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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Zimmerman Verdict: Anatomy Of A Tragedy

 

Update: It didn’t take long for this post to attract those that are unable to behave in public.  I’ve allowed one drooling illiterate troll’s comment to remain posted as written since it serves my purpose and abjectly proves the exact point I was making with this essay.  However, one such comment is enough. As is clearly stated in the commenting rules, and as I’ve said repeatedly, if you’re not housebroken, if you can’t help but piss all over yourself and the furniture like a drunken frat boy, then you’ll have to stay outside with the other droolers. It’s not my job, expressed or implied, to humor your obnoxious asshattery.  Commenting moderation is now on //Jim

 


I started getting letters the day they let George Zimmerman go.

Many were filled with various degrees of outrage: Can you believe this racist bullshit?!

Some were taunting missives full of smug amusement: Ha ha, believe it, Libtards!

And some were simply lost and in shock: WTF? I just don’t know what to think about this.

I suspect that my email is a reasonably representative sample of America’s reaction to the Zimmerman verdict.

I waited a week to write this.

I don’t claim that I have any profound insights into this horrible tragedy, but I figured there was more than enough knee-jerk reactions immediately after the verdict, I thought I’d wait to see how things shook out.

A week on, you may, if you like, color me not particularly surprised.

So far as I can tell, something less than than half the country is firmly convinced that George Zimmerman was wrongly acquitted by a broken and racist legal system, an equal portion of the population seems to think that Zimmerman is some kind of hero and that justice was properly served, and the remainder aren’t quite sure what to think and have largely decided to blame the media.

Predictably, oh so very predictably, those opinions largely align with the political divisions of the US population. 

Liberals generally think the verdict was utterly wrong, conservatives generally think it was perfectly right, and independents/libertarians think it’s all a big conspiracy to keep the idiot masses under the jackbooted heel of some shadowy cabal bent on world domination.

Unless science invents a magic time-viewing device*, I doubt that anybody will ever really know what happened that night.

Certainly none of us can know for sure what was really in the minds of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, since one is conveniently dead and the other has edited and sanitized his own recollection in an effort to make himself into the hero and the victim of his own narrative – just as any human being in his position would do (which is the primary reason why eye-witness testimony usually isn’t worth spit).  There are no other real witnesses. There’s no video. The forensic evidence, such as it is, lends clear support to no particular position and only bears out the portions of the story that aren’t really in dispute.

And so where does that leave us?

Stuck with speculation and our own perception of the event as filtered through layers of tainted media and our own various biases.

But, for me, one fact stands out.

One simple fact, one simple fact that we can all agree on, one simple fact that is not in dispute, and that is this: a seventeen year old kid is dead.

A seventeen year old kid is dead.

Strip off everything else, strip off race, strip off profiling and bigotry and the confirmation bias of our own secret fears, strip off stand-your-ground and self-defense laws, strip off guns and the endlessly unending gun-control debate, strip away liberals and conservatives and political agendas, strip away hoodies and the notion of what constitutes thuggery, strip away the American Dream versus ethnic subculture, strip away the question of who called for help, strip away who started it, strip away media bias, strip off everything and you are left with one simple bald-faced fact: a seventeen year old kid is dead.

A seventeen year old kid is dead.

This, in and of itself, this is a tragedy.

The reason doesn’t matter, the loss matters, a young life cut short is what matters.

And it should damned well matter to all of us.

In the end, at the fundamental core of our humanity, when we strip away all of the bullshit that divides us, we, each and every single one of us, should lament the death of our children, any of our children.

 

But, of course, we can’t just strip it all away, can we?

If we could, we wouldn’t be having this debate in the first place, would we?

We Americans, none of us, can look at this case dispassionately. 

We can’t look at this case the way we look at white-on-white crime or black-on-black crime or even black-on-white crime. We can’t look at this death the way we look at other deaths.

We can’t, can we? Res ipsa loquitur, just saying.

Otherwise this case would have been lost in the dozens, hundreds, of other deaths that have happened since the night Zimmerman confronted Martin on the streets of Sanford, Florida (or Martin confronted Zimmerman, depending on your point of view. We’ll get to that, be patient).

And that too is a tragedy.

It’s a tragedy, because it speaks directly to centuries of division, of politics and anger and bias and hatred and suspicion and fear, a division that each and every American drags along clanking and jangling like chains behind us every single day.

We Americans might be able to avoid acknowledging our history, but we can not avoid the consequences of it.

And that, right there, is what this dead kid is, a tragic consequence of our history.

George Zimmerman says that he is not a racist. 

Those who know him, his family, his friends, say that he is not a racist.

Zimmerman’s lawyers say that the shooting was not racially motivated, and the jury believed this to be the case.

It is unlikely that the US Department of Justice will find sufficient evidence to prosecute Zimmerman for a racially motivated federal hate crime.

Perhaps it’s true. Perhaps Zimmerman was not a racist.

Perhaps the shooting wasn’t, per se, motivated directly by race.

And yet this case is fundamentally, inevitably, inescapably about race.

It was always about race.

It was about race from the moment Zimmerman spotted Martin walking down the street.

It was about race the moment this story broke across the national news and we, all of us, immediately and automatically chose sides.

It’s always been about race.

And that too is a tragedy.

Some of us look at Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman and see centuries of bias and inequality, we see our violent past and our violent present and our violent future – and we automatically see racism, we can’t not see it. We see a dead kid, all his dreams, all of his passion, all of his loves and all of his hopes, all of his potential, all that he could have been, all that his parents and loved ones ever wished for him gone, erased, lost forever. We look into the seventeen year old face of Trayvon Martin and we see an engineer, a doctor, a teacher, a congressman or a president, we see a Hank Aaron, a Jackie Robinson, an Alex Haley, a Medgar Evers, a Martin Luther King, a Bill Cosby, a Will Smith, a Thurgood Marshall. We look into his face and we see the eyes of our own seventeen year old children looking back. Now, certainly, Trayvon Martin was no saint, something Zimmerman’s defense and Martin’s sneering detractors have taken great pains to point out – but the simple truth of the matter, the inescapable truth of the matter, is that he was a seventeen year old kid.  Sure, he’d gotten into trouble, what kid hasn’t? Sure he smoked a little pot, but c’mon, have some perspective, we’ve got congressmen tweeting dirty pictures to women on the internet, we’ve got Wall Street executives stealing billions, we’ve a guy who kept three women as his sex slaves chained in the basement of his house for decades. You never attended a kegger as an underage teen? You never got into a fight? You never smoked a little pot? Please. Sure, his girlfriend was a ditz, so what? When did that become a crime? Jesus Haploid Christ, folks, if those things  are worthy of the death sentence we’re lucky any of our kids survive to adulthood. You know how many kids in America are just like Trayvon Martin? A hell of a lot more than not. I can’t count the number of kids just like Trayvon Martin that I met over twenty years of military service. Young kids from backgrounds just like Martin’s, kids who just needed direction and guidance and purpose, like any kid.  Kids who grew into honorable men and women, solid citizens, responsible leaders.

Some of us, we look at Trayvon Martin and we see ourselves, ten, twenty, thirty years ago.

But some of us, we look at Trayvon Martin and we see a thug in a hooded sweatshirt, we see his violent past and his violent present and no future, violent or otherwise.  We know who is to blame and it sure isn’t us. It’s those who cry racism and inequality and refuse to better themselves, it’s those who won’t integrate into American society, who won’t avail themselves of the land of opportunity. It’s the fault of those who embrace the thug culture and the violence glorified in rap and hip hop. We look into the eyes of Trayvon Martin and we see every mugger who ever ripped us off at knife point. We see every shiftless loser that ever robbed a gas station or stole a car or broke into our houses.  We look into Trayvon Martin’s face and we see a punk who’ll grow up into yet another gangster, a criminal who pissed away his potential and his future, who lives in the moment with no regard for the future, who glories in violence and idolizes the hoodie wearing thug life. Sure, Trayvon Martin wasn’t doing anything wrong that night. That night. But that doesn’t make him an innocent. Sure he was just on his way home from the store with a bag of candy and a drink, that night.  But nits make lice, right? Isn’t that what they used to say?  We look into his face and we don’t see our children looking back, we see the face of our children’s killer, the barbarian at the gate, the other. We see a kid already embarked on the short brutal life that will define him and those just like him, a drug addict, a brawler, a criminal. Of course he’d gotten himself into trouble, of course he used drugs, of course his girlfriend was a, well, whatever she was. Of course, of course. Obviously, those thing only confirm our impression of Trayvon Martin.

Some of us, we look at Trayvon Martin, and we can’t imagine ourselves in his shoes, not now, not ever.

Some of us look at the body of Trayvon Martin and we think, My God, how? Why?.

Some of us look at the body of Trayvon Martin and we nod and say, well, what did you expect?

Some of us look at the death of Trayvon Martin and say, well, you know he brought this on himself, if he wasn’t looking like thug, if he wasn’t acting like a punk, none of this would have happened. He had it coming, sooner or later it would have ended just like this. He deserved it.

Some of us look at the death of Trayvon Martin and say, damnit, he had every right to be there, he had every right to walk down that street unmolested and without being profiled. He had every right to confront Zimmerman. Nobody deserves this, nobody.

This case may not have been about racism per se, but how we, each one of us, sees Trayvon Martin, well, that has everything to do with race, with more than two centuries of racial inequality in this country.

And that is a tragedy, maybe the greatest tragedy of all, because until we do something about that we’ll have to live with more and more dead kids.

This case may not have been about stand-your-ground or concealed-carry, but how we, each one of us, sees George Zimmerman has everything to do with our bizarre infatuation with gun culture. A seventeen year old kid was shot to death and there are no legal consequences for the man who killed him. He’s free to strap on a gun and patrol your neighborhood. How does that make sense? Folks, this isn’t about the Second Amendment, this isn’t about defending yourself from tyranny or oppression or even from enemies foreign and domestic, Stand-your-ground and concealed-carry give wannabe heroes like George Zimmerman the courage and bravado to trade reason for confrontation.

And that too is a tragedy, because until we do something about that, until we can speak reasonably about the gun culture in this country, about the bizarre Wild West idea that we can solve our problems with guns, we’ll have to live with the continuous stream of dead kids that we see day in and day out here in America. 

A seventeen year old kid is dead.

He is one of many.

Whether he, and all the other dead kids, would have turned out a saint or a sinner, a citizen or a thug, a good person or bad man, we will never know.

It isn’t for us, left or right, liberal or conservative, black or white to decide who Trayvon Martin was to be. It was his and his choice alone. His right to find out, his right to define himself, his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, all of that was taken from him before he ever had the opportunity to figure out who he was.

And that is the real tragedy.

For so many reasons.

 

 

 

 


 

* Magic Government Time-Viewing Device: regarding this, yes, I am indeed fully aware that a certain segment of the under-medicated bleary-eyed sleeve-chewing fringe believes that such a device actually does exist and that the New World Order, who acquired it from a crashed UFO piloted by Bigfoot, is using it to control the future.  I get letters from these people. I wish to hell that I didn’t, but I do. Inevitably, should I mention such a thing, tongue in cheek or otherwise, I attract the attention of this spittle-flecked lunacy. If you are one such believer, take note: should you attempt to comment here on your pet Time-Viewer conspiracy, I will immediately respond with ridicule, mockery, and sarcastic derision in the megaton range. Then I’ll pull your dirty sweat-soaked skid-marked underpants over your head and Facebook the resulting picture.  Probably best for everybody, you especially, if you just turn and quietly go back to your rusty run-down trailer and continue your “research” into cold fusion.  Say hi to Bigfoot for me.

183 comments:

  1. Very thoughtful. Thank you. Also, nine errors. Kind, quite,Dream,matter, or, sure, things, your and reasonably. Get 'em before the crowd comes. Love ya.

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    1. There are a lot more than nine errors. I'm fixing them. New laptop keyboard is not helping.

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    2. I just ran right over your errors as I could figure out what you meant and none changed your thoughts :) But I know it does drive others crazy. I've decided to let these things go unless I'm reading something a totally stupid person is writing :)

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    3. Far more errors than usual. Most of them are fixed. I'll get the rest as I notice them.

      New laptop. New keyboard. There's some lag, I type faster than it can keep up, much faster. Eventually I'll get it adjusted correctly.

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    4. Not a spelling error, but an editorial note:
      "more than two centuries of race in this country"
      I am sure what you meant was racial tensions, racial division or the like. But the phrase as written is sorta meaningless.

      Bruce

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    5. I read right over them too....of course, any more these days, "typo" is my second language

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    6. Only one jumped out at me, the double hopes:
      "...all his hopes, all his dreams, all of his passion, all of his loves and all of his hopes,..."

      I'll be sharing this one on Facebook, great summary.

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    7. Noted errors are fixed. Thanks for the assist.

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    8. Jim, coming late to the soirée today, and I have found only one, a "you" is where a "your" should be in the paragraph towards the end that begins:

      "This case may not have been about stand-you-ground or concealed-carry, but..."

      I think it is good that we help you find the typos so that the final product left on line for time immemorial is as good as it can possibly be.

      As to the content, why am I not surprised to find such a rational and coherent commentary on your site (it's rhetorical, it's rhetorical!)....

      There are relatively few people I have spoken with who agree that the verdict is probably what it needs to be considering the law, but that doesn't mean Zimmerman's actions were well thought out or well considered, and it doesn't mean it is not a tragedy that a youngster is dead. As in many other crossroads of history, we will never know the answer, because there just isn't any evidence.

      Thanks for taking your time to write this one...it was well worth wait, Shipmate.

      Old Navy Comm O

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    9. ten - just one more... in the forward - "like an drunken frat boy" - sorry to be the grammar police, but just thought I'd help out! ;-) It comes at a line break so many didn't notice it. Love the article.

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    10. Greg - ETC(SW) USN - RetiredJuly 28, 2013 at 5:50 AM

      I think the "thing" that should be "things" that the OP was referring to is still there. Hate to pile on as this essay has got to be my new favorite in a growing list of my favorites of your work. This should instantly be added to your "greatest hits" page.

      This essay, to me, should be a foundation of discussions about racial issues in America. Although the point is made so eloquently about how we perceive Travon Martin, from either perspective, there's a lot more that could be gone into regarding how those perceptions are reinforced, every day, by partisan media and partisan politicians. I say that as sort of a blanket statement towards both sides, but one side does seem to be willing to rationally confront the issues and discuss them sanely while the other side literally foams at the mouth on "their" side.

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  2. Thanks, Jim, for your thoughts on this tragedy. And it is a tragedy - a 17 yo boy is dead. For walking to the store and walking back to his Dad's place. Watched by a person who charged himself with keeping his neighborhood safe. A person who did not follow the directions of the 9-11 operator who told him NOT to follow the person of interest, the person who "didn't belong" there, the person who was 17 and walking home in the rain with a hoody over his head.

    Such a sad ending for Trayvon Martin, a 17 yo kid.

    I personally don't know how George Zimmerman can live with results of his person quest to keep his neighbor safe - by killing a 17 yo kid, walking home in the rain, with a hoody on his head.

    Very sad. Definitely a result of hundreds of years of racism in America - and elsewhere in the world. There is always an other, a person who doesn't fit into the landscape at a specific point in time.

    Thanks for your comments.

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    1. "Watched by a person who charged himself with keeping his neighborhood safe"

      A discerning comment that few have made. He kept the neighborhood safe for some people - but not for Trayvon.

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  3. Trayvon will never know his potential or those who believed in him and loved him. GZ will get to look over his shoulder the rest of his life wondering who is watching his every move.

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  4. Agreed. You nailed the real problem, a kid died. It's part of how little life is worth nowdays, I think. Kids die. The crazies wants all of the old folks to die with no medical care and no social security.

    Where I grew up, it would have been a white kid who died via a white person's hands, all that would have mattered is that the white kid was from the wrong side of town and existing. Kind of like DWB on the N.J. Turnpike.

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    1. Maybe I should say more here. The waste of a human life is what annoys me, thanks to personal experience. When I was in high school, I knew a few bright people. 7 I would categorize as really brilliant (that's out of about a pool of 400) and quite a few more who were very smart. Out of the 7 people, 2 live reasonably well. 3 died in 'nam, one due to 'nam, and one is alive but not living a very good life. The reason is not because of their attempts to do, or their willingness to work, but rather that the system threw them away because of one reason or another. It's the same now, even worse, the willingness of both parts of the left and the entire right to throw away someone for good because of one feigned transgression is simply appalling. In my opinion (and I'd hope a retired Bell labs scientist might be trusted with some credibility here) that was a terrible waste of very smart, potentially very productive people, simply because their parents weren't rich and the system knew they were from the wrong side of the tracks. Interestingly, all of them were white. In some places, race isn't the only excuse. In some places, any excuse is a good excuse to throw people away. I moved out. I think most people thought "good riddance" and I agree, I was rid of that system.

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  5. What if ..... Zimmerman had not rolled up his window? What if .... Zimmerman, instead of calling 411, had called the kid over and said something like " I'm the neighborhood watch. Are you lost?? Do you need help??"

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    1. What ifs make you crazy, you know ... However, given his actions, I don't think Zimmerman had it in him to approach things that way. I think he was not interested in protecting the neighborhood so much as he was interested in being a "hero."

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    2. What if TM didn't attack Zimmerman?

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    3. The best Facebook meme I saw on this tragedy was along the lines of "I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman stopped and offered Trayvon Martin a ride home to get out of the rain"

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    4. Greg - ETC(SW) USN - RetiredJuly 28, 2013 at 5:58 AM

      My favorite "what if", which I inevitably go to when I see it - What if frogs had machine guns? Then birds wouldn't f#$@ with them.

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  6. Well stated, *bang* on.. if more people would use words to sort out their issues, instead of guns, the world would be a better place.

    As for your errors...I just fix them as I read, it's the teacher in me ;) None of them affected the message you were sending, but I get the need to edit them :)

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  7. The best ad I ever saw -- and I know this because I remember it from what was probably more than 20 years ago -- was a huge poster they put up in some London underground stations. It showed a picture of a black man, in casual street attire, running down a city street, with a white cop in full cop attire chasing after him. The ad said (I paraphrase) that some people look at this as another instance of racially-based harassment, and other people look at this as the police getting tough on crime. In actuality (said that ad), it was two officers, one in plain-clothes, chasing after a third man who was out of view. I think the ad was an attempt to do a little hiring outreach on the part on the Metropolitan police -- but it also said a lot about our prejudices and perspectives (and how our conclusions are often mistaken if we don't see the whole picture).

    And that WAS 20 years ago, but it's the same thing today, except now the white guy behind the black guy killed him -- and we all immediately jump to conclusions as to whether it was racism or justified.

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    1. Good God... so I didn't imagine seeing that picture! I remember that picture very well and it had great impact on me.

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    2. I remember that ad! It clearly challenged a big assumption nearly everybody was making.

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  8. Yes, a 17 year old kid is dead & we will never know what his potential would or would not have been...for me the worst part is that Zimmerman never expresses any regret at the killing...when asked if he would change anything he says no & then calls it "part of God's plan". That is what haunts me about the verdict. A 17 year old kid is dead & some people don't even seem bothered by it.

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    1. Early on I read that he apologized to Martin's parents and expressed regret. I'm sure his lawyers nipped that in the bud right away. I'm not saying he is a good man, but I always believe that all the facts need presenting.

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  9. He is not a kid first of all. And how is the punks life with more than GM? TM was the one who made racist comments, or do you ignore that to help your story? Martin attacked Zimmerman, proof because of injuries and probably would have killed him if GZ didn't do us a favor by killing the wangster. i am impressed to see that the thugs supporters can spell here though lol. Back on topic, TM wanted to be a gangster and got what he deserved for attackingGZ for being a creepy cracker. Good riddance...

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    1. This is a Poe, right?

      If not, well, thanks for proving my point so succinctly.

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    2. I see. So, at 17 years of age - he is what? An adult? An old man? Not a kid? Not according to the law. "Wangster"? That's a word? I think you ought to look to your own less than adequate writing skills before you say anything about those of anyone here.

      And you really did prove Jim's point quickly and well.

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    3. Why is it always the ones who post anonymously are the ones who spew hate? I mean at least have the balls to claim your words.

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    4. oh come on, I'm someone who fully understands why Zimmerman went free, but you're making everyone look bad, bro. It's almost never a "good riddance" when someone dies - whether it's a 17 year old black kid, 17 year old white kid, a 28 year old (insert either race here) man, etc. Hell, if some 87 year old granny got popped in the head with a bullet, that's still not "good riddance," she was likely someone's mother / grand mother - even if you yourself can't find sympathy for the direct victim, think about all of the indirect victims - the family who had unconditional love for TM even if he had been a gangster.

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    5. I post anonymously and I do not spew hate. I post anonymously because I don't want to mess with all the doodah involved in setting up a "real" profile. (On the Internet no-one knows you're a dog...) But if it makes you feel better, I claim my words as The Grand Zarkie of Planet Zoltratron.

      Great essay, Jim, as usual.

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    6. Anon 0709: Go to drop down on Reply as: Select profile. Select 'Name/URL'. Type in your name, which can be anything of course including "Anonymous." Ignore the URL line. Type your comment and hit 'Publish'. Do the stupid computer trick that fools the spam bots and BAM, you're published. Or not. Jim could probably hire a social media intern to screen his blog traffic. Must be a royal PIA.
      Original Anon: Thanks for the reveal. Do you also comment on Yahoo?

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    7. Can you tell me why you think TM wanted to be a gangster? Thanks.

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    8. Well I'm glad to see you agree with the Stand Your Ground Law and taking care to defend oneself against threats to you. I mean, we can't have people being menacing against citizens. There should be a right for people to be able to make secure their own persons. After all, if we allow all the laws requiring people to "retreat if possible", all that does it make it easier for the criminal element. All they need to do is a little violence and then we all need to back down and they're able to get away with their crimes and fell emboldened.

      Because, after all, if there's a crazy person stalking you and getting in your face, you shouldn't have to retreat. You should have the right to stand your ground.

      You know, like Trayvon Martin did. I mean, there's a crazy man in a truck following you around. You see he's on the phone with someone. Probably planning to ambush you. And then the crazy man gets out of his truck to follow you on foot.

      So if you believe in the right to defend yourself, and to injure the person threatening you, you must champion TM's decision to beat the crap out of the guy threatening him. After all, he was a crazy stalker guy with a gun.

      Or if you want to be in the crowd that says Trayvon shouldn't have attacked Zimmerman then you also must believe that Zimmerman didn't have the right to shoot Trayvon.

      Or you're just a racist, paranoid troll who has no logic skills.

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  10. Thanks so much for your articulate summation.
    A child died, and unarmed child in an unseen conflict with a trained, armed adult.
    I am a mother, aunt, G-mom, and I do volunteer work with and stand for children. Most of the kids I work with are between 14 and 19, and they are children no matter how cool they think they are or what they think they know, and many of them could be Trayvon. They are someone's son or daughter, grandchild,and the future if we protect and educate all of them.

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  11. It may be worth noting, at this point, that the further to the Right a person is, the more they can be pigeonholed as belonging to a 'Shame and Honor' Culture. Briefly stated, these are people who react to insult with disporportionate violence and who place a great deal of importance on self-sufficient problem-solving. In their eyes, Zimmerman is a hero because he *acted* like a hero. It may be further noted that the further Left a person is, the more they can be slotted into a Culture of Law. And in their eyes, Martin is a victim because he was given no chance before the apparatus of The Law.

    I don't know. Part of me understands the Honor Culture pretty well, but that's balanced by my belonging to a Culture of Law that respects the law, as law. Was Zimmerman found not guilty on all counts? Yes. But I will shed no tears if he steps in front of a bus.

    I also find it ironic in the extreme that he has hidden himself, out of fears of 'vigilante justice.' There is so much irony in that, you could lift it with a magnet.

    A final thought: There is virtually no way we can have an honest conversation about race in this society. Not because we don't want to, but because those belonging to the aforementioned Honor Culture take it as an insult that they are being placed on the wrong side of the issue by people they don't respect. That they are standing in the way of the solution, let alone that they are part of the problem, is beside the point. The point is that by trying to make them see what they're doing, we are 'shaming' them, 'belittling' them, 'marginalizing' them and ultimately, insulting them. And they will not let an insult go unanswered.

    There is no fix to this problem.

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    1. I like your characterization of Honor and Law Cultures, and I believe they accurately account for the polarization. I'm also an eternal optimist, however, so I don't subscribe to your conclusion that there's no fix.

      Granted, I thought that the massacre of children in an Elementary School would crack the stranglehold (all allusions to Uncle Ted fully intended) on gun proliferation, but it didn't. Quite to the contrary, gun sales soared. I also thought the death of a teenager by an armed wannabe would lead to a discussion of concealed carry and Stand Your Ground, but that's got no traction, either.

      I still maintain the hope that there's a Rosa Parks, Mahatma Gandhi, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Cesar Chavez, or Martin Luther King, Jr out there who can awaken all sides to the need for resolution.

      Maybe...... just maybe, it's Jim.

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    2. Captain Blight wrote: "the further Left a person is, the more they can be slotted into a Culture of Law." Huh? Have you checked with the folks who stand against immigration reform because many of those immigrants who would benefit from reform did NOT abide by the culture of law...or did I get something backward?

      Wish I could get this to Fr. Pfleger in Chicago..and thanks, Jim, for ending with a lighthearted reference to the "spittle flecked lunacy" fringe...btw, my typing errors are usually caught by Google Chrome... will share this thoughtful essay...thank you again... Marilyn Ciucci

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    3. "So much irony in that, you could lift it with a magnet." Good line.

      I feel no sympathy for Zimmerman. I understand the verdict, though I thought the trial was deeply flawed, but I hope he lives in fear for the rest of his life.

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  12. Well written and well said, thank you. Made me tear up. I hope it's OK, but I shared it on my timeline. Are we allowed to do that?

    Sandy Limjuco

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  13. Hi Jim. Beautifully articulated as always, and every bit as sad, as that strange and bitter fruit hanging from the tree about which Billie sang. At 17 I would drink any alcohol offered. All my friends smoked pot and so would I, had I liked the stuff. In fact college life involved stronger stuff. Anyone dogging me on a walk home at night would have been subjected, out of my fear, to whatever weapon I could find. Zimmerman was a Class One Fool, a nincompoop without equal for his utter lack of judgment and common sense.And, I believe, for his pathetic, inborn belief that this very young boy was inherently bad because of his race.

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  14. Well written and well said. I bring up the simple fact this kid is dead, and my conservative friends on Facebook attack me for it. *sigh* Not the point. Thanks.

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  15. One thing that struck me about the coverage and comments from the right was that they universally referred to his hood being up as showing something about his character and/or motives, when from the UK it just seemed so damn obvious that his hood was up *because it was raining!* - and then they say profiling is irrelevant, or a liberal conspiracy. A child is dead, and people have it in them to say "good riddance" - so much fear, so much hate for the "other", so little understanding that we are *all* human and are *all* the product of our circumstances.

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  16. I am most frightened by the people who can't see that the dead 17-year old could be someone they know. Easily be someone they know because our culture has empowered confrontation and guns. Fear the police state and create your own police state. Taxes are evil, so I'm supposed to defund my local cops, and guns are good, so I should arm up plus trust the Zimmermans of the world to protect me and mine. That formula is terrifying.

    The people who can't see a dead 17-year old boy -- some of the same people who called the Steubenville rapists "boys with ruined futures" -- don't want to talk about how, because that dead 17-year old didn't "fit" the neighborhood, that dead 17-year old waited in the morgue to be identified for two days because no one cared to look for his family, family that had already been to the police to report him missing.

    We might not be able to prove that race profiling was why Zimmerman followed Martin that night, but Martin's race defined how the police investigated the shooting. Who knows what evidence was washed away because the police chose to see the another black thug instead of a tragically dead teen whose family was searching for him?

    Thank you for the post. I keep reading about it because I have a 17-year old long-haired hoodie-wearing son, and I don't know what to tell him to do other than call the cops and run like hell and hope that stranger doesn't have a gun and some kind of itch to make an example of "one of those kids."

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    1. Yeah, they're already wailing about how poor "George" will spend the rest of his life being hated and judged by people who don't know anything about him aside from some basic assumptions because they'll never ever bother to look beyond his face to see him as a real person...


      ... You know, just like pretty much every black kid in a hoodie walking down the streets at night.

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  17. My question is how set in stone are the jury instructions. If a juror originally wants to convict GZ and is turned by another juror because the instructions say they must acquit,then what is the point of a jury anyway?
    Maybe some commentor knows the answer. I would have dug my heels in and hung that jury no matter what the instructions said. But what I wonder is, what would the legal ramifications have been for me in doing that.

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    1. Not only would you have been found in contempt of court... but you would have lost your honor as well... The law is written the way it is for a reason... to avoid prejudices we all have. You say the juror "originally" wanted to convict... That's why jurors' are "instructed" NOT to make judgments until the end... I hope for YOUR sake that if you or one of your children are ever charged with a crime that jurors follow the instructions to the letter of the law... That's the only way to insure a fair trial.

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    2. Sorry Brian but your reply, especially the "honor" part is complete bullshit. If one juror had held out for manslaughter, and none of the others agreed, all that would have happened is a hung jury.

      And as for "honor", the very point of having a jury, historically, is so the general citizens can refuse to uphold laws, or application of laws, that they find repugnant. Try looking up "jury nullification". Don't matter what the instructions are, if the outcome is unjust, the jury does not have to find that result.

      The law sometimes runs up against a case that makes an ass out of it and everyone involved. This case did exactly that. If one of those jurors had found the courage to stand fast and say I will not be party to this abomination, that person would not have suffered any penalty at law, and would have been seen by hundreds of millions a hero of conscience.

      By they way I am a lawyer. Who passed the Florida Bar many years ago. I know what I am talking about, and you sir, do not.

      BB

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    3. Having served on a jury in the last couple years, I think I can speak to that issue somewhat.

      The jury instructions don't really tell you that you must convict or acquit. The instructions are typically given to assist with deliberations by defining the charges, standards of proof, what elements of the crime must be present to convict, how much doubt is needed for acquittal, and definitions of all the legalese that you need to consider. That and your memory of the testimony is all you have to go on in many cases. (rules for note taking and access to recorded testimony may vary by jurisdiction) With contradicting testimony, it is completely up to the jury to figure out who to believe. Without the instructions, it would be easy to be overwhelmed and go with your gut feeling.

      In our case, (IIRC) there were four counts, one of which was a slam dunk for the prosecution, two which were a little thornier, and a fourth which netted the defendant significant sympathy. On all the stickier issues we frequently perused the "elements and definitions" section of the instructions and ultimately found that we "had" to convict, but it wasn't the instructions that told us what to do, it was the law. The instructions merely helped us properly hear what the law had to say.

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  18. The discussion of this verdict dominated conversation at my job for several days. Eventually I had to pull out my MP3 player, plug in my earbuds, and shut out the stupid. I work with a lot of older guys that I really like and typically respect...right up until they start talking politics and race relations. That's when I just have to step away before I lose my religion.

    Part of what really bothered me was the way they were either completely unaware of some key (and undisputed) facts of the case, or cheerfully willing to disregard them. As long as they supported their view that Mr. Zimmerman was a hero protecting his community, they were happy and not interested in learning anything more.

    This essay hits it on the head. I don't know what happened, no one alive does except Mr. Zimmerman. But a kid is dead. Neither Mr. Zimmerman nor Trayvon Martin did anything to deserve being dead. I don't know what Mr. Zimmerman intended when he decided to follow a kid walking through his neighborhood (after being told not to by the authorities...that IS one thing that really bothers me), but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that he didn't INTEND to kill someone.

    In the "what-if" realm - my what-if's don't involve Trayvon Martin or Mr. Zimmerman. They involve the police and the prosecutors. What if the event had been handled the way shootings normally are - it may not have incited the media frenzy it did. What if the prosecutors had reached for a (in my opinion), more reasonable verdict of manslaughter instead of murder 2 - they might have gotten a conviction. It wouldn't have many everyone happy...but when a kid is dead - any kid - that's not going to happen anyway.

    I also know that Mr. Zimmerman's life as he knew it is over. He may not be in a traditional prison, but the walls he built around himself with his choices are no less impenetrable. In fact, I would say they are more restrictive and lasting than any our system could devise.

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    1. The one thing that bothers you is that the police told Zimmerman NOT TO follow Trevon... You also say it bothers you that your friends you work with are unaware of facts or completely disregard them... The police NEVER told Zimmerman to NOT follow Trevon... They never told Zimmerman to STOP following him.. The police can NOT tell a US citizen where not to go... The police dispatcher "suggested" he not follow Trevon by saying... "we don't need you to do that" That suggestion was given to Zimmerman in the context of a police dispatcher talking to a civilian... The truth is Zimmerman was at the time working as a community watch volunteer whos sole purpose was to WATCH people he thought suspicious and report to the police... Which is what he was doing... Young black males had been breaking into and stealing things from multiple houses in this development... Not older white females... Not Asian overweight males... young black males... If your job includes watching out for anything suspicious... a person fitting the exact description would naturally be cause for more suspicion... Was Trevon guilty of a crime at this point?.... Of course not.. But he did in fact meet the exact description of what police call a BOLO Be On the LOOK OUT... Are you allowed to watch people in this country that you consider suspicious? Absolutely? Zimmerman took absolutely no action personally against Trevon.. none.. accept watching him.. Trevon is the one who took action by attacking Zimmerman... Which in your own words you are in fact...

      "either completely unaware of some key (and undisputed) facts of the case, or cheerfully willing to disregard them"

      With your statements saying Zimmerman basically did this to himself is conducive with saying its ok to attack people who simply watch you... Imagine a loss prevention officer in a store being attacked every time he watched someone... Its their job to WATCH people... giving credit to the idea that people that watch people should be violently attacked is contrary to both the law... and common sense... I believe you are in your own words...

      "either completely unaware of some key (and undisputed) facts of the case, or cheerfully willing to disregard them"




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    2. Brian, this line: "Zimmerman took absolutely no action personally against Trevon.. none.. accept watching him.. Trevon is the one who took action by attacking Zimmerman... Which in your own words you are in fact... " is a large assumption on your part.

      Here's what we know to be true. Zimmerman was watching Martin, Zimmerman was given the "suggestion" not to do that by the 911 operator. Zimmerman left his truck. A fight ensued -- we do not *know* who started it or how it started. Zimmerman was losing said fight and pulled his gun and shot Martin dead.

      Now admittedly, I have my own prejudices as to how things happened in my mind, and those lead me to a conclusion that may or may not be right. But the simple fact is that until Zimmerman left his truck, all choices were his as to how the events transpired.

      Did Zimmerman shoot in self defense? Maybe, at that point in time. Was Martin hitting Zimmerman in self defense or did he charge him without provocations? We will never really know (but Occam's razor tells me there had to be at least a verbal exchange first). But the armed man is the one who escalated it to the point a confrontation could occur.

      *Anything* else is pure speculation.

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    3. Brian Shafer, it seems to me that GZ did more than WATCH...he did indeed get out of his car and relocated himself..my information about Neighborhood WATCH programs...no guns and not alone...so my interpretation was that GZ became a cop wannabee..and when a dispatcher, working for a police department..tells anyone WE do not need you to do that...it is meant to be accepted...not ignored ...as GZ did...

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    4. Police records show that in the previous two years preceding that horrible evening, there had been SEVEN break-ins--an average of 3.5 break-ins per year. One of them involved a white kid and 3 black kids on bikes--and they were caught. Zimmerman knew that the most recent person had also been caught, but a gun in his hand made him macho and foolish.

      Personally, knowing that Zimmerman is a liar in most aspects of his life (he let friends give him a junior college graduation party when he had not actually graduated, for one example of one of his more minor lies, ignoring, for now, the duplicate passports, etc ), I think his criminal justice courses showed him he needed to make up some story for killing Trayvon.

      Freckles

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    5. So you are walking home from the store at night and you notice a pick up truck slowly slowly following you. Then you realize the driver of the pick up truck has stopped and the driver is now on foot following you. So you are suppose to drop to the ground with your fingers laced behind your head? Wait until you are attacked? Until a weapon is pulled? No you are a 17 guy. You stand your ground!! You defend yourself. Exactly what Mr. Martin did.


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    6. Greg - ETC(SW) USN - RetiredJuly 28, 2013 at 6:48 AM

      Just a quick clarification - Zimmerman was NOT on "watch" that tragic evening. According to his own words (interview with Sean Hannity), he was on his way to Target to do some grocery shopping. That's sort of a nit-picky distinction, but it does change the context of the overall confrontation. Also, Brian states that the police never told Zimmerman not to follow Martin. I don't know how you can characterize the 911 operator's statement, "We don't need you to do that," as anything other than indicating NOT to follow Martin, but again, that's another nit-picky argument. It seems odd to me that the expectation is that Martin needed to "retreat" from Zimmerman and had no right to stand his ground against an unknown stalker.

      I don't know that I have a beef with Zimmerman being found not guilty according to the laws that enable this Wild West sort of confrontational justice. I have a beef with the laws - and Jim pointed that out, as well. The Wild West analogy is something I consider, a lot, when I hear the NRA blathering about. It was referred to as the Wild West not in a nostalgic, romantic way, but in a literal way. We'd supposedly become more civilized, but we are now regressing, IMHO.

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    7. As a former 9-1-1 operator, I can say that the phrase "we don't need you to do that" is as close to a direct order as a civilian operator can safely give and still protect themselves from liability. When you tell someone to specifically do something (eg. "don't go into that burning building"), you can then be sued in civil court should anything happen (eg. you don't go into the burning building and get struck by a car standing on the sidewalk out front, watching it burn). The operator was doing their best to guide GZ to make the right choice and instead he chose to do the wrong thing.

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    8. GZ doesn't seem to be hiding out in some anonymous hole, with his life never being the same. I've heard of at least two public contacts, one in regard to providing some kind of assistance in an auto rollover, which is fine, and just today a report that he was stopped for speeding in Texas and had a firearm in the glove box. That's pretty much stupid.

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  19. Someone is dead, exactly. Too soon and for no indisputable reason. I, of course, have my personal opinion on what happened, but it is just that; my opinion. What I do think we can learn from this is that we Floridians have some bad laws on the books. There is some discussion going on in our state legislature that may amend the stand-your-ground law to include "no pursuit" language, but we'll see how far that gets. After all, this is Florida, and our legislators are crazy on their good days.

    What has saddened me the most since the verdict is the pure, unapologetic, nasty racism I have seen reemerge. I feel like, at any moment, I will see a "Whites Only" sign placed on lunch counters and water fountains. I saw these things in the early years of my life and, here in Florida, it's feeling a lot like deja vu. I lived through violence in the streets over race issues and did not think I would ever have to live through it again. The vitriol in this part of the country shatters that thought.

    We must, MUST, continue to talk about race. About the fact that young African-American boys are taught to never run lest they be seen as doing something wrong. About the fact that a black teenager walking through a neighborhood is automatically seen as trouble, but a white teenager is not. About the black man with a concealed-carry permit and carrying is detained by police but the white man is not. About the black mother being labeled "lazy" for trying to feed her family using government assistance but not the white mother.

    We still have terrible race issues in our country. We are all humans, fragile, imperfect, with our own set of problems. We need to see each other as equals, not Others. Perhaps if Mr. Zimmerman had seen Mr. Martin as "like him" instead of seeing him as The Other, he might have become a mentor instead of a killer.

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  20. “Those that do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it”
    I'm been waiting for your thoughts on Trayvon/Zimmerman.
    My initial gut reaction to the shooting: "Here's a wanna-be cop/macho bully who strapped on a gun and went out looking for trouble", with "racial profiling" secondary, since bullies always prey on the “different”.
    Since then, I've done some research.
    You wrote "Zimmerman’s lawyers say that the shooting was not racially motivated, and the jury believed this to be the case"
    What the jury believed about Zimmerman's motivation was irrelevant to the trial. (Something mostly being ignored)
    Why it’s irrelevant:
    Florida's self-defense statute states:
    “Use of force by aggressor.--The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who: (1) Is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of, a forcible felony; or (2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless: (a) Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or (b) In good faith, the person withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.”
    Judge's instructions to the jury:
    "In deciding whether George Zimmerman was justified in the use of deadly force, you must judge him by the circumstances by which he was surrounded at the time the force was used. The danger facing George Zimmerman need not have been actual; however, to justify the use of deadly force, the appearance of danger must have been so real that a reasonably cautious and prudent person under the same circumstances would have believed that the danger could be avoided only through the use of that force. Based upon appearances, George Zimmerman must have actually believed that the danger was real. If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony."
    The jury had to decide if Zimmerman was in genuine fear of his life when he shot Trayvon. They decided he was.
    To me (I'm not a lawyer) the "Stand Your Ground" Law means I can initiate a confrontation until I believe I'm "in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm", (i.e. I'm losing, and losing badly), whereupon I can legally engage in the "use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant".
    I believe that's a law wide open to abuse, and in this case it was abused.
    However, Trayvon could have legally killed Zimmerman under this same law. That means it's a badly-written law, not a racist law. (We’ll never know what the jury might have then decided)
    My personal opinion of what happened that night: Man with gun. Male teenager. Both products of our culture. Both with authority issues. Too much testosterone. Neither willing to back down. Conflict and some form of tragedy inevitable.
    Trayvon's life is lost. Zimmerman's life is ruined. People are emotionally polarized and hurling accusations rather than seeing how how our heritage, (including but not limited to our US history of racism), is coupled with our life experience to influence our actions/reactions.
    And until we realize how we are shaped by our past, we will be unable to see any solutions for our future.
    That’s the true tragedy for all of us.
    c.c.thomas

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    1. "Man with gun. Male teenager." This is an important point.

      We expect teenagers to be stupid. That is why they do not vote and have many years to go before they can legally drink. They have restrictions in many state on when and who they can have in the car when operating a vehicle. They cannot get a license for carrying a weapon.

      We expect much more from 28 year-old GZ. He failed miserably. He was NOT officially on neighborhood watch, or at least was violating many of their rules, if he was. He escalated the situation by leaving his vehicle or otherwise maintaining an adult control of the situation.

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    2. Zimmerman also had a fairly lengthy history of aggressive behavior, MMA training and was caught flat out lying about the amount of bail money he and his wife had raised.

      And yet somehow he got the benefit of the doubt, whereas Martin -- who didn't so much as have a jaywalking citation as far as I'm aware, debunked Faux News shouting aside -- did not seem to warrant the same, perhaps in no small part because he's no longer around to tell his side of what happened.

      Here's the morale of the story: "Getting away with murder is much easier than getting away with aggravated assault, because the dead guy can't testify."

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  21. This essay was in The Atlantic last August:http://m.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/09/fear-of-a-black-president/309064/. Main point is that there was consensus that the shooting was a tragedy and needed to be looked into. The President Obama identified with Trayvon Martin and the right went out of their minds.

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  22. The most poignant comment I've seen about this tragedy is: What if Zimmermann had rolled down his window and offered Treyvon a ride home to get him out of the rain?

    Underlying themes, as you've stated, misconstrue what we think we know about that confrontation. Why wouldn't Treyvon be wearing a hood? It was raining and perhaps like most of us, he didn't like getting any wetter than he had to.

    Why is the stand your ground defense so readily given to the one of the pair who had a gun? If Treyvon had super powers and could have dropped one of the apartment buildings on Zimmermann, that's still self defense against an armed assailant in my book. And to state unequivocally as some have that Treyvon attacked Zimmermann? Please...

    Finally, I don't know much about how lawyers try to empanel juries in their clients' favor, but it seems to me that having a jury of 6 Caucasian women was never going to see things in favor of a person of color, even with Zimmermann being technically not a white guy, he was, by far, the lighter skinned of the two.

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    1. So let me get this straight.. If we see someone we consider suspicious... your advocating inviting them into your car with you? They make "lifetime" movies about things like that... Preposterous...

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    2. You completely misunderstood the statement Brian. What it means is: What if GZ acted like a somewhat compassionate human being (who wasn't out looking for trouble) and kindly asked a kid walking alone out in the rain if he'd like a ride home. A kid with his hood up so his head wouldn't get wet. How different things would have been. No misguided attempts to profile a person of color as being "suspicious" as they "always get away" etc etc. Not preposterous - just a simple act of human kindness instead of unnecessary actions that resulted in a dead 17 year old and millions of dollars spent by the local government and countless media outlets covering a criminal case of murder that didn't have to happen.

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  23. My opinion of the whole case boils down to Zimmerman choose to stalk Martin both in and out of his vehicle. The best comment I've seen so far is, "If Martin had been a girl and she had maced him for following her and then he shot her; how would this case have turned out?"

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  24. Nicely said Jim. Once again I find myself on the opposite end of the planet from co-workers and family. I am retired military and work on an Army post. Except for those co-workers of color- who no doubt have experienced racism up close and personal- the reactions of family and co-workers fall unto the "us/them" realm. Us/Them? Really? What century are we living in? After having deployed to the armpits of the planet I can tell you this: I never cared what color/religion/sex a person was when bullets flew- I only cared an American had my back. Why do we Americans pick at ourselves so much? Why are we always putting ourselves into the "Us/Them" category? If you want "Us/Them" join the service and deploy to a hot area. Nothing wakes you up like being a target. I have also served in countries (Central America and South America) where everyone walks around armed- including 5 year old kids with machetes. It is not pretty. There is a LOT of violence. I was always happy to come back to the USA and turn my arms into the arms room. I have no desire to see this country turn into such a crazy armed place with no rules of engagement. That sounds like a Mad Max movie. The whole Trayvon Martin tragedy shows we cannot separate the "Us/Them" mentality from our diverse culture and extreme gun toting views are going to get more people shot and perhaps killed. That scares me. I love my country- and my family- but I cannot understand this thinking. I wish those gun toters would join the service and find out what gun control really means.

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  25. I'm certain that the word you may have wanted for Trayvon Martin's girl friend was "unconventional." Yes, she was large, very dark, and did not speak well in court. (I believe she was from Haiti, a large language and culture barrier to leap. How many of us would feel comfortable testifying in court in any language other than our birth tongue? Particularly when you are harangued by the defense and intentionally made to appear completely illiterate when you are not familiar with a particular style of writing. I studied German in high school and college, which helped when I went to live in/around Heidelberg in the late 1970s. However, reading the German picket-fence style of handwriting was and remains difficult, and I have a bachelor's degree in history.) That Trayvon Martin had such an unconventional girl as his friend endeared him to me posthumously. Yes, I mourn the loss of a 17-year-old kid who was able to see more than skin-deep beauty.

    Sheryl Adsit

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    1. I grew up in Rome, have an Italian father and grandfather/grandmother, and was once certified at UN level 4 for non-simultaneous translation, and I would no more dream of testifying in Italian than I would in French, which I studied for 4 years. IN fact, when we travel to Italy, my family know not to mention that I speak Italian to the authorities (carabinieri, etc), as I could easily envision a situation where I screw the pooch.
      This was amusing, but in other situations it could result in jail time http://johnnysgarage.blogspot.com/2013/01/out-of-mouths-of-putatively-grown-adults.html


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    2. The girl also has a macking speech impediment, one that will probably need surgery to correct. I suspect she knows how her voice sounds to other people and that has got to make her more defensive and aggressive in her speech. I was happy to see that Rachael has been offered a scholarship, I hope that she goes on to lead a full and happy life.

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    3. It should be noted that this girl speaks THREE languages, despite having a physical defect (A severe underbite) that gives her a speech impediment. Most Americans can't even speak English well.

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  26. A well-reasoned piece Jim. Thank you for writing it. Lost in the all of the angry words shouted back and forth in the days since the verdict in this case was handed up was the point you made quite eloquently: the death of a 17 year-old is a TRAGEDY.

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  27. I have a friend who recently posted his concern that calls for review of Stand Your Ground laws would erode the legal concept of self-defense. I an sharing my response here (his name is also Jim):

    Jim, self-defense has always been a legal defense, even before these stand your ground laws, and probably always will be - I haven't heard anyone propose taking that away, have you? The problem with SYG is that it encourages people to ignore the 1st rule of self-defense: get away from the situation if you can. Self-defense is and always should be a last resort, not an excuse for Bronson wannabes.

    Yes, a kid is dead, and the legal defense for that is "I don't have to leave a dangerous situation if I don't want to"? So now saving face, having a point to prove, or defending a material object is worth more than a human being's life. This is a tragedy, yes. It's also scary as hell.

    Bruce

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    1. Those Stand Your Ground laws are nothing less than an attempt -by the fading rump of southern white supremacists- to codify the old unwritten rule that if a white man found a black man somewhere the white man thought he shouldn't be, the white man could shoot the black man dead and the police would find no harm and no foul. Check out the statistics of who has been using the SYG laws successfully and you'll see that in large part they are doing the job they were intended to do. To our shame. All of us who aren't doing enough, or anything much, to get those laws repealed.

      But they will be repealed, in the end, because of their unintended consequences. Consequences the police, even down south, can't stomach: such as drug dealers executing rivals in front of witnesses and walking away. Because they -having instigated a lethal confrontation in the first place- where merely standing their ground....

      I'm pretty sure quite a lot of police, and tough law and order types, even in Florida, can't easily stomach the Zimmerman verdict, either. The age-old self defense get-out-of-jail card, as you point out, still works just fine, and still works well. The Stand Your Ground laws are rotten all the way through. And they need to get gone.

      BB

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    2. Hmmm... They should walk away from trouble???

      Im sure Glad Rosa parks stood her ground putting herself at risk which installed a sense of pride in millions of people where they stood up for themselves... I sure am glad those 4 young men in Woolworths stood their ground and became an example of what's correct in defending ones rights... The one thing bullies need to learn is that people will stand up to them.. Makes me sick that people of color didn't have the right to use the same restroom.. couldn't eat in the same establishments... "you don't belong here" shouldn't be in America's vocabulary... Anyone should be able to go anywhere they want whenever they want... and be able to stand their ground...

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    3. Yeah that's cute but way wide of the mark and making for some very muddy water. The Stand Your Ground laws in question would not have applied at all in any of those examples.

      Stand Your Ground laws are all about permitting the use of violence. And they are ONLY about permitting the use of violence. All the heros you cite were practicing the very difficult and deeply admirable discipline of non violence. Even in the face of bald and painful and aggression.

      But I think you knew that. So I'm wondering what your real point might be.

      BB

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    4. Mr. Shafer, the examples you give are not of people using deadly force to stand their ground - which is what these laws pertain to. Had Rosa Parks shot someone to retain her seat on the bus, I suspect the civil rights movement would have been set back a couple of decades. The people you cite were brave and honorable because they stood for what was right, without putting anyone else in danger.

      Bruce

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    5. So Brian, if I understand correctly, it is ok to Stand Your Ground when being racially wronged - unless you are a 17 year old, hoodie wearing, skittles eating, Black kid. Then you are just begging to get shot, right?

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  28. I pride myself on being able to see both sides of an issue. In this case I can only see one.
    I also expect the cons to spew hate if their side wins or loses.

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  29. I wrote two things (one ranty, and one creative) that dovetail your expressed thoughts here, Jim. (I wrote a few other things...more or less observations in the aftermath...but neither are worth sharing here, in my humble opinion.) I would like to take a moment to thank you for writing this essay, for stating so plainly what it took me two full writings to get out of my head. In kind, if you don't mind (since I know you moderate your comments just as I do), I would like to share those writings with you.

    First, the rant: Reverend Weirdz' Sunday School Lesson: Because I Can Hold More Than One Goddamn Thought In My Head At A Time, That's Why

    Second, the creative piece: In Remembering Thugs

    I hope you enjoy them...I hope they add a little bit of meaning and insight to the overall discussion.

    Thank you again,
    Denise

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    1. Thanks for that second one, Denise - thought it was informative, interesting and thought provoking.

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  30. Best article I've seen about the situation. Thank you for the well-balanced view of the situation. You've written a lot of my own thoughts very well.

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  31. Great post, Jim. Where do we go from here? How do we overcome racial tensions in this country?

    "Enquiring minds want to know..." Sigh.

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  32. Thank you as always Jim for putting into eloquent words what my frustrated anger won't allow. It is a tragedy all 'round. I don't hate George Zimmerman, nor wish him ill, but what he did was wrong and he should not have been rewarded for it.

    Trayvon wasn't doing anything wrong. He certainly didn't deserve to die for not running away and for taking on Zimmerman in a fight.

    Beth in Toronto

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  33. Good rant, and on point.

    My problem with all of this is that Zimmerman started that whole damn thing when he decided to get out of his car, behave like a slightly unbalanced wanna be cop, and stalk a teenager. I will bet that Zimmerman has, and will continue to, apply to whatever police outfit is in the neighbourhood, and he will flunk the testing.

    I also have the feeling that his acquittal will mean more Zimmermans shooting black kids. It already seems like open season on black male teens, in some respects, and it leaves me wondering.

    Of course, I'm a Canadian. Yes, I've handled a gun; we did have a shotgun on the farm, and I did know how to use it. I've not touched one since then, however, and I see no reason for any kind of armament in the middle of the city. That, I realize, is a rather foreign attitude to most Americans.

    As for boycotting Florida? I've been doing that for a while now. I swear that the Florida roaches are training for the Olympics, for one thing...and I swear that excess heat fries people's intellectual abilities. Or maybe it's talk radio....or all of that sugar, fat, and salt. It will take research.

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  34. The injustice is NOT that Trayvon Martin was YOUNG and black. The injustice is that Zimmerman deliberately, and despite instructions not to, instigated the situation that led up to his shooting Martin "in self defense". He set himself up to be in harm's way...because he knew that if it happened, he had a gun.

    The principle is: "I can go ahead and pick a fight, because I can always shoot the other guy and claim self defense." The entire incident, from start to finish, was Zimmerman-caused and Zimmerman's fault. He authored the situation, secure in the knowledge that if it came down to it, he could shoot his way out of it, and get away with it.

    Zimmerman shot Trayvon because he could. He had the weapon and the opportunity. That's all it took. And, yes, a child/young man is dead.

    Zimmerman almost certainly started following Trayvon because he was black. But that's not the reason he shot him. The reason he shot him is that there was an altercation and Zimmerman had a gun "for self defense". I have no doubt that, without the gun, Zimmerman most likely wouldn't have set out to confront "the suspicious character" in the first place. He would have stayed in his car as he was instructed to do, and let the police handle it. But he didn't mind starting a potential confrontation. He had his ace in the hole. And he played it. And won.

    A reexamination of our gun laws that allow someone to so easily kill a human with impunity in a questionable situation such as this is sorely needed. I would add that we need more humanity in our dialog, as Jim points out. A child died. Too many of us (Americans) are busy cheering for 'our' side to notice the real issue at hand, and somberly, respectfully acknowledge it.

    Thanks again for a provocative and thoughtful blog, Jim. Great discussion here in the commends -- great points made by many.

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    1. Indeed. Zimmerman brought a gun to fist fight. A fist fight he never would have had the balls to show up for if he hadn't got the gun with him. And then he used it, with full intention to kill, muzzle right over the boy's heart. In any decent society, that must at the very least be manslaughter. A more competent prosecutor, a less cowed jury, and the law would not have been made into such an ass, and Zimmerman would be doing the time he should be doing. But we can't depend on having brilliant prosecutors or exceptional juries. The system has to work when all the dials are set to mediocre. If it don't, then it's broke. The verdict in this case proves beyond all reasonable doubt that it's well broke.

      BB

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  35. I certainly can relate to the part about being 17 years old. I repeatedly have days when I wonder how I made it to be 18 or 21 or 30 ....... and beyond that point. Fortunately, my "stupidities" were never pointed out with a firearm. Another commenter mentioned the "Us/Them" perspective. We seem to be constantly forced to live in a "zero-sum" world - politically, economically and morally; it isn't helping.
    As with this case, there are few facts (except for the one you make). It really doesn't matter whether the rock hits the pitcher or the pitcher hits the rock; things always turn out badly for the pitcher.
    As a aside, your knowledge of the the MGTVD (its very existence, origin and power) is scary.
    Bear

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  36. Sharon and Troy just beat me to it! In short, my point was that if Zimmerman had simply listened to the police and stayed in his car, there would have been no death -- or even injury -- that night. Instead, he chose to ignore direct instructions. A "Neighborhood Watch" volunteer is supposed to be watching and reporting, which Z started out doing. Once he ignored the police's statement "we don't need you to [pursue]", he was no longer a "watcher" but an aggressor. Thanks, Jim, for your excellent and insightful (as usual) post.

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    1. Exactly. And if I hear "... but it was only a suggestion by a dispatcher..." one more time, I'll scream.

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  37. Thanks Jim, that was a powerful summation and well written too. Btw I didn't notice spelling or any other typo errors since I was into content not frivolous grammatical errors, it not like you gave us a dangling participle, ;)

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    1. I think most of the typos are fixed now.

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    2. Jim, do not know if you meant your introduction to comments, but I saw still there:
      nd the furniture like an drunken frat boy,

      Marilyn Ciucci

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  38. Okay okay, many of the points you brought out were well made and I appreciated them. Others of them seemed colored with opinions on the trial, and were in short, malarkey IMHO. Saying George deliberately edited his recollection (certainly no evidence for that, pure conjecture). Accusing those who think GZ was wrongly acquitted of not lamenting his death. We certainly lament his death and realize the point that a 17 year old who could have been a great successful American died. The fact that you say “a seventeen year old kid was shot to death and there are no legal consequences for the man who killed him”. Conveniently leaving out the fact that this 17 year old kid who was a pretty damn good fighter broke the guys nose and slammed the guys head repeatedly pounded into the pavement. Not very many 17 year olds I know (not sure about you..) could just break a grown man’s nose like that. That's quite impressive. GZ almost died and shot the guy before he did. That’s a little different then some man shot a 17 year old to death and had no legal consequences. You say that someone has to be to blame, that hey, didn’t we all do a little pot and get in a little fighting. Haven’t many people done those things and then turned out to be great americans?

    The answer is yes, they have. I’m probably one of them. I’ll leave it at that (not that I’m a great American, but rather a kid who used to get in trouble for similar things and recovered and have had a successful life since. A seventeen year old kid did die. I COULD HAVE BEEN TRAYVON MARTIN. And I'm a white male in my mid thirties at a well paying job. But is my personal belief that had I broken a guys nose and physically ground a grown man’s head who was ‘packing’ into the pavement repeatedly that the man would have been well within his rights to shoot me. If I were GZ and those things were happening to me I would be afraid for my life. The mixing of the drink which is said to have mental effects in addition to weed are just circumstantial. The 911 call from GZ.. the unedited one (thanks NBC) says the only thing that GZ initially told them was that the guy was acting strange. Consistent with the drinka nd weed. He only indicated race when asked.

    Should he have followed him? No. What was he afraid of happening? What was he trying to prevent? For that you have to look into what had happened in weeks previous. Perhaps he thought he could prevent a similar occurrence by his intervention rather than listen to the cops and go home. Maybe he thought if he left it to the cops they would screw it up and they'd be dealing with another incident. Does that justify it? Hell no it doesn't. But it doesn't make the guy an evil racist bastard either. It was a foolish decision for sure, but I'm sure he didn't forsee this ending like this at all.

    Also just because I agree with the verdict that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict the man, does not mean that we don’t think profiling is ugly. Saying we are dealing with this because of our country’s ugly past is a copout, so that they do not have to deal with the way things are now and to justify holding on to the past. We need to stop copping out and simply deal with things as they are now. Again, this does not mean I don’t think profiling is a travesty, because I think it is. I just don’t think there was enough evidence to convict him and I think that if he was getting the everloving crap beat out of him (ie broken nose multiple lacerations to the head, a particular important part to survival) that he was well within his rights to pull out his gun because I would have feared for my life.

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    1. Guess you've bought Zimmerman's lies, Brendan. Zimmerman admitted he fell during his unjustified pursuit of Trayvon. Whether that fall was the cause of the two or three tiny scratches (that didn't even need bandaids) on the back of his head, we'll never know. The blood in Zimmerman's mustache is not caused by a broken nose, but by three tiny pinpricks at the end of his nose. LOOK AT THE PICTURES TAKEN AT THE POLICE STATION. Zimmerman never had a need to go to the emergency room, and only went to the PA (NOT a doctor) the next day because he needed the paperwork to go back to work.

      Zimmerman went to the Kokkopelli Gym two or three times a week for training in MMA and police restraint techniques for at least two years. I haven't seen any evidence that Trayvon received any fight training. It's possible that Zimmerman was holding Trayvon's right wrist (police restraint technique) with his left hand and shot Trayvon when he was pulling away. We'll never know, since the only other real witness is dead.

      Freckles

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    2. The extreme "reality T.V", in this case set the stage for bias from the start. Sound bites and pictures, the media purposely distorted critical facts; edited the 911 call, the redundant description of Zimmerman as a "white Hispanic", and the misrepresented photo of a 12 year old "kid" , Trayvon, an image repeatedly shown and continues to be perpetuated. Trayvon, physically was over 6 ft, he was on the bridge of a young adult. Wasn't Adam Lanza, a "kid", and have we conveniently forgotten about the numerous "kids" who have been perpetrators of horrific crimes. The inflamed lemmings on either extreme of this issue , their bags packed with personal experiences and feelings on racism shifted the game. Add to the mix, our erratic reviews about gun control as a solution to violent crime, thus we have a platform wide enough for all fools and a few wise men to weigh in. I identify favorably with liberal and democratic views, however on this case I stand on the side of the judicial process ( although severely flawed and historically challenged).I am in agreement with Branden's comments and his point concerning if we agree with the outcome, does not mean we agree with racial profiling. What is very disturbing is the attack on any opinion which is contrary to downright mob lynching mentality of Zimmerman. I find myself in a minority of the liberals , progressives of whom I generally identify and observing the same out pouring of snide one side ness, similar to the energy of zealot Republicans. The feeling is not unlike if you don't support war, you are unpatriotic.
      It is my sincere hope we can take from this tragedy an opportunity to examine our bias and what we can do in our personal experience to shift towards a positive change, and in doing so be able to move off of our rigid positions and to think and act clearly with rational facts vs. react to mass hysteria fed to us from brain numbing media and insane people who are in leadership roles.

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    3. Brendan, I started at the bottom and worked backwards to this comment. I've read a couple of your comments now, and your methodology is getting on my nerves. I'll repeat what I've said below: you're entitled to your opinion, you are not entitled to just make shit up to support your position. Knock it off or go elsewhere.

      Case in point: ... GZ almost died and shot the guy before he did.

      What. In. The. Fuck. Brendan?

      Zimmerman did not "almost die." That's a complete fabrication unsupported by the evidence. Zimmerman may have been in fear for his life, which is an entirely different thing, but he die not "almost die." It's bullshit, Brendan, which is something you seem prone to throw around. You're not engaged in conversation, you're just being a jackass, which is your right but I won't put up with it here. You've completely missed the entire point of the post and are, in point of fact, engaged in the exact form of stereotypical thinking that this post is really about. And while I appreciate you proving my point, as I said, it's getting on my nerves. Stop it.

      One other thing, you obviously have no experience with teenage boys.

      I'm the father of a 17 year old. He's a great kid, smart, intelligent, funny, clever, everything you'd want in a son. But he's also big, adult sized. Muscular. He's independent. He's confrontational. He has a beard (It's a shitty 17 year old beard, but I've seen worse on 25 year olds). He looks like an adult. Physically, he is an adult so far as nature is concerned. However, in reality he is anything but an "adult" in the sense you mean in your comment above. He lacks experience. He lacks maturity. He lacks wisdom. He especially lacks judgment - as any parent of a 17 year old boy can tell you. He lacks control over his emotions. In other words, he's a typical 17 year old boy flush with hormones and full of wind, shit, and excitement. He's a kid. Size has got nothing to do with it.

      Zimmerman was what, 29? You've got a 17 year old and a 29 year old in this confrontation, who's the adult in the room? Developmentally who's the adult. Legally, who's the adult? Better yet, who should have acted like the adult in the room? Who should have displayed mature judgement, the 17 year old? Or the 29 year old neighborhood watchman? Hint: it's probably the guy we trust to hold a concealed carry permit, wouldn't you think?

      Let's drop the "Treyvon Martain was nine feet tall and that makes him an adult" bullshit, shall we?

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    4. Firt off, my apologies if you think I was being rude or a 'jackass' as you put it. I was only trying to make some valid points.

      I agree he did not almost die, I was more thinking had it continued he very well might have almost died. My apologies for the misrepresentation. The point I was trying to make was saying that a man killed a 17 year old without legal consequences presents a different summary of the incident than the case deserves. There was a lot more to it is all I was trying to say. I think in all fairness that was a valid point to your narrative.

      I liked a lot of things you said (I mean that), but I stand by saying GZ edited his recollection was pure conjecture. Are many people demonizing the kid even though we have done some of those things ourselves? Yes. I was just making a point that while I had many of the same troubles as a youth and turned out to be successful does not play to the issue of whether or not self defense was justified. And that I believe that had I ended up in a situation like GZ presented, where I attacked someone and caused them to fear for their life, that I believe he would have have been within his rights to shoot me. I understand what you were trying to say, I was just making another point.

      Anonymous above writes: What is very disturbing is the attack on any opinion which is contrary to downright mob lynching mentality of Zimmerman.

      I agree that is disturbing.

      I agree with you that GZ definitely should have been the adult in the situation. However, as you said no one will ever know anything beyond the evidence preseted in the case. And I only maintain that if TM engaged GZ in a fight and attacked him and GZ feared for his life that he was well within his rights.

      Was that exactly the case? Could be right? Could not be. We'll never know for sure. Which is why I will stay clear of denouncing the man, beyond saying he lacked the maturity to not follow the kid and listen to the police. Beyond that he may have been well within his rights. He may not have been.

      - A fellow Naval Officer

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    5. Anonymous, the picture most often shown of Trayvon was taken SIX MONTHS before he was killed.
      I see you've bought into the "Trayvon was huge" fairy tale. According to the autopsy report Trayvon was 5'11" (only 3" taller than Zimmerman) and weighed 158 lbs. According to the report from the PA Zimmerman went to see the next day (only because he needed the report to go back to work--his tiny scratches didn't even need a bandaid, and the blood in his mustache was from a couple of tiny pinpricks at the end of his nose) Zimmerman weighed 204.
      Surely you remember that Zimmerman had MMA training and training in police restraint procedures at the Kokopelli Gym three times a week for a couple of years.

      Freckles

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    6. Freckles, I think you might be forgetting the "Black People Scare Me Affect," which adds 100lb and at least a foot in height to all black males.

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  39. This was a well written and thoughtful article. Just my two cents: This was a profile case. Race does not need to be entered. 'A stray kid in a neighborhood where he dose not look as if he belongs.' In my mind I would like to think that one day in this country it would be a case presented in such fashion. Until that day comes my question is this: If we cant be bothered to get off of our electronic devices and meet our neighbors and others in our communities, who can tell who belongs or does not belong in a community? Just a thought.

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  40. So many good comments on an excellent piece. Saw a tee shirt the other day for an extreme martial arts program that listed actions to take in event of a confrontation. Last one was "kick them in the nuts and run away." If all else fails, kick them in the nuts and RUN AWAY.
    GZ got out of his vehicle, as stated multiple times against the recommendations of the police dispatcher, because he had courage from his gun to do so.

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  41. "Some of us look at the death of Trayvon Martin and say, well, you know he brought this on himself, if he wasn’t looking like thug, if he wasn’t acting like a punk, none of this would have happened."

    This is the argument that really pisses me off, because it's just like the rape argument. That somehow the victim's clothing has invited the crime perpetrated against them. Makes me so mad that I can barely be civil.

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  42. Stand-your-ground and concealed-carry give wannabe heroes like George Zimmerman the courage and bravado to trade reason for confrontation.

    That's the essence of it to me, right there. Zimmerman exceeded the mandate of a neighborhood watch volunteer by disregarding the "we don't need you to do that" [that = follow the 'suspect'] instructions of the dispatcher, AND by patrolling alone and armed. Zimmerman's neighborhood was also never registered with the national neighborhood watch program. This was, indeed, someone who perceived himself as the lone hero, who preferred to go it alone, and who decided, because he was armed, that he could disregard the instructions of the police dispatcher even after he had said that he would comply with them. He did so because he had a handgun, and felt that confrontation would be safe for him, because of his weapon. Unfortunately, he was right to a degree. He got away with murder, thanks to the legal constraints of Florida law. However, he will never be able to go anywhere, either in this country or abroad, without being recognized as the man who decided to take actions that ultimately ended the life of a 17 year old boy. Lance Gross has written an essay on this case, as a letter to George Zimmerman "Now you know what it feels like to be a black man in America" -- that is one consequence of his actions, that George Zimmerman will never be able to escape.

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  43. I really don't see Zimmerman's life being affected at all. He will write a book and then show up on Fox news, maybe market himself as a speaker to conservative groups. But in month or two, the average American will forget his name.

    Until his kills the next person.

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  44. Thanks for the thoughtful commentary. I've served on juries before, and given the law and the judge's instructions the jury had to consider in their deliberations, they had little choice to arrive at the verdict they did. In my opinion, if the law was not in place he would have at least been convicted of manslaughter. Another case that I'm familiar with in SW Florida was a conviction of attempted manslaughter charges on a person defending himself against an attacker (tried to stop the attacker by pushing him into the water of a marina), but that was before the 'stand your ground' law.
    Again, thanks for the commentary. I think I'll visit these pages on a regular basis from now on.

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  45. Well said and right to the real point as usual, Jim. What really bothered me all through this media circus is that kids (and others) kept getting shot for no reason, dozens of them in our metro area alone. 8-year-old girls, 2-week-old infants, it doesn't matter. Some of them might have looked like, or been, thugs. All of them left grieving families and unfulfilled hopes.

    Because all Murkans gotta have guns, don'tcha know.

    ("heforbs" = cow eyes?)

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  46. An interview with a Hispanic juror who feels guilty for not finding Zimmerman guilty
    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/juror-b29-george-zimmerman-murder-article-1.1408913

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  47. "A seventeen year old kid is dead.

    This, in and of itself, this is a tragedy.

    The reason doesn’t matter, the loss matters, a young life cut short is what matters.

    And it should damned well matter to all of us."

    I completely agree Jim. Thanks for another brilliant post.


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  48. As usual, I've been waiting for you to chime in with your wisdom. It was worth the wait. I even shared your blog with my uncle, because I think he'd totally get it.

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  49. Sadly, I couldn't agree more. :(

    And you are right.

    My friend, Bryan, did a piece on his blog. He lives in Florida and was a LEO for several years. Speaking only about the known 'facts', he said:


    ------------------------
    1. Stand Your Ground played no part in the trial of George Zimmerman, it was the excuse used by the local prosecutor for not filing charges when the crime occurred. Zimmerman’s attorneys used the standard Self-Defense provisions of the law.

    2. The Prosecution filed the wrong charge against Zimmerman, even though they lacked the evidence to prove it. This is the second time recently that prosecutors in Florida have gone to trial with unprovable charges and lost the case because they couldn’t prove it beyond reasonable doubt. They are getting as bad as the Los Angeles district attorneys.

    3. Zimmerman could have and should have been charged with Manslaughter. Manslaughter was included in jury instructions, but the prosecutors didn’t explain to the jury how the facts in the case corresponded to the elements of the law.

    4. The Judge is restricted to explaining the law, she could not tell the jury how that law applied to the current case, as the judge must remain impartial.

    Manslaughter would have been a short, straight-forward trial. Trayvon Martin was dead, and George Zimmerman killed him. That was never the question, that was a fact. The prosecutors should have used that great legal fiction, “the reasonable man”, to show that Zimmerman caused the death of Martin by failing to act “reasonably”. There were several points on the night of the incident when, if Zimmerman had done the “reasonable” thing, there would have been no confrontation with Martin and no death.

    The prosecutors had a case they could have proven with the evidence they had, most of it supplied by Zimmerman, but they decided to go for the ‘big win’ because CNN was going to cover it. This was never about the death of Trayvon Martin, this was about the political aspirations of the prosecutors. Justice was not served.
    ------------------------

    And that's it. Justice was not served! It was a tragedy to begin with, and the prosecutors made it worse.

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    1. Got a link to that blog? I'd like to read the piece.

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    2. Just to keep a clear view:

      Zimmerman was in fact charged with manslaughter. If he had not been charged with manslaughter could not have been "included in the jury instructions". Manslaughter charges were indeed filed. To say they were not filed is incorrect.

      The Defense did not discuss the Stand Your Ground defense in front of the jury, but they knew that the Judges instructions would, and indeed did, carefully outline the defense. So to say Stand Your Ground was not included "in the trial" is incorrect. Indeed, everything we heard subsequently about the jury deliberations confirmed that they were careful to take all the Stand Your Ground parameters into account in their verdict.

      It IS correct to say the prosecutor did not do a stellar job. He made a long series of blunders (if he really wanted a conviction). But that doesn't mean he wasn't doing his best. It's a small place, Sanford. And sleepy and on the fast track to nowhere. We can't expect to place anything better than adequate lawyers anywhere, so the law needs to work even when the prosecutor is only just barely good enough at his job. In this case the law failed to do that. Utterly.

      And the mediocre prosecutor's job was also made far, far more difficult by the failure of the police, on the night of the crime, to collect forensic evidence. The reason they didn't? Were they trying to cover up for their friend George? No. They showed no sign of even liking George. What they showed EVERY sign of was not even comprehending, on the night, that George had committed any kind of a crime. And the reasons for that? I mean besides the old southern sin of not weighing a black life as worthy as a white .... the Stand Your Ground law. To the cops the fallback was: this guy stood his ground so - there's nothing to see here. And no reason to bust our butts collecting much evidence while its fresh.

      I repeat, that failure was not due to the cops making some kind of conspiratorial decision to shield George; it was the cops not even NOTICING that anything much worth investigating had happened. Their failure to collect forensics was, in the end (along with the rest, sure, but mostly it was that failure) what got little George off the hook.

      BB

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    3. I also feel the prosecutors, and I don't have a lot of respect for the judge either, didn't want a conviction.

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    4. Hi Jim,

      The link is in my Name title line on the comment. :) I usually do it that way so as not to appear to be blatantly pushing someone else's blog, even though I always keep it relevant to the topic.

      The post is here:
      http://whynow.dumka.us/2013/07/15/zimmerman/

      :)

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    5. Kryten,

      Your friends blog says this:

      "Manslaughter would have been a short, straight-forward trial. Trayvon Martin was dead, and George Zimmerman killed him. That was never the question, that was a fact. The prosecutors should have used that great legal fiction, “the reasonable man”, to show that Zimmerman caused the death of Martin by failing to act “reasonably”. There were several points on the night of the incident when, if Zimmerman had done the “reasonable” thing, there would have been no confrontation with Martin and no death."

      That is pretty clearly confusing Manslaughter with Reckless Killing. Manslaughter requires an intent to kill, even if formed in the moment of the act. Failing to act reasonably, and that failure leading to a death, is Negligent or Reckless killing. That's not manslaughter. Zimmerman was not charged with Negligent or Reckless killing. And there are good reasons for that, not least because he admitted he fired the gun on purpose at Martin.

      BB

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    6. Excuse me, but since I live in the state of Florida, and the crime occurred in the state of Florida, I tend to rely of the statutes of the the state of Florida for the definition of Manslaughter.

      Manslaughter is a lesser included offense to the charge of Murder, but it must be listed in jury instructions, or the jury won't considered it.

      When you go for a charge of Murder you have to have enough evidence of intent to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt, and that would have required a witness to the confrontation. The prosecutors tried to substitute profiling, and that had no chance.

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    7. Bryan, you are breaking wind again. If Manslaughter went to the jury, then Manslaughter was charged. It went to the jury. It was charged.

      All the jury had to believe, beyond a reasonable doubt, was that Zimmerman intended to kill Martin when he put the gun to his heart to pull the trigger, and that when he did so he was not in mortal fear of his own life. Apparently they did not believe that, but it was hardly beyond believable.

      Plenty of killers go to jail for killings no one witnessed. You are talking nonsense.

      Zimmerman got out of his van, packing a firearm, looking for a violent confrontation he had no business looking for. He could have taken any number of steps to diffuse the potential for violence, but he took none of them, in fact did the opposite. Confronted with an unarmed boy, and at worst a few bruises, he killed the boy. A competent prosecutor could easily have got a manslaughter conviction, especially if the police had done their job on the night.

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    8. Bryan I've even gone and found a link to the jury instructions in the Zimmerman case for you. Read them at http://www.scribd.com/doc/153354467/George-Zimmerman-Trial-Final-Jury-Instructions and you will see that in fact the charge of Manslaughter was sent to the jury.

      I wasn't just BORN in Florida. I'm a lawyer there. You are talking nonsense.

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  50. The good news, if people saw your typos and grammatical errors, it would suggest that they were reading this... Ah'm jes say'n...

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  51. Jim - I totally agree that the death of a 17 year old - the death of anyone through violence - is a tragedy. However, I think you missed an important element to your overall observation of the event. I believe that RESPECT - or a lack thereof in this case - is the missing element. I think George should have shown a little respect for Trayvon by communicating with the young man asking him what he (Trayvon) was doing & announce that he (George) was a member of the Neighborhood Watch. However, RESPECT is a two-way street. It is my understanding that Trayvon circled back after going down a road or a walkway to "confront" George - asking him "Did he have a problem" (I think that this is what was testified in court) Again - my understanding - George claims that he said "I don't have a problem" (It is here - a perfect opportunity - for George to announce that he is a member of the neighborhood watch). Here is where Trayvon could have had the respect to EXPLAIN to George that he was simply going back to his Father's home and to please stop following me. No, instead he throws the first punch - again my understanding. The fact that there is a lack of respect on both sides is a huge reason why there is such a tragedy.

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    1. Anon, your "understanding" is based completely on Zimmerman's story, which IMO has little basis in fact. Zimmerman 1)could have stayed in his truck; 2)could have followed the Neighborhood Watch rules, which say no weapons and do not follow 3) had multiple opportunities to identify himself as Neighborhood Watch. If Zimmerman had done ANY of these, Trayvon would be alive and Zimmerman would be going about his business without constantly looking over his shoulder.

      Freckles

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  52. Nice Post!

    Her's the part I can;t wrap my head around: kids like Trayvon Martin die every day. If they had been killed in a terrorist attack, we would all be mourning them online and in person. Yet because they died at the wrong end of a gun handled by an American, we label and depersonalize them.

    I'm not sure who is dumber. Is it the people who insist that guns make them safer, or the terrorists who didn't realize that if they had spent as much time building cheaper consumer goods than the Chinese as they did bombing fellow Muslims and Westerners, they would probably have Sharia Law enacted throughout the Middle East, and Western Governments would wag their fingers and do nothing. We have nine or ten 9/11s worth of gun deaths every year, and a large minority of Americans is convinced the only solution is more guns. Why waste time and money killing Americans when Americans kill each other at ten times the rate, and then proceed to make it easier to kill more people?

    20 dead kids one day; one or two dead kids every day after that. America's response? A recitation of the Second Amendment. No nut from a cave is going to beat that.

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  53. Jim, thanks for this post. I appreciate that you waited a week to post it, to let some of the dust settle.

    For me, a jury rendered a verdict and it's done. How that verdict turned out is really none of my business and how I feel about said verdict is really only my business.

    The tragedy is that a human lost his life when it didn't need to happen. Would it have been less tragic were the roles reversed? I don't think so.

    Is a block watch to blame? I have lived in a couple of areas that such a program has reclaimed for normal citizens.

    The truth is, it's a senseless tragedy that a whole lot of people are trying to make sense out of. Probably isn't going to happen.

    Thanks, Jim. For the sense of it.

    Do you have any idea how little I care how many typos you publish? I care about your words and thoughts...

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  54. I am a reserve police officer in my Minnesota suburb. That's a long way from being a real cop, but it is a step up from neighborhood watch. Were I patrolling and seen such a "suspicious" person, my instructions are clear: do not engage, call in support from a real cop. I'm told not to endanger my safety nor create a situation that complicates the safety concerns of an officer.

    But I am in uniform and driving a marked squad car. I look like a cop unless you look closely at my patches. I get the deference cops do, and - I think this is the key point - if I had talked to Tayvon, he would have had some degree of confidence that I wasn't a creep or a vigilante. I say that even knowing how Blacks can regard cops. How could Tayvon know that Zimmerman wasn't an out of control wacko? How would I have known that if I (older white guy) had been walking in the neighborhood at night.

    And here is the kicker: I'm not armed. I carry pepper spray and a Tazer but no gun. Even though I'm in uniform and as big a target as a cop. In all the years of our reserve program no officer has ever even fired his Tazer at anyone. We don't need guns. Why did Zimmerman?

    The point is that private law enforcement is not a good idea. You (as a citizen) don't know if the person you deal with has any discipline or accountability.

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  55. Thank you, Jim, for what you're doing and what you have done. Your work is entertaining, insightful and thought-provoking. As an old English teacher and a professional writer for 32 years, I have a small criticism about what writers would call the "tone" of your pieces. You probably know I'm not talking about your tone of voice, but the level of discourse based on choice of vocabulary. Here it is: I'm reading along, enjoying your wit and argument, like Art Buchwald or Hunter Thompson, and, suddenly I read "Just sayin'", or some similar expression. It's as if I am listening to William Safire when he is interrupted by Adam Sandler - the drastic drop in tone is jarring. I'm not talking about profanity - I enjoy all of Chaucer's vocabulary. I'm just suggesting that, to my ears, you are dulling your own rhetorical sword by the interjection of expressions well below the tone of seriousness appropriate to your subject matter and your considerable ability to write.
    I am offering this opinion, mine only, of course, respectfully, and because I care about good writing and would like to consider you a friend. You seem to have good tools, and I appreciate your prose the same way I do that of Mark Twain, Art Buchwald, Hunter Thompson, H.L. Mencken, and others. I've probably said too much, and am sorry if I have offended. I haven't meant to. The oft-repeated "just sayin'" "just happens" to grate on my ears. Otherwise (adopting a quick drop in tone):"Hell of a job by a seriously bad MF"!

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    1. ...sorry if I have offended.

      Heh heh. If I was that easily offended, I probably shouldn't blog about politics in America. Just sayi... oops ;)

      I understand exactly what you are saying with your (very mild) criticism, and I appreciate it.

      However, I'm unlikely to change very much - at least here.

      Let me explain: I consider what I do here to be writing. Now, obviously many don't - don't consider "blogging" to be writing per se. I won't argue with that opinion, but I'd suggest that those people start a blog, pen a post several times a week, and without any gimmicks (SEO, artificial linking, celebrity, and other marketing tricks) solely on the strength of the material, attract and keep a daily audience of, oh, say, 25K that show up rain or shine, whether you put up a new post or not, and who write you hundreds of letters a week telling you how your little essays touched their lives - and then tell me what you personally call that, if it's not writing.

      However, that said: Blogging is a different form of writing, a different medium. One without many of the limits of other mediums. It's self-edited and self-regulated and is often much the worse for it. I'm reminded of Bill Watterson, the cartoonist who wrote Calvin & Hobbes, and how he hated the restrictions of the sunday print comics page. Online comics don't labor under those restrictions, neither does blogging as a form of writing - but those restrictions sometimes exist in that medium for good reason, even if they tend to stifle artistic creativity. With that in mind, while I typically restrict myself to a standard voice and style (Captain Kirk channeling R. Lee Ermey, is how I think of my italics laden blogging "style"), I also allow myself to experiment more than any print editor (or English teacher) would. Generational, cultural, and popular media colloquialisms are part of that. They don't always work, as you said, sometimes that jarring disconnect drops you out of the narrative I'm creating. I get that. But on the other hand, nobody gets hurt, I'm not writing here for money or a grade or any other material objective, I'm writing for myself and while I'm happy to have you all tagging along I still allow myself to play around with style and structure. Stonekettle Station is a laboratory for me, so is my Facebook page, a place where I can see what works and what doesn't, what connects with readers and what doesn't. What I like and what I don't. It's a place where I can play with words.

      Eventually the ideas here will become a book or two, I have several in outline, and those stories will follow more conventional editorial guidelines. But without the writing exercises I engage in here I'd never have the skill to create what I want with them. I learned this the hard way.

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    2. Cormac McCarthy can write "great literature" that totally omits punctuation but Jim cannot insert "Just sayin'"? Bullshit.

      Just sayin'.

      (I am married to an English PhD. We have some interesting discussion about "literature" at times.)

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    3. Smashing! To adopt a woodshop metaphor, I wish you sharp chisels and cold beer in all future literary endeavors! Sorry, I just can't stand Adam Sandler . . . .

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    4. I just can't stand Adam Sandler..."

      You and me both, Meister, you and me both. I suspect even Sandler's mom doesn't think he's funny.

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    5. Ah, we could go on about this, but suffice it to say I did nowhere suggest that Jim could not insert "Just sayin'", (to adopt a lower tone):"Now did I?" As an aside, I decline the invitation to respond to the statement that Cormac McCarthy can write great literature. . . .

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    6. I've got to throw down the bullshit flag on Cormac McCarthy too. I understand that a LOT of people love him, but his material is like a rusty razor over a raw wound to me. But then again, that's the beauty of writing, there's something for everybody. If you love McCarthy's stuff, you're in the majority and by all means have at it.

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    7. Thank the gods of writing, someone ELSE who can't stand McCarthy's writing!

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  56. Great post and a great blog...I just found you. Very thoughtful and the situation is truly repeated a lot nowadays, in many different cities. The prejudice will continue as it is somewhat part of human nature to pick sides.
    Yes, it could have turned out very differently, but it did not.

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  57. I have nothing to say but thank you.

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  58. Great post.
    I like your typos when I have the wit to notice them.
    They give me hope that someday my own writing will be as clear and reasoned as yours even if my writing is still riddled with punctuation, grammar and spelling mistakes.

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  59. Good post. Thank You Jim.

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  60. And meanwhile, the "I'm not a racist, no way!" crowd has been posting Facebook memes like "Remember all the rioting after the OJ acquittal? Me neither."

    Nope, not racist at all.

    Bruce

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  61. Thank you Jim. I think this is one of the best contributions to the discussion I have read.
    As an Australian watching from the outside, it is difficult to see how the nation could not see this tragedy as part of ongoing race issue. I understand how the verdict came about, but it's not really about what happened in the moment. It's about the lead up to the killing, and the discussion after. The spreading of fake photos of Trayvon. The constant call that he was the racist because he used the phrase 'crazy ass cracker'. And so on and so forth.
    The saddest thing of all is that the people who understand this issue best - African Americans - are being yelled down, drowned out, while the actual verdict is debated at length. I have seen excellent articles and youtube discussions with African Americans explaining what it is like to be racially profiled, what it is like to be followed and accused and know that the reason is solely because of your race. I have listened to a heartbreaking account of what a well known African American tells his son about staying safe in the street. And I think your president was quite right to identify himself with Trayvon. How can he not?
    I am also dismayed that we do not listen to those who have come closest to the use of weapons and death - military people and the police. I don't think I have ever heard a thinking military person or police officer say they think the carrying and use of weapons in the general population is a good idea. I grew up in a military family, and I'm damned certain my father and none of his friends supported a right for the average citizen to carry guns. When you've seen death up close, when you've seen what a gun can do, and how easily, why would you want to have that horror visited on the community you and your children live in?
    A few years ago here in Melbourne a woman who was driving in a car with two male friends said she had been raped, and pointed out two men walking through a park as the assailants. The two men got out of the car and started chasing the two men in the park. The men in the park didn't stop to reason with them. They ran. One of them was taken down in a roadway and bashed so badly he died a few days later. It turned out the rape allegation was false. It turned out the two men were a gay couple.
    Gay media and many of my friends started calling this a crime that happened because the men were gay. I asked how it could be, as the two men who chased them had no idea they were gay. My friends replied 'because the dead man and his partner thought they were being attacked because they were gay. So they ran. If they had been two straight men, they would have turned around and asked what the hell was going on, or they would have fought'. This made me realise that I was looking at the whole incident through my own prism as a privileged white woman. I had to put myself in those men's shoes and realise that a lifetime of being victimised had informed their reactions on that day.
    We need to listen to those who know and understand what it means to be in the shoes of one of their own. It is no good constantly debating the verdict. This incident has opened up a much wider debate than the stand your ground laws. It is about what it means to be a black American, how that one characteristic alone informs your actions and your thoughts, your hopes and fears. I do not write this as someone who thinks we don't have the same issues here in Australia. We have similar problems here. What we don't have is a gun culture that leaves hundreds or our children dead every year.
    I believe you ignore the experiences and opinions of black Americans at your peril. You ignore the experiences and opinions of your service people and police officers at your peril. Your civil rights movement inspired the world. What has happened to your country since, that the voices of those who should be listened to the most are the ones that are drowned out in the ceaseless clamour and chatter of those who would benefit most from listening?

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  62. Well sounds like youre taking a clear balanced view of the evidence. They were lacerations not scratching. And when I fall while I'm chasing someone I don't land on the back of my head... His nose was indeed 100% actually broken.

    Anyways, it is my humble opinion this is all crap. We got 17 year old white kids being killed by black kids http://www.reagancoalition.com/articles/2013/20130722006-kid-silent-none.html
    However, the media would never cover that because it wouldn't incite a mob. THAT is what is wrong with our country.

    Black or white, if someone is beating the everliving crap out of someone and they fear for their lives it is reasonable that they can use deadly force to escape. In the military the criteria for using deadly force is does the individual have capability opportunity, and intent.

    Zimmerman was within his rights. The rest of the talk about Zimmerman's a liar, he edited his recollection is pure conjecture. The jury decided based on evidence. There wasn't a prosecuter who could have made that lack of evidence into a conviction.

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    1. Zimmerman's nose was NOT "100% actually broken." The blood in his mustache was caused by three little pinpricks on the end of his nose.
      LOOK AT THE PICTURES TAKEN AT THE POLICE STATION! You'll see the three little pinpricks and no gross swelling like the photoshopped (?) picture you're mistakenly basing your ideas on.

      Freckles

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    2. Brendan, Zimmerman's nose was NOT broken. The blood in his mustache was from three tiny pinpricks on the end of his nose.
      LOOK AT THE PICTURES TAKEN AT THE POLICE STATION! You'll see there is no gross swelling on the right side of his face (photoshopped?) and you can see the pinpricks.
      This isn't the military. All concerned were civilans.

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    3. Brendan, you're entitled to your opinion but you're not entitled to just make shit up to support your position, especially when your statements are easily debunked:

      1) We got 17 year old white kids being killed by black kids ... However, the media would never cover that because it wouldn't incite a mob.


      White kid kills a black kid, it makes the news. Black kid kills a black kid, it makes the news. White kid kills a white kid, it makes the news. Two minutes with Google News search proves your statement is complete and total bullshit. You're engaged in lazy thinking, knock it off or go elsewhere.

      As to the media's supposed desire to incite a riot, prove it. Prove your statement. Go on. Produce one memo, one email, one recorded order where an editor says "Get me something to incite the mob." Go on, I'll wait. Make sure you include Brietbart, The Blaze, and Rush Limbaugh in your media search.

      This case made national news and incited strong feelings on both sides of the political spectrum for very, very good reasons. Reasons steeped in the racial history of this country, precisely as noted in the text and as noted by numerous reputable sources of all races and colors - including the President, who despite the sneering rhetoric of his detractors, might just know a thing or two about being black in America.

      Now, if you think that this case of white on black shooting going viral was somehow unfair, well, you'll just have to take that up with the god of fickle public opinion.

      2) In the military the criteria for using deadly force is does the individual have capability opportunity, and intent

      Don't try to teach your grandmother how to suck eggs ... or tell the Chief Warrant Officer how to run a security force, especially since this Warrant was a force protection officer, a rangemaster, and an expert on weapons, the use of deadly force, the rules of war, and guardforce operations. You're way off the installation on this one. The military's criteria for the use of deadly force is not just "does the individual have the capability, opportunity, and intent." You've left out critical criteria and I suspect you know it. Capability, opportunity, and intent are general guidelines, not get out of jail free cards, and if you've ever carried a weapon as part of the military guardforce you damned well know that you are always, always, responsible for your actions - and if you really want to go down this road, it's pretty obvious that by your definition, Zimmerman is the guilty party since he clearly demonstrated all three criteria by his actions. You don't want to use the military as a guideline here, Brendan. Were this in fact a military situation, and Zimmerman was a military security officer, he'd be facing some serious charges at the moment for failing to follow proper procedure, he most certainly wouldn't have walked away without consequences and I can give you numerous examples up to and including the pertinent sections of the UCMJ and the USC Code.

      As to the forensic evidence you're attempting to argue, have at it, but there's nothing more ridiculous than a bunch of armatures crime scene investigators who weren't there arguing about information that has been repeatedly massaged through the media and public opinion.

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    4. and if you've ever carried a weapon as part of the military guardforce you damned well know that you are always, always, responsible for your actions

      That is so true! The number of reports I had to file, and 'after action' (or incident) reviews and eval's I and others of my team had to deal with during my service were several. And most people outside of the Military (any Military) have no clue because they get their info from TV, which like to leave out these details because they are boring. There is a reason why we have to do several courses for our specialties, and "close enough" does NOT get you a pass! When you are in a sudden life/death situation, you have to make the right decision fast! And the only way to do that is with intense training and practice. (and I am not just talking about the *physical* courses, such as weapons training. And it's why many don't make the cut.

      To become a member of an SF unit here takes years. You first have to pass the SF Barrier Phase (50-60% make this), then there is the intense Cadre Phase, about 10-15% pass this, then you have a 3 week Candidate Selection Phase (you can only be selected if a position is available, and you have 'something to offer'), and then an 18 mth Reinforcement Cycle (we called it REO), this included several basic physical & weapons training courses, but also legal, ethical/moral, psychological and basic medical courses. A candidate must pass ALL the courses in this cycle, and then they will join the SF unit as a junior and finally start the intensive 12 mth Unit Training Cycle (plus time for any extra specialties). During those two course cycles, you are constantly monitored by specially trained Sergeants and Patrol Commanders, and any hint of a problem has you facing an evaluation hearing pretty fast. There are other *tricks* the use to continuously evaluate a candidate, especially their mental state. There is a reason why there have been zero incidents of an Aussie SF personnel going postal, or even *accidentally* killing someone in a bar etc., in the past 50 years!

      And if you are eventually chosen as a team leader (or squad leader or an officer candidate), you are not only responsible for *your* actions, but those of your team mates or men under your command. ALWAYS!

      It's one of the reasons when I left the Military/Intel services and worked in Civilian security, I refused to have a weapons permit or carry a weapon. Because I would have used it. I was trained that way. And part of my training for my specialty was "One shot, one kill".

      As my friend Bryan said on his blog, too many people watch CSI or those Police drama or military shows and think they are fact. It's all fiction! If those shows were 'real-to-life', nobody would watch them! They would be mostly tedious and boring!

      I've known Bryan Dumka (from the Why Now? blog) now for about 6 years, and I have a VERY high regard for his knowledge about things such as this tragedy, especially in Florida. I have no doubts he is correct in this case. I don't know Jim Write well at all, but I have known WO's (we have WO's here as well). I knew a WO2 very well when I became team leader for my team. Because here the WO2 is the senior adviser to the Unit Commander, and he holds the power of your *life and death* in his hands! :D Here, they can have unassuming titles like... Chief Clerk, or Quarter Master and others, but woe betide anyone in that Unit that thinks they are lowly desk jockeys that can be taken for granted! That's the fast-path to the end of your Military career! :D

      So, on that basis and on the whole, I think I will respect and believe both Bryan and Jim's opinion's in this matter.

      Of course, everyone IS entitled to their opinion. Even if it is ill-conceived or based on ignorance and misconceptions. And even those who pretend to be something they are demonstrably not!

      Sorry Jim that this is long-winded. But I felt it was necessary.

      And of course, everyone can take it or leave it. *shrug*

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    5. Oops! Sorry Jim for spelling your surname incorrectly! *sigh* I was "typing whilst annoyed!" Not a good idea usually. ;)

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    6. Somehow, I'll find a way to carry on ;)

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  63. I think George should have shown a little respect for Trayvon by communicating with the young man asking him what he (Trayvon) was doing & announce that he (George) was a member of the Neighborhood Watch.

    I dunno 'bout anyone else, but if I'm patrolling at night as a Neighborhood Watch member, it's gonna damn sure say "Neighborhood Watch" on my vehicle, and on my shirt/jacket, even if I have to pay for it myself. And if I'm (legally) armed, it'll be outside my pants for everyone to see. No Secret Squirrel shit. I mean, seriously, as a NW member, on patrol, just what am I looking for? Wrongdoers of any stripe. Bad guys. Not-nice people. But be realistic: how many of the people I meet on patrol are gonna be that? Most of 'em will be my neighbors, who may or may not know me by sight. But naughty or nice, it would help the situation all around if there was no doubt in anyone's mind as to who I was and why I was out there at 2:00 AM, driving slowly around the blocks. Neighbors will feel reassured, hoodlums might say, hey, maybe this ain't such a good idea after all. Nobody gets arrested, or shot, and I'm neither a hero nor a goat, but the job got done, didn't it?
    Zimmerman was manifestly not out there for his neighbors. He was out there for himself. Secret Squirrel with a 9mm, a fucked-up attitude, and little regard for the niceties of real law enforcement. The kind he'd applied to join, and been rejected...
    We keep registries of a lot of different people we feel we need to keep track of, offenders of different types. It might not hurt to keep track of failed police applicants, and require all PDs to check the registry when hiring. Sounds a bit Big Brother-ish, maybe, but I think we're dealing with a special category of job-rejects here.
    John Leonard Orr was another one of those...

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    1. I agree with everything you've written however, GZ was not supposed to carry a weapon while on NW. Also, his Concealed Weapons Permit was just that, meaning his gun had to be concealed. However, there's no reason for him not warning TM about his having a gun and telling him to back off and absolutely no reason for him to not identify himself.

      As for job rejects with the various PD's around the country, while GZ allegedly failed to qualify due to his credit rating, I highly doubt he would have passed the psychiatric evaluation if he had made it that far. His work at school revealed quite a bit about his way of thinking when he wrote that the reason he wanted to become an air marshall (he changed his mind quite a bit about the field of LE) was the opportunity it would give GZ to "hunt fugitives". In GZ's twisted mind, he had already tried and convicted TM from the moment he saw him and he was just waiting to deliver what he considered to be the appropriate punishment. He pictured himself as a hero for saving the RATL from another teen who was guilty of walking while black and carrying candy and a drink. GZ couldn't wait to send the email to the HOA so they could honor his "heroic accomplishment."

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    2. Actually, I doubt Zimmerman intended to kill anyone. That's why I always felt Involuntary Manslaughter was a better fit than Murder. The prosecution in this case was definitely substandard, and we can make all the wild ass guesses we want as to why. Maybe they're just another GTCSS. Hardly uncommon in the minors...
      And the jury really didn't have much choice under FL law. Like most states, in FL, you can yell self defense, and the DA has to prove it wasn't. Fl, I believe--check me on this, lawtalkers--goes with reasonable doubt as the "quantum of proof" I think is the term, for self defense. This puts a burden on the prosecution that, without reliable witnesses, is just insurmountable. Nobody really knows what happened, all we have is Zimmermen's version, and the result.
      To me, the only thing you can say about "armed adult stalks teenage boy, boy ends up dead" is "the adult fucked up". Adults fuck up a lot, but when the result is a dead kid, the adult should pay somehow. The law doesn't see things that simply...

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  64. And that bit about Zimmerman stopping to render aid to a family in an overturned car? My WTF-O-Meter pegged on that one.

    Perhaps for good reason...

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  65. Larry Wilmore summed it up best on the Daily Show:
    "An armed adult in a car, followed and ultimately shot and killed child."
    That is what happened here. Any opinions or speculation beyond that, are just projection. If you defend GZ to me, I know exactly what you are.

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  66. Nick formerly from the O.C.July 27, 2013 at 5:33 PM

    So blackdaug, is it your position that those six female jury members were racist? They were the ones who let GZ off....

    See, I don't know what happened that night. As Jim wrote, none of us will ever really know what happened that night. A young man tragically lost his life. The perpetrator was charged, tried, and found not guilty by a duly constituted jury. So if you want to make this about racism, then shouldn't we be looking that that jury?

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    1. "none of us will ever really know what happened that night. A young man tragically lost his life."

      You said none of us will know what happened....and then stated exactly what happened.
      ....and in doing so pretty much personified my point.
      Thanks for playing.

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  67. What a great post, Jim. I'm a frequent reader but only seldom do I comment. I either don't have anything to add or someone else has already posted something similar to what I was thinking.

    When it comes to the Zimmerman trial, as you said, the reality comes down to a 17 year old boy was shot and killed. I didn't have an opinion initially because there was far too little info available and what was available was contradicted by other members in the media. When the interviews with the Sanford PD were published, along with the autopsy reports, GZ's medical report from his doctor's visit the day after the shooting, and other info from the SPD, I read and listened to everything, some of it 2 and 3 times just to make sure I heard it correctly. I came away believing GZ was a murderer. His many inconsistencies regarding the moment of shooting, the alleged circling of his car, his failure to identify himself to TM as a member of NW and many other things added up nothing but what I believed to be were self-serving lies on the part of GZ. After all, he had every reason to lie about the shooting or he'd find himself facing jail time and considering his major, criminal justice, he knew just what to say and what not to say. His written statement sounded like something from a book entitled, "Self-Defense for Dummies" from the chapter regarding how to make sure you're not charged for killing someone in a SYG case. GZ stated, "I unholstered my gun and aimed it at the suspect's torso and fired one shot, as I was in fear for my life because the suspect assured me he was going to kill me." Fait accompli!

    GZ's following of TM is what really convinced me he was guilty because in doing so, TM had every reason to fear GZ, an idea he appeared to believe was preposterous when interviewed by Sean Hannity, going so far as to say, "TM wasn't running, he wasn't running out of fear" SH even expressed some doubt (finally) as he asked him, "you could tell?" and GZ said, again, "he wasn't running out of fear." What a ridiculous statement for him to make! He couldn't read TM's mind and if the kid was running away from GZ, chances are, it's because he was afraid of him, just as he told his friend on the phone. The phone call was GZ's undoing and it's too bad the jury didn't realize that everything out of his mouth was a lie, formulated to keep his ass out of jail for the next 25 years or more.

    When GZ told the dispatcher that he wasn't going to meet the SPD at the mailboxes as he had said, but instead asked him to have them call him, he did so not because he was worried about the SPD being unable to find him (they certainly knew where the mailboxes were located) but because he wanted to make sure that Trayvon didn't get away from him. From the time GZ hung up with dispatch (according to him he was only 100 ft from his car at the time the call ended) until TM's phone call was disconnected with RJ, his friend, just over two full minutes had elapsed. Why didn't GZ make it to his car if it was so close? Because he was hunting Trayvon! I also believe he was hunting him with his mind on detaining him. We know from witness testimony that there was a lot more said during their initial meeting than what GZ told the police. What did he leave out and why? The man is a liar, his past proves it, his words to the police prove it and every time he opens his mouth, he has proven himself a liar. His own past wasn't squeaky clean, far from it. However, the SPD made up their mind early on that they believed GZ, could it have something to do with the several decades of friendship between Norm Wolfinger, the state attorney for Seminole Co., and Robert Zimmerman, Sr.? More than likely, especially since Wolfinger was on the scene that night, which is something nobody had seen him do for years. Trayvon didn't stand a chance at justice here on earth. Karma will take care of GZ.

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    1. Felt it would either be hung jury or aquittal the moment I heard the panel was 6 people. Not that all cases need 12 but that should be reserved for lesser crimes/charges. Even with 12 there are going to be stupid people on the panel (but on TV... or they have such a gentle smile). First thing you have to accept is any story told by defendant is not the truth - it is a story just as RJ's testimony was a story - but you back it up with facts from other sources to see which rings true. The police started this boondoggle with failing to do any real investigation - and that fact is deplorable...they didn't see any need because it was just another black kid and their shooter was white and older, owned/rented a home - had "standing" and there was no real effort to even ID Trayvon. That's the thing that I just cannot get past. His father reported him missing and still Trayvon was not ID'd for 3 days. Had this been a white kid it would have been on the news with reporters with panic in their voice -- where is he? Have you seen him? This wasn't a huge city. Oh and my take on GZ's story? It wasn't close to believable, it was a fact here or there twisted to reflect positively on GZ or negative against TM but all that is fact is GZ got out of his car, he had his gun and he killed TM. I can come up with a far more believable story that paints this as 1st degree murder - I also believe his gun was held in his hand which terrified TM and that's why he might have fought with GZ - it was fight or die and I think GZ told him that (remember GZ said that TM told him he was going to die - those words were said but by GZ - that's more of his mind-set than a 16-17 year old kid who is unarmed). Marlene

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  68. This isn't just a great place to find interesting things to read but also a good place to learn from the comments of others. Thank you all.

    I have merely two points to make:

    1. It is a tragedy when anyone dies unnecessarily.

    2. Mr. Zimmerman had a choice as to whether there would be a confrontation that night. Mr. Martin did not.

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  69. First, I commend the jury for having followed the law and the evidence to reach the not guilty verdict instead of defaulting to the politically correct , but not legally correct, manslaughter charge. They remembered what Aristotle said, “Law is reason, free of passion.”

    Of course, the charge of racism here was inevitable. That seems to always raise its ugly head every time there is white on black crime. (This is also why you don’t see any outrage at the almost daily murders in Chicago since they are almost always black on black. And, by the way, it's almost always black teenagers who are killed. Why are we not worried about their futures, or their missing the prom?)

    No, what resulted from this case became an opportunity for Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and their ilk not only to set black against white, but to exploit the death of a black teenager. To make their case, they give us the absurd rationale that the White-Hispanic man whose head looked like a punching bag attacked a poor black kid who only had one small scratch on his finger (other than the bullet hole, obviously.) The black community and their sympathizers want to extrapolate this specific and unique case as being responsible for labeling all black teenagers as potential felons. (That’s like labeling all black football players as murderers like O.J. Simpson!)

    I’m one of those who thinks we need to have an honest conversation about the racial divide in this country and try to work on ways to close the gap -- the operative word here being “honest.” But Jackson and Sharpton and their like-minded friends are not going to let that happen. After all, where would they be if the blacks and whites were to all get along? So they keep things stirred up, keep the tension and distrust going, make sure that victimization of the black community is never forgotten.

    Finally, I find it ironic that some of the extremist black leaders would use the 50th anniversary of MLK’s “I have a dream” speech to promote civil rights action against Zimmerman. In part of that great speech, Dr. King said, “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

    I believe Sharpton, Jackson, Benjamin Jealous (NAACP), Marc Morial (Urban League) and the others have dishonored Dr. King. They are clearly judging Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman by the color of their skin and not by the content of their character. Same on them. And same on the rest of us for not calling them on it.

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    1. Ah, Herb, I see you admit that there was NO evidence on Trayvon's hands of him striking Zimmerman (Trayvon "...only had one small scratch on his finger") The autopsy and ME showed one very small abrasion below the knuckle on Trayvon's left ring finger, NO Zimmerman DNA anywhere on Trayvon's hands or under his fingernails, no bruising of his hands.
      Zimmerman had a SHAVED head that night--Trayvon would have had to grab him by his ears to "pound his head into the concrete", while simultaneously "covering Zimmerman's bloody mouth and nose with his hands", while simultaneously "reaching for Zimmerman's gun"--no trace of Trayvon on any part of the gun, either. HUMMMM!

      Freckles

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    2. I’m one of those who thinks we need to have an honest conversation about the racial divide in this country and try to work on ways to close the gap -- the operative word here being “honest.”

      Implying, of course, that the rest of us aren't being honest when we discuss race. Interesting. Presumably, Herb, you'll be the one who gets to decide what constitutes "honest" when it comes to discussions of race. Is that right?

      I'm curious, what objective criteria do you use to make this determination? You going to show the same clear-eyed honest assessment of race that you displayed in your closing paragraph:

      I believe Sharpton, Jackson, Benjamin Jealous, Marc Morial and the others have dishonored Dr. King.

      Ah, yes, the part where a random (presumed) white guy implies that white people are better at honoring a ideals of a slain black civil rights leader than actual black people - forgetting, of course, that King and those like him were feared and derided just as much as the commenter fears and derides Sharpton, Jackson, et al nowadays.

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    3. Of two people acquitted by juries, one is a murderer and the other is not. Odd thing, that.

      Bruce

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    4. Anon/Freckles: I also noticed George's shaved head & wondered if it signified identity with Marines/LEOs or white supremacy. I also noticed what appeared to be blood on the front of his jacket. Both led me to opine that GZ landed on his back & his head bounced as a result of a kick-back of the 9mm when fired at short range causing TM to fall on top of him. However, the prosecutors did not bring this out at trial. Perhaps the FBI investigation will.

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    5. I suggest you go and read this diary, Mr. Van Fleet, as it not only has the most concise and comprehensive examination of the evidence, with pictures, but it clearly shows why Zimmerman is a liar.


      Jeff Lamm

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  70. "I’m one of those who thinks we need to have an honest conversation about the racial divide in this country and try to work on ways to close the gap -- the operative word here being “honest.” But Jackson and Sharpton and their like-minded friends are not going to let that happen. After all, where would they be if the blacks and whites were to all get along?"

    How "honest" can any conversation with you about racial issues be when you impugn the motivations and intent of both Jackson and Sharpton without providing any proof ?

    How "honest" is it to hurl the astonishingly insulting accusation that Jackson has "dishonored Dr. King" when he was with King the night he was assassinated ?

    As for "Same on them. And same on the rest of us ..."

    It's ironic that you can intuit how honest people are yet can't even spell "shame."

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  71. SO good to read a rational, somewhat but not too rambling, opinion about this teenager's death. Thank you, Jim. Now that we got that off our chest, could we talk about how a young man came to hold himself out to be a cop when he wasn't? Can we discuss why he was acting out his fantasy of being a cop & didn't stay in his SUV as he was told to by the dispatcher? Apparently George wasn't able to become a cop. Why not? Frankly, this is the discussion we should be having because there are millions like George living among us in every community in every state. So, when do we begin having that discussion?

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  72. Why wasn't George able to become a cop? Well consider how he behaved on the night. Exactly the opposite of the way any even halfway decent cop would act. Any cop I have ever met would have been able to figure out that the boy was merely walking home after buying candy and soda without any kind of confrontation whatever. Cops aren't out looking for confrontation on dark rainy nights. Seems pretty likely the cops that turned down his applications did so because they knew he hadn't got the right stuff for the job.

    Why would he go ahead and act out his fantasy of possessing authority? That's an easy one: it made him feel like a big man and there's no law against driving around your own neighborhood checking things out in a way that makes a little man feel big.

    There OUGHT to be a law that doesn't let little men like him carry deadly weapons when they go out at night to play at being cops, because without the deadly weapon little men like him would never would have had the courage to get out of the car and seek out the kind of confrontation that ended this time in the boy's death. But of course a law like that is too much to ask in a state like Florida. So we can have that particular discussion until we are blue in the face, but unless and until we change the rules about who can carry a gun and under what circumstances, ain't nothin at all gonna change.

    BB

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    1. I believe impersonating a cop is a crime in most if not all states. George claimed he was only acting as a "volunteer neighborhood watchman" not a cop. There were no witnesses to corroborate his claims however.

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    2. If he hadn't had that shooter in his pocket (or his hand) he would never have had the courage to seek the confrontation. The gun laws are the ones you want to be concentrating on. The rest is silage in comparison.

      BB

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    3. "Any cop I have ever met would have been able to figure out that the boy was merely walking home after buying candy and soda without any kind of confrontation whatever. Cops aren't out looking for confrontation on dark rainy nights."

      Point of order. There are LOTS of cops who stop and hassle black folks just for walking in the wrong neighborhood. It happens quite a lot.

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    4. Lucas, sure they still stop and hassle black people in some places. And that is racist and wrong. My point was THEY STOP THEM AND TALK TO THEM, they don't shoot them, and if Zimmmerman had been a cop, even a racist scum of a cop, he still would have known how to do that. He would have known that's what cops do. He would have done what they do to get the message those cops are trying to send across: this is not where you should be. Of course he would then have found out that it was exactly where Martin did belong. I'm not attempting to say anything as silly as there are no racist cops. I'm saying even racist cops aren't out seeking violent confrontation the way Zimmerman clearly was.

      There is another aspect to this crime that I haven't heard anyone talk about much. In places like that "gated community" in Sanford, what was really suspicious about Martin- in Zimmmerman's view- wasn't ONLY that he was black, it was that he was walking. All the adults who live there have cars. Martin was tall as an adult. It was a dark and rainy night. Therefore if he belonged there he would have been in a car. This assumption turned out to be obviously absurd and wrong, and a cop would have had the sense to find out if it was wrong or right as a first order of business.

      Stopping people who don't seem to fit in where they are walking on a dark and rainy night is more or less the job of neighborhood cops. Seeking violent confrontation in the first instance is absolutely not their job, and, more to the point, not what they do. Hassle is hassle, and if it's racially profiled hassle it's crap, but it's a long long way from what Zimmerman was doing.

      BB





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  73. Denis (July 25): Thank you for the link to "Fear of a Black President" in The Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coats, Senior Editor (8-22-2012). Mr. Coates wrote about racism in the USA, citing academic studies of how racism is reflected in all political circles depending on geographic as well as demographic history.

    Jim: I am re-posting the link to encourage others to read the article. We cannot understand if we don't even try on their shoes, let alone walk a mile in them.

    [http://m.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/09/fear-of-a-black-president/309064]

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  74. Damnitall, Warrant

    I've read your post six times in as many days, and I cannot compose a rational response. What you have said is all true, but I am too pissed-off to say much.

    Maybe later.

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  75. When I think about this tragedy and what brought it about, I can't help but think of one of the "solutions" proposed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. That was the proposal that we increase the armed presence on school campuses by arming teachers and volunteers.

    The next time it is suggested that to protect our schools, we should have armed amateurs in the classroom, I hope everyone will bring up the name of George Zimmerman.

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  76. Yale's baby lab studies help explain the human tendency to prefer others like ourselves, and bias against others that are not like us. 60 Minutes aired a segment about those studies called "Born good? Babies help unlock the origins of morality" last Sunday. The studies show how babies as young as 3 & 5 months old show such preferences and biases. Parents can deepen this bias by example and voicing it, or teach their children otherwise. Here's the link:

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57595806/born-good-babies-help-unlock-the-origins-of-morality/

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  77. I don't see in this article where it says what you indicate in your first sentence. Is there another article that shows that?

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