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July 13, 2013

Posted by Patrick at 10:57 PM *

Cherry on top: Zimmerman gets back his gun.

No words.

Comments on Zimmerman:
#1 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2013, 11:36 PM:

I don't have a son but if I did I would need to wake him up and hug him as tightly as possible for as long as my muscles would allow.

#2 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2013, 11:47 PM:

It's completely outrageous, and the news sites are sickening.

There was a really good deconstruction of victim-blamers which someone (Teresa?) posted here awhile back, which I've been trying to find. It might have been about people blaming rape victims for what they wear (or it could have been something else; I don't remember the particulars) and the basic argument was that the troll/victim-blamer has this subconscious realization that the world is inherently unfair and that horrible things could have happened to him and/or loved ones, and so constructs this narrative where the world is fair, explaining that the reason he's gone unscathed is that has (or would have) made different choices.

Except it was much more pithy than all that.

Is this ringing any bells?

#3 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2013, 11:49 PM:

If Trayvon Martin had shot and killed the armed man who was stalking him, he'd be on death row by now.

Fuck you, Florida.

#4 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2013, 11:49 PM:

Or the comments on the news sites, rather (though I'm sure some of the news articles are as well). It's as if the newspapers looked at Youtube and said "how can we have that level of discourse?"

#5 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2013, 11:49 PM:

I'm sick. It's awful. I'm just going to hang out here. I've got no plans for the evening, and I know I can count on this community to be a safe place on a horrible night like this.

#6 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2013, 11:55 PM:

johnofjack @ #2:

I remember reading that, though not the exact words nor enough context to find it again just now.

#7 ::: Brad Hicks (@jbradhicks) ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2013, 11:55 PM:

I guess it's open season for pedophile kidnappers now. They can grab any kid they want off of the street, and if the kid fights back, they can just shoot him and go on to the next kid. "Self defense."

I saw a lawyer on Reddit document, the other day, that you can legally start a fight in Florida, shoot the person if you are afraid you're going to lose the fight, and still claim self defense. That's bull.

Not even the defense contradicts the girlfriend's testimony that when Martin asked Zimmerman who he was, he didn't answer. If a beefy 29 year old guy in a van follows a teenager for a mile after dark, then gets up within grabbing distance, and refuses to identify himself, I don't want it to be the 17 year old kid who ends up dead. Is that wrong of me?

Does anybody here sincerely believe that, if Martin had been the armed one and Zimmerman the unarmed one beating the heck out of him, that Martin's word would have been taken by the jury, that his unsupported word would have been enough to create reasonable doubt? Anybody?

Also, does anybody here actually believe that if Zimmerman hadn't had a concealed weapon in his car, and if Florida wasn't a stand-your-ground state, that he still would have followed that kid into a dark alley? No? Then maybe that's a good example of why we should discourage people from carrying weapons, because it makes them cocky and a little too willing to mete out vigilante justice based on a snap judgment. Ordinary civilian citizens killing each other because one of them thought that a law might be being broken, that's barbaric. That's what I think, any way.

That being said: all I demanded, from the beginning, was that when an adult follows a kid down a dark alley and is found with a gun in his hand over the kid's unarmed dead body, that guy's unsupported word not be enough to get the cops to turn him lose. That guy's guilt or innocence should be decided by a jury, not by cops, not even by prosecutors. If you're an adult and you get found standing over an unarmed dead kid's body with a gun in your hand, I want you to go to trial, period. Let the jury decide whether they believe you or not, because I sure as heck don't want the cops or the prosecutor to.

#8 ::: Mike Bakula ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2013, 11:57 PM:

This is just ludicrous.

I am put in mind of a previous discussion of the "stand your ground" law, where the assertion was made that the entire chain from meeting a person to feeling threatened and shooting that person happens solely in the shooter's head, and it's legal. (I'm sorry, I can't find the original writer.)

This is an example of that theory in practice.

#9 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 12:01 AM:

Mike @ 7: that's here.

#10 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 12:02 AM:

I agree with beth.

Fuck you, Florida. You stink like a midden, like the pit of Hell. Fuck you a hundred times, with thorny sticks. Fuck you and your godsdamned tourist traps. You're never getting any of my money again, not even Key West. Fuck you.

#11 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 12:03 AM:


Laertes @ 5: I'm anesthetizing myself by watching PDQ Bach videos, because I cannot handle this reality right now.

#12 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 12:04 AM:

Mike, #7: That was in the original discussion of the Martin case, here on ML. I don't recall the name of the thread.

I am disgusted and sickened, but not at all surprised. At this point the surprise would have been if justice had been done.

#14 ::: Lee, be-gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 12:11 AM:

Probably for a suspicious-looking link.

#15 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 12:15 AM:

Appalled. There are more reasons to hate humanity every day.

#16 ::: Sara E ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 12:26 AM:

This is not the world I want my child to grow up in, damn it. I cannot imagine what is going through the minds of Trayvon Martin's family tonight. I'm just horrified.

#17 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 12:31 AM:

No words?

I can think of two:

"Boycott Florida"

#18 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 12:35 AM:

There's a petition to ask DOJ to open a civil rights investigation. I bet nothing will come of that. I don't really believe in online petitions; it's too easy to fake "signatures" and too well known that's it's too easy.

I hope the Martin family gets good legal advice on a wrongful-death lawsuit.

#19 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 12:42 AM:

If Trayvon had kicked Zimmerman's ass and gotten the gun away from him, what then? He would have been arrested, just like Zimmerman wasn't. If there had been no gun, and Zimmerman just gets the beating of his life, what then? I expect the 17 year old would face more consequences than his killer.

#20 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 12:59 AM:

Some things are just shameful. This has been one of them.

#21 ::: Mike Bakula ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 01:02 AM:

Thank you for the link, johnofjack, that was what I was thinking of.

I'm having a very hard tine knowing what to make of this. I'm a concealed weapons license (CWL) holder, and live about 20 miles from Sanford FL. When I took the CWL class, it was all about what you couldn't do just because you carried a firearm. One of the key tenets was not to go looking for trouble because you're armed.

Then "stand your ground" came out, and apparently that's gone out the window. I wonder if it's really the wild wild east here, or if this is an edge condition that's like the risk of lightning. (I'm not saying it's right, but trying to understand what the risk really is.)

I'm really hoping this will prompt a rethink of "stand your ground", but the denizens of the halls of power in Tallahassee are not known for their brilliant legislating. I can't just boycott and move away; I have to graduate to have a path to repaying my student loans. I already vote for more sensible candidates who consistently lose. Do I just keep voting, and writing my representative?

#22 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 01:16 AM:

I just... so as long as I wait to shoot someone until it's only me and him in the room, I can stand around afterward and be like "Dude, I was totally afraid for my life" and that's okay? Like, that's just the end of it, right there?

I mean, could you set up a string of serial murders of disliked minorities and every time you get hauled into court, be like "Well everyone knows that [disliked minorities] are disproportionately violent, so as soon as I was alone with him, I pulled my gun. He moved suddenly, so I felt threatened and shot him. Yeah, it's happened before, but you can't consider that in a court of law, because they found me innocent..."

I mean... how do you enforce a set of laws where the only way a guy can get convicted is if he confesses?

This is baffling and evil. I cannot find any other way to explain it than racism. And that makes me absolutely ill. Add me to the list of people who think the judgment would have been quite different if it had been a black man shooting a white kid...

#23 ::: Miramon ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 01:22 AM:

There used to be this common standard in most states of only responding to a threat with comparable force. So you couldn't shoot someone you got into a fight with because they bloodied your nose. But now a bloody nose is a killing offense with no recourse to the legal system, apparently.

But whatever ridiculous imaginary macho society once supported the idea of routine fisticuffs as a way of resolving disputes, it was a better one than the one that lives with the law in Florida today.

All the outrageous enormity of the Florida law aside, though, it does seem to me as if the acquittal may have been a correct legal decision in that state. It looks like the prosecution was unable to provide enough irrefutable evidence that the killer wasn't under any threat at all to be able to overcome this ridiculous law.

#24 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 01:28 AM:

Remember this when it's time to vote for WorldCon. Choose between Helsinki and Spokane.

#25 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 02:10 AM:

I re-read the thread linked by johnofjack @9. In that thread, the consensus seemed to be that Zimmerman would have to prove he was defending himself against something he reasonably thought was a threat to his life, rather than the prosecution having to prove he wasn't. Apparently, it worked the other way at trial -- the prosecution had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it wasn't self-defense.

That's … unnerving. Apparently in Florida you can just shoot people and claim you thought they were threatening.

#26 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 02:27 AM:

I am just sick about this. I knew that we were nowhere near achieving a "post-racial society", but I thought we were further along than this.

Back when Arizona passed their "show us your papers" law, I decided that I wouldn't travel to Arizona. I'm now adding Florida to that list. I have signed the NAACP's petition to the DOJ for a civil rights investigation, for what it's worth. I also do solemnly pledge to not try to get out of jury duty.

#27 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 03:04 AM:

Middle aged white woman here who will NOT go to Florida again. What a travesty of justice.

Tried the NAACP form, but it is down. I hope that is because of the huge numbers signing. I will try again later.

We can't change the verdict but we can speak out and push for change.

#28 ::: Gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 03:25 AM:

From ‏@RaniaKhalek"People are saying the justice system is broken. It's not. It's working the way it was meant to. We need to break it."

#29 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 04:07 AM:

I'm curious how many US States and countries deal with shis situation; if one kills someone and claims self-defense, what standard of proof is required?

Is Florida an outlier here?

The more I have learned about this case the more I've been sure he'd be acquitted, entirely because the law requires the prosecution to prove that it wasn't justified self defense.

I think those blaming the jury here are wrong. The law requires the acquittal of bad people if the case isn't proven. The flaw lies in the law.

#30 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 04:11 AM:

Oh, to clarify: 'here' means "on this subject," not "in this forum" in the last paragraph.

#31 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 04:52 AM:

I hadn't given any thought at all to who I was going to vote for in London for the 2015 Worldcon since I almost certainly won't be attending anyway. However, I definitely now won't be voting for Florida. I'm sure those behind the bid are all fine and decent people but I owe it to my fellow fans to not vote for it to be held somewhere where they could be killed with impunity if they happened to get into an altercation with some asshole 'standing his ground'.

#32 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 05:47 AM:

Gary Younge of The Guardian had a perceptive and interesting op-ed piece about the significance of the Zimmerman trial. For no clear reason, it has disappeared from The Guardian's website ... but it's available on pastebin. Succinct, very relevant, and deserves coverage (even if the newspaper he writes for doesn't think so[*]).

[*] I suspect the reason for its removal may have something to do with legal advice and English libel law.

#33 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 06:26 AM:

when a child dies
from a gunshot wound,
the bullet embraces
the spiritual gift
of martyrdom in service
to the foul lords of entropy

its hollow point shreds
the life of its partner
in destiny, one of eight,
first in line to achieve
its terrible purpose

the shockwave of its path
of inevitability moves
in time and space
to twist the lives
of friends, of family,
of agenda-driven sociopaths
and well-meaning strangers alike

no thoughts of justice or equity
wrack the conscience of a live round

#34 ::: canisfelicis ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 07:16 AM:

I'm grieving, grieving.

#35 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 08:13 AM:

Over on FaceBook, there's a photo of Dexter looking quite pensive while reading a newspaper carrying headlines about the verdict of Zimmerman's trial.
No, not the Dexter who had a laboratory.

#36 ::: Barry ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 08:14 AM:

KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 01:16 AM:

"I just... so as long as I wait to shoot someone until it's only me and him in the room, I can stand around afterward and be like "Dude, I was totally afraid for my life" and that's okay? Like, that's just the end of it, right there? "

If you're white and they're not, yes. Otherwise, welcome to Death Row, or at least a very long prison sentence.

#37 ::: heckblazer ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 08:30 AM:

Matthew Brown @ 29:

That is indeed the standard. The jury instructions said:

"If in your consideration of the issue of self-defense you have a reasonable doubt on the question of whether George Zimmerman was justified in the use of deadly force, you should find George Zimmerman not guilty."

I regularly read Ta-Nahisi Coates' blog. That's where I first heard about the case, and his outrage over Martin's death helped bring the story to national attention. His reaction to the verdict is well worth reading. The comments are worth reading too, as they tend to be of the same quality as the ones here.

#38 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 08:46 AM:

I'm afraid I'm pretty sympathetic to the tweet quoted by Gar Lipow in #28. This isn't the case of the system failing. This is a case of the system working as intended.

This is why all our liberal hand-wringing and pointing at obvious hypocrisy and double standards gets nowhere. The hypocrisy is the point. The double standards are the point. The aim is to make sure that most of us -- "the 99%", if you will -- are so frightened, off-balance, and exhausted that we don't make trouble for our owners. And one technique for doing this is to ensure the continued existence of a set of overlapping "underclasses" whose condition is so miserable and so lacking in basic justice and fairness that everybody else spends all their energy scrabbling away from the edge of the pit, because the pit is so awful and deep.

Racism is much more than just part of that. But it's also part of that.

#39 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 09:30 AM:

The Gary Younge piece is back up after a going-over by the legal team.

#40 ::: Julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 09:55 AM:

You know, I truly believe the reason we have a tea party movement is because the people in it got on board with corporations and government screwing people as long as it was Those People being screwed. They're just really, really unhappy now that they've discovered that they're Those People too, and nobody in a position to do anything about it gives a shit.

It's apparently perfectly legal in Florida now to shoot people the local police like less than they do you. People who have no power but the ability to treat this as a win for their melanin level should be very, very afraid of this development.

Actually, John Rogers' lady diners would do well to realize that woman trumps affluent in this particular hierarchy of power and be a little afraid themselves (although failing that, they can always shut the fuck up).

#41 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 10:26 AM:

The verdict is bad enough, but Zimmerman's attorneys seemed to decide they needed to dance in the end zone.

#42 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 10:47 AM:

I expect that Zimmerman will end up in more trouble in the not-so-distant future, and won't be able to get out of it so easily.

#43 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 11:48 AM:

"Fucking punks. These assholes, they always get away." I believe someone said that.

#44 ::: Fragano Ledgister is off in Gnomeland ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 11:49 AM:

I have cherries, nice ripe cherries.

#45 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 12:24 PM:

Here's a friend of mine on "now what do we do?"

#46 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 12:50 PM:

I have a jury summons for late August. Likely won't get picked because I was an armed robbery victim 4 years ago. If I am picked, it's going to be a miserable week or so - my work hours are at night, so my bosses will expect me not to request time off, but there's no way enough sleep gets done. Still, I will not try to beg off. It's a duty.

The Martin killing verdict is not a surprise, but I doubt it's in spitting range of justice.

#47 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 01:11 PM:

May Zimmerman meet the justice he dealt Trayvon Martin... Soon.

#48 ::: Tangurena ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 01:21 PM:

@29, Matthew, each state has a different standard. In some states you have a "duty to retreat" which means that if there is some way to escape, you must escape (even if that means jumping out the window of your own home). Some states have a "castle doctrine" which says that you have no duty to retreat in your house. And ALEC has been pushing the "stand your ground" law (among other laws) to various states.

I expect my opinion on this case to be unpopular here, but the law in FL was pretty clear and this case would never have been brought to a trial if it were not for political pressure from the White House. The "Community Relations Service" is a part of the Department of Justice, and documents released under FOIA requests showed that they were organizing some of the anti-Zimmerman protests.

#49 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 01:34 PM:

I've been gnawing over the bones this afternoon.

What sticks in my throat is the way that the murder trial converged on a self-defense defense based on the last few seconds of the incident.

Sure, Zimmerman could reasonably claim to be afraid of being beaten up by the kid. That much is entirely true.

However, Trayvon Martin, had he lived, could also have claimed self-defense (if he had a legal team to defend him): he'd been chased up an alley by a big angry guy with a gun!

It seems to me that in a broader context, Zimmerman was guilty as hell.

Zimmerman caused the fight. He disobeyed an instruction by a police dispatcher to stay in his car and not get involved. By so doing, he took actions; he should be held responsible for the consequences. In this case, the consequence was a confrontation in which a human being was shot dead. If Zimmerman had not actively sought confrontation, nobody would have died. Ergo, his actions resulted in a needless death.

(I believe his motive for seeking confrontation was probably anger, resentment, and racism -- but that's beside the point. The point is, he was tried in a context-free manner that neatly inverted the burden of proof. PNH @38 is spot-on ...)

#50 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 01:49 PM:

I expect my opinion on this case to be unpopular here

No shit. The "stand your ground" law in Florida is pretty clear. It's a carte blanche for use of deadly force against black people.

#51 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 01:51 PM:

Tangurena @48:
documents released under FOIA requests showed that they were organizing some of the anti-Zimmerman protests.

Linky linky?

#52 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 01:52 PM:

What I am trying to find the right words to express is that this verdict implies that a white man* can claim to be afraid of a black boy for the purposes of having a self-defense claim stand, while at exactly the same time it proves that it's black people who have cause to fear white people on sight and not vice-versa.

There must be a neat, pithy way to describe this precise despicable irony. I am too heart-sick to find it.

*Everyone who is snipping online that "It's not about white versus black! Zimmerman's hispanic!" is A) missing the godsdamned point, possibly on purpose for purposes of derailment, and B) technically wrong in terms of how ethnicity gets classified in the US. I've read the phrase "non-hispanic white" many, many times in articles about census data findings; white comes in many flavors, and "anglo" and "hispanic" are two of them.

#53 ::: Mike Bakula ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 02:00 PM:

@49 Charlie, exactly. Specifically, "stand your ground" transfers the burden of proof from the guy who lived to the guy who died. Which, absent reliable witnesses or a clear recording of events, is an unreasonably high bar for the dead guy to overcome.

#54 ::: Tangurena ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 02:10 PM:

@51, Abi,

Ask and ye shall receive:

#55 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 02:25 PM:

Judicial Watch is your source? JW? The outfit founded to destroy Bill Clinton back in 1994?

Ha ha ha ha!

To take an example from that citation, it quotes somebody's expense report and concludes that his/her description of what he/she was doing in Sanford ("work marches, demonstrations and rallies") really meant "stir up as much trouble as I could" with the $674.14 spent mostly on transportation to/from the place.

Better sources for outlandish claims, please.

#56 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 02:36 PM:

Seconding TNC's take on the result. Let's not forget that this came to national attention not because of the killing itself, but because the Sanford police department assumed Martin had it coming and did everything it could to blow off questions of Zimmerman's guilt, right up until the case drew national attention.

re Zimmerman, he's likely to face a wrongful death lawsuit now; he can be forced to give testimony, and since he was acquitted, can't refuse to answer based on the Fifth Amendment. I suspect that one will be quickly settled.

#57 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 02:43 PM:

Huh. From what I can see, even within the documentation cited, the CRS was doing what it was meant to do:

The Community Relations Service is the Department's "peacemaker" for community conflicts and tensions arising from differences of race, color, and national origin.

In other words, going someplace where racial tension was already extant and using mediation skills to reduce the likelihood that it would blow up into violence. Coordinating between community leaders and local police. Helping people who are planning to protest to do it legally. The linked news stories from that page confirm that, unless the reader is already determined to believe otherwise.

That's not the same thing as organizing protests, except in the sense of "this protest is going to happen anyway, so let's make it happen peacably."

That's like saying the Northern Ireland Parades Commission organizes Orange Marches, because it helps negotiate how they are routed through Nationalist areas.

Better sources, please, if you want me convinced.

#58 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 03:12 PM:

Tangurena @248, did Trayvon Martin have a right to stand his ground as well?

He had a right to be where he was, and he clearly felt threatened by this bigger guy who was stalking him. Was Martin under any obligation to escape? Didn’t Florida’s stand-your-ground law grant Martin the right to confront his antagonist, even to the point of deadly force?

#59 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 03:17 PM:

Mike Bakula @ 53

It was Florida and a white guy with close police ties killed a black guy. There wasn't even supposed to be a trial. This is why the police investigation was pro-forma and produced very little evidence.

Tangurena @ 48

The Justice Department doesn't arrange demonstrations. That would take a lot more money than is being shown at your links. The Justice Department does head to the southern states during times of racial unrest to make sure that stuff like this doesn't happen:

In other words, we spent a few thousand dollars to make sure that the same people who did a typical southern, racist pro-forma investigation of the Trayvon Martin shooting didn't attack people protesting racism with dogs and fire hoses. I'd say the money was well-spent.

#60 ::: Miramon ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 03:23 PM:

Charlie Stross@49, Avram@58, and others:

Indeed. This is precisely why the law is insane and should have been struck down by any sensible judge, not to mention not even promoted by the craziest of libertarians. The law is evidently on the side of the person with the fastest draw because the criterion for lethal self defense is negligible and subjective.

Any two people in a confrontation of any kind in Florida are now legally entitled to kill one another, because they might fear for their lives -- and the fear is naturally multiplied by the ubiquity of weapons in the state. Who knows if that elderly wheelchair-bound person is a deadly threat -- "he was coming right for me, there was nothing else I could do!"

But hey, Florida can save a lot on taxes by eliminating the police and the criminal courts who have through this case been shown to be entirely superfluous.

#61 ::: Joris M ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 04:10 PM:

Charlie @49

That is what scares and amazes me most about this case and Florida law.

In discussions this last month time and time people said Zimmerman did nothing illegal in following Martin, and therefore his behaviour there was perfectly fine.
They found a way to see the world only in legal and illegal, ignoring that perfectly legal actions can have foreseeable results that should be avoided. And that people have a responsibility to avoid them.

#62 ::: Joris M is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 04:13 PM:

Hmm I don't know what I did wrong, perhaps too many spaces due to trying to figure out what I wanted to say. I have some pickles that should be coming along nicely.

#63 ::: GarrettC ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 04:36 PM:


While I do see the sense of that explanation of victim blaming, I think victim blaming in this case comes more from another place.

I'm a white male who, when I see a group of black men ahead of me on the sidewalk I'm walking, gets nervous. This is a response I do not like having and, in many ways, do not know what to do with. I also appear to have limited options when it comes to dealing with it, as the best I've been able to do is understand why it happens, and have a silent conversation of "oh, this again," in my head every time it does. I am not the only white person to get nervous in these situations, and I am not the only white person to be made uncomfortable by my own feelings, and of the potential responses all of my like in this scenario could have, one is particularly insidious:

One could, finding discomfort with his or her feelings of discomfort in a situation that we fear makes us secret racists, try to construct a world in which those feelings are actually justified. If Trayvon Martin is guilty here, then I'm not racist for being afraid of him on the sidewalk. So it's easier for me to blame him, because it eases my own burdens of inner-guilt.

I choose not have this response, but I believe it is both very real and very present in this case.

#64 ::: Sten ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 04:47 PM:

Joris @61: That last paragraph sounds suspiciously like blaming the victim to me. Even if I follow you on the street for racist reasons, it doesn't give you the right to assault me.

The way I see it, the verdict of self defense was right. The crime started when Martin started to hit Zimmerman. Apparently Zimmerman behaved like a stupid asshole before that, but I really think the court should pay no attention to that. I don' think "But he deserved it!" should ever be a valid defense.

And then the question really does become "Am I allowed to shoot someone who is in the process of beating me?". People can have different opinions about that, but it is significantly different from "Am I allowed to shoot someone if I think he is scary?".

#65 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 04:52 PM:

Charlie Stross @49
I have little doubt that the exact same facts tried under Scottish or Canadian law would have resulted in a conviction. The judge, quoted upthread, has put the focus exactly where it belongs. This "stand your ground" law creates a reverse onus for self-defense.
But a Canadian legal view would regard being armed with a firearm as strongly indicative of intent, and wouldn't be favorable to the defense, imo.

#66 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 05:08 PM:

GarrettC @63 -- I admit to a similar experience.

I think the major reason an individual takes a stand on this particular verdict is whether s/he identifies more with Martin or more with Zimmerman. Most people commenting here come out of feeling sympathy with Martin more than with Zimmerman. I know I do. And I think knowing that is a useful perspective.

#67 ::: Joris M ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 05:16 PM:

Sten @64

Yes, it can cut quite close to victimblaming I agree with that. Which should be taken into account and the principle should be used with care.

But at the same time I cannot see how, following this person in the dark and rain, from the street into a more constricted space, can be completely ignored.
Any reasonable person should have seen that those actions would likely come across as aggressive to the person who was followed. As well as recognizing those are moves towards escalation, not de-escalation.

#68 ::: Julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 05:59 PM:

sten @ 64:

Zimmerman, an unidentified armed man, was following a lone teenager at night. I'm sure you're not attempting to make the case that Zimmerman's justifiable fear - since he was armed, was in contact with the police, was told not to follow Martin, and was inside a car Martin was moving away from - was greater than Martin's justifiable fear, since he was being menaced, as he perceived it, for eating skittles on the street.

Remember, as a law-abiding young man, Martin can be presumed to have been just as much in danger from those invading bad people in the neighborhood as Zimmerman was, you know, unless you personally think there was some reason he wasn't.

So I'm not sure from what your conclusion that it was a crime for Martin to defend himself with his fists but not for Zimmerman to shoot derives. You haven't, that I can see, supported it.

#69 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 06:50 PM:

Tangurena, #48 & Sten, #64: The narrowness with which this verdict was said to "conform to the law" reminds me of the easily-refuted argument that the existence of refrigerators disproves the First Law of Thermodynamics. How? Bear with me a moment.

By the First Law, if you have a warm compartment and a cool compartment and they are not perfectly insulated, the warm compartment will cool while the cool one warms until they are of equivalent temperature. But refrigerator! You have a cool compartment that stays cool indefinitely! Which holds up nicely as long as you don't look any further than the inside of the refrigerator; once you start looking at the system in a way which includes the motor, it fails completely.

Similarly, the claim here is that Zimmerman was in fear for his life because Martin confronted him. Okay... but step back and look at the larger system. Why did Martin confront Zimmerman? Because Zimmerman was pursuing him with a gun. If the law had been properly applied, it was Martin who was standing his ground. But of course Martin is conveniently dead, and can't provide his own testimony.

The huge flaw in all of the "stand your ground" laws we've seen implemented is that they do not provide any exception for "not applicable if you are the one who initiates the contact". And as long as that continues to be the case, it's open season on anybody whose existence upsets one of these gun-waving loons.

Incidentally, I'm with Xopher about voting down the Orlando Worldcon bid. I have a temper. I don't want to be anywhere near a state where getting into a shouting match with one of the locals could leave me dead because the shooter knows he can walk away scot-free.

#70 ::: iamnothing ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 07:07 PM:

Xopher et al. @various: I stay away from the NYC area for similar reasons.

#71 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 07:24 PM:

The ruling just terrifies me about all the young black and mixed race men I know (nephews, children of friends). It is hard enough that they start out with two strikes against them when they are out in public anywhere.

I can only hope that because they all live in what I hope are more progressive places (KS, MO, CO, CA) they won't have assholes who try to shoot them just because they are walking down the street minding their own business.

#72 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 08:25 PM:

Patrick, the Laurie Penny Tweet is too simplistic. IIRC, the women in question retreated to another room where her weapon was, a room with a separate exit. At that point she had two legal options, to stay in that room or retreat. She did neither.

Personally, I don't think she should be facing as much time as she is.

#73 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 08:35 PM:

Wyman Cooke: Please explain what's "simplistic" about Laurie Penny's tweet. It looks to me like you agree with it, but you want to demonstrate how superior you are anyway.

#74 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 08:58 PM:

Sten @64 - The crime started when Martin started to hit Zimmerman. Apparently Zimmerman behaved like a stupid asshole before that, but I really think the court should pay no attention to that. I don' think "But he deserved it!" should ever be a valid defense.

Congratulations. You've just legally justified bullying, verbal harassment and abuse. Welcome to the depths of my loathing; you have plenty of company.

How does this enable bullying? Well, it enables bullying because it basically says even if someone is doing their level best to provoke you into violent action you have to refrain from acting. They can stalk you, harass you, call out threats, make unpleasant remarks, be holding a loaded gun while doing all of this, and the moment you raise a hand to them (or even turn toward them to shout them down), they're entitled to shoot you lethally for it because you've "become a threat".

I'll bet there are arseholes in Florida who are working out even now how to fold this into their plans for coercing sex out of reluctant women (rape, in other words - a literal choice of fuck or die). I'll bet there are arseholes who are figuring out how to use it as a way of making high school even more of a hell for young minority people. The beauty of it is, for them, they're doing something which is perfectly legal - they're *allowed* to provoke people, BY LAW, because the "stand-your-ground" rules don't have an exclusion for assaults which you've instigated yourself. Common sense ("of course he hit you, you nincompoop - you stalked him for three blocks, what the hells did you expect?") doesn't apply to this law, and it was *created* so common sense wouldn't apply.

#75 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 09:20 PM:

Point of order: Zimmerman's team did not use the "Stand Your Ground" law to fight this case. They used self-defense. I assume they figured the latter would appeal more to a jury than the former would. From the result, their tactic worked.

#76 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 09:23 PM:

Megpie71 @ 74

The "Stand Your Ground" laws remind me of the game hunting laws in South Park. The first hunter says, "We're only allowed to shoot an animal if it's dangerous to us."

The second hunter looks at the placidly grazing deer and says, very seriously, "Oh look, it's coming right at us!"

In my opinion, George Zimmerman is a racist thug who really wanted to kill a black man. So he provoked or frightened Trayvon Martin into a physical confrontation and shot him. And that's what the Stand Your Ground laws are all about. They were written by racists for racists, because you never know when some crazy ni-(black person) is gonna get uppity!

#77 ::: CLP ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 10:04 PM:

Tangurena @ 48:
PolitiFact has rated Judicial Watch's claim as "mostly false".

Judicial Watch’s statement contends an element of truth: Justice Department employees were sent to Sanford, in part to deal with community uprising, including protests. But they were sent with the idea of keeping the situation peaceful and calm, not to instigate or condone protests or violence.

#78 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 10:40 PM:

I'm just a simple country tinker, but it seems to me that a manslaughter verdict would have been what a decent jury would have returned under this crazy Florida law. The defendant killed somebody while clearly intending to commit the crime of assault. I don't see how it's possible to review the facts of the case and conclude that the defendant could have had any intention other than to assault and terrorize the victim.

#79 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 10:48 PM:

I don't see how it's possible to review the facts of the case and conclude that the defendant could have had any intention other than to assault and terrorize the victim.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. Exactly so. Which is why I have been unable to do pretty much of anything today. Though my emotional state has not been helped by having stayed up late last night reading Chris Hedges Empire of Illusion. Hedges is a true prophet; he reminds me strongly of Jeremiah, who was a truth-teller, and not comfortable to be around. I recommend the book, but it's not an easy read.

#80 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 11:10 PM:

Lizzy L @ 79

Exactly. George Zimmerman had no good reason to get out of his truck.

#81 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 11:12 PM:

One issue that has been running around the inside of my head is this: Trayvon Martin may or may not have been defending himself from an assault by Zimmerman. We will never know. All we have is Zimmerman's account to the police plus reports of cries for help and people reporting what they saw at a distance. Yet Zimmerman's defence was that he had the right to stand his ground. Trayvon Martin, who was legally entitled to be where he was, apparently had no such right since, it seems, blacks have no rights.

#82 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 11:43 PM:

#83 ::: Galleymac ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 01:00 AM:

All I can say is that I'm waiting to see how the Jordan Davis case turns out. Then I will finalize my emigration plans. Because I want kids someday, and at this point, to me, it seems like raising a black child in the U.S. is tantamount to abuse.

#84 ::: Kathryn Allen ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 01:00 AM:

I'm a little bemused -- when I heard about the verdict I was righteously annoyed at the injustice, and then I started reading here and realised that I was wrong.

It seems that Zimmerman was actually involved in what might be termed victim support. Close up to the distress caused. And yes at that point I can see why a person might get out of the truck -- you've convinced yourself the person you've reported to the police is responsible for causing people you know pain and loss. Sure the police are coming, but they will be slow and the criminal isn't going to wait for them. So you decide to trail him. To really help the victims because what you've been doing up to now has made you feel useless and frustrated. I don't know what happened next, but whatever did, in popular fiction, and even on the news sometimes, this would have been acceptable behaviour. If Martin had actually been a bad guy, then Zimmerman would have been a hero, locally at least. (And that would have been wrong too but few people would have cared)

I'm trying to struggle out of the trap of assuming, without evidence, that Zimmerman is a racist thug. It is possible. But it's also possible he's a frustrated citizen (with a gun) no more or less of a thug than any human being. No more racist. Yes, Mr Martin is dead because Zimmerman killed/murdered him. But othering Zimmerman, monsterising him, may not be a particularly helpful reaction. (Any more than justifying him by blaming Mr Martin is) When you make a person, or group of people, into objects of hate and fear tragedies will happen. And inconvenient truths will be ignored. If Zimmerman is just an evil racist thug then all one needs do is as in #47. Job done, except for the increased hate and fear generated by revenge killings. But if he's just this ordinary guy... Then maybe everyone on all and any 'side' has to give a little, think a little, and try to do something positive to change the contributing factors (just not with a gun in the dark).

#85 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 01:18 AM:

I posted this elsewhere; I might as well post it here, too:

For entirely too many people, particularly untrained civilians, putting a pistol in their pocket is as good at putting a pint of whiskey in their belly as far as improving their ability to make good decisions.

#86 ::: Galleymac ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 02:16 AM:

I am fully convinced that Zimmerman is NOT an especially more racist "thug" than a lot of people who haven't killed anyone. But I also believe that he is part of a vile system that makes it just a little bit easier to behave the way he did. And I don't really want any more part of it. It is dangerous to my loved ones.

Just consider all the throwaway scenes in Hollywood films where Random Black Man #2 is stealing someone's purse, or looting the monster-ravaged town while everyone else is running in the opposite direction, or representing the nadir of the character arc of the white woman he's having sex with in a film that both critically acclaimed and given credit for changing a president's views on drug policy. This is *indoctrination*.

I'm currently studying in the U.K., and this isn't the first time I've been here, but it is mind-boggling the small and yet hugely significant ways in which I'm seeing difference in the way their coverage is conducted. I see missing-children signs for black and South Asian children, large brightly lit LCD signs in public areas, and couldn't even figure out for a bit why I thought I was seeing something unusual. I see coverage of black teens who are killed, with headlines -- even in the right wing papers -- that read "Innocent Life Cut Short" and have interviews with police chiefs and teachers about what "?a promising young teen he was" -- they say "teen," not "youth."

I actually have to stop this rant. It is not coherent, and I'm upsetting *myself*. I'm just waiting for the outcome of the Jordan Davis trial -- a much less publicized, but far less ambiguous case, where a fellow shot into a car of teenagers because their music was too loud, and then went and bought pizza. At least there are living eyewitnesses for that one.

#87 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 03:56 AM:

Kathryn Allen, #84: I don't necessarily think Zimmerman was any more racist than anyone else in his social circle.* What I do think is that he had anger-management issues, or something less in the way of impulse control (or both), and a gun, and the knowledge in the back of his head that by Florida law, if he shot this kid for Walking While Black. he could claim that he was in fear of his life and walk away unscathed.

The technical term for this sort of thing is "stochastic terrorism". You set up a cultural popcorn popper in which this kind of behavior is considered admirable,** and wait. You don't know exactly who will be affected, or when, or by what stimulus, or what they'll do; but you know that, like the popcorn kernels, some of them will go off at random intervals. Every time it happens, your chosen targets are reminded that they're effectively living in a war zone. And nobody can ever blame you for it.

* Yes, that implies exactly what you think it does.

** Think I'm exaggerating? Spend a little time watching Fox News and reading right-wing blogs.

#88 ::: Sten ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 10:06 AM:

Lee @69, Julia @68: Yes, I really do believe that you do not have the right to initiate violence against someone who is following you. And this trial wasn't, in fact, about the stand your ground laws. It was about self defense.

I don't think Martin, legally, had the right to use violence as a self defense when he did. I think Zimmerman had, when he did. (He would not have had that right before he got physically attacked.)

Whether any or both of them was morally wrong is a different issue and one which I do not think the legal system should attempt to answer.

#89 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 10:06 AM:

A couple of technical points, from Eugene Volokh:

"Stand Your Ground" wasn't claimed by the defense, and wasn't relevant to the outcome.

On who has the burden of proof for what: "Florida law is precisely the same as in nearly all other states: In 49 of the 50 states, once the defense introducing any evidence of possible self-defense, the prosecution must disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt."

I found both points helpful in thinking about "how unique to Florida is this verdict."

#90 ::: Kathryn Allen ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 10:11 AM:

Lee #87: Now it's not just Zimmerman who is a monster but all his 'social circle'. This is how 'sighting of black youth behaving suspiciously near the time of a robbery', becomes 'black criminal preying on the vulnerable', becomes 'all black teens are potential criminals', becomes 'dead black teen' with people arguing over how innocent he was. You have no real idea what Zimmerman was thinking. You have no real idea what his friends or family think.

But you are acting just like a popcorn kernel, (and that's a heck of a step in dehumanising language), because your response is also (in the grand conspiracy of things, predicatable and manipulable/ated) and every time someone like you* generalises and dehumanises others a set of people are reminded that they are hated and despised (a la Gordon Brown and the 'bigoted woman' comment). I can't see how anything positive can come from that. Or how anything positive comes from talking about a grand social conspiracy. Rich and powerful people can be demonstrated to hate each other -- quite often and quite a lot. That's shifting blame from ordinary people. From yourself. We keep coming back to that (racists, mentally unstable racists, popcorn kernel racists, evil premeditated-murdering racists...)

I don't know much about popcorn-making (Brit here) but my limited understanding is that if you don't heat the corn it will never pop. We live increasingly stressful lives where those at the bottom of the ladders are constantly rubbing up against each other. (Social media probably do not help). Friction makes heat. Contributing to the heat does not help keep the corn from popping. It is not a conspiracy to oppress, it is how things go if people do not give a little, think a little, and try to change the contributory factors.

I don't watch Fox news or read much in the way of right-wing blogs (or overly positioned blogs of any flavour actually): I'm a misanthrope and need no help in that department. But I do not need to take drugs to know that they are addictive and have harmful consequences for society and the people who turn to them. I also know that there are reasons people turn to these things and that you will not stop people getting blind drunk over the weekend and calling it wicked fun until you address their reasons -- treating them like scum and non-humans doesn't help.

Honi soit quy mal y pense. Contributing to the levels of hate and mistrust on the internet is easy -- we have to stop with the easy options. People can be better than that. All of them.

*see how easy it is to become part of someone else's bête noire grouping?

#91 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 10:26 AM:

Another good essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates - Trayvon Martin And The Irony Of American Justice

#92 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 10:37 AM:

The Impact of Jury Race in Criminal Trials from the Quarterly Journal of Economics.

#93 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 10:50 AM:

States with weak or no Castle doctrine are a distinct minority. And I live in a state with no castle law, but I would still feel pretty safe shooting an intruder, because case law in our state has always leaned towards 'but how can you reasonably feel like you can retreat from a place where you are safest?'

Also, even without Castle Law or SYG, note that the duty to retreat is 'retreat if you feel you safely can.' Once you believe you can't, the duty evaporates.

Making SYG even more an ALEC-sponsored lie.


You know what burns me up about this? The absolute worst?

Okay, so I have a friend who's 17, about Trayvon's size, fit, a runner. He's a junior firefighter on my department. I love that guy. He comes over and helps me around the house. Great kid.

I'm Zimmerman's age. A little slimmer than him. I haven't had the MMA training he's had, but I've been a firefighter for a decade.

The idea that this kid could ever be a serious danger to me--hand to hand, armed, unarmed, whatever--is ludicrous. LUDICROUS.

And the idea that somebody like me could shoot somebody like him, claim self-defense, and walk away, makes me cry.

I spent a lot of this weekend crying, and I don't know what else to do.

#94 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 11:29 AM:

Howard Bannister, may I humbly suggest lighting a candle and praying to whatever deity suits you?

It's what I've been doing...I've been on the edge of tears (or screaming anger) since the verdict came in.

It is a good thing that I don't live in Florida. (Little voice in my head says "Twenty seconds of pleasure isn't worth twenty years to life.")

#95 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 12:08 PM:

Sten @ 88

How, exactly, do you know that Martin was the one who hit or shoved Zimmerman first? You're quite positive about this; shouldn't you have been called as a witness in the trial? Because none of the rest of us have that information.

We know that Zimmerman initiated the non-physical confrontation. We don't know who initiated the physical confrontation. How do you know? Were you there?

#96 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 12:57 PM:

And that's a big part of the problem. The survivor of the fight gets to say what happened without the other guy being able to rebut it.

So yeah, it's possible that Martin attacked Zimmerman for no reason after Zimmerman just wanted to talk to him and didn't act threatening in any way. That seems unlikely.

Or Zimmerman could have demanded that Martin answer his questions and tried to restrain him, provoking the fight.

#97 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 01:17 PM:

GarrettC @63: I'm a white male who, when I see a group of black men ahead of me on the sidewalk I'm walking, gets nervous. This is a response I do not like having and, in many ways, do not know what to do with. I also appear to have limited options when it comes to dealing with it, as the best I've been able to do is understand why it happens, and have a silent conversation of "oh, this again," in my head every time it does. I am not the only white person to get nervous in these situations, and I am not the only white person to be made uncomfortable by my own feelings

I noticed this issue a while back, and one of the things I've learned to check is the expression on my face when I'm having those thoughts.

The common wisdom is that one reacts to the color of the "other's" skin, but in my experience, it's actually the scowl on their face that I'm reacting to. When I catch myself scowling, I consciously shift to a neutral expression, or friendly smile, and am often greeted with a friendly smile in return.

Of course, while white, I'm also female and of comparatively dimminutive stature, so YMMV. But it is at least "something to do."

#98 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 01:19 PM:

Sten, #88: Please explain to me how, if someone (other than a law-enforcement officer) is threatening you with a gun, you have no right to defend yourself. Because that is the argument you're making here.

Kathryn, #90: Now it's not just Zimmerman who is a monster but all his 'social circle'.

AKA "socially acceptable racism". Note, however, a significant difference between my social circle and Zimmerman's. We don't go out hunting people like him.

You state that (1) you do not live here and (2) you have made no effort to understand the cultural references I mentioned above. Why should I pay any attention to what you say? And no, not impressed with your attempt to guilt-trip me into agreeing that Zimmerman was the REAL victim here.

if you don't heat the corn it will never pop

Which is exactly my point. Most of our mass media is controlled by people who are determined to apply that heat, and furthermore to apply it in a very specific way against certain groups of people. You don't have to live with the results, but we do.

#99 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 01:25 PM:

I don't even think there's a clear line as to who starts the physical confrontation. Person A reaches over in the direction of person B; B does not want to be approached with a potential touch, and slaps the hand away (quite possibly reflexively: I know if someone reaches towards me in a way that looks like tickling, I react swiftly with a physical deflection of the hand coming towards me, no conscious thought involved). Who initiated the physical contact? Person A, who had no actual intent of touching but was perceived as having such intent? Or Person B?

Each of the people in that situation is likely to say the other one started it.

#100 ::: Kathryn Allen ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 02:05 PM:

Lee, #98: See if you have the exact same feelings towards these people you have, without any real knowledge, defined as socially acceptable racists (presumably thus belonging to a different society from yours) then by your own theory (and statement) the only difference between your circle and his is that one of your guys hasn't made your anger and fear a physical action. Yet. You choose to pretend you are not a member of the same society as Zimmerman, that you are a better person than his friends because none of your friends has murdered anyone (yet, and to your knowledge).

I did not say I had not made an effort to understand the cultural referances -- just that I did not go immerse myself for excessive amounts of time in the drugs that are supplied those committed to hating and fearing others.

Why should you listen to me? Why should anyone listen to anyone? You are, after all, very capable of telling other people what their true and sinister motives are. I can say that I am not attempting to guilt-trip you (especially you personally whom I know from two annonymous interactions online) into accepting that Zimmerman was the victim. But you have decided that is my motive for interacting with you. Although you chose to interact with me.

The mass media is controlled by... people who want to make money. If hate and fear sell they will give you hate and fear. (Much like the UK is having a boom in cute puppy programmes, because the internet has proved that, along with hate and fear, baaaby animals sell.) Please continue to decide that everything bad in society is a conspiracy orchestrated by some *other* person. For a goodly number of your fellow Americans that other who runs the media is gay tree-hugging feminist liberals. "I am being propagandised" gives both sides an excuse to turn up the heat.

Much as I'd love to ignore the cesspit of US social politics entirely, it is a sad truth you guys don't leave your anger and fear at home but practice it extensively abroad.

#101 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 02:26 PM:

Howard Bannister @93: Sympathies. Virtual {{{hug}}}, if that's okay by you.

Jacque @97: Intersting observation - and one I agree with, from encounters with other people while out running.

Kathryn Allen: As a fellow Brit, I'm going to point out that at the end of your post @100 you do exactly what you're accusing Lee of doing: when you write "you guys" you are painting all Americans with the same brush...

Also, as a Brit, my feeling is that without the bravura provided by his gun, and by knowing that the law would be on his side, Mr Zimmerman would not have gone after that kid he (he says) found so scary, pursuing him (despite advice by police not to do so) first in his SUV and then on foot, and quite probably a 17-year-old kid would have continued home with his groceries.

#102 ::: dcb has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 02:28 PM:

Probably excessive spaces. I can offer roasted (unsalted!) pistachios. Also pizza, but that's intended for friends at our gaming session..

#103 ::: jennygadget ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 02:33 PM:

"Much as I'd love to ignore the cesspit of US social politics entirely, it is a sad truth you guys don't leave your anger and fear at home but practice it extensively abroad."

Quite so. How this translates to you defending an American who didn't leave his anger and fear at home but instead used it to target an murder an unmarmed child in public, I do not know.

#104 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 03:25 PM:

dcb @101

I wonder if this is a difference between American and British culture. (Noting that I know almost nothing about British culture.)

In American culture, looking into things that look "off" is widely admired. (Open a random issue of Reader's Digest, and there's probably a 50% chance that someone is noted as behaving heroically for going out of their way to notice that there is a problem of some sort.) I've both been asked, and asked others, "Are you looking for someone?", in cases where someone looked out of place.

This is especially the case if you are part of a neighborhood watch; their whole reason for existence is to notice things.

#105 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 03:33 PM:

There are a few bits of legal jargon that are warping the situation, from my British PoV.

1: The word "assault": In English law, that doesn't require a physical contact. A lot of people do think of a physical attack, but it's very hard for me to avoid the assumption that Martin was assaulted by Zimmerman, and could have claimed self-defence himself.

2: English law again: self defence has to be reasonable force. Never mind the legal differences dealing with possession of firearms, even the threat of a gun is a huge escalation.

3: And the Police jargon. The initial treatment of Zimmerman would be described as an arrest in England. American usage seems to be equating arrested with being formally charged in the UK, which has all sorts of effects on just what the Police can do. In England, being arrested amounts to being detained and questioned under caution. In England there are various rules on how long this can continue before a formal charge is made.

We do occasionally get self-defence with gun cases, usually a claim made by a householder with a shotgun. And the arrest gets some newspapers all worked up. But they forget the (confusing) Tony Martin case in 1999, where the householder was not in lawful possession of a shotgun, lied to Police about what the burglars were doing, and was caught out by the forensic evidence.

The last such story I saw, the householder was detained for around 24 hours, and released without charge.

It's hard to be sure, but the actions of the Police in the Zimmerman case seem inadequate.

#106 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 03:57 PM:

SamChevre @104: I wonder if this is a difference between American and British culture. (Noting that I know almost nothing about British culture.)


(Mind if I cut that out and keep it?)

I'm in the UK. Yes, there is a significant cultural difference from the USA. Yes, we have neighbourhood watch schemes. Yes, we have racism. But our ethnic groups are not partitioned in the same way as in the US, with a large underclass descended from former slaves, alienated from a wider society that has mercilessly persecuted and excluded them for generations. And we have a very different historic relationship with the police (which, at least in theory, were supposed to follow the Peelian principles), with government, and (importantly) a different attitude to privacy and engagement in the public sphere.

Part of this is a result of the UK having been an overwhelmingly urban society for centuries. One of the things that works in urban societies is not nosing into other people's lives unless you're invited. One of the things that doesn't work is following a frontier society's ethos with respect to mobility -- as in, if things don't look good, there's somewhere else to go: here, people tend to stay where their ancestors have lived for generations. So the neighbourhood watch thing over here is mostly about keeping an eye on your street and phoning your community liaison officer if something dodgy is happening outside, because the police are less than five minutes away at all times and know the neighbourhood well. You don't step out to tackle suspected criminal behaviour yourself, with the handgun you don't own because possession is a strict liability offense carrying a 4-8 year prison sentence, because ownership of a concealable handgun is prima facie evidence of intent to commit murder. Neighbourhood watch is about watching and helping the police do their job better, nothing more.

(On the other hand, helping out folks who obviously seem to be lost is fine ... and in the UK, it's okay for tourists to approach cops and ask directions, because: different model of interaction between police and public.)

#107 ::: Kathryn Allen ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 04:30 PM:

DCB #101: 1- Lee decided to other me from the conversation by claiming I had no right to speak out on the issue. He grouped himself as a 'we' when saying, 'you don't have to live with the results but we do'... I was responding directly to that comment -- I feel it would be difficult and confusing to change the form of words. If you have an alternative suggestion which retains the meaning of the comment, and its apropriateness in context, I would appreciate your sharing it so I can try and deploy it in future.

2- Did I at any point pretend to be perfect on this issue? Or did I start by admitting I came from a place of anger and informed myself into a reevaluation that my anger was unhelpful and possibly unjust?

3 - and, while my use of 'you guys; did not intend this, maybe it's time when discussing how much damage America does in the world that people of other nationalities stop letting individuals of a nation opt out from taking any responsibility for the actions of a society they have created (without strong evidence that they really oppose the regime)?

I have no idea how much the gun contributed to the actions Zimmerman took; I do know you can't shoot someone dead if you don't have a gun. Zimmerman with a knife might have been as reckless but somewhat less lethal. But Zimmerman not assuming Mr Martin was a *them* who needed to be stopped before he hurt an *us* would certainly have meant Mr Martin got home alive (unless the police turned up to stop him... which might also have ended badly).

#108 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 04:33 PM:

Dave Bell @ 105

2: English law again: self defence has to be reasonable force. Never mind the legal differences dealing with possession of firearms, even the threat of a gun is a huge escalation.


From Florida law:

Aggressor. § 776.041, Fla. Stat.

However, the use of deadly force is not justifiable if you find:

2. (Defendant) initially provoked the use of force against [himself] [herself], unless:

a. The force asserted toward the defendant was so great that [he] [she] reasonably believed that [he] [she] was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and had exhausted every reasonable means to escape the danger, other than using deadly force on (assailant).

b. In good faith, the defendant withdrew from physical contact with (assailant) and clearly indicated to (assailant) that [he] [she] wanted to withdraw and stop the use of deadly force, but (assailant) continued or resumed the use of force.

Florida law is it is written is not so different.

It's the application of the law that makes all the difference.

#109 ::: Howard Bannister has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 04:38 PM:

I think for pasting in Florida statutes verbatim? Lo, the punctuation is not of this earth, and I know they have a hate for that...

#110 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 04:45 PM:

I very much doubt that Zimmerman got out of his truck looking to shoot some defenseless black kid--that doesn't make any sense given the rest of what limited information I've read about the case. Nor does it make sense that he was thinking "I can shoot a black kid and get away with it." There is, as best I can tell, zero evidence for anything like that. It has the flavor, to me, of making up a cartoon villain to make the story cleaner.

Here's what looks plausible to me, building on Jim's comment above. Zimmerman was angry and upset and scared about the rash of burglaries that were happening. Had he not been armed, he would very likely have stayed in his truck, and Trayvon Marton would still be alive, and George Zimmerman would still have a normal life to go back to. The police dispatcher gave Zimmerman some very good advice. He should have listened.

My guess is that the gun he was carrying made Zimmerman willing to go try to follow this suspicious looking guy[0] around, and maybe (we don't know) confront him. This is risk balancing behavior, a more malevolent version of the thing that makes the guy with a new 4WD truck think he can safely go 50 on an icy road. It's one of the best reasons *not* to carry a gun around, IMO.

Then, they had some kind of run-in. It could have been provoked by Zimmerman (in which case he got away with murder). He could have been attacked by Martin[1] (in which case, the self-defense claim could be right). They could have literally run into each other and ended up tangled up and fighting. We will never know the answer, as far as I can tell.

It's pretty clear that Zimmerman made some spectucularly bad decisions, probably influenced by anger and fear and having a gun in his pocket. And those decisions led, ultimately, to this kid walking to his dad's house at night getting shot dead. I am inclined to suspect that the case was decided according to the law[2]. After the event, the only good way for things to proceed was for Zimmerman's fate to be decided by the law as it was written at the time he shot Martin. Anything else is just a lynch mob with better costumes.

So the question is, what could keep this sort of thing from happening again, without making something else worse?

At a personal advice level, I see two lessons:

a. If a gun in your pocket makes you braver, you ought to put it back in the gun safe and use your brain to keep yourself safe instead.

b. When you're upset and angry and scared, that's a *really* good time to take advice or follow established rules thought out in advance, instead of acting on instinct.

As best I can tell, this is a very rare kind of tragedy. (The way to find out how rare is to look at statistics. The availability of some newspaper stories about other cases is useful to let you know what's out there, but not to estimate how common the cases are.) A first cut at making it still more rare is to get fewer people carrying around guns, and to try to get the crime rate down. (Without the rash of burglaries in his neighborhood, it seems likely Zimmerman would not have been carrying a gun or following Martin around in the first place.) But that's just a guess.

I'm not sure how much stand your ground laws or other related laws have to do with this kind of tragedy. Maybe they do, but Zimmerman was already doing something pretty stupid, and probably wasn't at the point of thinking through long-term potential consequences. If you are carrying a deadly weapon, and then you find yourself gettng beaten up, it's a good bet you're going to reach for that weapon, regardless of what the laws say. The place to head that off was for him not to get into the fight, or not to have a gun on him when he did.

[0] If I understand correctly, his neighborhood had had several recent break-ins by young black men, so it's not crazy for him to have thought that a young black guy walking through the complex was suspicious. Really, calling the cops on Martin was perfectly reasonable. He was innocent, and the right way for this to have come down would have been a five minute conversation between Martin and a cop, followed by Martin going home to eat his skittles in peace, and the cop rolling his eyes about Zimmerman on his way to the donut shop.

[1] The fact that Zimmerman was beaten up some implies very strongly that Martin didn't know he had a gun. 17 year old bravado might lead you to try to punch out the not-terribly-big hispanic guy following you around, but almost certainly wouldn't lead you to try to punch out a guy with a gun. The alternative is that they somehow ran into each other and never did untangle the fact that neither one wanted a fight. If had Zimmerman challenged Martin with the gun drawn, he'd never have been hit. There are plenty of police shootings that fit this pattern (innocent guy gets shot, shooter claims he saw something gun-like to explain why he's untouched and the other guy is dead), but this shooting doesn't fit the pattern.

[2] The police and prosecutors didn't originally want to charge him. Then a public outcry led to his being charged anyway, in a prosecution with substantial resources and a lot of public attention, and he was still acquitted. I am no lawyer, and didn't follow the case too closely, but it sure seems like the way to bet is that the case was decided according to the law.

#111 ::: Kathryn Allen ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 04:57 PM:

jennygadget #103 How this translates to you defending an American who didn't leave his anger and fear at home but instead used it to target an murder an unmarmed child in public, I do not know.

Okay, not defending -- said he killed/murdered Mr Martin. However a jury found him not guilty and it seems from comments that given no witnesses and a reasonable doubt does indeed equate to a case where the man is legally innocent. I do not know the man well enough to know whether he is in any other way less or more morally guilty. Factually he is the man who killed/murdered Trayvon Martin.

But in the context of my being unqualified to comment because I'm in another country, Zimmerman did indeed leave his anger and fear at home. He didn't kill someone in the UK, or Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Panama, or... The comment had context. It was a response to a person telling me to mind my own, uniformed foreigner, business...

You know I don't actually care that Mr Martin was an unarmed child in a public place. He could have been carrying a concealed weapon and standing in Zimmermans front garden and I'd still have been troubled by his being shot. I am regularly troubled by the extended justifications for the use of tasers (and pepper spray) by police in the UK. But I also care that people demonising Zimmerman is the easy out for those who act as though the solution to the social problems in the US is stocking up more hate and fear. It probably isn't (or not in any way that ends without a very large amount of blood in the streets) The same as hating paedophiles is not an effective way to keep children safe but a way to not do anything about keeping children safe.

Plus, the more people yell about how much of a monster Zimmerman is, and how someone should mete out extra-legal revenge, the less convinced I am that they give a damn about concepts like fairness, justice, and society.

#112 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 05:27 PM:

Zimmerman's lawyers might not have explicitly mentioned the "Stand Your Ground" law, but the judge's instructions to the jury considered it relevant:
"If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in anyplace 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"
(emphasis mine). Also.

Meanwhile, in Texas "A Texas jury acquitted a man for the murder of a woman he hired as an escort, after his lawyers claimed he was authorized to use deadly force because she refused sex."

#113 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 05:46 PM:

I'm not happy about the assumptions made by some of the comments posted here, but this blog has to be counted as one of the decent places on the web.

And words matter to us. I am not sure the jury had any other verdict they could return but "not guilty". And "not guilty" is not the same thing as "innocent".

What evidence there is is vague, but Zimmerman called the Police, was advised not to leave his vehicle, and chose to ignore that advice. It was his choices which led to the death.

I don't know what music Trayvon Martin liked, what TV shows he watched, what we might have talked about, but I can imagine him walking down the street outside my house. I don't live in the USA. I live in an ordinary English village which has history the way that New York has cockroaches. I can't imagine the warped view of the world that led to Zimmerman pursuing Martin with a gun.

And it's not just that Zimmerman comes across as some sort of wild savage, it's the vile mess of comments I see in so many places. It's the people who make wild unsupported claims about Trayvon Martin which, in their eyes, justify his death. It's the people who throw in photographs of unsettling strangers, and claim they are images of Martin. It's the way that the bigotry is used to justify a homicide, and it's the way that Zimmerman and his lawyers fail to admit to sorrow.

#114 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 05:46 PM:

albatross @ 110:

Well-reasoned, in a calm and dispassionate tone (high praise).

Thank you.

#115 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 06:13 PM:

Speaking of Stand Your Ground, here is a paper that purports to demonstrate that Stand Your Ground laws have increased the number of homicides by around 30 per month. What's needed to stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun indeed.

Since Texas has been mentioned, a gentleman in Texas who was so sure of his status under Stand Your Ground that he videotaped the entire incident and was on the phone to 9-1-1 throughout got forty years for murder.

#116 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 07:05 PM:

Kathryn, you have every right to comment, as does anyone else here. What you do not have, on this topic and by virtue of your own statements, is credibility. When you walk into the middle of a highly-charged discussion and start telling everyone else how they are Doin It Rong, you should not be surprised that your comments are greeted with a bit of eye-rolling.

#117 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 08:16 PM:

May I just say how much I appreciate the comment section of Making Light? I mean both you all, the commentariat, and you all, the moderators who keep it that way.

Elseweb it's all namecalling and gleeful jeering by racist assholes crowing that "justice was served." It's really sickening most places. Here and on Whatever (where the resistance to topic drift is stronger) are the only two places that are entirely comfortable comment sections, at least for me.

You might think a gay site would not have so many racists. You would, unfortunately, be wrong.

#118 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 08:23 PM:

#75, Linkmeister: I don't know whether the defense cited Florida's "stand your ground" laws, but as Ta-Nehisi Coates points out (and as Alan Braggins pointed out in #112), it was explicitly cited in the instructions given to the jury. So it's far from irrelevant to the outcome of this case.

#119 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 08:27 PM:

Charles M. Blow:

As a parent, particularly a parent of black teenage boys, I am left with the question, “Now, what do I tell my boys?”
We used to say not to run in public because that might be seen as suspicious, like they’d stolen something. But according to Zimmerman, Martin drew his suspicion at least in part because he was walking too slowly.
So what do I tell my boys now? At what precise pace should a black man walk to avoid suspicion?
And can they ever stop walking away, or running away, and simply stand their ground? Can they become righteously indignant without being fatally wounded?
Is there anyplace safe enough, or any cargo innocent enough, for a black man in this country? Martin was where he was supposed to be — in a gated community — carrying candy and a canned drink.
The whole system failed Martin. What prevents it from failing my children, or yours?
I feel that I must tell my boys that, but I can’t. It’s stuck in my throat. It’s an impossibly heartbreaking conversation to have. So, I sit and watch in silence, and occasionally mouth the word, “breathe,” because I keep forgetting to.

#120 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 08:29 PM:

Quinn Murphy (@qh_murphy on Twitter):

The most basic form of racism is "who do I give the benefit of the doubt? Where do I apply skepticism?"

#121 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 08:40 PM:

PNH @ 119

[Stand Your Ground] was explicitly cited in the instructions given to the jury.

I'm not certain of this (trial procedure is not my expertise) but it seems to me that with 27 pages of jury instruction, the law, regardless of relevance, was summarized for the jury. PDF The linked PDF of jury instructions includes a summary of the laws on homicides not involving a weapon (clearly irrelevant here), which furthers that impression.

#122 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 09:06 PM:

SamChevre: Right. The law was summarized for the jury. So the people who are claiming that "stand your ground" played no part in the case are mistaken.

I note your observation that "trial procedure is not [your] expertise." Let me help you out with that. I've actually been a juror in a first-degree murder trial, and a grand juror, and I can tell you with considerable authority that when, in the instructions to the jury, the judge summarizes what he or she considers to be the relevant laws, the jurors pay a truckload of attention. The idea that a law underlined in the judge's instructions "played no part in the trial" is risible. Full stop.

#123 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 09:20 PM:

But it's also true that he didn't use it as his defense - I think he'd have had to testify to do that. IANAL, so I'm probably wrong..

I'd describe the verdict as legally correct but socially wrong.

#124 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 09:27 PM:

Please cut me some slack here. I'm feeling my way through and may moderate my position.

re: "the system failed Martin". It certainly did. We are not living with that system now. His tragic death and the reactions have changed us.

As a minor example: if I were the police responding to a similar call from a Zimmerman-clone, I might use the same words telling him to stay put. I'd certainly use a more emphatic tone.

Remember Kitty Genovese, the woman who was repeatedly attacked and finally murdered while dozens of people heard her screaming and failed to call for help? It doesn't matter if that's what originally went down, that was the public story. In an emergency now, a responder can make eye contact and direct someone to call 911 and the chances are good that they will. Kitty's death was the wake-up call that started many of us on that path.

As albatross pointed out at #110, this is an uncommon incident. He made a number of good suggestions for taking more away from our current heightened awareness than despair. We need to keep the momentum going and change the legal framework.

Has anyone run across a site to donate toward a wrongful death suit?

I've got to leave this now.

#125 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 09:31 PM:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden @122, in the interests of fairness to the judge, from what I heard in a discussion broadcast on NPR (US National Public Radio), the judge had no leeway in what instructions to give. The exact instructions are, apparently, mandated by law. This was explained when the commentators were talking about why "Stand Your Ground" provisions were in the judge's instructions, although the case was not tried on "Stand Your Ground".

#126 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 09:49 PM:

#125, Cassy B.: I'm beginning to feel like I'm the subject of some kind of psychological experiment. Were or were not the jurors carefully instructed, by the judge, in Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law? And if they were, how can we claim that it "played no role" in the case? I look forward to the next attempt to claim that it "played no role" because, look! Dinosaurs! A pyramid of severed heads! George Clooney's man-musk!

#127 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 10:10 PM:

#125, Cassy B.: I'm beginning to feel like I'm the subject of some kind of psychological experiment. Were or were not the jurors carefully instructed, by the judge, in Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law? And if they were, how can we claim that it "played no role" in the case? I look forward to the next attempt to claim that it "played no role" because, look! Dinosaurs! A pyramid of severed heads! George Clooney's man-musk!

Yes, they were so instructed. No, the defense did not defend on "stand your ground" for some complicated procedural reasons I didn't follow (I was working while listening to the radio, and the legalese slipped by me). But, yes, because it was in the judge's instructions (mandated, if I understood the radio correctly, by law) it certainly must have played a role in the juror's deliberations, despite the fact that the defense didn't explicitly use "stand your ground" as the basis for their defense.

So, yes. Dinosaurs. <wry>

#128 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 10:23 PM:

#110 ::: albatross

That's pretty much how I imagine it going. IIRC, Zimmerman wasn't tested for drugs or alcohol at the time.

I see the breakdown as being that Zimmerman didn't consider the possibility that Martin was *not* a criminal, and that's where the problem of background levels of racism comes in.

Any theories about why Zimmerman didn't seem to consider the possibility that Martin might have a gun?

#117 ::: Xopher Halftongue

For what it's worth, Alas, a Blog is a venue which is strongly pro-Martin, though including arguing with pro-Zimmerman people, my friendslist on LJ is strongly pro-Martin, and my friendslist on Facebook is mixed but pro-Martin. I'm sure it depends on where you hang out, and it's possible you've got a better random sample than I do.

#129 ::: Kathryn Allen ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 11:18 PM:

Lee #116: If walking into a highly charged discussion and stating you hope someone will kill Zimmerman soon is an example of Doin It Rite I am perfectly happy to garner eye-rolling and lose whatever credibility a person can have with a group of almost total strangers on the internets. Sometimes doing it wrong is what needs to be done.

[You do realise that mocking illiteracy is not a nice thing to do, and that it kind of harks back to a time in US history when certain oppressed peoples were represented as being unable to learn to speak English properly (and IIRC forced not to do so)? My apologies if you just have a text entry malfunction]

I was, BTW, not the slightest bit surprised -- I have been coming here for more than a decade after all.

#130 ::: heckblazer ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 11:37 PM:

I don't have a problem with stand your ground when it's applied sensibly. The original idea was that if you're minding your own business and someone pulls a gun on you, you're allowed to shoot back without first attempting to flee. That in practice the level of threat in which responding with lethal force is so low in Florida is obviously a bit of a problem.

The other problem with Florida's stand your ground law is section 776.032:

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, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer. . . As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.

If a judge at a pre-trial hearing rules that the defendant was justified, the defendant is immune to arrest, prosecution and civil suit because of this section. If the defendant loses at the hearing they can still assert self-defense again at trial. This is just nuts. That Zimmerman did not pursue such a pre-trial hearing may be what people mean when they say stand your ground was not a factor in his prosecution; even that is misleading as it very definitely inhibited the original police investigation.

SamChevre @89:
The burden of proof being on the prosecutor to disprove self-defense seems to also be the law in the UK based on the Crown Prosecution Service's page on self-defence:

The burden of proof remains with the prosecution when the issue of self-defence is raised.

The prosecution must adduce sufficient evidence to satisfy a jury beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant was either:

not acting to defend himself/herself or another; or
not acting to defend property; or
not acting to prevent a crime or to apprehend an offender; or
if he was so acting, the force used was excessive.

Prosecutors should take special care to recognise, and ensure a sufficiency of evidence in, those cases where self-defence is likely to be an issue.

Charlie Stross 106:
FWIW neighborhood watches are supposed to be run the same way in the US. No doubt there are many more cowboy wannabees with guns running around America.

#131 ::: Y. ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 11:39 PM:

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#132 ::: Mike Bakula ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 12:14 AM:

Now one of the Jurors is speaking on CNN (anonymously), and it's not pretty. Apparently the defense generated a lot of sympathy for Zimmerman, and a number of the prosecution's witnesses were discounted. Ultimately, the juror says it turned on how threatened Zimmerman felt at the time he chose to fire. Most of what went before was irrelevant to them.

Words fail me.

#133 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 01:20 AM:

Carol @124: A wrongful-death suit is almost certainly going to be filed on a contingency basis - that is, the family doesn't pay the lawyer, the lawyer takes costs and fees out of any eventual recovery. (The lawsuit against the homeowners' association has settled.)

#134 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 01:45 AM:

PNH @ #118, right. The defense didn't raise it, but the judge did. I should have been clearer.

#135 ::: jennygadget ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 02:26 AM:

"As albatross pointed out at #110, this is an uncommon incident."

No. It's very much NOT. Not for Zimmerman himself, and not for the US overall. Not now, certainly not historically. This is precisely the problem.

And those of you who keep wanting to go on about how Zimmerman's fears and frustrations were understandable - at least enough so that they cast "reasonable doubt" - you may want to consider the fact that such fears - invasion of white homes, white women put in distress - were not an "uncommon" line of reasoning when it came to justifying lynchings in the US just a generation or two ago.

"If I understand correctly, his neighborhood had had several recent break-ins by young black men, so it's not crazy for him to have thought that a young black guy walking through the complex was suspicious."

[Funny how no one says that about young white men. young men, yes. young white men, no.]

That is ever so much bullshit. There had been several burglaries. ONE of which had involved the arrest of several teenagers, SOME of whom were black. And while I believe one of them got away and was at large? the police had his description - the police who told Zimmerman to stand down and stay in his car when he called in with Trayvon's description.

Either Zimmerman was aware of racist rumors only, or he knew the truth and simply let only parts of the truth he wanted to hear feed his racism. There is no point at which the truth of the burglaries means that Zimmerman had reasonable reason to be suspicious of a lone black teenager walking on the streets carrying a soda and skittles. (who brings soda and skittles to a burglary?)

"You know I don't actually care that Mr Martin was an unarmed child in a public place."

I do, and if you are going to argue "reasonable fear" - if the defense is going to bring Trayvon's actions into the mix in order to justify Zimmerman's actions - then both of you should as well.

Teenager's experiences and brains are different from adults, and they are going to react differently than adults to threats like strange men slowly following them in a truck. The law as interpreted by the defense doesn't give room for Trayvon to be a child and have a child's reaction to being threatened with violence from an adult. It expects him to be able to act infinitely more calmly and responsibly and wisely and suavely than the adult on trial did. Life doesn't work that way. IF the law/jury doesn't allow for teenagers to be less sophisticated than adults - if it refuses to protect them from adults who would take advantage of their youth for their own gain - then the law and the jury are both broken.

#136 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 03:07 AM:

Welcome to Making Light, Y.

This isn't the gun control thread (that's here), but just to add some hard data for your perusal:

Intentional Homicides per 100,000 population (source)


1995 1.6
1996 1.5
1997 1.5
1998 1.6
1999 1.6
2000 1.7
2001 1.8
2002 2.1
2003 1.8
2004 1.7
2005 1.5
2006 1.5
2007 1.5
2008 1.3
2009 1.2


1995 8.1
1996 7.3
1997 6.7
1998 6.2
1999 5.6
2000 5.5
2001 5.6
2002 5.6
2003 5.7
2004 5.5
2005 5.6
2006 5.8
2007 5.7
2008 5.4
2009 5.0

The plural of "anecdote" is not "data." I'll see your "wife shoots husband intent on doing her harm" and raise you a dozen "husband shoots wife by mistake" stories, and crown each one with "had it taken place in Britain the wife would be alive." Which wouldn't get us much of anywhere.

You say, "What use is the UK gun ban if UK has more murders per capita than it had in 1900's ?" Do you happen to have a source for that?

#137 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 04:16 AM:

It seems that the logic I'm being asked to embrace is that A) I can't really be certain the defendant intended to assault and terrorize the victim when he ignored the cops, got out of the truck while carrying his gun, and went to confront an unarmed child with it (assault being a crime, and the death resulting from the defendants actions while intending to commit a crime being enough to qualify the defendant for a manslaughter charge whether he was afraid for his life or not); yet B) it's obviously quite plausible that the defendant was a perfectly law abiding neighborhood watch volunteer, with no criminal intent whatsoever, who therefore might reasonably have justifiable fear for his life while packing a gun and facing down an angry kid armed only with a pack of Skittles and a hoodie.

I'm beginning now to see how it is that "These assholes always get away."

#138 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 04:38 AM:

Patrick, I'll just ignore that Kafkatrap about superiority.

I disagree about Laurie Penny's tweet because it's comparing apples and oranges. The woman in question retreated from a confrontation, went into a garage where her gun was in her car, and then returned to resume the confrontation. The fact that she had the ability to retreat invalidated any contention of self defense.

The only thing that the cases had in common was Angela Corey.

#139 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 06:02 AM:

Y @131: you're trolling. Let's establish that first.

But, to momentarily take your thesis as seriously as it deserves ...

What use is the UK gun ban if UK has more murders per capita than it had in 1900's?

1. It's not a gun ban. It's a handgun ban, and since it was imposed a certain type of spree killing has not recurred.

2. Your understanding of statistics is deeply flawed. For starters, no country in 2010 is the same as it was in 1900, if only because it is populated by different people with different cultural norms.

In the case of the UK, an overwhelmingly whitebread demographic (circa 1900) has become much more multicultural, with large-scale immigration from the Caribbean, Ugandan Asian refugees, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Poland, and other eastern European states. An overwhelmingly poorly-educated (school until age 14) population has been replaced by one where 40-50% attend university after graduating school at age 18. A population with life expectancy of age 67 has been replaced by one where people expect to live into their 80s. And so on.

So comparing the UK in 1900 to the UK in 2010 is an apples-and-oranges error, just for starters.

But, more significantly, the correct comparison (which we can't make) would be the murder rate in a UK with legal handgun ownership and the same in a UK without legal handgun ownership -- and the nearest we can get to that is to compare UK 2010 with UK 1990. Here's a handy set of figures, with listed sources. During the 1990s the English/Welsh murder rate[*] per 100,000 ranged from 1.09 to 1.45; in 2010 it was 1.17.

The variation pre/post handgun ban is lost in the statistical noise -- largely because of the increased popularity of knives during the late 1990s/2000s. What is clear is that spree shootings appear to have declined as a result of tighter gun control laws, and that the UK overall has around a quarter the rate of murder as the USA as a whole -- probably because cultural attitudes to violence are different: street fights in the UK are fairly common (probably more so than in the USA) but are much less likely to escalate into use of lethal weapons.

You may disagree on the trade-off, but I'm willing to consider an increased chance of being punched in the face as an acceptable trade-off against a vastly reduced likelihood of being shot or stabbed to death.

Final note on the historical issue: the murder rate in England in 1900 was, at most, about 25% lower than it is in England in the 2000s. We're not talking order-of-magnitude differences here. Nor was gun ownership as widespread in 1900 as it became between 1918 and 1960, when there were large numbers of war veterans with "souvenirs" from the battlefield, and a Home Office that was actually handing out rifles to said veterans out of fear of a Communist revolution in 1923.

[*] Scotland and Northern Ireland need to be treated as separate cases -- in the case of NI there was/is a low level terrorist insurgency during much of the 1990s, and in the case of Scotland there are a couple of suburbs of one particular city that raise the per-capita murder rate for the entire country by around 50%.

#140 ::: Howard Bannister has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 08:27 AM:
The fact that she had the ability to retreat invalidated any contention of self defense.

Dude. She's in a SYG state. She has no duty to retreat, remember?

Zimmerman had the ability to retreat for 20 minutes or so. He was in a car with a gun.

WTH are you even talking about at this point?

#141 ::: Phlop ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 08:31 AM:

If this juror's account is anything to go by, it certainly seems as if the stand your ground laws played a role in the decision-making.

#142 ::: academic ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 08:45 AM:

The arguments that this was a unique and special tragedy are making my stomach hurt.

I think all this talk of how understandable Zimmerman's actions because special circumstances are is a blind. A red herring. Why are Zimmerman's actions understandable? Because young black men are interchangeable, because if they're not guilty of shifty crime A they're probably guilty of shifty crime B, but mostly because a 'reasonable' person would find a black male *scary*.

If young white women were doing the breakins (and yep, there's been gangs of them who robbed gated communities, so let's not go there about plausibility), do I think a totally unrelated young white woman walking home would be chased down and shot? No, I don't.

Because society has rules about chasing young white women, just as it has about chasing black men. Not law, but society. (For instance, it's totally OK to chase a woman if she's your girlfriend.) But we assume that white women are safe, default, and it takes a lot more than existing to assume evil intent. But black men are unsafe, default.

I feel like Captain Obvious stating this, but come on. One of the things the jury had to think about was whether Zimmerman feared for his life. Regardless of Martin's actual actions, his very existence is going to seem scary to the demographic of that jury. (Do I think a jury of black men would have decided it the same way? No, I do not.)

Here is the underlining problem. Society works on the underlying assumption that if you follow 'the rules' you will be OK. However, prejudice means the rules are different for different people.

Zimmerman followed his rules. He was OK. He is OK.

Martin had no rules to follow to make sure he was safe, because the game is rigged against black males.

This is conclusive proof that being black and male trumps the (previously held societal ideal) that if you're upperclass you're OK. That if you stay near home, you're OK. That if you're doing something extra safe (getting candy) you're OK. That if you're a CHILD, you're OK. These are social markers that normally reduce 'danger danger' in others. But even these 'be good/do right/follow the rules' are not enough.

It seems to me that what this case proved is that being black and young and male is proof, legal proof, of being dangerous. And therefore, killable.

Zimmerman won before he ever stepped into the courtroom, because he is alive. He had rules to follow that dictated he would be OK. He followed those rules.

Martin did not have rules to follow that would guide him to safety. I have not seen any reasonable discussion that focused on that side of it. What the heck is a black kid supposed to do when he gets candy? When he wants to walk home? When he wants to just exist? (Sitting inside your car, listening to music, is not a safe thing to do either, as another recent case proved.)

#143 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 09:28 AM:

academic @140. I believe every word you have typed here is true. That does not make me anything like happy about it, but you are right.

#144 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 09:53 AM:

I find myself thinking of the "Dragnet" episode in which a middle-aged middle-class black couple is brought in to the station. The man is quite offended because he doesn't know why they've been arrested. Joe Friday explains that there's been a rash of robberies in the neighborhood where they were stopped and they had a TV set on the back seat of their car so what was the police to think? By the end, the man actually apologizes to Joe.

#145 ::: Y. ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 09:54 AM:

@Mk Bkl

Nw n f th Jrrs s spkng n CNN (nnymsly), nd t's nt prtty. pprntly th dfns gnrtd lt f sympthy fr Zmmrmn, nd nmbr f th prsctn's wtnsss wr dscntd. ltmtly, th jrr sys t trnd n hw thrtnd Zmmrmn flt t th tm h chs t fr. Mst f wht wnt bfr ws rrlvnt t thm.
Wrds fl m.

'd sy gttng btn s plnty 'thrtnng'. Thr ddn't sm t b ny vdnc Z.'s njrs wr slf-nflctd. H hd njrs frm btng, whrs Tryvn hd brsd knckls, sngl hl n hs chst nd n thr njrs.

ll f tht prtty cnsstnt wth Zmmrmn's sttmnt tht h ws ttckd, btn nd thn sht th ttckr n slf-dfns.

Clrly, Z. dd nt wnt t bcm n f rnd ~800 ppl wh gt btn t dth n th S ch yr. Fr cmprsn, th drdd sslt wpns r nly sd n ~250 css pr yr.

Wrn't sm f th prsctn wtnsss cght lyng?
Th md wr cght slctvly dtng d t mk hm ppr mr 'rcst'.
Tht knd f stff wll gnrt sm sympthy.

Prsctrs fckd t p. Zmmrmn shwd bd jdgmnt n fllwng nthr dt, wh xhbtd bd jdgmnt n ttckng n nknwn gy n stt rf wth hndgns.
Myb mnslghtr chrg wld hv stck n Z., cnsdrng h ws tld t sty wy.

n nfrtnt ncdnt, wrthy f Drwn wrd fr Mrtn nd hnrbl mntn fr Zmmrmn...

@Chrl Strss

1. t's nt gn bn. t's hndgn bn, nd snc t ws mpsd crtn typ f spr kllng hs nt rcrrd.

Tht knd f stff s s rr tht t's csstn s s fr jst sttstcl ns.
Spr kllngs ls ccr n stts wth svr gn cntrl, 2nd wrst spr kllng hppnd n Sth Kr nd ws prptrtd by plcmn.
Thy r jst rr.

S cmprng th K n 1900 t th K n 2010 s n ppls-nd-rngs rrr, jst fr strtrs.

n cn cmpr t t thr CD cntrs wth dffrnt lws, lk sy, Swtzrlnd. ls hs tkn n lt f rfgs, stll vry pcfl cntry.

S hr:

K, dspt t's drcnn lws hs vry hgh bdly hrm, rbbry, sslt rts, mng th hghst n CD cntrs. Nt tht mst thr CD cntrs llw sm frm f hndgn wnrshp.

Dn't drg th S nt ths. Thr mrdr rt wld b hlf f wht t s wtht nnr cty gng vlnc, nd prbbly bt th sm s n K wr thy nt fghtng th pntlss drg wr t kp prsn nd drg prfts hgh..

prbbly bcs cltrl tttds t vlnc r dffrnt: strt fghts n th K r frly cmmn (prbbly mr s thn n th S) bt r mch lss lkly t sclt nt s f lthl wpns.

Y dn't nd 'lthl' wpns t kll nyn. Fr xmpl, mny stts cnsdr kckng smn n th blly r hd whn h's dwn t b th sm s sslt wth ddly wpn.

K ntrstngly rstrcts nn-lthl wpns t, fr sm rsn. Pppr spry, n tm rcmmndd by plc fr ppl t crry n crtn stts s clssfd s 'prhbtd'. t's prtty ffcnt frm f slf-dfns, spclly f y mng t ht th ys, yt vry rrly lthl.

#146 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 10:03 AM:

Kathryn Allen @#129: You do realise that mocking illiteracy is not a nice thing to do, and that it kind of harks back to a time in US history when certain oppressed peoples were represented as being unable to learn to speak English properly (and IIRC forced not to do so)? My apologies if you just have a text entry malfunction

She (Lee is a she) was not "mocking illiteracy". She was using a fairly common turn of phrase meant to indicate that the person Doin It Rong is incorrect to a rather greater degree than one would expect. The strange capitalization and spelling comes from the fact that "UR DOIN IT RONG" was originally a LOLcat caption. My apologies if you knew that and were trying to score a cheap point by attacking the conveyance of the argument rather than the argument itself.

#147 ::: Howard Bannister has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 10:34 AM:

Dunno why. I'm just making a pot of coffee for the working day, but the gnomes don't strike me as coffee drinkers. Perhaps some nice tea?

#148 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 10:37 AM:

According to this, Miami school district police, as opposed to Miami-Dade police, was artificially depressing crime stats by not investigating juvenile crimes. If Martin had been prosecuted he would most likely still be alive.

#149 ::: Mike Bakula ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 10:39 AM:

@143 Y. So you're asserting that Z brought a gun to a fistfight, that M attacked him for no apparent reason, and thus had no right to self defense when Z escalated the confrontation in one jump from fists to guns.

Let me ask you a question. If you were walking home in your neighborhood, noticed that you were being followed by an unmarked vehicle, then by the driver on foot, would you lead that guy back to your house? Is there no chance that M was acting reasonably in response to a threat form Z?

#150 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 11:03 AM:

A bit of a sidetrack, but if Zimmerman had been tested for alcohol and drugs and turned out to have plausibly been impaired, would that have affected the trial?

#151 ::: Galleymac ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 11:08 AM:

At 17 in Florida Martin might very likely have been tried as an adult, if the initial reaction in the Keira Wilmot case is anything to go by.

#152 ::: Galleymac ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 11:13 AM:

(Yes, yes, one case does not make a statistical chart. There are such informational sources. I can't quote them all at the moment. A beginning:

#153 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 11:39 AM:

Wyman #148

I'm not certain that starting high school students off into the black male experience of being imprisoned and disenfranchised would be a good use of anyone's resources.

#154 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 12:22 PM:

academic, #142: It's always a unique and special tragedy. Every single time. If it were recognized as being part of an ongoing pattern, it might become obvious that something needs to be done about it.

Also, the Kingwood girl gang. Just in case anyone needed a citation.

#155 ::: Lee has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 12:23 PM:

Chocolate-covered candied ginger?

#156 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 12:29 PM:

Anyone who is interested in seeing the entire Zimmerman trial, gavel to gavel, starting with pre-jury-selection motions, can do so starting here.

The trial was televised. It's all up on YouTube.

#157 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 12:46 PM:

Y. 145: An unfortunate incident, worthy of a Darwin award for Martin and a honorable mention for Zimmerman...

And with that line you forego any claim not to be trolling, and possibly much of your alleged humanity. Well, no, you're a human being just like Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, though clearly closer to the latter; it just makes me ashamed to share a species with you. And now I wish I had the keys to the disemvoweller.

Zimmerman was caught lying over and over and over, but the jury still believed him. I don't have much doubt as to why.

#158 ::: Howard Bannister has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 12:46 PM:
whereas Trayvon had bruised knuckles,

A single scuff on one knuckle.


A bit of a sidetrack, but if Zimmerman had been tested for alcohol and drugs and turned out to have plausibly been impaired, would that have affected the trial?


You're asking that rhetorically, right?

#159 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 12:47 PM:

Ahem. Sorry about posting with the 'has been gnomed'--hasn't, just forgot to change the held-over from the last posting.

#160 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 12:50 PM:

The television interview of a juror... by Anderson Cooper...

I have no words.

Once again they go on about how Trayvon was 'out late at night.' And this was suspicious.

Except it was 7 at night. Not 11, or 12, or 1.

7 at night.

In a gated community that he lived in.

Two doors from home.

His step-brother's skittles in hand.

What could he have been doing that would be LESS dangerous and threatening?

What was he supposed to do?

#161 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 01:14 PM:

Xopher @ 157: I've seen his kind before, but mostly in the movies:

Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

Or so they thought.

#162 ::: Kathryn Allen ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 01:27 PM:

Carrie S #146 Well yes, using a phrase you didn't invent that mocks illiteracy doesn't mean you're not using a phrase that mocks illiteracy in a context of 'you're not just doing it wrong but spelling it wrong also' just that you're doing it in the words of a meme that started off on 4chan with the b'tards. So bringing extra baggage. While lolcats have lost their roots and gone mainstream (and can sometimes make me laugh out loud -- when not deployed in provocative contexts) it is sometimes hard for me to get over that 'kitty pidgin' arose in a cultural environment where similar 'pidgins' were used on 'amusing' pictures of 'minority' groups (in a place of high n-word deployment). In this case Lee had already attacked my qualifications to comment -- taking the educated-better-than-you high-ground -- making the use twice as questionable (YMMV). But hey, evolution into the mainstream means that most people don't know lolcats come from a place where memes that started with pictures of 'minorities' often had animals substituted at some point. Ignorance is indeed bliss, I guess.

I nearly apologised -- but I think maybe I'm going to leave it at explaining.

(BTW is there a reason it matters that she is a she? Is her gender of particular importance to you in this exchange or has it a relevance to the topic in general or I'm I missing another internet meme?)

*Of course Mr Martin was not illiterate. He was a nice well-educated middle-class boy. That appears to matter a lot. *My* heart aches over how many people are *now* scared for their children.

#163 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 01:42 PM:

To those who don't feel uncomfortable with Zimmerman's racial profiling of Travyon Martin...
I wish I could link to that photo of yours truly with his darker-skinned youngest nephew.

#164 ::: Wendy Bradley ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 02:33 PM:

Charlie Stross @106 Wait, in the US you *can't* approach a cop and ask for directions? Seriously?

#165 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 02:45 PM:

Wendy, it's legal, but unsafe. Safer if you're white, with an opposite-sex person, and over 50.

#166 ::: Y. ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 02:48 PM:

@Mk Bkl
Lt m sk y qstn. f y wr wlkng hm n yr nghbrhd, ntcd tht y wr bng fllwd by n nmrkd vhcl, thn by th drvr n ft, wld y ld tht gy bck t yr hs?

Nt sr wht 'd dn. 'd dfntly try t kp my dstnc, nd nt lt th prsn pprch.
Lkly, 'd g hm.

1) h cld nt fllw m nsd - tht'd b trspssng.
2) plc whr lv hs t lst thr CCTV cmrs wtchng t frnt, nd s prtty hrd t brk nt, bng strdy brck prtmnt bldng.
3) f h ws frd f ldng hm hm, h cld'v dbld bck t th str, r nrst pblc plc wth sm ppl.

Wht cld h hv bn dng tht wld b LSS dngrs nd thrtnng?

Wlkng hm? Nt cnfrntng nyn t th pnt f csng blck ys, brkn ns nd lcrtns t th bck f th hd?

Tht s prtty sspcs whr cm frm, nd slly flls ndr 'sslt'.

Thr s n vdnc Zmmrmn ttckd hm frst, s t cld nt hv bn 'slf dfns'.


n whch wy ws th ncdnt nt stpd nd nfrtnt? Bth ppl dd xctly th wrng thng:

1) Zmmrmn shld'v kpt wy nd n cntct wth plc, nt gttn cls.
2) Mrtn shldn't hv cnfrntd hm.

@Hwrd B.

sngl scff n n knckl.

n brsn. Brss r nlkly t hppn f smn s dd, nd h dd prtty qckly ftr th fght, s prhps tht'd xpln th lck f brsd knckls.

nywy, 'd lk t knw mr bt ths, hwvr, thr dsn't ppr t b mch fndbl n th ntrnt bt th ss..

#167 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 02:54 PM:

Y., it was the nomination for a Darwin Award for a frightened teen who wasn't doing anything wrong that angered me.

And we only have Zimmerman's word that Martin began the confrontation. Given his many lies* I see no reason to believe anything he says.

*not to mention his complete lack of regrets. Anyone with an ounce of human feeling would have said "I wish I'd stayed home that night" or something. But no, no regrets at all. He thinks his acquittal means it's completely OK that he killed a kid.

#168 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 03:00 PM:
An abrasion. Bruises are unlikely to happen if someone is dead, and he died pretty quickly after the fight, so perhaps that'd explain the lack of bruised knuckles.

Perimortem bruising, while not as dramatic and visible as a three day old shiner, is perfectly detectable during autopsy. The blood vessels are already broken, after all. Since the abrasion was detected and reported, it's reasonable to assume that bruising would have been as well.

#169 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 03:04 PM:
Not sure what I'd done. I'd definitely try to keep my distance, and not let the person approach. Likely, I'd go home.

1) he could not follow me inside - that'd be trespassing.
2) place where I live has at least three CCTV cameras watching out front, and is pretty hard to break into, being a sturdy brick apartment building.
3) if he was afraid of leading him home, he could've doubled back to the store, or nearest public place with some people.

...again, he was within his own gated community, and being followed by a white man. Why do any of those sound SAFE to you?

I hesitate to ask this, but do you have any idea what the difference is between the experience of a white person and a non-white person in this country?

#170 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 03:42 PM:

It seems to me that whatever happened between Martin and Zimmerman, happened because Zimmerman made it happen. And so he bears the responsibility for whatever outcome there was. (If Martin had been a burglar, and Zimmerman had stopped him, you can bet he'd take the credit for that, right?)

The state of Florida has determined that Zimmerman should not bear the legal penalty for murder. To me, he still deserves the name of "murderer".

#171 ::: academic ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 03:46 PM:

I'm going to make an observation about your arguments here. You're ascribing some meanings and some motives and interpretations to the words used in this discussion that reveal a slip-step of misunderstanding. I'm not suggesting this is intentional. I suspect it is in part geographical.

I've spoken with many people from the UK about race relations and racial violence in America, and I find that they often have similar slip-steps. Unless the possibility for such slip-steps are accepted and taken into consideration, further misunderstandings continue and discussion is curtailed.

If I said to folks here that the Martin business is based in the recent unpleasantness, I'm sure that some people here would get exactly what I meant. Especially if I said it in conversation and hesitated delicately over the word unpleasantness.

I've found that those words, which are highly *highly* charged in certain geographies here, including where I live, fly right past my UK friends. It's a different set of cultural references.

If, as you state, you wish to better understand the American situation, perhaps you might consider that your current ascribing of different meanings to UR DOING IT RONG, like other parts of this discussion, are not the same referents you're used to?

I'm curious. Without googling, *do* you know what I'm talking about when I reference the recent unpleasantness?

#172 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 03:54 PM:

There is no evidence Zimmerman attacked him first, so it could not have been 'self defense'.

There is no evidence that Zimmerman didn't. And given Zimmerman's history of violence (including against uniformed police officers), I wouldn't bet on it.

I am, nevertheless, convinced that the following things are good: a) the accused is presumed to be innocent until proved guilty, b) the state must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and c) that it is better for a hundred guilty to go free than that one innocent be convicted.

#173 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 04:03 PM:

I am, nevertheless, convinced that the following things are good: a) the accused is presumed to be innocent until proved guilty, b) the state must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and c) that it is better for a hundred guilty to go free than that one innocent be convicted.

I am too, and I remembered that once I calmed down.

It sure is hard in cases like this, though. Especially since incompetence and/or bias on the part of the police undermined the evidence gathering that could have established the case better.

#174 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 04:13 PM:

Jim @ 153

I wouldn't say it was an optimal outcome, but if he had been in the Miami-Dade legal system like he should have been, he might still be alive.

#175 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 04:22 PM:

academic @171:

Trigger words, yes.

You remind me of the time I worked in Edinburgh, and one of my colleagues said to an African American expat, "I'm not going to patronise you by explaining this to you; you're a bright boy."

He really, honestly meant that the guy could work it out for himself, to the extent that it would be genuinely rude to take him through it step by step. But I had to take him aside pretty quickly and explain why one does not call an adult American of African descent "boy", ever.

#176 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 04:31 PM:

abi @ 175...

"Aren't you too old to be a boy?"
- Robert Ryan to Woody Strode in 1953's "CityBeneath the Sea"

#177 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 04:41 PM:

(BTW is there a reason it matters that she is a she? Is her gender of particular importance to you in this exchange or has it a relevance to the topic in general or [am] I missing another internet meme?)

We try to call people by their preferred* gender pronouns here.† It's considered basic courtesy, and doing otherwise is insulting.

Carrie offered you a correction assuming you honestly couldn't tell ('Lee' not being a very gender-distinctive name) and would want to show this basic politeness in the interest of civil conversation.

*This includes trans* and genderqueer people who have made their pronoun preference clear, even if it doesn't "match" the gender on their birth certificate.
†I mean on Making Light. America in general isn't as good about it.

#178 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 04:51 PM:

Xopher @ 173

Do you want to try to establish that either the Police or the Prosecutor wanted to "establish the case better"? That's purely a rhetorical question, of course.

(I'm not certain about Florida's jury-selection details, but it sure seems as though a jury composed entirely of White women, mostly middle-aged & middle-class, would most likely decide Zimmerman to be innocent, and that this could have been avoided if the Prosecution had wanted to.)

Assuming that anyone involved wanted a case that give Zimmerman any chance of being convicted would require getting as fanciful as that "Y" character. If worse came to worst, we might have to face considering that it's not impossible that some kind of Supermatural Power created a metal object that looked exactly like a bullet that had been fired by Zimmerman's gun and placed it into Martin's body.

#179 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 04:57 PM:

Kathryn, #162: I see that you are not, in fact, familiar with all Internet memes. LOLcat has definite rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation, all of which evolved quite rapidly when the meme site became popular. This has been a topic of great interest to linguists.

At this point, you seriously need to be thinking about the First Rule of Holes.

Y, #166: "Walking home" was EXACTLY WHAT HE WAS DOING. If you can't do that without being considered "suspicious", stalked, and attacked, something is seriously wrong.

Wyman, #174: And if Zimmerman had been at home rather than out cruising with his gun looking for trouble, or had paid attention to the police dispatcher telling him to stay IN the car, Martin would still be alive. You sound like that guy who rammed the schoolbus in Kentucky and then claimed that it was the fault of the bus manufacturer for not having better safety features.

Two wrongs don't make a right, and digging for a sideways approach to making it all Martin's fault does you no credit.

#180 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 05:02 PM:

Academic @171: speaking as a Brit, when I read ...

I'm curious. Without googling, *do* you know what I'm talking about when I reference the recent unpleasantness?

... I assume you're referring to an incident which would be better described as the slaveowners' TREASONOUS rebellion.


#181 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 05:02 PM:

Y @ 166

There is no evidence Zimmerman attacked him first, so it could not have been 'self defense'.

Because it's completely impossible that there wouldn't be evidence if Zimmerman, say, shoved Martin. Or threw a punch that missed, or hit lightly. Or brandished a gun at him. Nope, absence of evidence is, after all, evidence of absence!

We don't know who started the physical confrontation. We can't know, barring witnesses that haven't come forward. But we do know who started the non-physical confrontation, and it wasn't Martin.

#182 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 05:05 PM:

Oh, Charlie, we all knew YOU knew! It's Kathryn who's missing some of the cultural rules and themes here.

#183 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 05:12 PM:

And I thought it was "the Treason of the Slaveholders."

#184 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 05:16 PM:

Kathryn Allen @129: We're reading the same words and taking different things away from them here. What I've seen here on ML is actually very little "othering" but a lot of incredulity that the only thing the jury was allowed to make their decision on was whether or not Mr Zimmerman might have been afraid at the point at which he pulled the trigger, and a fair amount of speculation by people regarding what's gone wrong with society to creat the situation in which an adult will make the decisions made by Mr zimmerman and not, even in retrospect, realise, recognise or acknowledge that he made some bad decisions.

Because most of us are concerned about the fact that an adult made the decision, almost certainly based on racial profiling, to pursue a child, who was just walking down the street, and that such pursuit led to the death of the child. Mr Zimmerman appears to have absolutely no regrets that he did what he did.

It's been reported* than he "told a television interviewer Wednesday that he would not have changed the circumstances leading up to the shooting and that he viewed the entire incident as "God's plan."

Even if Trayvor Martin threw the first punch (and we don't know whether or not he did), Mr Zimmerman's failure to accept any responsibility, failure to see how his actions, his poor decisions, let to this result - that's what most of us are angry about. That, and the way the law is written and interpreted which, in my opinion and it seems the opinions of many other people in this thread, encourages such poor decision making.

I would point out that what Lee @87 said is not that Mr Zimmerman or anyone in his social cirle is a monster, but that they tended rowards racial profiling. I don't see how anything Lee says in that post is dehumanising. It's pointing out that certain sections of the media etc. are apparently encouraging people to mistrust others. I don't actually see the discussion on here as "Contributing to the levels of hate and mistrust on the internet", I see it as people looking at how society has got it wrong that such levels of hate and mistrust have developed.

SamChevre @104: this has already been answered very well by Charlie Stross @106. My brief reply would be that it's not that we don't "look into" things that are "off", it's that we don't take a handgun with us while we do so...

Wendy Bradley @164: Yes, that was my reaction as well. I always thought that was one of the functions of a policeman on the beat...

*[I'm saying "it's reported" because I've not been able to view the clip of the video].

#185 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 05:22 PM:

Kathryn Allen @162, looking over your posts in this thread, it looks to me a whole lot like you’re far more interested in demonstrating your own moral superiority than you are in any other conversational goal. Maybe you should give that a rest.

#186 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 05:25 PM:

David Goldfarb @ 174

It seems to me that whatever happened between Martin and Zimmerman, happened because Zimmerman made it happen. And so he bears the responsibility for whatever outcome there was.

Anti-assault activists generally, like anti-sexual-assault activists, have pushed both legally and culturally to confine legal analysis to the crime itself, and to exclude the question of "how did you get yourself into that situation."

On balance, I'm in favor of that change.

#187 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 05:35 PM:

Charlie Stross @ 180

I will happily grant that Jefferson Davis was a traitor of the same order as John Balliol, George Washington and Jean Moulin.

#188 ::: Tangurena ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 05:42 PM:

Nancy @ 150: yes, but the police would have needed some sort of probable cause to do a test for GZ being under the influence. Slurry speech? Could be concussion, could be alcohol or drugs, better send him to the hospital to get tested. It would have been that simple.

Howard @ 140: Her leaving to get the gun and return shows premeditation. SYG becomes irrelevant at that point.

Avram @58: One of the eyewitnesses testified that TM was on top of GZ and was swinging fists at GZ's head. Secondly, TM is the bigger guy than GZ by several inches. He was taller than I am.

#189 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 05:45 PM:

SamChevre: Well yes, traitors all.

How we judge them depends on (a) how successful they were ("treason never prospers; for if it does, none dare call it treason"), and (b) the other merits of their cause.

Hint: it is possible to commit treason for entirely honourable reasons. And it is possible to behave entirely lawfully in a grossly dishonourable and unethical manner.

#190 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 05:46 PM:

While George Washington was a slave owner, he wasn't committing treason to defend his right to own other human beings. That wasn't at issue.

I think we've been through the whole CSA thing here. They were scumbags, rebelling for scumbag reasons, and fortunately they were crushed.

#191 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 05:48 PM:

Y #145 has a spectacular case of missing the point.

""probably because cultural attitudes to violence are different: street fights in the UK are fairly common (probably more so than in the USA) but are much less likely to escalate into use of lethal weapons."

You don't need 'lethal' weapons to kill anyone. For example, many states consider kicking someone in the belly or head when he's down to be the same as assault with a deadly weapon.

UK interestingly restricts non-lethal weapons too, for some reason. Pepper spray, an item recommended by police for people to carry in certain EU states is classified as 'prohibited'. It's a pretty efficient form of self-defense, especially if you manage to hit the eyes, yet very rarely lethal."

For one thing, the small hint about 'non-lethal weapons' is that they are weapons. Don't bore me by pointing out that lots of things can be weapons, I can do that party trick too. The key point is that most people don't think that way anyway, and carrying around a designated weapon, such as a loaded gun, makes it rather more likely such item will be used in anger or even by accident. A side effect of fewer guns is fewer accidental deaths. Anyway, another point about having fewer weapons available and permitted to be carried and recognised as weapons is that there are many fewer assaults with them, including of the police, which means they don't feel they have to charge into every situation guns drawn. Which helps reduce the number of people shot by police.

Next, pointing out that fists etc can be dangerous is both accurate and yet not exactly the point - here in the UK you can also defend yourself, using proportional amounts of force. What this reminds me of is this article, which reminds me that it's less a case of stand your ground laws (which in this case seem more to have helped condition peoples reflexes and channel their thoughts, than actually played a direct part in the legal proceedings), and more to do with the USA's attitude to guns and violence:

Now, you may point and laugh at the UK's level of violence, but we don't have an appreciable percentage of the population buying lethal weapons because they are afraid a burglar will attack them or they'll get mugged in the street. We don't have an appreciable percentage of the population afraid that the government is going to take away their guns and making noises about fighting the government and the occaissional {sic} terrorist attack.
So I immediately start to wonder about your culture and it's paranoia levels, and about why you seem determined to defend it all.

Finally, if Zimmerman was able to pull out his gun and shoot martin, he was hardly being beaten senseless. Maybe he thought he was going to be, irrelevant of whether or not he started the fight in the first place. But as has been pointed out already, to reach any sort of wisdom you have to consider causes and contexts, rather than just reeling off the legal niceties.

#192 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 05:49 PM:

Tangurena @188: And Mr Zimmerman weighed a good 10 kg (22 pounds) more than Trayvor Martyn - he's a strongly-built man, Trayvor Martin was a lanky teenager (also, see Howard Bannister @ 93).

#193 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 05:51 PM:

Secondly, TM is the bigger guy than GZ by several inches.

Secondly, TM was a smaller guy than GZ by a hundred pounds.

Anti-assault activists generally, like anti-sexual-assault activists, have pushed both legally and culturally to confine legal analysis to the crime itself, and to exclude the question of "how did you get yourself into that situation."

On balance, I'm in favor of that change.

For heaven's sake, why? After you've gone off the cliff is a heck of a time to start wondering how you're going to land safely.

#194 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 05:53 PM:

Nancy @ 150: yes, but the police would have needed some sort of probable cause to do a test for GZ being under the influence.

There's a guy lying there dead. Sounds like probable cause to me.

#195 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 05:56 PM:

Raspberries for the gnomes? They're a few days old but been in the fridge and still taste okay.

#196 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 06:06 PM:

Jim MacDonald @ 192

I'm not at all certain if I'm understanding your question right, so if I'm answering the wrong question, please point that out.

I'm in favor of the law looking at "were you the victim of a crime" rather than "were you somehow responsible for getting yourself into the situation in which you were the victim of a crime" because the second seems to be a proper concern of prudence, but an irrelevant factor in justice.

I'm very much in favor of thinking about "is this a good idea"? I'm not in favor of the law saying "what you were doing was stupid, so you getting beaten up is no concern of ours."

#197 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 06:16 PM:


Re the medical report on Zimmerman, they didn't find illegal drugs or alcohol on him, but they noted that he was on some prescription drugs that can sometimes have weird effects on your mood, right? I don't quite see how that addresses Nancy's question. I would bet that more than half the people in this conversation and a largish fraction of the people who ever are charged with any crime are on at least one prescription drug which can sometimes have psychological/mood effects. I certainly don't claim any expertise about those medicines, but I would be very surprised if they changed anything at all about the situation.


Zimmerman still faces the possibility of federal civil rights charges[1], and of lawsuits, and I think then was still waiting for his state prosecution. He is also nationally reviled as a racist (probably not entirely fair) as well as a guy who through his bad decisions killed an innocent kid (which he did). So I am deeply skeptical that anything he says about what he feels about the shooting reflects what he really feels, rather than what he thinks will minimize his chances of ending up in jail or broke from the lawsuit, or will keep from alienating those who now support him and have sent money for his legal defense costs. I hope he has a psychologist or a priest to talk to, because if he isn't a monster, the knowledge that he killed this kid is going to mess him up for years to come. (Though I am not sure he could talk to a psychologist without having the notes available for subpoena.).

David Goldfarb:

My sense is that Zimmerman's shooting of Martin probably meet the moral definition of manslaughter (through bad decisions you should have known better than to make, you killed someone), but may not have met the legal definition of manslaughter in Florida. And that is one part of the outrage,

The uglier part of the outrage is the sort of public two minutes' hate thing that our media culture does so well. Zimmerman did something stupid with tragic results, but probably (as best I can tell, and apparently as best the local police and later a jury could tell) not something intentionally evil. He is reviled nationwide right now far more because he is an acceptable person to hate, and what he seems to stand for, than because of what he did. That is true, even though what he did was awful and left an innocent 17 year old kid dead.

[1] This is an awful idea on every level, and I hope the Justice Department doesn't go through with it. If trials mean anything, it has to be possible for them to give verdicts the powerful don't like, or the public don't like, even when the case is a media sensation and there is lots of political interest.

#198 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 06:55 PM:

SamChevre @186, except you can’t disentangle the idea of who started it from the principle of self-defense.

#199 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 06:57 PM:

Tangurena @188, in my comment @58, I asked you three questions. In your reply you answered not a single one of them.

#200 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 07:03 PM:

SamChevre #195:

I'm in favor of the law looking at "were you the victim of a crime" rather than "were you somehow responsible for getting yourself into the situation in which you were the victim of a crime" because the second seems to be a proper concern of prudence, but an irrelevant factor in justice.

180 out from what I'm suggesting. Should read,

I'm in favor of the law looking at "were you the perpetrator of a crime" rather than "were you somehow responsible for getting yourself into a situation in which shit just happened" because the second seems to be a proper concern of prudence, but an irrelevant factor in justice.

That is, if you're only looking at the second before Zimmerman pulled the trigger, and the second after it, you're not going to get a useful result.

#201 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 07:07 PM:

Charlie Stross @106, my personal experience as a middle-class suburban white woman in the USA is that it's perfectly fine to approach a cop and ask for directions. I do not claim knowledge as to whether or not it's perfectly fine for a young black or hispanic man to do likewise. (My husband, a white middle-class suburban man, cannot answer this question, because he's constitutionally incapable of asking for directions. Fortunately (or perhaps this is the reason for the above), he has an excellent sense of direction.)

#202 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 07:12 PM:

albatross 196: I hope he has a psychologist or a priest to talk to, because if he isn't a monster, the knowledge that he killed this kid is going to mess him up for years to come.

He's repeatedly said that he has no regrets, and called Martin's death "God's plan."

So he IS a monster. I doubt it will be bothering him at all. I do hope I'm wrong, because the thought of him not being haunted fills me with rage.

(Though I am not sure he could talk to a psychologist without having the notes available for subpoena.)

IANAL but I think doctor-patient confidentiality is a legal privilege. And there are therapists who don't take notes.

#203 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 07:12 PM:

Wyman #174

I wouldn't say it was an optimal outcome, but if he had been in the Miami-Dade legal system like he should have been, he might still be alive.

I deny the assumption implied in "like he should have been."

#204 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 07:15 PM:

Jim, #199: if you're only looking at the second before Zimmerman pulled the trigger, and the second after it, you're not going to get a useful result

This is exactly what I was getting at back at #69, only more succinctly stated.

(And before anybody tries to suggest that this also means asking rape victims what they were wearing and why they were in that location is appropriate, allow me to point out that no one rapes out of self-defense.)

#205 ::: Galleymac ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 07:19 PM:

Okay — I need to temper this American cop fear a little bit. The police are necessary, {insert the requisite “I have friends who are/are related to cops” here}, and I would hate to have someone visit the U.S. and actually *need* a policeman and be too afraid to approach one.

I ask cops for directions. (I am from New York City.) I think London cops are a bit friendlier, and I also feel more comfortable asking them questions that might be slightly more frivolous and less direct than directions, like “What’s going on with that blocked street there?” But I feel more comfortable in London doing a *lot* of things that are more “frivolous,” like saying “Ummm” at the Starbucks counter and hesitating a bit, rather than knowing exactly what I want fifteen minutes before I arrive at a food store and rattling it off like military orders before the crowd in line behind me grows restive and vocally resentful.

But on the whole my interactions with police in the States have not been terrible, except for once, when I was a child and my family was coming home from a wedding, and the cop that pulled my dad over for speeding also pulled a gun on him when he exited the car. He got back in the car, and the cop (who was young) told him never to do that, and all proceeded calmly. (Which was confusing, as there were guide articles circulated at the time that said you SHOULD get out of your car, as staying in your car was remaining in unknown “territory,” so you should get out and be very nonthreatening in the cop’s territory. As my dad was 6-foot-five, I don’t think “nonthreatening” was on the table.

However I’ve had very good interactions with the police on several occasions when I was the put-upon party.

Now, I am a woman. But I am also five-ten and dark, and have been reacted to as though I were a man on quite a few occasions when my height and color were perceived before my feminine characteristics: Called “sir,” rushed away from in car parks, and having people in front of me (male and female, sometimes bigger than me) realize I was behind them and scream (the male was in line at a comic book store, for what it’s worth).

That said, the stories you’ve heard are true. Just not universal. (And another friend of mine, petite, white, blonde, bespectacled, and female, got pepper-sprayed in the eyes by an NYC cop once, near a rally she was not taking part in, well before 9/11. Full spectrum.)

#206 ::: Galleymac ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 07:19 PM:

The only reason anyone thinks Martin was a big huge guy is that news sources accidentally ran pictures of a completely different — and adult — Trayvon Martin (as well as of another adult, a large tattooed rapper) and printed itsy bitsy retractions. Now you can’t spit without hitting someone who whines about newspapers printing Trayvon’s “baby pictures.” (I made the mistake of reading about this in The Telegraph today. Ugh.)

#207 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 07:27 PM:

I believe it's entirely appropriate to ask the accused perpetrator, "Why were you there? What were you doing? How were you dressed? Did you have a weapon in your pocket? Why?" After all, the accused is the one on trial, not the victim.

I don't believe that manslaughter was the appropriate charge in this case. I'd go with felony murder; that is, a death that occurred during the commission of another crime, to wit, assault.

At Common Law, an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact.

An assault is carried out by a threat of bodily harm coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm. It is both a crime and a tort and, therefore, may result in either criminal or civil liability. Generally, the common law definition is the same in criminal and Tort Law. There is, however, an additional Criminal Law category of assault consisting of an attempted but unsuccessful Battery.

Statutory definitions of assault in the various jurisdictions throughout the United States are not substantially different from the common-law definition.

#208 ::: heckblazer ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 07:27 PM:

Jim Macdonald @ 203:

I agree with you 100%. Despite all the dirt dug up on Martin I have not heard anything to differentiate him from the guys I went to high school with, and I went to an expensive and fancy private prep school. Actually, I take that back; some of the guys in my high school did some sketchier stuff like outright dealing pot. They turned out ok.

#209 ::: heckblazer ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 07:45 PM:

Galleymac @ 205:

Anyone curious as to how Trayvon Martin would have looked when Zimmerman shot him can simply watch the 7-11 surveillance footage of him from earlier that day. Speaking for myself, he looks like a perfectly ordinary lanky teenager.

#210 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 09:15 PM:

I'm giving this thread up. Life is too short and I don't want to lose my temper.

#212 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 02:41 AM:

Thank you, Jim @203 for articulating what i think about the legal standard.

I am a middle aged white American without kids, and my reaction to the situation is to want to scream. Our kids - our kids, America's kids - are not safe. THAT is the conversation. THAT is the problem.

And young Mr. Martin is just the latest in a long line of tragic examples.

Darius Simmons was gunned down by an old white man in Milwaukee. The killer is on trial now, and the question is whether he gets off for being too old and too crazy. If he does, Young Darius Simmons will still be dead.

Jordan Davis was gunned down at a gas station in Florida because the white man who shot him felt threatened by the loud music from the car Mr. Davis was in. That killer is also on trial right now.

Do I have to even mention that both of those young men were also black?

Those are the stories currently going on. Not even counting all the stories of disproportionate force by police (in my community - Oscar Grant's death - for which the BART police officer was held legally liable, unlike the killer of Mr. Martin).

And I'm a kid free white woman. I don't notice all the stories circulating in the black community. These are just the stories that broke through to my closed news world.

And then let's broaden the focus a little - how many mass murders due to the easy acquisition of guns do we have each year? It takes mass shootings of blonde kindergarten students to even move the policy needle to "some more restrictions in some states, but nothing comprehensive"?

These tragedies, especially the all too common killing of young men of color, come with context and history. To dispassionately talk about the strength of the evidence is needed in the actual court case. i also agree two minute hate is not what this is about. But in our wider conversation we need to focus on one thing and shout it: our children are not safe. That is wrong. The system needs to change in all sorts of ways to make our kids safe. Our society needs to change to make our kids safe. What needs to change should be the focus.

It is from that perspective that I read commentary, and that is why I get very, very frustrated with victim- blaming and deflection, and pure "isnt this just a puzzle to discuss dispassionately" that some commentators bring to the topic. people of good will on this blog, that i know are of good will but some comments here are hard to read. and yet, what Xopher said about this being a very safe place compared to the wild racism elseweb.

Of course our reactions are strong. Our kids are not safe.

#213 ::: Mea was gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 02:43 AM:

Perhaps because the gnomes knew I meant to agree with Jim at comment 207 but said 203,

#214 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 04:43 AM:

As a white man of 28, I wouldn't ask a cop for directions unless I was really, seriously, lost. Then again, I live in Seattle.

Last year, we had a cop, Ian Birk, walk up behind John T. Williams, who was carving on a city street. He approached, called out to the man, and then shot him in the side of the head when he turned. He was acquitted, on the grounds that the man had a knife* and was at a distance where he could have presented a lethal threat.

Now, I'm a fencer, and I know how fast I could close that distance, so I'll agree: if you look at the second before and after Officer Birk pulled the trigger, he was justified.

But if you zoom out a little, it's a similar case: You walk up behind a guy because you see he has a knife, you call out to him, and only when he starts to turn do you realize you've placed yourself too close? And this is a trained police officer? It's clear from the dashcam footage that Birk could have elected to stay 20 feet farther back at least. He makes no claim that Williams moved towards him, at all, whatsoever. He had complete control of the distance, and he chose a distance at which he would have grounds to shoot Williams.

*I'm leaving something out here: the knife was found folded closed at the scene, meaning Williams put it away before turning around. Or, I guess, possibly meaning that Birk elected to tamper with evidence at his own shooting scene and then lie about it.

#215 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 08:34 AM:
#197 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 06:16 PM:


Re the medical report on Zimmerman, they didn't find illegal drugs or alcohol on him, but they noted that he was on some prescription drugs that can sometimes have weird effects on your mood, right? I don't quite see how that addresses Nancy's question. I would bet that more than half the people in this conversation and a largish fraction of the people who ever are charged with any crime are on at least one prescription drug which can sometimes have psychological/mood effects. I certainly don't claim any expertise about those medicines, but I would be very surprised if they changed anything at all about the situation.

Yes, he was on a prescription medication.

Side effects have been described as an increase in hostility and aggression.

This is normally not a big deal, except for all the people who try to paint Trayvon as a drug-crazed maniac because he had, sometime in the past, smoked pot. (not recently enough to have been high during the encounter, by the levels described)

People who can try to paint him as 'crazed druggie' while ignoring that the drugs Zimmerman was on were considerably more dangerous than pot are, I think, more dangerous than either drug.

#216 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 09:19 AM:
Howard @ 140: Her leaving to get the gun and return shows premeditation. SYG becomes irrelevant at that point.

So going into another room to get a gun is premeditation.

Leaving a car with a gun and chasing a teenager is not.

I'm glad you can parse these so finely as to see the vast difference between these two things.

#217 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 09:36 AM:

Incidentally, here's some things Zimmerman did that the local Neighborhood Watch disavowed.

Chris Tutko, director of Neighborhood Watch for the National Sheriffs' Association, said Zimmerman broke some cardinal rules.

First, he approached a stranger he suspected of wrongdoing.

"If you see something suspicious, you report it, you step aside and you let law enforcement do their job," Tutko said. "This guy went way beyond the call of duty. At the least, he's overzealous."

Second, Zimmerman carried a handgun. Police departments and sheriff's offices that train volunteers advise them never to carry weapons — though Zimmerman broke no laws by doing so because he has a concealed-weapons permit.

"We don't want any cop wannabes or people thinking they're going out and acting like cops and making arrests," sheriff's spokesman Gary Davidson said. "If we think that's the motivation, we're going to weed them out."

"These punks always get away."

ALSO, on the Marissa Alexander thing: the abusive husband disagrees with the judge about whether she could have exited the garage.

They struggled. She ran out through the laundry room into the garage. “But I knew she couldn’t leave out of the garage because the garage door was locked.” She came back, he said, with a gun, yelling at him to leave. “I told her I ain’t leaving until you talk to me, I ain’t going nowhere, and so I started walking toward her and she shot in the air.”
Read more here:
#218 ::: Howard Bannister has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 09:43 AM:

Probably for three links in one post. I got greedy.

Today is a baked goods day. Store-bought, sadly, but the gnomes are more than welcome.

[It was the formatting of one of the links. Spammers ruining it for everyone.... -- JDM]

#219 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 01:42 PM:

Wyman Cooke @210

I think you raised an interesting question, but the source you linked to is one the sets all sorts of alarms ringing for me, plus the alienness of a school having its own police.

When I look at the whole article, put out by The American Spectator, it was trying to make out that Trayvon Martin was a no-good druggie thug. It was part of a rather ugly pattern that's out there. It was using some cheap rhetorical tricks. And despite the question as to whether Martin should have been safely in custody (I don't think the answer is as clear as the article suggests), it's as much an attempt to make out that he deserved what he got from Zimmerman.

Take the skating-on-thin-ice implication that there was a surge of burglaries coinciding with Martin's arrival. It references the claim to a Reuters story, which says, At least eight burglaries were reported within Twin Lakes in the 14 months prior to the Trayvon Martin shooting, according to the Sanford Police Department. This when Trayvon Martin had arrived there only a few days before the shooting.

Maybe the other elements of the story are more soundly based, but the Reuters story is about Zimmerman, and what may have been driving him.

I haven't checked every link The American Spectator uses to support the thesis you repeated here. There's certainly something odd about the Miami-Dade School Police Department, beyond my whisky tango foxtrot reaction to its existence. And maybe the website is lucky you cannot libel a dead man.

And, looking at one or two other recent stories. their phrasing and their choice of headlines, I'm even less inclined to trust them. They're a media outlet feeding a particular way of thinking, and liek so many others they manage to lie without quite telling lies.

It was an interesting question, Wyman, but I think they made a patsy out of you.

#220 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 04:52 PM:


As the parent of three boys, I have tried my hardest to disentangle Who Started It from Self Defense, especially when 'he started it first' comes from both parties.

Who Started It has the same root as 'An Eye for an Eye' and all forms of revenge -- and likely has about the same ending as well.

#221 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 04:52 PM:


As the parent of three boys, I have tried my hardest to disentangle Who Started It from Self Defense, especially when 'he started it first' comes from both parties.

Who Started It has the same root as 'An Eye for an Eye' and all forms of revenge -- and likely has about the same ending as well.

#222 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 05:00 PM:

eric #221:

I love the contention: "he started it first".

Yeah, we used to use it as kids. It's brilliant.

"Okay, I started it, but HE STARTED IT FIRST!!"

It doesn't get much better than that, human brain.

#223 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 05:07 PM:

'she started it!' 'he touched me!'
My mother would send both parties to their rooms to cool down. She said it doesn't work very well when one of the parties is perfectly happy to be in their room - with books. (It also doesn't work very well when both parties share the room.)

#224 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 05:18 PM:

In January 1925 Hymie Weiss and Bugs Moran shot Johnny "The Fox" Torrio as Torrio was returning home from a shopping trip.

The common name for someone who shoots another person while that person is engaged in innocent pursuits, even if the person who was shot is a notorious gangster, is "Criminal."

#225 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 05:54 PM:

eric @220: Not meaning to upset your argument, but "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" in the Jewish Bible was, as I was taught it, understood to mean "the value of an eye for an eye, the value of a tooth for a tooth" - that is, it was about appropriate recompense (neither more nor less), NOT about revenge.

#226 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 06:27 PM:

Marissa Alexander's husband Rico Gray's testimony.

He isn't defensible. A sensible court would jail him as a stalker and abuser and let Alexander walk.

#227 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 07:13 PM:

eric #220: Also, AIUI "an eye for an eye" was meant to be an upper limit -- an improvement on the Bronze Age's more usual practice of tribal vendetta (effectively war) over such offenses.

#228 ::: Y. ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 11:03 PM:

Ppl wh cn try t pnt hm s 'crzd drgg' whl gnrng tht th drgs Zmmrmn ws n wr cnsdrbly mr dngrs thn pt r, thnk, mr dngrs thn thr drg.

Wht s t wth mrcns nd drgs? Zmmrmn ws n mphtmns.

Mrtn ws prbbly ln sr, s vdncd by lvr dmg nd hs fcbk psts. Ths cld'v bn fkd, hw wld y xpln th lvr dmg?

t's sm srt f mxtr f cgh mdcn, sgry drnks. Sppsdly phrc, bt cn cs md swngs, prsnlty chngs, ggrssn nd sch ccrdng t rwd.

nywy, dn't gt t why y ppl r pst t th jry dcsn. Smply pt: thr ws nt ngh vdnc t prv t's mrdr.

Bcs t lks mr lk cs f slf-dfns lvnd by dcy nd ncmptnc.
nd th prsctrs dd nt g fr mnslghtr chrg.

Ths rddt thrd pst xplns t prtty wll:

H s rvld ntnwd rght nw fr mr bcs h s n ccptbl prsn t ht, nd wht h sms t stnd fr, thn bcs f wht h dd. Tht s tr, vn thgh wht h dd ws wfl nd lft n nncnt 17 yr ld kd dd.

Y'd b srprsd.
Gn-brds nd blgs 'v sn mstly cndmn Zmmrmn fr stpdty bt dn't rvl hm.

'd sy th dmnstn s prbbly prtty mch splt lng prpgnd ffltn lns.

Nw, y my pnt nd lgh t th K's lvl f vlnc, bt w dn't hv n pprcbl prcntg f th ppltn byng lthl wpns bcs thy r frd brglr wll ttck thm r thy'll gt mggd n th strt. W dn't hv n pprcbl prcntg f th ppltn frd tht th gvrnmnt s gng t tk wy thr gns nd mkng nss bt fghtng th gvrnmnt nd th ccssnl {sc} trrrst ttck.
S mmdtly strt t wndr bt yr cltr nd t's prn lvls, nd bt why y sm dtrmnd t dfnd t ll.

t's y wh s mssng th pnt cmpltly, ld mn.
Yr ntn's vlnt crm lvls r prtty hgh fr dvlpd, rpn cntry. Thr s lttl vdnc bns n wpns ld t lss vrll vlnc.

Th bn n wpns tmtclly rms th yng nd hl f bdy. Y cn't xpct vry ld, wk prsn t hv bdygrd t thr bck.

lv n cntry tht gv cmms th bt nd dcdd t's ctzns cn b trstd wth gns. lmst 1

Yr gvrnmnt dsn't trst y, dsn't cnsdr y cpbl f bng rtnl nd s n. nd t's fn.

Y, s ntn dcdd tht y cn't trst yrslvs wth gns, bcs y wr rrspnsbl nd t ld t sm prtty nsty msscrs nvlvng wrds nd plc nt dng thr wrk, spclly whr Thms Hmltn ws cncrnd. (s http://www.thhghrd.rg/rchv/ndx.php/t-258323.html fr dtls)

Sr. t sys smthng bt yr ntn. Nt nythng t b prd f, 'd sy.

#229 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 02:13 AM:

Fredrick Leatherman, Innocence Project lawyer, on the instructions to the jury: "Judge Nelson did not instruct the jury that an aggressor cannot claim self-defense and that a person who aggressively follows another person is an aggressor. That was the heart of the prosecution case."

#230 ::: KayTei is popping popcorn ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:06 AM:

Would one of the moderators please evaluate whether the tone at 228 is appropriate to this setting?

Thank you.

#231 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:16 AM:

* Not responding to #228 because too angry *

#232 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:29 AM:

*Joins KayTei to watch the ensuing entertainment*

#233 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:32 AM:

Y, let me break this down for you:

Zimmerman thought he was the hero in a Charles Bronson movie and that led him to killing someone who was minding his own business walking home from the store.

Whether the person minding his own business walking home from the store was the greatest criminal who ever lived is irrelevant to the case. (BTW, the story that Skittles and iced tea are the Secret Ingredients of some sort of Super Druggie Drug is purest BS. Folks who believe, and who propagate, that story put their credibility way far into the red.)

The jury, perhaps due to incompetent prosecution, perhaps due to faulty jury instructions, perhaps due to their own prejudices, bought the story that Zimmerman was the hero of a Charles Bronson movie.

Rather than asking "What is it with Americans and drugs?" better to ask "What is it with Americans and guns?"

#234 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:44 AM:

Pass the popcorn. Anyone else care to try a dusting of Old Bay seasoning on it? If a Y is disemvowelled, what remains?

#235 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:53 AM:

There's a reason "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" strikes such a chord with people; it's so easy to see ourselves, indulging ourselves with rich interior lives as we go about our ordinary routines. Children do this a lot, with the distinction that younger they are, the less they seem to realize that reality and their unreality don't match up (Calvin and Hobbes, anyone?).

The problem with Mittyism is giving yourself over to it so completely that your life is lived that way entirely; when you can't see the difference between that rich interior life (Also known as colorful and emotionally satisfying fantasies, in this instance) and the reality around you you're headed for trouble.

Sometimes it even turns you into a killer for real.

#236 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 12:14 PM:

Couldn't Y just be banished?
I'm not going to justif-Y Y Y should be so treated.

#237 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 12:17 PM:

Anne Sheller @234: If a Y is disemvowelled, what remains?

If it weren't that it called out a specific individual commenter, I would nominate this for one of the Fluorosphere's all-time great catch-phrases, perhaps even above "for that is what I'm doing."

(Unfortunately, I suspect this is a case where the Y gets kept.)

#238 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 12:20 PM:

I am wary of reading too much into side effects of prescription drugs.

I take a few myself, and I do check the lists of side effects. Looking at the list for one of the tablets I take. They're split into several groups:

Common: 1% to 10% of users

Uncommon: 0.1% to 1% of users (on this one it includes anxiety and depression at this level)

Rare: 0.01% to 0.1% of users

Very Rare: less than 0.01% of users

I don't have enough information to judge the issue: which drug and how commonplace was the side effect. Even if it's very uncommon, it might be relevant. Zimmerman might be one of the few affected.

If you want to put forward that as significant, you need to back it up. Otherwise it's just a mirror image of the name-blackening being applied to Martin. It's not quite as bad as the soda and skittles slur, if only because a side effect has been observed. But, reading the history of Zimmerman, it's far easier to believe his tendency to violence has some other cause, because it goes back so far.

This isn't the first time I have wondered if reporters have any knowledge of simple arithmetic or how to read a clock or calendar.

#239 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 12:21 PM:

Y, I realize you don't know it, but you have just taken a dump on the living room carpet.

#240 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 01:53 PM:

While I of course defer to the judgement of the moderators on duty, I'm mystified that Y is still allowed to post here.

Or at least to post VOWELS here.

I mean, "gave commies the boot"? Jesusmaria.

Only my sense of DNFTT is keeping me from lighting into this guy.

#241 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 02:07 PM:

Xopher, I think everyone has backed up several feet, has cleared a path between hir and the door, and is staring at hir, wondering how long it's going to take hir to get the message.

#242 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 02:30 PM:

My Zimmerman/Martin post. A short summary of the events of Martin's death, and several links. It can only be stressed that Zimmerman pursued a young man who was running away, against the advice of the 911 dispatcher. Stalkers don't get to claim self defense, even if their victims turn and fight. All Zimmerman had to do to avoid personal risk was to go home.

Extra bonus sharksnark: in case anyone is tempted to rely on Eugene Volokh's analysis in this matter, here's a reaction to Volokh arguing for the torture of criminals before execution in 2005. Eugene, meet shark. Jump, Eugene, jump.

#243 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 02:32 PM:

Y also appears to believe that he's living in a Charles Bronson movie, and is therefore not fit to be trusted with a gun. I wonder how long it will be before he turns into Z.

#244 ::: Y. ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 02:43 PM:

Zmmrmn thght h ws th hr n Chrls Brnsn mv nd tht ld hm t kllng smn wh ws mndng hs wn bsnss wlkng hm frm th str.

Yh, knw. f y'd sn sm gn r slf-dfns rltd brds, y'd s tht Zmmrmn ws ftn cndmnd fr bng prtty stpd. Ppl crryng gns r nt sppsd t g lkng fr trbl, whch s wht Zmmrmn dd.

Bt.. thr wsn't ngh vdnc t cnvct hm f Mrdr 2. r pprntly vn mnslghtr.

Th mtrl vdnc sys Zmmrmn ws n th rcvng nd f th btng nd thn sht Mrtn..

'd sy gt vr t, bt t sms ppl cn't.

f y rlly fl nd t b trgd, rd bt th Mrss lxndr cs, n whch wmn wh klld n n gt snt t prsn fr 20 yrs.

s t s: thr ws n mrk n Mrtn thr thn th ftl gn njry. 'm nt n xprt, pt hd h bn pnchd r ttckd, prhps thr wld'v bn.

nd mndng hs wn bsnss? nly wntng t g hm? Th nly ywtnss thr s pts Zmmrmn n th grnd, gttng btn. vdnc mtchs tht.

f Mrtn nly wntd t 'gt hm' - h cld'v rn. r dckd Zmmrmn, whch h pprntly mngd hndly, nd thn rn.

dr sy lrdy ffc wrkr wld nt prs smn wh's bth fstr nd mngd t sly knck hm dwn..

Whthr th prsn mndng hs wn bsnss wlkng hm frm th str ws th grtst crmnl wh vr lvd s rrlvnt t th cs. (BTW, th stry tht Skttls nd cd t r th Scrt ngrdnts f sm srt f Spr Drgg Drg s prst BS. Flks wh blv, nd wh prpgt, tht stry pt thr crdblty wy fr nt th rd.)

nd t's nt skttls nd c t. Prmrly t's cgh syrp, th cndy nd sft drnks r prbbly pt n thr s t's tstr.

t'd xpln th lvr dmg(sttss), whch s n th tpsy rprt.


Bt yh, t s rrlvnt. ws jst rmrkng hw fnny t s bth prts wr pprntly drg** srs. Jst s Zmmrmn's DHD drgs r prbbly rrlvnt snc th vst mjrty f ppl wh s thm rn't vlnt nd ll tht.

t's rmrkbl tht mr ppl smk pt n 'Mrc thn n th Nthrlnds, whr t s lgl.

**DHD drgs r n th sm lgl ctgry s mrphn, mphtmns tc hr. Vry sldm prscrbd.


* Nt rspndng t #228 bcs t ngry *

S ngr sss. Wll - thn ndrstnd why y'd nt trst yrslf wth gn, s y'v sttd.

#245 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 02:56 PM:

*greases the path between Y and the door*

#246 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 04:14 PM:

I'd say get over it, but it seems people can't.

Yeah. Obvious miscarriage of justice based on racial prejudice. Following a crime of violence based on racial prejudice. Pretty hard to get over.

If you really feel need to be outraged, read about the Marissa Alexander case, in which a woman who killed no one got sent to prison for 20 years.

Yeah, mentioned in the original post. Tell you what, you go be outraged over it, okay?

#247 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 04:22 PM:

Xopher at #240--here's my candidate for our visitor's residential arrangements. Too rustic, you think?

#248 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 04:33 PM:

No. Too pleasant.

#249 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 04:34 PM:

The Raven @ 242

Stalkers don't get to claim self defense, even if their victims turn and fight. All Zimmerman had to do to avoid personal risk was to go home.

False, and false.

Even the victim of a stalker is not allowed to beat the stalker; that's both settled law and common sense.

All Zimmerman would have needed to do to avoid personal risk was to have gone home; at the time he killed Martin, he was on the ground, being beaten, and could not go home.

#250 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 04:41 PM:

I am tired of contrived fairy tales about split-second confrontations where calling the police is not relevant, and retreat is not an option. I've been hearing these fairy tales all my life. Their core narrative never changes. It presents a situation, alleged to be factual, in which the only effective response to an imminent threatened harm is firing a gun at someone.

Here's a real fact: for many years now, the NRA has campaigned and lobbied relentlessly against any attempts to collect basic demographic data about guns, gun ownership, gun-related incidents, and the outcomes of gun-related incidents.

Why? Because data collected in the rest of the world doesn't support the NRA's worldview. Guns don't deter violence. Mostly, what guns do is fatally empower momentary lapses in judgment. Increased gun ownership has a strong correlation with increased shootings, and a weak to nonexistent correlation with decreases in crime. Most shootings are accidental, have as their victims people known to the shooter, and are bitterly regretted.

Also, Y. has taken a one-letter screen name, he hasn't cited the numbers of the comments he's responding to, he's making counterfactual assertions by the dozen, and he didn't read the original (very short) post.

In conclusion: come home, Heresiarch, I miss you.


Anyone coming in later who wants the original full-vowels versions of Y's comments can request them.


Note: There's an interesting conversation to be had about the shared properties of gun narratives, conspiracy theories, stick-figure libertarian proposals, and post-holocaust survival scenarios. I think it's something about them being stories about extraordinary maneuvers in defense of extraordinary values, and their not being bounded by trade-offs with competing real-world values. Whatever the cause, they all have the interesting property of gradually eating the brains of enthusiasts who fail to recognize them as fiction.

#251 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 04:48 PM:

Codeine cough syrup is apparently the key to the suggested drug. I'm not sure how easily you can get it in Florida, but I haven't found anything that suggests you don't need a prescription.

It looks a bit difficult to take a big enough dose for the cool effects to kick in. Soda and candy might make the mix more palatable, but they dilute the codeine. The syrup was 10mg per 5ml, so a recreational dose might be 75ml of syrup. If you could get a prescription, you might be able to get 150ml. It makes the whole claim suspect, but not the chemistry itself.

So, tentative conclusion, not in Florida, but it's a great excuse for shooting a black teen carrying soda and candy.

#252 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 04:48 PM:

Xopher @248--I thought the rugged, hardscrabble look was fitting.

Teresa @250--There's an interesting conversation to be had about the shared properties of gun narratives, conspiracy theories, stick-figure libertarian proposals, and post-holocaust survival scenarios. I think it's something about them being stories about extraordinary maneuvers in defense of extraordinary values, and their not being bounded by trade-offs with competing real-world values.

That's what makes me think of Walter Mitty...

#253 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 04:53 PM:

Anyone coming in later who wants the original full-vowels versions of Y's comments can request them.

I'm eagerly awaiting seeing the all-consonants versions.

#254 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 04:54 PM:

But fidelio, the location is too nice. A bridge next to a landfill or toxic-waste dump would be more appropriate.

#255 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 04:56 PM:

Annnd...there they are!

And there was much rejoicing.

#256 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 05:02 PM:

Their foot shall slide in due time.

#257 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 05:09 PM:

Wow. We haven't seen a good disemvowelling a long time!

#258 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 05:19 PM:

pckt pckt pckt, as was famously said in publishing.

#259 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 05:29 PM:

Teresa @ 250... What's that, about Heresiarch?

#260 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 05:29 PM:

Dave: ObMitty: Not to be confused with t-pckt-pckt-pckt.

BTW, forgot to mention: KayTei's method above of sending up the flare tickles me.

#261 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 05:32 PM:

Serge: See this.

#262 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 05:38 PM:

Fidelio @252: Yes. The fictions listed masquerade as nonfiction, and can take on nonfiction's implicit call to action.

What fascinates me is the way they can gradually spread and take over an entire worldview. Once you believe that it's possible and worthwhile to move to a strongly defended location in anticipation of the coming holocaust, how can other values can compete? They're just a distraction, a waste of resources, that will soon be swept away. If you believe conspiracy theories about one subject, why should you assume that data about other subjects is reliable? And so forth.

"I will be able to defend myself because I have a gun" is the same kind of devouring meme.

#263 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 05:41 PM:

Jacque @260: True! Points for KayTei.

Serge, am I delusional? I've been feeling a shortage of Heresiarch.

#264 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 05:42 PM:

California requires a prescription for codeine in, AFAIK, all forms. I've had cough syrup with codeine, and it was prescribed in 5ml doses (teaspoons). That was plenty to have effects on me, without additives of other kinds. (It has a bitter aftertaste.)

#265 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 05:46 PM:

T: I was startled to note that Heresiarch's last comment was a full year ago, now.

#266 ::: iamnothing ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 05:53 PM:

Dave Bell @238: Whatever the effects of his current prescription, it's become clear to me that Zimmerman needs to have his meds adjusted until killing people is no longer part of "God's Plan".

#267 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 05:54 PM:

Jacque @ 261... Ah.

Teresa @ 263... Probably no more delusional than I am.

#268 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 05:55 PM:

Jacque: I'd known it was too long, but I hadn't realized that it's been a whole year.

#269 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 06:24 PM:

I miss Heresiarch, too.

#270 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 06:45 PM:


I miss heresiarch, too.

The stories people tell themselves have enormous power, often way more than real stuff that happens. I think some aspects of stories about crime or social breakdown are easy to visualize, partly because we've all seen movie scenes and read stories where they happened. It's easy to imagine being cornered by criminals in your house and pulling out a gun to save yourself (or being murdered or raped because you don't have a gun)--that scene has already been laid out and staged for us hundreds of times. Those scenes were staged and laid out and probably are extremely bad guides to reality, but they *feel* like real knowledge and real dangers. (And criminals are real dangers, but I don't think most crime victims experience things that look like a scene from a movie.)

The risk you will be blown up by a terrorist or shot by a criminal feels very tangible, because you have seen it happen onscreen or read about it happening hundreds of times. The risk you will fall down the stairs and die may be bigger, but most of us haven't seen it happen onscreen so much, so it feels less tangible and real and dangerous, somehow.

And that drives bad risk decisions--like middle-class guys with no enemies carrying a gun around all the time, which can't possibly be decreasing the risk of the average person in that situation doing it.


I guess I don't see why the jury couldn't just have been unconvinced that Zimmerman's actions met the legal definition of murder or manslaughter, without any belief in Zimmerman as Dirty Harry or something.

#271 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 06:58 PM:

What will most likely happen if you run afoul of a professional criminal: they'll already know the dance steps. You won't. They'll move faster than you've ever imagined.

Hollywood doesn't just falsify what happens. They also slow it down so nonprofessionals will be able to figure out what's happening onscreen.

#272 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 07:14 PM:

Teresa @271: I strongly agree. My closest personal encounter with violence so far was getting kneed in the groin by a couple kids (well, one kneed, one watched and laughed) for their own entertainment way back in middle school. Not that they were professional criminals, but they certainly had a better idea what was about to happen than I did. It was over before I'd really grasped what had happened; I could have been armed with pretty much anything (other than maybe a steel athletic supporter) and the outcome would have been exactly the same: them departing laughing before I could draw a breath or move. If I'd gone to school in a rougher neighborhood, and they'd decided to stab or shoot me, I'd have been just as defenseless.

#273 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 07:18 PM:

I studied karate for five years and, after having my delusions of Bruce Lee-hood shattered by one particularly embarrassing encounter, concluded that far and away the most effective form of self-defence was diligence in avoiding circumstances where I needed to defend myself.

#274 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 07:30 PM:

Dave Bell #251: So, tentative conclusion, not in Florida, but it's a great excuse for shooting a black teen carrying soda and candy.

It's ex post facto reasoning by apologists. No one has alleged that Zimmerman is psychic, or that he followed Martin from the store where he saw him make the purchases. Zimmerman did not, and could not, know that Martin was carrying a soft drink and candy.

Even if the alleged drug link is true, if we're going to make it a principle that it's okay to shoot every teenager who has a soft drink and candy in his possession we're going to run out of teenagers pretty darned fast.

#275 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 07:48 PM:

SamChevre #249: All Zimmerman would have needed to do to avoid personal risk was to have gone home; at the time he killed Martin, he was on the ground, being beaten, and could not go home.

That's looking at the second before and the second after. What was Zimmerman doing in arm's reach of Martin to start with? If he was stupid enough to disobey the dispatcher's instructions (and the standard instructions for Neighborhood Watch personnel) and follow the fellow why couldn't he do it from thirty feet back?

I'll tell you how I think it went down: Zimmerman closed the distance, put his hand on Martin's shoulder and said, "Hold it right there, pal."

There's no proof that's how it happened, but that makes sense, while Zimmerman's story ... doesn't.

#276 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 09:05 PM:

Jacque @273: FWIW, that was my aikido sensei's take on it as well: the heart of self-defense is staying out of situations where you have to do it at all.

#277 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 09:16 PM:

Jeremy Leader @272: Yup. People who are familiar with dishing out and taking violence have the jump on people who don't. You can see that happen in the documentary Gimme Shelter. The mildly disoriented guy who pulls a handgun doesn't stand a chance against the knife-wielding bikers who've been hired to provide security.

Civilians who seek to address this by practicing their quick draw stand an improved chance of shooting someone who isn't actually a threat.

#278 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:14 PM:

I just saw White House Down, and I found it generally enjoyable.

I have never seen anything so ambivalent about violence.... It's generally in favor of peace, but there's also a large element of "there's nothing better than having a handgun, except having a machine gun, except having a rocket launcher". Tanks also get some love. On the other hand, there's consistent opposition to really drastic solutions.

I could have lived without the metrosexual (?) hacker.

Other than that, the action scenes are exciting and not outrageously long, the plot is twisty, the emotional bits are effective, and much of the humor is funny.

The use of color is beautiful-- there's nice use of closely related colors.

I've enjoyed White House Down and Pacific Rim almost enough to forgive the weather.

#279 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:18 PM:

Sorry-- I was somewhat prodded into the movie review by the discussion of violence here, but I meant to put it in the open thread.

#280 ::: Mike Bakula ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:37 PM:

@275 Jim said:

"I'll tell you how I think it went down: Zimmerman closed the distance, put his hand on Martin's shoulder and said, "Hold it right there, pal."

That was my take too -- like learning to fly by reading about it, book knowledge is no substitute for training and experience. Without them, one will tend to do what one has seen in the movies, and things will spin out of control in a flash. And that's where the "stand your ground" presumption goes off the rails -- it glosses over the question of "and how did you find yourself to be within arms reach of the suspicious person you were following?" with "I had a right to be there."

#281 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:53 PM:

Teresa @ 260

Yay, points!

I'd like to buy a vowel....

#282 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 12:22 AM:

tnh, #250: "shared properties of gun narratives, conspiracy theories, stick-figure libertarian proposals, and post-holocaust survival scenarios [...] not being bounded by trade-offs with competing real-world values [...] gradually eating the brains of enthusiasts"

You are describing what psychologists call obsession. These stories are rooted in imaginary, or only partly realistic, fears that, nonetheless, people cannot put aside. There is also an aspect of control illusion to them: people act on obsessions in ways that make them feel more in control--like buying firearms. Where it ends...I think that's Zimmerman.

As a society, great efforts have been made to spread and intensify these fears, while real dangers (global climate change, pollution, out-of-hand police powers, war, etc.) are not dealt with.

One point that might be worth emphasis, though it is implicit in your remarks, is that the presence of firearms in a violent situation increases the lethality of the situation. Firearms make successful suicide attempts much more likely to be successful, and make it more likely that assault and robbery will end in homicide. Consider that, had Zimmerman not been armed with a pistol, there might not have been a fight at all; if there had been, it would have been much less likely to end in a death.

Jim Macdonald, #275: thank you, yes. But people are so obsessed with the idea that they might be at risk that "the second before and the second after" are all they can think of.

#283 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 12:28 AM:

SamChevre, #249: Everyone wants to talk about Martin's "bad choices". How about we look at Zimmerman's bad choices for a change? (Note that "bad choice" is not the same thing as "illegal".)

1) He chose to go prowling around the neighborhood, looking for trouble. (That is not how "Neighborhood Watch" is supposed to work.)

2) He chose to take a gun with him.

3) He chose to assume that a black teenager in a hoodie, walking down the street, had to be up to no good.

4) He chose to follow said teenager in his car, thereby giving the appearance of a creepy stalker. (Side note: if Martin had been a teenage girl, I don't think anyone would doubt that she had every right to be scared at this point.)

5) He chose to ignore clear instructions from a police dispatcher.

6) He chose to get out of his car and pursue someone (who already had good reason to be afraid of him at this point, remember) into an alley on foot.

7) He chose to catch up to and accost that person.

At any point up to (7), Zimmerman could have avoided the entire situation by choosing to de-escalate instead of escalating. To look at that entire string of bad choices and say, "Well, at the time he was attacked*, he didn't have a choice," is... disingenuous is the least rude word I can think of to describe it.

* Remember, we still don't have any way of knowing who initiated the physical contact -- because one side of the argument is conveniently dead. And if I'm being stalked by a creepy dude in a car, who then gets out to follow me into an alley and grabs at me, I am VERY MUCH going to consider my life in danger.

#284 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 05:31 AM:

Lee: that's my reading of it. The only way to hand-wave a "self-defense" argument for Zimmerman is to ignore the way his willful actions created the threatening situation.

If I go to the zoo, climb over a fence, walk towards a crocodile, and stick my hand in the croc's mouth, I don't think I can legitimately claim self-defense if I then shoot the croc dead when it bites me.

#285 ::: Chris Lawson ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 05:47 AM:

But Charlie, that's because you don't live in Florida.

#286 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 06:15 PM:

One thing I did notice, too, was that the prosecution did a spectacularly bad job in this case; my gut feeling is that more than half of the prosecution witnesses actually ended up being in favor of the defense.

Add this to the fact that the local police were so convinced of Zimmerman's innocence that they barely investigated, and I don't think the result should be all that surprising.

#287 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 08:15 PM:

The more I read about this (without seriously watching any of the courtroom video or reading transcripts, mind you), the more I get an impression of the prosecution saying "OK, OK, fine, we'll prosecute him if you members of the public insist, but I'm telling you we won't be able to convict him." Which is of course a self-fulfilling prophecy.

#288 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 08:58 PM:

And now some of my otherwise sane friends on FB are re-posting "contrarian" memes with pictures of terrifying black criminals and their adorable white victims, with captions like "why don't we ever hear about this?" Being of midwestern origin, I think (THINK) their hearts are in the right place, but I also think they don't realize the subtext that they're promoting. I can't argue, because it's sad when anyone loses a life, especially a child. But there's something complicated about the shit that's going around that makes me deeply uncomfortable. I really dislike the Team Sports mentality with which we treat everything from pop culture shipping wars to serious politics. I already hid a friend or two during the great gnu fooferaw after the school shooting last year. Rather than try and engage, I think I'll hide more people.

#289 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 09:46 PM:

#288 nerdycellist

And now some of my otherwise sane friends on FB are re-posting "contrarian" memes with pictures of terrifying black criminals and their adorable white victims, with captions like "why don't we ever hear about this?"

Would I be wrong in thinking that, in every case, the outcome was that the accused perpetrator was convicted and went to jail?

#290 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 09:50 PM:

nerdycellist, #288: That's a perfect example of "whataboutery", the word I posted about recently in the Open Thread. The answer, if you feel like answering, is "What about it? Two wrongs don't make a right." Then, if you like, you can ask them why they think posting that picture constitutes proof that Zimmerman wasn't guilty? Make them drag their racism right out in the open and own it. (But only if you have enough spoons to deal with it.)

#291 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 09:51 PM:

I responded to my otherwise level-headed aunt that perhaps we didn't hear about it because the cops didn't give the murderer his weapon back and it didn't take a national outcry to arrest him in the first place. The second time I saw it from a different friend, I ignored it.

#293 ::: solarman ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 09:23 AM:

Whilst Zimmerman was acquitted of murder would there have been anything he could reasonably have been charged with?

I do struggle with an unarmed 17 year old being followed and ending up dead with no crime apparently being committed. One wonders what would have happened had Martin grabbed the gun and shot Zimmerman. Would that also have been self-defense?

#294 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 10:23 AM:

Solarman #293

As I indicated back up in #207, I believe the appropriate charge would have been felony murder; a killing that occurs in the course of committing another crime, in this case assault.

#295 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 12:32 PM:

Matthew 286: It's not surprising, but it IS outrageous.

Jeremy 287: Exactly.

nerdycellist 288: The one of those that I saw was a killing that was actually mysterious at first and that the police investigated very intensely, ending by arresting four guys who are now awaiting trial. I stopped THAT ONE PERSON from believing that crap, but the racists are littering the internet with this bullshit.

#296 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 03:54 PM:

Solarman @293

I was taught, by one of my early sensei (and a retired military policeman), that if someone's attacked you and pulled a gun and you've successfully taken it away from them, you've proven that unarmed you was equal to the threat of armed them. In other words, you demonstrably don't need a gun to protect yourself in this moment.

Obviously this changes if more than one attacker is present, or if you take the gun, back up,* and he or she comes at you again.

*This is not "duty to retreat," by the way. This is "Now I have a gun and you don't, so my advantage lies in opening the distance."

#297 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 04:51 PM:

I remember when Star Wars Episode One came out Ray Park (Darth Maul) was doing the con circuit. As a highly respected competitor in Wu-Shu, he got lots of testosterone-crazy questions from the fans. One fan asked if he had ever used used his superior kung fu skills to kick ass as self-defense. Park got a little philosophical and did not want to go into details, other than to say that it was several against him, and he was unarmed. When pressed to provide further advice on self-defense, he said honestly, the best self-defense is not being there in the first place. The second best is to "... knee him in the goolies and then RUN. RUN AWAY."

Anyone with a lick of training knows you run away. Certainly didn't make Mr. Park any less of a man.

I checked my secondary facebook pseud account - the one I use for my parents wherein I refrain from swearing, snarking on Mormonism and posting for the most part, and feared someone got to my mom as she had posted one of those BLACK DUDE/ADORABLE BLONDE MOPPET photos, but it turns out she was just reposting the one where the black teens rescued the little girl from an abductor. Thank god. That means I can call this weekend and not feel defensive after all.

#298 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 05:10 PM:

Devin @296: That's probably good advice for anyone who finds themselves in that situation, and what the prosecution would argue, but I suspect a competent defense attorney could argue that you just got lucky, and at such close quarters your opponent could potentially grab the gun back and kill you before you got away. It's one thing to grab a gun from someone; it's another matter to hang onto it. This of course depends a lot on the relative levels of training, fitness, size, and strength of the two parties.

#299 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 06:45 PM:

Reading overseas reaction makes me wonder if my country is relying on the "known asshole" excuse.

#300 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 09:17 PM:

Xopher: the "known asshole" excuse

Expand, please?

#301 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 11:01 PM:

Jacque, #300: "Oh, that's just Harlan, you know how he is."

It's the premise that once someone is known to be an asshole, people will excuse the most egregious misbehavior because "oh, that's just how he is" rather than calling them on it or taking any steps to provide negative consequences for assholic behavior.

It's related to the missing stair thing.

#302 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 02:44 AM:

Lee (re Xopher): Oh, that's depressing. Not inaccurate but—where the hell are the alien abductors, when you need them?

the missing stair thing

Oh my goodness. How the hell did I miss that crucial piece of my education. Thank you for pointing me to it!

And, um—yeah.

#303 ::: Aue ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 05:09 AM:

R: Chrls Strss #284

>>f g t th z, clmb vr fnc, wlk
>>twrds crcdl, nd stck my hnd n th
>>crc's mth, dn't thnk cn lgtmtly
>>clm slf-dfns f thn sht th crc dd hn t bts m.

Ppl r nt crcdls. nd f smn sks y wht r y dng, rctng by btng tht dd's ss s hm - npprprt.


R: L #283

>>1) H chs t g prwlng rnd th
>>nghbrhd, lkng fr trbl.
>>6) H chs t gt t f hs cr nd prs
>>smn (wh lrdy hd gd rsn t b
>>frd f hm t ths pnt, rmmbr) nt n
>>lly n ft.

>>7) H chs t ctch p t nd ccst tht
>>t ny pnt p t (7), Zmmrmn cld hv
>>vdd th ntr sttn by chsng t
>>d-sclt nstd f scltng. T lk t
>>tht ntr strng f bd chcs nd sy,
>>"Wll, t th tm h ws ttckd*, h ddn't
>>hv chc," s... dsngns s th lst
>>rd wrd cn thnk f t dscrb t.

f crs, th nswr t tht s tht Mrtn cld'v svd hs lf hd h nt strtd physclly ssltng Zmmrmn. !
t sms t m bth f thm bhvd npprprtly.

Mst f s hv bn ccstd by sktchy ppl svrl tms n r lvs.

>Hw ftn dd t nd p wth y knckng dwn th ntrlpr nd httng hm n th hd?

Tht knd f rctn cn b ftl. Tk bby-fcd 17-yr ld Txs tngr Jn ntn Gnzlz wh bt plc ffcr Jnthn Mln s svrly tht h vntlly dd whl hsptlzd.

Th scnr ws smlr. Gnzlz strck Mln n th fc, grbbd hs lgs nd thn strtd pmmlng hs fc whn Mln ws dwn. Plc llg h bcm ncnscs whn hs hd frst ht th cncrt..

Lk wth Mrtn - strtd t smll. Mln cnfrntd grp f tns bcs thy kyd hs sprts cr.


R: Dv Bll #251

Rbtssn DC syrp cntns cdn, nd s vlbl vr th cntr bt t's cmbnd wth thr ctv sbstncs. t's xmpt frm prscrptn bcs f tht nd th smll pckg sz. Sm stts hv bnnd t, lk Clfrn. Nt Flrd.

Sm smlr syrps cntn DXM whch css dssctn. Bth cdn nd DXM r bsd rtnly..

#304 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 05:43 AM:

There's an actual scene-of-crime photo, showing Martin Trayvon dead on the ground, which has got out by way of a TV news report. The photograph which shows the truth about Zimmerman

It looks like a bad photograph, technically, details burned out by on-camera flash. I am not sure that it was an image presented to the court as evidence. But if it was presented as evidence, it should have been a better piece of work. It calls into question how well the Police recorded the scene, and how well the Prosecution presented their case. It looks as though Trayvon Martin was still holding the paper bag containing the soda and candy he had bought.

We all take photographs. More people than ever before carry a camera. Watch the TV cop shows, and the routine use of cameras, by all the cast, compared to older shows, is notable. The whole idea of life-blogging applied to the Police has been fuelling reality TV for years (and some British commentators have talked of the iPlod). The camera showing the driver's view, as a protection against insurance claims, is why we have those pictures of the meteorite over Russia, and how we got the data to figure out where the fragments might be.

Was there carelessness over recording the evidence at the scene? How long before somebody such as Zimmerman finds themselves on paparazzi-style pictures taken at the scene of their crime? How long before the jury shifts towards its ancient roots, and rather than being limited to the evidence in court, becomes an assessment of what everybody knows?

#305 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 06:17 AM:

There's a larger version of the photo on Gawker. It's not clear to me from that photo that Martin was holding a bag -- there's nothing in his right hand, and his left hand is obscured. There's a white blob to his left that could be a paper bag, but could just as easily be a latex glove.

#306 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 10:40 AM:

Aue #303

And if someone asks you what are you doing, reacting by beating that dude's ass is ahem - inappropriate.

Are you claiming that Zimmerman's actions were, in any way, appropriate?

Most of us have been accosted by sketchy people several times in our lives.

What do you mean by "sketchy"? Does this include after being approached in a hyper-aggressive way by a larger man, after being followed both in a car and on foot, when alone, at night?

If that sort of thing happened to me, I'd be thinking self-defense. Yes. And since you seem to be claiming that in a self-defense situation lethal force is appropriate, what's your argument?

That kind of reaction can be fatal.

Yes. Therefore it would have been in Zimmerman's best interest, as I've already told you, to stay thirty feet back.

The scenario was similar.

Not so much. Note the news report, "After identifying himself as an officer...."

And again, you're getting into the one-second-before fallacy. Why was Zimmerman in arm's reach? Because he was out looking for trouble, thought that a pistol in his pocket made him superman, ignored the dispatcher's instructions, ignored standing orders, and voluntarily closed the distance. What on earth is his possible excuse?

Robitussin DAC syrup contains codeine, and is available over the counter but it's combined with other active substances.

I don't know why you're still hammering this. It's utterly irrelevant.

#307 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 10:58 AM:

It's a pinata, Jim. (The DM bit is a rumored street drug - being pushed by the same people who believe Martin was 6 ft 2 and 250 lb. Because it makes Zimmerman look more like a victim.)

#308 ::: Aue ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 11:43 AM:

R: #306 Jm McDnld

r y clmng tht Zmmrmn's ctns wr, n ny wy, pprprt?

Thy wr smhw pprprt - ntl h gt cls t Mrtn. H shld'v kpt dstnc f 50 mtrs mnmm.

n ny wy - ll f tht dsn't mttr.

rcmmnd rdng Kn Wht's tk n th whl cs. H's bn crmnl dfns ttrny fr vr dzn yrs nd hs tk n th cs s wy bttr thn ny thr 'v rd. Ggl Ppht nd Zmmrmn ..

Ds ths ncld ftr bng pprchd n hypr-ggrssv wy by lrgr mn, ftr bng fllwd bth n cr nd n ft, whn ln, t nght?

ctlly - ws pprchd by hypr-ggrssv mn s fst ddn't vn hv tm t pt hnd n my pppr spry.

H pprd n th drwy nd ws scrmng n my fc thr scnds ltr. Sm dd wh thght ws ftr hs grlfrnd, bcs my hv lkd nc r twc n hr gnrl drctn. H ws lmst 6' tll.
vn gt sm spttl n my fc.

Ntrlly, tlkd my wy t f t. Hd t lstn t nmbr f rlly brng thrts thgh.

Bcs h ws t lkng fr trbl, thght tht pstl n hs pckt md hm sprmn, gnrd th dsptchr's nstrctns, gnrd stndng rdrs, nd vlntrly clsd th dstnc. Wht n rth s hs pssbl xcs?

Y dn't knw tht.

H clms Mrtn gt bhnd hm nntcd. H pssd tw l dtctr tsts (ths r nt xctly rlbl) nd ls th fnly tnd bllsht dtctr plc dtctvs my hv. H clmd h dd nt cnfrnt Mrtn.

Yh, t's pssbl h msrmmbrd r trght ld.

t's ls pssbl tht h trd t sty bck, lst Mrtn wh dbld bck wth th ntntn f gvng th 'crpy-ss crckr' btng.

cn't sy 'v nvr flt lk btng smn, tht'd b bltnt l. Thgh mstly thnk n trms f tkng stl pp t smn's kdnys nd prgrssng frm thr.

My, nd yrs, thr pstrs' ggrssv mplss r kpt wll n chck. Gd sclztn.

"n_lmt_ngg" twttr ccnt tht Mm Hrld dntfd s Tryvn's ws wrttn by smn wh ws bvsly nt wll sclzd. blm S scty fr tht, t's txc.

dn't knw why y'r stll hmmrng ths. t's ttrly rrlvnt.

Smn skd, rpld nd crrctd hm.

Rd wht Mr.Wht wrt bt th cs n Ppht. t md m fl mr .. cntnt, rlly. ws nnrvd by th ffcl S rctn nd th ttndnt hystr.

bm's "t cld'v bn m thrty yrs g." Nc l- h's rptl, bt h ws nvr tht crd r tht smpl.

#309 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 11:56 AM:

#308 ::: Aue

My name is spelled "Macdonald." It's spelled correctly on every single post, and in the spelling reference just above the comment box.

In any way - all of that doesn't matter.

No, that's the heart of the matter. It's all that matters.

Obama's "it could've been me thirty years ago." Nice lie- he's a reptile, but he was never that crude or that simple.

No, it's the Queen of England who's a reptile. Please try to keep your conspiracy theories straight.

#310 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 12:17 PM:

#307 ::: P J Evans

It's a pinata, Jim.

Yeah, I know. It's Y, who thinks he's clever by using a TOR router in an attempt to disguise himself, not understanding that we have active moderation here, and that we aren't that impressed by trolls.

But let's look at Aue's "I recommend reading Ken White's take on the whole case."

Here's what Ken White has to say:

It's tragic that Trayvon Martin was killed, and I believe that George Zimmerman bears moral responsibility for his death. The banners of racism that have unfurled in defense of Zimmerman repulse me. I would be damn worried about my kids if I lived in George Zimmerman's neighborhood.
#311 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 12:37 PM:

Jim, you're too fast.

Here's the final paragraph of Ken White's essay. I do not think it says what you think it says.

"It's tragic that Trayvon Martin was killed, and I believe that George Zimmerman bears moral responsibility for his death. The banners of racism that have unfurled in defense of Zimmerman repulse me. I would be damn worried about my kids if I lived in George Zimmerman's neighborhood. But ultimately I am more afraid of the state — and more afraid of a society that thinks case outcomes should depend upon collective social judgment — than I am of the George Zimmermans of the world. Critics might say that view reflects privilege, in that as an affluent white guy I am far less likely to be shot by someone like Zimmerman. Perhaps. But I am also vastly less likely to be jailed, or be the target of law enforcement abuse tolerated by social consensus. Weakening the rights of the accused — clamoring for the conviction of those we feel should be convicted — is a damnfool way to help the oppressed."

I want to point out to Y, or Aue, or whoever this joker is, that no one here has suggested weakening the rights of the accused. And I don't see how Mr White can equate "clamoring for the conviction of those we feel should be convicted" to "weakening the rights of the accused" in this case. Despite the trial, George Zimmerman isn't the accused; he's the accuser. He killed Trayvon Martin: that's not an accusation, that's a fact. All the accusations appear to be coming from Zimmerman and his defenders, claiming that Martin was a thug, anti-social, violent, a drug abuser or seller, and so on and so on. It is this narrative which I find most objectionable and morally questionable. It may indeed be true that Zimmerman feared for his life. I can accept that. But I reject, utterly, the pictures that his defenders are publicly drawing of Trayvon Martin, in order to make Zimmerman look innocent; even heroic.

George Zimmerman isn't going to jail: okay, I accept that. But he and his brother and the rest of the folks riding in his clown car need to shut up. Go home. Stop giving TV interviews. Recognize that a man is dead at your hands. And George -- put the damn gun away.

#312 ::: Lizzy L is visiting the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 12:39 PM:

You really don't want me to stay very long, folks: I have a bad cold. Also, there's no food in the house.

#313 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 01:13 PM:

Way back at #172, I said:

I am, nevertheless, convinced that the following things are good: a) the accused is presumed to be innocent until proved guilty, b) the state must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and c) that it is better for a hundred guilty to go free than that one innocent be convicted.

So, Ken White and I agree. Which puts Aue's argument ... where?

#314 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 01:29 PM:

Which puts Aue's argument ... where?

I favor an 8-yard dumpster, but failing one of those, a 30-gallon galvanized trash can will do. With a locking lid, if possible.

#315 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 01:42 PM:

Jim Macdonald @ 309... it's the Queen of England who's a reptile

Queen Victoria was a newt, according to Paul di Filippo.

#316 ::: Y. ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 02:04 PM:

R: Jm McDnld # 310, 313

- t wsn't clr whthr 'v bn dsnvtd r jst my prvs psts wr cnsrd.

N, t's th Qn f nglnd wh's rptl. Pls try t kp yr cnsprcy thrs strght.

mnt t mtphrclly. bm s lk Clntn, nly wrs.
slck, lyng smbtch, bt f lss sbstnc. Prbbly nrcssst, wh sn't vn wr h's jst glrfd spksprsn f th ntnl scrty stt.

r myb h s bt h cn't d nythng bt t. Swt.

t's trgc tht Tryvn Mrtn ws klld, nd blv tht Grg Zmmrmn brs mrl rspnsblty fr hs dth. Th bnnrs f rcsm tht hv nfrld n dfns f Zmmrmn rpls m. wld b dmn wrrd bt my kds f lvd n Grg Zmmrmn's nghbrhd.

Wll - y'r slctvly qtng rthr lng nd nvlvd rtcl.

nly th prtn tht cnfrms yr pnns. Vry bsd.
Tht s nt vry hnst.

'll qt smthng mr:

ddn't wtch mch f th Zmmrmn trl. Th prts wtchd lft m nmprssd wth th qlty f th prsctn's cs. hvn't sn ny ppl wh r ctl crmnl trl prcttnrs (wth th xcptns f ns whs jb s t tlk t Nncy Grc nd hr lk) wh thght th cs ws gng wll fr th prsctn. S my rctn s rthr lk tht f th thr crmnl dfns lwyrs knw, lk Brn Tnnbm nd Gdn nd rc Myr nd Sctt Grnfld. Th vrdct ddn't srprs m, bcs bsd n wht knw s trl lwyr (s ppsd t n ccsnl cnsmr f CNN), th prsctn wsn't prvng ts cs bynd rsnbl dbt, gvn th lw tht ppld (s ppsd t th lw ppl flt ght t pply). dn't s bss t cncld tht jry f sx wmn f vryng bckgrnds vtd t f rcsm, rthr thn vtng bcs thy tk th gvrnmnt's brdn f prf srsly.

Prhps. Bt m ls vstly lss lkly t b jld, r b th trgt f lw nfrcmnt bs tlrtd by scl cnsnss. Wknng th rghts f th ccsd — clmrng fr th cnvctn f ths w fl shld b cnvctd — s dmnfl wy t hlp th pprssd.

Ppl ssl rslts lk th cqttl f Grg Zmmrmn. Bt crtcs dn't tll s wht th ltrntv shld b. Shll glt r nncnc b dtrmnd by scty's rctn t th vpd smmrs f prsctns n cbl nws? Clrly nt. Shld vrdcts ncssrly rflct scl cnsnss f th tm bt th crm nd th ccsd? Tll tht t th Scttsbr bys — thrs dd. Shld w mk t sr t cnvct ppl f crms n rdr t rdc njstc gnst th wk? Hw flsh. Th wk lrdy sffr bcs t s t sy t cnvct — bcs w lv t pss crmnl lws, bt ht t py fr n dqt dfns.

>>S, Kn Wht nd gr. Whch pts 's rgmnt ... whr?

cld tll y t r-rd wht wrt. nywy, 'll spll t t.

Zmmrmn ws dmb.
Mrtn ws dmb nd prbbly vcs t.

nd tht thr dsn't sm t b ngh vdnc t cnvct Zmmrmn f mrdr.

Bcs - h ws btn p, nd Mrtn ws nly sht.

Tht spprtd Zmmrmn's vrsn. S 'm wth Kn Wht n ths. ls blv, lk h ds, tht Mrtn's lf s n Zmmrmn's cnscnc. H ws stpd, h fckd p. Hs lf s prbbly rnd, snc mgn h'll gt nld nd ls cvl st fr mr mny thn h cld vr rn.

H shld prbbly mv t Vnzl(n xtrdtn).
f h's rl wnnb Brnsn, h'll b hppy thr - n f th mst mrdrs plcs n ths

#317 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 02:08 PM:

Serge Broom #315: As all readers of Karel Capek know, they win.

#318 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 02:11 PM:

Aue, #303: Of course, the answer to that is that Martin could've saved his life had he not started physically assaulting Zimmerman.

Assumes facts not in evidence, namely that Zimmerman would react like a normal person. There is every reason to think that Zimmerman was looking for an excuse to attack a black person, and that no amount of conciliation would have saved Martin once it started to go down. There are centuries of precedent for what happens to black men, no matter what they do or don't do, when a white man gets a bee up his ass.

Under similar circumstances -- being stalked by someone in a car, and followed on foot and accosted when I tried to shake them off -- I (a middle-aged white woman) would definitely have felt threatened enough to respond with lethal force. And no idiots would be arguing that I wasn't acting in self-defense.

#319 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 02:17 PM:

The Popehat post was a much better reasoned version of my thoughts.

Lizzy: I understand your point, Zimmerman made a judgment about Martin that led to Martin's death. But the legal case was one in which Martin was the dead guy, and Zimmerman was the man accused of murdering him. Everything I have seen so far strongly points to the notion that Zimmerman was correctly found not guilty, given the law. That may be an injustice morally, but we do well to keep our legal system working according to the law. And it seems clear that our legal system is not at present burdened with too much concern for making sure the accused get a fair trial.

#320 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 02:27 PM:

Hmm, ISTM that people arguing that the jury's verdict was correct given the law...well, you're right that the JURY had no option, but it's a species of the "one-second" fallacy, because the reason the evidence was so shabby was that the police fucked up massively (to be as charitable as possible about their intentions).

Martin's life is on Zimmerman's conscience.

Again, you're speculating without evidence. There's nothing to suggest Zimmerman has a conscience of any kind, and his own statements tend to argue against it. "No regrets" doesn't mean "I still think I was right," it means "I wouldn't change a thing about what happened." In other words, he thinks it's just fine that a kid who wasn't doing anything wrong is dead.

Guys like Zimmerman make me wish I believed in Hell so he could burn in it.

#321 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 02:39 PM:

Fragano @ 317... They win, except for the one we used to have in Congress and whose own arrogance brought him down. Speaking of reptiles... It's been a long time since I've seen "Reptilicus".

"...A portion of the tail of a prehistoric reptile is discovered in Denmark. It regenerates into the entire reptile, which proceeds to destroy buildings and property and generally make a nuisance of itself. It can fly, swim, and walk..."

And there's "Gorgo", in which an Irish dinosaur trashes London.

#322 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 02:40 PM:

The whole business about the mixing of codeine cough syrup with soda and candy sets up a false positive. It makes Trayvon Martin into a druggie, just as my regular purchases of ammonium nitrate, around 40 tonnes at a time, make me into a mad bomber. In both cases there is an illegitimate use of the purchase. In both cases, the legitimate buyers outnumber the illegimate buyers by millions to one.

Though Blue Peter did tell kids how to make an explosive out of ammonium nitrate.

#323 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 02:49 PM:

#316 : Y.

RE: Jim MacDonald # 310, 313

Note that my name is still spelled "Macdonald."

Your posts weren't censored. They're still here, they're still readable. They were disemvoweled.

Martin was dumb and probably vicious too.

Martin was walking home from the store minding his own business. What part of that is "dumb"? Where does "vicious" fit into it?

And that there doesn't seem to be enough evidence to convict Zimmerman of murder.

You meant to say "of the crime charged." I think he could have been convicted of felony murder.

#320 : Xopher

Guys like Zimmerman make me wish I believed in Hell so he could burn in it.

It's okay, Xopher. I do believe in Hell. But I'd never deny the possibility of repentance, absolution, or grace, or claim to know the state of anyone's soul.

#324 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 02:54 PM:

Y. @313, or Aue, or whatever you're going to call yourself next - If you had been "disinvited", whatever made you think it was OK to take another name and sneak back in? Do you think that the response to that would be anything other than a well-deserved virtual boot to your butt as soon as you were recognized? As it is, while you're evidently not yet banned from the conversation, it's unlikely that anyone will treat your opinions with any respect. You've blown it.

#325 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 02:55 PM:

Jim 323: I do believe in Hell. But I'd never deny the possibility of repentance, absolution, or grace, or claim to know the state of anyone's soul.

Then let me put it another way: if Zimmerman has a conscience, it's known to him and God alone.

#326 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 02:57 PM:

Anne is right. And of course "Aue" is so the name will disappear entirely when Teresa comes back and notices that this guy's back and at it again.

#327 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 02:59 PM:

albatross at 319: as I said in my post, the jury found Zimmerman not guilty of the charges. I accept that. I don't have to like it, or pretend to think it was somehow "just." I have said elsewhere that given what the jury was shown and told, and given FL law and the judge's instructions, the jury verdict probably made legal sense. I understand the outrage of folks who want to hammer on the weaknesses in the trial process, and I probably agree with much of what they say, but as I said in my previous post, my concern is the narrative which requires that George Zimmerman become a hero and Trayvon Martin become a wannabe thug. I want to shine a bright light on this. I want this effort to be recognized as false, racist bullshit. I'm not interested in turning George Zimmerman into a monster, but I'm damned sure he isn't Batman.

Why yes, King Canute is one of my heroes. How did you know?

#328 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 03:20 PM:

Y./Aue, you aren't as good at sockpuppetry as you imagine.

Una canción para ti.

#329 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 03:43 PM:

Serge #321: Ah, now, Dr Gingrich of Tulane may not be acknowledged by all Salamandridae as a relative.

#330 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 03:48 PM:

I described the verdict as 'legally correct but socially wrong'.

As far as I know the entire 'codeine cough syrup/soda/candy' thing was invented by someone who doesn't know that codeine is hard to get in the US. (Cough syrup with codeine is schedule III/IV.)

#331 ::: Y. ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 04:21 PM:

R: Jm McDnld # 323

>>Nt tht my nm s stll splld "Mcdnld."

'v nvr mt ntv spkr f nglsh wh cld prnnc my nm, vn n n ffcl cntxt. jst slghtly mssplld yrs n hghly nffcl n. Srry.

>>Wht prt f tht s "dmb"?

ttckng smn bcs f...?
Plc phtgrphd Zmmrmn's hnds. t dsn't lk lk h ld hs fsts nt nyn.

Th 911 cll s 40 scnds f smn yllng 'hlp' ll vr gn fllwd by gnsht.

Y prps Zmmrmn smhw hld Mrtn mmbl, whl rllng n th grnd, smshng hs hd gnst cncrt nd yllng nd thn sht Mrtn?

Myb h sd 'Hld Prsn' spll. Tht's t!

r tht Mrtn ws yllng 'hlp' whl gvng Zmmrmn's ns mld mkvr?

>>Whr ds "vcs" ft nt t?

Th njrs Zmmrmn hd wr ll prtty sprfcl, thgh 'd thnk thy dd nt fl lk tht t th mmnt.
Myb nt vcs. Jst dmb, lk Zmmrmn.

>> thnk h cld hv bn cnvctd f flny mrdr.

Wht flny?

Fllwng ppl nd skng thm qstns my b dmb, bt t's nt 'flny'. nlss thr's rstrnng rdr r smthng - nd thn t's prbbly clld smthng ls.

Prsctn trd t chrg hm wth thrd dgr flny mrdr bsd n ggrvtd chld bs.

Jdg thrw tht t.


s ntrstng, bt gn, thr dsn't sm t b mch vdnc fr t.


Th jdg hs dcdd t tk thrd-dgr flny mrdr ff f th jry nstrctns bcs sh ds nt blv thr s ngh vdnc n spprt f t.

nd tht's th lst pst 'll ttmpt.
Y'v wn thrgh shr prsstnc.

Hr's th bt fr Dv:
R: #322 ::: Dv Bll :::

Th whl bsnss bt th mxng f cdn cgh syrp wth sd nd cndy sts p fls pstv.

1) Thr's n ndsptbl fct. Stt f Mrtn's lvr. "Mld ftty mtmrphss". Nt svr ngh t b clld crrhss, bt pprntly wrth mntnng.

Cld b dss f th lvr.

Dsn't mn th drg dd tht, f h'd hd hptts, fr xmpl. Nthng lk tht s knwn.

2) thr s hs fcbk psts mntnng DXM, Cdn nd ln drnk. Ths cld'v bn fkd, hwvr, 'v nly rd sm ppl fkd cpl f phts f hs. Ths pctrs frm fcbk shw grmmr, cntxt mttr nd spllng jst lk hs twttr, whch Mm Hrld dtrmnd t b gnn.

3) 'll pst qt
Flrd jdg rld Tsdy tht Grg Zmmrmn’s dfns tm cnnt mntn Tryvn Mrtn’s sspnsn frm schl, prr mrjn s, txt mssgs r pst fghtng drng pnng sttmnts t nxt mnth’s trl.

Fcbk srly knws - sk thm.

S t's ncnclsv, vrll. Sggstv thgh. Th ? fcbk psts mntn drnkng Ln bcs th schl dd nt tst fr t, whch mshs wth hm sng Ln bcs t's lss dtctbl.

#332 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 04:27 PM:

#331 ::: Y.

RE: Jim MacDonald # 323

>>Note that my name is still spelled "Macdonald."

I've never met a native speaker of English who could pronounce my name, even in an official context. I just slightly misspelled yours in a highly unofficial one. Sorry.

And got it wrong again, after being corrected twice.

I'm assuming you've gone beyond carelessness and into deliberate insult. Do it again and it'll be your final post. Capice?

The rest of your post ignored unread.

#333 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 04:37 PM:

Yeah, the whole topic has brought some pretty ugly people and sentiments to the surface. The speculation about Martin somehow having some kind of plan to mix the stuff he bought at the store to make drugs just seems silly, since it is wholly irrelevant to the case at hand. But that's true for most of the media-friendly outrage-inducing facts and claims that have been going around about the case. It is at most marginally relevant whether Zimmerman was a racist (probably not notably more than the average for our society, is my guess) or Martin was a wannabe thug (probably about as much as the average teen boy, who likes to fantasize about being a tough guy). Mostly, all that stuff, true or false, was brought up to get people mad, get them worked up, push their tribal whose-side-am-I-on buttons[1]. And it worked--people watched coverage of the trial (which was, as best I can tell, mostly pretty crappy coverage) and got mad or scared on cue, and divided up into teams, just like it made sense.

[1] My favorite bit of this is the white supremacist types who have become vocal supporters of a short, fat hispanic guy they would otherwise have despised on principle. Yeah, your average Strmfrntr is gonna be real cool with his sister bringing George Zimmerman to dinner as her new boyfriend, right. Tribalism not only makes you stupid, it makes for hilarious bedfellows.

#334 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 05:09 PM:

Spelling the name wrong AGAIN while "apologizing" for spelling it wrong does make your apology seem insincere, Y.

#335 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 05:14 PM:

About the misspelling of Jim's family name...

"This is delicious, far superior to that Scottish place I breakfasted."
- Time after Time

#336 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 05:18 PM:

P J Evans @330

The basic cough syrup story can be traced to 2006, and a DEA press release suggesting it was around in the 1990s. The claimed illicit dose amounts to around 60mg of codeine.

It doesn't sound implausible but this is coming from the DEA, and it's propaganda in the war on drugs. How much should you trust it?

The 60mg claimed effective dose happens to be the same as the maximum analgesic dose in adults, with a 300mg daily limit. (I'm talking about a non-US source for that info. The USA is unusually difficult over medical use of opioids: I've twice been on morphine in medical situations, here in the UK, and while it is controlled, I didn't get any sense that it was a big deal.)

Based on that, diluting a cough syrup with soda, and adding candy, amounts to the standard spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. And I am seriously not sure the dose is enough to get you high.

Should I blame Disney?

Even if the recipe works, there's no clear connection to Trayvon Martin. A teen buying soda and candy?

#337 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 05:41 PM:

Yes, I noticed the reference to signs of a fatty liver in the autopsy.

And there are so many possible causes of that. It can be a result of a pattern of sugar highs, essentially soda and candy. You don't have to be visibly obese for those to be messing up lipid retention. It can be caused by drug side effects, but it isn't associated with codeine. There's a lot of long latinate medical words used, and I could have easily missed something, but I did look.

It could be alcohol. It could be a sign of insulin resistance that would have eventually led to diabetes. There's so many different causes, and none that stand out. You're picking the one which fits the conclusion you want. That's just plain careless thinking.

You keep making claims that don't stand up to examination. You keep making dumb mistakes. You are beginning to look like the unarmed bystander in a battle of wits.

#338 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 05:42 PM:

Abuse of cough syrup for recreational purposes is a real thing — I know someone who got addicted and had ongoing troubles with it.

Mixing it with soda and candy is also a real thing — Sprite and Jolly Ranchers were the traditional ingredients.

Soda and candy are pretty common things for kids to like, though. Adults, too. If Trayvon Martin’s a presumed purple drank user because of his Skittles and iced tea, then probably something like 90% of Americans are also presumed purple drank users.

(I have yet to see the claim about Martin’s alleged liver damage from any source that wasn’t obviously a right-wing nutjob website.)

Furthermore — have you ever taken really strong cough suppressant? Or even just read the label? That stuff doesn’t turn you into a berserk thug, it makes you sleepy and apathetic.

There’s a history in the US of people claiming that some drug or other turns black men into unstoppable maniacs. Years ago, I read an old NY Times article from the 1930s (the period when the marijuana criminalization movement was getting going) in which a southern sheriff goes on about how once those negroes get some marijuana in them, they go crazy and develop the strength of ten men. It’s a pretty common form of propaganda, tying racism together with drug hysteria.

#339 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 05:46 PM:


It also provides a nice justification for any overreaction by the police: yes, we shot the guy 49 times, stopping only twice to reload, but hey, he was on crack/pcp/bath salts/whatever, so it was just self defense.

#340 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 06:06 PM:

Avram, I know DM cough syrups make me drowsy, and a teaspoon dose of codeine cough syrup makes me kind of not quite all there. (Some antihistamines are very effective at making me sleep.)

#341 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 06:06 PM:

There was a pinata called "Y"
Who thought he would prove he was right.
But his insults aplenty
Keep proving he's empty
Of vowels and logic; how trite.

#342 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 07:59 PM:

Clearly we are in the middle of Silly Season. For proof, please note that the trolls have resorted to carrying their bridges around with them.

#343 ::: iamnothing ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 08:09 PM:

Xopher Halftongue @320: He's probably earned a stay in hell, but I think a psych ward would be more practical. The police could arrange for a short stay, if they so desired. I believe the key word is Baker Act.

(Now let's see if anyone responds to this.)

#344 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 08:16 PM:

I don't think that Zimmerman falls under the definition of "mental illness" as defined by the Baker Act:

#345 ::: iamnothing ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 08:55 PM:

Jim Macdonald @344: Why not? I haven't read the actual statute but in my experience, it's been rather broadly applied. There's certainly been reason to believe he may harm others in the future.

#346 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 09:05 PM:

It never ceases to amaze me that people get high off codeine. I take a whole lot of it due to physical conditions you all don't really want to hear about, and when in the early days, I occasionally took too much, I fell asleep. Big thrill. Apparently certain people whose physiology is different from mine (Rush Limbaugh) can get high, or anyway can persuade themselves they get high. (So, can I shoot him?)

And adding tea? And candy? Tea would just dilute it. Candy would make it awfully sweet. And did you know that one needs a prescription to buy it?

My infant daughter was once prescribed codeine cough syrup as an analgesic. The doctor explained the off-label use to me. The baby did not object to taking the medication. It's plenty sweet enough without adding candy.

I suspect that kids-adding-candy-to-cough-syrup is one of those urban legends. Not to mention, they should get-off-my-lawn.

Seriously, I am expecting any day that the rational, adult nations of the world will be coming along soon to arrest the US and put it in reform school. I used to think, in prison, but this stuff is just too childish.

#347 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 09:19 PM:


What I'd intended to quote at 344 is this definition from the Baker Act:

18) "Mental illness" means an impairment of the mental or emotional processes that exercise conscious control of one's actions or of the ability to perceive or understand reality, which impairment substantially interferes with a person's ability to meet the ordinary demands of living, regardless of etiology. For the purposes of this part, the term does not include retardation or developmental disability as defined in chapter 393, intoxication, or conditions manifested only by antisocial behavior or substance abuse impairment.

Emphasis mine.

#348 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 09:42 PM:

Back in my volunteer emergency response days, I had one drug call. A young woman had ingested 60 ml (a whole bottle) of prescription cough syrup, and really was not enjoying the results. Only time I ever saw fixed pupils, though. She was complaining of feelings of cold and weakness. Superhuman strength not observed.

#349 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 08:19 AM:

I've taken codeine in tablet form, back when it was one of the few things that would kill a migraine for me. The dose that put my mother to sleep merely ended the headache for me. No high and no sleepiness either...but total surprise from my Mom the nurse, who said I shouldn't be awake and walking around with that much in my system.

Nowadays, codeine is not in *any* OTC medication in the USA. You must have a prescription, and here in Ohio, the scrip MUST be in the doctor's own handwriting, it cannot be called in or faxed to the pharmacy.

#350 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 08:46 AM:

Lori Coulson: The dose that put my mother to sleep merely ended the headache for me. That's probably because while the codeine is getting picked up by the pain receptors it's not getting picked up by the receptors which lead to drowsiness.

#351 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 09:09 AM:

Jim @347--IANAL, or a psychiatrist or psychologist, but I believe your take is correct. The bar for involuntary committal has been set very high because it's been abused frequently over the years (Google "Ferrol Sams Elaine Kennedy" for an egregious example) and this is not a bad thing. Using the threat of incarceration in a mental hiospital as a tool for social control is not a good thing.

I can believe that George Zimmerman resembles an IKEA flatpack with a few more missing connectors than usual, but meeting the standards for an involuntary committal is something else again.

#352 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 10:24 AM:

Mild fatty metamorphosis of the liver is (1) not linked to opiates at all, nor to any of the proposed illicit substances that Trayvon Martin is supposed to have ingested; (2) can be induced by rapid weight loss, which I would find reasonable to see in a rapidly-growing teen aged boy. And if he had indeed been clinically-ill with hepatic disease, he would have been fatigued as well as feeling "malaise". Bottom line: it's an incidental finding, and had no bearing on the cause or manner of his death.

#353 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 11:48 AM:


If you don't mind, I'd just as soon not encourage the notion that when the state can't get a conviction via a normal trial according to the law, it can just have the accused involuntarily committed. That may lead to a better outcome in this one case, but it's not going to lead to a better outcome overall. The same is true of federal civil rights charges--if they are filed, they will be correctly seen by everyone as "the jury got the wrong answer, and so we're going to have another go at the bastard." Again, it may end up with a better outcome in this one case, but the costs over the many other cases this can be used in is pretty damned high.

Our legal system is not supposed to permit charging someone for the same crime twice, or appealing a non-guilty verdict (some other countries allow this), or detaining someone indefinitely regardless of the jury verdict. The whole system is built on the idea that once a jury finds you not guilty, you are done.

Over time, we have softened that. There were people who were obviously guilty and we wanted to get the bastards (like the LAPD cops who beat the hell out of Rodney King, and I think some mobsters). There are people we have decided are too dangerous or too politically controversial to release, and so we keep them locked up indefiance of not-guilty verdicts or their having served their sentence, or simply never let them have a trial. (Mostly terrorism cases, though I would bet a lot of money it won't always be only terrorism cases--in 20 years, the majority of indefinite detentions will probably be regular criminals.)

Remember how, after 9/11 or any other terrorist attack, we heard all kinds of arguments for why we needed to do away with due process and jury trials? There were sophisticated arguments for this, but the underlying argument was always the same--these bastards are scary and dangerous (they are, though fortunately they're not too powerful), they're members of another team, my team has been attacked, and anyone arguing they had rights was in danger of being called soft on terror, or maybe on the terrorists' side. (Dismayingly, this worked, not just on grade school children, but on allegedly intelligent adults. Our species name should put the word "sapiens" in scare quotes.)

This has the same smell, to me. Zimmerman is the enemy, he's a stand in for a bunch of other people we don't like, and there is a certain thread of thought that we ought to get the bastard, through any means necessary. And we may, though I doubt it--the polling numbers don't look too good for a shoved-through civil rights charge, and the white house is naturally very atuned to political sentiment. But if we do, it won't be a good thing.

#354 ::: Lizzy L is visiting the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 12:19 PM:

Agree with albatross at 353. Mental health commitments have been used for centuries to control/disarm/nullify people whom The Folks in Charge find scary. It's a dreadful tactic, and it doesn't get better if it's Us using it against one of Them.

IMO, the creation of an Us versus Them narrative is one of the big mistakes here, and needs to be identified and countered whenever it happens, because it's a mistake that plays into all the Rong aspects of what humans do when they're scared.

#355 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 12:28 PM:

No, I'm not visiting the gnomes -- ignore that. I have a bad cold and it's making me stupid.

#356 ::: iamnothing ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 12:36 PM:

Jim Macdonald @347: Is antisocial behavior defined? Otherwise it can mean something like somebody doesn't get out of the house to play dominoes.

fidelio @351 and albatross @353: Baker Act is limited to 72 hours maximum. It gives the patient an opportunity for evaluation and medication; although Zimmerman probably would still not recognize his illness from such a short stay, there's always a chance he'd be willing to continue treatment.

#357 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 12:51 PM:

fidelio, #351: I had been under the impression that part of the criteria for involuntary commitment was "having demonstrated that they are a danger to themselves or others". This is why, for example, it's possible to be involuntarily committed (at least overnight) after a suicide attempt. Is Zimmerman's demonstrated history of violence merely "antisocial behavior", or would it constitute such proof -- especially now that he's killed someone?

#358 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 01:10 PM:

iamnothing @356--Even then, the law requires strict limitations on when and how people can be committed, and I don't think Zimmerman meets those limitations, in the view of most authorities who'd be called upon to sign off on such a committal.

I don't think locking George Zimmerman up for three days while we tell him he has an anxiety disorder which undermines his judgment is going to improve his world view--I suspect it would be more likely to nourish his persecution complex.

I am also extremely reluctant to see this door opened any wider--it's an easily-abused tool for social control and I'd like to keep it in a box that's clearly labeled "Open in emergencies only". Involuntary committal has, even in the US**, a long and inglorious history. It's been used a lot against women and people of non-heteronormative sexualities. Using to get idiots like the Zimmermans* of the world to play well with others they see as Not Like Them isn't likely to be very fruitful--it's saying "We are going to lock you up and talk at you until you behave the way we like." I suppose if the talking doesn't work we can proceed to the drugs and electroshock treatments.

Did you google for the saga of Ferrol Sams and Elaine Kennedy? Please go and read up on that contretemps and think about what you're proposing very carefully.

Also, most therapists I know would say getting someone to accept and benefit from therapy requires their active cooperation. I do not think the mechanisms of involuntary committal are congruent with that goal.

*Not typing "Zimmermen" instead is hard.

**This was a device beloved of the USSR when dealing with the politically-inconvenient who couldn't be branded as "hooligans". Do we want to go any farther down that road than we have?

#359 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 01:51 PM:

fidelio @358, I look back on my life and now see it as a series of occasions when I actively tried to evade or sabotage therapy I urgently needed.

It was not until my situation became truly intolerable that I was willing to try therapy -- and even then, it took months of effort on my therapist's part to get me to actually co-operate.

#360 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 02:07 PM:

John M. Burt @359--I suspect there are plenty of other people who could relate similar experiences with the therapy process. I know there are judges who remand people to anger management and 12-step addiction programs as part of their sentences; I suspect the results there are highly dependent on whether the person in question is prepared to acknowledge that part of the problem may be them, and that the program will help them if they work with it.

#361 ::: Ghost Boy ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 02:11 PM:

Regarding the "cough syrup abuse" tangent, it's worth noting that's it's not just codeine that gets abused -- I don't know if it's still current, but back in the late 80s/early 90s there were people going around drinking large amounts (4 oz or so) of OTC syrups such as Robotussin to "trip".

At the time, I was quite the druggie, and I tried it. Now, I've taken several different hallucinogens, and this was not a hallucinogenic trip -- but I can see how someone who hadn't experienced LSD or suchlike might think that it was. I did get some impressive visuals -- pulsing grids, rainbow auras around everything -- but not the dissociative or other mental effects of hallucinogens. Also I could feel my liver screaming for mercy the whole time.... ("That's not a hallucinogen, it's a toxic overdose!")

The experience did cure me of trying unknown drugs....

#362 ::: albatross needs moderator help ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 02:14 PM:

I apparently mistyped my email address in some of my recent posts (the first letter went from n to m), and this is breaking the linkage to my other posts in View All By. Can someone fix this somehow? Thanks!

#363 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 04:59 PM:

fidelio @ 358... Are the Zimmermen some third-rate characters from "Doctor Who"?

#364 ::: iamnothing ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 05:03 PM:

Ferrol Sams and Elaine Kennedy

fidelio @358: Sorry, google hasn't come up with any relevent page I could read. It's something about a lawsuit?

#365 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 05:26 PM:

I'm seeing some people out there saying that the Zimmerman shooting and trial verdict weren't about race. I've come up with a simple test to see whether it was.

First, imagine that Trayvon Martin had stayed home that night, and that a white teenager had gone out to the 7-11 instead. Second, tell me that Zimmerman would have followed and ultimately shot that white teenager. Third -- and this is the test part -- stop giggling.

#366 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 05:45 PM:

iamnothing @364: here is a scanned AP article from something called the "Times Daily" in northwest Alabama from 1997 which gives a brief summary, and here is a shorter followup (also AP) from the Rome News-Tribune of Rome GA in 1998.

Another search (for "Elaine Kennedy commitment") yielded this AP article, also in the Rome News-Tribune, from 1997, reporting on the $3.4 million judgment Kennedy got against Sams for her unlawful commitment.

#367 ::: Jeremy Leader is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 05:48 PM:

probably for providing iamnothing with several links to Google News scans of articles about the case in question.

#368 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 06:04 PM:

iamnothing @364--you'll mostly find old newspaper articles about it, which can be a challenge to read online. Dr. Sams' Wikipedia entry has been carefully cleaned up to eliminate this embarrassing episode, and it doesn't apear in his NYT obituary.

To summarize the articles I read online to refresh my recollection of this episode, back in the early 1990s, Dr. Kennedy (a doctor of medicine) went down to Georgia to check on an elderly relative who had cancer. She spoke with her relative's treating physician, Dr. Ferrol Sams. She thought the conversation went well; he was annoyed (I'll note here that he was significantly older than she was, and may have had some expectations as to how he should be treated by patients' family member that did not take into account differing expectations by generation or Dr. Kennedy's own professional accomplishments (she was voted Tennessee Physician of the Year in 1993). Collaborating with a psychiatrist he knew in Atlanta, he asked Dr. Kennedy to come down to Georgia and meet with him again, and at that point had her involuntarily committed to a mental institution on his say-so and that of the psychiatrist.

Once she got out of the hospital in Georgia, Dr. Kennedy returned home to Tennessee where she was arrested, handcuffed, and taken to another mental hospital in Tennessee for a second evaluation. Her license to practice medicine was then suspended. It was restored after a great deal of aggro for her, and she eventually won a lawsuit against Dr. Sams for more than pocket change. Nevertheless, she went through a painful period of loss of liberty, emotional distress, and loss of livelihood and reputation.

She was never, in fact, actually mentally ill. She did, however, behave in a manner Dr. Sams found unsuitable. She questioned his judgment.

Cases like Dr. Kennedy's, where involuntary committal has been used to control people's behavior, and, in some cases, gain control of their property, are the reason the Baker Act has fairly strict provisions about who can be committed for observation against their will, how long they can be held, and whether they can be forced to receive treatment they don't want. Many but not all states have followed Florida's example in making it more difficult to lock someone away in this manner. I don't think they're wrong in doing so.

This is an instance, for me, of Dr. Doyle's rule "How would I feel about having this used against me?". Also, after years of work a public health-related field, I have serious doubts about the long-term value of this as a route to effective mental health treatment in anything but an emergency. You know the joke about how many therapists it takes to change a lightbulb? It really is true that the lightbulb has to want to change.

We can argue that having killed once in circumstances he'd have avoided if it wasn't for his own stupidity and personal demons, George Zimmerman is in danger of doing so again--just look at his track record! But I don't think that argument meets the clear and present danger requirements demanded by the Baker Act.

I can happily agree that he's a toxic jackhole with a personal belief system that I find loathesome, but I don't see how locking him up for three days in order to force him to listen to a series of lectures about that is going to fix anything.

Also, in a world where the NSA can tap into my every online search and contact, my mail has its envelopes copied, and the oversight sonsists of a rubber stamp, I don't want the US government to start using psikhushka as a tool for managing inconvenient people. The pretrial treatment of Bradley Manning looks a little different when you think about people like Pyotr Grigorenko and Joseph Brodsky.

#369 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 06:32 PM:

Re the Ferrol Sams vs. Elaine Kennedy thing: the newspaper is at pains to point out that this Dr. Ferrol Sams is not the author of Run with the Horsemen, but rather his son, also a physician.

#370 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 07:28 PM:

re 365: You need some scarier white teens around you before you try that test. Not that I don't think race played a role in the incident (I do), but I wouldn't automatically assume that a stray kid in my neighborhood was utterly innocent. (The one that worries me the most looks nearly so.)

BTAIM, I'm having a basically impossible time getting past anything less than a voluntary manslaughter conviction. Zimmerman confronted Martin in a way that there's ample evidence was found threatening (and which I would have found threatening too). He may have felt he needed to defend himself in a fight, but he all but picked that fight, and I have to suspect that carrying the gun gave him confidence that he would prevail, and therefore made a confrontation a more viable course of action.

#371 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 08:12 PM:

C. Wingate, re: scarier white teenagers, I think part of the point is that very few people would consider white teenagers who lived in that gated community to be the scary sort of white teenager. It isn't, AFAICT, a tough neighborhood, and while I know I get nervous if I find myself near a pack of white teenage boys, especially ones who look like jocks, I also know this isn't a universal reaction.

Theater kids don't ping my scary-meter, and the pierced, eyelinered rocker types register to me as cute, because I've known plenty of them, but I'm under the impression that a lot of people think the rockers are scarier than the jocks. But one white teenage boy on his own, of whatever style, inside a relatively affluent gated community? I wouldn't think of him as a threat, and I'd assume he belonged there, and I'm betting that most Americans would too.

That's the real comparison to be made.

#372 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 08:35 PM:

Y. says he won't attempt any further comments. I am guardedly optimistic.

#373 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 09:07 PM:


You aren't asking a question about facts, but about our assumptions and models of the world. I doubt that this can really inform us much. Really, your question comes down to what we suspect of Zimmerman's innermost thoughts and beliefs. Probably his wife or father or closest friends have some insights there, but I am incredibly skeptical that you can do it from media coverage. It's worse when you're doing it in community outcry mode.

How could you actually claim to know what Zimmerman would have done with an unfamiliar white teenager? It's not clear to me that Zimmerman knows the answer to that question.

#374 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 10:22 PM:

As a counterpoint to all the discussion of black criminality going on elsewhere...

The Glorification of White Crime.

Even if you discount Pirates of the Caribbean as being fantasy, would you ever see a show in which black gangsters or meth makers, or a black serial killer, was portrayed as the HERO?

#375 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 01:08 AM:

fidelio and Serge Broom: Zimmermen must be hordes of little old guys pushing Zimmer frames; sort of very sloooow zombies. Not actually used on the show because of protests from the National Association Against Defamation of Old Folks.

#376 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 01:37 AM:

Oh, look! He's a hero now!

#377 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 01:50 AM:

Older @ 375... You reminded me of what happens to the Master in "Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death" after the third time he falls into that pit of doom that takes him a century to get out of.

#378 ::: MinaW ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 02:43 AM:

So, when Zimmerman has his gun back, and I see him on the street in Florida, I have the right to shoot him in the back, right?

Because I legitimately feared for my life.

Because he's provably a danger.

(Still, I'd better be white, if I want the law to work for me.)

Trayvon is the one who had the right to stand his ground. He was being stalked by an armed self-appointed vigilante.

There are 30 or so states with stand-your-ground laws. 150 or so kids dead in those situations. (Democracy Now 7/22/2013) We should boycott all of them.

And for those of us who live in one, try to get the law changed. Good luck. The NRA and ALEC (sp?) have been getting them passed everywhere.

The California legislature is going to consider a boycott of Florida. Because our citizens would not be safe there.

So, does the NSA have a copy of Trayvon Martin's last phone call?

#379 ::: MinaW ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 02:59 AM:

So, the part of the Civil Rights act that Congress has to put back together after the Supreme Court gutted it?

They need to come up with a new criterion for requiring federal prior approval in some states (of new laws which might affect voting rights).

I suggest any state with a stand-your-ground law has provided evidence that it needs prior approval of its proposed laws.

Since it's demonstrably racist.

We could write our congresspeople.

#380 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 07:24 AM:

C Wingate @370 I'm having a basically impossible time getting past anything less than a voluntary manslaughter conviction.

Just so. Jim makes a good case for Felony Murder @207. However courts have to try the case and law in front of them and reasonable doubt is fine thing etc. but Zimmerman was clearly incompetent, reckless and negligent (from his own version of events) and his recklessness and negligence caused a death; this is usually manslaughter.

This is one way of describing how the stand your ground defence is flawed; by removing the duty to retreat if standing your ground is reckless.

#381 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 10:16 AM:

I recently came across a court case which hinged on whether a drunk was in control, in the legal sense, of a vehicle. I came to a conclusion that the complicated procedure that you would have to follow to not be in control of a vehicle was a consequence of accumulated precedent in ambiguous cases—common law, in other words—arising from well-paid lawyers trying to push things to the limit.

If the possibility of retreat overcomes any claim of self defence, it is imaginable that prosecutors, pushing the limits to get convictions for murder, generate a body of law which pushes the definition of retreat to the point of ridicule. A "stand your ground" law does what statute law always does, it replaces a piece of common law.

And, like any law, the details have to be argued about in court.

Remember, self defence means you have to admit you did the deed. If the prosecutor can show you did have a choice, you're toast. These lawyers pushing the law to the limit can provoke the legislators into intemperate actions: there might be a genuine problem which these new laws were, in part, intended to address.

Something had to be done, and Florida's Stand Your Gound law was something. It works about as well as that thinking always does.

#382 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:44 AM:

There's a discussion elsenet on how monarchy and the panopticon will interact. Can a Prince really expect there not to be a camera at a wild party in a Las Vegas hotel? And what will it mean for the latest generation? (William and Harry might have had dial-up internet access, and would have been exposed to computers at school. Now even our mobile phones are continuously connected.)

And this will make it difficult for the protection detail. Facial recognition is good enough that, with there being no guarantee pictures will be unpublished, they'll be in the background of enough snapshots to be identified.

Now, the same applies to the Zimmermans of this world, and Google Glass suggests that they could be seen by a camera, recognised, and the subject of warning tags in a protection officer's field of view.

There could be millions of people who get onto a warning list. Relatively few will be active terrorists (some of the subscribers might be terrorists themselves, vetting the people sent out on big operations, though doing it a way which isn't detected would be hard). But what happened if some Zimmerman-type is tagged as dangerous, as having killed somebody of a certain visible type, and somebody else of that class decides to stand their ground?

It's not going to be easy to get the right story onto the video being recorded, it's going to be harder to get away with the sort of things that Zimmerman is suspected of, but what would warnings of somebody being a known danger do to the balance?

And it's not just Zimmerman-types. Think of what sex-offender lists might lead to.

#383 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 03:00 AM:

Having recently seen a sex-offender mug shot of a person I know -- mug shots are a really bad way to get an idea of what someone looks like. I would not have recognized him at all.

Bertillon-style measurements are very different from my recognition protocols, I expect. And it's quite possible that facial recognition software might be less than fully reliable. I wonder what the false-positive rate is for famous people, and for non-famous people. Are they different? Anyone know?

#384 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 10:40 AM:


It's an interesting thing to ask what the world looks like when almost everyone is linked into a network that can identify most people on sight. One quite plausible outcome, one I keep expecting to see (with good and bad properties) is a kind of segregation based on history. Imagine a community in which people with violent felony records or child sex offense records simply could not enter. The doors won't open for you, the elevators won't work, anytime you try the technology just stalls you till some local security shows up to show you the door.

On the good side, such a community might very well have *extremely low* crime rates and very safe streets. As best I understand things, most serious crime is done by a smallish number of persistent criminals, and by excluding them, you might prevent the overwhelming majority of crime. There would still be some crime even in that environment--the guy who's gotten away with it so far but finally gets caught, the woman who finally snaps and shoots her husband in an argument--but it would be a lot more rare.

On the bad side, there's not a hell of a lot of forgiveness in such a society. Where's the percentage in my community letting you come live here, 30 years after your felony assault conviction? I mean, you're not much of a risk, but why take any?

You can imagine a whole hierarchy of exclusive communities of this kind--the really safe ones that exclude as many people as possible, and then the ones where long-ago not-so-serious felonies are accepted, and so on, till at the bottom tier, you get a concentration of ex-cons just out of prison from their murder charges, and people living in house arrest with a monitoring band from the court. And that world, like ours, would be a place with a lot of good things and a lot of bad things about it. (There's nothing the least bit evil about families wanting safe streets, nice parks, and good schools for their kids. Yet self-segregation to get those things involves trying to exclude the poorer and blacker/browner people who either pay less taxes to support them, or do worse in school, or need more social services, or do more crime, and that has some bad consequences as well.)

#385 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 11:06 AM:

albatross @384: (There's nothing the least bit evil about families wanting safe streets, nice parks, and good schools for their kids. Yet self-segregation to get those things involves trying to exclude the poorer and blacker/browner people who either pay less taxes to support them, or do worse in school, or need more social services, or do more crime or are more likely to be arrested and charged, or cannot afford a good enough lawyer, and that has some bad consequences as well.)


#386 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 11:48 AM:

I admit, I don't see "shove all the people who might commit crimes into areas where the most vulnerable populations are" as a mixed good and bad thing. Just...a bad thing. (And not unlike our world today, to be true.)

There is nothing evil about wanting safe streets, nice parks, and good schools for their kids. A system of getting those things that means making sure other people's kids will have dangerous streets, lousy parks, and bad schools is, however, rather evil. "Let's just make all of these people we don't like someone else's problem!" does not increase the level of good out there. Especially because a lot of those "bad" people will also have kids, who deserve safe streets, nice parks, and good schools just as much.

#387 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:01 PM:


There seems to be pretty overwhelming evidence that blacks commit a lot more crime per capita than whites, and that poorer people commit more crime per capita than richer people. This is particularly true of violent crime and property crime. So I don't think you're fixing anything there.


The sort of world I'm describing would have ugly effects in exactly the way you're describing--each individual community would simply be doing something sensible, excluding proven dangerous people to keep their neighborhood safe. But one result could easily be the concentration of dangerous people and social dysfunction on the outside of a lot of gated communities.

On the other hand, consider a country with a lot of problems with crime, such that the streets are generally not safe. Now, suppose in one particular community within that country, they make a big effort to stop all that--they hire a lot of police, they install street lights, they subsidize alarm systems, whatever. An almost inevitable result of that will be that criminals who would formerly have preyed on the members of that community will now move on down the road to the next community. By making their streets safe, they are in some sense pushing the criminals off to their neighbors. Yet I admit I can't find anything at all wrong with a community responding to high crime by hiring a lot of policemen and making sure that crime doesn't pay in that community. And if crime no longer pays, you will see fewer criminals. (Though crime rates seem to oscillate on a pattern of their own, which has only a really sketchy relationship with how many people get arrested.)

And on the gripping hand, I don't have any power at all over how the US as a whole handles crime, poverty, or social dysfunction. I don't even have any measurable power over how my county handles its public schools. On the other hand, I may be able to work out ways to make things better in my own neighborhood or workplace or in my kids' school. Suppose I convince my kids' school to not tolerate bullying, even to the point of expelling kids that persistently bully other kids. The expelled bullies will presumably just go to another school. And yet, I cannot imagine that a better response is to let them keep bullying at my kids' school.

#388 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:35 PM:

To lay some assumptions on the table:

a. I suspect cheaper cameras and surveillance infrastructure (privately owned or police/government owned) will make it far more practical in the future to have gated communities that actually can keep out unwanted people, track and maybe identify strangers (especially if they're tagged as felons and wearing tracking collars or something), etc.

b. I suspect the above will also make crime pay a whole lot less, because stealing a TV or mugging someone will become a crime that you are more and more likely to get busted for. Criminals can and will adapt, but the cost will go up. Imagine muggings and house burglaries become about as hard to get away with as bank robbery, while providing a fraction of the reward--what happens to the rate of muggings and house burglaries?

c. Better monitoring technology will be an alternative to prison, and so I expect more people with tracking bracelets of some advanced kind. (Imagine one with remote video surveillance and some kind of Taser-like imobilizer built in--instant slap-drone.) These may also become standard parts of some very long probation--once you get out of prison on armed robbery charges, you get your monitoring bracelet for another ten years.

So from there, I can imagine a lot of directions things could go:

Maybe (b) dominates, and crime just becomes less scary. Few criminals get away with it, those that do end up with slap-drone-like monitoring technology, recidivism while braceleted is universally caught so those few people who absolutely can't resist violent crime end up in prison. We get safe streets. We may even get interesting mixing effects--people who used to live in expensive neighborhoods to minimize their chances of being crime victims become willing to live in cheaper neighborhoods, because you can no longer get away with victimizing people even in cheap neighborhoods. This is a land of relatively happy stories where crime just isn't much of a problem, though when a crime happens, they're probably ill prepared for it. (Brin's _Earth_ has a little of this going on, alongside teenagers being driven crazy because they will get in trouble for even the smallest mischief thanks to the pervasive surveillance.)

Maybe (a) dominates, either because crime becomes a big problem like it was in the 80s/90s, or because media images or effective advertising convince lots of people crime is a big threat even when it isn't. More and more people prefer to live in a gated community--which needn't be anything very elaborate, since you use computer algorithms and remote monitoring people sitting in some low-wage data center to do most of the work, along with dispatching an occasional policeman or night watchman to check on suspicious stuff. Then, one possible outcome is an increasing concentration of criminals outside the gated communities. (Inevitably, that will also include people falsely convicted of crimes, or people who plead guilty for strategic reasons.) Early adopters will be people who are unusually concerned about crime--often people who have been victimized, or who have reason to fear being victimized. (_Oath of Fealty_ captures some of this world, as does _Snow Crash_. You can see it around the edges of _Neuromancer_ and _Count Zero_, where the main characters are all on the outside of the nice, safe corporate/feudal fiefdoms. _The Probability Broach_ makes reference to this, too--people known to have committed nasty crimes can't find anyone who will sell them groceries, and end up in exile in some nasty place or other.)

Maybe (c) dominates--it demonstrably pays in politics to want to be extra harsh to criminals, and the sex-offender registries demonstrate a societal willingness to add extra burdens after the convict gets out of prison. It's not so hard to imagine millions of people walking around with monitoring/restraining technology, as a condition of release from prison. Whenever a crime occurs, the police round up the known criminals who were in the area, match that with the surveillance technology, and make an arrest. (Brin's _Sundiver_ has a good exploration of this idea with probationers. A much darker version appears in _The Rainbow Cadenza_ as the "touchables".)

What else comes out of this idea?

#389 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 03:59 PM:
Remember, self defence means you have to admit you did the deed. If the prosecutor can show you did have a choice, you're toast. These lawyers pushing the law to the limit can provoke the legislators into intemperate actions: there might be a genuine problem which these new laws were, in part, intended to address.

Something had to be done, and Florida's Stand Your Gound law was something. It works about as well as that thinking always does.

Dave Bell, I think I can explode this idea you have, and I can do it in a series of short, comprehensible statements.

SYG in Florida happened in response to one case.

In the precipitating case... nobody went to jail. Not even for a single night.

Digby explains. The full article at Mother Jones.

SYG legislation was cooked up an NRA lobbyist in response to a complete and total non-problem.

BTW, for those who have speculated that in a civil case, a wrongful death suit, the burden of proof would be different and Zimmerman might be found liable?

Never mind his lack of money. The SYG law protects against civil liability as well.

#390 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 04:09 PM:

Except he didn't use SYG in his defense. (Probably just as well, because I don't think even that jury would have bought it.)

#391 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 04:26 PM:

albatross @387--I think that what those figures show is that PoC and poor white people are more likely to be arrested and convicted.

Let us consider the case of Laura Bush's tragic episode of teenage vehicular homicide. A similar young woman who was not white or from a locally-respected and well-off family might have faced a far different outcome of that incident. (This isn't an attempt to say she got away with something when she shouldn't have; it was a long time ago and far from where I live. Just that I can see a similar case resulting in different outcomes for someone who was not Laura Bush, née Welch)

The justice system of the US is a human thing, created and operated by humans, and therefore vulnerable to the shortcomings of those humans. It has, among other things, been used as a tool for the control of people othered by race, ethnicity, and class (and for other reasons). I don't enjoy contemplating that fact, but I think it's better not to ignore it when contemplating how we could do justice systems in the future.

#392 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 04:50 PM:

Albatross: A lot of the racial difference in crime stats amounts to differences in enforcement and prosecution -- black folks get arrested and charged for a lot of things whites don't, right on down to Driving/Walking/Standing Up/Failing To Cringe While Black. Also, you mention the sex-offender registries. Last I heard, those still include an alarming number of people convicted of such crimes as consensual sodomy, skinny-dipping, urinating in public, or taking pictures of their toddlers in the bathtub. (I'm trying not to get too far into that last morass, but our child-pornography laws have largely been taken over by witch-hunters.)

#393 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 05:56 PM:

The biggest problem with gated communities isn't even this stuff. It's that it's another step along the trend of putting government in private hands who don't have to respect all the laws that government does. Like, for instance, they can regulate your speech. Like they can lock out the JWs, or solicitors, or really anyone except the police. Maybe they can't fine you (but I'll bet they can take you to court for fees you didn't pay) or jail you (but I'll bet they can get their security minions deputized). If I Were King the first thing I would do is declare that homeowner associations and the like were subject to all the same restrictions of regular governments, and that they could not regulate free passage on streets and sidewalks. It won't happen otherwise, since the whole point of doing things this way is to be free of that sort of regulation.

#394 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 06:31 PM:

MinaW @378-379, it has occurred to me that POCs often have reason to feel apprehensive about unidentified white people attacking or threatening them. I just wish I could believe that the courts would apply Stand Your Ground laws equally in their cases.

Howard Bannister @389: Not surprising. The Stand Your Ground scenarios are straight out of that narrative template I described at #250: Calling the police isn't relevant, temporary retreat isn't an option, and everything comes down to a split-second confrontation where the only effective response to a threat is to shoot to kill. It's pure Hollywood.

In spite of the NRA's determined efforts to keep us from gathering data, we know that lots of people in this country are unreasonably afraid of low-probability events, and that they associate these events with specific demographic groups. We ought not be passing laws that make having unreasonable fears a legitimate legal reason to kill someone.

#395 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 08:12 PM:

This report on homicides in the US says that the black murder rate is seven times the white rate. I can easily imagine that some of that difference is due to different treatment in the justice system, fewer blacks than whites having their own lawyers, etc., but I cannot believe the differences in treatment could account for this big a difference.

It's worth noting that for these numbers, we're not talking about something like a drug offense, where the police can just turn the other way and nobody's the wiser--there is a dead body that needs an explanation.

Also, the black rate of being murdered is six times the white rate. The majority of black victims (93%) were killed by blacks, and the majority of whites (84%) were killed by whites. This all paints a consistent picture of much higher rates of violent crime among blacks than among whites.

It isn't easy to find broader felony rates by race from a simple Google search, but this may just mean I don't know where to look. Does anyone have a link to better numbers?

#396 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 08:17 PM:

One implication of the Panopticon is that bad laws can be reliably enforced-- what if there was a surveillance society before the current shift towards treating homosexuals decently?

#397 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 08:50 PM:

So the justifications for SYG laws are just as fictional as the scenario where you have to torture the terrorist to find out where the ticking time-bomb is?

#398 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 10:59 PM:

We ought not be passing laws that make having unreasonable fears a legitimate legal reason to kill someone.

This, exactly. But a significant number of our fellow citizens believe that their fears (of black men in hoodies, of black helicopters, of their children being indoctrinated by "scientists", of fluoride, of thimerosal in vaccines, of unidentified federal agents coming to confiscate their guns) are reasonable fears, and that they MUST have the right to defend themselves directly, personally, when they are afraid, or what is the 2nd Amendment for?

Why are they so afraid, and why do they fear these things? Because it is in someone else's financial interest that they be afraid. Follow the damn money.

#399 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 02:34 PM:

P J Evans @ 390
He didn't have to invoke SYG. SYG isn't a separate provision, it's a rewrite of the standards for self-defense. It means you no longer have a duty to attempt to avoid using lethal force by retreating. You have the right to defend yourself with lethal force as long as you are in a place you otherwise have the right to be.

It's worse than the Wild West, as the notable feature of the Wild West was its lawlessness. Part of the traditional narrative is the law, the Marshall, showing up, and ending the wanton killing. Now we've enshrined lawless behavior in law.

#400 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 02:50 PM:

In the actual Wild West one of the first things that sheriffs or marshals did after riding into town was make everyone turn in their guns when they came to town.

In an effort to curb lawlessness.

#401 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 03:02 PM:

What would John Wayne do?

[Rio Bravo, 1959]
John T. Chance: [explaining why Joe got beat up] He didn't take too kindly to being arrested for murder.

Joe Burdette: It wasn't murder.

Nathan Burdette: If he says it wasn't murder, why do you say it was?

John T. Chance: Man gets shot that's got a gun, there's room for reasonable doubt. Man gets shot that hasn't got a gun, what would you call it? But, you knew that already otherwise you wouldn't have set things up the way you did.

#402 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 03:16 PM:

Steve Downey @399: I think you've put your finger on an important part of this case, perhaps without realizing it: "as long as you are in a place you otherwise have the right to be."

The place that Zimmerman put himself in was one that threatened Martin (I don't think anyone disputes this!). Did he have the right to be there?

#403 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 03:43 PM:

Tom: pronoun trouble here -- your final "he" is ambiguous to me. If you mean Martin (the most recent possible referent), he was living there at the time, which I would think would be a definite "yes".

#404 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 04:53 PM:

Steve Downey @ 399... It's worse than the Wild West, as the notable feature of the Wild West was its lawlessness

That, and the giant mechanical spiders.

#405 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 05:10 PM:

Serge @ 404
Well, yeah. Obviously the giant mechanical spiders. I mean, the giant mechanical spiders go without saying, don't they?

#406 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 05:28 PM:

David Goldfarb @403: by "he", I was meaning the subject of the previous sentence -- that is, Zimmerman. Did he have a right to be in the (psychological/metaphorical) place where he was threatening Martin?

#407 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 05:50 PM:

Well, he was a member of a Neighborhood Watch group. I don't know whether he lived in that community also. In general, people have a right to be anywhere they please unless there's some specific reason against it, no?

#408 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 06:48 PM:

Isn't there a specific reason against being in a place where I'm threatening another person?

I'm not saying Zimmerman didn't have a strictly-interpreted legal right to be there -- I am saying that perhaps he'd abrogated that right by the actions that brought him there.

#409 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 06:55 PM:

Tom, #402: That's exactly the gun-worshipers' argument -- Zimmerman was in a public place, so he had the right to be there, so he had no reason to refrain from killing someone who he thought was threatening him.

Of course, Martin also had the same right to be where he was, and the same right to kill if he thought he was being threatened. But imagine the outcome if he'd killed Zimmerman instead of the other way around. He'd be headed for death row.

#411 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 08:26 PM:

Lee: The police dispatcher specifically told him to stay in his car. At that point, did he have a right to be out of it pursuing a course of action that law enforcement had told him not to?

#412 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 09:00 PM:

Rikibeth, much as I hate to say so, the police didn't order Zimmerman stop following Martin, they asked him. And I don't recall them saying anything at all about staying in or getting out of the car.

Anyway, I'm not sure the police have the authority to order a citizen to stay in their car, so long as the citizen is behaving lawfully and so long as there is not an immediate hazard to public health and safety. (I could be wrong, however.)

#413 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 10:04 PM:

As I understand it, the 911 operator told him to stay in his car, that it wasn't his job to follow. (Some people argue that the 911 operator, not being a sworn officer, doesn't have to be obeyed, but I would say that they're the one answering the 911 call, so pay attention to what they tell you.)
But then, neighborhood watch people are also supposed to be unarmed, regardless of their licensing status, and he was ignoring that, too.

#414 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 12:51 AM:

There are transcripts of the call online, and the dispatcher doesn't tell Zimmerman to stay in his car, the dispatcher just says "Are you following him? ... We don't need you to do that." Which isn't very strong. And the dispatcher does suggest that Zimmerman might go and meet the police officers when they arrive.

#415 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 08:48 AM:

...I posted up above from the neighborhood watch groups where they said that he broke their explicit rules, yes? Where they never follow, and they never carry guns? Just call the police?

That would be the head of his local neighborhood watch, as well as a national group, and quotes from police officers saying they try to weed out folks who want to play vigilante weekend warrior cops?

#416 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 01:16 PM:

The Justice Department is soliciting public feedback on the Zimmerman case.

#417 ::: Lee, be-gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 01:17 PM:

Maybe for a hinky link? At any rate, have some bacon. Mmmm, bacon.

#418 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 12:42 PM:

Teresa #291

What will most likely happen if you run afoul of a professional criminal: they'll already know the dance steps. You won't. They'll move faster than you've ever imagined.

That's because their job is to get inside their victims' decision loop.

When you're faced with any situation, the decision loop goes like this: Observe, Evaluate, Decide, Act.

After you've acted, you again observe what happened, evaluate the new situation, decide what action to take, then take that action. Repeat.

Someone gets inside your decision loop by acting faster than you can decide, thus changing the situation, forcing you to re-evaluate. That person will generally win.

That's why your emergency personnel train endlessly, so that they can move directly from Observe to Act with only the slightest pause at Evaluate and little need to work out a Decision. That's why I keep recommending playing scenarios in your head (e.g. "If there's a fire, where are my exits?") to cut down on the decision time.

#419 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 03:43 PM:

Jim, State Department employees stationed overseas were taught to rehearse bad things that might happen and mentally review their options *before* they left their house/office. That was expanded after 9/11 to all Federal employees.

GSA sent the Federal Protective Service to every agency to review security. My office was sucky because there was only one entry/exit from the room (solid door). I never did convince HQ that we really needed to have a camera system outside that door, so I could see who was ringing the bell...

#421 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 01:15 AM:

And that's a problem with getting inside someone else's decision loop, Jim. The cops seem to have been so far inside the decision loop of the fellow you reference in 420 that they weren't actually paying attention to what his decision loop was. Seeing problems before they actually happen -- or before they are problems, whether they're going to become problems or not. And the police chief's defense of his officers is that the man was uncompliant -- when the man's decision loop may not have even moved in the direction of compliance or non-compliance.

It's a real drawback of the training.

#422 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 01:30 AM:

Exactly, Tom.

You have to understand that the person you're interacting with has a decision loop too.

If you're planning to win then you don't let that decision loop complete. (And the entire theory of decision-loops comes from the military, specifically from aerial-combat maneuvers.)

That's why criminals move so fast... they're trying to win. If the cops want to act like criminals, there's a problem.

Other people ... the clock is running if someone is having a heart attack or the building is on fire. There, the opponent is the disease process or the physical mechanism. There you want to defeat that opponent as effectively as you can, as rapidly as possible.

Ask yourself, before you go out, what are your goals?

(Also, note for all the would-be Rambos out there: The police got off fifteen shots against an unarmed man who was constrained in his ability to move, and only got two, non-critical, hits. Presumably they'd been trained and were proficient with their weapons. See the discussion here.)

#423 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 11:23 AM:

Jim Macdonald #420: And did you notice the victim-blaming by the police-chief? paraphrasing: "Oh dunno why some people just don't comply -- could be drugs, alcohol, or they just decided not to follow orders."

#424 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 11:33 AM:

Dave 423

What the police chief was trying to say was, "Well, he was just standing there, being black. Of course we had to shoot!"

#425 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2013, 10:08 AM:


I know this is a common theme of mine, but it bears repeating: Most of us have a model of how violent confrontation works that has been built up from years of watching TV and movies and reading books, with maybe a little karate or boxing or target shooting around the edges. I keep thinking the first step toward wisdom here is recognizing that most of us have a cartoon physics view of how these things work, but that cartoon physics worldview *feels* like reality[0].

What does an armed confrontation between a criminal and a would-be victim look like? I have seen it a hundred times, in books and movies and TV shows[1]. The fast automatic part of my brain (what Kahneman[2] calls system 1) has all this data available, easily retrieved, when I'm trying to get an intuitive notion of what that confrontation will look like. But every one of those examples and scenes was staged, set up for dramatic effect, overwhelmingly by people who have never been in any situation like the one they're portraying.

Consciously, most everyone knows they don't know what these situations are like. Unconsciously, hell, I feel like I know--I've seen it so many times, read about it, thought about it. I think this is behind a lot of the cartoon-physics-based notions various people bring to discussions of self defense against criminals, or armed or violent conflict more generally. When someone breaks in in the night, I'm going to *know* it's bad guys, and I'll be awake and sensible enough to retrieve and load my gun, and I'll wait at the top of the stairs and do everything right and fire one shot that disables the bad guy but doesn't kill him. I know, because I've watched this scene happen onscreen so many times, it's just how these things go. The only problem there is that every bit of that image is bullshit, but very convincing bullshit in the back of my head.

You can see this in the rather self-confident predictions or proclamations people make about what people in a mass shooting should have done, or how torture will effect people, or how likely it is that you will get false confessions from intensive questioning that goes nowhere near torture, or the effect of solitary confinement on people, or any number of other things. People answer with great confidence even when the data disagrees with their answers, and even when a moment's thought would lead them to realize they have never been in a situation remotely like any of those, don't know anyone who has, and their intutions about how people will or should respond is based entirely on what they've seen on TV.

[0] People with actual experience of violent confrontations, or police or military training, are very likely working with a much better and much different model than I am. When I listen to technically unsophisticated people talk about my area of expertise, I notice them getting all kinds of basic stuff wrong and jumping to all kinds of implausible conclusions. I have to guess it's the same when people with my background and knowledge make confident statements about how violent armed confrontations go down.

[1] Though usually the would-be victim is assumed to be unusually tough--a private detective, cop, ex-cop, ex-soldier, etc.

[2] Kahneman's amazing book _Thinking Fast and Slow_ is making me think a lot about these issues. I very strongly recommend it to everyone.

#427 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2013, 03:12 PM:

Quite personally, violent confrontation is surprising. When my housemate attacked* me, her first blow was a punch to the jaw, which was totally unexpected. I recall being very out of it after that, until well after the assault was done, and she had run from the house.

In contrast, after several years of martial arts (although I haven't studied anything in a long time), I was much more cognizant of action and potential -- and presence -- when I disarmed a teen with a knife. This time I was hyper-focused on the situation until the danger was past.

Conclusion: if one has never had any violent confrontation anywhere, martial arts training is a good way to prepare for at least some of the mental aspects of fighting. That's half the battle, pun intended (the other half, for me, is muscle memory).

Movies and television get it all wrong, but you knew that anyway. Actually, I take that back: Jackie Chan's movies get the fights done right, but he is a martial artist. Some of his stunts are over-the-top, but the majority of his fight choreography is very realistic.

*Now I look back and realize it was twenty years ago. How did time get so darned fast?

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