Ingersoll Sunday: Civil Rights

There was a great disgrace in this country today. Backed by the laws of the state of Florida, a jury decided that it was reasonable for an armed white man to provoke a confrontation with an unarmed black teenager, shoot him dead, and then claim he was acting in self-defense.

I’m too heavy-hearted to write much about this, or about the Supreme Court’s disgraceful gutting of the Voting Rights Act last month. Suffice to say that race relations are an open and unhealed wound in the fabric of this country, and despite electing a black president, we seem farther from true equality than ever.

I didn’t know this until recently, but the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting racial discrimination in schools and businesses that serve the public, wasn’t the first time Congress had tried to pass such a law. In fact, a nearly identical Civil Rights Act was passed in 1875, during Reconstruction, which outlawed racial discrimination in public accommodations. But in 1883, the Supreme Court struck that law down. As Susan Jacoby wrote in her book The Great Agnostic, “the decision would stand as the basis of Jim Crow in everyday southern life for more than eighty years”.

In a lecture given that year, the great freethinking orator Robert Ingersoll spoke about that decision and about the state of civil rights in the United States. Ingersoll’s thesis – that the federal government has to step in to protect the rights of its people when the states refuse to do so – is a proposal that’s still painfully relevant today. He was well ahead of his time on this subject, just as we’re still well behind where we should be.

With only a few minor changes and updates to the language, he could have been speaking about Trayvon Martin and what happened to his killer in Florida today. Here are some excerpts from that lecture:

My doctrine is this: The first duty of the General Government is to protect each citizen. The first duty of each citizen is to be true – not to his State, but to the Republic.

…That is affirmative in its character. That affirmation imposes the obligation upon the General Government to protect its citizens everywhere. That affirmation clothes the Federal Government with power to protect its citizens. Under that clause, the Federal arm can reach to the boundary of the Republic, for the purpose of protecting the weakest citizen from the tyranny of citizens or States. That clause is a contract between the Government and every man – a contract wherein the citizen promises allegiance, and the nation promises protection.

This decision takes from seven millions of people the shield of the Constitution. It leaves the best of the colored race at the mercy of the meanest of the white. It feeds fat the ancient grudge that vicious ignorance bears toward race and color. It will be approved and quoted by hundreds of thousands of unjust men. The masked wretches who, in the darkness of night, drag the poor negro from his cabin, and lacerate with whip and thong his quivering flesh, will, with bloody hands, applaud the Supreme Court. The men who, by mob violence, prevent the negro from depositing his ballot – who with gun and revolver drive him from the polls, and those who insult with vile and vulgar words the inoffensive colored girl, will welcome this decision with hyena joy. The basest will rejoice – the noblest will mourn…

This decision, in my judgment, is not worthy of the Court by which it was delivered. It has given new life to the serpent of State Sovereignty. It has breathed upon the dying embers of ignorant hate. It has furnished food and drink, breath and blood, to prejudices that were perishing of famine, and in the old case of Civilization vs. Barbarism, it has given the defendant a new trial.

What I claim is, that in public places, no distinction should be made on account of race or color. The bad black man should be treated like the bad white man, and the good black man like the good white man.

…In all social relations we should have the utmost liberty – but public duties should be discharged and public rights should be recognized, without the slightest discrimination on account of race or color. Riding in the same cars, stopping at the same inns, sitting in the same theaters, no more involve a social question, or social equality, than speaking the same language, reading the same books, hearing the same music, traveling on the same highway, eating the same food, breathing the same air, warming by the same sun, shivering in the same cold, defending the same flag, loving the same country, or living in the same world.

I am the inferior of any man whose rights I trample under foot. Men are not superior by reason of the accidents of race or color. They are superior who have the best heart – the best brain. Superiority is born of honesty, of virtue, of charity, and above all, of the love of liberty. The superior man is the providence of the inferior. He is eyes for the blind, strength for the weak, and a shield for the defenseless. He stands erect by bending above the fallen. He rises by lifting others.

Of one thing you can rest assured: The best white people are your friends. The humane, the civilized, the just, the most intelligent, the grandest, are on your side. The sympathies of the noblest are with you. Your enemies are also the enemies of liberty, of progress and of justice. The white men who make the white race honorable believe in equal rights for you. The noblest living are, the noblest dead were, your friends.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • digitalatheist

    sigh… I can’t follow the Jury’s logic. Zimmerman was told specifically to not follow Martin. He did. Had he followed the explicit instructions from 911, this wouldn’t even be an incident.
    The sad fact that is missed by everyone is that that lead homicide investigator wanted Zimmman arrested that very night.. FOR MURDER!
    IF this case has wound up the other way ’round, who would bet that Martin would have been able to get off on “stand your ground”?

  • L.Long

    My finding and reading Ingersoll has made me sad and disappointed in most things american. Everything he talks about and points out are the exact same things the secularists are fighting today. Yes you can point to many things and say ‘see this is better than then.’ but the over all picture of hate and bigotry is still the same as then, its just better hidden in some ways.

    I use to think that this was caused by the american theocracy. But it is not religion that causes this hate and bigotry, It is their own hate and bigotry that they put into their religion that is the source of religious and secular hate and bigotry. Some would say that ‘the religion is hateful, bigoted and stupid, not the people’. Well no IT IS THE PEOPLE! If the buyBull or Quaran vanished today, by tomorrow, the ‘kill (insert bigotry) cuz the buyBull says so’ would change to ‘kill (insert bigotry) cuz the (insert some other lame ass excuse) says so’.

    But admittedly religion does make having an excuse to do evil a lot easier.

  • Leeloo Dallas Multipass

    It’s easy to think of the past as this undifferentiated mass of bigotry, as if the people back then were aliens who just couldn’t comprehend why discriminating based on sex or skin color were bad things. That’s pretty much the idea I had when I was a kid–not explicitly, but it sort of colored my assumptions. I recently read H.G. Wells’ book Ann Veronica, and there was so much it absolutely nailed about the frustration and the just grinding unfairness of living under that system, I was shocked that something that got it this right could be written in 1909 by a man. And it really brought home to me that people have always been just people, not just props in a history play–and that huge masses of them have looked at the idea of equal treatment and decided “naaah”. It’s depressing and it’s scary and I can only hope that the ease of worldwide communication nowadays will make it easier to maintain what progress we do make.

  • Kerry

    Adam…really you want to promote the concept that Zimmerman was white? Why is that? Do you need to promote a particular narrative? Have you been as outspoken on any of the 400+ murders in Chicago last year or the more than 400+ murders in Detroit? If not why not? Did you speak out in favor or against the OJ decision? Let me be clear, I appreciate living in Asia for the very reasons that have engulfed America these last few days. I don’t know why America can’t move past this issue of race, but it seems an unreachable goal for some reason. I have never experienced such bigotry in Asia.

    I was in Africa the night Obama was first elected and I cannot tell you of my happy and excited most of my friends were. I felt an immense sense of pride as an American to know that we had been able to throw of the unbearable yolk of inequity of the past. Alas, if you were to talk to these same people today, their opinions would be different. The euphoria has diminished as the realities of life have set in, and the realization that Obama’s inexperience or style has not benefited Africa as they had anticipated.

    The Rev.Sharpton seems a rather odd person to weigh in on this matter given his shady past. He should be held to the same standard as everyone else. In addition, the selective choosing from ALL the potential murders in the US is most interesting. It seems that the black community should be speaking out loud and clear about the indiscriminate killing in their own neighborhoods, but as far as I know, there is silence. If I am wrong please let me know.

    I appreciate Ingersoll’s remarks, and I would be curious as to his views on where we have come in race relations today. His words were from a different time, and while visionary and prophetic in some respects, one cannot draw an exact parallel to the issues today. Oh that he were here to weigh in! We could use his balanced approach.

  • smrnda

    Good point. I’m often impressed by people from the past, but regrettably, this comes along with being horrified that many issues you’d think would have been decided back in the dark ages are still coming up.

  • smrnda

    I think that laws need to be written that clearly make vigilantism or any attempt by people to pretend to be law enforcement illegal. Not that the cops don’t abuse their authority, but if we let any guy who wants to pretend to be Dirty Harry, we’re in for a lot of trouble.

    Of course, this won’t change without changes in gun laws and gun culture.

  • smrnda

    I like the idea of the supremacy of the Federal government. State’s rights are almost never championed except to promote regressive crap. True, some states make good moves (gay marriage, drug legalization) but overall, it just seems like it ends up being more of a losing proposition.

  • digitalatheist

    Sadly, I’m what you might consider a gun nut.. but I do have to agree with you.. From the very moment this hit the news I’ve been arguing that just by his very act of deliberately disobeying instructions, Zimmerman was guilty. Personally, I believe he was out to kill a “coon” (his words), and got away with it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    IF this case has wound up the other way ’round, who would bet that Martin would have been able to get off on “stand your ground”?

    Unfortunately, there’s no need to make that a hypothetical. A black woman with a Ph.D in Florida was sentenced to 20 years in prison, in spite of the “stand your ground” laws, for merely firing a warning shot at an abusive ex-husband.

    http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/05/florida_black_woman_gets_20_years_after_failed_stand_your_ground_defense.html

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    Have you been as outspoken on any of the 400+ murders in Chicago last year or the more than 400+ murders in Detroit? If not why not?

    Two reasons:

    (1) Because I don’t comment on specific crimes unless there’s a larger principle being tested. Gang violence, which is what I assume you’re referring to, is an awful scourge, but no one I know of is arguing that it should be encouraged or legally allowable. This case, however, was very much a test of whether our justice system permits vigilante killing by private individuals so long as the killer is white and the victim is black.

    (2) Because it’s my blog and I write about whatever I damn well please.

  • smrnda

    I don’t necessarily consider everyone who owns a gun or who uses them to be a ‘gun nut.’ Part of this is that at one point in time I could use firearms pretty well (my eyesight is no longer very good which would make it an unwise hobby.) I also look at an interest in guns the way I would look at an interest in martial arts – it doesn’t necessarily mean the person is actually interested in beating people up. It could be for the unlikely event of needing it in self-defense, or just an interest in how it works.

    Being a gun nut, to me, is a question of mentality, where a person’s need to feel safe with a gun starts to outweigh any realistic cost/benefit analysis and overrules any obligation to take the safety of other people into consideration.

    To me, the moment he disobeyed police orders he stepped outside of the protections of the law, and that should have been that.

  • Azkyroth

    Even if you really want to argue that it should be permissible to shoot first if you reasonable believe someone intends to do you harm, there are only two scenarios in which you can “reasonably believe” that shooting someone who is facing and moving away from you is an act of self-defense:

    1) there’s a third party the person is menacing
    2) the person is headed towards a Big Red Button of some sort.

    Now, if Florida were in the habit of leaving armed nuclear weapons lying around on the streets, and Trayvon was lunging toward one, then the defense might have a point, but the word “reasonable” has a meaning as applied to the word “belief.”

    No, this is basically the Emmett Till murder all over again. Nothing’s changed in Southern culture since then…or really, since the Civil War became a cold war.

  • Sam

    “There was a great disgrace in this country today. Backed by the laws of the state of Florida, a jury decided that it was reasonable for an armed white man to provoke a confrontation with an unarmed black teenager, shoot him dead, and then claim he was acting in self-defense.”

    No, what happened is that the jury decided there was reasonable doubt that that is what happened. The prosecution in the United States is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that scenario was true and they failed to do so.

    “I’m too heavy-hearted to write much about this, or about the Supreme Court’s disgraceful gutting of the Voting Rights Act last month.”

    What is disgraceful about that? The job of the Supreme Court is to rule on constitutionality, not utility.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    In my understanding, the stand-your-ground law was the only reason Zimmerman was able to claim self-defense at all. Ordinarily, the law requires that you at least attempt to retreat from a potentially dangerous situation before you can use deadly force to defend yourself. That isn’t what Zimmerman did here. Zimmerman incited the confrontation; he followed Trayvon against police advice. But because stand-your-ground laws remove the duty to retreat, you can effectively provoke a fight with someone and then kill them if you’re losing.

  • Kerry

    This case is a tragedy for sure. I guess my point, as in so many things is that there is a great deal of cherry-picking done of one case over another. I don’t know this information, but I am quite confident there is a few cases of tragedy that were the reverse of this one, and yet nothing is ever said. Unfortunately, as long as people look different there will be these problems. This is another reason I do not believe in god…certainly he would have known the huge problems his creation would have with the different skin colors, and in his “wisdom” would have made every one the same to avoid that problem.

    I just wish there was as much national interest in gang violence as there is on these single cases. There is so much needless loss of life and someone somewhere needs to stand up with similar passion.

  • L.Long

    “No, what happened is that the jury decided there was reasonable doubt
    that that is what happened. The prosecution in the United States is
    required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that scenario was true and
    they failed to do so.”

    If I was the defense I would have fought hard for getting 6 women on the jury. I don’t know that they did but, it was a very good thing for the defense.

    Why? Because various psychological tests have shown that most people will decide to not be directly responsible for a decision that leads to death of another. Being women they have no emotional tie to the outcome (ie the victim was NOT a woman, victim of rape and murder), it was just two idiot guys fighting. So getting a guilty verdict would have been a long tough battle and as seen, not possible.

  • Eight_Rule_Pig

    Well, you’re factually incorrect right off the bat. SYG was not invoked at all by the defense team during the duration of the trial; they went with plain ol’ vanilla self-defense, and if the defense’s account is at all accurate, Zimmerman was in fact acting under the rubrik of self-defense, legally speaking at least, and SYG doesn’t need to come into this; following someone is NOT grounds for them punching you, and if someone has you prone and is wailing on you, you’d be within your rights to respond with deadly force*. I’m not sure if the defense’s account is accurate; possibly a better prosecution team could have found some holes in the defense’s case, but as it stands they created reasonable doubt, and the law says that this means that Zimmerman walks. Zimmerman is certainly an idiot for following Trayvon and very possibly guilty of murder, but we thankfully still have some semblance of due process in America.

    *Anyone who argues that you should just take the beating has never been beaten by a man, which Trayvon at least biolgically was. I have been, and I’d kill someone rather than take it again. Trayvon was a taller than Zimmerman, and a strong kid who by all accounts was not averse to throwing bows. Yeah, Zimmerman should not have created the situation but unless anyone can prove that he attacked or threatened Martin before Martin laid into him, then legally he can and should get off. This doesn’t make the all the racist assholes who made Zimmerman a hero any less disgusting, but it’s not a black and white case; even literally, as Zimmerman is pretty clearly not white.

  • Elizabeth

    I love “Ann Veronica!”

    I was shocked that something that got it this right could be written in 1909 by a man.

    This is my favorite quotation from the book – which is not only brilliant but an amazing example of a white dude *getting it.*

    After all it was true that a girl does not go alone in the world unchallenged, nor ever has gone freely alone in the world, that evil walks abroad and dangers, and petty insults more irritating than dangers, lurk.

  • Azkyroth

    I’m not sure if the defense’s account is accurate

    It isn’t. Zimmerman is known to have tackled Martin basically unprovoked and received his injuries when Martin fought back like you or anyone else would have done. What evidence supporting this was available was disallowed in the trial, and other evidence was never gathered because the police had to be dragged kicking and screaming into prosecuting at all.

    So much for due process.

    but we thankfully still have some semblance of due process in America.

    Due process meaning that “only ‘the wrong kind of people’ ever get convicted,” of course.

  • Azkyroth

    I think the case of this woman is quite different from that of Zimmerman’s.

    Of course it is; she’s black. And also wasn’t attacking someone unprovoked out of racist paranoia, but never mind that.

  • Charles

    Azkyroth,

    It’s different in that this woman was charged with three counts of aggravated assault for being involved in a confrontation with her ex-husband in which she went back into her house to retrieve a gun and then fired this gun into the ceiling as a warning shot to him. Yes she is black, but I’m arguing that this case is very different from the one that everyone is talking about. I do think that this minimum 20 year sentence is wrong and needs to be changed, especially in her case. Once again, this article gives little information to make an informed judgement and like the Zimmerman case (or O.J., Casey Anthony, and so on…) we tend to assume things that we don’t really know. In fact, assumptions may be the biggest player in perpetuating racism. We assume things about other people based on what they wear and how they look or where they are from and we make unjustified judgements based upon this. I and everyone else who does this is wrong. The problem is that we really just don’t know but we are overconfident in our ability to make informed decisions based on what we see on TV and read on the web.

  • MV

    Eight_Rule_Pig:

    Before you declare someone to be factually incorrect, perhaps you should check that you are actually correct.

    Part of the jury instructions (two parts combined):

    If defendant “was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself.”

    Notice the “stand your ground” phrase in the instructions? It’s part of the self defense law in Florida.

  • Sam

    5 of the women were mothers. Attempting to figure out where people would vote based on their background when there are multiple factors influencing both ways is as valid a method as astrology.

  • Sam

    “It isn’t. Zimmerman is known to have tackled Martin basically unprovoked and received his injuries when Martin fought back like you or anyone else would have done.”

    What are you talking about?

    “Notice the “stand your ground” phrase in the instructions? It’s part of the self defense law in Florida”

    He isn’t talking about stand your ground in Florida law, but in the case. Zimmerman claims that Martin was on top of him smashing his head into the concrete, a situation that is normal self-defense.

  • Sam

    He didn’t disobey police orders- he was talking to a 911 dispatcher. And he was told

    “We don’t need you to do that.”
    http://phoebe53.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/zimmerman-911-call-transcript-trayvon-martin/

    That isn’t an order.

  • Eight_Rule_Pig

    ” Zimmerman is known to have tackled Martin basically unprovoked and received his injuries when Martin fought back”

    This wasn’t established in court and therefore a jury can’t rule on it. I find it pretty hard to figure out what, exactly, happened since media on both ideological sides has, from day one, done their level best to obfuscate and twist this case; but if nobody can disprove the defense’s version of events, the jury is bound to acquit. I certainly could believe that Zimmerman did attack Trayvon, but I haven’t seen any credible evidence that he did.

    “Due process meaning that “only ‘the wrong kind of people’ ever get convicted,” of course.”

    Yes, of course, that is exactly what I meant. I really really want only black people to go to prison, and not brown people like Zimmerman.

    Incidentally, my whole life I’ve been watching conservatives go into histrionics about ‘not-guilty’ verdicts that in their mind showed the ultimate degeneracy of the system, it’s bizarre to watch the almost exact same pattern with liberals.

  • Eight_Rule_Pig

    The case doesn’t obtain to this one for a specific reason; she fired a warning shot. You can’t do that, period, end of story. I learned that literally the first day I learned how to shoot, it’s basic stuff along with never pointing a gun at someone you’re not prepared to kill. The mandatory minimum in the case is crazy, I agree, but it’s not racist; the thing about mandatory minimums is that they remove any motivation like racism, or in this case common sense, from the judge’s sentencing considerations. It’s not useful to compare the two cases because they deal with entirely different legal issues. If she was in danger and had simply shot her husband, that would have been a different story.

  • Eight_Rule_Pig

    Read the entire instruction; it’s very standard self-defense language and, again, the defense did not invoke the SYG-relevant sections; they were arguing that Zimmerman was in danger and reacted accordingly in a way that would be construed as self-defense in any state in the US.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    This kind of hairsplitting doesn’t help your case. If the 911 dispatcher had given him a direct order, no doubt, you’d have said it still wouldn’t matter because the police aren’t legally entitled to give orders to civilians.

  • http://minimalfaith.com/ J.C. Samuelson

    In our justice system, being declared “not guilty” isn’t the same as being innocent.

  • L.Long

    Exactly, or are trying to hint that astrology is BS???
    What are you an A-astrologer!!!

  • Sam

    It is a tradeoff. We’ve seen the downside of federalism in segregation. The downside of centralization is it exuberates political detachment (because you have less control over things- instead of your state and community, it is decided as a block), you don’t have gradual change with progressive states leading the way, it increases political strife because the rewards are larger (imagine the abortion fight if pro-lifers couldn’t subvert state governments and could only duke it out in congress) and it messes with the political ladder (a lot of politicians prove their worth as governors; removing that makes it harder to check for good leaders).
    Basically in politics there is no best organization- whatever you choose comes with tradeoffs.

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    In the 1960s, Congress made violations of civil rights a crime. This could be used to convict people who had been acquitted of charges in state courts for the same conduct but a different charge. While it was outrageous how racist all-white juries conducted themselves, doing this seriously undermines double jeopardy. If people can be acquitted of their conduct under one charge, but then convicted of it with another, is there anything left?

  • smrnda

    A responsible person conducting a neighborhood watch would abide by the instructions of a 911 dispatcher. Not doing so might not make him a criminal, but it definitely makes him a loose cannon vigilante.

    I mean, there was no way Zimmerman was in any danger as he was in a car. A slow car will outrun the fastest person. If he was afraid of Martin (I’m not sure how a person in car can fear a pedestrian unless the pedestrian is armed to the teeth with a large, high caliber weapon) he should have driven away. Following someone you are ostensibly ‘afraid of’ seems to be a bit strange to me.

  • Sam

    smrnda
    “A responsible person conducting a neighborhood watch would abide by the instructions of a 911 dispatcher.”

    That wasn’t an instruction. If you look at the transcript the dispatcher is telling him they don’t need him to track Martin; that the police would presumably be there soon.

    Of course Zimmerman claims he stopped following Martin (and the call makes it clear he lost him) so I’m not sure how you can claim he was disobeying.

    “Not doing so might not make him a criminal, but it definitely makes him a loose cannon vigilante.”

    That isn’t illegal.

    “I mean, there was no way Zimmerman was in any danger as he was in a car.”

    He wasn’t operating under the expectation that he would be suddenly attacked- the transcript backs his testimony that he got out to check for the address.

    “Following someone you are ostensibly ‘afraid of’ seems to be a bit strange to me.”

    Zimmerman never claimed he was afraid of Martin until Martin was smashing his head into the pavement. He was suspicious of Martin.

    Adam Lee
    “This kind of hairsplitting doesn’t help your case.”

    Disobeying the police is illegal. Not disobeying, or disobeying a 9/11 dispatcher is not.

    ” If the 911 dispatcher had given him a direct order, no doubt, you’d have said it still wouldn’t matter because the police aren’t legally entitled to give orders to civilians.”

    Me, previously
    “He didn’t disobey police orders- he was talking to a 911 dispatcher.”

    9/11 dispatchers are not police.

  • Azkyroth

    Yes, but that was established by facts publicly available when the case first came up to be a transparent lie, which an even marginally competent or motivated prosecution would have brought to court and blown away the defense with. The fact that this didn’t happen undermines the charges of racism how exactly?

  • Azkyroth

    Insofar as it’s restricted to violation of civil rights, are you fucking kidding me?

  • GCT

    By your reckoning it would have been better for her to kill her husband than to fire a warning shot and attempt to get him to leave her alone. Got it.

  • Figs

    Zimmerman is pretty clearly not white.

    Just one drop, right?

  • Figs

    If you’re going to make an argument that Adam is ignoring specific cases, make sure those cases actually exist. Otherwise you’re going to wind up looking like a concern troll at best, and a liar at worst.

  • Figs

    Um…you said they’re two separate charges, right? And two separate jurisdictions? I don’t see what the problem is here.

  • GCT

    Kerry as a right wing shill/concern troll/liar? Who woulda thunk that possible?

  • James Works

    Having grown up in the Jim Crow South, I remember asking my mother why a department store had a water fountain labeled “colored” and a “colored” waiting room at the bus station. She couldn’t provide any answer except, “That’s just the way it is.” When this eight-year-old white child, now a 66-year-old white man, can see that this was, and is, wrong, where are the morals of so many white Southerners who would have us return to this disgraceful past? I shudder at the passing of laws intended keep certain groups from voting (perhaps we’ll try reinstating the poll tax), of laws that prevent women from controlling their own bodies, of laws that circumvent the principle of equal representation for all. I mourn for my country.

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    The problem is that if it’s the same conduct being tried, new charges would seem to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of double jeopardy.

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    It seriously worries me that a person can be acquitted of charges based on their conduct in one jurisdiction, then tried for it on another charge in a separate jurisdiction, due to public pressure. So no, I am not kidding. If I were, I wouldn’t have posted it.

  • smrnda

    Might I ask you how you would feel if a strange car was following you at night? I know I’d be pissing and shitting my pants in terror, since I can’t imagine why a car would be following me unless someone in the car wanted to rape and kill me. (Just a note that I’m female and not a very large person.)

    Following people around in a car might not be illegal, but it’s clearly a behavior that most people would find to be frightening to be on the receiving end of.

    It might not be illegal, but it’s clearly behavior that is threatening and provocative in its own right. Apparently, Zimmerman’s need to feel like a manly man (I seriously doubt his ‘citizen patrols’ could be justified by any risk calculus, but American males *do* feel a need to imitate movies ) is more important than whether or not his behavior can create fear in others.

    I would consider any person who has a tendency to follow people around in his car at night to be a menace to public safety. Though I would not be for jailing a person for that, I’d at least think that enough complaints should revoke a person’s driver’s license.

    I speak that as a woman who has had strange cars follow me. I’m legally blind, so calling and describing the plate # isn’t possible, and if a person *gets out* I’d be incapable of really figuring out much except whether they were bigger than me.

    I doubt you’d tell me I’d be over-reacting to feel fear over a car following me, and I seriously doubt you’d defend the driver of the vehicle. It’s strange that if I swap my white woman demographic for a Black male one, apparently it’s a totally different thing to so many people.

  • smrnda

    There are some issues that are better decided at a local level, and others that should be only decided at a higher level.

  • Eight_Rule_Pig

    Pointing out that Zimmerman would be immediately recognized by most people in America as a POC clearly makes me the moral equivalent of antebellum slaveholders. Got it.

  • Eight_Rule_Pig

    Yes; legally that’s how it works. Do some research. Firing at a threat is legally acceptable, firing wild isn’t. White people have gone to jail on the same principle, shockingly.
    What she should have done, is gotten a lawyer before she talked to cops. I agree that 20 years in prison is nuts.

  • GCT

    And, apparently, if you’re black you aren’t allowed to stand your ground. When Zimmerman attacked Martin, wasn’t Martin just standing his ground in defending himself?

  • GCT

    So, in your rush to defend Zimmerman, you’re claiming that killing someone is better than not killing them. Got it. You’re a real piece of work.

    But, it’s worse than that. You’re defending killing someone that you attacked and claiming that’s better than not killing someone who attacked you and is violating a restraining order. What is wrong with you?

  • Eight_Rule_Pig

    Well, as I stated earlier, SYG had nothing to do with the verdict. If you want to venture an opinion, you’d do well to actually examine the basic facts of the case rather than parrot talking points. The defense’s contention was that Zimmerman couldn’t retreat, so SYG is irrelevant. They created reasonable doubt. There’s some evidence that Martin attacked Zimmerman and none that Zimmerman attacked Martin. I personally am unsure if Zimmerman is telling the truth and, as I said, think he may have been guilty, but in America, “I think he’s guilty” does not meet the burden of proof. Liberals usually get this, and conservatives often don’t, but this case has flipped that around. The case has its racial dimension, sure, but the “It’s legal to hunt black people now!” reaction is as absurd as cocc’s weekly roundup of black-on-white violence and the resulting cries of “The white man has no rights!”

  • Eight_Rule_Pig

    I’m in no rush to defend Zimmerman. I dislike wannabe cops, and he made some sigificant and stupid mistakes and (for the nth time) I personally believe he may be guilty. I’m talking about rule of law in the face of obfuscation and active misinformation (SYG, Zimmerman said “coon”, the woman who shot randomly is a worthwhile example, et al.), and if that makes you think I’m on team Zimmerman, that says more about your ability to read than mine to type.

    It’s no shame to not understand laws or guns, it is a shameful thing to loudly opine on that which you are ignorant of. A gun is a lethal weapon. Firing one to “scare” someone is not allowed. I assume you at least know that bullets can kill targets other than the intended, yes? It is a crime. Shooting someone in self-defense is not. That even leaves aside all the other information that people are omiting (or just haven’t bothered to read) about that case, such as the woman leaving and then returning with a gun and then firing wild.

  • GCT

    Well, as I stated earlier, SYG had nothing to do with the verdict.

    Just because they didn’t attempt to get the case thrown out on SYG grounds doesn’t mean it had nothing to do with the verdict. Additionally, the verdict automatically assumes that Martin had no right to standing his own ground when attacked by Zimmerman.

    The defense’s contention was that Zimmerman couldn’t retreat, so SYG is irrelevant.

    At what point couldn’t he retreat? When he followed Martin in his car? When he got out of the car and followed Martin some more? When he attacked Martin? When he held the gun to Martin and shot him while Martin pleaded for his life?

    They created reasonable doubt.

    It’s only reasonable if you’re inclined to let the lighter skinned guy off the hook for killing a black person. This is all too common in our judicial system though, as the statistics show.

    There’s some evidence that Martin attacked Zimmerman and none that Zimmerman attacked Martin.

    False. Zimmerman went after Martin, that much can not be disputed.

    Liberals usually get this, and conservatives often don’t, but this case has flipped that around.

    Oh, fuck off. The burden of proof is well met. ZImmerman followed Martin after being told not to. He got out of the car and attacked Martin. Then, he shot Martin. If anyone was acting in self-defense, it was Martin. Putting your head in the sand to defend the killing of a black minor doesn’t constitute a failing of “liberals”.

    The case has its racial dimension, sure, but the “It’s legal to hunt black people now!” reaction is as absurd as cocc’s weekly roundup of black-on-white violence and the resulting cries of “The white man has no rights!”

    You’re right about this, but not for the reason you think. It’s always been more acceptable to kill black people, and the statistics bear that out. SYG just makes it that much more acceptable, and the statistics bear that out as well.

    http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2013/07/13/stand-your-ground-laws-increases-racial-bias-in-justifiable-homicide-trials/

  • GCT

    …and if that makes you think I’m on team Zimmerman, that says more about your ability to read than mine to type.

    Oh, spare me. I find your protestations about as convincing as people who claim to not be racist right before they say racist shit.

    That even leaves aside all the other information that people are omiting (or just haven’t bothered to read) about that case, such as the woman leaving and then returning with a gun and then firing wild.

    Omitting? OK, let’s talk about all of that and more while we’re at it. You’re omitting the fact that her children were in there with her abusive ex and that he was defying a restraining order. You’re omitting the fact that she was explicitly denied SYG grounds because she didn’t retreat from her own dwelling (and leave her kids behind in the process) even though SYG specifically states that you don’t have to retreat. She also went to go retrieve her gun from her car in the garage. It’s not like she went a mile away, got her gun, then came back. She didn’t leave the scene at all, but instead went to retrieve her weapon, which is sort of the point of having a weapon in a place where it can be retrieved. You’re also assuming that she was firing wildly, which we don’t know to be the case.

    Bottom line is that you are claiming it’s better to kill someone than not. It’s like claiming that armed robbery is more acceptable than shoplifting. You’re also much more willing to give Zimmerman the benefit of the doubt with self-defense than you are a woman who was definitely being attacked by her abusive ex who was violating a restraining order. Again, what the hell is wrong with you?

  • Azkyroth

    they were arguing that Zimmerman was in danger and reacted accordingly in a way that would be construed as self-defense in any state in the US.

    That’s flat fucking false; the Duty to Retreat is a very common element in self-defense statutes in the civilized world, with 31 states adopting at least exceptions for one’s own home or place of business (the “Castle Doctrine”).

  • smrnda

    The difference is that, in cases of Black on white violence, the Black people go to jail.

  • smrnda

    Given that you clearly recognize that guns are very dangerous, maybe you can explain why gun ownership should be considered such an entitlement? It just seems like the presence of guns escalates the level of violence across the board.

  • smrnda

    Thanks for this Plenty of people can just look around and know that the way things are is wrong. The other thing is that most defenses of the status quo are really pretty empty.

  • Azkyroth

    Of one thing you can rest assured: The best white people are your friends. The humane, the civilized, the just, the most intelligent, the grandest, are on your side. The sympathies of the noblest are with you. Your enemies are also the enemies of liberty, of progress and of justice. The white men who make the white race honorable believe in equal rights for you. The noblest living are, the noblest dead were, your friends.

    I find it ironic that today this would almost certainly be blown off as “wanting a cookie.”


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