviously salient in this incident. Zimmerman convicted Martin of being a punk and a would-be burglar because he was black and wearing a hoodie in a complex where burglaries had recently taken place committed by young black men. Implicating an innocent person in that criminal group because he was a stranger, and looked like the criminals, is classic profiling. Charles P. Pierce groans:

[O]f course, this was not about race because nothing is ever about race.

The prosecutors even told us that it wasn’t about race. The defense won its case because this was not about race. The sharp guys and pundits will spend all weekend explaining how race was an element of the events that night, but that the case, ultimately, was not about race. And because this case was not about race, nothing out of our history counts, because our history, here in the land of the free, is not about race, either. Because our history is not about race, a few weeks ago, when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, what happened on the Edmund Pettus Bridge was not relevant. Because our history is not about race, last night, Emmett Till was not relevant, even though a few people inconveniently brought him up. But that was years ago, and the country has changed, and it is John Roberts’ Day Of Jubilee, and this trial was not about race because nothing is about race any more.

Along the same lines, Lisa Wade examines the racial effects of Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws:

[W]hite people who kill black people are far more likely to be found not-guilty even in states without SYG and black people who kill whites are less likely to be found not-guilty regardless of state law.

It’s simple: We are already biased in favor of the white defendant and against the black victim. Stand your ground laws give jurors more leeway to give defendants the benefit of the doubt.  This increases even further the chances that a white-on-black homicide will be considered justifiable because jurors will likely give that benefit of the doubt to certain kinds of defendants and not others. Stand your ground may or may not be a good law in theory but, in practice, it increases racial bias in legal outcomes.

Scott Lemiuex places more blame on our gun laws:

Carrying a deadly weapon in public should carry unique responsibilities. In most cases someone with a gun should not be able to escape culpability if he initiates a conflict with someone unarmed and the other party ends up getting shot and killed. Under the current law in many states, people threatened by armed people have few good options, because fighting back might create a license to kill. As the New Yorker‘s Amy Davidson puts it, “I still don’t understand what Trayvon was supposed to do.”

Unless the law is changed to deal with the large number of people carrying concealed guns, there will be more tragic and unnecessary deaths of innocent people like Trayvon Martin for which nobody is legally culpable.

Steven L. Taylor insists the legal system, however broken, was served:

In point of fact, the courts are supposed to produce an outcome that is commensurate with the laws as written.  As such, if one finds an outcome to be “unjust” is it quite likely that the source of the injustice is not the criminal justice system, per se, but is, rather, the fault of legislators.  Indeed, it is often the fault of the demands of the public (which are frequently contradictory*).  Regardless, the application of the law in a certain circumstance often produces a legally correct (or, at least, a legally consistent and logical) outcome even if the outcome may not be considered “just” in an abstract sense.  And, of course, the question of what is just, both in general and in the specific, is a normative one that is open to disagreement.  Such disagreements, as is often the case with normative disputes, can be quite passionate.

My initial thoughts after hearing the verdict are here.

(Chart via Frontline)