Trayvon Martin

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

I’ve received quite a few emails, Tweets, and comments asking why I haven’t yet written on the Trayvon Martin case. These have ranged from polite inquiries as to what I think about the case, to not-so-subtle implications about what my “conspicuous silence” says about me,  to demands that I drop everything and investigate, to a weird rush of emails a couple days ago screaming (as much as an email can scream) that I haven’t covered the case because Martin is black and I only care about the civil liberties of white people. Given the narrow time window in which that last batch of emails arrived, I’m fairly sure they all came from the same blog post or discussion board, though I wasn’t able (and didn’t put up much of an effort) to track down the source.

All of this rings similar to the accusations I started getting from people who didn’t think I was sufficiently angry about and/or devoted to covering the police abuses at the Occupy protests. The implication was that I simply don’t care when lefists get beaten by police. Which, if you’ll look through my archive, is just as absurd as suggesting I only care about white people.

I guess in one sense it’s flattering that I’m expected to weigh in on every criminal justice-related story to make the news, and that my motives are questioned when I don’t. On the other hand, it can be a little frustrating. So here are the main reasons I haven’t delved into the case. You can probably refer back to this list on any future civil liberties story making national headlines about which I have remained (conspicuously!) silent.

(1) I’m working on a number of other projects that I can’t just drop in order to jump into another story, particularly since we have reason (4).

(2) I’m writing a book. This will leave considerably less time for me to opine, investigate, weigh in on crime stories in the news.

(3) Given points (1) and (2), I also do occasionally enjoy doing things that aren’t work-related.

(4) Lots of other people are doing a great job covering the story, including my HuffPost colleague Trymaine Lee, the guy responsible for bringing it to national attention.

(5) I don’t feel compelled to offer an opinion on every big story connected to my beat unless I have something useful to add to the conversation. Because I haven’t been doing any reporting on the Martin case, and because it doesn’t appear to involve any issues about which I have some specific expertise, I haven’t yet felt I’ve had anything useful to add.

(6) Somewhat related to the other points: I don’t like to comment on a story until I’m read up on it. There’s a hell of a lot of reading to stay on top of in this case. More every day. And again, I have other things going on. There are times when it’s just not possible to get caught up with a case in time to comment about it immediately.

For those of you demanding a reaction: Yes, I think the story is an outrage. I think the police who did such a sloppy/indifferent investigation of Zimmerman ought to be fired.  I think Zimmerman should be charged, though I don’t know that we have enough solid details for me to have an opinion on whether it ought to be second-degree murder or something more like manslaughter. I may now have some opinions on the Martin story that might add to the conversation, but I’m still hashing them out in my head. And they’re likely to be more related to the coverage of the case than the case itself. I’ll get to those when I can. And if they congeal into something coherent.

But in the meantime, let’s turn the tables a bit. I’ll leave you to chew on another email I received yesterday from a longtime reader:

Why do you think people are up in arms about Trayvon Martin?  You’ve posted on a number of deaths that equal or excel the Martin affair in outrageousness.  What’s different about this case?

Off the top of my head, in Florida alone we could consider the cases of Rachel Hoffman, Isaac Singletary, Nick Christie, Tyler Spann, and Anthony Diotaiuto. I’m sure if I dug through the archives, I could find others. Why didn’t those cases attract the attention Martin’s has? I have my own opinions, but I’m interested in hearing yours.

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213 Responses to “Trayvon Martin”

  1. #1 |  Nemo_N | 

    I thought you weren’t commenting on this case because it has been covered pretty much everywhere else. I usually see you focusing on less known cases.

    I think this is getting more coverage because there are at least two audio tapes cable news found “juicy enough” to be played over and over again.

  2. #2 |  David | 

    My best guess: this time, the shooter is not a cop. And thus the blinders come off.

    Note that the coverage of the whole affair, righteously indignant though it is, still doesn’t include the fact that the Thin Blue Line treatment an actual officer would get is pretty much identical to, and just as outrageous as, the deference Zimmerman got from the Sanford PD.

  3. #3 |  Powersox | 

    I think the biggest reason why is because it’s been picked up by an anti-gun crowd, as kind of a, “This is why Joe Blow Not-a-Cop shouldn’t be allowed to carry a firearm with him at all times! If Florida didn’t allow concealed carry, and didn’t have the Stand Your Ground doctrine, then Trayvon would still be alive! And if not, his guilty-as-sin murderer would be in jail!”

    Just my two cents, and I haven’t been following the story as closely as I probably could be.

  4. #4 |  Comrade Dread | 

    I would assume that most people trust the police on when to use deadly force and when not to do so, and have a presumption that if a cop kills someone it was probably necessary at the time, even if later events prove that it was mistaken and a horrible tragedy.

    Whereas the Florida self-defense law seems to be open to the interpretation that you can gun down anyone you please, say, “He was comin’ right at me!” and walk away Scott-free.

    Which in Zimmerman’s case, may actually be true.

  5. #5 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    I always thought this whole “Neighborhood Watch” thing was racist
    and Xenophobic; now I have some proof.
    I also wondered who these mysterious “Neighborhood Watch” leaders were;
    now I have a good idea.
    The real villains are the house-proud “911″ addicts
    peeking/snooping through their windows at the oh-so-dangerous
    real world from their living rooms. In a free society people should be able to walk down any damn street they want without some paranoid wanna-be cop following him down the street and blowing him away. Amazing.

  6. #6 |  Rob in CT | 

    I think it’s party what David suggests: cops get a massive benefit of the doubt from most people, but Zimmerman isn’t a cop. He’s a wannabe.

    There’s also the Stand Your Ground law element. Some people see this as a fault of the law (I have no opinion on the law, and actually from what I can tell, Zimmerman probably shouldn’t be able to hide behind it in this case. The problem here is the cops aren’t doing their jobs).

    Throw in the (quite possible) racism angle, and you’ve got a juicy story.

    But I don’t know. Some of those you’ve mentioned are just as blood-boiling and sensational and all that, but they don’t get around as widely. Perhaps there is just an element of chance in play as well.

  7. #7 |  JOR | 

    “I would assume that most people trust the police on when to use deadly force and when not to do so, and have a presumption that if a cop kills someone it was probably necessary at the time…”

    You’re right. Most people really are that fucking stupid.

  8. #8 |  Andrew S. | 

    Yeah, right Radley. We know you’re ignoring this because you’re a racist. Just admit it!*

    If only there was so much attention paid to people shot by police. The news here in Miami has been all over this case since the shooting occurred. Even when there were protests in Miami over police shootings last year, the media mentioned it but didn’t give it much attention.

    * For anybody whose sarcasm detector is broken, of course this is sarcasm.

  9. #9 |  FridayNext | 

    Radley,

    Speaking only for myself, and as a long time reader but only occasional commenter who didn’t email you on this topic but thought about it, I WANTED you to comment on it because you invariably make comments or provide analysis that is different from what I can find elsewhere and almost always makes me think deeper and wider about an event I thought I had made up mind about. Most other blogs are just backslapping, chest pounding nonsense and contribute more to strengthen the walls between bubbles than contributing to a genuine conversation.

    I didn’t write to you because you have expressly said how frustrating this is. My day is darker when you don’t post, but I don’t feel you owe me anything or obligated to say anything.

    And I write this as someone who disagrees with you as often as not and will never consider himself a Libertarian (though MORE libertarian than I was before I started reading you.) I will however admit to being slightly biased for you in that I have deep family roots in Greenfield and Bloomington.

  10. #10 |  Kid Handsome | 

    Not really on point, but I have a strange hesitancy to call for him to be charged and join with the masses. I suppose it’s because it’s this overwhelming call to arrest and convict someone, and I feel that the arrest would ultimately be based on this tremendous public outcry instead of an objective attempt at justice. It has the feel of, whatever he’s eventually charged with, a situtation where that someone has decided to get their pound of flesh facts be damned.* Sort like the cops reaction to Corey Maye or Ryan Frederick**

    Anyone else share my unease with arresting someone based on the will of the public. It feels like I should use the word lynching (though I realize that’s not the correct word and is a tad over-the-top; I just don’t know what word to use.)

    *As for the facts, I think that he may have indeed “stood his ground,” but only after stalking an innocent and backing him into a corner. If they were both defending themselves – I’m not certain that the shooting can be justified under the “standing one’s ground theory.”

    ** The Frederick and Maye cases seem more reasonably characterized as pure self-defense.

  11. #11 |  Sam | 

    Kid,

    What facts are you referencing? He was following a teenager, uttered racial slurs, disregarded advice to stop following, engaged with the kid, then killed him. What ground was he standing on?

  12. #12 |  JOR | 

    If Zimmerman stalked the kid and can still claim self-defense, so can any robber or rapist or whatever who murders a resisting victim. You don’t get to assault someone and then claim self-defense when the confrontation escalates. Unless you’re a cop (or, apparently, a wannabe cop).

  13. #13 |  Matt I. | 

    IMHO this story is news because of several factors:

    1- The race element, which does exist here.

    2- The fact that it hits home with the suburban mom fears of losing their children to random tragedies/crazy people.

    When you think about it, it’s the same reason why there is a rush to pass new laws when any innocent teenager is killed.

    When a cop is involved in a shooting there is a sense that the victim ‘did something’ to deserve the shooting. i.e. people think that if it were them, they could have avoided being shot. But here it feels more like it ‘could have happened to them’ and they wouldn’t have been able to prevent it.

  14. #14 |  (B)oscoH | 

    Once you detected a pattern, you could have written back that nobody’s dog got shot. Zing!

    But seriously… The one (and only) thing I learned in AP English way back in high school in the late 80s was that it’s OK to deliberate before spitting out an answer. People who will not give you the courtesy of time to be considerate if you need it are not worthy of an answer. I’ve found that for the most part, that’s helped me establish and reinforce a personal brand of being thoughtful, deliberate, and worth listening to. YMMV.

  15. #15 |  Kid Handsome | 

    I disagree that he used racial slurs. I heard the recording and it didn’t sound like it to me.* The only real fact (if it’s true) that I relied on were the alleged cut on his head and bloody nose (per Hit & Run yesterday 12:52 pm), the sounds of a struggle, etc. My point was that I understand that the shooter probably picked the fight by following Trayvon (who was innocent) and essentially stalking him. That does not mean that he threw the first punch or initiated contact, etc.

    I don’t believe I’m alone in thinking that this may amount to something less than murder or manslaughter (under the law). “The law says “a person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place [aside from a home] where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” UCLA law professor Adam Winkler argues that the reference to preventing a forcible felony “unambiguously authorizes people to pursue and confront others.” It is hard to see how, since every scenario described by the law involves being “attacked” and “meet[ing] force with force”—i.e., the law assumes the other person is the aggressor. Once you are attacked, you may use force to, among other things, prevent a forcible felony (a rape or mugging, say).”

    I think I was pretty clear that Trayvon was an innocent, but I can see plenty of scenarios where someone could, thinking they have a right to confront someone who was not otherwise bothering them, might bite off more than they can chew and end up having to defend themselves despite initially being in the wrong.

    I never said that I have some sort of respect for the wannabe cop, I am just not certain that massive public and media pressure is going to result in a “just” result.

    * I may have missed a new development, but what I heard on the recording that reason posted, it sounded like he said f***ing punks. Not a racial slur. If I’m wrong or missed a new development, let me know.

  16. #16 |  Brian | 

    I suspect this story has gained so much traction because its plot points are self-evident, and its got great narrative structure. It reads like a song off Springsteen’s Nebraska.

    There’s been crime in the neighborhood. There’s a guy who’s put it upon himself to be some kind of peacekeeper in that neighborhood. We can actually experience that crucial moment of choice when he tells the 911 operator he’s going to follow Martin and the operator’s warned response. There are all the telling details coming from other angles (the screams for help a neighbor heard, Martin’s girlfriend telling him to run), and there is the desperate haze of the actual critical piece which is what happened that made someone shoot and get shot. Not to mention all the system failures after that.

  17. #17 |  Kid Handsome | 

    In my second paragraph, where I quoted a large section, I failed to attribute it to Hit & Run’s most recent blog post about this case.

  18. #18 |  albatross | 

    The MSM and blogosphere largely run on the outrage of the day. This is not all that unusual or outrageous case, as these things go, but it happened to end up as the outrage of the day. My guess is that most of the media and blog attention is a function of previous media and blog attention, not anything deeper.

  19. #19 |  Matt | 

    Based on everything that has come out I think that the “Stand Your Ground” statute did apply…to Martin. If Martin had a CCW and shot Zimmerman in self defense I wouldn’t have thought twice about supporting him.

  20. #20 |  The Crip Bandit | 

    So far the only evidence that contradicts Zimmerman’s account is this “girlfriend” who only came out with her account after several weeks.

    We don’t have video evidence, that we know of. There are no eyewitnesses to the entire incident, only some who have said they saw Martin on top of Zimmerman assaulting him.

    There are people who heard various parts of the incident. Maybe it can be puzzled out from them. Doubtful though.

    A 17 year old is not a child or a boy. He is a nearly grown man.

    The Q&A issued from the police chief.

    http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/21/sanford-florida-police-answer-questions-about-teens-shooting-death/

  21. #21 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    The reason it’s blown up is that the anti-gunners and professional leftists (but I repeat myself) have siezed upon this as a way to make themselves relevant.

    Here’s what we know

    NOTHING

    People need to get that through their thick skulls. The cops were on scene and catalogued the evidence. They determined that there was not enough evidence to show probable cause that a crime was committed. They took the shooter downtown for an interview and then later interviewed him two more times. The cops, including the chief of police, have said that they have no evidence to dispute the shooter’s story. The local prosecutor has submitted the case to the Grand Jury. When a cop has a man with a smoking gun and a dead body and can’t find the evidence necessary to charge, that ought to tell you something. Cops are rarely unwilling to arrest people, even to the point of arresting people wrongfully.

    Perhaps the interweb sleuths could take off their Sherlock Holmes hats, put down the pipes, and recognize that they know absolutely nothing compared to the people who were actually on scene with measuring tapes and cameras. They are reacting to a publicity campaign by the anti-gun racket that is specifically designed to convince people to donate money to them. The racial dividers in our society are also using that to divide black from white by pretending that a Hispanic man is some sort of Aryan racist. Cui Bono? That’s the question you need to be asking.

    And Radley, I am ashamed of you. Here you are, Mr. Civil Liberties, and you are calling for the cops to arrest someone who they don’t have probable cause to arrest! Have you taken leave of your senses? In the USA, we don’t arrest people for crimes we don’t have probable cause to suspect them of. We investigate and determine what really happened, and if it turns out that the evidence is sufficient to charge the shooter, then you charge him.

    If it turns out that he committed a crime, he’ll be punished. Until that time, people should accept that they weren’t there, don’t have the evidence, and can’t possibly know what happened. This interweb lynch mob mentality is shameful.

  22. #22 |  David | 

    When a cop has a man with a smoking gun and a dead body and can’t find the evidence necessary to charge, that ought to tell you something.

    Usually it tells me that the person holding the smoking gun was another cop. That’s why this case is so interesting (and why I’m looking forward to seeing what Radley has to say) – it’s a familiar dynamic, but with what could be a very important twist.

  23. #23 |  Brandon | 

    I think the reason it’s gotten so much play is the “Young black man murdered by racist 2nd amendment freak which proves that only government agents should have guns, knives or heavy objects” angle that so many outlets have been pushing.

  24. #24 |  Onlooker | 

    Radley

    I just assumed that because this case was being covered EVERYWHERE else you didn’t feel the need to do so too; for whatever reasons, from being busy elsewise to not having anything to add. No big deal.

    And I find it amazing that there are those who would write you to demand you comment, or accuse you of something. F ‘em, I say.

  25. #25 |  Mike T | 

    As a supporter of a restored common law posse comitatus system (law enforcement equivalent of the militia for those who don’t want to google it), I have no problem with neighborhood watches literally acting like police including arresting people and sending them to the Sheriff. The real problem is that police powers were exercised with no discernible probable cause.

  26. #26 |  Radley Balko | 

    And Radley, I am ashamed of you. Here you are, Mr. Civil Liberties, and you are calling for the cops to arrest someone who they don’t have probable cause to arrest! Have you taken leave of your senses? In the USA, we don’t arrest people for crimes we don’t have probable cause to suspect them of. We investigate and determine what really happened, and if it turns out that the evidence is sufficient to charge the shooter, then you charge him.

    There’s plenty of reason to think the cops didn’t find probable cause for an arrest because they didn’t want to. They didn’t bother to check Martin’s cell phone, for example. One witness says they pressured her to change her story. It’s pretty clear they didn’t listen to the 911 call, in which Zimmerman says he was following Martin, even though the dispatcher told him not to. It now looks as if he used a racial slur on the recording. He was armed. He outweighed the kid by more than 100 pounds. Martin was unarmed. People who know Zimmerman say he had a vigilante streak in him. He had a criminal record. Martin did not. The police initially said Zimmerman was “squeaky clean,” indicating that they hadn’t even checked his record.

    Sorry, but all of that doesn’t add up. I’m not saying he should be charged based on the evidence police cataloged. I’m saying from what we now know, it seems pretty clear he provoked a confrontation that ended with him killing an unarmed kid. If there’s more stuff to discover that contradicts that, well then let’s find it and consider it. The most troubling thing here is just how little the police investigated, and how ready they were to believe Zimmerman.

  27. #27 |  dsmallwood | 

    do we have any defense attorneys here?

    i’d like to know what the definition of self defense is in Florida. in my opinion, there is a big difference between being afraid and defending yourself. i see big scary people all the time. they intimidate me. so i get a gun and then i fire it. when can i say it was self defense and when am i just scared?

  28. #28 |  Tom | 

    What is troubling to me is that Martin may be a victim not of a murder or manslaughter but of the “stand your ground” law. The local police clearly did not think Zimmerman was in violation of the law. State’s Attorney Wolfinger is referring the incident to a grand jury that convenes in April, instead of directly pressing charges. Could it be that they agree with the police assessment of the facts and law, but want a political out? Martin’s killing is an outrage, but the question is what should be the target of our outrage. Zimmerman or the law that justifies Martin’s homicide?

  29. #29 |  Kid Handsome | 

    Can someone point me to the evidence of the racial slur? If it’s the recording I heard, then . . . I really don’t think it was.

  30. #30 |  Zargon | 

    Here’s what we know

    NOTHING

    Really?

    We know lots of things. We know that kid’s dead. We know what was said on the 911 call. From that we know Zimmerman followed the kid and chased him after he started running away. I’m sure we know plenty more things that I haven’t listed here, because I’ve only given this a brief look.

    Even the very most favorable narrative given the above involves Zimmerman following and then chasing a kid who’s done nothing wrong, which is how the whole thing started. If Zimmerman was then attacked, that may have been poor judgement on Martin’s part, but the confrontation was still initiated by Zimmerman, and so cannot walk away faultless. And that’s the best possible narrative for Zimmerman.

    I’m sick and tired of people trotting out the “we don’t know everything so we must believe X’s story/not pass judgement”. We don’t know everything != we know nothing.

    If it turns out that he committed a crime, he’ll be punished.

    Which world are you living in? I’d like to move there.

  31. #31 |  Tom | 

    “People need to get that through their thick skulls. The cops were on scene and catalogued the evidence. They determined that there was not enough evidence to show probable cause that a crime was committed.”

    On other thing that troubles me is that the shooting is so similar to what the cops can get away with that they may have been reluctant to fully investigate Zimmerman for fear of a conviction would set a precedent that may later apply to them. I hope the outside investigations are thorough and are made public.

  32. #32 |  Comrade Dread | 

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/03/stand-your-ground-and-vigilante-justice/254900/

    Ta-Nehisi Coates provides a few examples, where they’re having this same debate:

    Greyston Garcia was charged with second-degree murder in the slaying of Pedro Roteta, 26, whom he chased for more than a block before stabbing the man. …According to police, Roteta was stealing Garcia’s truck radio. Garcia, alerted by a roommate, grabbed a large knife and ran downstairs. He chased Roteta, then stabbed him in a confrontation that lasted less than a minute, according to court documents. The stabbing was caught on video… After initially denying involvement in the man’s death, Garcia admitted to homicide detectives that he attacked Roteta even though “he actually never saw a weapon.” Garcia claimed Roteta made a move that he interpreted as a move to stab him — so he struck first.

    Yesterday the judge tossed the case against Garcia. The investigating officer was stunned…

    I’ve read about the gang shootout incident that was also dismissed as self-defense, but I don’t have the source on that…

    So, I won’t be surprised if:

    a.) Zimmerman gets away without charges for this.

    b.) Florida police departments and prosecutors, in general, become far less likely to spend much time or resources investigating homicides where the perpetrator claims self-defense because it seems likely that a judge or jury will dismiss the charges.

  33. #33 |  Kid Handsome | 

    1. My car gets scratched in a semi-private parking lot.

    2. I see someone in the parking lot and I have no evidence that he did anything wrong.

    3. I approach him and he flees, but I know where the quickest exit is, so I head over there and ask him what he’s doing there. I have no evidence he did anything wrong, but I confront him nonetheless.

    4. When I confront him, he gets pissed, perhaps rightfully, since he was not the one who scratched my car.

    5. He throws a punch at me, bloodies my nose, and knocks me down where I cut my head. He continues to come at me.

    6. I shoot him.

    7. It turns out that he had good reason to be there.

    Question 1. – even though I’m in the wrong (not legally, but in terms of actual correctness), was I entitled to stand my ground?

    Question 2. – if your answer was yes to question number one, was I still entitled to stand my ground even if I was a racist? (And someone is still going to have to prove to me that Zimmerman actually uttered a racial slur instead of just repeating it just because it makes the story better).

    Finally, Radley, per one of the articles linked in this comment, the police did not say he was “squeaky clean.” Rather, in a meeting with someone, a police representative said he presented himself as squeaky clean. I’m not certain that indicates that they didn’t look at his record – I would be surprised if they had not (and I detest most police), since they tend to look to arrest people more than to exonerate them.

  34. #34 |  Loren | 

    “Why didn’t those cases attract the attention Martin’s has?”

    Trayvon’s case has the ideal confluence of factors for mass appeal.

    - He was 17. While not a small kid, he’s young enough to be seen as an innocent when his killer is a grown man twice his size. And the photos of him make him look like a decent, pleasant teenager.

    - He was engaged in no criminal activity, and wasn’t even suspected of any. Like it or not, the public isn’t prone to rise up in outrage when the victim was killed in the course of a drug raid that found drugs. (This same factor allowed the Kathryn Johnston case to garner wide support.)

    - He was unarmed. And since the encounter took place outside, over the course of several minutes at least, there’s less excuse of confusion or momentary impulses that usually accompany raids.

    - Zimmerman wasn’t a cop. He’s just a seemingly paranoid middle-age guy with a gun. Who seems to have a history of making paranoid 911 calls about black people.

  35. #35 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    There’s plenty of reason to think the cops didn’t find probable cause for an arrest because they didn’t want to. They didn’t bother to check Martin’s cell phone, for example. One witness says they pressured her to change her story. It’s pretty clear they didn’t listen to the 911 call, in which Zimmerman says he was following Martin, even though the dispatcher told him not to. It now looks as if he used a racial slur on the recording. He was armed. He outweighed the kid by more than 100 pounds. Martin was unarmed. People who know Zimmerman say he had a vigilante streak in him. He had a criminal record. Martin did not. The police initially said Zimmerman was “squeaky clean,” indicating that they hadn’t even checked his record.
    Sorry, but all of that doesn’t add up. I’m not saying he should be charged based on the evidence police cataloged. I’m saying from what we now know, it seems pretty clear he provoked a confrontation that ended with him killing an unarmed kid. If there’s more stuff to discover that contradicts that, well then let’s find it and consider it. The most troubling thing here is just how little the police investigated, and how ready they were to believe Zimmerman.

    Radley,
    So you’re judging based upon a possible (but probably debunked) claim of “racial slurs?” Where did you get the weights? (hint, it’s not from the autopsy report, it hasn’t been released yet) Does a suggestion from a 911 operator have the force of law? Nothing that the shooter admits to doing violates the law. Neither does the law require you to absolutely avoid doing everything that might lead to someone attacking you in order to benefit from self defense law.

    Here’s where you make the most egregious mistake. The shooter was once arrested for assaulting a police officer. He was not convicted. Are you planning on condemning a man for an arrest without conviction? That’s not like you.

    You are basing your judgment on the info put out not by the cops, not by the defense, but by the family and the anti-gun industry. Do you really think that they know more than the cops on the scene? If the story smells funny, maybe you should check to see who’s making the biggest stink.

    Here’s a couple of questions that a seasoned investigator would ask. Why is the victim’s photo aged about 12? Why not a more recent photo? Would it show a much bigger person? Is there ANY evidence to show that the shooters claim that he was attacked while he was returning to his truck is wrong? That would be an easy judgment to make. Either he is near his truck or he is not.

    You should back up and regroup on this one. Until there is hard evidence one way or another, you should reserve judgment. That’s why we have a legal system, to prevent mob “justice.” This case hinges on who attacked who. If the victim attacked the shooter, then he brought it on himself. Given that the shooter was injured in the fight, no one can claim that it was a straight up murder. There is eyewitness testimony that the dead kid was on top, and the cops found the shooter to have grass stains on him. This might indicate that the shooter was losing the fight. He is not required to allow himself to be beaten to death rather than shooting to save his own life. If there is evidence that the shooter provoked the fight (following a suspicious person is not provocation) then he’s going to jail for this.

    Maybe we should wait until that settles out. I’d rather the situation resolved slowly and correctly rather than quick and wrong. I would hope that you would feel the same way.

  36. #36 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    Radley,
    So you’re judging based upon a possible (but probably debunked) claim of “racial slurs?” Where did you get the weights? (hint, it’s not from the autopsy report, it hasn’t been released yet) Does a suggestion from a 911 operator have the force of law? Nothing that the shooter admits to doing violates the law. Neither does the law require you to absolutely avoid doing everything that might lead to someone attacking you in order to benefit from self defense law.

    Here’s where you make the most egregious mistake. The shooter was once arrested for assaulting a police officer. He was not convicted. Are you planning on condemning a man for an arrest without conviction? That’s not like you.

    You are basing your judgment on the info put out not by the cops, not by the defense, but by the family and the anti-gun industry. Do you really think that they know more than the cops on the scene? If the story smells funny, maybe you should check to see who’s making the biggest stink.

    Here’s a couple of questions that a seasoned investigator would ask. Why is the victim’s photo aged about 12? Why not a more recent photo? Would it show a much bigger person? Is there ANY evidence to show that the shooters claim that he was attacked while he was returning to his truck is wrong? That would be an easy judgment to make. Either he is near his truck or he is not.

    You should back up and regroup on this one. Until there is hard evidence one way or another, you should reserve judgment. That’s why we have a legal system, to prevent mob “justice.” This case hinges on who attacked who. If the victim attacked the shooter, then he brought it on himself. Given that the shooter was injured in the fight, no one can claim that it was a straight up murder. There is eyewitness testimony that the dead kid was on top, and the cops found the shooter to have grass stains on him. This might indicate that the shooter was losing the fight. He is not required to allow himself to be beaten to death rather than shooting to save his own life. If there is evidence that the shooter provoked the fight (following a suspicious person is not provocation) then he’s going to jail for this.

    Maybe we should wait until that settles out. I’d rather the situation resolved slowly and correctly rather than quick and wrong. I would hope that you would feel the same way.

  37. #37 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    Whoops. please ignore comment #35. I unintentionally quoted Radley’s comment.

  38. #38 |  Benj | 

    He was minding his business walking down the street with candy and a drink and some nutjob blew him away. Its not like its a mystery.

    But, you can now kill cops in Indiana, so that should cut down on police raiding the wrong houses.

  39. #39 |  Comrade Dread | 

    You are basing your judgment on the info put out not by the cops, not by the defense, but by the family and the anti-gun industry. Do you really think that they know more than the cops on the scene? If the story smells funny, maybe you should check to see who’s making the biggest stink.

    Yeah, because the cops are never wrong. Never do a half-assed job. Are never influenced by other factors like racism. Never lie or distort the events that happened to make themselves look better or more competent. And never, ever try to make the victim of violence look bad.

    You can trust them completely.

  40. #40 |  Comrade Dread | 

    In fact, since we can trust cops to do the right thing all the time, Sean. We might as well just give up our guns now since we won’t ever need them.

  41. #41 |  Comrade Dread | 

    Question 1. – even though I’m in the wrong (not legally, but in terms of actual correctness), was I entitled to stand my ground?

    Yes. You escalated a situation that did not need to be escalated.

    If you’re absolutely convinced he was the man, take a picture with your cell phone. Call the cops. Be a little vindictive ass and go online and rant about how some jerk in X’s parking lot driving a <Make/Model/Color) car scratched up your car and ask people to show the same level of appreciation for his car.

    You escalate the situation, you deserve some portion of blame for the end result.

    Hell, the guy could be armed himself and might consider you a threat and you could end up dead. And he'd probably walk (and maybe justifiably so) since you confronted him and were armed.

  42. #42 |  James J.B. | 

    Why has it blown up, when other stories haven’t:

    1. The media, as an arm of the state,loves to scare everyone away from antiquated ideas of self defense by citizens (not the case here but why do facts matter to the press)
    2. Gun use by, gasp, a citizen. Again, not proper gun use but facts damned facts.
    3. It can be twisted to the standard “we should trust only the cops” while ignoring the legion of cases, including this one, where the cops were wrong (looks that way – I don’t know enough about the case.
    4. The press can bash the stand your ground law, see #1
    I welcome more

  43. #43 |  Red_anonymous | 

    Radley,

    Did you notice that in every single one of the links you provided, the story was about police committing the injustice? A lot of libertarians see racism only when police is involved, but seem to dismiss it when companies or individuals are behind it (many libertarians see no racism in the wage gap and hiring practices that disadvantage blacks).

    I might be wrong about you, I’m a recent follower of your blog and don’t know where you stand on every single issue out there… But had the shooter been a cop, would you have remained silent about it?

  44. #44 |  David | 

    Sean, are you really going with “cops said it, it must be true”? Here?

  45. #45 |  Fascist Nation | 

    For the sake of argument let us say Trayvon is white. Does it make a difference in how Zimmerman would have been handled? Or how he should have been handled?

    Personally, I thing the real question is who is Zimmerman’s handler?

  46. #46 |  bear | 

    Great thread! Didn’t email, but definitely interested in your commentary Rad.

    Huge fan of castle and no duty to retreat doctrines, not so keen on preventetive stalking and executing…without commentary on what happened here. LEO incompetence is naturally a given for any logical human, as is sceptism from any and all grieivance industry syncophant. These competing issues need to mature out a bit yet, imho.

    Honestly the best thing I got from this thread, and am embarrassed if I’d missed it previously (I suspected and hoped indeed) is:

    (2) I’m writing a book. …

    Sweee farging zatch!

    -bear

  47. #47 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    David, are you really going with “if he didn’t get arrested, then the cops must have decided to take it easy on random dude with a gun” are you?

    ’cause that’s not even remotely possible. Here’s an idea. Take a gun, shoot someone, claim self defense and see if the cops arrest you. You can send us mail from prison confirming to us that, yes, cops will basically arrest anyone if they think they can get away with it.

    Since arrest first, ask questions later, is the standard police practice pretty much everywhere, we can make a few simple deductions. First, the self defense claim must have been pretty compelling. And second, the cops couldn’t find anything they could twist into probable cause if they squinted at it hard enough.

    Again, maybe everyone should stop pretending that they know more than the people who are actually investigating the crime and wait until a court hears the evidence, or a Grand Jury declines to indict.

    You don’t know what happened. Railroading the guy because he was armed and the dead kid wasn’t shows only that you don’t know the law either.

  48. #48 |  Kid Handsome | 

    #41 “Yes. You escalated a situation that did not need to be escalated.”

    That’s an awfully broad standard. I’m not certain it’s reasonable. In fact, I think that’s so subjective as to be absolutely useless as criteria for assessing any situation . . . at all.

  49. #49 |  Matthew Brown | 

    Sean, I think I and probably others take a different view, because we’ve seen cases where someone who is absolutely and totally in the right — with a very strong self-defence claim indeed — get arrested and charged. Sometimes the charges get dropped, sometimes that person has to go to court to get exonerated. And sometimes they get convicted anyway.

    So, no, I have no degree of belief that having a good self-defence case makes any difference, so Zimmerman’s not being charged speaks to me of police bias, not that he has a good case.

    Especially since we have a constant stream of just that bias being shown: to police officers. Police officers do not get arrested very often for even blatantly bad shootings, even off duty ones.

  50. #50 |  Leonson | 

    Yeah, I’m reserving judgment on this one as well.

    Why was the victim in this cutting through a gated community? That’s just one of the questions for which I haven’t seen a good answer.

    Yes, Zimmerman was probably overzealous, but they did say there have been multiple break-ins in his neighborhood.

    At this point I need an objective source to cover the facts, as I’m not trusting most of what I’ve received from either the police or the family.

  51. #51 |  TFG | 

    Off the top of my head, in Florida alone we could consider the cases of Rachel Hoffman, Isaac Singletary, Nick Christie, Tyler Spann, and Anthony Diotaiuto. I’m sure if I dug through the archives, I could find others. Why didn’t those cases attract the attention Martin’s has?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but based on my brief Google searching, none of these other victims you list here were African-American.

    Interesting, no?

  52. #52 |  David | 

    Why was the victim in this cutting through a gated community? That’s just one of the questions for which I haven’t seen a good answer.

    That tells me you haven’t looked very hard. His father, with whom he was staying, lives there.

  53. #53 |  latinist | 

    Yeah, I don’t think there’s much mystery about why this case is getting so much attention. It’s pretty clear-cut; Zimmerman’s not a cop (or even an “official” Neighborhood watch); the victim is a kid; the victim had no criminal record; the victim was killed with a gun (as opposed to, e.g., that example where pepper spray proved fatal, which makes it seems like it wasn’t intended to kill him); not a lot of facts in dispute (aside from the racial slur, which isn’t really very central).

    So Martin is a victim who’s hard to blame (as opposed to a drug dealer or criminal suspect), and Zimmerman is a relatively soft target (as opposed to a twelve-million-times-decorated hero cop who protects us all as we sleep). I don’t think there’s more to it than that.

  54. #54 |  Aresen | 

    Like most people, I have a quick take on the case: In my case, that is that the shooting was unjustified.

    But I haven’t bothered to read everything about it for the simple reason that, like most outrages-of-the-day, it has been covered from every possible angle and with so much sharptonism*, ** that there is no point in trying to sort it all out.

    *”sharptonism”: My neologism for judgemental pronouncements based on little evidence that are intended to incite outrage.

    **From what I can see, there is a lot of sharptonism on both sides.

  55. #55 |  Sam | 

    Leonson,

    You’re not being serious, right? His father lives there. He wasn’t “cutting through” the neighborhood so much as staying with his father after having made a run to a convenience store.

  56. #56 |  Comrade Dread | 

    Not particularly. In the above event, you escalate the situation at least twice, possibly three times.

    Once by pursuing and confronting a man without evidence that he harmed you or your property.

    There is the possibility that you escalated it further depending on the conversation you had and his reply. I imagine it would be something like this:

    You: You damaged my car! You’re going to pay to have it fixed.”
    Guy: I don’t know what you’re talking about. Shove off. (He tries to get by you.)
    You: You’re not going anywhere. (You try to block him or physically detain him.)

    The third time is after he punches you and approaches you. You shoot him. You don’t draw your weapon and warn him to back off. You simply shoot him dead.

    The first time, you can argue, is legitimate, if ill-advised. The second time you are now employing force and violating his civil rights. (Note: by your standard and the law, if he were armed and felt threatened by you, he could kill you here.)

    The third time, you take his life without warning.

    At the very least, you deserve to be charged with manslaughter, wrongful imprisonment, and probably a few other charges.

  57. #57 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    Does a suggestion from a 911 operator have the force of law?

    No, but it speaks to reasonableness which is one of the elements of a self defense claim. It’s harder to claim something was reasonable when you sought the advice of a trained expert and then chose to ignore that advice.

  58. #58 |  SJE | 

    Well said Radley. Basically, you are being a thorough and honest journalist, not just spouting off whatever opinion you have.

  59. #59 |  ClubMedSux | 

    I think people are conflating two issues here… The first is what level of evidence is required to arrest somebody, and the second is equal protection under the law. The first is examined by considering whether there was sufficient evidence to arrest Zimmerman. The second is examined by considering whether the decision not to arrest him was motivated by a factor such as race. Both issues are distinct, and one can express concern about the equal protection issue without suggesting that the bar should be lowered for when we arrest people.

    That being said, I suppose one’s feelings are shaped by whose shoes you imagine yourself in. If you are a gun-owner who envisions defending yourself, you will likely be more concerned about the ramifications of doing so and what evidence is required to be arrested. If you are a minority (especially one with kids) you may be more concerned about not being offered the protection that others get should you or a loved one be a victim of a crime. Personally, I think you can, and should, be concerned with both.

  60. #60 |  Zargon | 

    (following a suspicious person is not provocation)

    I agree.

    What about chasing him down after he tries to run away? I’d say that’s quite a bit more problematic, as one party is very clearly trying to avoid a confrontation, and the other is trying to force it.

  61. #61 |  Sertorius | 

    Count me as one of the people who is not convinced (yet) that a great miscarriage of justice is occurring.

    I agree that Zimmerman following Martin was poor judgment. But it was lawful. It is lawful to follow someone you believe is suspicious. It is lawful to ask such a person questions, or try to determine what they are up to (of course, they don’t have to answer or cooperate).

    The fact that Zimmerman was injured and bleeding seems to have almost disappeared from the news articles. Unless you believe Zimmerman faked them, it means Martin injured him. And unless you believe Martin was such an idiot he attacked a man with a gun, it means Martin inflicted these injuries before Zimmerman drew his weapon.

    The media has also entirely dropped the inquiry into what merited a 10-day suspension for Martin. In most schools, that’s the maximum penalty short of expulsion, and is often, but not always, handed out for fighting.

    Radley – the dispatcher did not “[tell] him not to.” The dispatcher said “We don’t need you to do that.” Those are two very different things. It also bugs me that you are so quick, in this case, to throw Zimmerman under the bus for having a “criminal record.” The charge was dismissed.

    I think we are pretty far away from having a firm idea what happened here, and like a few other commenters, it bothers me people seem so quick to condemn.

  62. #62 |  Ben | 

    #33 – No, I don’t believe you should be able to claim stand-your-ground defense in that situation. YOU are the one who initiated violence (Blocking the only exit is false imprisonment, which most people would consider an act of violence). If it then escalates to physical blows, that is YOUR fault.

  63. #63 |  Comrade Dread | 

    It is lawful to ask such a person questions, or try to determine what they are up to (of course, they don’t have to answer or cooperate).

    At which point, it’s resistance and you can apparently shoot them.

  64. #64 |  Comrade Dread | 

    So the question I’d like to counter-pose to folks who seem to think this was justified is, How would you feel if Zimmerman was a cop?

    What if an off duty (or non-uniformed) cop approached a teen without identifying himself or asking questions and then pursued the kid forcing a physical confrontation (all still without cause, mind you) and then shot the kid for resisting?

    Would you still say that was perfectly fine and legimate?

  65. #65 |  JLA | 

    “The media has also entirely dropped the inquiry into what merited a 10-day suspension for Martin. In most schools, that’s the maximum penalty short of expulsion, and is often, but not always, handed out for fighting.”

    He was not suspended ten days, he was suspended five days. And it was not for fighting it was for excessive tardiness.

    And I actually have a link:

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/os-trayvon-martin-shooting-tension-20120317,0,3347110.story

    Here’s the relevant part from the link:

    ‘ Trayvon was under a five-day suspension when he was shot that Sunday night, but Kypriss said it was due to tardiness and not misbehavior.

    “Trayvon was not a violent or dangerous child. He was not known for misbehaving,” the teacher said. “He was suspended because he was late too many times.” ‘

  66. #66 |  Astra | 

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but based on my brief Google searching, none of these other victims you list here were African-American.

    Interesting, no?

    You new around here, TFG? Ever heard of Cory Maye? Sheesh.

  67. #67 |  Andrew S. | 

    By any definition of self defense, you are not entitled to use deadly force in self defense if you are the initial aggressor (unless you withdraw or the other person substantially escalates the force; but in either case, you’d better be damned sure that you’re right).

    I don’t know if Zimmerman is guilty or not. For me, the evidence that’s been presented certainly suggests his guilt. But that’s not the issue. The issue is whether the police department has conducted a thorough, free, and fair investigation of the matter. And the answer to that one seems to be a pretty obvious “no”.

  68. #68 |  Sertorius | 

    @JLA: Thanks for the link. Glad the Tribune followed up.

    @Dread: Speaking only for myself, I do not believe Zimmerman was “justified” in shooting Martin. I believe I don’t have enough information to make that decision.

  69. #69 |  Kid Handsome | 

    #55 As is likely true in the instant case, you’ve imagined a set of facts that is not present. In my scenario, there was never an accusation of damage, merely a party who was questioning someone’s presence in the semi-private lot.

    There is nothing illegal about asking someone why they are in the lot (or gated community). It may be obnoxious, but it isn’t necessarily “escalation*” either. Sometimes, it’s welcome.

    As I said, your definition of “escalation” appears to be the taking of any action that causes people to actually interact in a way that one person might not like.

  70. #70 |  Brian | 

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but based on my brief Google searching, none of these other victims you list here were African-American.

    Interesting, no?

    @TFG: Of course you’re both wrong and incompetent apparently. Even a brief Google search would have shown that Isaac Singletary was indeed African-American.

    Before you do something as cowardly as passively accusing someone of racism with your silly little “interesting, no?” attempt at rhetorical sophistication (didn’t have the guts to come out and say it?) you might want to spend more than a brief Google search (which you couldn’t even accomplish successfully) and actually read some of the work Balko has done over the years. Had you done so you would realize how shamefully embarrassed you should be to have left such an ignorant comment.

  71. #71 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    #67, Exactly correct. We don’t have enough info to make a judgement.

    #59 What about chasing him down after he tries to run away? I’d say that’s quite a bit more problematic, as one party is very clearly trying to avoid a confrontation, and the other is trying to force it.

    except that is not what is claimed. The shooter claims he was only out of his truck to check a street sign, he had lost sight of the kid, and was returning to his truck when he was attacked.

    That’s the critical point. If that’s what happened, then the shooter is completely justified. An unprovoked attack taking him to the ground with his attacker on top of him is pure self defense.

    If the physical evidence can refute that claim, then the shooter is going to jail.

    That’s it, cut and dried.

    I know that you are all weaned on cop dramas where the case is solved within an hour with time to spare for a moral and handshakes all around, but in real life it takes a couple of days for an autopsy. Lots can be determined from that autopsy, not least the relative size of the dead kid. He was estimated by the cop to have been 160 lbs, but the coroner will weigh him. The coroner will also be able to tell if the gunshot was taken from extremely close range, and at what angle. If the gunshot was through and through, they might be able to recover the bullet and determine if the two were in the position the shooter claims they were in. The coroner will be able to determine if there are injuries consistent with a fight. The shooter claims he was hit. Are there skinned knuckles on the kid? Are there defensive wounds indicating he was getting hit?

    None of this info is known to us at this point. We need to wait until it is available, and more to the point, the police in Florida need to wait until it is available before they can file charges, if any are warranted.

  72. #72 |  Dana Gower | 

    I haven’t read all the comments. Pardons if this has already been mentioned:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/xblog/2012/03/22/sanford-police-chief-steps-down/

  73. #73 |  Zargon | 

    except that is not what is claimed. The shooter claims he was only out of his truck to check a street sign, he had lost sight of the kid, and was returning to his truck when he was attacked.

    I don’t know who claims what, but I’m referring to this from the 911 call:

    “Shit, he’s running,” Zimmerman says.

    “Are you following him?” the dispatcher asks.

    “Yes,” Zimmerman responds.

    From here:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/16/trayvon-martin-911-audio-_n_1354909.html

  74. #74 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    #72 Here you go.

    “Zimmerman’s statement was that he had lost sight of Trayvon and was returning to his truck to meet the police officer when he says he was attacked by Trayvon.”

    http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/21/sanford-florida-police-answer-questions-about-teens-shooting-death/

  75. #75 |  GeneralGarbage | 

    Why does it not surprise me that there is so much empathy for overweight, middle aged, gun nuts with racist vigilante fantasies in the libertarian community?

  76. #76 |  David | 

    Point of order: Zimmerman is 28.

  77. #77 |  Chris | 

    Sean Sorrentino: It isn’t enough that Zimmerman prove Martin attacked him. Zimmerman must demonstrate that he reasonably believed that Martin intended to kill or cause serious bodily harm. A tussle involving a bloodied nose and grass stains does not necessarily rise to that standard, even if we take Zimmerman’s account at face value.

    Zimmerman’s defense is affirmative—the burden of proof is on him—and the the most salient witness who could challenge Zimmerman’s account is dead as a result of Zimmerman’s actions. I don’t think Zimmerman should be condemned in the media, but I do find it odd that many observers think that Zimmerman should not even have to demonstrate in court that he was justified in killing Martin.

    I wonder if the cry for help immediately before the shooting can be forensically identified as coming from Zimmerman or Martin. I don’t see how Zimmerman could maintain his defense if it can be shown that the cry was from Martin, whereas if it was from Zimmerman it substantially bolsters his defense.

  78. #78 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    #13 | Matt I.

    This isn’t just about “suburban moms”. From what I’ve seen, black people in general worry about black men getting killed by white police. Zimmerman is admittedly an edge case (self-appointed police and Hispanic), but close enough to matter.

  79. #79 |  PeeDub | 

    @GeneralGarbage

    I can understand how a measured look at the facts and the applicable laws can seem like empathy. It’s why we’re also empathetic to … well, pretty much every other demographic.

    Except cops. And Belgians.

  80. #80 |  Ben | 

    @Sean D Sorrentino –

    You seem to be saying that unless there is evidence to disprove what the shooter said, then we have to believe him. That is most certainly not the case. As has already been stated by someone else, self-defense is an affirmative defense, the burden of proof is on the defendant. We do not have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  81. #81 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    #76, this is wrong on a couple of counts. First, a sudden attack without warning is considered a deadly force attack pretty much everywhere. Secondly, you don’t know where that “tussle” would have ended, nor can you reasonably expect the shooter to know that. He is not required to sustain major injury from an unknown person before he is allowed to use deadly force. Also, the defense is NOT affirmative. The case can’t even get into court until the police can offer a rebuttal to his claim of self defense. The burden of proof is on the State to show that the shooter did not reasonably believe that he was in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.

    You imagine that a little punch up is all that was going on. This is an unwarranted assumption without basis. The fact is that we don’t know. We can’t chuck the shooter in jail if we can’t prove that a crime was committed and that he committed it.

  82. #82 |  Zargon | 

    “Zimmerman’s statement was that he had lost sight of Trayvon and was returning to his truck to meet the police officer when he says he was attacked by Trayvon.”

    Talk is cheap. The evidence (the recorded 911 call) shows that he chased the kid. I suppose it’s possible that Martin ran away from Zimmerman, Zimmerman chased but lost Martin, and then Martin went back and attacked Zimmerman right he after successfully ran away, but doesn’t that sound at all contrived to you?

    I wouldn’t throw a guy in prison on that discrepancy alone, but that sounds like a story if I’ve ever heard one.

  83. #83 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    #79. Yes we do have to give him the benefit of the doubt. That’s the whole point of Castle laws in the first place. They return the burden of proof to the State to prove a crime was committed and that the defendant committed it. I wouldn’t have thought that this was a serious contention in light of the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments.

  84. #84 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    #81: It doesn’t matter what we THINK happened, it matters what really happened. And it matters what can be proved.

    Give the prosecutors, cops, and medical examiner time to come up with hard facts. The truth will out. And if it doesn’t, it’s not up to us to punish him anyway.

  85. #85 |  Andrew S. | 

    Sean, why are you here? I’m really curious. What brought you to Radley’s blog? Because you certainly seem to have a belief that since the police are saying things, they must be telling the truth and they must be absolutely correct — something that nobody who reads this blog on a regular basis would actually believe.

    Nobody’s saying that Zimmerman should be strung up immediately. We are saying that there needs to be a full and fair investigation, and that given the facts that already exist, that investigation would likely lead to the arrest and prosecution of Mr. Zimmerman. And we’re saying that, despite what the police are saying, there’s no way in hell that’s occurred to this point.

  86. #86 |  Chris | 

    Sean: I didn’t claim a “little punch up was all that was going on.” I said, rather, that a tussle which would not give Zimmerman legal cause to use lethal force could generate evidence such as a bloodied nose and grass stains, therefore, the bloodied nose and grass stains are not sufficient to legally justify Zimmerman’s actions. I don’t know what was going on, and neither do you: we differ in that I think Zimmerman should have to demonstrate in court that he was justified in killing Martin.

    I don’t believe your claim that any “sudden attack” is necessarily considered deadly force. Are you suggesting, for example, that in Florida if I were to punch you for insulting my wife, you could draw a pistol and legally kill me in response? What if didn’t punch you, but rather slapped you, or gave you a gentle shove? These are all “sudden attacks.”

    In most jurisdictions, anyways, self-defense an affirmative defense. It’s such an obvious example of an affirmative defense that Wikipedia lists it as the first and only example in the introductory paragraph to the topic of affirmative defenses:

    [i]A defendant offers an affirmative defense when responding to a plaintiff’s claim if the defendant affirms part of the plaintiff’s claim, and offers additional information that mitigates or justifies defendant’s conduct. An example of an affirmative defense is self defense.[/i]

    If Florida law has jettisoned this provision of common law, it really does seem to be the case that anyone can kill with impunity in Florida by merely waiting until there are no witnesses and claim self-defense.

  87. #87 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    #84,
    Oh, so I can’t be here if I don’t automatically assume that the cops are lying? That’s rich. I read this blog every day, and have since the Corey Maye incident first got reported here.

    I carry a gun. I have to know the laws. Failure to abide by those laws means I end up in prison because the cops WILL arrest me and I WILL get prosecuted. Cops will not give you the benefit of the doubt, ever, if they can help it, so when I see that they didn’t chuck dude in jail immediately like the Iowa cops did to Jay Rodney Lewis

    http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20120224/NEWS01/302240017?fb_ref=artsharetop&fb_source=profile_multiline

    then I kind of assume that they just don’t have the evidence needed to run him in, because the alternative explanation is either they are motivated some sort of racism and let the Hispanic guy off for killing the black dude, or that they are just too lazy to look for inconsistencies with the story given to them. This is possible, but pretty unlikely. An arrest is an arrest, and a guy in jail rarely comes back to haunt a police officer.

    If you carry a gun, the cops will arrest you if you use it unless you get VERY lucky. This is drilled into us from day one in concealed carry. You will go to jail, have to post bond (if they offer it and you can afford it) and it will cost you at least $5,000 in legal fees just to get let off at the Grand Jury stage.

    This story didn’t fit that pattern. That indicates that either a meteor struck, or they just didn’t find anything to indicate that he was lying, and couldn’t even fabricate something among themselves that would serve to cover their asses in a false arrest civil rights case. Given how unlikely anyone is to prevail in that sort of suit when they’ve just shot someone, the cops could feel perfectly safe arresting him on the thinnest of excuses.

    And no one’s saying he should be strung up immediately? I refer you to the original post

    “Yes, I think the story is an outrage. I think the police who did such a sloppy/indifferent investigation of Zimmerman ought to be fired. I think Zimmerman should be charged, though I don’t know that we have enough solid details for me to have an opinion on whether it ought to be second-degree murder or something more like manslaughter. ”

    So Radley, with no evidence, declares that the investigation which is not yet complete is flawed and the shooter should be arrested with no evidence. This, from the person who is primarily responsible for the uproar that freed Corey Maye, is outrageous.

  88. #88 |  picachu | 

    87, ESPECIALLY Belgians!

  89. #89 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    #85:
    the sort of “sudden attack” I am talking about is when the victim has no warning and is attacked unawares with enough force to cause injury. That is always considered to be a deadly force attack because the law cannot require you to stop and consider what is going on during an attack like that. Slapping someone or punching them face to face can not be considered the same thing.

    In either case, if you knock me down, climb on top of me, and start wailing away on me to the point that I reasonably believe that you are going to cause me serious injury or death, I can certainly shoot you.

    As for Florida “jettisoning” the belief that you should have to prove your innocence, maybe you need to refer to the source documents. It is wrong to demand that a person prove his innocence. The State needs to prove their case against him.

  90. #90 |  Jozef | 

    Damn, I’m coming too late to the party, and I didn’t read all the posts, so I may be stating the obvious at this point: This shooting has not been a big deal, at least statistically. Since passing the Stand Your Ground law in Florida, the number of justifiable homicides went up from around 35 per year to 100. This is data from 2007-2010. So at the very least, there are 260 documented deaths resulting from this law; assuming the same trend in 2011 and 2012, the number is now over 300. However, this is the first time I’ve seen outrage outside the state.

    I’ve been keeping an eye on the law ever since the Brady Campaign handed out leaflets to tourists on Miami and Orlando airports, warning them against threatening behavior. At that time, I saw Jeb Bush’s knee-jerking as a First Amendment issue. Over time, I noticed a few local outrage stories (like the guy shot into coma for being drunk and trying to open the door to the wrong house), but was surprised to see this “non-story” (in context of the damage the law has already done) gaining so much traction. I guess it arrived into the perfect storm of social media, in particular Reddit, which has been buzzing about it for days now.

  91. #91 |  Sam | 

    1. Hispanic isn’t a race.

    2. Referencing a “Castle” law only really matters if that’s where you are: your castle. If you’re driving around the neighborhood, you’re not defending your castle.

  92. #92 |  Comrade Dread | 

    I think the lesson here, kids, is that if you live in Florida, get a gun, a concealed carry permit, and start learning how to quick draw, so you’ll be the one left standing whose story we must believe.

  93. #93 |  Radley Balko | 

    Why does it not surprise me that there is so much empathy for overweight, middle aged, gun nuts with racist vigilante fantasies in the libertarian community?

    There is? I see one guy defending him here. At most, others are saying he deserves due process. Also not sure what his weight has to do with it.

    Just for comparison, last summer, you could just as easily have written something like this:

    “Why am I not surprised that there’s so much sympathy for an unemployed, pot-smoking, cop-killing, unwed black father of two in the libertarian community?”

  94. #94 |  David | 

    If Florida law has jettisoned this provision of common law, it really does seem to be the case that anyone can kill with impunity in Florida by merely waiting until there are no witnesses and claim self-defense.
    That seems to be the argument. It doesn’t matter if there’s incontrovertible proof of the shooter’s identity and that the shooter was the one who initiated contact with the victim. It’s not even enough to prove that the victim was unarmed or otherwise not a threat. Per the stabbing story linked above, it’s not even enough to show that a reasonable person wouldn’t have considered their life in danger in that situation. You have to prove that the suspect didn’t feel threatened, or it’s not even worth bringing charges? That’s insane.

    If this case does get dropped (or just not prosecuted in the first place) due to SYG I really wonder if we’re headed for litigation on the claim that the law is somehow unconstitutional – maybe a due process argument.

  95. #95 |  Chris | 

    Sean: “Oh, so I can’t be here if I don’t automatically assume that the cops are lying?” You seem to consistently misstate other people’s arguments. No one said we should “automatically assume cops are lying.” Rather, we should not assume that cops are telling the truth.

    You said any “sudden attack” is “considered a deadly force attack.” We agree that is not true, for example, if I “suddenly attack” you by punching you in the face, that does not justify deadly force in response. It might bloody your nose, though, so we should agree that the physical evidence that Zimmerman was hit by Martin is not sufficient to demonstrate that Zimmerman’s actions were legal.

    The question does not hinge on whether Martin attacked Zimmerman, because Martin could have attacked Zimmerman but not attacked him forcefully enough that a reasonable person would fear for his life. You assume what is in question when you posit that Zimmerman “reasonably believed that [Martin was] going to cause [Zimmerman] serious injury or death.”

    It is misleading to describe an affirmative defense as requiring the defendant to “prove his innocence.” Zimmerman admits he killed Martin, and the state could presumably demonstrate that Zimmerman committed homicide in court, in part based on Zimmerman’s own statements. What is at issue is not whether a homicide occurred or who committed it, it’s whether the homicide was justifiable. In most jurisdictions, anyways, the burden of proof falls on Zimmerman to demonstrate that affirmative defense.

  96. #96 |  ken | 

    “So at the very least, there are 260 documented deaths resulting from this law”

    Did the deaths ‘result from the law’ or are cases that once would have been ruled unjustified now being accepted as legitimate self defense?

    It would be interesting to see if there is a statistically significant increase in total homicides accompanying the new law.

  97. #97 |  zendingo | 

    Sean D Sorrentino,

    i’m at a bit of loss… trayvon martin was on the phone with a friend at the time he was attacked. what she heard through the telephone completely contradicts what zimmerman has claimed. WTF am i thinking, the 911 tapes contradict what zimmerman says….

    were you aware that trayvon was on the his cell phone with a friend when he was attacked?
    she verifies that zimmerman was the aggressor; what are your thoughts on this?

    should we be investigating this at all?

    did the police follow SOP when securing the crime scene? (hint: they did not)

    if SOP was not followed then how can we be sure the police were correct in allowing zimmerman to go free?

    lastly, if the police were correct in letting zimmerman go free, why did author of the law that zimmerman is citing in his defense, Sen. Durell Peaden, say that the stand your ground law would not apply to zimmermans actions?

  98. #98 |  Kind Bud | 

    Radley, the correct answer to your question;

    Why didn’t those cases attract the attention Martin’s has?

    Is:

    The existence of the 911 tapes.

    These cases you suggest as possible outrages are all killing by cop. In those cashes there is no reason for the perps to call for instructions/cover.

    If we could magically recreate the conversations between detectives and Rachel before they sent her out to die, or the jailers among themselves as Nick struggled and collapsed, there would be just as much outrage.

    Bud

  99. #99 |  marta | 

    I’m the mother of a black boy who is wicked smart and fearless and has a hair-trigger temper. I know I’m a super small sample, and I have no idea why other folks are especially moved by this case, but as for me, this story totally freaks me out.

  100. #100 |  marta | 

    But I’d really love to know Radley’s theory. (Also: Radley a racist? That is absurd. Do people even read you? Sheesh.)

  101. #101 |  CSD | 

    The question I have is if George Zimmerman does not receive punishment under Florida law because he felt threatened where does that leave the prosecution if he is ever killed in the state of Florida with the current law on the books? How could a jury reasonably say that an individual is not justified in feeling threatened if George Zimmerman approached them? I sure as hell would feel threatened.

  102. #102 |  nigmalg | 

    Jozef:

    “260 documented deaths resulting from this law…in context of the damage the law has already done”

    What damage already done? Do you have anything to suggest what part of those 260 incidents of homicide weren’t in some way legitimate? How many of those were clear cases of self defense vs. abuses of the defense? You can’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

    All this buzz is a concoction consisting of 90% ignorance of the law and 10% justifiable upset. Throw in some anti-gun propaganda and frothy mouthed soccer moms and you have a story.

    Chris: You owe nobody a “tussle”. Life isn’t the UFC. The first violent aggressor opens up the risk of receiving an effective response. Having said that, you don’t shoot a girl scout trying to bully you into buying cookies. But if the person attacking you is capable of rendering you unconscious, or stomping on your head when you pass out, the “tussle” becomes a bit more serious.

    The primary question is who initiated the violent action. The Florida law will not stand behind someone who instigated the violent encounter.

  103. #103 |  nigmalg | 

    Chris,

    Also to clarify, I’m sure you agree that self defense is entirely situationally dependent. There are instances where a disparity of force might come into play. Groups vs. one, young vs. old, large vs. small, etc.. Perhaps the victim felt they will lose control of their weapon in a unprovoked fight and have it taken from them.

    Regardless, In Florida, the burden to prove the situation did not rise to the level of deadly force is to given to the State.

    The police may have royally screwed the pooch by not investigating the scene seriously. But this is a failure of the investigating agency, not necessarily the law. Unless of course you feel the burden _should_ be an affirmative defense of the “perp”, in which case an interesting dialog can be shared on that topic.

  104. #104 |  Delta | 

    #47 | Sean D Sorrentino: “Since arrest first, ask questions later, is the standard police practice pretty much everywhere, we can make a few simple deductions. First, the self defense claim must have been pretty compelling. And second, the cops couldn’t find anything they could twist into probable cause if they squinted at it hard enough.”

    I disagree that those are valid deductions. Here is a far more likely scenario: Zimmerman is a wannabe cop, and has called them on something like a hundred occasions. Even if he’s a bit loopy and a bother, they’ve wound up knowing the guy and becoming acquainted with him. He’s semi-accidentally fallen into their “thin blue line” category by association (or by figure-of-note in the local community or whatever), and their instinct was to cover up for him as they would any cop.

    To me, this whole thing smells like cop-covering-protocol being unusually applied to a non-cop. Isn’t this exactly what a cop shooting would look like? “Deducing” that there’s a wonderful evidentiary case for Zimmerman isn’t any more valid than in any cop shooting.

  105. #105 |  Sam | 

    This is a legitimate question: could I approach George Zimmerman and shoot him in cold blood, claiming that I thought he was a murderer and thus felt in endangered?

  106. #106 |  nigmalg | 

    “(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony;”

    What does “reasonably” mean here? Why not just say “He or she believes to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm” Why would that language not invoke reasonable person standards?

    Sam,

    I believe “reasonably” and “imminent” would be two words sending you to prison for such an action.

  107. #107 |  Mike | 

    As far as I can tel, the SYG law s interpreted in Florida allows this:

    1. Person A picks a fight with person B by harassing and bullying him
    2. Person A continues the harassment by blocking person B from any exits.
    3. Person B, in an attempt to get free, strikes person B,
    4. Person A pulls out a concealed weapon and kills person B.

    When the police arrive, person A claims he felt in fear of serious injury. Since there is no way to disprove this, person A cannot be arrested, prosecuted, or sued for civil damages.

    Tell me again about an armed society being a polite one.

  108. #108 |  30 year lawyer | 

    Why the rush to judgment? Zimmerman isn’t going anywhere and the Febbies are investigating. The immediate “facts” almost always turn out to be overstated or understated. The “80 calls in 1 year” factoid has already turned into 80 calls to police in 11 years. Wow, what a difference a single digit typo makes!

    Read this: http://pjmedia.com/blog/treyvon-martin-scant-evidence-already-a-verdict/

  109. #109 |  30 year lawyer | 

    Why the rush to judgment? Zimmerman isn’t going anywhere and the Febbies are investigating. The immediate “facts” almost always turn out to be overstated or understated. The “80 calls in 1 year” factoid has already turned into 80 calls to police in 11 years. Wow, what a difference a single digit typo makes!

    Read this: http://pjmedia.com/blog/treyvon-martin-scant-evidence-already-a-verdict/

  110. #110 |  nigmalg | 

    Mike,

    1. Person A picks a fight with person B by harassing and bullying him
    2. Person A continues the harassment by blocking person B from any exits.
    3. Person A then decides to choke and suffocate person B
    4. Person B in self defense, fatally stabs person A

    Lets say person B can’t prove he was getting suffocated. Person B gets arrested, prosecuted, and sued into bankruptcy. As you see, problems arise in both scenarios. Shall we risk sending an innocent person prison (or death), or risk the State botching a homicide investigation and letting a murderer go free?

    “Tell me again about an armed society being a polite one.”

    Why bother when you can come up with simpleton anecdotal cases to counter plentiful data to the contrary?

  111. #111 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    AARG!

    Radley,
    I’m not defending him. I think he made some serious errors in judgement. It remains to be seen if his actions were criminal. You can’t claim that you are advocating for “Due Process” when your post made clear that you think he should have been arrested when the police have no probable cause.

    #105: “reasonably believes” has a specific legal meaning. It means that a similarly situated person with your training and experience (the “reasonable person”) in the same situation would believe the same thing you would. In practice what it means is that the jury members feel that if they were in the same position as you were in, knowing only what you knew, they would come to the same conclusion you came to.

    The reason they use the phrase “reasonably believe” is because it already has that specific legal meaning. It’s one of those terms that isn’t open to interpretation because it’s been used that way legally for a VERY long time.

    #97: We know that at least a week after the incident the kid’s girlfriend claims to have heard the incident over the phone. We know that because the family, the anti-gunners, and the race baiters have told us. What we don’t know is if it is true. Same as everything else in this case. We don’t know if she has already been interviewed by the police, nor if they have accepted or discounted her statement and for what reason. We have to await some weighing of the evidence before we can make any decisions about his guilt or innocence.

    Let me be perfectly clear. You are all being ring led. There are people who have political goals in mind and they are perfectly happy to dance in the blood of this person, right, wrong, or indifferent. By joining the ranks of those screaming for blood, you are giving them what they want. These are not people who care either about the dead person or his family. They just want political power and they are not above using his death to get it.

    Hold your horses, wait for the justice system to grind out an answer. We all want an answer RIGHT NOW! but we need to have patience and allow the system to work. We cannot allow a person to get convicted because the anti-gunners and the race baiters ran a good public relations campaign. We can only convict him on evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. No one here should be confused about that. I thought that was what everyone here would have demanded.

  112. #112 |  zendingo | 

    110 | Sean D Sorrentino |

    an honest question, but since you ignored pretty much everything i asked the first time i doubt you’ll follow up with this…..

    an honest question.

    if trayvon martin had been able to wrestle the gun away from george zimmerman and shot and killed zimmerman during their fight, would the police have accepted trayvons self-defense claim as they accepted george zimmermans?

    i personally don’t think the police would have been as quick to believe a self defense claim if trayvon was the one making it.

    what do you think, would trayvon have been treated differently? why?

  113. #113 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    #111 they would have been bound to accept his story until they were able to produce evidence that it was false. Once again, the police have to have probable cause to arrest. Simply having a gun and a dead body does not indicate that a crime has been committed.

    Why would it matter who was the survivor? The law is applied the same way to everyone. Of course, you are buying into the whole racism angle. I guess you think that the cops are prejudiced against blacks and not against hispanics.

    I don’t know why this is even controversial. The cops HAVE to have probable cause to arrest someone. They don’t have it, so they couldn’t arrest him. When they do, if they ever do, they will arrest him.

  114. #114 |  John | 

    “The law is applied the same way to everyone.”

    See: Drug use rates among different races. Arrest rates for drug use among different races. This simply isn’t true. This isn’t even to discredit Zimmerman (though I don’t believe him), it’s just that there is a lot of evidence against your statement for it to be thrown out casually as gospel truth.

  115. #115 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    #111
    I skipped the second half of your post in answering the first half.

    “should we be investigating this at all?”
    We? You mean you and the mouse in your pocket? Or the cops? I think that the cops and the prosecutors should be carefully investigating it. I think you should stay out of it.

    “did the police follow SOP when securing the crime scene? (hint: they did not) ”
    Really? And you know this how? And this matters why? Assuming you are correct, how does this show that they were somehow prejudiced against the dead kid? Do you want a person convicted because they think he was guilty and they might have destroyed evidence? Think hard before you open that can of worms. It might be you facing charges next time.

    “if SOP was not followed then how can we be sure the police were correct in allowing zimmerman to go free? ”

    Assuming they screwed up the scene, how can we be sure that they did not make a mistake? Proof. Evidence. Probable cause. If the cops blew the evidence, they are just as likely to have screwed his self defense case as wrecked their prosecution.

    “lastly, if the police were correct in letting zimmerman go free, why did author of the law that zimmerman is citing in his defense, Sen. Durell Peaden, say that the stand your ground law would not apply to zimmermans actions?”

    Two reasons. First, the coldly political one. He doesn’t want to be blamed for this incident for the 6 months before an election. Second, he is reacting to the same PR campaign you are reacting to. He has no more idea about what actually happened than you do. I don’t give a hoot in hell what he thinks about this particular case. I only care about what the State can prove.

    Everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence, a fair trial, and punishment only after conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. You manage to get that and I want him in prison for as long as possible. Until then, you should probably sit on your hands and await the verdict.

  116. #116 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    #113: Equality before the law is the standard. Demanding that this person get a different standard because you can point to times where you don’t think others were treated fairly is a real bad precedent. Keep in mind that you might be the next person who wants a fair trial with a presumption of innocence.

  117. #117 |  John | 

    “Equality before the law is the standard.”

    Right, the ideal standard. I’m just saying that throwing it out there as “this is how stuff actually works” is empirically wrong. I think Zimmerman deserves a fair trial, due process, you name it. I don’t think we should treat as an axiom of police debates the idea that the law is equally enforced. “The law is applied the same way to everyone” is simply untrue, and using it as part of an argument is a real problem. “The law should be equally enforced” we agree entirely

  118. #118 |  zendingo | 

    #115 | Sean D Sorrentino | March 22nd, 2012 at 11:04 pm
    #113: Equality before the law is the standard. Demanding that this person get a different standard because you can point to times where you don’t think others were treated fairly is a real bad precedent. Keep in mind that you might be the next person who wants a fair trial with a presumption of innocence.

    ——————————————————————————————–
    wow you’re naive or trolling……………

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/trayvon-martin-family-seeks-fbi-investigation-killing/story?id=15949879

    this is how we know that the police did not follow SOP and test george zimmerman for drugs or alcohol. but the police did test trayvons body for drugs.

    please explain how george zimmerman and trayvon martin have received equal treatment under the law…..

  119. #119 |  JOR | 

    “…but we need to have patience and allow the system to work…”

    lol

  120. #120 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    #116: If you catch the cops treating anyone unfairly, you need to point that out. I don’t think you will find too many people on this blog who will argue with you. I certainly won’t. What you can’t do is say that since it does happen that it IS happening in this case.

    #117: Why should they have? They couldn’t, by law. There was apparently no evidence that he was under the influence of anything, and the law says that unless they have probable cause to arrest him, they can’t even hold him against his will. I would think that the fact that they handcuffed him, put him in the car, and let the medics treat his injuries would indicate to you that they were in close physical proximity to him, close enough to tell if he was drunk, or acting strangely as if he was impaired. They also interviewed him that day and two more times since. If they thought he was drunk or impaired, that would be probable cause for some sort of arrest. It’s OK to be drunk with a gun in Pennsylvania, but not Florida. The specific wording is

    “when affected to the extent that his or her normal faculties are impaired,”

    if they had probable cause to believe that his normal faculties were impaired, they could have arrested him for that.

    For the best part, read the DOJ statement again.

    “With all federal civil rights crimes, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted intentionally and with the specific intent to do something which the law forbids – the highest level of intent in criminal law. Negligence, recklessness, mistakes and accidents are not prosecutable under the federal criminal civil rights laws. ”

    Translation? We got nothing. Unless we can prove that he murdered a black person because he was black, this investigation is going nowhere. We’re just going through the motions to make ourselves look good.

    #118: So you don’t think the system works? Would you like to replace it? I’m open to some suggestions. The one suggestion I will not accept is the removal of the Constitutional guarantees we have.

    Anyone can piss and moan that the system doesn’t work perfectly, but until you’ve got something better, this is all we have. I am not willing to destroy it because it will almost certainly be replaced with something FAR worse. And one thing that will make the system we have even worse is a bunch of clowns screaming for answers RIGHT NOW! Slow and steady wins the race. We need to replace passion with dispassion. Anger and speed lead to bad judgements. We have plenty of time to reach the right conclusions, so haste serves nothing, least of all justice.

  121. #121 |  zendingo | 

    #119 | Sean D Sorrentino |
    “Why should they have? They couldn’t, by law.”
    stop trolling.

    george zimmerman was the shooter, it is SOP test anyone who discharges a firearm public for drugs and alcohol.

  122. #122 |  zendingo | 

    err, it is SOP test anyone who discharges a firearm in public for drugs and alcohol.

  123. #123 |  Mike | 

    Lets say person B can’t prove he was getting suffocated.

    No marks on his neck? That seems unlikely.

  124. #124 |  Mike | 

    the law says that unless they have probable cause to arrest him, they can’t even hold him against his will.

    That’s one of the particular evils of this law. If two people are fighting and each claims the other stared it, they can both be taken in to try to sort out their stories. If one kills the other and claims self-defense, he’s immune from arrest, prosecution, or civil suit. Talk about perverse incentives.

  125. #125 |  Davis | 

    What does “reasonably” mean here? Why not just say “He or she believes to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm” Why would that language not invoke reasonable person standards?

    If you’re looking for a reason why the law relies upon the “reasonable person” standard here, just imagine the case of John, who has an insane delusion that George is out to kill him. John shoots George because his delusion leads him to believe that George is about to kill him, when in fact George was just reaching out to shake John’s hand.

    Under the “he or she believes” language you propose, John’s actions would allow him to get off on a self-defense claim — John actually did believe his life was at risk. Under the “reasonable person” standard John cannot claim self-defense, as a reasonable person sitting in John’s shoes would not have believed there was any imminent danger of bodily harm.

  126. #126 |  NL_ | 

    This case is a big deal because some people think that Florida became a free-fire zone with the codification of self defense law and the clear repudiation of the retreat requirement. So it feeds into a narrative that fits with something certain partisans warned of years ago.

    Which is disappointing, because cops often do this stuff and worse – against black teens like Martin – and it doesn’t get the same sensationalism because it doesn’t fit into a preexisting political narrative.

    To be self-critical, I guess I should say that one reason we libertarians are so interested in hearing about violence and corruption from police officers is it confirms our worldview that says the government is generally prone to being a pretty crummy institution. But to be honest, I’d be willing to take the hit to bias-confirmation if I never heard another cop-victim story like Kelly Thomas, Allen Kephart, or Nick Christie. Shit messes you up. I can barely read these things without needing a break; no idea how you do it professionally.

  127. #127 |  Resistance | 

    +1 radley

  128. #128 |  Burgers Allday | 

    Grammar Comment Re OP: “congeal / coherent” strikes me as a mixed metaphor, but I am not sure why I think that and am probably wrong about it.

  129. #129 |  Mike | 

    I don’t know why this is even controversial. The cops HAVE to have probable cause to arrest someone.

    Say, a dead body, a recently discharged firearm, and witnesses who said that they heard terrified screaming that ended abruptly after a gunshot.

  130. #130 |  Delta | 

    #118 | JOR: “‘…but we need to have patience and allow the system to work…’ lol”

    I believe among con men this is called the “cool-off period” or “cooling the mark out” (normally in the sense of getting a victim to calm down and thus avoid complaining to the authorities).

    http://www.tau.ac.il/~algazi/mat/Goffman–Cooling.htm

  131. #131 |  EH | 

    Bonus Erving Goffman content, well done!

  132. #132 |  EH | 

    Sean Sorrentino: #97: We know that at least a week after the incident the kid’s girlfriend claims to have heard the incident over the phone. We know that because the family, the anti-gunners, and the race baiters have told us. What we don’t know is if it is true.

    No, we know because it was corroborated when the father checked cellphone records to confirm that they were speaking at the time. You can say you think the father is lying, but there you go.

  133. #133 |  Pi Guy | 

    Trayvon was detained for the offense of Walking While Black (WWB[TM]). Zimmerman served as LEO, Judge, Jury, and Executioner. He’s Judge Dread only he enforced a non-law on a non-criminal. Un-authorized. Un-checked. Un-reviewed by a jury of his Trayvon’s peers.

    ^THIS^ is the story.

    *sigh* Except maybe that, if Trayvon had been packing, he might’ve lived. But then that would’ve started all Rodney King II or some similar counter-counter-counter-reaction. So, in a respectable gated community, a black kid has probably been counseled by his parents, society, et al to go out of _his_ why to appear un-thuggy in this environment.

    Kid’s life in this neighborhood, if Zimmerman’s any indication, must be like walking a tightrope. Yeah, I’ll bet Trayvon was scared and angry and frustrated, too. Only unarmed and unqestionably expected to respect Zimmerman’s/grown-up’s/less-darkly-pigmented-people’s authority. Or something.

  134. #134 |  Jozef | 

    #96 ken: “It would be interesting to see if there is a statistically significant increase in total homicides accompanying the new law.”

    That’s an excellent point! I’m ashamed for not thinking about that. I’ll look into it this weekend.

  135. #135 |  nigmalg | 

    Mike,

    It was an example to reverse the situation when it comes to proof. If that doesn’t satisfy you there are plenty of others. I just wanted to point that out to you.

    Davis,

    I’m supporting a “reasonable person” requirement precisely for that reason. I wasn’t arguing for a law without it :p

  136. #136 |  Sam | 

    It is remarkable to see people freaking out about the possibility that George Zimmerman would be treated unfairly in any way imaginable immediately after George Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed child.

  137. #137 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Isaac Singletary’s story is still the one that pisses me off the most. Those fucking bastards. Ignorant, murdering bastards.

  138. #138 |  nigmalg | 

    Sam,

    “George Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed child.”

    I thought he was 17?

    I understand the outrage over this whole process. But what does it help when everyone is including such inflammatory language of the incident? Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed teenager. Doesn’t have as much bite I suppose.

  139. #139 |  Sam | 

    Teenagers are children. What are you talking about? What’s inflammatory about telling the truth about what was plainly a murder? The hoops that people are willing to jump through to avoid a plainly obvious truth baffle. Or perhaps they don’t. It is incredibly obvious what motivates a “Woah, hey now, let’s not rush to judgement against George Zimmerman…” defense, even if we’re not going to discuss the topic here.

  140. #140 |  Kid Handsome | 

    Is there a way to compare / contrast libertarian reaction to this case with the reaction in the Ravi case?

  141. #141 |  Sam | 

    Kid Handsome,

    It depends entirely upon which libertarians we’re talking about.

  142. #142 |  Henry Acton | 

    “Why didn’t those cases attract the attention Martin’s has? ”

    Those cases didn’t provide a nice opportunity to besmirch the irrelevant non-applicable self defense laws.

  143. #143 |  Kid Handsome | 

    It just seems to me that the two cases are relateable.

    In the Ravi case, we have someone who clearly did something illegal, it involved allegations of prejudice (homophobia), and there are many people who believe there is no question that it resulted in a death. However, here, Ravi is portrayed as basically a good guy who – did a stupid, immature thing more than once – and does not deserve the punishment that he faces. (for what it’s worth, that’s my view as well).

    In the Martin case, we have someone who may not have done anything illegal (much as we all hate wannabe cops and think they are immature and underdeveloped socially). There are allegations of prejudice (racism), and there is no question that Zimmerman is the cause of Martin’s death. However, here, Zimmerman is portrayed as an unrelenting racist thug who stalked and killed an innocent. Many are calling for his arrest and conviction before all the facts are known, and many have been shown to be willing to believe the worst about Zimmerman (a white/hispanic), when in fact nothing is really known about him.

    I just want to understand while one case resuts in calls for restraint, while the other doesn’t seem to merit restraint and reflection.

    It could be as simple as people believing that Ravi was not really responsible for Clementi’s death, whereas there is no question that Zimmerman caused Martin’s death (regardless of whether self-defense is to be believed). That may be the primary reason, but I think there’s more to it.

  144. #144 |  Sam | 

    Kid,

    What facts are you going to need before you’re willing to pass judgment if the fact that a Trayvon Martin was executed doesn’t do it for you?

  145. #145 |  nigmalg | 

    “Teenagers are children”.

    I’m not trying to belittle the situation when making a stink about language. But in this case, 17 years old is closer to an adult than a teenager, especially not a child. an 8 year old is a child, a 17 year old is a young man. That doesn’t make a homicide any less severe. But we can achieve a more thoughtful discussion when we speak more accurately.

    Right now you’re using provocative language to goad people into a frenzy. I’m sure Nancy Grace has an open position for you.

  146. #146 |  Kid Handsome | 

    #143 – that kind of inflammatory conclusory “begging the question” response does not really warrant a reply. However, I want some evidence that serves to show that Zimmerman was not attacked (regardless of whether you think it was warranted), or that if he was, he acted unreasonably in firing his weapon.

  147. #147 |  Dorothy | 

    At 17, I don’t believe he is allowed to carry a weapon to defend himself. So, with respect to 2nd amendment rules, he is still a child. I could be wrong, but I don’t think FL allows concealed for minors. I know GA was 21 for handguns when I was growing up.

  148. #148 |  Sam | 

    Kid,

    So in other words, you’re not willing to pass judgment on Zimmerman until you get evidence that you know doesn’t actually exist. That’s a neat standard you’ve created there.

  149. #149 |  David | 

    And yet somehow we don’t demand forensic proof that the boxer puppy wasn’t trying to rip that policeman’s jugular out when he shot it.

  150. #150 |  Sam | 

    Nigmalg,

    A 17-year-old is a teenager. A teenager is a child. Playing semantic word games as you try to turn Martin into somebody whose execution you can more easily stomach doesn’t change the reality of the situation. In the eyes of the law, he was still a child, and Dorothy is right: Martin wouldn’t have been allowed to walk around that neighborhood carrying a gun.

  151. #151 |  zendingo | 

    #145 | Kid Handsome

    “I want some evidence that serves to show that Zimmerman was not attacked ”

    brought this up before with another reader, trayvon was on the phone with a friend when zimmerman attacked him. her testimony directly contradicts zimmermans statements (not to mention that zimmermans own 911 call contradicts his statement)

    the cell phone company confirms the call.

    http://www.radaronline.com/exclusives/2012/03/trayvon-martin-cellphone-girlfriend-subpoena-grand-jury-florida

  152. #152 |  nigmalg | 

    Dorothy,

    We don’t typically associate “child” with someone who is not allowed to carry a gun. If that were the case he would continue to be a child at 20. In Florida, you can’t get a permit to carry until you’re 21. You can however carry other types of defensive weapons. But that’s not really relevant to the discussion here.

    I’m watching Al Sharpton make race relations even worse right now. I’m watching people completely insane over hanging Zimmerman to the point that I’m actually worried about due process.

    What happens if the State can’t prove Zimmerman shouldn’t have feared for his life? Should we lock him up and throw away the key anyway? Will we revoke SYG laws and put the burden on the actor completely? I commented earlier about the risk in doing this, which touches on why we have SYG laws in the first place.

    It’s a philosophical question. If you had to pick one, would you rather have an innocent person in jail, or a murderer go free?

  153. #153 |  Sam | 

    Nigmalg,

    I’d rather have a guilty person (Zimmerman) go to jail for his crime (executing a child for being black).

  154. #154 |  Meister574 | 

    I think the other difference is using the stand your ground law as an excuse not to detain or arrest Zimmerman and for him to use this as a possible defense.

  155. #155 |  nigmalg | 

    “Playing semantic word games as you try to turn Martin into somebody whose execution you can more easily stomach..”

    Yikes. I argue for less emotional rhetoric and that’s actually what I get from you.

  156. #156 |  nigmalg | 

    “I’d rather have a guilty person (Zimmerman) go to jail for his crime (executing a child for being black).”

    It doesn’t work that way. Guilt is not tattooed on foreheads to be read. Policy is weighted toward a philosophical end. That’s sort of why we have an “innocent until proven guilty” style system of justice. Although after reading this blog for a year now I’m seeing less of that.

    If police drop the ball during an investigation, it shouldn’t lessen the philosophical goal.

  157. #157 |  Sam | 

    Nigmalg,

    If the police drop the ball to intentionally benefit a murderer, then there is a problem of justice at work, although not in the traditional form that we’re used to seeing from Radley, wherein the police get the wrong guy. In this case, they know who the killer is. They know that the kid was unarmed. They know that the killer was pursuing the kid after being told not to. They know that this man had repeatedly made racial accusations. They know the kid was talking to his girlfriend and explaining that he was afraid. They know all of this. Yet the guilty is facing no retribution and the innocent person is dead. And your primary concern is for the shooter.

  158. #158 |  nigmalg | 

    My primary concern is for the protection of innocent. I agree with you that the police dropped the ball on this investigation and Zimmerman _could_ very well be guilty of an unjustified homicide.

    In my opinion, I also feel Zimmerman was an absolute fool and negligent for putting himself in that situation in the first place. But from what I’ve read, I’m not yet ready to make a conclusion and call him guilty of murder 1. If I were on the grand jury, I’d be looking at who initiated the violence or who escalated the situation.

    That seems to be where we disagree. I’m looking at the situation as if I were a jurer of his fate, with the evidence that _I’ve_ seen. You appear to be looking at the situation from a position of emotion, with fill-in-the-blank evidence.

  159. #159 |  Sam | 

    Who initiated the violence? Zimmerman. He followed a person he deemed suspicious, a person whose crime was being black in Zimmerman’s neighborhood.

    Who escalated the situation? Zimmerman. He engaged with this person that he had already tried and convicted.

    You can claim until you’re blue in the fact that you’re being the reasonable one here, but given how aggressively you’re ignoring the information we already have in the case, your position is tenuous at best.

  160. #160 |  Jay | 

    169: It would be interesting to see if there is a statistically significant increase in total homicides accompanying the new law.

    @169-
    http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/in-defense-of-stand-your-ground-laws/

    What really set off the NYT commenters was my observation that “Despite doomful predictions from gun foes, concealed carry (now the dominant rule) and liberalized self-defense laws (adopted by half the states) haven’t touched off the great warned-of surge of gun violence.” Here are some particulars. Between 2004 (the year before the law’s enactment) and 2010 violent crime in Florida dropped sharply, and homicides per capita also dropped, though not sharply. News stories often mention that (quoting ABC): “Since the law was enacted seven years ago, justified homicides in Florida have jumped threefold, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.” But a tripling in the assertion of this defense (from a low base) tells us little in itself since the whole idea of the law was to make the defense more available. In particular it does not signify that some sort of killing began to happen three times as often, even if some seem determined to interpret it that way.

  161. #161 |  Radley Balko | 

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but based on my brief Google searching, none of these other victims you list here were African-American.

    Interesting, no?

    Isaac Singletary was black. Anthony Diataiuto was Hispanic. More importantly, should it matter?

  162. #162 |  nigmalg | 

    “Who initiated the violence? Zimmerman. He followed a person he deemed suspicious, a person whose crime was being black in Zimmerman’s neighborhood.”

    That’s circumstantial. By itself it’s not illegal, or even agressive. But it depends on how he was following him. If he was chasing him calling him racist names or threatening him, then I’m onboard with you.

    “Who escalated the situation? Zimmerman. He engaged with this person that he had already tried and convicted.”

    It’s very possible Zimmerman escalated the situation. But we don’t know! There was a fight but we don’t have the details.

    “You can claim until you’re blue in the fact that you’re being the reasonable one here, but given how aggressively you’re ignoring the information we already have in the case, your position is tenuous at best.”

    I’m attacking the rhetoric. End of story. If someone comes on commenting in blind support of Zimmerman with emotionally charged rhetoric, I’m calling them out as well.

  163. #163 |  Rob in CT | 

    The cops didn’t even bother to try and ID Trayvon & notify his family. They had him as a John Doe. This despite the fact that they had his cell phone and could have simply called back the last person he’d been talking to (the girlfriend, who directly contradicts Zimmerman’s story). Or maybe “Dad” (assuming his contact was labelled such).

    Nope. The cops just kinda shrugged (but managed to drug-test the body). Meanwhile, Martin’s father reported him missing and followed up. Eventually they bothered to ID the kid.

    There is also the story from one of the witnesses who says she told a cop that she heard Trayvon crying for help and the cop “corrected” her, informing her that no, that was Zimmerman

    I’m glad the Feds are involved.

  164. #164 |  nigmalg | 

    Sam,

    If you were Zimmerman’s jurer, do you feel you have enough information today to send him to prison for murder? Is there nothing in the stories that are out that might give you pause before indicting him?

  165. #165 |  Sam | 

    Nothing would give me pause. Can you explain again what gives YOU pause?

  166. #166 |  Drew | 

    Trying to impugn Balko’s credibility on race or not paying attention to legal abuses is… insane. He was too polite to say it in his post, but it’s both deeply insulting and incredibly ignorant of his body of work.

    My take:
    I think Castle Doctrine (which, let’s be clear, is about granting a very broad, very low-bar IMMUNITY from prosecution, not just an affirmative self-defense) is a good, solid idea, for specific reasons that make basically applying it to every conflict a very bad idea.

    I think people should have the right to carry and concealed carry and defend themselves. I both think it’s insane to encourage to try and stand their ground (as a basic practice for maximizing self-preservation), but also that them not standing their ground should not, by itself, invalidate the right to self-defense. But I don’t think this law gets it anywhere near correct in balancing the legal matters involved.

  167. #167 |  Drew | 

    Sam: I’m skeptical of Zimmerman. I think it’s probable at this point that he lied to police about how exactly things went down (him getting attacked as he was walking back to his car vs. him chasing Martin down). But there’s a lot we don’t know about how the altercation proceeded, and I don’t think it helps to assert certainty about it.

  168. #168 |  Kid Handsome | 

    “brought this up before with another reader, trayvon was on the phone with a friend when zimmerman attacked him. her testimony directly contradicts zimmermans statements (not to mention that zimmermans own 911 call contradicts his statement)

    the cell phone company confirms the call.

    http://www.radaronline.com/exclusives/2012/03/trayvon-martin-cellphone-girlfriend-subpoena-grand-jury-florida

    nigmalg – I definitely want to hear the girlfriend’s story. I would note that the articles says she was on the phone in the moments before the shooting – not during, so we need to hear what she says.

    The only other thing that the article points out is 46 calls to police in 2011. I think that was contradicted by another article linked here (PJ Media), which says that due to a police typo the number was actually 46 in 11 years.

    Finally, I’m fine with further investigation of this matter. I just worry that its driven by public outcry more than the interests of justice (not that there aren’t legitimate interests of justice involved). I’d love it if people could refrain from judgment. I’m especially interested in the fact that there’s an unproven racial animus element involved. People seem willing to condemn Zimmerman as a racist because it fits their world view – not because it has yet been proved or is even relevant to the specific facts of this case.

  169. #169 |  Sam | 

    People insisting that they won’t pass judgment on Zimmerman until what amounts to videotape of the actual murder is revealed are essentially arguing that Zimmerman ought to get away with this, because as we all know, a videotape doesn’t exist. We have the evidence we’re going to have, don’t we? There isn’t a smoking gun out there. Well. Other than the one Zimmerman used I suppose.

  170. #170 |  zendingo | 

    #168 | Kid Handsome |

    “I’m especially interested in the fact that there’s an unproven racial animus element involved. People seem willing to condemn Zimmerman as a racist because it fits their world view – not because it has yet been proved or is even relevant to the specific facts of this case.”

    fucking coon…. is that racial enough for you?

    http://cnn.com/video/?/video/us/2012/03/22/ac-tuchman-trayvon-zimmerman.cnn

  171. #171 |  Drew | 

    “We have the evidence we’re going to have, don’t we?”

    We don’t know who was crying out on the 911 tapes. Voice analysis could shed some light on that. That would be worth knowing.

    We also, critically, don’t really know whether or not there’s enough evidence to overcome a SYG claim. Basically, it seems like police have to be able to establish that Zimmerman took actions against Martin leading UP TO the fight that amount to, themselves, a crime. Chasing him down, lying to police about it, and all the rest are somewhat indicative of his state of mind and intent, but proving that he actually physically tried to detain or restrict Martin’s escape will be key.

  172. #172 |  Kid Handsome | 

    #170 – I had heard that on the Reason release of the recording, and I thought it said “punks” at that time. Now it does sound more like “coons” though I’m not positive (and neither was the reporter). It actually could sound like a lot of things. My co-worker thought it was “shoes” a couple of days ago.

    I do believe it has some bearing on the case, which I have stated above, though I don’t think racism is determinative. I agree that it would definitely alter my opinions about the state of mind of Zimmerman. It would change my perspective on whether I could reasonably conclude that he was just going to speak with Martin for the (completely legal) purpose that any neighborhood watch member might. It would make it seem much more likely that he went after him for the sole purpose of harassing him, which changes some of the details.

    I think there are still facts to come out, unlike others here, but all I have advocated is holding off on convicting him until more evidence is disclosed and he has had a chance to respond (which he will not do unless he’s charged, and then it will only be in Court).

    Is that fair enough?

  173. #173 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    “Say, a dead body, a recently discharged firearm, and witnesses who said that they heard terrified screaming that ended abruptly after a gunshot.”

    Which is not, in and of itself, indicative of a crime having been committed. I do note, however, that your perception that it does illustrates something profoundly wrong about you. If the mere fact that a person kills another tells you that a crime has been committed, that tells me that you don’t believe in self defense at all.

    “the law says that unless they have probable cause to arrest him, they can’t even hold him against his will.

    That’s one of the particular evils of this law”

    What’s evil about it? Why is it evil to demand probable cause? Why is this even controversial? Probable cause is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but is is a higher standard that mere suspicion.

    I love how every time Sam pops off, it’s always to scream about how he(she?) just KNOWS that it was murder. Apparently his phone has the Beta version of the CSI:Sanford app.

    Bottom line: We don’t know. We are told a lot of things, very few by the police, and almost all of the rest from people who have a political interest in stirring up racial resentments and or hatred of firearms owners. If you have made up your mind about this incident (and you’re not the crime scene investigator on this case) then you are wrong. We need to wait until the system grinds out an answer. If we chuck him in jail, we have to live with that. We don’t need to be responsible for another Corey Maye.

  174. #174 |  captainahags | 

    My question is this: Does Stand Your Ground or whatever mean that somehow killing a person is not a crime? Or does it make it a mitigating circumstance type deal? Because the way things are shaking out, it seems like all you have to do to get away with murder in Florida is make sure you kill the only witness. I was under the impression that, especially in a situation like this, the killer would be at least taken into custody for manslaughter or the like, because I’d say that in absence of other evidence, a dead body of an unarmed individual, a discharged weapon, and a person who admits to firing said weapon should certainly not have their story taken at face value.

  175. #175 |  David | 

    Sean, if your interpretation is correct, then nobody in Florida can be so much as arrested, much less charged, tried or convicted, for a killing in which there were no eyewitnesses, because you need definitive assessments of the killer’s state of mind during the incident to even establish probable cause. How is it possible to make that assessment without (a) witnesses or (b) mind-reading?

  176. #176 |  ShelbyC | 

    #170, buried in on of the stories” “WFTV had an audio expert listen to the call, and determined that the word said was “punks.””

  177. #177 |  zendingo | 

    @175, shut up david! the police are above reproach and the system always works perfectly. stop stirring up racism!

  178. #178 |  nigmalg | 

    Normally, a detective would actually investigate the scene of the crime looking for evidence to corroborate witness testimony, or simply take it’s place if no testimony is available.

    Killing the only witness isn’t enough to get away with murder. There are other tools available for competent investigative agencies.

  179. #179 |  nigmalg | 

    David,

    That’s precisely why “reasonable person” standards should apply to SYG. It should never just be up to the mindset of a particular individual, but rather, a person of rational and sound mind in the same shoes.

  180. #180 |  Drew | 

    captainahags: it is not a mitigating circumstance. It is immunity from prosecution in the first place (with penalties if they prosecute you on top of civil damages).

    Theoretically, yes, it could make it easier to kill someone in an isolated place, because you only need to feel like your life is under threat, so you don’t require as much effort to manufacture evidence of a struggle or whatnot, let alone plant a weapon on them.

  181. #181 |  nigmalg | 

    captainahags,

    “in absence of other evidence, a dead body of an unarmed individual, a discharged weapon, and a person who admits to firing said weapon should certainly not have their story taken at face value.”

    I agree that In the absence of evidence in either direction, you don’t want to take the shooters story at face value. But does that mean you automatically assume the opposite is true and arrest them right away?

  182. #182 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    #174: Self defense is not a crime. It is an excuse. This requires an explanation. There are two different categories, legally. If you offer an “excuse,” that is something that makes what you did not a crime, or lessons the severity of the crime.

    for example. “He was trying to stab me, so I hit him with a frying pan and killed him.” That makes it not a crime at all, pure self defense. The force used was reasonably necessary to prevent your death or serious bodily injury.

    Second example, “mitigating factors.”
    “I was speeding because my wife is in labor and I have to get her to the hospital.”

    This isn’t an excuse. What you did was still a crime. It does have the possibility of lessoning your punishment. It might even convince the cop to let you go with a stern talking to instead of a speeding ticket. Here is the key difference. What you did (in this case, speeding) WAS STILL WRONG.

    Killing someone in self defense is an excuse, not a mitigating factor. If your claim of self defense prevails, you walk away, scot free. So no, killing someone is not always a crime. It usually is, certainly. We have to be careful to make sure that this particular case is a crime before we go and punish the guy.

    I don’t see why this is controversial, nor do I understand why everyone is so wrapped up in seeing him arrested. An arrest is not punishment. It is merely a procedure to secure a suspect in a crime. It’s not like they don’t know where their man is if they need him. You’ve seen crime dramas, right? They haul dude into the interrogation room (which they did in this case) and they give him the third degree. Then they stand out in the hallway moaning that they don’t have probable cause to arrest and now they have to let him go. Then they warn him not to leave town. That’s pretty much what’s going on.

    #175: No, physical evidence is enough to convict, and typically people who assert self defense in Florida lose. That’s because typically, the people who kill each other are drug dealers and gang members involved in criminal activity. This activity is usually pretty easy to determine and absolutely wrecks most self defense claims.

    The shooter’s state of mind can be determined using the “reasonable person” standard. Given what that person knew at the time, was it reasonable for him to believe that he was about to suffer death or serious bodily injury. It actually doesn’t matter what he was thinking at the time. If those thoughts were not reasonable (see comment#125) then his defense fails.

    #176: The person who claims that all cops are liars every time is at least as stupid as the person who claims that all cops always tell the truth. You want to rip down the whole “rotten edifice?” Then get out from behind your computer and run for office, get a job as a cop, or go to law school. Otherwise, that’s the system you’re stuck with. It ain’t pretty, but it’s a whole lot better looking than the alternatives.

  183. #183 |  JOR | 

    #120,

    “So you don’t think the system works?”

    At what? I think it works very well at accomplishing what the people who run it want to accomplish with it.

    “Would you like to replace it?”

    Yes and no; the question assumes a false premise. It’s not my system, and – despite what you may think, unless you’re a cop or lawyer or other government official – it’s not your system either. The system will pass whatever judgment, or lack thereof, it deems suitable for its purposes. I am not bound by its judgments, intellectually or otherwise. I make my own.

    “I’m open to some suggestions. The one suggestion I will not accept is the removal of the Constitutional guarantees we have.”

    I’d like to remove the constitutional guarantees cops, wannabe cops, and badgelicking meddlers evidently have of freedom to kill anyone that resists their assaults with impunity, so I guess we’re at an impasse.

  184. #184 |  zendingo | 

    #170, buried in on of the stories” “WFTV had an audio expert listen to the call, and determined that the word said was “punks.””

    wow, that guy must be quite the expert because every other expert i’ve seen and heard can’t be sure of what was said.

    “fucking coons”

  185. #185 |  JOR | 

    “I argue for less emotional rhetoric and that’s actually what I get from you.”

    This is frankly, pure toolish bullshit. There’s nothing inherently unreasonable or illogical about emotions or emotional rhetoric, and nothing inherently reasonable or logical about disinterest or cold, sterile rhetoric.

  186. #186 |  Kid Handsome | 

    #184 – you’re referencing your own post. Is that in one of the stories linked? What I said was that when I first heard it “I” thought he said punks.

    Huh?

  187. #187 |  ShelbyC | 

    #184,

    “wow, that guy must be quite the expert because every other expert i’ve seen and heard can’t be sure of what was said. ”

    So why do you keep repeating that he said, “fucking coons”?

    Anyway, by “every other expert” do you mean the CNN guy? Are there others?

  188. #188 |  nigmalg | 

    JOR,

    Toolish bullshit?

    Having an emotional response isn’t unreasonable. Having it while discussing policy changes is. I was trying to avoid a Nancy Grace-esque henfest. Maybe we can whittle through the bullshit and find out what can be done about the system.

    I think it’s for everyone’s benefit if we put the brakes on the policy changes while we figure out what needs to change. Otherwise, you’ll wake up tomorrow with everything under the sun banned for officer safety or “for the children”. Because that’s sure as shit what happens when emotion rules our policy makers.

    I’m not quite sure I understand what “toolish bullshit” that is.

  189. #189 |  JOR | 

    #143, No doubt many libertarians are biased against whiny representatives of Protected Classes who are harassed or invaded in “minor” ways by private actors, and also have a generally strong urge to indulge in victim-blaming (except with victims of government, and even then they will sometimes indulge), and make up excuses for private bigotries and violations, at least so long as it sufficiently offends Political Correctness for them to do so. Personally, I have no idea whether Ravi is a homophobe or a homosexist or a jerk or really a decent guy who did something thoughtless and stupid. That’s between him and god, or his shrink or whatever. We shouldn’t really care if he’s really a nice guy, and anyway, it’s always the nice ones, you know. It’s actions that matter.

    But he should be held accountable for what he actually did, not for his victim’s suicide.

    The same holds for Zimmerman. I have no idea what motivated him to do what he did. Maybe he was a racist. Maybe he was just paranoid, for good reasons or bad. Maybe he was just having a horrible day. Maybe he needed to feel like a big man. People are weird and complicated and anyone who thinks they have human nature, let alone the complicated ways that weird and complicated nature interacts with a complicated world, all figured out is full of shit. Thankfully I don’t care about his motives. Nothing matters less than motives. It’s what he did that matters. And it looks to me that what he did was stalk down an innocent young man and initiate a violent encounter that ended with him shooting said innocent young man to death. And it seems to me if you have a law that basically amounts to, “Assuming no witnesses, whoever kills the other guy first, wins”, then you may as well not have a law. If the state won’t do its supposed job, then it’s up to someone else in the community to take matters into their own hands.

    As a practical matter, they ought to take care to do what needs doing where there are no witnesses.

  190. #190 |  JOR | 

    “Having an emotional response isn’t unreasonable. Having it while discussing policy changes is.”

    No, it isn’t. There’s nothing special about policy changes. Thought experiment: if Nancy Grace (or whoever) said all the exact same things you deem irrational, except in a measured, cold-blooded tone, would it be any more reasonable?

  191. #191 |  Russ 2000 | 

    The story is getting traction because it’s compelling drama that hits lots of hot buttons.

    Because it hits so many political hot buttons, we start getting a mob mentality surrounding the coverage of the story.

    My fascination is with the public reaction to the story. The mob never wants justice to be done, the mob simply wants blood and nothing less; it doesn’t even care about who’s blood that much. Since the mob mentality is just plain irrational and wrong almost all the time, I’m inclined to believe the police’s side of the story this time. And this is in part because there seemed to be a LACK of police mob knee-jerk passive-voice ass-covering.

    The logical part of my brain, if that’s the right name for the part, wonders how much paranoia exists in our society when a GATED COMMUNITY still feels compelled to have a NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH group. How does one give “sensitivity training” to someone who is overly sensitive? Do we have to have an absurd thick-skin training on top of the sensitivity training?

    There’s always been, in my opinion, an unhealthy element of Puritan paranoid hatred running through certain geographic areas of the country, and unfortunately this mind-set is only expanding and self-justifying with the War On Drugs, The War on Terror, Gun-Control, Zero-Tolerance policies permeating the culture. It seems like the culture is getting more paranoid and less tolerant as the rural proportion of the population continues to fall. I’m not suggesting that rural areas are less paranoid, I’m suggesting that people are becoming more knee-jerk and less prone to “counting to ten” as our lifestyles have become faster-paced. The desire for instant gratification is becoming a demand which is a horrible way to live.

  192. #192 |  nigmalg | 

    JOR,

    “if Nancy Grace (or whoever) said all the exact same things you deem irrational, except in a measured, cold-blooded tone, would it be any more reasonable?”

    No it wouldn’t be any more reasonable. Then it would just be evil. When I say emotion, it isn’t just the volume of the speaking. It’s about the language. It’s the difference between talking about statistics and facts, or about anecdotes and hearsay.

    When a legislator is standing in his chamber and arguing for banning the video taping of police officers in public, is it relevant to discuss how many children a slain officer had in an effort to drum up support? An appeal to emotion is a logical fallacy. That’s exactly where we’re headed right now.

    One is appealing to emotion, and another is appealing to the matter at hand.

  193. #193 |  zendingo | 

    i keep posting “fucking coons” because that’s what george zimmerman said. no matter how much we want this to not be about race doesn’t change that it was about race, it’s insulting to insist that it’s not.

  194. #194 |  Juice | 

    #91 Sam
    1. Hispanic isn’t a race.

    Races are imaginary constructs based on minor superficial differences in humans. With that said, someone referring to the “hispanic race” is usually talking about the relatively new “race” that arose when Europeans mixed with Mesoamericans and South Americans.

  195. #195 |  Jay | 

    Let’s go to Geraldo Rivera folks, on fox n friends earlier today:

    “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.”

  196. #196 |  BSK | 

    If Trayvon didn’t die and the cops came upon the two fighting, would they have walked away without arrst? Even if the shooting was justified, Zimmerman broke at least one law (stalking a minor), if not more (assault, trespassing).

  197. #197 |  ShelbyC | 

    193, “i keep posting “fucking coons” because that’s what george zimmerman said. no matter how much we want this to not be about race doesn’t change that it was about race, it’s insulting to insist that it’s not.”

    What makes you think that that’s what he said? You said all the experts you heard couldn’t tell what he said, and I pointed out an expert that said he said, “fucking punks”.

  198. #198 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    The Sanford PD detectives are speaking out.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoKW7dl_dm0

    They say that the prosecutor told them they didn’t have enough evidence for a manslaughter conviction. They say that the evidence indicates that the dead youth was the aggressor. They say that the day they took the audio to the young man’s father, dad said it wasn’t his voice.

    We still need to wait for a final decision, either at the evidentiary hearing, the Grand Jury, or a trial. But as I’ve said, we were only getting one side of the story, and we were getting it from people who were motivated by things other than a sincere desire to see justice done.

  199. #199 |  Matt I. | 

    Sean,

    A phone call where the shooter finds someone ‘suspicious’ who is simply walking down the street, who then mouths, ‘they always get away’, and then goes after him despite being told not to (and let’s not split hairs about that please), who has a gun, who is then found having shot the other person, while a witness who’s phone records are verified says that she was told by the victim that he was scared and ran, which was observed on the initial phone call…….

    I think DOES BLOODY WELL establish probable cause that the shooter may have committed manslaughter and/or premeditated murder.

    In fact, I’ll do you one better, I think that these facts alone come very close to establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that either of these two crimes were committed.

  200. #200 |  Mike | 

    I do note, however, that your perception that it does illustrates something profoundly wrong about you. If the mere fact that a person kills another tells you that a crime has been committed, that tells me that you don’t believe in self defense at all.

    The fact that you have such empathy with the killer tells me more than I want to know about you.

  201. #201 |  Cynical in New York | 

    For those of you that read Will Grigg’s blog he has a post on the matter

    http://freedominourtime.blogspot.com/2012/03/treyvon-martin-and-cult-of-government.html

  202. #202 |  nigmalg | 

    Cynical In New York,

    Thanks for sharing that. It was a great read.

  203. #203 |  mgd | 

    The difference is obvious: This time the killer was a private citizen, not an agent of the state. The media need to bang this drum to foster attacks on 2A rights. I haven’t read the comments yet, but I’m sure I’m not the first to point that out.

  204. #204 |  pim FEE | 

    This whole thing, something is not right. There is being reported now there is a witness that backs up Zimmerman. Justice can be slow, let it play out. The kid is dead, and is not coming back. Zimmerman has a chance at justice, let’s give it to him. Hoodies! Really? Go to YOUTUBE and search hoodies.

  205. #205 |  David | 

    If the mere fact that a person kills another tells you that a crime has been committed, that tells me that you don’t believe in self defense at all.

    So either the killer committed a crime or the dead person did. Either way, there’s a criminal. The Sanford police didn’t seem interested in figuring out who it was.

  206. #206 |  nigmalg | 

    David, I absolutely agree. The investigation just stopped short of doing almost any work what-so-ever.

    The New Black Panthers are now calling for his “capture” for $10,000. Some are saying they’ve seen posters asking for Zimmerman’s capture “dead or alive”.

    Oh boy… This is going to get really bad.

  207. #207 |  Cynical in New York | 

    RE: #206

    It’s already started to go bad, the second Obama said anything about the case is the second any justice for Martin went out the window.

    1. You have idiot liberals trying to frame this as the “wild west” scenario to attack gun rights

    2. Idiot conservatives who will pull the politically correct card in saying that this was another minority trying to get over on the law. (when in fact the kid was clean and his issue in school was being tardy, hardly a hood rat/gang banger) as some are trying to push it on conservative websites.

    3. Paleocons attempting to figure out who to attack in this. Minorities in general or immigration because Zimmerman being hispanic who had a few run ins with the law himself.

    I would say I’m surprised but I wouldn’t be cynical now would I? That those who are normally quick to call for a jail them are now all of a sudden for calling for restraint in wanting Zimmerman’s head. Had Zimmerman been Muslim I strongly doubt those calls would be being made.

    The police test Martin’s body for drugs and but don’t test Zimmerman until much later? Where’s the logic there which could also play into the neighborhood watch aka wannabe government thugs angle.

    The New Black Panthers just put icing on the cake, makes me wonder if La Raza will show up.

    I want Martin and his family get justice because it seems that the states thugs were not interested in doing a proper investigation because it could end up making them look like scum (granted they already are) themselves. However as the golden rule says;

    Once an issue becomes political, it no longer becomes about the issue.

  208. #208 |  Burgers Allday | 

    @ Grigg Blog Entry. Thanks for linking, whoever. I liked this part:

    That smarmy, dismissive statement irresistibly reminds me of the radio exchange between U.S. troops involved in the Baghdad massacre documented in the “Collateral Murder” video.
    Eleven Iraqis were massacred in the unprovoked attack, and several others – including two small children – were seriously wounded.

    “Well, it’s their fault for bringing kids into a battle,” one of the murderers snarkily insisted when informed that small children were among the victims.
    Loggins’s widow gave birth to another daughter at about the same time she buried her husband.

  209. #209 |  Drew | 

    “You have idiot liberals trying to frame this as the “wild west” scenario to attack gun rights”

    Amazing how quickly we’ve gone from “gun rights” being the right to carry and defend yourself in self-defense to the right to have absolute immunity from any legal consequences of shooting and killing another person.

  210. #210 |  Our Courageous, Consistent, and Totally Useless Libertarians « MANSIZEDTARGET.COM | 

    [...] I’m glad today we’re relieved of evildoers like Ron Paul and Lew Rockwell in favor of  the Agitator, who has never found a puppy or drug dealer he doesn’t like, and who is now showing his high [...]

  211. #211 |  Sean D Sorrentino | 

    Been gone for the whole weekend, and now that I’m back we see that the entire rotten anti-gun race baiting scenario has gone straight into the toilet.

    Here’s what we know now.

    http://bit.ly/GTv3qa

    The cops rolled up and found the shooter injured. The shooter told them he was returning to his truck and was punched by the young man. Then the young man jumped on top of him and started slamming his head into the ground. The voice screaming for help on the 911 call was the shooter. In an effort to save his own life, he shot the young man.

    All of what the shooter told the cops was supported by the evidence at the scene and by eyewitnesses who positively identified the shooter as the one on the bottom getting attacked.

    The shooter was handcuffed and put in a patrol car, and the medics were sent to attend to his injuries. After the shooter was treated by the medics, they took him downtown and interviewed him.

    The cops called the prosecutor and were told that they couldn’t even make a case for manslaughter and that they had to let him go.

    It looks like there are two things going on here that the “Lynch the Shooter” crowd are not going to like. First, it appears to be a clear cut self defense case. A 6’3″ 180 lb football player pounding your head repeatedly into the ground fits pretty much anyone’s description of “reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.”

    And secondly, Stand Your Ground is not implicated in any way. It is impossible to retreat when someone is on top of you holding you down. This scenario would be legal in any state where you could carry a gun, Stand Your Ground or not. When retreat is impossible, it cannot be required.

  212. #212 |  CC | 

    I think I saw someone say that Zimmerman ONLY called the cops 46 times in eleven years. I’ve never called the cops once in 33 years. My Dad did neighborhood watch stuff forever and never needed to call the cops once.

    It sounds like there’s witness testimony on both sides. I still find the “I chased the unarmed comparatively skinny kid away, and then he appeared out of nowhere and attacked me and pounded my head into the pavement, but not hard enough that I needed an ambulance” story questionable enough that I’d want to run it by a grand jury, personally.

    I’m glad that there are some other law enforcement agencies checking it out given that both the girlfriend’s story and the lady who said the cops were insisting Zimmerman had cried for help when she thought it was Martin make it all sound fishy, particularly when combined with the police’s lack of effort to identify the body.

    CC

  213. #213 |  Other Sean | 

    Everyone is much too caught up in the details now. The main things to remember – the things that must not be forgotten now – are these:

    1.) Because of the drug war, minimum wage laws, public schools, and a whole bunch of other factors which should be well understood by readers of this blog, we have reached a point in history where people (especially those involved in crime prevention) are absolutely right to be afraid of young black males. No group comes close to matching their per capita output of violent crime, and it isn’t remotely racist to acknowledge that fact.

    2.) For all the same reasons, young black males are absolutely right to be afraid of the police, and everyone else (especially volunteers) involved the business of crime prevention. No group comes close to suffering as much under the dead of modern American statism, and it takes no “media bias” to acknowledge that fact.

    Being a libertarian is a hard thing in this world. One of the few advantages it gives you is supposed to be the prerogative of not taking sides in a mess like this. Because unless Zimmerman’s defenders and Trayvon mourner’s happen to be calling for an immediate end to drug prohibition as a modest first step in preventing incidents of this kind, they are both just full of shit.

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