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Fearing for Your Life

March 21st, 2012 · 142 Comments

Most of the commentary on the Trayvon Martin case has focused on the growing mountain of evidence suggesting that shooter George Zimmerman, far from acting in “self defense,” was the instigator of the confrontation between the two late last month. But I keep coming back to a slightly different question: Are we really supposed to believe that this armed 28-year-old man was afraid for his life in a confrontation with a barely-17 boy who he outweighed by 100 pounds, at 7 o’clock in the evening, with many homes full of people a few dozen yards away?  Because even if we ignored all the evidence and assumed Trayvon Martin had been the aggressor, Zimmerman’s decision to shoot his supposed attacker would only be protected by Florida’s now-notorious “Stand Your Ground” law if he had a reasonable belief that it was “necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself … or another.”

Some personal context here: About a year ago, walking home pretty late at night, I was assaulted—an attempted mugging—by not one but three teens about Trayvon Martin’s age. I wasn’t armed, and I certainly didn’t have Zimmerman’s 100-pound advantage over any of them. I am not anyone’s idea of a badass by any stretch: An unrepentant wonk in mediocre physical shape who had never been in a real fight in his adult life. Nor am I possessed of any extraordinary physical courage—ask my girlfriend how long it took me to work up the nerve to do a cliff jump if you want a chuckle sometime. But for all that, there was no time during the whole encounter when I feared for my life. I did, to be sure, fear a somewhat worse ass-kicking than I ended up having to endure, and was lucky to end up with only a few cuts and bruises. (I had the good fortune of a neighbor who, hearing a cry for help, opened the door to see if I needed help, rather than making a phone call and waiting—and I’m a little surprised not to see anyone remarking that there seems to be a bit of a Kitty Genovese aspect to the Martin tragedy.) But nothing about the circumstances suggested these (seemingly unarmed) kids were prepared to kill me over a little cash and a cell phone, and while I certainly felt entitled to fight back (as I did), it would never in a million years have occurred to me that lethal force was in order.

You always want to give the benefit of the doubt to a victim, who you can hardly expect to engage in perfectly cool rational deliberation in the face of an assault, but surely there are circumstances where  the use of some force in self-defense is justified, but lethal force isn’t, at least as a first alternative. Even when someone “stands their ground,” studies suggest that when a gun is drawn for defensive purposes, an attacker will almost always break off an assault after a threat or a warning shot. So supposing we actually believed Zimmerman’s unbelievable story, could it have been remotely reasonable for him to think lethal force was necessary to defend himself from imminent death or grave bodily harm? He had no hope of holding the boy off for a few minutes until someone else arrived? No “I’ve got a gun” or “I’ll shoot” against an unarmed opponent? Maybe there’s some story he could tell at trial that would at least get you to reasonable doubt, but I don’t see why a jury would be forbidden from concluding that Zimmerman’s response was so wildly disproportionate to the threat that no reasonable person could regard it as necessary, even if they believe Martin threw the first punch. Not to be flip about it, but fistfights happen all the time—and I’ve got to assume that killing the guy who started it would not be a reasonable or justifiable resolution to the large majority of them.

Tags: Journalism & the Media · Law · Personal


       

 

142 responses so far ↓

  • 1 TooManyJens // Mar 21, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    I certainly agree that would have been better, although I’m not sure we actually know that nobody tried to holler at Zimmerman. I’m not sure it would even occur to me to blow a whistle or that yelling would be a helpful thing to do. I guess I don’t think of people as being that easily deterred, but it’s something to keep in mind.

  • 2 Scott Burton // Mar 21, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    There’s a lot of trolling going on here.

    What Megan is saying, if I read it correctly, is that Zimmerman shouldn’t be prosecuted unless there is sufficient evidence to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s a reasonable statement.

  • 3 berlihe // Mar 21, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    Jesus, Megan, do you ever, ever, ever get tired of defending the powerful against the weak? When you’re just siding with the rich against the poor, or large corporations against consumers, you just seem like a run-of-the-mill Republican. But now you’re defending the guy with the gun against the unarmed teenager who had every right to be where he was! Oh, you’re not condoning Zimmerman’s actions, you’re just twisting yourself into pretzels to find “reasonable” grounds for forgoing his prosecution! It’s sociopathic.

    Of course, those of us whose only source of information about the case are the media should be careful about making definitive judgments. We can’t know exactly what happened. But that’s why there should have been a thorough investigation to begin with, and why he should be put on trial now.

    You seem almost relieved that the police work was shoddy enough that a trial may be impractical, and your claims to believe that Zimmerman probably belongs behind bars and that his behavior was “wildly inappropriate” come off as disingenuous, especially when one contrasts that insane understatement of “inappropriate” with the bizarre, tortured effort to excuse Zimmerman from prosecution.

    It almost seems as if you were motivated to defer to Zimmerman because he “won” the confrontation.

  • 4 cbear // Mar 21, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Megan 4:25pm—
    “Based on what I’ve read, so far, if I were on the jury, I’d have to acquit.”

    Megan 7:39pm—
    “Not defending Zimmerman, certainly not saying that I’d find him innocent if he went on trial and all the evidence was out.”

    As always, McMegan says something stupid, gets called on it, doubles down on the stupid, then trys mightily to tailor her writings to wiggle out out of the clown car.
    You just can’t help yourself can you, honey?

  • 5 pseudonymous in nc // Mar 21, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    That’s a reasonable statement.

    If she had the faintest understanding of what “probable cause” and “beyond reasonable doubt” mean, and she’s demonstrated here that she doesn’t. Instead, this is just another of Megan’s Humpty-Dumpty hypotheticals.

  • 6 TooManyJens // Mar 21, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    Scott: Except that her definition of “reasonable doubt” is that “it couldn’t possibly have happened any other way.” That’s not the legal definition nor a common-sense definition. It’s just a way for the guy to never get prosecuted.

  • 7 Not Fan // Mar 21, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    I’m obviously not signing off on letting white people go around shooting black people with impunity.

    In my opinion that is exactly what you’re doing, Ms. McArdle. You are coming up with every possible excuse to take the criminal, the police, and the prosecutors off the hook. Then you piously deny what’s plain to see.

    You imagine yourself cloaked in plausible deniability, but from where I sit, it is indistinguishable from a traditional white sheet and pointed cap. I’d tell you to be ashamed of yourself, but racists have no shame.

  • 8 Kevin T. Keith // Mar 21, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    Julian:

    You haven’t read the statute thoroughly enough. It does not require reasonable fear of “death or great bodily harm”. You can shoot anyone at any time if you (“reasonably”) believe they are going to commit a “forcible” crime of any kind:

    The Section you quote (776.013) deals with the specific case of home invasions. The more general case is given in the preceding Section 776.012:

    776.012 Use of force in defense of person.— . . . a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:
    (1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony . . .

    So, all you have to do is “reasonably believe” a “forcible felony” is being committed – against yourself or anyone else – and it is “necessary” to kill someone to stop it, and you’re in the clear.

    Furthermore:

    776.032 Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.—
    (1) A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force . . .

    That section also specifies that the police are *prohibited* from arresting the killer unless they can establish probable cause, not that the killer actually did it, but that the “reasonable belief” was invalid. That is, the constitutional protection against arrest not merely to the acts of the killer, but to their legal defense at trial *before* they can even be detained.

    It goes on to establish that – contrary to US civil law practice – the plaintiff must pay all defendant’s costs and legal fees in a civil trial if it is alleged that the use of force was unreasonable and the defendant wins the suit.

    So, nothing about this requires that you fear for your life – only that you fear a “forcible felony” will take place. You can kill anyone, citing your own subjective fear, and the police are prohibited from arresting you unless they can prove *that fear* (not the act of killing) was “unreasonable”.

  • 9 Jay B. // Mar 21, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    Now I’m just a country boy trying to make it in the big city and all this dazzling law-talkin’ here is making my poor noggin spin, but the part about prosecutors not deciding to prosecute based on evidence the police didn’t procure is a bit beyond, as they say back in the country, my ken.

    It would seem, again, that the police would FIRST arrest Zimmerman (or bring him in for questioning) before the prosecutors would have even the first say in the matter — it’s my understanding that’s where the whole actual legal process starts.

    Moreover, jumping ahead to an idiot’s version of “reasonable doubt” isn’t or shouldn’t be the cop’s primary concern in an investigation where there’s a dead kid and a vigilante with a gun. But again, the prosecution had nothing to do with the shoddy investigation OR the lack of an arrest OR the lack of questioning. So the idea of “reasonable doubt” here is an even more meaningless expression.

  • 10 MoeLarryAndJesus // Mar 21, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Megan has written a lot of incredibly stupid things in her life. This is just the latest and one of the stupidest. But rest assured, folks, she will most certainly go on to write so many stupid things that this bit of dopery won’t even make her Lifetime Top Thousand.

    She’s in it for the long haul. And as she moves ever rightward she’ll be making the jaws of rational people drop more often.

  • 11 Aidan // Mar 21, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Julian, I understand the point you’re trying to make, but it’s a huge stretch to call this similar to the Kitty Genovese case. I just don’t see any diffusion of responsibility on behalf of people who notified the police and didn’t want to make themselves a target of gunfire.

    What exactly should they have done after Trayvon Martin was shot? He was killed by a single gunshot. Presumably no neighbor could have done anything at that point. Are you holding them responsible for failing to prevent Zimmerman from firing the shot? Should they have ran out into the street and yelled “Hey, you shouldn’t have shot that guy!”

    Living in DC, I’m assuming you have heard gunshots at some point in your life. Do you try to pinpoint the exact location and run toward it in order to fulfill your personal responsibility to intervene in any possible case involving live gunfire? Or do you just poke your head out, blow a whistle, and yell “Hey!”

  • 12 Paul Turner // Mar 21, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    Quoted below is the Florida instruction on reasonable doubt. It makes it clear that the ability to construct a set of possible facts under which a defendant is not guilty is not what the law means by reasonable doubt.

    A reasonable doubt is not a mere possible doubt, a speculative, imaginary or forced doubt.  Such a doubt must not influence you to return a verdict of not guilty if you have an abiding conviction of guilt.  On the other hand, if, after carefully considering, comparing and weighing all the evidence, there is not an abiding conviction of guilt, or, if, having a conviction, it is one which is not stable but one which wavers and vacillates, then the charge is not proved beyond every reasonable doubt and you must find the defendant not guilty because the doubt is reasonable.

    It is to the evidence introduced in this trial and to it alone, that you are to look for that proof.

    A reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the defendant may arise from the evidence, conflict in the evidence, or the lack of evidence.

  • 13 TooManyJens // Mar 21, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Aidan, I think Julian’s referring to the time before the shot was fired, when people heard a fight.

  • 14 K. Chen // Mar 21, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    There is an impressive amount of nastiness in this comment thread. I mean, it is the internet, and a comment thread, so I’m not surprised, but still.

    Reasonable doubt is an extremely poorly defined concept, perhaps because it impossible to well define, as the jury instruction should indicate. What someone considers “reasonable” will be disagreed on by well, reasonable people. And I have no idea why anyone would be so sure that it would land one way another unless
    They are lawyers,
    with intimate understanding of the facts reported or otherwise,
    and have a decent guess at how the judge will rule on various evidentiary issues, what calibre of lawyer Zimmerman would be able to get his hands on,
    and how the jury pool will shake out.

    I’m willing to believe that that any number of police officers have not been putting in the effort and/or deliberately sabotaging any case, either out of subtle bias or overt malice. The evidence I’m waiting to hear is that of police officers doing so at the direction of the prosecutors. Or even at the direction of higher ups. Because, barring some bit of information, Occam’s razor cuts to various actors, for various reasons including, but not limited to, personal pique, being sympathetic towards vigilantes, unsympathetic for the victim and his various demographic attributes (including racism) and what they had for breakfast that morning did a less than stellar job in an incident that happened to make the news.

    Also, I’m surprised no one has mentioned this guy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernhard_Goetz

  • 15 nitpicker // Mar 21, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    If our current debates are stained by a morally-flexible, ethically-challenged and yet inexplicably-respected writer than Megan McCardle, I’d be extremely surprised.

  • 16 Scott Burton // Mar 21, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    We are still debating reasonable doubt at a time in which no evidence has been presented in a court of law. We’re doing it in a forum where almost every participant presumes the shooter guilty. And along the way, we’re calling each other klansmen.

    We have, until then, a jury of media celebrities, bloggers, talk radio listeners and internet trolls, who are already convinced of whodunnit, what he dun, and why he dun it.

    I can imagine why someone might have a problem with that.

  • 17 TooManyJens // Mar 21, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    What we should be debating is probable cause, not reasonable doubt. As in, did the police have probable cause to believe that the shooting was unlawful?

    We get to discuss this. We have to discuss this. These are public servants who appear not to have lived up to the trust the public placed in them. The city commission of Sanford, Florida agrees, at least with regard to the police chief.

  • 18 Larkspur // Mar 21, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    TooManyJens: I think you are right about what Julian is referring to, but I think Aidan’s point still stands. Not even Kitty Genovese’s actual death occurred within the parameters of the “Kitty Genovese case”. Subsequent extensive analysis showed pretty convincingly that there *was* no cohort of 38 witnesses who saw what was happening but didn’t want to get involved.

    It appears that some people saw some portions of the attack, but that few residents would have been able to see the final attack during which Ms. Genovese was murdered. One of the many heart-breaking aspects of the aftermath was that some of the people who actually did witness some moment of the attack figured that it was a lovers’ quarrel. That is sickening, but it does not comport with the assumption that the witnesses knew a woman was being stabbed to death and *still* chose not to get involved.

    I call bullshit on this whole side discussion, and here’s why. I live in a small apartment building with four apartments sharing the same entryway, two downstairs, two upstairs. Once upon a time my immediate upstairs neighbor was a weird guy who was trying to establish some kind of spiritual counseling business. He’d have group therapy sessions and I’d hear people laughing loudly and sometimes crying. I didn’t like it and I told him so, but it kept on. Then one day I heard screaming from upstairs and I started to get really annoyed.

    The next thing I knew, there were police officers all around and then an ambulance. Well, my immediate upstairs neighbor *was* having some sort of weepy rebirthing session, but the upstairs neighbor next to him was being attacked by her own methed-out son. She was the one screaming. Thank god she survived, but it had nothing to do with any help I gave her. *I didn’t do anything to help her* because I thought it was my obnoxious other neighbor.

    So there’s no shortage of guilt in a typical day on earth, but please remember to consider the specifics, the details, the *evidence*.

  • 19 jitc // Mar 21, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    Ms. McArdle,

    If this was an accidental shooting, then at minimum it is manslaughter.

    Further, if it was in self-defense, then Zimmerman would have to prove it.

    But he admitted to shooting and killing a person. So why in the world has he not been arrested?

    It comes down to incompetent and clearly lying law enforcement, as laid out by Mr. Sanchez in reply #24

  • 20 jimfocus // Mar 21, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    To this point, the Sanford PD, Zimmerman nor anyone else has cited one piece of evidence that shows Trayvon Martin was engaged in any wrongdoing other than walking down the street, which I believe is still legal. Martin was under no requirement to answer Zimmerman’s questions or his directions, at all. This guy was an angry Barney Fife — an amateur one, at that — was way, way over the line, probably under the influence, filled with racist animus (“fucking coon”), and provoked the confrontation, then stupidly exercised lethal force.

  • 21 Meaghen Idiotica // Mar 21, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    Shorter Meaghen:

    Find someone you think is doing something wrong, bother them, shoot them when they react to them bothering you.

    If you cannot handle the repercusions of killing someone with your gun, don’t carry it. Especially don’t go out and do stuff that may require you to use the gun.

  • 22 Zak44 // Mar 21, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    Why is anyone surprised that Blenderella has found a way to exculpate the shooter? In her universe, those with the upper hand—whether their name is Blankfein or Zimmerman—are always the real victims.

  • 23 pseudonymous in nc // Mar 22, 2012 at 12:08 am

    We are still debating reasonable doubt at a time in which no evidence has been presented in a court of law.

    No, we’re addressing the fact that wild speculation does not equate to “reasonable doubt”, while noting that the combination of SYG and who-knows-what motivating the local PD apparently made them reticent to invoke the “probable cause” threshold that would at very least have led them to detain Zimmerman under Florida statute.

    Now you can ride off on your white stallion, oh knight of purity.

  • 24 wetcasements // Mar 22, 2012 at 1:55 am

    Megan “I am libertarian except when it comes to black kids getting murdered and women’s rights to legal health care procedures in general” McCardle.

    Can’t wait to see what wonders await us upon the arrival of your “book.”

  • 25 Skip Intro // Mar 22, 2012 at 7:26 am

    Megan,

    It’s not “reasonable doubt” when you can make up a story in your mind. It’s “reasonable doubt” when evidence is introduced that supports the scenario.

  • 26 Barry // Mar 22, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Megan @18:

    “Based on what I’ve read, so far, if I were on the jury, I’d have to acquit. Is Zimmerman a racist idiot? Almost certainly (though do remember that the media accounts are not always 100% of the story; they tend to mostly consist of leaks from one side or another).

    But could there be a scenario where he–wildly inappropriately–followed this guy, and brandished his gun, and then much to his surprise, the teenager tried to wrestle the gun away, and in the ensuing struggle, he got shot?

    Does that seem the most likely explanation to me? No. Could I rule it out? Also no. And that’s reasonable doubt. It’s why good rape cases are often hard to win, and why some criminals go free. But no, I don’t think that we should put criminals through unwinnable trials because it makes us feel better. Trials are expensive, and more importantly, a very scarce resource. I’d much rather reserve them for prisoners who there is a reasonable chance of conviction. ”

    Actually, this is – well, a lie. The fact that you can concoct a scenario where the shooter is innocent is not *reasonable* doubt, it’s reaching for an excuse.

    And even in your scenario, Zimmerman is at fault – he chased Trayvon down and threatened him with a gun. At that point Trayvon ‘attacking’ Zimmerman would be nothing more than self-defence.

    And as has been pointed out, Zimmerman was not even arrested; the police seemed uninterested in securing vital evidence (his clothes and the condition of his body).

    That, right there, is reason to go after the police as accessories after the fact.

  • 27 Fred Beloit // Mar 22, 2012 at 8:02 am

    In the eagerness to try Zimmerman out of court there is a central, self-contradictory element. Some accusers say the FL self-defense act is bad AND Zimmerman broke the bad law because he wasn’t threatened, in other words the “bad law” made him do it. This is an effort to have it both ways. Both ways doesn’t work logically.

  • 28 Fred Beloit // Mar 22, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Let me try to be more clear: If Zimmerman wasn’t threatened AND he had obeyed the law, Martin would be alive today. Ergo, there is nothing wrong with the law.

  • 29 Barry // Mar 22, 2012 at 8:09 am

    Scott Burton // Mar 21, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    Scott @ 52: “What Megan is saying, if I read it correctly, is that Zimmerman shouldn’t be prosecuted unless there is sufficient evidence to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s a reasonable statement.”

    A clear reading of what she wrote is that she thinks that Zimmerman shouldn’t be prosecuted if there is a conceivable scenario where he’s innocent. This is an unreasonable statement.

  • 30 Bob2 // Mar 22, 2012 at 8:26 am

    I wonder if Megan is writing a book about risk aversion….
    There ought to be a chapter on Trayvon Martin in this book.
    Can’t wait to see if your book Permission to Suck is as bad as Part II of the Elizabeth Warren takedown.

  • 31 Butch // Mar 22, 2012 at 9:29 am

    And Megan, your responses tell me that you absolutely refuse to even consider the possibility that you said something just incredibly stupid.

  • 32 Barry // Mar 22, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Read Susan of Texas, Tom Levenson or Balloon Juice to find takedowns of her writing, where the dishonesty, refusal to admit mistakes and insulting those who find her errors are thick enough to walk on.

    And those are only the ones I’ve read.

  • 33 Butch // Mar 22, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Hey, but Barry, you’re forgetting her stirring defense of her $1,500 blender.

  • 34 Bob2 // Mar 22, 2012 at 10:36 am

    “And I’m willing to defer to experts on whether law enforcement was remiss.”

    But she knows nothing about trials and feels like she can talk like an expert on trials.
    Meanwhile, I know LOTS of lawyers who told me how dumb she is on the subject after I asked.

    Her history of expertise is asking non-experts or biased experts on a subject, whether it’s Paul Campos (lawyer) on obesity or libertarian Derek Lowe on pharma or lawyers on climate science and the one climate scientist no one agrees with. It’s the disease of cult of the savvy (coined by professor Jay Rosen). Looking for contrarian bullshit while claiming to be a journalist.
    It’s why so many pundits have been proven to be less accurate than a coin flip.

  • 35 Dave // Mar 22, 2012 at 10:53 am

    I’m a lawyer, and I can say McArdle is actually on to something. “Reasonable doubt” is hard to come by, but there is a legal standard lawyers sometimes persuade juries to consider, called “Imaginary Doubt.” It’s hard to explain (very technical) so you won’t see it on Law & Order, but sometimes a defense lawyer will just tell juries, “Imagine you have a doubt about my client’s guilt.” Sometimes it works.

  • 36 Spencer // Mar 22, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Gail @ 13:

    You shouldn’t be astounded. Hell, you shouldn’t even be mildly surprised. Megan often displays a willingness to write about things she doesn’t know anything about or have the time/inclination to research. The “tell” is her frequent use of the phrase “it seems to me,” which she often uses to try to hide the fact that she doesn’t actually know any relevant facts but still feels entitled to express her opinion.

  • 37 Spencer // Mar 22, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Now that I’ve read through the entire thread, I have to say this is a perfect example of Megan’s MO. Make shit up in a field she knows little to nothing about, get haughty when people who *do* know something about it call her on it, weasel around a bit, and then drop it.

    This is exactly what her writings on economics are like as well – and I’m qualified to critique those because I actually have training in economics, enough in fact to get me a professorship. She doesn’t. She has an MBA. MBA programs are notorious for the superficial economics content they provide – yes, even MBAs from Chicago, Megan.

  • 38 JM // Mar 22, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Can we please make this something other than the “Megan McCardle is an idiot” thread. I mean, yes, I grant the point, but let’s move on.

    A more interesting question to me is what a libertarian such as JS makes of this case. I don’t want to ascribe views to you that you don’t hold, but it’s interesting to look at the Cato page on gun control: http://www.cato.org/gun-control

    Not surprisingly there are many articles on “the endangered right to bear arms” and the need for individuals to provide “armed resistance” to criminals, but nothing I can see about the dangers of vigilantism to everyday, walking around liberty.

    Would it be incorrect to say that the libertarian response to this tragedy is that Travyon Martin should have been carrying a gun himself? I know that sounds callous, but it makes me surprisingly angry to come to a libertarian blog and find the author shocked and outraged by the predictable consequences of libertarian gun policy taking hold in a very conservative state — with no mention of the connection of theory to practice.

    Here is the Libertarian Party platform on gun control: “We affirm the individual right recognized by the Second Amendment
    to keep and bear arms, and oppose the prosecution of individuals for exercising their rights of self-defense.”

    I’m not saying Cato and the LP represent the views of all libertarians, but I think this case crystallizes seriouss defect in libertarian thought in practice. Both the foolishness of making every citizen a judge, jury and executioner, but also the way that “liberty-enhancing” laws tend to disproportionately favor the freedom of groups that are protected by local law enforcement.

  • 39 stu // Mar 22, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Dave, that is jury nullification disguised as “reasonable doubt”. That is disgusting and unethical and conflates the standard at trial with the standard to charge.

  • 40 Was George Zimmerman the Aggressor? - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine // Mar 22, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    […] on his own experience with an attempted mugging involving three teenagers about Martin's age (17), argues that Zimmerman's claim is implausible, especially since he outweighed Martin by 100 pounds. But […]

  • 41 Dave // Mar 22, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    stu, oddly enough, Disgusting and Unethical is the name of my law firm. I’m Dave Disgusting and my partner is Ethel Unethical.

  • 42 stu // Mar 22, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    what an unfunny and transparent response, dave.

  • 43 Drew // Mar 22, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Julian: police officers can do that (legally and sensibly) for a lot of reasons that don’t apply as well to ordinary citizens.

    Just pointing a gun at someone, as a citizen, is a felony that can land you in jail for up to three years (even if the gun isn’t loaded!), unless you can establish that you had reasonable fear for your life. So if you’re questioning whether you have the right to shoot and kill, you probably shouldn’t be pointing a gun at someone in the first place.

    Even if you don’t intend to shoot to kill when you bring out a gun, you’re taking an act that can easily result in you shooting to kill (plenty of people have tried to fire wounding or warning shots and ended up killing someone). And you’re basically saying to the other party “at any second, I could kill you, so all bets are off.” At least to some degree, you know that officers are at least supposed to not shoot you as long as you follow their commands. There’s no such understanding with other people, who aren’t even legally capable of giving lawful commands.

    But forgetting all that: in a violent situation, it’s the job of police officers to get in harm’s way (double meaning!) and confront danger, risking their lives to do so. You, as a citizen, do not have that job, and it doesn’t make sense to act like you do.

    If a non-police officer draws a gun on me, and I have no grounds to trust them, I am going to consider that an imminent threat to my life and feel justified in doing just about anything in retaliation that will ensure my safety.

    Note this application of SYG, where the courts accepted a man’s argument that he merely thought someone was making a stabbing motion at him (we wasn’t, he didn’t even have a knife in his hand) and that justified killing him.

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/21/2706789/miami-judge-stabbing-in-the-back.html

    If Martin knew Zimmerman had a gun, he had even more justification than the defendant in that case to beat Zimmerman unconscious or struggle for that gun.

  • 44 libarbarian // Mar 22, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    “in the same way that if you call a guy’s wife a pig, and he attacks you, and you end up shooting him to ward him off, you’re an asshole, not a murderer.”

    Megan,

    Then again, maybe it’s more like a situation where you push a guy, punch him in the nose, and then shoot him when he takes a swing at you in response. In that case you’d be BOTH an asshole AND a murderer.

  • 45 TomWoolf // Mar 22, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Oh, WTF, McArdle….

    Let me paraphrase what you are effectively saying: “You know, that black guy *could have* put the whammy on the white one, or maybe crossed his eyes at the guy holding the gun and scared him so much that his only logical response was to SHOOT THE UNARMED BOY.”

  • 46 Bob2 // Mar 22, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    “they always get away”

  • 47 The Florida GOP Would Like to Buy Your Rock - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money // Mar 22, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    […] to my related point, I submit these metaphorical 2×4 blows on behalf of the exoneration of said racist murderers without […]

  • 48 Eddington // Mar 22, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    Thanks for the article and the discussion. As you and others have noted it certainly seems Zimmerman acted in a criminal fashion. At the very least he exercised incredibly poor judgment. Nevertheless, I am forced to agree with those who have pointed out that a “reasonable doubt” does exist here. We simply don’t know with a high degree of certainty what transpired in those final moments. As to your own experience being assaulted by multiple youths, it is an important point that fist fights happen all the time and that they need not escalate to the level of deadly force. However, fists can be used to brutal effect, resulting in grave bodily harm to the victim. Facing down three younger attackers willing to use violence to take your property, in many states you would have been within your rights to draw a weapon. Did Zimmerman face a similar disparity force? It would seem he did not, but then again I can imagine how he might have found himself on the ground where he could have been seriously injured had the fight persisted. I can also imagine the youth going for his gun in a scuffl. I guess the bottom line for me is that this case is more complicated than it first appeared. I’m not usually one to compliment the police, but it seems commendable that they have approached this issue cautiously and erred on the side of not throwing a man in jail without first gathering the evidence to support a legitimate criminal case.

  • 49 The Trayvon Martin case « Fraser Sherman's Blog // Mar 22, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    […] widely differing assessments, including Naked Politics, the Miami Herald, American Prospect and Julian Sanchez. For bonus links, we have Slacktivist on the case, and Florida Rep. Dennis Baxley arguing that a […]

  • 50 Horatiusonthebridge // Mar 22, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    Eddington,

    I call bullshit. There’s a dead unarmed teenager. Arresting and chqrging the self-professed killer is the entire raison d’être for the existence of the police force. “reasonable doubt ” doesn’t even enter the picture at this stage.

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