Beware outrage at a “not guilty” verdict

When I first heard about the case of George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin, I had the standard outraged liberal reaction, then I had some doubts, then I largely forgot about the whole thing. But I was profoundly disturbed by much of the reaction I saw to Zimmerman’s acquittal on Twitter and Facebook last night, with exhibit A coming from Greta Christina, who said the following on Facebook:

I have no patience tonight. If you have anything at all to say that even remotely hints at implying that the Zimmerman verdict was remotely defensible., unfriend me and unfollow me now. And get the fuck out of my life.

When challenged, Greta didn’t back down. Among the comments which she saw :

So much for open dialog. I think it was a defensible verdict. Bye

I’m a card-carrying liberal. No doubt about it. However, I think that this case is more complicated than some might wish. We have a criminal justice system that requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Do I think that Zimmerman fucked up? Sure. Do I think that Martin fucked up. Yes. Testosterone is the guilty party here. If these two had been women, I doubt that the outcome would be as it is. How can we judge Zimmerman, BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT? It’s easy to take a position based on our liberal biases, and assume that Martin was the black victim and Zimmerman was the guilty perpetrator. But how sure can we really be? Ok, I’ll stipulate to the fact that Zimmerman shouldn’t have prejudged Martin based solely on race and his hoodie. But is Martin blameless here? The physical confrontation between these two me could have been defused or avoided, but how much blame can be reasonably hung on each person? I DON’T KNOW. That’s reasonable doubt. That’s the standard. I would be more than happy to convict Zimmerman IF I didn’t have SOME doubt about the details of the final confrontation. Doubt is the issue here, and that is the nexus of our judicial system, flawed as it might be. It cuts both ways.

(Greta’s specific response to this one was, “Go fuck yourself. And get entirely the fuck out of my life, right now.”)

I wouldn’t say I disagree, but I have a general policy of unfriending anyone who gives me an “I’ll unfriend you if…” ultimatum.

He was guilty of negligent homicide. He wasn’t charged with that. They didn’t make a case for manslaughter (under Florida law) or 2nd degree murder. All of the sparse evidence showed that Martin initiated the physical confrontation, and he had an affirmative defense of self-defense against those charges.

I think Zimmerman was an idiot who showed some of the dangers of our current gun culture. Any myths that some of you are building that Zimmerman was hunting Martin and intended to kill him is unlikely and completely unsupported by the evidence. That story has gotten fixed into some people’s minds, though, in a very FoxNews-like echo chamber.

Greta, I have posted my attitude, which is that the instructions for murder did not give the jury much leeway to adjudge guilt. The jury also had instructions for manslaughter, for which guilt was (as I understand the law generally) obvious. I disagree with the jury *according to the judge’s instructions* to that extent.

My personal standard is that Zimmerman is guilty. He is also disgusting for various statements and a total lack of concern for his victim and the family.

I accept that my attitude may breech your “anything at all” standard. Please know that if you unfriend me, I will respect you and hope for a time when we may reconnect. We have much for which we can support each other – and our society.

Again, every one of these comments provoked more swearing from Greta. I’m willing to bet that at least half the people reading this will agree with me that her behavior is utterly disgraceful, but I think it’s important to spell out why her behavior is disgraceful–beyond the principle that not everyone who disagrees with you is awful, but specific to criminal trials.

I’ll start with something someone else, a law student friend of mine, said on Facebook:

And having said that, the American jury trial system and Constitution with regard to criminal law are built around the idea that it is better for a guilty person to go free than for an innocent man to lose his liberty. Beyond a reasonable doubt is freaking hard to prove on purpose. And it should be. Sometimes it’s ugly and awful and sometimes it’s clear the verdict is wrong and sometimes really guilty people go free on technicalities. And it sucks. But to blame the entire system over one verdict where there really wasn’t enough evidence for beyond a reasonable doubt? Just stop, yall. Just stop.

More importantly, the dialogue about this law has started in earnest. Get angry about the verdict all you want, but keep talking – because that’s how things change. A guilty verdict wouldn’t have suddenly made the law go away. That’s now how that works.

My $.02.

In fact, every legally informed opinion I’ve read on the matter has tended to agree with the jury’s decision, though some think it might have gone differently had the prosecution not screwed up. Eugene Volokh has a good discussion of the issue of burden of proof and self-defense, which I had not known much about previously.

But even if you think Zimmerman should have been found guilty on the evidence presented at trial, I can’t help but think how insanely dangerous it is to be so outraged at a “not guilty” verdict that you’re willing to stop talking to go out and protest it, demand the government do something about it, refuse to speak to people who even hint at a different point of view.

Because as my law student friend said, the “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” standard exists for a reason. It exists to stop Italy’s Amanda Knox travesty from happening. It exists to stop the government from labeling anyone it wants a terrorist and killing or indefinitely detaining them without trial–which the US government does anyway, but we definitely don’t need to make that any easier, we don’t need to set a precedent that when someone is found not guilty of murder, the government will find a way to punish them anyway if the public really wants it.

Edit: I should add that my reaction to the people outraged at Zimmerman’s acquittal is roughly the same as my reaction to seeing Nancy Grace declare that the devil was dancing over Casey Anthony’s acquittal, except that I used to respect Greta Christina.

Edit 2: Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Where None Dare Urge Restraint, is relevant here, as is the larger “death spirals” sequence it was apart of. Eliezer’s post focuses on the response to the September 11th attacks, and there’s no risk of outrage over the Zimmerman verdict leading to another Iraq war.

But if you wanted me to take a stab at what tangible harm might come from it, I’d guess at an ill-conceived “Trayvon’s law.” There’s a saying that laws named after dead children are generally bad laws, and I don’t see that changing just because proponents of the law think they’re fighting racism.

  • iamcuriousblue

    This article sums up my thoughts on this exactly. On balance, I think Zimmerman “started it” and provoked a dangerous situation that ended tragically. At the very least, I hope he gets slapped with a wrongful death lawsuit. But guilty of murder beyond reasonable doubt? That’s a stretch. It’s entirely possible that Martin might have attacked Zimmerman based on Zimmerman’s actions, and that Zimmerman at that moment might have feared for his life when Martin got the upper hand. There was nothing that came out in the trial that contradicted that defense, so the jury pretty much had to acquit.

    Basically, I understand the difference between somebody having likely done something wrong, and what the letter of the law is and the strength of a case that goes before a jury. I don’t have to think Zimmerman at all did the right thing to think that his acquittal was not an injustice. Nor do I have to see Martin as “thug”, or ultimately anything other than the victim of tragic circumstances. Trevon Martin, after all, isn’t the one on trial here.

    I also find it deeply ironic that killers “getting off on a technicality” is an old right-wing trope that liberals and progressives have rejected in favor of strong rights for the defense. But when the system acquits a racist they don’t like for those same reasons, suddenly they talk out of the other side of their mouth.

    As for Greta Christina’s statement, unfortunately, it’s the kind of thing I’ve come to expect from her. She used to be one of the best rationalist bloggers out there, but in the past year or two has embraced an entirely emotive, kneejerk kind of “social justice” politics and demonization of people simply for having different opinions. It’s entirely unfortunate and sad.

    • http://www.groverbeachbum.blogspot.com/ Neil

      “I also find it deeply ironic that killers “getting off on a technicality” is an old right-wing trope that liberals and progressives have rejected in favor of strong rights for the defense. But when the system acquits a racist they don’t like for those same reasons, suddenly they talk out of the other side of their mouth.”

      And there it is. I see a lot of progressives these days that have abandoned all sense of fairness or equality, just so they can feel righteous in the face of sometimes highly questionable “oppression”. The same ugly, ignorant, self-righteous mob mentality I would expect of the KKK. Sorry if that seems over the top, but it’s how I see it. I won’t unfriend anyone on facebook for disagreeing, though.

      • kraut2

        Ok, lets turn it around. Martin was followed by Zimmermann, to Martins mind, on his way home from shopping, without justification.
        What about Martins right to self defense from a stalker. Martin attacked Zimmermann, according to the Law he was in his right to do so, because he was stalked by someone. Someone apparently stronger and bigger than him. So, why is the right of self defense granted to the stalker Zimmermann and not to the defending Martin?

        What are the chances, had Martin shot Zimmermann, of an acquittal? Would Martin have been granted the same protection by the law: stand your ground (which he clearly would have done, if it is true that he actually attacked Zimmermann first) as Zimmermann?
        Why was Zimmermann not deemed the agressor as he stalked a Martin going about his own business? Why wold Martin have to account for his actions to a self styled security guard like Martin. What right had Zimmermann to follow Martin?

        • Pseudonym One

          Very good point.

        • josh

          Zimmerman didn’t ‘stalk’ Martin. He also didn’t hunt him or chase him down, etc. He followed him briefly and asked him what he was doing when confronted by Martin. There is no right to aggressive self-defense against someone you think is eying you suspiciously, even if they are a “creepy-ass cracker”.

          If Martin had attacked Zimmerman with a gun in those circumstances I believe it would be attempted murder or aggravated assault, but that’s obviously pure hypothetical. As it is, Martin’s theoretical charge is moot. Various people have pointed out that Zimmerman’s defense does not rest on a stand your ground law. Other cases, like Marissa Alexander’s, show that stand-your-ground isn’t nearly as broad as people seem to think. (Which isn’t to say that one can’t dispute the outcome in that case.)

          Martin was under no obligations to account for himself to Zimmerman. Zimmerman had every right to follow him. There just isn’t any evidence that Zimmerman went in with any aggressive intentions.

          • iamcuriousblue

            Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve read that Zimmerman earlier either brandished the gun or reached down indicating he had a gun, as well as continued to follow Martin even after he was advised by a 911 dispatcher not to. Based on everything I’ve read, Martin was not at all unreasonable in reading Zimmerman’s intentions as aggressive and dangerous.

          • Pofarmer

            All of that is speculation on someones part.

          • Don Gwinn

            Zimmerman didn’t call 911. He called the police non-emergency number. The operator at one point asked whether Zimmerman was still following Martin, was told “yes,” and replied, “We don’t need you to do that.”

            He testified in court that that statement was not an order or instruction and was not intended to be. Make of that what you will.

            Here’s a crazy thought: What if Martin had used the cell phone in his hand to call the police or 911 and report the creepy-ass cracka following him? What difference might have been made?

            I’m not aware of any testimony or evidence that indicates that Zimmerman brandished or revealed his weapon earlier than he says he did (during the physical struggle.) First I’ve heard of that one, so I can’t help you there.

          • josh

            I haven’t heard of any evidence that Zimmerman’s gun was known to Martin. Martin doesn’t mention it on the phone conversation he had with his friend. Zimmerman’s claim is that he initially followed Martin after the dispatcher said they didn’t need him to do that. Zimmerman lost sight of Martin, this is backed up by both phone calls. He says he went to the end of the block to check a street sign, then while heading back they apparently re-encountered each other. The whole thing plays out like a grim comedy of errors with both parties increasingly paranoid which makes their actions look suspicious to the other guy. During the fight, Martin is on top and Zimmerman struggles to get out from under him and off the sidewalk. His jacket rides up and at some point here he get a hold of his gun. Zimmerman says he thought Martin was going for it.

            I’m not surprised Martin thought Zimmerman was suspicious, but without some other evidence I don’t see that he had just cause to attack, especially when he could have easily run home after losing Zimmerman.

        • iamcuriousblue

          My understanding of self-defense law is that it can apply to both parties. Trevon Martin would have had an excellent case for it had Zimmerman gotten the upper hand and Martin countered with lethal force. The defense that Zimmerman made was that Martin had gotten the upper hand, was beating Zimmerman’s head on the pavement, and he reasonably feared for his life when he shot Martin. That may or may not be true, but the prosecution, which has the burden of proof, couldn’t disprove that defense. More to the point, the fact that Zimmerman had started the larger problem by following Martin doesn’t nullify that defense.

          As for “what right had Zimmerman to follow Martin”, he had every legal right to do so. (Moral right being another story.) Whether that legal right *should* exist is another story, and perhaps legislation banning such behavior is called for. But a law that *should* exist has no bearing on a jury.

        • Don Gwinn

          “Would Martin have been granted the same protection by the law: stand your ground (which he clearly would have done, if it is true that he actually attacked Zimmermann first) as Zimmermann?”

          I think there’s some confusion there. No, attacking someone else who’s not attacking you or a third party is not self-defense and “Stand Your Ground” protection wouldn’t be relevant.

          Again, Stand Your Ground laws are not new, sweeping changes. They are very narrow changes to current self-defense law. They remove the obligation to retreat (if it can be done safely) before using deadly force in self-defense, and that ONLY if all the other elements of self-defense are still met (Ability/Opportunity/Jeopardy.)

          There is no such thing as a right to use deadly force in self-defense against someone who has not demonstrated ability and opportunity to cause you death and/or grave bodily harm, AND has shown by word or action that you are in immediate jeopardy. That’s why the Marissa Alexander case is more complex than “Stand Your Ground didn’t work for a black woman.” She tried to use SYG, but it didn’t help her because she failed the other elements of self-defense. She left the house and the threat behind, retrieved a weapon, returned to the house and fired a shot. The defense says it was a warning shot (NEVER fire a warning shot, kids, they’re all downside) but the physical evidence shows that the shot traveled pretty horizontally and had to be aimed at least in the general direction of her ex-husband, and, apparently, the children. The defense says she fired the shot “into the ceiling” (again, that is foolish, never do it) but it left a hole in the wall and didn’t enter the ceiling until it had passed into the next room.

          Look, either evidence matters or it doesn’t. I think it does.

    • iamcuriousblue

      Greta Christina’s response/restatement, basically doubling down on her FB post:

      http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2013/07/15/trayon-martin-george-zimmerman-freethought/

      Apparently, it’s “morally repugnant” and “not freethought” to even consider the nuances of this case. Only sheer moral outrage will do as a reaction. One commentator even goes so far as to say the if the law told the jurors not to convict, the jurors should have ignored the law and convicted anyway.

      Fine if these “freethinkers” want to burn their bridges, since I’d just as soon not have anything to do with “freethought” like that.

  • Theory_of_I

    What the verdict represents for many is a kind of back door vindication of the gun ownership rationale. It gives a degree of credence and respectability to those who feel that possessing a gun is a necessary and legitimate means of addressing some of life’s uncertainties. However, for others it fosters the sense that “standing your ground” is too dependent on momentary perceptions and potentially flawed interpretation, and in a worse case, lends a certain legitimacy to vigilantism.

    • Don Gwinn

      Again, vigilantes, by definition, are not the guys calling the cops.

      • GubbaBumpkin

        Could I ask where you are getting this definition? Specifically, which orifice?
        When I check dictionary.reference.com for example, I find this:

        1) (not relevant)
        2) any person who takes the law into his or her own hands, as by avenging a crime.
        3) (adjective) done violently and summarily, without recourse to lawful procedures.

        Nothing in there about calling the cops. So try this on: Zimmerman did call the cops, but they didn’t react quickly enough to suit him. I mean a black male teenager in his neighborhood, how could you get more “smoking gun” suspicious than that? When the cops didn’t perform to his satisfaction, he took the initiative himself.

        • Don Gwinn

          Exactly. Calling the police is the opposite of taking the law into your own hands.
          I copy-pasted the definition from Dictionary.com myself; not sure what happened to that post. But it was exactly the same as what you’ve posted there, so no matter. Bottom line: calling someone a vigilante for working in a Neighborhood Watch, reporting “suspicious” persons to the police or following the people he’s reported at a distance (as Zimmerman had done five times before, to praise from his police department) is inaccurate at best. That’s not what a vigilante is.

          Your “theory of the case” is just about exactly what the prosecution put forward. They were unable to produce convincing evidence that it’s true. What evidence convinced you that it was true? Perhaps you should have brought it forward before now.

      • Theory_of_I

        Zimmerman was protecting what? His own mindset that he was out preventing trouble? Martin had committed no crime so how did Zimmerman protect him? Zimmerman had no official status. He was a volunteer. He was told by the dispatcher not to pursue or confront Martin. He carried a gun why? Because he believed he might cause a confrontation and then have to defend himself? He was the one who decided to put himself into a potential confrontation because he notified the police and then should (and was advised to) stop what he was doing at that time, but would not. The shooting would not have happened and Martin would still be alive if Zimmerman had acted responsibly.

        • Don Gwinn

          Heh, somebody actually downvoted a simple reminder of what the word “vigilante” means. Let’s see what this one gets. Dictionary.com gives this standard definition of “vigilante:”

          vig·i·lan·te
          [vij-uh-lan-tee] Show IPA
          noun
          1. a member of a vigilance committee.
          2. any person who takes the law into his or her own hands, as by avenging a crime.

          adjective
          3. done violently and summarily, without recourse to lawful procedures: vigilante justice.”

          Nope. Nothing in there about calling the cops, reporting suspicious persons to them, or joining the Neighborhood Watch.

          • Theory_of_I

            You think vigilante committees suddenly pop up from nowhere? My guess is that they would start out as groups of concerned citizens (committees?) who are worried about their neighborhood (watches?), get a little too excited and don’t know when or won’t listen when they are told to stop.

            Zimmerman was a committee of one who took the law into his own hands violently and summarily, without regard to lawful procedures. He decided to take the law into his own hands when he refused to abide the police dispatcher’s directives.

            If Zimmerman had stayed in his car and done as he was told, Martin, who had not committed a crime, would still be alive.

            Perhaps you should find out if there are any Zimmermans in your neighborhood before you go out walking in the dark.

          • josh

            Your theory that Zimmerman could have become a vigilante in the future has no bearing on the case at hand. Zimmerman didn’t break any laws, he didn’t take justice into his own hand. The dispatcher issued no directives and had no authority to do so as I understand it. Zimmerman followed someone in the course of reporting them to police, that’s the extent of his actions before the fight that we have evidence for. If that’s vigilantism then no Neighborhood Watch can exist and criminals can sue people who call the cops. There was no summary execution or any punishment meted out by Zimmerman.

            If different circumstances had applied both men would be uninjured which is what makes this a tragedy, but the central fact is, Martin would be alive if he hadn’t attacked Zimmerman. (With the usual caveat that we can’t absolutely know that Martin started the fight, we just don’t have evidence otherwise.)

        • Don Gwinn

          “Zimmerman was protecting what?”
          –According to Zimmerman and the Sanford PD officers who testified that he was an exemplary Neighborhood Watch leader, he was protecting his neighborhood. At the time he fired the fatal shot? Physical evidence and eyewitness testimony suggest that he was protecting his own life, which was in danger from the person witnesses say they saw mounted on Zimmerman and dropping bombs.

          “His own mindset that he was out preventing trouble?”
          –Huh? Every police officer who testified about Zimmerman’s NW activities praised him as a conscientious and effective volunteer who did a good job of going out and preventing trouble. There was a bit more than Zimmerman’s mindset involved in establishing that. . . though, as mindsets go, “going out and preventing trouble in the neighborhood” is a pretty good one.

          “Martin had committed no crime so how did Zimmerman protect him?”
          –Do you understand that there’s no required element of self defense that involves proving that you were protecting your attacker, or that your attacker had already committed other crimes aside from the attack? That’s not how it works.

          “Zimmerman had no official status. He was a volunteer. ”

          –Make up your mind. Either he was a volunteer or he had no status, but you can’t have it both ways. As a volunteer EMT for nearly a decade, I can tell you with confidence that it’s a very official status. If you don’t believe me, you can ask the liability attorneys. But even that misses the point: “official status” is not an element of self-defense. Zimmerman had a right to defend himself against violent attack by virtue of being a person, not his official status. It’s irrelevant, which makes it odd that people are insisting on pretending Zimmerman wasn’t an official NW volunteer. You could convince everyone that it was true and it still wouldn’t discredit Zimmerman, so why bother?

          “He was told by the dispatcher not to pursue or confront Martin.”

          That’s not in the recording of the phone call, and the operator testified in court that he did not give Zimmerman any orders, because he’d been trained not to give orders to callers lest the PD take on liability for the results. In the recording, we hear the operator say “We don’t need you to do that.” He testified in court that it wasn’t an order or instruction, and he further testified that when he subsequently asked Zimmerman where Martin was, it made sense for Zimmerman to move out and search to see if he could locate Zimmerman.

          “He carried a gun why? Because he believed he might cause a confrontation and then have to defend himself?”

          You’d have to ask him that. That would be a very unusual motivation among licensed firearm-carriers, though. Most of us carry firearms because we realize that we are our own first responders. I carry and train with firearms for the same reason I train in unarmed fighting; I find it interesting and it has side benefits, but mostly I like being ready for an emergency better than being unready. I have fire extinguishers and first aid kits for the same reasons. I did train as an EMT as a way to do public service, but it certainly didn’t escape my notice that I’d be more prepared for a lot of emergencies if I knew how to perform basic EMS myself.

          “He was the one who decided to put himself into a potential confrontation because he notified the police and then should (and was advised to) stop what he was doing at that time, but would not.”

          Yes, it’s undisputed that he put himself in harm’s way, and if we ever get his own words on the subject, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that with the gift of hindsight he wishes he’d never gotten out of the car. Again, though, your simplified account of what the operator “advised” him to do isn’t fully accurate.

          “The shooting would not have happened and Martin would still be alive if Zimmerman had acted responsibly.”

          That depends on your definition of “acting responsibly.” I don’t think it’s irresponsible to join the Neighborhood Watch. Having joined it, I don’t think it’s irresponsible to stop, notify the police, and then follow at a distance when you see someone you think is acting suspiciously.

          If we use your definition of “acting responsibly” from above–”don’t carry a gun”–then it gets a lot less clear. If the same scenario had played out without Zimmerman’s gun and training, Martin might well have survived it, but it seems likely that Zimmerman might not.

          • Theory_of_I

            OK, there are two sides to every flipped coin, so we can agree to disagree.

            I can appreciate your EMS services to your community. Bringing aid and perhaps saving lives is an invaluable contribution, but it’s hardly comparable to carrying a gun while prowling in the dark looking for suspicious persons is it?

            I’m quite familiar with carrying a gun — I spent some years as a patrol supervisor in the USAEUR Military Police Corps., much of it in town patrol. I’ve seen what guns do more than many folks. I’ve never carried one as a civilian, never will.

            Even for seasoned and fully trained professionals there can sometimes be but a split second between a justifiable good decision and a tragically bad one, and at best it usually comes down to a coin toss. I think a human life is worth more than that, but then that’s just my view.

  • Pofarmer

    what you have here is two people in the wrong place at the wrong time. I think Zimmerman probably thought he was watching out for his community, which was having burglary problems. Trayvon was at his Aunt and Uncles because he had been fighting, and had multiple suspensions because of it. I think he was itching for a reason to pound somebody. I think that this is pretty much what the evidence points to. Trayvon Martin wound up getting shot. That may be regrettable, but I still don’t think what Zimmerman did constituted murder, or even manslaughter. Once someone starts pounding your head on the concrete, all bets are off.

    • iamcuriousblue

      I don’t think there’s any evidence that Trayvon Martin was “itching for a reason to pound somebody”, and I think if he did in fact throw the first blow, it was provoked by Zimmerman’s actions. I think Zimmerman does have some culpability in all this, perhaps civil rather than criminal based on the actions that led up to the fight, even if his actions in the fight didn’t ultimately justify a verdict of murder or even manslaughter.

      • Pofarmer

        What would zimmerman done to have provoked a fight? Martin was yards from his home. All he had to do was go there and call the cops himself.

        • Patrick

          Well, no one can prove this because Trayvon Martin is dead and the dead don’t talk. But how about this?

          Lets grant that its not illegal to follow people in the dark along a public road while carrying a gun.

          Lets ALSO grant that its not illegal to approach and even aggressively confront someone who has been following you along a public road in the dark. For the same reasons.

          So you approach this guy, and the first thing you see is that creepy night time stalker dude has a gun.

          Are you REALLY saying that its that crazy for Trayvon Martin to throw a punch under those circumstances? Or even to go for Zimmerman’s gun? Stupid, maybe. The odds would have been better to run in a serpentine while screaming. But responding by attacking isn’t crazy.

          I’d like to think that if someone stalked me in the dark along a dark street while carrying a gun, they’re at least a LITTLE bit responsible for my fear induced response to their behavior.

          • Pofarmer

            “So you approach this guy, and the first thing you see is that creepy night time stalker dude has a gun.”.

            Zimmerman had a CONCEALED gun. There’s no reason to think that Martin had any knowledge of the weapon before the fight started.

            “Are you REALLY saying that its that crazy for Trayvon Martin to throw a punch under those circumstances?’

            Yes, it’s crazy to throw a punch at somebody that you know has a gun. That’s how people get shot. That’s why it’s logical to think that Martin did NOT know that Zimmerman had a gun.

            And, once again, Martin was yards from his home, and, after Zimmerman lost sight of him, as per then 911 call, had plenty of time to go there. It really doesn’t look like the one “stalking” was Zimmerman. Sorry.

          • Patrick

            You asked “What would Zimmerman have done to provoke a fight?” You didn’t ask, “Assuming that every single thing Zimmerman said is 100% true and allowing not even the possibility of any thing being true that Zimmerman did not say, what would he have done to provoke a fight?”

            I offered a plausible scenario in which Trayvon Martin was justified in taking a swing. That’s all I needed to do to answer your question.

            …and for the record, as for your comments about Trayvon approaching Zimmerman, that’s fine, dude. Just as long as you apply the same standard to Zimmerman getting out of his car while nearby to the (per his beliefs) dangerous hoodlum he was stalking.

          • Pofarmer

            Yeah, but in order for it to be “plausible” you have to ignore what people generally do. If you want to avoid being shot by someone with a gun, you normally flee, you don’t attack. Maybe you’ve watched one too many action movies?

          • briancarnell

            It is entirely possible that Martin realized Zimmerman had a gun. In that case, going on the offensive and attacking Zimmerman and attempting to take that gun may be a perfectly rational choice.

            Zimmerman’s behavior could have reasonably been interpreted by Martin as potential criminal behavior as well.

          • Pofarmer

            How would Martin realize that Zimmerman had a gun? The only way that happens is if Zimmerman brandishes it, which is itself illegal. A concealed weapon is just that, concealed. It’s night, it’s rainy, the chance of Martin realizing that Zimmerman is carrying concealed is extremely, extremely remote. And even if Zimmerman “had a gun” that in itself is not threatening if it’s not doing anything.

          • briancarnell

            Just because someone is attempting to conceal a weapon does not magically render it invisible or undetectable. There are many ways to tell if someone is carrying a concealed weapon.

            Zimmerman used an internal holster for his pistol so the grip of the weapon is above his waist. One tendency for people who use this sort of weapon is to rest their hand on or near the grip on top of their clothes or make a motion toward the grip in a situation such as Zimmerman was in.

            Zimmerman doesn’t seem to have been very good at playing at detective, so I’m not sure why we should necessarily believe he was an expert at actually concealing his weapon.

            As for the second part of your question…if someone is following you after you’ve left a store and are on your way back home and that person is armed with a weapon, you think that is not threatening? Despite all of her issues, Jeantel made it fairly clear that Trayvon did indeed feel threatened to the point where he didn’t want to go directly home because he didn’t want Zimmerman to be able to follow him to where he and the rest of his family were staying.

            Legally, given the evidence that was presented, the jury’s verdict was absolutely the correct one, but I suspect that at the inevitable civil trial a jury will assign the bulk of the responsibility for Martin’s death to Zimmerman.

          • briancarnell

            The above is a good summary of the prosecution’s theory of what actually happened that night and it is not unreasonable–to my mind, it seems highly probable that something like that happened.

            The problem is that there isn’t any direct evidence for it. All of the evidence presented at the trial largely corroborated Zimmerman’s story.

            The only other witness who could tell us whether or not this is the way it went down was killed by Zimmerman which is outrageous at a very fundamental level but left the state without the evidence to overcome the burden of proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

          • GubbaBumpkin

            Lets grant that its not illegal to follow people in the dark along a public road while carrying a gun.

            No, its not illegal, but it does undercut one’s claim that one is not the aggressor.

          • Pofarmer

            Zimmerman was walking on a sidewalk. He happened to be carrying a concealed weapon. I don’t know what you peopla are picturing, millions of citizens in the U.S. carry concealed every day, and no ne is the wiser.

  • PA_Year_of_the_Bible

    Every day I am getting more disgusted by the attitudes of fellow atheists who want all other atheists to think EXACTLY like they do on every issue, whether it be this trial, abortion, use of the word “marriage” for a same-sex contractual relationship, feminism, you name it. I would never “unfriend” someone for simply disagreeing, even strongly, with me. But I guess I just don’t fit the uber-liberal, feminist, body-abusing, drug-worshipping culture that has developed in atheist circles. I, too, used to look forward to reading Greta Christina’s pieces. Not anymore. Not without a huge apology and change of attitude….and you know that’s unlikely to happen. In the past I’ve suggested we put a barbed wire fence around the state of Texas. Now I think that San Francisco deserves the same treatment.

    • http://an-expatriate-in-cambridge.blogspot.com The Expatriate

      “I guess I just don’t fit the uber-liberal, feminist, body-abusing, drug-worshiping culture that has developed in atheist circles.”

      Please head to the nearest Baptist church. You will feel much more comfortable.

      • PA_Year_of_the_Bible

        Sorry, but they believe in God. I don’t. But they might just be nicer people than many atheists.

        • http://an-expatriate-in-cambridge.blogspot.com The Expatriate

          You don’t sound nice at all.

          • http://www.groverbeachbum.blogspot.com/ Neil

            Neither do you. So what?

    • Ryan Jean

      I was tempted to just pull out this goody and leave the response at that*: http://xkcd.com/774/

      Then again, for a certain subset of the atheist community, you pose a valid criticism. I think several sections of the community really need to do a reality check on themselves. Just be sure you take care to specify the behaviors that are the problem, not the people themselves painted with an overly-broad brush.

      (* Yes, I know that comic lumps all atheists together for the purpose of the gag, while you are at least targeting a smaller group within atheism more specifically, but beware falling into the fallacy of the middle none the less.)

  • http://an-expatriate-in-cambridge.blogspot.com The Expatriate

    We need more people to protest this verdict. A jury with no African-Americans on it finds a white man not guilty of murdering a black guy, a white man who claims self-defense against an unarmed man. Gee, I wonder what was going on there? Only a deeply naive man would think racism wasn’t at play.

    I find your complaints about Greta Christina rather amusing. Having read her writing before, she always treated people that way. You’re just getting your knickers in a bunch now that she’s turned her attitude on people who agree with you rather than religious people you feel the same contempt for.

    • PA_Year_of_the_Bible

      The prosecution didn’t seem to have a problem with the jury. Perhaps you’d prefer a jury like the OJ jury? Talk about a travesty!

      • http://an-expatriate-in-cambridge.blogspot.com The Expatriate

        Given that the prosecution failed to obtain a conviction, I think it is safe to conclude their judgment on this and other matters was flawed.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

      Link to where Greta has treated religious believers that way?

      • http://an-expatriate-in-cambridge.blogspot.com The Expatriate

        Let’s start with the post where she demonized Catholics in general along with the church hierarchy. She unilaterally condemns parents for sending children to Catholic schools, ignoring the fact that in many cities these schools are the only viable education option.

        http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2010/05/why-are-y.html

        • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

          I’ve seen that post, and I don’t think it’s remotely equivalent. There, she was posing a perfectly reasonable question: would you continue to have anything to do with any other organization that acted that way? Here, though, she’s refusing to having anything to do with anyone who would dare remind her of basic principles of the American legal system.

    • Pofarmer

      Eh, zimmerman is hispanic.

      • http://an-expatriate-in-cambridge.blogspot.com The Expatriate

        Seems pretty white to me.

        • Mikail2

          Wow, by insisting that Zimmerman is white, you are revealing how totally uninformed you really are.

      • http://an-expatriate-in-cambridge.blogspot.com The Expatriate

        I’ve read alternating reports on his race.

        • Mikail2

          There’s no need to be confused about his race. This isn’t some secret to which there is no access. His father is a European-American. His mother is Peruvian.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ trivialknot

    Not having followed the case, I’m a little unclear whether outraged people think the verdict was unjust with respect to the law, or if the law itself is unjust. At least one outraged friend was arguing only the latter. This seems to imply that the verdict is at least remotely defensible.

    • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ trivialknot

      Additional thoughts. At least one other friend argued that the verdict itself was unfair, and that the jurors decided incorrectly. That seems plausible to me, but I don’t know.

      Greta Christina’s response seems poorly measured, since it positions her not only against people making excuses for Zimmerman, but also against other people who are outraged, but see the situation slightly differently. Is the problem in biased jurors, or legal loopholes? Is the problem that Zimmerman was too easily acquitted, or that black men are too easily convicted on similar amounts of evidence?

      On the other hand, Greta can be as angry as she wants, unfriend people as she likes, tell people to fuck off, and refuse to hear any arguments about it. Whatever. It’s not really very nice, but it’s not about being nice.

      • Eric

        It’s also not very rational, and defriending people who disagree with you on doubtful things is a good way to never be able to correct wrong beliefs you may have. Within your group of friends, it’ll have the same effect as Evaporative Cooling of Group Beliefs: http://lesswrong.com/lw/lr/evaporative_cooling_of_group_beliefs/

        • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ trivialknot

          It’s not clear to me that persuasion is the goal, when venting is the more obvious alternative. And even if it were, it seems ridiculous to say that people should optimize their facebook pages for maximum persuasiveness.

          • Eric

            “it seems ridiculous to say that people should optimize their facebook pages for maximum persuasiveness.”

            I agree that it would be ridiculous to say that… did someone say that?

            There’s a big difference between venting, and venting while removing all dissenting opinions from your group of friends, regardless of their reasons for dissenting.

    • Jules

      (Foreign point of view)

      Partly the jury, but mostly the law itself. When a system allows for this: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/17/stand-your-ground-marissa-alexander, and Zimmermann being judged “not guilty” at the same time, something’s clearly wrong with it.

  • smrnda

    The problem is laws don’t exist in a vacuum. In the abstract, we have this idea that we’re stuck with imperfect laws and that we should work to change them, accepting that bad people can get off because of bad laws.

    The problem is that our laws are the product of an unequal, prejudiced and bigoted society. Its faults don’t affect all of us equally, so when we uphold the necessity to follow the letter of the law even if it means letting bad people go free (or perhaps putting innocent people in jail or punishing people more harshly than we should) this isn’t an issue where we all our equally at risk of the times when the legal system reaches a legally defensible but unjust verdict. Our legal system is clearly biased against Black people, so in a case like this, it’s very easy for white people to uphold the notion that ‘well, the laws are bad, but we’re stuck with it.’ The cost of a defective legal system isn’t the same. So when someone says ‘well, sometimes the case doesn’t go your way’ it’s a valid complaint that cases tend to not go your way depending on the races of the victim and the perpetrator, along with the fact that a “jury of your peers” – exactly who counts as peers?

    Some members of the Black Panthers went so far as to state that refused to accept the validity of the laws of the US, since they were written by racists who were never interested in giving them a fair shake under the law to begin with. That’s perhaps an extreme view, but it’s worth keeping in mind that a person’s belief that they should accept the verdicts of the criminal justice system is likely conditional on the extent to which they feel like they’re permitted a say in how it is administered. If you feel like the laws have been imposed on you from without with no input from yourself by a system that regards you as disposable, the abstract principle of ‘the law’ is just ‘something other people put in place to keep me down.’ You’d see it as no more valid than the edicts of a dictatorship.

    I mean, when we look at other countries, we don’t react this way to miscarriages of justice. We don’t say that people living under sharia law should accept being sentenced to death for insulting prophets since well, that’s the law, they *should* work to change it but for now, they knew it was illegal. We would be outraged that a man in some other country was acquitted of raping and murdering a woman because the law has some bizarre stipulation that women can be ‘asking for it’ by not covering up enough or going out without a male escort. I mean, in situations like this, we’d say that their legal systems are just so absurd as to deserve zero respect – if a law says that a woman who leaves the house without permission is asking to be raped and killed, we’d have no respect for that law or the government that passed it. We wouldn’t shy away from demanding that the letter of their laws be violated to fit some model of justice.

    So, it’s worth reminding ourselves that in the history of the US, the law as it pertained towards non-white people has been clearly so biased that, rather than an imperfect system, it’s been a system rigged against them to the extent that expecting justice would be a joke. If that’s how the law treats, you, abstract respect for adhering to the judgments of courts is meaningless since the courts never gave you a fair shot to begin with.

    Just wanted to point out that people’s opinions of court verdicts is likely proportional to the extent to which they think the courts and their verdicts are legitimate or a preposterous farce. In this case, we have a law that basically encourages violence in the sense that a perception of a threat is taken as a legitimate call for deadly force, meaning people will get into altercations and shoot-outs where the survivor gets to tell their side, and where it seems the law takes a ‘let’s let people settle things with deadly force! Great idea!’ approach. I’d say that’s a mentality that belongs in the dark ages. My view of any place that would pass such a law is that they’ve placed themselves outside of any concept of ‘civilization’ that I can imagine, so I can’t regard any or all laws of such a place as anything but a farce.

    So my take is yeah, Zimmerman got off because he didn’t break any laws, but the ‘laws’ are about as valid as laws that say you can beat your wife for disobedience. Totally, what Zimmerman did was legal, and it’s legal to kill someone for insulting a prophet in some countries too.

    • autolukos

      The problem is your assertion that this case involves “a perception of a threat…taken as a legitimate call for deadly force.” The prosecution had no solid evidence to disprove Zimmerman’s claim that Martin attacked him and had significant success in the fight. IF Zimmerman’s account is true, that is far more than a perception of a threat; that is a very real threat. I personally find his account implausible at best, but the burden of proof is on the prosecution for good reasons.

      • smrnda

        My problem with that one (which I tried to discuss and might not have achieved) is that Martin would have had an equal right to throw a punch at Zimmerman if he perceived Zimmerman to be a threat after Zimmerman followed him. Then Zimmerman could have initiated deadly force because of a threat. I might not have made that point adequately clear. Rather than the law encouraging people *not* to get into conflicts, it is pretty much encourages them. The laws in most other places demand a greater burden of proof of danger beyond one’s personal perceptions in order to justify force.

        I also tend to find that what gets left out of the narrative is that Martin probably had far more cause to fear a man following him in a car than Zimmerman had of Martin. If he’s stayed in his car, Zimmerman would have been pretty safe. I’m also a bit skeptical that you should be able to claim ‘stand your ground’ after you call 911 and they tell you *not to pursue* the person.

        That was what I meant when I said the law encourages shoot-outs and violent altercations.

        • autolukos

          I recommend checking the Volokh Conspiracy link in Chris’s post for the burden of proof in other states; I can’t speak to the law in other countries. The overall situation seems to be that in every state except Ohio, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense.
          Substantively, I still don’t see how your argument engages with the defense’s argument. The defense argued that Zimmerman was on the ground, taking blows to the head on concrete; this is quite a different situation from being followed. While it is certainly possible to follow someone in a way interpreted as a threat, this generally is neither a crime nor a grounds for someone else claiming self-defense. Do you know of a case in which it was ruled that someone being followed had a right to throw a punch? I don’t, and the legal commentators I have read have not cited any.

        • josh

          It’s not personal perception it’s reasonable perception. And for use of deadly force it’s reasonable perception that your life or bodily integrity are in immediate danger. Zimmerman didn’t claim a stand-your-ground defense. It was plain old self-defense in his claim.

        • Don Gwinn

          Not quite true. People hear this over and over, so i see why so many believe it, but it’s not true that you can simply use force against someone and say that you felt threatened. Look at the case of the guy (also in Florida) who shot into a car after complaining about the “thug music” playing loudly, and apparently thought no one was hurt. He found out the next day, when he was arrested, that a teenager in the car had been killed by one of his shots. That guy will not be acquitted based on self-defense unless some very different facts emerge at trial.

          In order to uphold a claim of self-defense in the use of deadly force, you’ve got to convince a jury that a “reasonable and prudent person” in your shoes, knowing what you knew at the time, would have been in “reasonable fear of death or grave bodily harm.”

          The reason people are saying Zimmerman had the facts on his side is not that he said that he felt threatened. It’s that his story had him attacked, taken down, mounted, and punched in the face from above with his head trapped and slamming into concrete at the back. Physical evidence was consistent with that story. That means that the elements of Ability, Opportunity, and Jeopardy were present. Martin (remember, we’re talking about Zimmerman’s story here) had the ability to cause GBH or death, because he had taken a superior position and was inflicting damage. His ability was magnified by his position and Zimmerman’s was minimized by the same position. Martin also had opportunity–he was close enough to do the damage, basically. Jeopardy often comes down to the question of whether the defender reasonably believed that the danger was immediate–if someone says, “Don’t go to the Pokemon tournament tomorrow or I’ll shank you, punk,” and you go to the tournament and shoot him, well, that wasn’t immediate jeopardy. You didn’t have to go to the tournament. But if he rushes you right now, takes you down and starts throwing bombs, whatever jeopardy that creates is clearly immediate.
          BTW, this is also why the Stand Your Ground debate was moot–Zimmerman’s story is that he was under mount and unable to reverse it. That means that he was not able to retreat safely, which negates the requirement to retreat even in states that still have one.

        • f_galton

          Martin wasn’t afraid of Zimmerman, he went back to where Zimmerman was and attacked him. Because he thought Zimmerman was gay.

    • iamcuriousblue

      So what’s your solution? Lessen the rights of the defendant when the trial concerns a white defendant accused of crimes against a person of color? If you look at the details, the state had a very weak case, could not produce evidence contradicting Zimmerman’s claims of self-defense during the fight itself, and the jury didn’t have much of choice but to acquit. The analogy with grossly unjust laws, such as the legal wife-beating, really doesn’t apply, unless you want to throw out self-defense as a defense in homicide cases entirely. Perhaps the passage of laws that would outlaw the kind of behavior by Zimmerman that led up to the fight are called for, but one can’t demand that a jury convict on the basis of laws that *should* be on the books but aren’t.

      • http://greylining.wordpress.com/ Franc Hoggle

        iamcuriousblue -”So what’s your solution?”

        Do something about cowboy culture. There is something inherently juvenile in the romanticisation of the vigilante. Too many stupid superhero comic books and even stupider Hollywood flicks that feed stupid ideas into losers heads – wannabe soldiers and cops that need to prove to the world they are heroes. This is, for the most part, entirely a US phenomenon. The courts do their job – what they process is the symptom. You have to look deeper for the disease.

        • Eric

          “Do something” isn’t a solution – you still just restated the problem. What’s your solution?

        • iamcuriousblue

          Well, the question was directed at smrnda, and specifically how greater social equality would change anything about what was not a strong case put before a jury, but I’ll respond to your point.

          I’m not convinced either that the violent “lone hero” myth is solely an American thing, nor that vigilantism is mainly a US phenomenon. “Lone hero” myths are a very old trope found across many cultures, and don’t forget that some of the most violently individualistic Westerns were the Italian Spaghetti Westerns. Ostensibly tame and non-violent Norway produced Anders Breivik, who was acting out a deadly Crusader fantasy. And that’s not to mention the level of extralegal violence in some parts of the world. In some parts of Africa and Latin America, lynchings that include killing gays, supposed witches, and political enemies, often by burning, are not an infrequent occurrence, and definitely not any less violent for being a “community” action (if anything, mob violence like this is even more violent and horrific) rather than an individualistic act of pathetic would-be heroism.

          Also, I’d be damn careful about throwing self-defense defenses in criminal trials out of the window in the process, or going overboard on gun bans, though I agree that some kind of better gun control is called for in the US. In many cases, self-defense claims in criminal trials are entirely legitimate, and yes, sometimes guns are legitimately used for home defense (I clearly remember one such case last year in my community, in the ultra-liberal SF Bay Area, no less), though stories about the latter are less likely to be amplified by the national media.

        • Don Gwinn

          Still have to object to the suggestion that calling the police and keeping an eye on someone make you a vigilante. I’ve done both. Have you never?

          • Noah Smith

            how about ignoring police instructions to stay in the car?

          • Don Gwinn

            How about it? Again, the call was recorded and the recording was played in open court. There were no police instructions to stay in the car. That simply didn’t happen. The operator on the call testified to that fact as well; he pointed out that all the operators were trained not to give orders to callers because the PD didn’t want to take on liability for the outcomes, and that he did not give Zimmerman any orders.
            If you want to change the subject to a debate over whether Zimmerman was wrong to disobey a police order to stay in his car, you need to bring some evidence that there was such an order.

            More than that, everyone here should remember that self-defense law is based on what the defendant knew or should reasonably have known at the time. When you judge Zimmerman’s actions as if he had knowledge that he would end up in a fight to the death if he left his vehicle, you aren’t applying the standard.

        • Physeter

          Hmm…How about what looks like a superhero movie, but instead it’s about a cop who spends the whole movie trying to stop these vigilante superheros who only make things worse?

      • Don Gwinn

        You know, I just have to respond to that. I think your post was very fair, but leading a neighborhood watch and calling the police when you’re suspicious of someone simply is not vigilantism. That’s just outside the definition of the word. Vigilantes were members of “Vigilance Committees,” which sounds like a “watch,” but wasn’t. Vigilance Committees held ad hoc investigations and then punished the people they thought had committed crimes, sometimes by death.
        You can disagree with George Zimmerman’s decision to call the police, his assessment of Martin as suspicious, or his decision to leave his vehicle, but none of them were vigilantism (or even close.) Perhaps he did act as a vigilante that night, but we have no evidence to show for it.

        • MBM321

          A grown man with a gun following a child around the neighborhood has NOTHING to do with Neighborhood Watch. Have you, or any of you, every been to a Neighborhood Watch meeting? It is not a “go get your gun and follow the kid around the neighborhood” meeting. Zimmerman’s actions go way beyond anything that could be called Neighborhood Watch. That’s what makes him a vigilante, because his actions were vigilante, regardless of whether he ever went to a neighborhood watch meeting or not.

          • Don Gwinn

            Interesting. So the accolades from the police department, and the prior calls (introduced as evidence by the prosecution) that showed him doing the same thing five times previously as a NW member . . . how do you explain those?
            I had the chance to discuss the case with a friend who now lives in Colorado but used to do NW work in Pigtown in Baltimore. He was unaware that Zimmerman’s actions were way beyond anything that could be called Neighborhood Watch. He actually told me that “call the cops and keep an eye on ‘em” is standard procedure.

            As for carrying a gun, we’re still not getting through to each other. Carrying the gun with a concealed weapons permit is not a way of authorizing a duty sidearm for the Neighborhood Watch. Most people who carry a firearm for self-defense try to carry it just about everywhere they go. The old saying is that if you knew when you were going to need it, you’d just stay home that day. Zimmerman probably carried that pistol most days, whether he expected to make a NW police call or not. My friend from Baltimore was in a rougher place than Sanford, of course, but he told me a story about getting caught on his way to the gym by a local cop who saw him in a light t-shirt and shorts.
            “Where’s your sidearm?” the cop asked.
            “I’m going to the gym.”
            “You don’t leave your house without it again.”

    • josh

      smrnda, your argument above has a lot of problems with it. First it reeks of the genitive fallacy with ‘bad laws come from a biased society’. Historically, a lot of laws have aimed at a high standard which hasn’t been thoroughly implemented, look at the first amendment, the eighth, etc. You could reasonably argue that American society hasn’t always upheld those ideals but it doesn’t make them bad laws. So if laws aren’t implemented well or equally, the solution isn’t to question a law’s legitimacy but to argue for how it should be enforced equally.

      This comes to the problem with comparing the case to sharia law. Sharia law is actually bad law in theory, you can rightly protest those laws that punish women and apostates. But the relevant law for the Zimmerman case isn’t obviously bad. It comes down to two very important principles. One: innocent until proven guilty. This is pretty damn important. In fact, if you are convinced the system is biased it could only work out worse for black people if you removed this fundamental principle. The other relevant concept is a right to self defense. Again, hard to argue that you can do away with this in a just system. The two combined means Zimmerman isn’t guilty.

      People can argue about SYG laws but they aren’t that relevant to this case. Zimmerman’s story is that he was walking back to his car when Martin confronted him, Martin assaulted him, and had him pinned to the ground, bashing his head when Zimmerman pulled the gun. The evidence is consistent with this. It doesn’t matter if Zimmerman made a dubious decision to follow him, Martin made the fateful decision to attack him and that’s the crux of the matter. It’s possible of course that some other version of events happened, but there is no evidence for it and we’re supposed to be skeptics.

      There is no evidence I’ve seen that race played a roll. From the start, this has been a case where a narrative got out way ahead of the facts and now people like Greta can’t go back on their righteous outrage.

      • http://www.groverbeachbum.blogspot.com/ Neil

        I will make the unpopular point…..even if Zimmerman is the biggest racist scumbag on the planet, even if he “racially profiled” Martin…if Martin attacked first, it’s a done deal.

        Everyone has the right to self-defense, even racist scumbags. Or else nobody has the right to self-defense, except when the media and the mob decides it’s OK.

  • Edward Gemmer

    I’m not a huge fan of these “liberals” like Greta Christina who only care about black people and poor people when it’s popular. You can be pissed off about the Zimmerman verdict, but the solution is to learn more about crime and law and racism and not unfriend people on Facebook.

    • http://www.groverbeachbum.blogspot.com/ Neil

      I keep seeing comparisons to the Marissa Alexander case, and assumptions (based only on stretched facts from a whopping two cases) that it’s only white people who get to defend themselves. Of course, these mentions gloss over any differences in the cases, but I agree that minorities (and all poor people) are held to a different standard in the legal system than those who can afford a lawyer.

      Yet, so many righteously angry people seem only to want to send Zimmerman to prison out of revenge. They all assume that race was his only motivator, and that race is the only reason he was acquitted.

      My question is, why aren’t any of those howling “racism” in the Zimmerman case working to repeal bad sentencing laws, or raising funds for appeals for black convicts? Why is it so important to ignore evidence, to assume that Zimmerman is a racist murderer, to make assumption after assumption just so they can hate one man, rather than helping real victims?

      All of this BS doesn’t have one damn thing to do with “Justice for Trayvon”, or justice for anyone else, that’s all I’ve really learned from the whole thing. it’s just a bunch of people getting high on hate and self-righteousness, not any real concern for people hurt by racism.

  • Ryan Hite

    I think that it is a tragedy that it happened, but I think just as many people would have been outraged if it was not guilty or guilty, no matter the verdict. The media played a huge role in swaying the opinion of the population a certain way.

  • Hrafn

    Taken in isolation, I don’t think a not-guilty verdict is unreasonable.

    But letting somebody walk around with a gun, and confront an unarmed individual who is innocently going about their business, and (whatever the details of the confrontation) shoot him, and escape responsibility for his actions?

    Taken holistically it doesn’t sound nearly so reasonable.

    Carrying a gun around with you gives you considerable power — a power that many (most?) Western countries do not permit. As the Spiderman comic says “with great power, comes great responsibility”. I would suggest that either the power needs to be reduced, or the responsibility made commensurate.

    • Brian K

      Personally, I think it fortunate we don’t base our legal system on Spider-Man.

      • Hrafn

        I’d think it would be better to base a legal system on something that happened to be said in a comic, that happens to be true, than to commit the fallacy of assuming that because it was said in a comic, it can’t be true.

        In any case, the American political system already applies something resembling this principle with the likes of Senate confirmation hearings.

        • Brian K

          Fair enough.

      • Si

        Ad hominem. Try harder. That’s a very sound principle.

    • EricMac

      I disagree. I *think* Trayvon is the one who initiated the conflict. He knew he was being followed, went home, then left his home again to attack Zimmerman. You *think* differently – that Zimmerman is the one who attacked Trayvon first.

      All that is irrelevant though, since neither of us *know* who threw the first punch. And, thankfully, a jury cannot just throw a mans life away based on what they *think* happened.

  • see.the.galaxy

    GC writes this: “I have no patience tonight. If you have anything at all to say that even remotely hints at implying that the Zimmerman verdict was remotely defensible., unfriend me and unfollow me now. And get the fuck out of my life”. This is clearly written in anger, designed to express anger, and doesn’t much read like an invitation to discuss the legal issues to me.
    By the way all you big-shot genius atheist bloggers ought to consider hiring a PR manager. I would think the tiresome and apparently endless pissing matches you all seem to need to keep having with each other have got to be bad for business for all of you.

    • Eshto

      You’re right, it’s not an invitation to discuss anything in a meaningful way, but it is an invitation of sorts. Greta loves this stuff. She doesn’t want people who disagree to unfriend her and go away. She wants them to engage, so she and her fans can vilify them on social media. Same little game she’s been playing for quite a while now.

  • JWP

    I think I’m missing something in your “Edit 2″. All I see is “Eliezer Yudkowsky’s”

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

      Ack, internet trouble in the middle of an edit. Thanks.

  • hf

    Seriously, Chris? When someone starts out by saying, “I have no patience tonight,” you should assume they have no patience that night. And a good rule of thumb says that if someone who recently lost a loved one (and suffered from cancer themselves) tells you they don’t want to see you discussing some death-related topic, talking about it as a direct response to that on their personal Facebook page makes you a piece of shit.

    I agree with you about the decision to “go out and protest” an acquittal.

    By the way, what was your second edit supposed to say?

  • Noah Smith

    I’m outraged at the “not guilty” verdict. But I’m not outraged at the jury (who I think made the correct decision based on the charge) but at the US criminal system which allows a unarmed black teenager to be racially profiled, followed and shot to death and for there to be no consequence. But hey let’s get sniffy at people getting emotional.

    • Laurence

      There will be consequences for Zimmerman. There’s a good chance that Martin’s family will win a wrongful death suit against him.

      • Noah Smith

        yeah its certainly possible as well as a federal case

      • ObserverDC

        Florida’s law states that being found not guilty by reason of self-defense immunizes you from wrongful death lawsuits from what I have read. ALEC was real careful to leave no loopholes when they wrote Florida’s law for it.

    • http://www.groverbeachbum.blogspot.com/ Neil

      Another person whose oh-so-noble feelings not only grants psychic powers, but who would re-write basic freedom of movement for all non-minorities.

      Hey, everyone, New Rule! If anyone follows a black person for any reason, and is then beat into the pavement, they have given up their right to self-defense! They can lay there and take their beating, even to the death, or else it’s racism!!!!

      • Noah Smith

        how about a rule that ethnic minorities can walk anyway without being regarded as a suspect?

  • MNb

    I’m not familiar with the case and that’s because I don’t want to get outraged. I want to point out though that
    a) Martin was unarmed and thus either the trial or the law in America is thoroughly fucked up or both;
    b) I have suspected a) since long and thus am not surprised with the verdict;
    c) being not guilty is not the same as being innocent.

    The case is not over yet.

    • David Jones

      Martin was unarmed, yes. According to Zimmerman he was on top of him, pounding his, Zimmerman’s, head against the ground and reaching for Zimmerman’s gun. I’m not sure I could honestly conclude then that the principle of self-defence is thoroughly fucked-up. Maybe allowing ordinary people to carry guns in the street, maybe that’s fucked-up.

    • Crotalus

      a) he had fists and concrete, either can be lethal. The standard (>100 years old) for deadly force in self defense is a reasonable fear of great bodily harm or death. The jury saw evidence of his injuries and obviously found his fear reasonable.
      b) How would you change the self defense statues in the 50 states?
      c) True.

  • L.Long

    The main point is that Zimm with malice IGNORED the police and went in search of ???? what??? The target was doing NOTHING to indicate he was a criminal. And as some pointed out he was close to his house so why not run there? Well if so then why run he was in his proper place doing nothing wrong. Everything after that is the SURVIVOR’s word. And who cares Zimm should have minded his own business!!!!!

    • GubbaBumpkin

      The target was doing NOTHING to indicate he was a criminal

      He was being black.

      • Crotalus

        And loitering on a lawn looking at (into?) a house which had recently been burglarized (according to the property owner who was interviewed on CNN).

        Sanford is greater than 40% black and if Zimmerman was the profiling racist everyone has tried to make him out to be, I would expect exponentially more than 6 calls reporting suspicious black males in almost a decade (he had 3 others reporting 2 Hispanic and 1 white male).

        I honestly believe had Martin really been “just walking to get home to eat skittles and drink his tea” he would have never caught the attention of Zimmerman.

    • Don Gwinn

      Whoa, you had evidence of malice on Zimmerman’s part all this time, and you’ve just been sitting on it? Not cool, dude. You should have come forward with that. The prosecution had none to present, and it really hurt their case. What evidence convinced you that Zimmerman acted maliciously that night?

      Also, did you watch the police operator’s testimony? Do you understand that he testified that Zimmerman did not ignore him, and that he was trained not to give orders on such calls because it created too much liability for the PD, and that although he did say “OK, we don’t need you to do that,” he could understand how some of his later questions implied that Zimmerman would have to locate Martin?

  • ohnugget001

    I have a prediction – this may not end well.

    That this criminal case has divided America is obvious.
    If one just casually reads comments on major news sites like CNN, Time, FOX
    News, etc., there is a very real sense that the battle lines are drawn in
    several different ways. Urban vs Rural. Liberal vs Conservative. People of
    color vs White. Pro-gun vs Anti-gun. The list of ways to divide us regarding
    this case is significant in both breadth and depth.

    Within the skeptic/atheist/humanist/etc community, we will
    likely not be immune to this divisiveness as well. We encompass disparate people
    possessing nearly mutually exclusive flavors of world views in the context this
    case and the underlying issues of self-defense, race relations, the second
    amendment, and others. We self-identify as libertarians, liberal/progressives, anarchists – simply put, just like the greater pool of people from which we draw ourselves.

    But this case has notoriety. It invokes visceral reactions. It is by
    definition divisive because the verdict eventually must be “yea” or “nay”. It
    has the potential to become very divisive within our community, but only if we
    overreact. Greta’s statements are cautionary examples of overreaction. We should not, as members of a community which prides itself on critical thinking skills and the ruthless application of logic for problem solving, employ conditional
    statements on “friendship” in this matter. This is reminiscent of Dr. Carrier’s
    video regarding Atheism Plus when he effectively said ‘you are with us or
    against us, and if you are against us, you are my enemy.’ I found that
    distasteful. I find Greta’s reaction understandable, but also distasteful. If someone
    does not agree with you – engage them. Convince them your position is correct, logical,or morally/ethically superior.

    Therefore, I predict that, as a necessary condition, if some
    critical mass of bloggers in our community publish similarly emotionally
    grounded posts we will find ourselves flailing at one another, liberal vs
    libertarian, Patheos vs Free Thought Blogs, ESTJs vs INFPs – and so on.
    Dividing our camp and employing the dialectic to a reasoned outcome is
    laudable, but division obtained emotionally does not seem desirable or worthy
    of us as an approach. Beware the “friend” who employs such conditional acceptance,but accept the apology for overreaction when it (hopefully) is tendered.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT? … All of the sparse evidence showed that Martin initiated the physical confrontation …

    I agree with you that the verdict is not totally out of line; it was not an open and shut case.
    However:
    1) “beyond a reasonable doubt” invokes subjectivity.
    2) It depends on what you mean by “initiate.” I could say that Zimmerman helped “initiate” the confrontation by following Martin into a dark alley with a handgun. I don’t think you would disagree. I could point out that Zimmerman called the police to report Martin as suspicious on no grounds other than his being black. I don’t think you would disagree. I could point out that the evidence that Martin started the actual physical engagement is really really sparse, and that there is not much to go on beyond Zimmerman’s testimony, and that he demonstrably lied to skew opinion in his favor several times.
    If only there was another eyewitness who saw exactly what happened in that alley and could corraborate Zimmerman’s testimony. Well, there was, but Zimmerman shot him dead.

    • josh

      None of your claims in 2) disprove Zimmerman’s story beyond a reasonable doubt. They are also partly false. Zimmerman didn’t follow Martin into a dark alley, their fight was on a lawn. Zimmerman’s reason for thinking Martin suspicious was a string of recent robberies for which Martin fit the description and behavior that Zimmerman thought was casing (this is confirmed by the police call he made). The evidence for who started the fight is indeed inconclusive but it leans Zimmerman’s way: Martin’s only injury was the gunshot while Zimmerman had injuries to his head and an eyewitness put Martin on top of him, also consistent with the trajectory of the bullet.

    • Don Gwinn

      Except that it’s not against the law, nor does it generally convince anyone that you were reasonably in fear for your life, for someone to follow you. Obviously there’s some room for subjectivity there in the manner of following, but if Martin walked into that open area between houses with a sidewalk in it and Zimmerman did, too, that’s not illegal on Zimmerman’s part. If you walk along behind me in a public space and I hit you, I’ll have a hard time explaining to the cops that you initiated the confrontation.

      Same thing for calling the police. Aside from not being the act of a sane murderer stalking his intended victim, it’s not illegal, and again, if you call the police, and I attack you for it, I’m going to have a hard time explaining to the cops when they arrive that, really, you initiated the confrontation by calling them.

      The evidence of who started the physical confrontation is sparse, but it’s not unreasonable that Martin could have started it, and that’s what “reasonable doubt” means. If the state proves its case well enough that you have to accept unreasonable notions to figure out a way the defendant might be innocent, you convict. If the evidence allows for reasonable scenarios that would make you doubt his guilt, you acquit.

    • http://www.groverbeachbum.blogspot.com/ Neil

      Your last line makes it pretty clear that emotional manipulation is the only point you really have.

      I’ve been followed, by police, neighborhood watch, by a group of hispanic youths yelling “Hey, stupid white boy!!!” and by ordinary citizens. I had every right to yell at them or flip them the bird, call the police, ignore them, or leave. But no right to start violence. If I had got so annoyed as to start bashing their heads into the pavement, they would have had every right to defend themselves, and my butt would likely be dead or in jail.

  • Laurence

    One of the problems I have about this verdict is that we have cases all over the place in our society where people get convicted on even less evidence than there was against Zimmerman. Usually the people in those cases are poor and/or black people who cannot afford a decent attorney. The fact that it seems pretty clear in this case (to most people at least) that Zimmerman acted wrongly and killed a young black man but gets away with it while so many poor and/or black people get prosecuted for crimes where it is not as much evidence as in this case strikes people as extremely unfair. Why does Zimmerman get the benefit of the doubt when so many others do not?

    • http://www.groverbeachbum.blogspot.com/ Neil

      The cruddy treatment of poor people in the court system is a nationwide problem, and while I believe there is evidence that minorities have it even worse than whites at least in some places, money is still the biggest factor, as far as I can tell.
      I fully understand and share the rage at cases where minorities and poor people are held to a higher standard than those who can afford a good lawyer(although I also advise that one investigate the cases individually, and not just take an activist’s word on everything….look how abused and distorted the Zimmerman case has become in the media and among the public.)

      When that rage at injustice turns into a pure hatred every time a white (or just non-black) person might have “gotten away” with something, or to demand that crimes against a minority be punished differently than crimes against other groups, that is not any kind of justifiable rage at injustice. That is just out-of-control hatred and a wish for group vengeance to be visited on the first available target whether they deserve it or not. That is just the kind of lynch mob mentality our court system was designed to try to avoid.

      I could not have voted guilty on a murder charge in this case. By the state law in play, the facts simply weren’t there. The people baying for blood and calling it “justice” in this case are no better than the jury in To Kill A Mockingbird. Except that if a minority dies, apparently some liberals think it’s perfectly valid and moral to give up any principle, and to ignore facts in order to get revenge, legal or not, right or not.

      I agree completely that non-white (and non-rich) people get the short end of the stick in the court system….but the moment that somebody says that one group needs to be stripped of rights, assumed guilty, or convicted for some kind of greater justice beyond the facts of their own case, they have lost all moral high ground. You can’t get justice by taking it away from others.

    • Don Gwinn

      Because if your argument is that every defendant should get the benefit of the doubt (and I agree that they should, and I agree that they far too often don’t) then there’s no way to achieve that by lashing out at George Zimmerman and taking the presumption of innocence away from him. That won’t restore it to the young black guy in Chicago. You have to go into Chicago and hold feet to fires and demand due process. But you’ll need a LOT of people with you for that, and it will be a never-ending, ongoing trudge with the entire justice system aganst you.
      It’s easier to scream against the presumption of innocence in this one case, so most people just settle for doing that.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    All of the sparse evidence showed that Martin initiated the physical confrontation

    The evidence on this is so sparse that I’m not sure what you are including. Evidence presented as to who screamed and whether Zimmerman had lacerations on the back of his head were about who was losing the fight, not who started it.

  • http://deusdiapente.blogspot.com/ JQuinton

    Maybe if Zimmerman had fired a warning shot instead of actually killing Trayvon, he would have gotten 20 years in prison. Or not, because Zimmerman’s not a black woman.

    • josh

      If Zimmerman had been uninjured, got in a verbal fight with Martin, walked to his truck to get a gun and then came back to the fight it would be a different case.

    • Don Gwinn

      The differences are a little bigger than the race and sex of the defendants. She stipulates that she left the area where the threat was, armed herself, and returned to confront him. This is AFTER she says he threatened her life and she believed that threat. Abilty/Opportunity/Jeopardy apply here, too–Jeopardy requires immediate jeopardy for a claim of self-defense, and she gave up the ability to show it. Opportunity is sketchy, too, because again, she left and returned.

      Warning shots are very stupid things that no one should use, but there’s a lot more to that case than a warning shot. There’s also some indication that the jury might not have bought that the shot was intended as a warning (i.e., it’s possible that some on the jury thought she fired at him and missed.)

      Now, all that said, would a white woman with the same case and the same facts have been convicted? That’s a fair question. I don’t know the answer, but I wouldn’t be shocked to find that she wouldn’t.

      (We can ignore the length of the sentence–that’s a consequence of our mania for automatic sentences. The jury didn’t decide those and probably didn’t know what the sentence would be, just like the jury wasn’t allowed to know that if they’d “compromised” on manslaughter, Zimmerman would likely have been sentenced to 30 years because of those same automatic sentencing laws.)

    • f_galton

      She shot at her husband as he ran away with their kids.

  • BrainFromArous

    I have read and enjoyed quite a bit of Greta Christina’s work, but she has completely jumped the you-know-what with this.

    It’s hard to avoid concluding that to Greta, George Zimmerman is guilty, guilty, guilty because he’s a member of the designated Privileged Oppressor Class(es) who shot and killed someone from the designated Downtrodden Victim Class(es). That’s all she needs to know. The facts don’t matter. The law doesn’t matter. The case presentation by the prosecutors doesn’t matter.

    For all her talk of “justice,” she doesn’t sound like someone concerned about due process and the weight of evidence. Her “justice” required a human sacrifice at the altar of culture-Marxist race politics. That didn’t happen and now she is raging like a lab rat who hit the food bar but didn’t get a pellet.

  • SocraticGadfly

    Let’s add that a less black-and-white portrait of Zimmerman is available, too, should people want to look at it: http://tampa.cbslocal.com/2012/05/23/zimmerman-sanford-police-covered-up-beating-of-black-homeless-man-by-white-officer/

  • SocraticGadfly

    Beyond that, the Plusers, especially those also in nth-wave feminism? I could Wite-Out “Greta Christina” and replace it with someone else, like “Stephanie Zvan,” and the words would be the same. That’s just an observation, lest I again be accused of “stalking her,” as if I don’t have better things to do in life.

  • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

    “But even if you think Zimmerman should have been found guilty on the evidence presented at trial, I can’t help but think how insanely dangerous it is to be so outraged at a “not guilty” verdict that you’re willing to stop talking to go out and protest it, demand the government do something about it, refuse to speak to people who even hint at a different point of view.”

    I think there are reasons for a not-guilty verdict that have nothing to do with Zimmerman not being guilty. Knowing what I do about racial attitudes in this country and overwhelming statistics about race, I simply can’t believe that the Prosecution tried to make their case without it and I put a lot of blame on them for their lackluster performance. That being said, I have a few friends who simply don’t see it that way. I think they’re wrong, but I don’t unfriend them or demand they change their views. I lay my arguments out respectfully and with evidence because I believe my position is right. I don’t have to be an asshole in order to prove it.

    • http://www.groverbeachbum.blogspot.com/ Neil

      What is the “it” in your second sentence? Is the “it” referring to racial attitudes? By “I simply can’t believe the prosecution tried to make their case without it”, it sounds like you are saying that the prosecution should have made it an issue in the trial that it’s seemingly easier to get away with killing a black person than it is to get away with killing a white person.
      If that’s what you mean, I do have a couple of problems with it. One is a practical problem….cultural racism or not, I could easily see that approach backfiring, possibly with the jurors, and definitely in the media. Zimmerman would be seen as a martyr to black revenge fantasies. The far-right would have a field day. Even if it worked to secure a conviction, it might be grounds for an appeal.

      Personally, I don’t think the facts were there for a murder conviction. My main problem with bringing racism into the discussion (in court) is that it’s completely unprovable. There was no evidence that I saw that Trayvon’s race was a big part of the event itself, yet somehow, it is 100% taken for a given by almost everyone. That alone sets my warning bells buzzing.

      Now….if a black person is accused of the same crime, on the same weak, few or no witnesses evidence, showing signs of a struggle and with a believable story, I think it would be very reasonable to bring up the issue at that point. It would be completely valid to remind people that bad convictions happen all the time because of racial and cultural differences and issues of ignorance and bigotry. But to argue that we should accept a low standard of evidence to convict someone who kills a black person, “because racism”? That’s just falling for the false media narrative, that it’s now “open season” on black people. Ridiculous and untrue. Vigorously convicting non-blacks when it’s not appropriate does nothing to bring justice to minorities. If anything, I think it would help keep things messed up, not make anything better.

      Maybe that’s not what you meant, I’m not sure. And if it is, it certainly, could have been a “tactic” the prosecution could use (on a sympathetic jury, anyway), but I wouldn’t be in favor of it. Would you be happy to have your factual guilt or innocence determined by how many things other white folks have gotten away with?

      Again, sorry if I misread your meaning there.

      • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

        Nope, that’s what I meant. Zimmerman racially profiled Trayvon Martin. It happens all the time. For our justice system to pretend it’s blind by ignoring a huge factor as to why Zimmerman followed him in the first place isn’t some noble cause for liberty, it’s a travesty.

        “The jury made a decision based on the facts. Who are we to argue?” Zimmerman supporters, on the trial of Tom Robinson…

        • http://www.groverbeachbum.blogspot.com/ Neil

          That’s funny, mentioning Tom Robinson. I was going to say that what you were proposing reversing the roles of To Kill A Mockingbird, and that all the racism in the world still wouldn’t make it right. That seemed too much, but I guess not. Not justice by any stretch, but group revenge when bad feelings are allowed to rule over individual events. I agree that there are problems in the court system. In my opinion, the main problem is over-conviction and sentencing of minorities. I have never felt a need to make it easier to convict anyone, as such relaxation of standards can be very easily abused. Reminding a jury that other white people used to get away with lynching in order to rouse emotions is no more justice than sentencing 20 years for crack cocaine while sentencing a fraction of that for “white people” cocaine.

          I can only hope that you never find yourself in such a situation. I’m a person who has never started a fight, yet who has been threatened and very nearly assaulted by individuals who were “minorities”, for no reason except existing. I certainly hope you never end up on any jury that might be deciding my fate. I still have the right to defend myself, but it seems you would take away that right, and demand extra scrutiny and a lower standard of evidence, “because racism”.

          “Hey, black folks, none of us really know what happened here, but y’all have been mistreated, so let’s execute this here white boy! He may or may not have done something illegal, good enough!”

          Personally, I think most black people are reasonable enough to not expect the legal equivalent of human sacrifice as reparations. The idea that it is the job of the criminal justice system to right every social wrong on the basis of group guilt is dangerous to everyone a free society, and favored by the worst kind of tyrants.

          How many white heads finally equal justice, Ms. Robespierre?

          • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

            Zimmerman was simply defending himself by following and confronting an unarmed teenager who ran away from him. And race had nothing to do with it. Riiiiight.

            All I hear from people like you is “hyuck hyuck hyuck, Trayvon deserved it.”

          • http://www.groverbeachbum.blogspot.com/ Neil

            Nobody knows what that last few minutes entailed. Nobody knows what was in their minds. What little evidence and testimony was available does not seem to fit your beliefs. Zimmerman doesn’t seem to have a history of racism…if anything, the opposite. But YOU know the TRUTH, and apparently, so do a lot of other bloggers and media outlets. Because the existence of racism makes some people psychic, apparently.

            And “people like me?” Who are they? How the heck would you know? The only statements I have seen like what you attribute to “people like me” are a minority on facebook and media comments sections, spouted by truly racist people (or trolling a-holes) who want to print up “George Zimmerman for Prez” t-shirts and disgusting stuff like that. I have said nothing of the sort, and neither has any other atheist/skeptic blogger I’ve seen.

            If you read what I’ve written here and see “Trayvon deserved it” you are temporarily out of your mind, IMO. I’d love to see your reasoning. However, I read what you write, and see “anyone who harms a black person should be convicted no matter what the evidence or the law says”….and apparently, you’re willing to own that. And that’s no morally or practically better, IMO, than “Zimmerman for Prez”. Every bit as racist, every bit as angry, every bit as harmful and useless.

            All that said, while I think you are as wrong as Greta Christina, and have bought a destructive media narrative that is not necessarily based on fact, at least you’re willing to discuss.
            Thanks for that, and I mean it.

            “Hyuck hyuck hyuck, Trayvon deserved it”…..not so much thanks on that.

          • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

            “anyone who harms a black person should be convicted no matter what the evidence or the law says”

            You’re a fool.

            Trayvon had a right to defend himself. He wasn’t given that right by Zimmerman, by the jury, the judge or the prosecution.

          • http://www.groverbeachbum.blogspot.com/ Neil

            Again, you make assumptions to cover your reasoning. Nobody knows what went down in the crucial few minutes, except you, apparently. Everyone has a right to defend themselves. But nobody knows if that’s what happened. Nobody knows who attacked first. Nobody has a right to “defend themselves” against someone who has not attacked or credibly threatened them. Because you see racism as the only possible motivation, you are arguing for a “wild west” of self-defense, while accusing others of the same thing. The only opinion on the matter I have offered is that acquittal was the right legal decision based ion the evidence. It would still be the right decision, no matter what the races of the two parties.

            If I am walking down the street, it is perfectly legal for a resident, or a police officer, or a neighborhood watch person, to observe and follow me if they are suspicious, for whatever reason. I can’t count the times it’s happened to me, especially in high crime neighborhoods. We all have freedom of movement. Unless they accost me or harass me by yelling threats, I have no legal right to “defend myself” from being annoyed. If I believe myself, because of internal feelings, to be in danger, I can call the police, call a friend, leave the area, or put up with it, but I have no right to pre-emptive violence, and neither does anyone else unless they can show evidence that their fears were reasonable.

            Having someone attempt to ask you questions, even hostile questions, is not a defense for violence, at least not in any place I’ve ever lived. Similarly, Zimmerman would have had no right to initiate violence, no matter what Martin said to him in response. If he tried to detain Martin, Zimmerman would have had to show that his suspicions were correct, that a crime was afoot, in order to avoid prosecution, same as any citizen.

            But we don’t know if that happened. The only witness saw Martin beating Zimmerman. The only witness saw self-defense.

            There is the possibility that if the race roles were reversed, that Martin would have had a harder time getting an acquittal. That is wrong, that is racism, and it needs to be fought. Acquitting a person because the evidence is not enough is not racist, no matter how much you want it to be.

            You are making huge assumptions, because of your opinions on racism. For all you know, Zimmerman was quietly following and observing, and was attacked by Martin as he claims. For all you know, Martin wanted to beat that honky a-hole to death for the crime of being suspicious of him. For all we know, maybe Zimmerman tried to talk to Martin, and got violence as a reply. I don’t make those assumptions, although you make the opposite. You don’t know any better than anyone else, yet you are willing to make assumptions, to assume one party was purely innocent and the other guilty of racist murder, with no more evidence than anyone else except your feelings, because it stokes your righteous bullshit rage.

          • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

            “No one knows who attacked first.” If you really think that should matter when someone stalks and confronts another person, you are an idiot. You can’t wrap it around your head that Zimmerman had no right to stalk Trayvon because you’ve bought the “looks like a thug” bullshit that apparently gives anyone the right to disregard neighborhood watch guidelines and police orders and be a vigilante if the person looks like anither criminal (is black).

            You’re racist. Face it and change it. That’s all that’s being asked.

          • http://www.groverbeachbum.blogspot.com/ Neil

            You’re the one who would render a shitty verdict, based on your psychic knowledge of motives and how much you think societal racial injustice played a part.

            I’m the one who doesn’t think a murder conviction should have happened no matter what the color of those involved. If the only witness had seen Zimmerman beating Martin at the end of the fight, and Martin ended up killing Zimmerman in self-defense, I still wouldn’t convict on the evidence.

            Where does your logic end? As a privileged white man, I have been followed, and even confronted, touched, and asked questions by cops, cop volunteers, mall cops, armed bus station guards, and the occasional neighbor, for no reason other than being a man in public, or new in a neighborhood. It happens. If I had beat any of them down over this, I would have likely faced charges. If I had seriously assaulted them, they would have a valid self-defense claim, even if they killed me, so long as no witnesses or hard evidence said otherwise.

            You’re on a righteous crusade of unworkable, racist bullshit. All I ask of you is that you think. I don’t need to call names.

  • SocraticGadfly
  • iamcuriousblue

    I think the biggest misconception one is up against is that any degree of hesitancy in declaring Zimmerman clearly guilty of outright murder is seen as a declaration of that Trevon Martin was a thug and would-be killer, and that this perception is motivated by overt or subconscious racism. Maybe that’s true of many who have been most strongly defending Zimmerman’s actions, but it’s pretty far from the case with those of us who have simply looked at the case and found it legally weak.

    In my case, I say unreservedly that I don’t think Trevon Martin was some kind of thug, or deserved what happened to him. In fact, if Martin somehow lethally got the upper hand and was standing trial, I’d think he’d have at least as good of a self-defense case as Zimmerman did.

    There’s a very basic black/white mentality (and I don’t primarily mean about race) at work in public discourse telling us that to declare the legal innocence of one is to declare the guilt of the other. In fact, the law is a great deal more complicated than that, and it needs to be made clear that it was George Zimmerman who was on trial, not Trevon Martin, and that Zimmerman’s verdict was not a verdict on Martin’s innocence or guilt.

    • Pofarmer

      If Martin had been on top of Zimmerman pounding him, and had got ahold of Zimmerman’s gun, and shot him from on top into the ground, I would say that “self defense” would be a lot harder.

    • briancarnell

      I think Zimmerman acted outrageously on that night and bears the overwhelming responsibility for the death of an innocent young man.

      But the evidence was not there to convict him of the crimes he was charged with.

  • http://erinnikla.wordpress.com/ erin.nikla

    But to blame the entire system over one verdict where there really wasn’t enough evidence for beyond a reasonable doubt?

    If your friend thinks that this is one verdict, that this kind of thing is an anomaly, then they are ridiculously, unbelievably ignorant about the history of these kinds of cases in this country.

  • yaglio

    I’m no fan of Greta Christina, but I think this kind of outrage should really be let slide in light of the fact that her father died just a few days ago.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

      Hmmm, maybe so, but this kind of thing seems to becoming part of a pattern for her. I am *kinda* interested to see if she’ll come to her senses and apologize to everyone after a week, but taking this together with her past behavior, it’s a strain to muster the energy even for that.

  • http://neitherheadsnortails.blogspot.com/ Kris Thompson

    My thoughts exactly. I’ve been dancing in this minefield, occasionally venturing out to voice my opinion, but mostly staying quiet because the hyperbole has hit such a pitch it’s impossible to reasonably discuss. Memes lumping Trayvon in with Emmet Till and Martin Luther King? “Facts” made up out of whole cloth to demonize ZImmerman and beatify Martin? One blogger, whom I respect greatly, actually created a meme proclaiming Zimmerman “Zombieman” because he “feeds on the flesh of our innocent young.”

    I think the scariest thing for me has got to be this idea (an idea I’ve always associated with the wingnut baggers) that our justice system can be bullied or boycotted or otherwise shouted into submission. It’s a terrifying idea, that if popular opinion doesn’t mesh with a jury’s considered verdict, boycotting and demonstrating and proposed violations of the spirit of “no double jeopardy” are called for.

    We won’t even talk about the death threats.

    The whole “What if Zimmerman were black and Trayvon white” thing? Okay, fine, what if? Well, in the system they claim to want, a system colorblind? Zimmerman STILL would have walked, and the “other side” would be screaming about “reverse racism” and a corrupt judiciary that bends over for a “an affirmative action system slanted toward minorities.” No, of course I don’t believe that’s the case, but a number of folks do, and that’s what they’d be saying. My point?

    That no matter how this went down, some faction was going to run with the idea that race decided the verdict. And that’s bullshit–what decided the verdict was the evidence. “Not Guilty” is not the same as “not an asshole” or “not a screw-up whose actions brought about the confrontation.” No, “Not Guilty” just means “there was insufficient evidence to convict.” And that’s almost certainly true.

  • Tracy Cottrell

    Well said, but it is also possible that the prosecution never really intended to try this case to win. There was so much more they could have said and done. Looks as if it were fixed. Just saying.

  • Don Gwinn

    Massad Ayoob says, “A conservative is a liberal who’s just been mugged? Well, a liberal is a conservative who’s been indicted.” I didn’t know Christina had reacted so badly; maybe I should unfollow her.
    The truth is, I’m one of those who would defend the verdict. Actually, given the evidence we actually have, this would be an extremely “clean” act of self defense. If Zimmerman’s story is true (and there is no credible evidence that contradicts it) then he had little choice, and comments about his lack of concern for his “victim and his family” kinda miss the point that, from his point of view, you’re asking him to express concern for the attacker who forced him to kill him or be killed. The only way to transform it into a murder is to adopt one of the prosecutors’ alternate theories in which Zimmerman attacked Martin, but there’s no evidence for that. It’s not impossible, it’s just not supported by evidence.

    However, in all fairness, while some in this thread are pointing out that “liberals” have seemed to lose sight of their prior reverence for the rights of the accused (and they’re right, that happened) it’s also true that many “conservatives” who used to have a law-and-order attitude that allowed for some innocent people to get caught up as the cost of keeping order have, in the Martin case, decided that the rights of the accused trump all that. I think the rights of the accused have always been important and I wish we could all think through the principles instead of trying to fight our own biases by jumping from specific case to specific case. If you want to define your attitude toward the broad principle “It’s better to let ten guilty men go free than to imprison one innocent man” over and over in each specific case, you’re going to have a bad time.

  • Jon Starr

    It’s the law, not the verdict. I don’t understand for the life of me why people don’t get this.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    One of the jurors was interviewed on CNN

    She also said that none of the five fellow jurors believed race played a
    factor in the Feb. 26, 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Martin, who
    was African-American.

    !!!!!!!! Wowza, are they all clueless.

  • eric

    But if you wanted me to take a stab at what tangible harm might come from it, I’d guess at an ill-conceived “Trayvon’s law.”

    A tangible good would be a “Trayvon’s Act” that repeals Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law.

    Mark, among the possible reasons for the verdict are:

    1. Jury rendered a racially biased judgement (i.e., if the victim had been white, things would’ve gone differently)

    2. Judge gave racially biased directions (see above)

    3. Incompetent prosecution

    4. Legally correct outcome given the Stand Your Ground law

    Most of the defenses of the verdict that I see consist of people claiming that the result was not 1-3, it was #4, so we shouldn’t get upset at the verdict But IMO #4 is the explanation we should be most outraged by, not least outraged by. It means we have a law on the book that, properly interpreted, makes it legal for people to chase someone down, force a confrontation, and then kill the chased person in self-defense when they turn on the chaser. That is f**king horryfying. It makes gang war on the street, legal. It means people can be killed with impunity for actual self-defense.

    So yes, I think some outrage is warranted, and if you think the jury rendered a proper verdict based on FL’s stand your ground law, you should be more outraged. “The system worked” is not a reasonable defense when the system itself makes this sort of killing legal.

    • josh

      1 and 2 have no evidence that has been brought to my attention.
      3 could be argued but not to the point of giving a solid case for the prosecution. I don’t know of any additional evidence that would change the facts of the case which was disallowed.
      4 isn’t the argument most people make, I’m getting tired of people harping on SYG when the case is one of standard self-defense, a principle upheld in all states.

      The outcome, based on the evidence we’ve seen, isn’t horrifying and the laws that lead to it are sensible. Martin’s death is tragic, but that doesn’t make Zimmerman culpable. At least according to his story, which is not contradicted by any evidence: Zimmerman didn’t chase someone down, he didn’t force a confrontation, and you can kill a person in self-defense if they start the fight and escalate it to the point of reasonably fearing for one’s life. If someone asks you what you are doing you have every right to ignore them, or run away or tell them to get bent, but you absolutely don’t have the right to jump them and start beating the crap out of them.

  • Laura Jackson

    Totally agree. Could have been avoided entirely. Neighborhood watch does not make you a cop. And I am sure there was enough testosterone on both sides to choke a horse. So very sad for all involved.

  • KaeylynHunt

    Considering that White Men who kill Black men in SYG States have a 354% HIGHER Chance of being determined as a “Justified Killing” than if a White Man kills another White Man in the SAME scenario tells anyone with two brain Cells EVERYTHING they need to know.Those are the latest figures using FBI Crime Data from The Urban Institute Justice Policy.Add to that,in this particular case,Zimmerman’s Daddy is a retired Judge,a well connected Wealthy Judge,who also happens to be a very white person.Zimmerman on his OWN Social media gloated about getting off of Domestic Abuse Charges even though he beat the crap out of his Ex,as well as tap dancing about getting out of Multiple Felony Charges,including Assault and Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer,Sexual harassment,stalking&repeat Violent assaults,ALL Memory holed by Dear Old dad.Not done yet,Daddy also got his arse out of Child Molestation Charges after it was discovered that Georgie Boy had been sexually Abusing a Close Family Friend for a decade.And of course,on his own Myspace page,he goes into racist Rant after racist rant.

    Yet NONE of this was brought up in Court,but Trayvon’s every move on social media(and even some that was fake) WAS put on Trial.The Jury was WRONGLY Instructed to apply SYG law BY The Judge,even though The Defense supposedly didn’t use it as a defense and you folks WONDER why Greta and others are so friggn outraged?THE SYSTEM DID NOT WORK AT ALL!The Juror already had a Book deal BEFORE the trial was over,which means her Lawyer Husband coached her to get on the Jury,and she discussed details of the Case DURING the trial.THAT Good sirs and madams is called Jury tampering.Yet we should all just sit back and go”Oh well,that’s just how the System works” THE HE** IT IS!If you aren’t outraged,then you aren’t paying attention!

    Did we also mention that the Koch brothers are who paid for Zimmerman’s Defense Team?THINK ABOUT THAT FOR JUST ONE HOT MINUTE eh?Wayne LaPierres bestest Buds pick up the Tab.The NRA sold Trayvon shooting targets at The NRA Convention.Seriously,they used this as a Test case to see just how bloody stupid,racist,apathetic and short sighted Americans are,so they could Open season on POC legally and get away with it.And what I’ve put forth here isn’t even all of the facts,which every one i posted here has already BEEN reported,yet NO ONE pays attention to them!!Outrage isn’t EVEN the beginning of this,NOT AT ALL.Greta IS justified in her outrage,and anyone defending how this went down,is MAJORLY asleep at the wheel.I pray NONE of you defending the outcome of this trial EVER serve on a Jury,EVER.EVERYTHING that is wrong in America was shown right here in this trial.Either get a clue &get in Line to help change this horror show of a Nation we have or get out,Greta is RIGHT on the Money this time!


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