No jail for vigilante who hunted, executed unarmed teen

No jail for vigilante who hunted, executed unarmed teen July 14, 2013

In Florida, it’s not necessarily a crime to shoot and kill an unarmed teenager. I’m too angry/soul-sick to say much about this yet, so here’s a round-up of others’ responses.

Jelani Cobb for The New Yorker:

There will be a great deal said about what the verdict in this trial means, but, most fundamentally, we should understand that it means validation for the idea that the actions Zimmerman took that night were rational, the conclusions he drew sound, and that a black teen-ager can be considered armed any time he is walking down a paved street.

Mike Signorile (from round-up of Twitter responses at NCRM):

An innocent boy was shot dead. A man with a gun killed him. And he’s free now just because he said he was scared.

Erik Loomis shares another recent verdict from Florida, in a case in which no one was killed or injured, but the defendant in that case was black:

Marissa Alexander had never been arrested before she fired a bullet at a wall one day in 2010 to scare off her husband when she felt he was threatening her. Nobody got hurt, but this month a northeast Florida judge was bound by state law to sentence her to 20 years in prison.

Alexander, a 31-year-old mother of a toddler and 11-year-old twins, knew it was coming. She had claimed self-defense, tried to invoke Florida’s “stand your ground” law and rejected plea deals that could have gotten her a much shorter sentence. A jury found her guilty as charged: aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Because she fired a gun while committing a felony, Florida’s mandatory-minimum gun law dictated the 20-year sentence.

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous — therefore judgment comes forth perverted.

Field Negro:

Most of us (black folks) expected this. People of color in this country did not expect justice for the Martin family. We know, that because of prejudices and other imperfections in American life, that lady justice is not truly blind. And we understand that, sadly,  children who look like Trayvon Martin will never be looked at like the children who look like the judge (or five of the six jurors) who presided over the case.

#IAmGeorgeZimmerman was recently trending on twitter.

I think I will go on twitter and start another trend: #AmericaisGeorgeZimmerman.

Chauncey DeVega:

The jury looked at the narrative of a white Hispanic stalking, hunting, shooting, and killing a young black man and found it a simple one to litigate. When in doubt defend the right of white vigilantes to kill and murder black people.

Moreover, the jury bowed down to the power of the gun. The gun protects “us” from “them.” The Zimmerman “not guilty” verdict is a reinforcement of the reality of the colorline, and that the jury intimately and deeply understood from their cultural training and political socialization, that when in doubt, side with the white shooter against black “criminals.”

Doktor Zoom:

It’s America in 2013, and 6 Florida jurors just said it’s OK to kill a black 17-year-old if you’re really scared of black 17-year-olds. And now we’re going to have another wave of triumphal gun-buying.

Kieran Healy (in round-up of Twitter responses at Making Light):

The arc of history is long, but it bends towards oh who the fuck am I kidding.


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  • EllieMurasaki


  • Not always a good marker though. My name is Hebrew and it is very much an anomaly. ~_^

  • Monala

    “HE DID SO. He did it. He complied with the request. He performed the requested action. That happened. That is literally and not figuratively what occurred. ”

    How do you know he did so? Because Zimmerman said so? Because no one saw him go back to the truck, and the fight took place no where near there.

    A lot has been made of the fact that Trayvon Martin didn’t go into his house in the several minutes after he started running from Zimmerman. (I can think of reasons why: getting lost in an unfamiliar complex at night where all the buildings are identical; not wanting the guy following him to see where he was staying, especially since the only person home at the time was his 14-year-old future stepbrother).

    But by the same token, why hadn’t Zimmerman made it back to his truck? IIRC, Zimmerman had about 3 or 4 minutes from the end of his call until the altercation. (In contrast, Trayvon’s phone call ends right as the altercation begins). So what was Zimmerman doing during all that time, if he supposedly complied with the operator and went back to his truck?

  • Monala

    The screaming stopped the instant the shot was fired. Would a terrified man whose adrenaline is pumping be able to stop screaming on a dime like that?

  • What’s bugging me is that if Trayvon Martin had been white and George Zimmerman had been black, ZImmerman would be on death row right now and the exact same people who are complaining about the verdict would be screaming about the miscarriage of justice that had wrongfully convicted a man when “all they had” was circumstantial evidence and a popular narrative about a scary black man and an innocent white boy.

    I mean, hell, you actually used the phrase “intent matters” (And yes, I know it does, but given the number of times “Intent isn’t magic!” gets screamed here, this whole thing feels very “Yeah, but it’s different when it’s us doing it!”)

  • Well sure, but it felt too soon to do a “Signed Juan Epstein’s Mother” joke.

  • Veleda_k

    Are you serious? Do you actually not understand why intent matters in a murder trial? Do you actually not see the difference between a murder trial, and, say, a discussion of racial slurs?

    “Intent isn’t magic” is a correct statement. But intent has a whole lot to do with determining the difference between murder one, murder two, and manslaughter. That’s why it’s different.

  • Lori

    -Intent does matter in criminal proceedings. It’s not magic, but it is the difference between murder one and manslaughter, for example.

    Also, Martin is the one who’s dead, not Zimmerman. The point of “intent isn’t magic” is that claiming good intent, or at least no bad intent, doesn’t do jack shit for the victim of bad behavior. I trust that you see how that isn’t actually contradicted by what people have been saying about this case. (I’d also point out that for various reasons I’m rarely one of the people yelling “intent isn’t magic” here or anywhere else.)

    -If the races were reversed I’m pretty sure that unless there was some other unusual circumstance (like happening in the midst of a close election where it became part of the law & order song & dance) no one would be screaming anything about the case because we wouldn’t have heard much about it.

    -If we did hear about it I’m pretty sure the yelling you imagine still wouldn’t happen if the roles were truly flipped. A black guy with a long history of harassing white people for no real reason other than that they’re white would get more slack than Zimmerman owing to the different cultural experiences of blacks vs whites (and folks who are “white enough” to get a piece of white privilege when the circumstances are right). Plenty of people figure that a black man has way more actual reason to be pissed at white people than the reverse and the notion that black people can’t be racists is a thing.

    Still, I don’t think anyone here would extend that slack far enough to excuse driving around with a gun looking for trouble, starting shit with an unarmed white guy who wasn’t doing anything wrong, killing him and then claiming self-defense.

    No one here is saying that black men never commit crimes. No one here is saying that a black man has never killed a white man for no good reason. No one is even saying that there has never been a case where a black man has killed a white man and gotten away with it when he should not have (although that’s certainly not a common occurrence).

    What we’re saying is that A) Trayvon Martin wasn’t committing any crime when Delusions of Grandeur Zimmerman spied him with his racist little eye and followed him for committing the horrible sin of being an AA teenager wearing a hoodie in a mostly white neighborhood and B) when an armed guy sets a confrontation in motion with an unarmed guy and ends up killing him a claim of self-defense doesn’t exactly pass the smell test, even when it meets the requirements of the law.

  • arashtorel


  • arashtorel

    Did you see his face? The dude is brown. That means that his whole life he’s been regarded as non-white by our racist society. That’s the determiner for race. If Zimmerman is white, then so is the President.

  • EllieMurasaki

    That means that his whole life he’s been regarded as non-white by our racist society. That’s the determiner for race.

    No, that means he’s a white-passing PoC who, in this instance and many others, benefits from white privilege.

  • uperdave

    Trayvon Martin attacked and severely beat George Zimmerman just because he thought he was a “creepy ass cracker”. Trayvon relied on his violent past to pound a man he thought he could dominated instead of continuing on his path to his fathers house. He wanted a story to relay ot his girlfriend, Jantael, to prove how tuff he was. He picked the wrong person. If he was really scared he should have called 911 instead of his posse.

  • Really
  • KellyLynne

    I don’t think anyone disagrees that warning shots are a bad idea. What people are objecting to is the idea that a warning shot *where NO ONE was harmed* is treated, legally speaking, as worse than killing someone.

    I also think that the idea that you should not pull a gun unless you’ve reached the point where you NEED to kill someone that very second is pretty limiting in terms of self-defense. If, for example, someone wants to rape me or assault me, and I have access to a gun, I may be wiling to shoot them if I need to. But that doesn’t mean I would prefer killing them to having them decide that assaulting an armed woman is too much trouble and leave me alone.

    There’s a difference between “prepared to kill someone” and “wanting to kill someone.” If I have to wait until I’m certain that I really will have to kill them to even take the gun out, not only do I lose the opportunity to possibly *not* have to kill them, but I may lose the opportunity to defend myself all together. Because the time it takes to make certain that my only option is “kill the guy” is time he can spend attacking me or trying to take my gun away.

    A warning shot does not prove that the person shooting wasn’t in danger. All it shows is that they were trying to avoid escalating the situation, but did it in a reckless way.