Trayvon Martin: 45 days later is better than never

The Washington Post,George Zimmerman is charged with 2nd-degree murder in Trayvon Martin shooting“:

George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin 45 days ago, was charged with second-degree murder Wednesday, marking a turning point in a case that has provoked nationwide debate over racial profiling.

Florida special prosecutor Angela B. Corey, who announced the charge in Jacksonville, said that “the search for justice has brought us to this moment.” She said Zimmerman had turned himself in and had the right to appear before a Seminole County magistrate Thursday.

Two of the people I’ve been following closely as they followed this case closely expressed similar reactions to this too-long-delayed, but welcome news.

Ta-Nehisi Coates: “George Zimmerman to Be Charged in the Killing of Trayvon Martin

What I know is that I care much more about him being charged, then I do about him being convicted. What always rankled about this case wasn’t that Zimmerman might not see a jail cell (that’s what judges and juries determine) but that law enforcement had done everything to foreclose that possibility. We may find that they still have. I imagine a lot was lost in bungling. But at the very least this says, “We take the loss of life seriously.”

The Field Negro: “Finally!

The fact that it took so long to get an arrest in this case is a travesty and a real stain on the America justice system. And what some of my friends in the majority population do not understand is that this case was not about racism per se on the part of the killer of this young man. … This case was about a police department devaluing the life of a young black man, who sadly laid on a slab in the morgue for days before his parents were even notified of his death. It’s about an unarmed child being killed while minding his own business by a citizen, and that citizen remaining free for 45 days while real racists and ideological whores in this country rallied around him only because his victim was black.

 

  • Jared Bascomb

    Please don’t jump all over me, but I’m going to say something potentially explosive, but I’m arguing semantics: I’m sick and tired of Trayvon being described as a “child”. At 17 years of age, he was a legal minor, but at 17 years of age (as opposed to 7) he was *not* a child. The word “child” implies a pre-adolescent, which Trayvon was not. Recalling my own teenaged self, I would been royally pissed if anyone had referred to me as a child. (I know he was his parents’ child, but that’s a whole ‘nother definition/meaning.) 
    That aside, I am pleased that Zimmerman will finally be brought to trial, where justice will be served.

  • Panda Rosa

    It’s a sad antithesis to the Troy Davis case, a black man accused of shooting a white policeman, and died for it, amid much controversy as well. Then, people weren’t sure what had happened, now we can’t agree why it happened. Nobody won then, nobody wins now.

  • Omnicrom

    I agree. Fucking Finally. There really is little else to say. Zimmerman shot and killed another human being. Even if reality inverted and Zimmerman suddenly clearly had done it in self-defense they still should have taken him in for questioning and found out what happened.

  • http://plantsarethestrangestpeople.blogspot.com/ mr_subjunctive

    Recalling my own teenaged self, I would been royally pissed if anyone had referred to me as a child.

    It might have pissed you off to be described as a child at 17, but that wouldn’t have made it incorrect.

    I’m not sure you get to dismiss the “born to a father and mother” definition of child, either, since that’s, you know, a totally valid and relevant definition of the word.

  • JessicaR

    It doesn’t make things right or just, how could it? But I’m so glad and relieved it happened. Credit to Martin’s parents and everyone who wouldn’t shut up and be quiet and all post racial about this tragedy. It’s how the world moves.

  • Nequam

    Mind you, what we really need is an investigation into the Sanford PD and why they thought it was all right to let Zimmerman go on his merry way.

    I hope we get it, but I’m not overly hopeful.

  • Turcano

    Recalling my own teenaged self, I would been royally pissed if anyone had referred to me as a child.

    Well, with all due respect, your teenaged self can suck it, because that’s what you, I and everyone else were at that age.  A teenager vastly overestimates his or her own maturity.

  • Jared Bascomb

    I wasn’t dismissing the parental definition of “child”. OTOH to you and Turcano, there’s a big difference between being 7 (a child) and 17 (an adolescent). I think it actually diminishes and disrespects Trayvon to refer to him generically as a child (as in “a child died”). A 17-year-old killed in a car crash would not be referred to as a “child”.

    Again, I’m not dismissing the horror, outrage, and tragedy of Trayvon’s killing. I just semantically object to referring to a 17-year-old as a “child” – with that word’s implications – the same as I object to survivors of tragedies/disasters as “heroes”.

  • Jared Bascomb

    No. We may have been immature, and legal minors, but we were *not* children.

  • Turcano

     

    There’s a big difference between being 7 (a child) and 17 (an adolescent).

    The only real difference is that the 17-year-old pretends there’s a difference.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    but at 17 years of age (as opposed to 7) he was *not* a child.

    Oh, you mean we, as a society, entrusted people of that age with the responsibilities of say, driving a car by themselves, voting, entering into legally-binding contracts?

    Oh, but you mean that this person was considered responsible by society enough to enlist in the military, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, borrow money from lending institutions?

    Oh, so you mean that at 17 years of age, any illegal acts he committed would automatically be assumed to be his own responsibilities, any crimes committed would be processed the same as if he was 35, any liabilities from his acts would be his own responsibility and not those of his parents or legal guardians?

    Wait, you don’t mean any of those things. As a society, we say that 17-year-olds aren’t old enough, mature enough, experienced enough to volunteer for military service, or drive a motor vehicle without a licensed driver present, or sign up for a credit card.

    . Recalling my own teenaged self, I would been royally pissed if anyone had referred to me as a child.

    That has absolutely nothing to do with the reality that in the eyes of the law and society, you were one. Hurt feelings do not a solid argument make.

    The word “child” implies a pre-adolescent, which Trayvon was not.

    No, the world “child” implies a diminished capacity for responsibility, often due to a lack of experience that would form the foundation for good judgement. Which describes most 17-year-olds just fine.

    But hey, let’s run a quick thought experiment on your bullshit, transparent ad hominem. Let’s imagine that instead of a 17-year-old kid carrying ice tea and skittles, wearing a hoodie and walking in the rain, stalked by an older man in a truck who ignored police orders and shot him, let’s imagine that he was two weeks past his 18th birthday. Does that make his death any more justified? Somehow, if we say he’s an adult, does that add a necessary aura of menace needed to explain why an unarmed kid was hunted down and shot by a zealous bigot?

    He was a kid. If he had been 18, he might have been able to drive to the store and the whole sad event would never have happened.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    As a society, we say that 17-year-olds aren’t old
    enough, mature enough, experienced enough to … drive a motor vehicle without a licensed driver present.

    Um… I thought the US said that 16 year olds are old enough to drive a car.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Depends on the state. I don’t know offhand what rules would have applied to Trayvon, but where I live, at fifteen years ten months one can get behind the wheel if one has a licensed driver over twenty-one in the other seat and one has taken the theoretical portion of a driver’s ed course (offered by all state high schools for free and the YMCA for not-free). Six months after one gets one’s license, one graduates to being able to drive without a licensed driver, subject to other restrictions (no night driving unless it’s for work or school or there’s a licensed driver in the other seat, for example), and six months after that one graduates to a full license. But one doesn’t automatically get one’s license at fifteen-ten. I was seventeen. (Mom has made every one of us wait to take driver’s ed.) And one sure as hell doesn’t automatically get a set of car keys at fifteen-ten. So like I said, I don’t know what rules would have applied to Trayvon. He may have had no license; he may have had a license but no licensed driver over twenty-one to drive with; he may have had a license with no restrictions but also no car.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    The Foxnews.com comment threads are…interesting.  And I’m actually torn.

    On the one hand, I’m glad as hell to see that the enraged, foaming-at-the-mouth, bloviating bigots are in a state of snarling fury, since the things that enrage them are generally the things that make otherwise normal, sane, well-adjusted human beings in the 21st century HAPPY–you know, things like health care, universal suffrage, social safety nets, labor unions and safety regulations that help prevent companies from padding out flour with powdered chalk or passing off rotting food or poisonous medications to desperate consumers. 

    On the other hand, I’m UNNERVED that there are THAT MANY enraged, foaming-at-the-mouth, bloviating bigots still left in this country, and that a supposedly mainstream news source is actually openly pandering to people who are actually more insane and less literate than the average Stormfront poster. 

  • http://plantsarethestrangestpeople.blogspot.com/ mr_subjunctive

    Yo, you’re the one who wanted to argue semantics, and semantically, the word fits. Whether the word strikes you as being inaccurate or imprecise or whatever, it is within normal usage to refer to a 17-year-old as a child, and in fact people do so all the time, and it does not automatically trivialize or disrespect the person so called, whatever personal associations you’re bringing to bear here.

    I, on the other hand, turn out not to want very badly to argue semantics, so I leave this pointless argument in the hands of the people who want to have it. G’night.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Back when I was that age the law was, you could get your learner’s at the dot of 16, and one month later qualify to take your road test and be fully licenced.

    That said, I’m at the age where I would think a teenager was a “kid”, but I wouldn’t say “child” because the connotation tends to make one think of someone a fair bit younger than Trayvon. However given his pictures I can see why one might say “child”. He looks younger than 16 by a fair fraction.

  • Matri

    mainstream news source

    Of which Fox News is not.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    where I live, at fifteen years ten months one can get behind the wheel
    if one has a licensed driver over twenty-one in the other seat and one
    has taken the theoretical portion of a driver’s ed course (offered by
    all state high schools for free and the YMCA for not-free). Six months
    after one gets one’s license, one graduates to being able to drive
    without a licensed driver, subject to other restrictions (no night
    driving unless it’s for work or school or there’s a licensed driver in
    the other seat, for example), and six months after that one graduates to
    a full license.

    Wait – so the only test you take is the theoretical one right at the start? Seriously?

    *boggles*

  • aunursa

    However given his pictures I can see why one might say “child”. He looks younger than 16 by a fair fraction.

    Supposedly the photo that has been most commonly used by the media was taken when he was about 12.

  • Matri

    I still can’t accept this outcome, though. Why? Because of this:

    She said Zimmerman had turned himself in and had the right to appear before a Seminole County magistrate Thursday.

    The only reason he’s even going to court at all is because he “finally” decided to turn himself in. If he hadn’t, nothing would have happened because the police made it explicitly clear that they weren’t going to take any action against him.

  • LoneWolf343

    The FBI is scarier than the cops.

  • nirrti

    I know I should be happy about this…but I’m not. All this means is if some color-aroused white guy were to gun down my 15 year-old or 27 year-old brother, their cases would have to get just as much attention as Trayvon’s for the perps to even get charged with a crime.

    The lives of these two wonderful young men aren’t even worth as much as Mike Vick’s pit bulls.

     

  • nirrti

     If Trayvon had been a white kid, he would’ve been considered a “child”…and not gunned down in the first place.

    That’s what this whole thing is about, dear.

  • Matri

    If the outcome had been the reverse, the only time Trayvon steps out of his cell at the police station would be to board a transport to a more permanent holding facility.

  • arcseconds

    I’m not all that comfortable with the term ‘child’, either, like others to me it implies someone younger than 15.   I’m quite happy with ‘youth’, ‘adolescent’, etc.

    What I’m most discomforted by with this terminology is not that it’s inaccurate, but that I suspect it’s making an emotive, sentimental argument where none needs to be made, nor should be made. 

    This is a common tactic on the right. It’s the flip side of the attempt to portray Martin as a ‘bad boy’ or a thug. And it plays into that argument, too — instead of discussing the real issue here, we end up arguing over whether Martin was an innocent little cherub or an off-the-rails druggie gangsta wannabe.  (I agree with nirrti – probably he would be being portrayed as a child by the right if he was white.  But that would illustrate the problem just as much)

    And that argument is not relevant to any of the big societal issues here.  Let’s face it: people aren’t up in arms about this merely because a someone (a child, if you must put it that way) is dead.  Thousands of people died that day and they’re not in the public eye.  People are up in arms because the case is exposing a lot of problematic features of American society – particularly racism, but also attitudes to violence, and also because justice wasn’t been done (and certainly wasn’t been seen to be done).

    For those issues, the things that make this different from any other death, whether Martin is a cherub or a proto-gangsta is completely irrelevant.   I don’t care if he was dealing crack from his basement – he still shouldn’t have been shot, and Zimmerman should still have been arrested. So I say drop the irrelevant, sentimental descriptors in these cases.  They’re just going to end up with arguments that play into the hands of people attempting to trivialize this case.

    (It’s also irrelevant whether or not he can drive a car or legally vote – isn’t it?  I don’t think it changes anything of import if we knew he was actually 33)

    I’d go further and say that there’s a tendency to want to play this story (and other stories) as some kind of TV drama, where we’re desperately caught up with the psyche of the dramatis personae.  In such a drama, what kind of character Martin has would be relevant, and also Zimmerman – there, his attitudes to black people shown in other scenes might well be crucial to the unfolding drama.  In the real world, though, at the moment these things are distractions.  (whether or not Zimmerman is ‘really racist’ is just as irrelevant as whether or not Martin was ‘a child’).

    It seems people need all the help they can get in ignoring these distractions.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Zimmerman might very well not be convicted. Besides the court system’s racism and the fact that our dangerous, ludicrous “shoot anyone who scares you” law in Florida makes it well-nigh impossible to convict anyone who claims it, Zimmerman does not seem to be mentally well. He should have been under psychiatric care.

    He’s the type of person who’s most susceptible to right wing rabidity. Like the man who shot Gabrielle Giffords. Not given the psychiatric treatment he needed, instead he got a gun. And watch for the right wing to throw him under a bus. “The president’s a Muslim terrorist born in Kenya and they’re raping ‘our’ women! Ahem, we abhor violence, of course.”

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    I really, really, REALLY wish people would not use “whore” as an insult. Besides the implicit misogyny, I know women who are sex workers. What they do for a living should not be used as a slur.

  • Trixie_Belden

    A kid, maybe, but not a child.  Jared Bascomb is making a fair point.  In most circumstances, you would not refer to a 17 year-old boy, with a girlfriend yet, as a “child”.  It’s also a reasonable to consider what Trayvon, were he still living, would have preferred to have been called.

    I find I want to call Trayvon a “child” because it’s part of how I express the outrage of what happened to him, even though I also find myself thinking, at the same time, that it feels a little odd to think of a 17 year-old as a child.  He was only 17 for crying out loud!  He should have had decades and decades of life in front of him.  Perhaps this is why referring to him as a child seems so necessary – although I don’t think anyone who questions the use of the word is automatically acting in bad faith.  Was he a “child” in the colloquial sense?  Not really.  But when you think of what was taken from him, and the stupid brutality involved in the taking, describing Trayvon as a “child” becomes a way to help encompass the monstrousness of the event   

    I guess starting your comment with “please don’t jump all over me” triggers some sort of reflex that makes other commenters want to jump all over you, even though JB says quite clearly that he is not dismissing the horror of the killing.

  • malpollyon

    Supposedly the photo that has been most commonly used by the media was taken when he was about 12.

    From the article linked “The dominant photo of Martin shows him 13 or 14 years old”.

    *sigh*

    Do you even bother reading these links you post in lieu of engaging with threads?

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    Is it wrong that I’m kinda happy aunursa at least didn’t link to the photo of a different Trayvon Martin that right wingers were putting around as part of the “He’s a thug, so shooting him is totes OK” argument?

  • Turcano

     Just be happy it wasn’t a link to a poll on the subject, which honestly is only a step up from Ken DeMyer blathering on about expected Google trends on Conservapedia.

  • Michael Cule

    1) Yes, he was a child. A pre-adult by legal definition. (Unless of course he had been charged with a crime and the prosecutor decided to take advantage of the laws that allow children to be charged as adults if they can con a court into going with that. I hate laws that have exceptions like that.)

    2) He turned himself in when he was informed he was going to be charged. That’s normal and what you want. He wasn’t crazy enough to think he could run.

    3) Can anyone tell me why the prosecutor is allowed to charge him without the grand jury? (The details of the Washington Post piece are behind a paywall.) The Fifth Amendment seems to require it in ‘capital or otherwise infamous crimes’. Did the defendant waive this?

  • Linnet24

     I would have thought 2nd degree murder would have allowed for the prosecutor to charge.  Even if that degree isnt itself capital, it seems to fit the ‘on the same level of infamy’ rule.

  • wendy

    In Florida, first degree murder requires a grand jury. Second degree can be directly charged by the prosecutor.

    (first degree is you wanted to kill someone so you did, second degree is on purpose but spur of the moment.)

  • The_L1985

    Um, here in the U.S., you can in fact get your driver’s license at 16.

    I drove all alone on numerous occasions at the age of 17, without suffering any legal consequences whatsoever for doing so. Sure, I was pulled over once, but that was for speeding.

  • The_L1985

    Or he may have figured, “Meh, it’s just down the road, I’ll just walk.”

  • The_L1985

    No, you take the driving test at 16 or so, and on that same day (if you pass), you get your driver’s license. The written test is just for your permit.

  • The_L1985

    I thought “Stand Your Ground” only applied if someone was in your home, not one along down the street PAST your home.

    If that’s not the case, then the law needs to be changed yesterday.

  • PollyAmory

    Yeah, obviously. Do you know of another way of learning how to drive than by driving?

  • PollyAmory

    I think you misunderstand. They obviously let him know that they were going to be filing charges against him, and gave him an option to turn himself in rather than sending officers over to have him arrested. A lot of high-profile defendants take advantage of this option.

  • Michael Cule

    First degree is ‘infamous’ but second isn’t? But you can go to jail for life for 2nd?

    And that stands up to scrutiny? Sheesh.

  • PollyAmory

    No, that is exactly it. What applies in your home is the so-called “Castle Doctrine.” “Stand Your Ground” goes one step further by removing the requirement to attempt retreat before using deadly force. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    Wait – so the only [driver's ed] test you take is the theoretical one right at the start? Seriously?

    I left a bit out, sorry. Getting behind the wheel for the first ten hours or whatever the rule is is entirely under the supervision of the driver’s ed instructor, and if ze’s satisfied at the end of the ten hours that one can drive the car, one gets a blue card (I think it’s blue), which one can take to the DMV anytime in the next however long to trade for one’s license. The practical portion of the driver’s ed course effectively is the driving test. At least that’s how they do it in the schools–dunno about YMCA.

  • arcseconds

    I find I want to call Trayvon a “child” because it’s part of how I
    express the outrage of what happened to him, even though I also find
    myself thinking, at the same time, that it feels a little odd to think
    of a 17 year-old as a child.  He was only 17 for crying out
    loud!  He should have had decades and decades of life in front of him. 
    Perhaps this is why referring to him as a child seems so necessary

    Yeah, my previous comment notwithstanding, I certainly have some sympathy for this perspective – it’s a legitimate emotional reaction to the tragedy.

    I guess I’d want to distinguish three things here, while acknowledging that they’re highly intertwined: the immediate tragedy of a young person dying, the particular issue of justice in this case, and the context in which the entire tragic affair is embedded.  “he’s just a kid” is relevant to the first, but not so much to the other two.  And it’s really the last that’s the immense, abominable mess that’s being bought to light here and sorely needs addressing, but who knows how? Without that mess he wouldn’t be dead.

    Also, I was going to say earlier that I’ve always been a bit perplexed by the ‘s/he’s just a kid’ thing — because it always implied to me that the death of a kid is particularly bad, and I can’t understand why that would be.  Anyone under the age of 60 has ‘decades and decades’ of life (probably), and I’m not sure it’d be any less tragic if Zimmerman’s victim was 80. 

    But I think I’ve finally come to some understanding here.  ‘he’s just a kid’ is how _this_ is tragic. Another case involving someone older would be tragic in a different way.

    Am I going to get lynched if I suggest ‘spare a thought for Zimmerman’? He’s a tragic figure in his own right — without the constant messages reinforcing fear of blacks and lionization of lethal violence (by the right people, of course) and idolization of ‘tough’ law enforcement and righteous authority around it’s much less likely he’d have gotten caught up in these particular obsessions and delusions and might not now be an alleged murderer. He’s probably the most hated man in America right now, and he probably knows this. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    ‘Just a kid’ – I’m at the age now where I’m content with the notion that if it were my life against a younger person’s, I’d gladly give mine up because I’ve had a few years under my belt. Let the younger person have a chance, all things considered.

    Zimmerman – In a less fear-obsessed, masculinity-obsessed, gun-obsessed culture he’d be a reclusive bitter crank who everybody knows about and stays away from. But in the United States, he gets to possess a weapon, act like a hero in his own mind, and let all his silly-assed fantasies come forth and be defended under the aegis of white male American-ness.

  • Lori

     

    Wait – so the only test you take is the theoretical one right at the start? Seriously? 

    The exact rules vary by state, but in most places you have to have passed a practical in some form, as well as the theoretical, to get your license. When I got mine we still had state-sponsored driver’s ed in school and passing that counted as the practical. Once you finished that you could go on your 16th birthday (or up to a year after you finished driver’s ed), take the written test and get your license. If you didn’t take an approved driver’s ed course you had to do an on-the-road test with the DMV in attention to passing the written.

  • JenL

    3) Can anyone tell me why the prosecutor is allowed to charge him
    without the grand jury? (The details of the Washington Post piece are
    behind a paywall.) The Fifth Amendment seems to require it in ‘capital
    or otherwise infamous crimes’. Did the defendant waive this?

    I believe the state attorney had at least 2 choices –

    1) go to a grand jury and seek Murder 1 charges.  There would have been some chance of the grand jury declining, and Murder 1 charges would have gotten into issues of whether Zimmerman had the gun for self-defense or had a premeditated plan to kill Trayvon from the start.   

    or

    2) skip the grand jury and just charge him with Murder 2.  There’s less of a legal penalty (no potential for the death penalty), but you don’t have to prove premeditation. 

  • JenL

    There are some regional variations on when you can get your learner’s permit, and when you can drive alone – and when you can drive at night, for that matter. 

    But there’s also the fact that there are big regional (and socio-economic) variations in whether a kid is given a car at 16 or is expected to earn a car at 18 or 20.  Or, especially in cities, maybe there’s no particular expectation of ever owning a car.

  • JenL

    Stand Your Ground varies by state.  It started, in most states, as The Castle Doctrine – the notion that “a man’s home is his castle” (gender-specific language from the original) and he shouldn’t have to run and hide when someone else breaks in. 

    But Florida took it significantly further a few years ago, and said that even outside your home, you are not legally required to run/hide/evade before you can defend yourself and claim self-defense.  There’s some logic to it, when used with common sense – a person in high heels or with reduced mobility may not have any expectation of being able to successfully flee, and there’s also that whole “I’m supposed to turn my back on my attacker?” issue.  But Florida apparently went so far as to make it explicit that if police arrive at the scene of a shooting, and the shooter says “hey, I was attacked and I simply defended myself”, the police are not allowed to arrest the individual unless there’s evidence that contradicts the self-defense claim.

    In this shooting, though – allegedly, multiple witnesses said “we heard the younger, smaller guy yelling for help” and were told (by police) “no, you misunderstood – it was the bigger guy who was yelling”.

  • JenL

    They obviously let him know that they were going to be filing charges
    against him, and gave him an option to turn himself in rather than
    sending officers over to have him arrested.

    Agreed. 

    I don’t think you even can “turn yourself in” if there aren’t charges pending against you for you to be booked on.  Well, you could walk in and blithely tell them you want to confess to a crime, but I think that gets you questioned, not arrested, until they decide there’s a crime worth arresting you for.

    Raises the question, though, of the flow of communication, given that highly weird press conference given by his now-ex lawyers.  Did the state attorney contact his parents?  Did he call the state attorney? 


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