A case for justice: the trial of George Zimmerman
June 13, 2013 6:14 AM   Subscribe

One year ago, America was gripped with controversy over the Florida shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, who claimed he was shooting in self-defense under the "Stand Your Ground" statute, while many believe the shooting, subsequent police inaction, and even the court actions had racial undertones - given Martin was black and Zimmerman Hispanic. Now, furor somewhat quieter, the trial is beginning, with startling (and occasionally hilarious) presentations and demands from each side, including cellphone photos and texts from Martin's phone showing drugs and someone holding a gun, which the defense claims the prosecutors withheld, a list of words Zimmerman's attorneys want not to be used during the trial, which include any mention of racial profiling, and a (rejected) request that all 500 potential jurors be sequestered until their selection.

This case marks an interesting reversal, as some suggest prosecutors will be looking for black men who may have been previously profiled, while defense attorneys will be looking for men who sympathize with the police. Both families are on display, hoping for an outcome that satisfies their sense of justice.

Previously on Metafilter: 1 2 3
posted by corb (290 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Huh, I didn't know you could do that. At my trial, I request the judge not to use these words:

guilty
prison
jail

and is required to use these words:

innocent
incredibly handsome
charming
definitely Presidential material
posted by DU at 6:21 AM on June 13, 2013 [46 favorites]


while many believe the shooting, subsequent police inaction, and even the court actions had racial undertones - given Martin was black and Zimmerman Hispanic

I don't think this is why people believed that there were racial undertones--I mean, most people didn't know that Zimmerman was Hispanic at first. All we knew initially was that an unarmed black kid was shot and killed, and the person who did it wasn't even charged with a crime or arrested. All of which is nearly unthinkable if the victim was white.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:21 AM on June 13, 2013 [31 favorites]


I can see why you'd request that your client not be called 'racist' but can defense seriously expect prosecution not to say 'he confronted Trayvon Martin'? What exactly would prosecution say? 'Your honor the defendant clearly is guilty of... well, you know.'
posted by shakespeherian at 6:21 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


"Racial profiled" (or any variation)
"Vigilante"
"Self-appointed neighborhood watch captain"
"Wannabe cop"
"He got out of the car after the police(or dispatcher) told him not to"
"He confronted Trayvon Martin"


Shit, why not just request they skip the trial and declare a National holiday for him?
posted by Artw at 6:25 AM on June 13, 2013 [38 favorites]


He got all up in Trayvon's grill.

He challenged Trayvon.

He accosted Trayvon.

He aggressively maneuvered toward Trayvon.

If I were the prosecutors I'd have a hard time not having a field day figuring out ways to make the confrontation sound worse, only because the defense attorneys decided to play language games.
posted by oddman at 6:26 AM on June 13, 2013 [50 favorites]


Racial profiling nothing. "George Zimmerman" sounds like the name of a white guy with Germanic or Jewish heritage, not Hispanic. To be honest, a year later, I just now found out that he's Hispanic, and I imagine a lot of people are in a similar boat.

That Zimmerman has some Spanish ancestors doesn't really change the "white man shoots defenseless black boy" angle, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by explosion at 6:27 AM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


Defense attorney Mark O'Mara asked that the witnesses be allowed to testify out of the public eye because of concerns for their safety about testifying at the trial, which starts next week. He said their testimony could impact the jury's decision.

So we're going all-in with the "black people are scary" defense I see.
posted by Hoopo at 6:31 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not really comfortable getting too angry at defense lawyers for doing their job. It's an unusual request, to be sure, but trying to damaging information from the jury where possible is part and parcel of being a defense attorney.

It's also wrong to treat their list as if it were all the same. "He got out of the car after the police(or dispatcher) told him not to" is a fact question. If there's going to be testimony that that happened, then the prosecutor should probably be allowed to say it. "Wanna-be cop" is just a disparaging description of Zimmerman, I can definitely see a judge keeping that out; it's probably irrelevant and it's more prejudicial than probative of anything.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:32 AM on June 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'm not really comfortable getting too angry at defense lawyers for doing their job.

It's my job to angry at defense lawyers, so I hope you won't be too angry with me for doing my job.
posted by DU at 6:33 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


The defense would prefer you not to refer to then as having "massive double standards" or being "hugely fucking racist and hoping the same from the jury". The defense argues that "...in conclusion, fuck that guy." would not be a proper means by which the prosecution should rest their case.
posted by Artw at 6:34 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


DU: "It's my job to angry at defense lawyers ..."

May you never need one.
posted by exogenous at 6:36 AM on June 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


If I were the prosecutors I'd have a hard time not having a field day figuring out ways to make the confrontation sound worse, only because the defense attorneys decided to play language games.

He murdered him, assassinated, etc. I'd make it the worst and most deliberate sounding i could.

Personal anecdote time. Years ago i beaten badly in front of huge crowds by three guys, to the point i was on the ground being kicked in the head and them saying they were going to "kill the liberal faggot". There was no doubt they were the guys after they got charged, which, only one got a years probation and small fine. I looked several times worse than Zimmerman did, by far. Now, if this had happened in Florida, it seems i could have shot and killed them without any trouble? If i can impose the death penalty, why couldn't the law impose more than a slap on the wrist? Can i now carry a gun in florida and shoot any right wing person who seems threatening to me or calls me those things, as i'd just be defending myself? Would the same people who leap to defend Zimmerman defend me too if i did that? I sincerely doubt it.
posted by usagizero at 6:37 AM on June 13, 2013 [19 favorites]


So the prosecution is hoping to use those cell phone pictures to prove that sharing one gun with two other friends makes you a "lil hoodlum" while constantly packing heat with the intent of accosting and murdering a minor makes you a hero? Good luck with that
posted by Mooseli at 6:39 AM on June 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


UsagizEro - probably just means they'd have the right to shoot you too.
posted by Artw at 6:39 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


That Zimmerman has some Spanish ancestors doesn't really change the "white man shoots defenseless black boy" angle, as far as I'm concerned.

In one of the early reports of the incident, a CNN article referred to Zimmerman as "white Hispanic." I'm not sure whether CNN was trying to paint Zimmerman as more white or more Hispanic, or trying to be accurate, but it struck me as an odd inclusion.
posted by The Deej at 6:39 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Not-a-scary-black-guy"
posted by Artw at 6:40 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, sitting in my armchair a thousand miles away from the event, I rather suspect that Zimmerman murdered Martin for reasons almost certainly motivated by unexamined racial prejudice. I also think the "stand your ground" law is terribly written and an even worse idea, and that the original prosecutor handled this case very badly in a way that is probably also revealing of systemic racism.

Having said that, criminal defense attorneys are an integral part of our justice system and I think it is a bit unseemly to be mad at them for doing everything they can to see to it that the state does not strip a man of his liberty, property, or life without a fair trial. Defense attorneys, more than perhaps any other part of our legal system, stand between the citizen and the state exercising its (legitimate) monopoly on violence upon them. Even this guy, this murdering thug who struck down a young man for no reason, deserves a vigorous defense.
posted by gauche at 6:42 AM on June 13, 2013 [37 favorites]


I'm not sure whether CNN was trying to paint Zimmerman as more white or more Hispanic, or trying to be accurate, but it struck me as an odd inclusion.

That's a pretty common descriptor for any form you have to fill out that asks for race - they usually delineate "white Hispanic" and "non-white Hispanic", but I have no idea what qualifies one for one group over the other.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:44 AM on June 13, 2013


"Wanna-be cop" is just a disparaging description of Zimmerman, I can definitely see a judge keeping that out; it's probably irrelevant and it's more prejudicial than probative of anything.

But he is, according to his own testimony, a wanna-be judge. The label "wanna-be judge, not sure about the jury bit, but definitely an executioner" isn't all that wrong, is it?
posted by pracowity at 6:44 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure whether CNN was trying to paint Zimmerman as more white or more Hispanic, or trying to be accurate, but it struck me as an odd inclusion.

I think there's just no real consensus on how we talk about being Hispanic in this country in the same way that we do about being black. Some of that might be carryover from the "one drop" rule and other prejudicial behaviors where any amount of black ancestry made someone black, whereas we have no equivalent for other races or ethnicities.

So, for example: President Obama has one white parent and one black parent, but is referred to as the first black President. Zimmerman has one white parent and one Hispanic parent, but is referred to sometimes as white, sometimes as Hispanic, and apparently also as a "white Hispanic."
posted by corb at 6:44 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


That Zimmerman has some Spanish ancestors doesn't really change the "white man shoots defenseless black boy" angle, as far as I'm concerned.

That is the only thing that gives this story national interest. Black on brown and brown on black murders and "assassinations" hardly ever make the news, let alone the national news.

"Yet if there are no guys like Zimmerman — who is of white and Hispanic background — to attack, there is often numbness, an unjustified nothingness when the issue is blacks killing blacks."
posted by three blind mice at 6:45 AM on June 13, 2013


So the prosecution is hoping to use those cell phone pictures to prove that sharing one gun with two other friends makes you a "lil hoodlum" while constantly packing heat with the intent of accosting and murdering a minor makes you a hero? Good luck with that

From what I can tell the idea behind submitting the cell phone pictures is to prove that Zimmerman was justified in his belief that all black kids are dangerous drug addicts.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:46 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The cell phones show that Martin may have smoked marijuana - just like millions of other teenagers. I once opened an encyclopedia at my grandmother's house and found a lovely leaf had been pressed between the pages on cannabis - my uncle had left the specimen there when he was a teen and used to grow his own.
posted by jb at 6:54 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Can they describe the initial investigation as being by racist wannabe cops? Because that works too.
posted by Artw at 6:55 AM on June 13, 2013


From what I can tell the idea behind submitting the cell phone pictures is to prove that Zimmerman was justified in his belief that all black kids are dangerous drug addicts.

From what I can tell, this "evidence" has nothing to do with winning at trial -- the defense surely knew it would never be admitted -- but with winning at PR.
posted by Slothrup at 6:58 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Clearly Martin was shouting these texts at the top of his lungs and describing pictures in a loud voice immediately preceding the chase, so of course when Zimmerman overheard what was on this kid's cell phone he had no choice but to act.

FFS who cares what was on his phone. He was just out walking. It's totally irrelevant.
posted by Hoopo at 7:08 AM on June 13, 2013 [17 favorites]


Just gonna leave this here:

On the first day of George Zimmmerman’s murder trial, a Fox News guest suggested that the defense may be able to establish that Zimmerman acted in self-defense when he fatally shot Trayvon Martin, because “you could probably kill somebody” with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea.
posted by emjaybee at 7:08 AM on June 13, 2013 [15 favorites]


That the lawyers are allowed to select jurors is frightening enough
posted by dng at 7:13 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


the case is about whether if you start a fight with someone and end up shooting and killing them, whether you are guilty of murder, manslaughter, or justifiable homicide. if the prosecution has to show that Zimmerman got out of his car with the intent of shooting Martin, it's unlikely they will win a murder conviction.

but the real outrage isn't a single racist and his gun, rather the fact that it took public outcry to get Zimmerman charged.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:13 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


On the first day of George Zimmmerman’s murder trial, a Fox News guest suggested that the defense may be able to establish that Zimmerman acted in self-defense when he fatally shot Trayvon Martin, because “you could probably kill somebody” with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea.

I mean have you seen the calories?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:13 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


It will be a big step if some news agencies stop referring to it as the "Trayvon Martin trial".
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:15 AM on June 13, 2013 [36 favorites]


“you could probably kill somebody” with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea.

I mean...you could, but Martin wasn't shot with a can of iced tea.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:16 AM on June 13, 2013


If I shoved a bag of skittles and a can of ice tea down your mouth (bag and can included), I'm pretty confident your death (by asphyxiation) would shortly follow.
posted by oddman at 7:17 AM on June 13, 2013


“you could probably kill somebody” with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea.

This will never work as a defense. The right to bear Skittles and iced tea is protected by the Constitution.
posted by Hoopo at 7:19 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


“Stand your ground” law helps white defendants a lot more than black ones
The “stand your ground” law is notorious for being applied in a biased and inconsistent way. The Tampa Bay Times found that defendants claiming “stand your ground” are more successful if the victim is black. Seventy-three percent of those who killed a black person faced no penalty. Only 59 percent of those who killed a white person got off. The Urban Institute determined that in “stand your ground” states, when white shooters kill black victims, 34 percent of the resulting homicides are deemed justifiable. When black shooters kill white victims only 3 percent of the deaths are ruled justifiable.

In light of these trends, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights voted to investigate whether “stand your ground” laws are racially biased. Twenty-four states have “stand your ground” laws. The statutes, which are backed by the National Rifle Association and the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, garnered national attention in February 2012 after George Zimmerman shot the unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin to death, in Sanford, Fla. The police decided not to arrest Zimmerman, citing Florida’s “stand your ground” law. After this impunity sparked a public outcry, the police charged Zimmerman — now he’s sitting in court on trial for murder. Zimmerman waived his right to a “stand your ground” pretrial hearing, during which a judge could have dismissed the case under the statute. (Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Trayvon Martin’s family, believes Zimmerman did this to avoid taking the stand.) But it is likely that “stand your ground” will come up during the actual trial. If it does, we will have to see whether the defense is successful. Will Zimmerman end up a free man, like Wald? Or in jail, like Alexander?
posted by zombieflanders at 7:20 AM on June 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


"you could probably kill somebody” with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea.

Never bring junk food to a gun fight.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:21 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


That the lawyers are allowed to select jurors is frightening enough
posted by dng at 10:13 AM


This is only half true. Lawyers have some sway over how the jury is picked, in that they can exercise peremptory challenges. In criminal trials in Florida, it looks like each side gets ten, six, or three depending the severity of the charge (it's ten for Zimmerman). They also can't legally use them to exclude people solely on the basis of race, although articulating a non-racial reason for an exclusion isn't always hard.

Beyond those ten challenges per side, though, it's entirely in the judge's hands. The parties can challenge a juror for cause, but the judge has to rule on it and decide whether to exclude them.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:22 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


“Stand your ground” law helps white defendants a lot more than black ones

The system works!
posted by Artw at 7:23 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, from the OP:

including cellphone photos and texts from Martin's phone showing drugs and someone holding a gun

Why does this matter in the context of the case itself, exactly? Unless Zimmerman had access to Martin's cell (which would itself be a pretty serious crime), it has no bearing on the case at all, and is a pretty racist move by the defense.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:24 AM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


Yeah, to reiterate, the huge furor wasn't over Zimmerman - but that Martin was executed in broad daylight, and the cops were peachy with it; most probably because he was a black teenager and therefore had it coming somehow.

That we're having a murder trial at all is a huge triumph for justice, regardless of the verdict.

(Tho, yes, if you get out of your car to run at a stranger, they will probably attack you in actually actual self-defense if they felt cornered. You cannot start a fight only to shoot the other guy when you start to lose, and claim self defense. Even if he made "scary looking" selfies on his camera phone, and was armed with a bag of skittles.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:26 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


zombieflanders--yes. That evidence should be excluded under ER 404(a)--the general rule is that you cannot introduce evidence of "bad character" of either an accused or a victim to show that they acted in conformity with their "character." So the defense will have to have some other basis for showing its admissibility.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:27 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


shakespeherian: "I can see why you'd request that your client not be called 'racist' but can defense seriously expect prosecution not to say 'he confronted Trayvon Martin'? What exactly would prosecution say? 'Your honor the defendant clearly is guilty of... well, you know.'"

This stuck out to me as well, but for different reasons, because if he didn't confront him, then it suggests he just shot him right off the bat.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:27 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


But I'm guessing the defense would be fine with the phrasing "Martin confronted Zimmerman," right? Just not the other way around.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:28 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


but that Martin was executed in broad daylight,

Well, besides that it was night and raining, yeah, totally broad daylight.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:29 AM on June 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'm not really comfortable getting too angry at defense lawyers for doing their job.

Think of it this way, citizens: defense lawyers are working for the Constitution.

Do you have a problem with *that*?
posted by aught at 7:31 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why does this matter in the context of the case itself, exactly?

It doesn't, of course. The texts and photos are for the public trial-by-media.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:33 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think there's just no real consensus on how we talk about being Hispanic in this country in the same way that we do about being black. Some of that might be carryover from the "one drop" rule and other prejudicial behaviors where any amount of black ancestry made someone black, whereas we have no equivalent for other races or ethnicities.

The existence of 'Hispanic' as a racial category is surely the best possible evidence of the preposterousness of racial categories at all.
posted by atrazine at 7:35 AM on June 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yeah the marijuana use, texts, etc. has already been determined to be irrelevant and excluded by the trial judge. That could get changed if they somehow become relevant. I'm having trouble imagining how that could happen, but trials are unpredictable things.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:35 AM on June 13, 2013


In any case, this all illustrates again why appointment (or election) of judges is so important in maintaining our democracy, since they're the ones who have to make the call on what is and isn't legal in fairly prosecuting, or mounting a vigorous defense, in the courtroom.
posted by aught at 7:36 AM on June 13, 2013


zombieflanders “Stand your ground” law helps white defendants a lot more than black ones

More on the Tampa Bay Times Study that Salon used in your link:

Race plays complex role in Florida's 'stand your ground' law
The Times analysis found no obvious bias in how black defendants have been treated:

• Whites who invoked the law were charged at the same rate as blacks.

• Whites who went to trial were convicted at the same rate as blacks.

• In mixed-race cases involving fatalities, the outcomes were similar. Four of the five blacks who killed a white went free; five of the six whites who killed a black went free.

• Overall, black defendants went free 66 percent of the time in fatal cases compared to 61 percent for white defendants — a difference explained, in part, by the fact blacks were more likely to kill another black.

"Let's be clear,'' said Alfreda Coward, a black Fort Lauderdale lawyer whose clients are mostly black men. "This law was not designed for the protection of young black males, but it's benefiting them in certain cases.''

The Times analysis does not prove that race caused the disparity between cases with black and white victims. Other factors may be at play.

The analysis, for example, found that black victims were more likely to be carrying a weapon when they were killed. They also were more likely than whites to be committing a crime, such as burglary, at the time.

Experts note that most cases have unique combinations of facts and circumstances that determine whether a person goes free or goes to prison. They caution against drawing conclusions on statistics alone.

And although the Times' analysis likely included most of Florida's fatal "stand your ground" cases, some could be missing. That can make a big difference when there are few cases to examine. For example, the Times found only 26 completed cases in which a black person was killed and only eight fatalities with a Hispanic victim.
posted by snaparapans at 7:37 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I have no idea what qualifies one for one group over the other.

How you feel about yourself. How you identify yourself. That's all. Nobody checks your DNA or ancestry, though in-person surveys might have somewhere where the interviewer can mark "Respondent's self-identification does not match appearance."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:38 AM on June 13, 2013


Race and "wannabe cop" aside, if you are a neighborhood watch officer and you're armed and an unarmed person ends up dead, you are in the wrong.
posted by zzazazz at 7:39 AM on June 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


Yeah the marijuana use, texts, etc. has already been determined to be irrelevant and excluded by the trial judge.

It's actually only been excluded from the opening statement, per the link: the judge has not ruled on whether or not it will be admissable at trial.

I think the argument for admitting them may be either to bolster Zimmerman's claim that the Martin "looked like he was on drugs" or possibly to demonstrate Martin's familiarity with weapons. This could possibly be relevant if Zimmerman argues (as I think I saw a year ago, but can't quite recall) that Martin grabbed for/struggled for the gun while it was still holstered.

It may also be to bolster the claim of illegal activity: if Martin had (or shared) an illegal gun, it might strengthen the claim that he may have been engaging in illicit behavior if the defense chooses to pursue that angle.

It could also be for prejudicial purposes, though, particularly as gun-sharing is viewed primarily in context with gang activity.
posted by corb at 7:41 AM on June 13, 2013


The existence of 'Hispanic' as a racial category is surely the best possible evidence of the preposterousness of racial categories at all.

It isn't a racial category. It's an ethnic category that's orthogonal to race. You can be Hispanic or Latino and of any race.

Lots of forms ask about it because people of Hispanic or Latino identity are routinely discriminated against.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:42 AM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]



It could also be for prejudicial purposes, though, particularly as gun-sharing is viewed primarily in context with gang activity.


For black people.

Look, if you can suppose that Martin's playing with a gun means he was a thug, then how can you not suppose the same of Zimmerman without racism ? Perhaps Zimmerman was just defending his turf from against a competing dealer ?

Personally, I gotta think that Zimmerman is toast here. Whatever his concerns about Martin's alleged behavior, he had no reason to leave his vehicle in pursuit of him. There was no crime in progress for him to heroically intervene in.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:56 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Previously in you-can't-say-that-in-court news.

At least in that case I understood (though vehemently disagreed with) the idea behind the ruling: "rape" is a legal term that the judge wanted to avoid for fear of prejudging the verdict. I could be wrong, but "self-appointed neighborhood watch captain" doesn't sound like the legal name of a crime.

Is there a lawyer who could explain these "don't say that word in court" rulings in a general sense? Because they sound bonkers.
posted by daveliepmann at 7:56 AM on June 13, 2013


What ROU_Xenophobe said. Lots of people in the U.S. seem to think "hispanic" means "brown-skinned and of central or south American origin." In fact, hispanic means "having an origin relating to Spain or Spanish-speaking countries. It is possible to be from Mexico, speak Spanish, and have a racial make-up and skin tone associated with African origins, European origins, Asian origins, or, of course, the mestizo origins that many people are thinking of when they say "hispanic". For that matter, it is possible to be a brown-skinned Portugese-speaking person from Brazil and not meet the definition of hispanic, which would confuse many people in the U.S. So, hispanic is not a racial category.
Many people view this definition as problematic. When defined rigorously, there is no (non-offensive) term that includes all the brown-skinned people that speak Spanish, Portugese, or native languages in central and south America. "Latino", "La Raza", "Mexican" and other terms that are often used to try and refer to all such people all include only portions of that group.
This may seem like a bug, but it is a feature! Here's why: brown-skinned, people that speak Spanish, Portugese, or native languages in central and south America are not a homogenous group, and there is no reason to try and make one term encompass them all besides laziness, confusion, or racism.
Derail complete!
posted by agentofselection at 7:57 AM on June 13, 2013 [19 favorites]


I think the argument for admitting them may be either to bolster Zimmerman's claim that the Martin "looked like he was on drugs" or possibly to demonstrate Martin's familiarity with weapons. This could possibly be relevant if Zimmerman argues (as I think I saw a year ago, but can't quite recall) that Martin grabbed for/struggled for the gun while it was still holstered.


I'm not clear why it's in anybody's interest to argue that somebody who is or appears to be familiar with weapons is thereby made a present threat such that lethal violence in self-defense is warranted upon encountering such a person. I don't understand this reasoning at all, or how it might be relevant to a claim of self-defense.

I'm familiar with some weapons, as I freely admit. Upon exiting a 7-11 with a bottle of soda and some candy, I do not thereby present any individual with an occasion for lethal force in self-defense.

Moreover, the relevant information is not what happened to be true of Martin after the fact. You don't get to kill people and then claim self-defense because they happened to be in a gang, used drugs at some prior time in their lives, or had been photographed brandishing a firearm (as are being alleged or insinuated of Martin). What Martin had done on Facebook the week before he died, let's say, is irrelevant to whether Zimmerman reasonably believed Martin posed a present threat to Zimmerman, unless Zimmerman knew about it.
posted by gauche at 7:58 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


This case is going to be one big friggin' nightmare from start to finish and the media coverage, especially the 24 hr so-called news networks, will be unrelenting and unbearable. It will be painted as our whole system of criminal justice and fairness, especially as it has to do with race, being on trial. However, the circus will likely overwhelm all of that. The whole thing has been tried in the media for months and many people already know how they want this trial to come out and are not really all that interested in a fair trial, more so than one that comes out the way they already know it should based upon all the crappy information available through the media. Yuck. What a mess.
posted by caddis at 7:59 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


More on the Tampa Bay Times Study that Salon used in your link

Later in that link they go on to say this:
The analysis, however, is supported by numerous studies showing disparities in the way whites and blacks are treated by the criminal justice system. Studies have found that all-white juries are more likely to convict black defendants. Someone who murders a white person is more likely to get the death penalty than someone who kills a black person.

Adora Obi Nweze, state president of the NAACP, said she was not surprised that people claiming "stand your ground'' escaped penalty more often when the victim was black. But she sharply questioned whether "stand your ground'' really helps black defendants.

"It's very difficult to isolate the data on one law,'' she said, "when we have so many laws where blacks are disproportionately not released, not given the kind of equity you want in justice."
I think the argument for admitting them may be either to bolster Zimmerman's claim that the Martin "looked like he was on drugs" or possibly to demonstrate Martin's familiarity with weapons.

It may also be to bolster the claim of illegal activity: if Martin had (or shared) an illegal gun, it might strengthen the claim that he may have been engaging in illicit behavior if the defense chooses to pursue that angle.


All of which is complete bullshit and still irrelevant. The defense has already come out and said that it's to paint "a different picture" than friends and family, which is obviously prejudicial. As is the argument that Martin thought that Martin looked like he was on drugs, because he started his pursuit at a point where that would impossible to know unless he had actually witnessed Martin doing drugs. The "familiarity with weapons/illegal activity" excuse is also completely irrelevant, apart from the fact that Martin was unarmed, because there is no way Zimmerman could have known he was familiar with any weapon or that he had allegedly engaged in illicit behavior.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:02 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe It isn't a racial category. It's an ethnic category that's orthogonal to race. You can be Hispanic or Latino and of any race.

Race? Well skin color may be a better category as Race is pretty questionable as a category, unless you are speaking of the human race.

BTW- Zimmerman's great grandfather had black skin..
posted by snaparapans at 8:03 AM on June 13, 2013


What ROU_Xenophobe said. Lots of people in the U.S. seem to think "hispanic" means "brown-skinned and of central or south American origin." In fact, hispanic means "having an origin relating to Spain or Spanish-speaking countries.

I have a friend who was amused at how she magically changed race when she moved to the US, from white to "Hispanic". Her family is from South America, but they are considered white in their home country.
posted by jb at 8:04 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


BTW- Zimmerman's great grandfather had black skin..

And my great great grandmother was Cherokee!
posted by shakespeherian at 8:07 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


"you could probably kill somebody” with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea.

Mayor Bloomberg agrees.
posted by gyc at 8:08 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I have a friend who was amused at how she magically changed race when she moved to the US, from white to "Hispanic". Her family is from South America, but they are considered white in their home country.

I have an Argentinian friend whose parents are first generation Italian and Spanish immigrants to Argentina, as a result he also has Italian and Spanish citizenship. When he moved to Texas he quickly realised that 'Spanish' and 'Argentinian' have very different racial implications in the US because one is coded as 'Hispanic' and one is coded as 'European'.
posted by atrazine at 8:09 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


That Zimmerman has some Spanish ancestors doesn't really change the "white man shoots defenseless black boy" angle, as far as I'm concerned.

Is your argument that race doesn't matter or is it that Zimmerman is still white no matter his ancestry? I would say his ancestry should change your view. You can still view it as a senseless murder, a racist murder, a justified killing, however you want to view it, but I think it's inaccurate to say it's a white man killing a defenseless black boy, since that's not what he is.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:11 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


zombieflanders: All of which is complete bullshit and still irrelevant.

Yes, but regarding your link which I guess is also irrelevant, it does not tells the whole story about Stand Your Ground statistics and racial bias and the Tampa Bay Times study. The Salon link is cherry picking data.

It is without question that there is racism in general when it comes to a black shooter conviction rates particularly when the victim is white, jury is white etc,

.. just not so clear with Stand Your Ground which shows some evidence that it may have some effect on reducing convictions for black shooters. That is what is most interesting and controversial from the Times study.. left out from your link.
posted by snaparapans at 8:13 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would say his ancestry should change your view... I think it's inaccurate to say it's a white man killing a defenseless black boy, since that's not what he is.

I think that in this case, ancestry is far less relevant that social perception, i.e. whether you "pass" and are white insofar as most or all of your community treats you as white. Because the issue here is about how the community reacted to a person that the community perceived to be white shooting a person who was perceived to be black. The cops who investigated the shooting didn't stop to consult any family trees.
posted by prefpara at 8:15 AM on June 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


shakespeherian: And my great great grandmother was Cherokee!

Yes, interesting how many or most white skinned people who have Cherokee ancestors make a point of telling others about it, yet most white skinned people who have black skinned ancestors keep their mouths shut.

Sad state of affairs, imo.
posted by snaparapans at 8:18 AM on June 13, 2013


I'm not really comfortable getting too angry at defense lawyers for doing their job.

I think there's room for compromise here. They can do their job and I can be angry at them.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:21 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't see what Zimmerman's race has to do with anything, one way or another. I have a relative who is a wonderfully exotic blend of non-white peoples and he is racist as fuck.
posted by leopard at 8:22 AM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


Yes, but regarding your link which I guess is also irrelevant, it does not tells the whole story about Stand Your Ground statistics and racial bias and the Tampa Bay Times study. The Salon link is cherry picking data.

As the Times themselves say, their data doesn't actually disprove either theory. Regardless, the Salon article also mentioned this Urban Institute study concerning the rulings on "stand your ground" cases, which seems to bolster the findings from the Times study. That doesn't even get into the plentiful evidence (including that of the Times) that "stand your ground" just seems to be a horribly ineffective law all around, one that is more likely to cause problems in the judicial and penal systems than allow people to protect themselves.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:22 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that in this case, ancestry is far less relevant that social perception, i.e. whether you "pass" and are white insofar as most or all of your community treats you as white.

While people who can "pass" certainly do tend to receive the benefits of privilege in some cases, I think overall, letting people's racial or ethnic identification be determined by the perceptions of others - or whether you can "pass" - is problematic, particularly for minority groups whose racial or ethnic classification has for too long been dictated by the dominant majority.
posted by corb at 8:22 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree that forcing people into certain classifications is problematic and has a long history of being pernicious bullshit, but that is kind of orthogonal to the reasons people are talking about race in this case, which aren't about what Zimmerman's "real" race is (though that question keeps distracting people into irrelevant non-sequitur debates). People are talking about race because of the way other people, e.g. the cops, behaved based on their perception of the racial identities of the people involved, which is problematic not (at this moment, for these purposes) because they got the race wrong, but because of how they acted on their belief about those racial identities.
posted by prefpara at 8:26 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


The idea that Zimmerman's race shields him from questions of racial motivation is itself racist as fuck.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:28 AM on June 13, 2013 [16 favorites]


I don't see what Zimmerman's race has to do with anything, one way or another.

I agree for the most part, but if it's going to put forth as why the events unfolded the way they did I think it's important to be accurate with them. Otherwise it'd be easy to change the reality with mere words. I can solve endemic black on black violence. Let's just start calling the white, then we can talk about all the white on white violence and what we're going to do about it.

I'm probably not articulating this well, since it's not like I care if white people get accused of having privilege and that this is another case of a white killing a black and getting different treatment. What's one case one way or the other? I'm not denying the former, so I don't know why the later matters. I just think if we're going to try to address these sorts of things it's important to know when they are actually occurring and when they aren't.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:30 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can i now carry a gun in florida and shoot any right wing person who seems threatening to me or calls me those things, as i'd just be defending myself? Would the same people who leap to defend Zimmerman defend me too if i did that? I sincerely doubt it.

That's the point of the stand your ground law, and why It's so popular. People want a quick solution to injustice, and to defend themselves situationally.

Ironically, the same people beating you down and calling you a liberal faggot would call anyone against SYG a liberal faggot. They'd be textbook. So in no small part, they beat you up because they assumed you were against the right to kill them for it.

Aren't the culture wars grand.
posted by clarknova at 8:31 AM on June 13, 2013


What's important here is this wasn't just a white on black murder, or a Hispanic on black murder, or whatever the hell you want to call it. George Zimmerman, a middle aged man, shot a child to death.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:32 AM on June 13, 2013 [19 favorites]


Unarmed child.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:33 AM on June 13, 2013 [24 favorites]


I guess it rubs me the wrong way because while there is a totally valid and important conversation to have about how racial identity is constructed and forced on individuals, it troubles me when that keeps coming up in a conversation about how people behaved in a specific instance, because asking "well was he REALLY" of a particular race makes it seem like that matters at all. When, in fact, the point is that race should NOT affect how likely you are to get away with shooting an unarmed child.
posted by prefpara at 8:34 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


I agree for the most part, but if it's going to put forth as why the events unfolded the way they did I think it's important to be accurate with them.

The reason that everyone knows about this case is that an unarmed teenager was shot to death for no good reason, and the police didn't even press charges against the shooter. This was probably because there was a notion that Martin was not "one of us good people," and that was probably because he was black. But quite frankly the racial identity of Zimmerman, and of the police who handled the case, isn't that relevant. I think it's somewhat unfortunate that racism is assumed to rise out of the evil of your heart, and that if you have a good heart, or if you have a Hispanic heart, then it's not possible for your actions to be guided by racism.
posted by leopard at 8:41 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are no winners in any heated discussion of race. Everyone comes away a loser. It's a tragedy really.
posted by clarknova at 8:45 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


zombieflanders: ....that "stand your ground" just seems to be a horribly ineffective law...

Ineffective law, hardly... horrible law, absolutely.
posted by snaparapans at 8:51 AM on June 13, 2013


shakespeherian:The idea that Zimmerman's race shields him from questions of racial motivation is itself racist as fuck.

is that what people are saying?.. if so I have not heard it.

sounds nutty, almost as nutty as the one drop rule... which would have more than likely put him on the gallows not too long ago.
posted by snaparapans at 8:58 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


When, in fact, the point is that race should NOT affect how likely you are to get away with shooting an unarmed child.
posted by prefpara

I think this is what Clarknova is refering to when he typed "There are no winners in any heated discussion of race. Everyone comes away a loser. It's a tragedy really."
I agree. I think the point in fact prefpara is alot of people use the same criteria when asking a question that does contain all the facts. For example we do not know if at anytime treyvon was armed or even concealing a weapon...doesn't matter what the weapon was because that is conjecture for discussionary purposes here.
posted by clavdivs at 9:01 AM on June 13, 2013


As is the argument that Martin thought that Martin looked like he was on drugs, because he started his pursuit at a point where that would impossible to know unless he had actually witnessed Martin doing drugs

I'm not even sure how "looked like he was on drugs" is any kind of mitigating factor anyway. Are neighbourhood watch-types even allowed to do anything about a guy possibly being on drugs? "That guy over there bothering no one looks like he's on drugs, better go chase him down and confront him! I'll bring my gun too, just in case. You never know with these guys who look like they might be on drugs."
posted by Hoopo at 9:12 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


So there were picture on Trayvon's cell phone of him with a gun. Can't black kids be strong proponents of the 2nd amendment? These same folks who look at Wayne LaPierre as a hero for arming himself think that it's damning that a black kid just has a picture of a gun.

Racism, anyone?
posted by leftcoastbob at 9:12 AM on June 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


[Difficult thread, please make an effort folks.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:16 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It will be interesting to see how the defense handles the fact that the police dispatcher specifically told Zimmerman to back off and not confront Martin.
posted by rtha at 9:17 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


It looks like they're trying to handle that by having the evidence excluded.

lol.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:19 AM on June 13, 2013


Here's a beauty of a "not racist" local law: Entire town under curfew for summer nights

"The main reason is we have people standing in the street. We have cars from different areas riding through the town at all times of the night," Police Chief Fredrick Dunn said. "It's to keep the juveniles as well as the adults off the street because it's more than the juveniles that's walking and hanging in the street."

Anyone walking or driving suspiciously through Clinton during the summer nights will get stopped. The first time officers will issue a warning, the second time a summons and the third offense could land them in jail.

At night, crowds of people will gather in the street and not move, Dunn said.

"Most of them are bold. They'll just turn around and say wait until we finish then move," Dunn said. "That's not going to happen in the Town of Clinton, not under my watch."


"Them", "people".
posted by Artw at 9:24 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Artw, I don't doubt your assumption, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of evidence from THAT article that the curfew is based on race.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:27 AM on June 13, 2013


So there were picture on Trayvon's cell phone of him with a gun. Can't black kids be strong proponents of the 2nd amendment? These same folks who look at Wayne LaPierre as a hero for arming himself think that it's damning that a black kid just has a picture of a gun.

LaPierre also divided the world into "god guys with guns" and "bad guys with guns," so there's not necessarily any outright hypocrisy there.

Changing self-defense laws in order to privilege aggressive, sustained force as a first resort, and even valorizes this as "good guy" behavior, as if the ideal of the "reasonable person" resembles or ought to resemble action-move fantasies. The pathological is redefined as the reasonable, and social pathologies such as racism are subtly encouraged precisely because legally sponsored, sustained aggression reduces the public capacity for understanding, self-restraint, and communication.

Free Zimmerman!

You're giving away your Bob Dylan records?
posted by kewb at 9:32 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


LaPierre also divided the world into "god guys with guns" and "bad guys with guns," so there's not necessarily any outright hypocrisy there.

I've always put that saying on a par with the "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" grade school way of looking at the world. We really can't put people into absolute categories like Good Guy or Bad Guy but if I really had to, I'm not so sure that LaPierre would belong in the first category.
posted by leftcoastbob at 9:39 AM on June 13, 2013


It will be interesting to see how the defense handles the fact that the police dispatcher specifically told Zimmerman to back off and not confront Martin.

Zimmerman's claim is that he was walking back to his car to meet the police after getting off the phone. Martin attacked him from behind on the way.

The follower became the followed. I don't think I buy that when the shooter is the only source for it.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:53 AM on June 13, 2013


I've always put that saying on a par with the "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" grade school way of looking at the world. We really can't put people into absolute categories like Good Guy or Bad Guy but if I really had to, I'm not so sure that LaPierre would belong in the first category.

The appeal of the statement is that it reduces a difficult and complex reality to an impoverished, but internally consistent world of endless self-affirmation.
posted by kewb at 9:55 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


At night, crowds of people will gather in the street and not move, Dunn said.

This might be one of those things I was talking about yesterday where someone trying to communicate is so fumblingly inarticulate that no meaning emerges, but does it not sound as if Police Chief Fredrick Dunn is describing some bizarre and vaguely horrific scenario here?

"Presented for your consideration: the townsfolk of Clinton, Lousiana, who have stepped out to take the air on a fine summer evening. However, their laws leave them between heartbeats, between steps, and between ticks of the clock, stopped forever... in the Twilight Zone."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:55 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


My favorite thing about this whole thing is the forensic evidence vs Zimmerman's version of events. He claims that Trayvon was battering his face with his fists, yet Trayvon's hands were found to be almost completely undamaged save for a scar and a tiny abrasion. Zimmerman claims Martin knocked him down on his back, yet Trayvon's pants have grass stains all down the front of them and George Zimmerman's clothes from that night... don't, at all.

The prosecutor is going to bring out the forensic evidence and then there's going to be a pretty good show.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:58 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


I suspect that Zimmerman will not be convicted of murder. My expectation is that the case hinges on the question of whether Martin really reached for Zimmerman's gun or not. Zimmerman probably accosted Martin for no good reason, and it sounds like it would also be easy to prove that he's racist.

But none of that really matters when we're trying to determine whether or not he shot Martin out of self-defense or murder. Zimmerman might well be an obnoxious racist who had no business bothering Martin, but he may have also legitimately acted in self-defense. All that other stuff goes out the window if Martin really did reach for his gun. Is it possible that's what happened? It seems theoretically possible, and I suspect it will be hard to rule out the possibility. Thus, I expect that he will not be convicted of murder. Just because Zimmerman should have never been talking to Martin in the first place doesn't mean he lost the right to defend himself.

Of course, facts may emerge that weigh against the possibility of self-defense. I'm trying to stay focused on the facts and the charges and avoid jumping to conclusions, regardless of the apparent odiousness of Zimmerman.
posted by Edgewise at 10:13 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just because Zimmerman should have never been talking to Martin in the first place doesn't mean he lost the right to defend himself.

But that implies that Martin had no right to defend himself. There was no altercation without Zimmerman starting it, pursuing it, and bringing it to Martin.

I don't see how Zimmerman can pick a fight with a stranger, shoot them, and then claim self defense.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:16 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Zimmerman might well be an obnoxious racist who had no business bothering Martin, but he may have also legitimately acted in self-defense. All that other stuff goes out the window if Martin really did reach for his gun.

I'm murky on how the law deals with self-defense in situations of escalation during a conflict (especially w/r/t the Stand Your Ground thing) but if Zimmerman attacked Martin and Martin reached for the gun and Zimmerman used the gun to shoot Martin that doesn't sound like clear-cut self-defense to me.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:26 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


You will not find anything clear cut in this matter.
posted by caddis at 10:30 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm murky on how the law deals with self-defense in situations of escalation during a conflict (especially w/r/t the Stand Your Ground thing) but if Zimmerman attacked Martin and Martin reached for the gun and Zimmerman used the gun to shoot Martin that doesn't sound like clear-cut self-defense to me.

I haven't looked at the Stand Your Ground law since this case first broke, and I don't practice criminal law, but my recollection from Crim in law school was that in general, a person having a reasonable apprehension of danger to life and/or limb has a limited privilege to meet that danger with reasonable force. In some jurisdictions such a person may first have an obligation to attempt to flee, which obligation must be reasonably exhausted in order for the person to enjoy the privilege of responding with reasonable force.

So in short, no, in general you don't get to escalate something up to lethal and then claim self-defense. Like I say, I don't know the state of the law in Florida.
posted by gauche at 10:34 AM on June 13, 2013


You will not find anything clear cut in this matter.

Trayvon Martin is dead. That seems pretty clear cut.
posted by kewb at 10:34 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I don't know what Florida law says on this point, but there are definitely jurisdictions where you can't claim self defense if you start the fight, even if the other person resorts to deadly force.
posted by prefpara at 10:35 AM on June 13, 2013


People are talking about race because of the way other people, e.g. the cops, behaved based on their perception of the racial identities of the people involved, which is problematic not (at this moment, for these purposes) because they got the race wrong, but because of how they acted on their belief about those racial identities.

Oh, absolutely! But I think that that accurate assessment should be explained in that way, not by attempting to insist that Zimmerman is somehow not Hispanic. It's pretty easy to say, "I think the police were influenced because they thought Zimmerman was white" without going down the rabbit hole of misidentifying people's identities based on shades of their skin.
posted by corb at 10:37 AM on June 13, 2013


But that implies that Martin had no right to defend himself. There was no altercation without Zimmerman starting it, pursuing it, and bringing it to Martin.

Not at all. It really depends on how the actual fight started (i.e. if Zimmerman threw the first punch, then Martin certainly had a right to defend himself). However, reaching for the gun (assuming that's what happened) puts Zimmerman in a situation where, for all he knows, he may be shot and killed. If, as he said, they then struggled over the gun and he shot Martin during that struggle, then you have to ask yourself: what should he have done at that point? I doubt that many will dispute that Zimmerman shouldn't have been there at the first place, but in the question of murder, I suspect that this doesn't matter (note: I'm not a lawyer).

I'm murky on how the law deals with self-defense in situations of escalation during a conflict (especially w/r/t the Stand Your Ground thing) but if Zimmerman attacked Martin and Martin reached for the gun and Zimmerman used the gun to shoot Martin that doesn't sound like clear-cut self-defense to me.

I agree that it's not quite clear cut, but I think there's more than enough ambiguity to get him off. As I said, I'm not a lawyer and I don't even live in Florida, but the thing is that it's pretty much Zimmerman's word against no one's. If the forensic evidence can't disprove his version of events, I would think that there's enough room to justify self-defense, or at least knock the murder charge down to manslaughter or less.

Yeah, I don't know what Florida law says on this point, but there are definitely jurisdictions where you can't claim self defense if you start the fight, even if the other person resorts to deadly force.

Really? Well, maybe I'm wrong. I'm basing my opinion on a very layman understanding of the law. Given the argument of Zimmerman's legal team, I'm guessing that Florida may not be a jurisdiction like the ones you describe, but I freely admit to my ignorance.

I guess what I'm really saying is that Zimmerman may be a terrible person, but his account of events may also be true or at least not disprovable. Whether or not his account is enough to absolve him according to Florida law, I haven't a clue.
posted by Edgewise at 10:41 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not even sure how "looked like he was on drugs" is any kind of mitigating factor anyway.

Doesn't it also just sound like a shit "reason" made up after the fact too?

It's like a little kid saying he had to eat a couple of the cookies to make sure they weren't bad.

Yea, riiiiiiight.

Pretty much everything Zimmerman has come up with as "justification" stinks of this kind of grade school shit that a kid would come up with when he as caught by his mom doing something bad. The fact that any of it is being taken seriously pretty much just bolsters the point of the people saying something really extra stinky is going on here.
posted by emptythought at 10:49 AM on June 13, 2013


Not at all. It really depends on how the actual fight started (i.e. if Zimmerman threw the first punch, then Martin certainly had a right to defend himself).

From Martin's POV, he was being followed by a suspicious man in a truck, who then got out of the truck and accosted him. It seems to me that there can be no claim to self defense on Zimmerman's part because he drove everything that happened up to the altercation. He singled Martin out, he followed him, he accosted him. Everything that happened after that point was put into motion by Zimmerman and not Martin.

So, in my estimation, if anyone has a self defense claim, it is Martin, who had an absolute right to defend himself against an unknown and armed assailant who had been following him for no reason at all.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:54 AM on June 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


what should he have done at that point? I doubt that many will dispute that Zimmerman shouldn't have been there at the first place, but in the question of murder, I suspect that this doesn't matter (note: I'm not a lawyer).

IMO, this is one of those "if you get in over your head then tough shit" situations. If you start a fight, and it turns on you and you use deadly force, then you should somehow still be in the wrong for starting it. Especially if the other person is laying there dead.

Because the fact of the matter is that person wouldn't be dead if you hadn't started that fight, and you still killed them.

It also should come in to question that you were the only armed person, and that you went dick-swinging in to this fight knowing you had a trump card even if you started losing. Then called "no fair!" When you were in a position that maybe the tables could have been turned on you.

I'm also not a lawyer, but this seems like a pretty basic concept to me. It also relates to my previous comment about the cookie jar defense, where it seems like you're constructing a bullshit situation in which you were "right" just because you wanted to d something that's against the rules.

Additionally, as with the "looks like he's on drugs" above, I don't really believe at all that he tried to grab the gun while it was holstered. Maybe when it was already pointed at him(and I'm aware we'll never know for sure) but that just stinks way too much like make believe to make yourself sound more righteous to me.

This may very well be my own opinions and filters of effecting how I view this situation though. But this guy really quacks like an asshole to me, especially in the context of the community around him being oddly supportive and seemingly racist.
posted by emptythought at 10:57 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Looks like he was on drugs." was a justification for making the call to police and he mentioned it on the phone with them before the shooting. He maintains all he was trying to do was keep an eye on him so the police could handle it.

The drug test showed the level of THC in his system was so low that he was not intoxicated at the time, so the previous messages and pictures and stuff obviously have no relevance to the situation.

All highlighting Zimmernan's belief that Martin was on drugs does is demonstrate that he had a distorted view of what was going on that night and his actions were most likely influenced by those distortions.

He singled Martin out, he followed him, he accosted him.

Zimmerman claims that Martin approached him from behind as he was walking back to his car. So, his claim is not based on having accosted Martin.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:57 AM on June 13, 2013


Additionally, as with the "looks like he's on drugs" above, I don't really believe at all that he tried to grab the gun while it was holstered. Maybe when it was already pointed at him(and I'm aware we'll never know for sure) but that just stinks way too much like make believe to make yourself sound more righteous to me.

Let us not forget that, according to Zimmerman, Martin's last words were 'You got me.'
posted by shakespeherian at 11:02 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't really believe at all that he tried to grab the gun while it was holstered. Maybe when it was already pointed at him(and I'm aware we'll never know for sure)

This is one of those interesting situations where what factually happened, and the perception of what happened, can differ, while still having (I believe) one legal outcome.

As related to Zimmerman's claim of self defense, it thus matters less whether Martin actually grabbed Zimmerman's gun while it was holstered, or whether Zimmerman believed that he did. It's entirely possible that Zimmerman just felt his gun jostled or the holster shoved or some such, and assumed Martin was attempting to get it.

It does raise the question though of what do you do about self-beneficial testimony when there is only one persona around? If Martin were here, he could give a contradictory account of the conflict - but he's not. Obviously, they won't just take Zimmerman's word - but how much is the case influenced by that inequality?
posted by corb at 11:07 AM on June 13, 2013


IMO, this is one of those "if you get in over your head then tough shit" situations. If you start a fight, and it turns on you and you use deadly force, then you should somehow still be in the wrong for starting it. Especially if the other person is laying there dead.

The more I think about this, the more I doubt that this is the operative legal principle. Let's consider a more clear cut situation. Let's say you angrily shove someone who you're having a heated argument with. Then, he pulls out a shotgun, saying he's going to kill you. You fight back, successfully disarming him (guess you were lucky). In the process, he hurt his finger when you wrested the shotgun away, and now you're being charged with assault and battery for that. Does it make sense to say that, by shoving the guy, you lost the right to defend yourself against a shotgun?

Yes, this example is not the same thing as what happened here, but what I'm trying to do is make a reasonable guess at what are the underlying legal principles. What may seem sensible in this situation may not be indicative of what would be sensible in the more general case. Again, I really don't actually know...
posted by Edgewise at 11:12 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It does raise the question though of what do you do about self-beneficial testimony when there is only one persona around? If Martin were here, he could give a contradictory account of the conflict - but he's not. Obviously, they won't just take Zimmerman's word - but how much is the case influenced by that inequality?

Schrödinger's Gat, I suppose. And the box can never be opened.

It wouldn't surprise me if the prosecution leaned on the point that he brought a gun in to the situation, used it, and was the one to walk away though. Because distilling it down to "but what if he felt threatened and like his gun was being jostled" seems overly charitable to me and also kind of shitty.

So if someone tries to grab your gun, you can shoot them for trying to grab it? I guess that's my legality question for the day.

It seems to me that your goal would be to keep your weapon holstered as much as you possibly can, not use it as an opportunity to go "well if anyone's pulling it out, it's me".

Also isn't he a much larger guy? What would his defense be against the point that couldn't he have just beat the shit out of the kid at that point when he tried to grab the gun, or just tackled him?

I could spitball reasons this is also fairly indefensible all day. It's only an understandable action if you think that "having a feeling someone might be trying to grab your gun" is a good reason to pull it out and shoot them. Was the holster even unclipped? Jesus.
posted by emptythought at 11:18 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It does raise the question though of what do you do about self-beneficial testimony when there is only one persona around? If Martin were here, he could give a contradictory account of the conflict - but he's not. Obviously, they won't just take Zimmerman's word - but how much is the case influenced by that inequality?

I'd be interested in someone with legal experience getting into that. It's my sense we mostly leave it up to the jury. I can't help but think of cases where a spouse kills another. We obviously don't just say, "Well, he said she charged at him with a knife and his life felt threatened so clearly self defense!" Forensic evidence can't really tell us everything, to some degree we just have to decide if a story is really that likely.

A teenager randomly deciding to attack someone from behind for pretty much no reason? Saying stuff like, "You're gonna die tonight!" Really? He went from buying Skittles and watching basketball to murder mode a few doors down from his house just because he didn't like being followed? If believing that is why I should have reasonable doubt...I don't have it.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:18 AM on June 13, 2013


Obviously, they won't just take Zimmerman's word - but how much is the case influenced by that inequality?

Zimmerman's word is not ironclad. The jury is not required to believe it.

If I were the prosecutor I would take pains to establish Zimmerman's testimony as untrustworthy and self-serving in as many respects as I could (that is to say, impeach the witness) and then spell out those inconsistencies in my closing argument. The jury doesn't have to believe any particular piece of evidence.
posted by gauche at 11:20 AM on June 13, 2013


Drinky Die The drug test showed the level of THC in his system was so low that he was not intoxicated at the time, so the previous messages and pictures and stuff obviously have no relevance to the situation.

Do you have a link to support that statement, as it does not jibe with what expert testimony has stated. The defense wanted to include evidence of Martins MJ use because it corroborates Zimmerman statement "Looks like he was on drugs". Also:
They [the defense] aren't claiming marijuana makes one violent. They use the words "impaired judgment." I take that to mean they would argue Martin misperceived George as a threat. According to GZ, all he was doing was walking back to his car when TM confronted him, and then hit him for no reason.

From the state's toxicologist, Dr. Bruce Goldberger testimony:
Dr. Goldberger opined that Trayvon Martin may have used marijuana within a couple of hours of his death or that it could have been longer than that depending on whether Trayvon Martin was a chronic user or an occasional user.
posted by snaparapans at 11:21 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I should perhaps add, I am a lawyer, although this is neither my area of expertise nor am I licensed to practice in Florida, and moreover nothing that I say on MetaFilter is legal advice.
posted by gauche at 11:22 AM on June 13, 2013


The more I think about this, the more I doubt that this is the operative legal principle. Let's consider a more clear cut situation. Let's say you angrily shove someone who you're having a heated argument with. Then, he pulls out a shotgun, saying he's going to kill you. You fight back, successfully disarming him (guess you were lucky). In the process, he hurt his finger when you wrested the shotgun away, and now you're being charged with assault and battery for that. Does it make sense to say that, by shoving the guy, you lost the right to defend yourself against a shotgun?

This isn't even remotely the same since the person who started the fight didn't have the gun. As such, the premise of it doesn't really work.

My entire point was that you're pretty much automatically in the wrong for escalating the situation by starting a fight, then escalating it again with your weapon when you start losing.
posted by emptythought at 11:22 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Do you have a link to support that statement, as it does not jibe with what expert testimony has stated.

Interesting, I'll keep that in mind when I discuss the case in the future. I was relying on previous reports along these lines:

Martin's autopsy indicated that medical examiners found THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, when they tested Martin's blood and urine. The amount described in the autopsy report is such a low level that it would have played no role in Martin's behavior, said Larry Kobilinsky, a professor of forensic science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

"This kind of level can be seen days after somebody smokes," Kobilinsky said. "If it comes up in the case, I would be surprised. It wouldn't benefit the defense, it wouldn't benefit the prosecution, and if the defense tried to bring it up, the judge would keep it out."

posted by Drinky Die at 11:28 AM on June 13, 2013


The defense wanted to include evidence of Martins MJ use because it corroborates Zimmerman statement "Looks like he was on drugs".

Tell me, what does being under the influence of marijuana look like from a distance, in the dark, through a window, during a rainstorm? And how can that be corroborated with anything?
posted by zombieflanders at 11:36 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


The more I think about this, the more I doubt that this is the operative legal principle. Let's consider a more clear cut situation. Let's say you angrily shove someone who you're having a heated argument with. Then, he pulls out a shotgun, saying he's going to kill you. You fight back, successfully disarming him (guess you were lucky). In the process, he hurt his finger when you wrested the shotgun away, and now you're being charged with assault and battery for that. Does it make sense to say that, by shoving the guy, you lost the right to defend yourself against a shotgun?

It's possible for neither of two combatants to enjoy the privilege of self-defense. Sometimes, both people are in the wrong. This is not at all inconsistent with the idea that starting a fight could waive any enjoyment of the self-defense privilege.
posted by gauche at 11:42 AM on June 13, 2013


zombieflanders: Tell me, what does being under the influence of marijuana look like from a distance, in the dark, through a window, during a rainstorm?

I have no idea. But I am sure that the prosecutor will ask that question.

And how can that be corroborated with anything?

The toxicology report will be used to bolster Zimmerman's credibility in that it will corroborate his statement "Looks like he was on drugs" during the 911 call.
posted by snaparapans at 11:44 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


All You Need to Know About Irrational "Self-Defense" Laws in Three Pictures
posted by homunculus at 11:45 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]



The toxicology report will be used to bolster Zimmerman's credibility in that it will corroborate his statement "Looks like he was on drugs" during the 911 call.


I would *love* to hear Zimmerman explain his professional training in making that assessment.
posted by mikelieman at 11:47 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


The toxicology report will be used to bolster Zimmerman's credibility in that it will corroborate his statement "Looks like he was on drugs" during the 911 call.

If I were the prosecutor, I'd let Zimmerman make this claim all day long, and then I'd just bring in my medical experts to testify that it is scientifically impossible for Zimmerman to have observed anything about Martin's being or not being on drugs on the basis of this evidence. This would go into the list of impossible things that Zimmerman testified were true in my closing argument.
posted by gauche at 11:48 AM on June 13, 2013


The toxicology report will be used to bolster Zimmerman's credibility in that it will corroborate his statement "Looks like he was on drugs" during the 911 call.

It was a rhetorical question, because it is impossible to determine marijuana intoxication in that situation (or indeed pretty much any combination of those factors). Which leads me to wonder why, if Zimmerman's account about the instigation of the situation is disprovable (which it 100% without a doubt is), people are taking anything of what he has to say at face value.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:53 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


If I were the prosecutor, I'd let Zimmerman make this claim all day long, and then I'd just bring in my medical experts to testify that it is scientifically impossible for Zimmerman to have observed anything about Martin's being or not being on drugs on the basis of this evidence.

I know that we all doubt Zimmerman's expert ability to discern drug-users from non-drug users, but scientifically impossible? It seems unlikely - particularly as police make these determinations all the time.

I suspect it goes kind of in this old-person idea of Reefer Madness, though -

"He's doing something weird."
"People on drugs do weird things."
"He must be on drugs."
posted by corb at 11:58 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes Treyvon Martin was coming home from 7-11 while zanily playing a piano and shouting 'FASTER! PLAY IT FASTER!'
posted by shakespeherian at 12:03 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


gauche:If I were the prosecutor, I'd let Zimmerman make this claim all day long...

zombieflanders: It was a rhetorical question, because it is impossible to determine marijuana intoxication in that situation

But the State wants to exclude Martin's MJ use and the defense wants to include it?

IANAL, so gauche, as a lawyer, why does the defense want to include it, if it does not help the defense?
posted by snaparapans at 12:03 PM on June 13, 2013


Saying stuff like, "You're gonna die tonight!" Really? He went from buying Skittles and watching basketball to murder mode a few doors down from his house just because he didn't like being followed?

One of the things that has always amazed me about this case is the fact that per Zimmerman's account, every single thing Trayvon Martin did or said on that night is suspicious and/or aggressive. Every. Single. Thing.

As if on that night, Trayvon Martin decided to embody every single negative stereotype about black American males, acting and speaking like someone straight out of Central Casting for the role of Young Black Thug #1.

By contrast, an audio expert claims that Trayvon Martin can be heard pleading "I'm begging you..." shortly before gunfire occurs in the recording of a 911 call made by someone nearby.

I think this defense team is playing a dangerous game by trying to paint Martin as something less than angel in the public eye. It invites the prosecution to do the same thing, and GZ has plenty of dirt in his past as well.

All that said, I do have some empathy for Zimmerman. I don't think he got out of his truck intending to kill somebody that night, and I don't know that I'd step up and be honorable if I were in his shoes: I would probably employ the same CYA tactics he's employing, thoroughly convincing myself that, yeah, that dude was a thug and I really was just minding my own business when you think about it. There but for the grace of God....
posted by lord_wolf at 12:04 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


By contrast, an audio expert claims

I hope my future never depends on supposed expert witnesses like this. They might as well be witch doctors.
posted by Justinian at 12:07 PM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


I know that we all doubt Zimmerman's expert ability to discern drug-users from non-drug users, but scientifically impossible?

Yes, it is scientifically impossible. There are no actions one takes under the influence of marijuana that are identifiable in any way as being "on drugs" in general, let alone weed specifically. At best, he'd have to have been within distance to clearly see the whites of Martin's eyes or to smell it on his breath or his clothes, all of which were impossible in the situations Zimmerman describes, and in any case were not mentioned in any of his testimony to police.

It seems unlikely - particularly as police make these determinations all the time.

Do they? I can see them doing that with drivers or having witnessed drug use, but I would think that it would inadmissible.

I suspect it goes kind of in this old-person idea of Reefer Madness, though

If that's admissible in court (color me skeptical), it's pretty messed up, and anybody that falls for that shouldn't be on a jury.

IANAL, so gauche, as a lawyer, why does the defense want to include it, if it does not help the defense?

Because they are trying to prejudice the case by portraying Martin as a drug-addled teenager who explicitly was not in "straight" set of mind, and implicitly that it makes him less of a victim and feeds into stereotypes about black male teenagers and long-existing but factually-discredited (as racist, BTW) tropes about how they behave while on weed.

In other words, they are trying to twist a situation that, in an informed jury without much prejudice, it would be to their detriment. However, there's a good possibility that the jury will not be free of those prejudices, and the defense is counting on that to get their client off the hook.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:13 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


why does the defense want to include it, if it does not help the defense?

I don't know, but it seems like from what I'm reading that they are trying to establish Martin as somebody who could plausibly represent a threat to Zimmerman, and they might figure as well that painting Martin as a drug user and a gang member will help them with any members of the jury who are at all sympathetic to the idea that scary black youths are invading the neighborhood. I don't know what story they are trying to tell.

I also know that at least some of the time, a defense client can be difficult to work with and can insist on sticking to a story that damages their actual case. These things can be tricky. I don't know whether that's the case here, but I don't suspect it is.
posted by gauche at 12:15 PM on June 13, 2013


I was at my corner store yesterday, and the dude in front of me - buying some beer and some cheetos and a quart of milk - *reeked* of marijuana. Like, do you have a lit pipe on you? kind of reeked.

He chatted with the owner, provided his own bag, and paid his money. Was he on drugs? I don't know! Can't tell! Didn't have my handy drug testing kit on me!
posted by rtha at 12:16 PM on June 13, 2013


gauche: I don't know, but it seems like from what I'm reading that they are trying to establish Martin as somebody who could plausibly represent a threat to Zimmerman..

or the opposite, according to one defense attorney:
They [the defense] aren't claiming marijuana makes one violent. They use the words "impaired judgment." I take that to mean they would argue Martin misperceived George as a threat. According to GZ, all he was doing was walking back to his car when TM confronted him, and then hit him for no reason.
posted by snaparapans at 12:22 PM on June 13, 2013


But, for the hojillionth time, it has nothing to do with how Zimmerman instigated the situation as lying about being able to tell Martin was on drugs, nor does it have any bearing on how Zimmerman would have approached the situation. And seeing as how Zimmerman did not identify any provable identifiable signs of drug use on Martin's behalf, it's preying upon people's beliefs about marijuana use, and in particular that by teenage black males.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:28 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I hope my future never depends on supposed expert witnesses like this.

I hope so too. In fact, I sincerely hope that nobody in this thread or any other discussion of the Zimmerman trial I've read anywhere on the Internet or overhead in real life ever finds her or himself in a situation where their future is dependent on someone making sense of a shitstorm similar to that which surrounds the death of Trayvon Martin.

Just as I can't find fault with Zimmerman and his father doing everything they can to CYA, I also don't find fault with Trayvon Martin's family doing everything within their power to see to it that a picture of Martin is painted that is at complete odds with Zimmerman's "ThugLife4Ever" portrait of him, especially anything that counters the "You're gonna die tonight!" allegations.
posted by lord_wolf at 12:32 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, I should point out that, despite their protestations to the contrary, the defense is in fact claiming marijuana made Martin violent. They're saying Martin wasn't violent because of marijuana until he confronted Zimmerman and "hit him for no reason." If marijuana impaired Martin's judgement to the point that he became violent, then they're claiming it made him violent.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:37 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not familiar with the intricacies of this law, but for someone who is:

Are Zimmerman's actions charged by "belief", "reasonable belief", "reasonable person standard", or fact?

Because I could see each of these having very different answers. If he is charged based on fact, then what precisely happened seems the most relevant. If he is charged based on his belief in the situation, then what-Zimmerman-thought becomes the most relevant. And perhaps most interestingly, if he is charged by reasonable person standard, then it seems to become, what-the-jury-would-have-thought, if they were in his place.
posted by corb at 12:41 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree with that. I think the verdict likely depends on the standard used to judge his claim of self defense.
posted by Justinian at 12:45 PM on June 13, 2013


zombieflanders: despite their protestations to the contrary

The quote I provided is an opinion from a defense attorney who is not involved with defending Zimmerman. So if that is why you believe that Zimmerman's attorneys are protesting, sorry for not being clearer. If you have some other links or evidence that his attorneys are claiming MJ makes you violent or not, please post the link..
posted by snaparapans at 12:46 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I thought that meant his defense attorney. The way it is stated is pretty unclear.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:50 PM on June 13, 2013


corb, here's Florida's statute on use of force in self-defense, which sets out the standards.

The relevant sections are 776.012 (reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony)

and 776.041 (justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:
(1) Is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of, a forcible felony; or
(2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless:
(a) Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or
(b) In good faith, the person withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.)


So under all circumstances, Zimmerman has to have a "reasonable belief" that the use of force is necessary to prevent his own death/GBH. But the facts inform which beliefs are reasonable, so it does matter what the facts are. Of course, "what the facts are" is a combination of what Zimmerman claims they are, how credible jurors find him, and what other circumstancial evidence is introduced.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:51 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


And regardless of what anyone else is saying, the defense is trying to bring drug use into the argument for no reason whatsoever other than to prejudice the case.

Also: If he is charged based on fact, then what precisely happened seems the most relevant. If he is charged based on his belief in the situation, then what-Zimmerman-thought becomes the most relevant. And perhaps most interestingly, if he is charged by reasonable person standard, then it seems to become, what-the-jury-would-have-thought, if they were in his place.

And this is where what the defense is doing by introducing the "ganja and gangsta" stuff into the trial is despicable bullshit. What Zimmerman thought is colored by the fact that he is caught on tape lying from the very beginning, therefore throwing all his following testimony into doubt even without all the other stuff that is unclear or just plain doesn't add up. What the jury would have thought it being clouded by "evidence" irrelevant to the case (because it had no bearing on how the situation was started) and deliberately being used by the defense to influence jurists likely to be either uninformed, prejudiced, or both.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:00 PM on June 13, 2013


According to defense attorney at TalkLeft who has been blogging in detail about the case from the beginning, the biggest problem for the prosecution is that they are going to have a very difficult time proving a charge of 2nd degree murder. Even if self defense does not figure in to the equation, which of course it will.
Where is their evidence that Zimmerman's act of shooting Trayvon demonstrated a depraved mind and was an act "done from ill will, hatred, spite, or an evil intent," indicative of an indifference to human life, as required for a second degree murder conviction? What is their theory?
posted by snaparapans at 1:04 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Echoing what a few others are saying, I have a hard time imagining the prosecution getting a conviction (or at least the conviction they want).

Even if Zimmerman admits that everything he did leading up to the confrontation is wrong, it seems nearly impossible to disprove Zimmerman's account that it was Martin who turned the altercation lethal.
posted by rosswald at 1:12 PM on June 13, 2013


I have no idea. But I am sure that the prosecutor will ask that question.

I have an idea, actually. It looks like pretty much anyone else.
posted by Hoopo at 1:20 PM on June 13, 2013


Yeah the marijuana use, texts, etc. has already been determined to be irrelevant and excluded by the trial judge. That could get changed if they somehow become relevant. I'm having trouble imagining how that could happen, but trials are unpredictable things.

They would be used to impeach hypethetical prosecution witnesses who claim that Martin never did drugs, was not violent, etc. They only become relevant if the prosecution goes down that path.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:20 PM on June 13, 2013


All the more reason that stand your ground sets an utterly horrifying precedent of creating more violence and crime than it seeks to solve. Without it, either Zimmerman would not have taken the law into his own hands and Martin would have been alive at the end of the night, or Zimmerman would clearly be guilty of murder and justice would be served.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:21 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


rosswald: " Even if Zimmerman admits that everything he did leading up to the confrontation is wrong, it seems nearly impossible to disprove Zimmerman's account that it was Martin who turned the altercation lethal."

I'm afraid you're right, which demonstrates precisely why "stand your ground" laws are so dangerous. All you need to do to murder someone is (a) make sure there are no witnesses and (b) tell the cops that you were scared that the other guy would grab your own gun and shoot you with it.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:22 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


If you Google the prosecutor Angela Corey, she has a history of prosecutorial overreaches- see the Christian Fernandez case. She is very tight with governor Rick Scott as well; thats how she got this gig in the first place. I wonder if she really doesn't want GZ to be found guilty and that's why he's charged with second degree murder. (@tinfoilhat)
posted by wittgenstein at 1:26 PM on June 13, 2013


rosswald: " Even if Zimmerman admits that everything he did leading up to the confrontation is wrong, it seems nearly impossible to disprove Zimmerman's account that it was Martin who turned the altercation lethal."

I dunno. His injuries and story basically amounts to he was involved in losing a fist fight with a teenager. To view any such situation as lethal obviously opens up a world of legal and practical issues. I don't think the jury will see Zimmerman as being in reasonable fear for his life.

I do think he will end up with some form of manslaughter conviction though, and not murder.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:27 PM on June 13, 2013


From what I remember Zimmerman was on the phone with 911 or the police or somebody before this whole confrontation happened, correct? It's where we got the fact that he stated that Trayvon "looked like he was on drugs" and was just walking around, and the person on the other line (whether it was 911 or the police) told him not to follow Trayvon, yet Zimmerman continued to. Is there any legal precedent there where a person deliberately went against what a 911 dispatcher or a police officer told them to do? If a police officer tells you to do something and you don't, aren't you legally in trouble at that point?
posted by gucci mane at 1:29 PM on June 13, 2013


I forgot to add, if a 911 dispatcher tells you not to do something, are you doing something legally "wrong" if you disobey them?
posted by gucci mane at 1:30 PM on June 13, 2013


Transcript:

Dispatcher

Sanford Police Department.

Zimmerman

Hey we've had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there's a real suspicious guy, uh, it's Retreat View Circle, um, the best address I can give you is 111 Retreat View Circle. This guy looks like he's up to no good, or he's on drugs or something. It's raining and he's just walking around, looking about.


-

Dispatcher

Are you following him?

Zimmerman

Yeah.

Dispatcher

Ok, we don't need you to do that.

Zimmerman

Ok.


Zimmerman claims he stopped following at this point. I've seen a lot of different attempts to map out the crime scene and his movements based on his story but none seem to line up with the others so I can't really tell if that claim makes sense.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:34 PM on June 13, 2013


From what I remember Zimmerman was on the phone with 911 or the police or somebody before this whole confrontation happened, correct? It's where we got the fact that he stated that Trayvon "looked like he was on drugs" and was just walking around, and the person on the other line (whether it was 911 or the police) told him not to follow Trayvon, yet Zimmerman continued to.

Zimmerman's story is that he was walking around on the phone with 911 when the dispatcher told him not to follow Martin, at which point he headed back to his car and was assaulted from behind by Martin.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:37 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I forgot to add, if a 911 dispatcher tells you not to do something, are you doing something legally "wrong" if you disobey them?

I would say no, and i'd be amazed if i was wrong on that. They're not LEOs in any way, nor deputized or anything. They're just people sitting in a call center who can page the police/fire department/local ambulance company. I've definitely heard recordings and seen transcripts where they said slightly odd, maybe misinformed, or just clueless sounding stuff too.

They are to the police what the receptionist in the lobby of the doctors office are to doctors, although some people seem to equate them with something analogous to nurses in that situation for some reason.
posted by emptythought at 1:41 PM on June 13, 2013


Drinky Die: I do think he will end up with some form of manslaughter conviction though, and not murder.

I do not believe that the prosecution can charge Zimmerman with manslaughter after losing the second degree murder case, which is why it was a bad move on the part of the prosecution.
posted by snaparapans at 1:46 PM on June 13, 2013


I know that we all doubt Zimmerman's expert ability to discern drug-users from non-drug users, but scientifically impossible? It seems unlikely - particularly as police make these determinations all the time.

Yes, they do. The police and others can immediately size up the level of impairment.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:48 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


This isn't even remotely the same since the person who started the fight didn't have the gun. As such, the premise of it doesn't really work.

I disagree. Just change my scenario to say that the gun happens to be yours, legally present, and I don't think it changes anything. It doesn't matter who owns the gun.

My entire point was that you're pretty much automatically in the wrong for escalating the situation by starting a fight, then escalating it again with your weapon when you start losing.

If that was the scenario as described, I would agree. However, the claim by the Zimmerman team is that Martin escalated the situation by going for the gun before Zimmerman used it. See, the implicit question here is whether or not Martin would be justified in going for Zimmerman's gun; if not, then Zimmerman was acting in self-defense.

For all I know, it might be legally reasonable both for Martin to have gone for the gun (if he was afraid that it could be used on him) and Zimmerman to use it against Martin. I know that sounds really fucked up, but considering that our system espouses that the defendant is presumed innocent, there may be room for both parties to be acting within their rights, vis a vis the gun, and one of them still gets killed.

I think people are reacting a bit emotionally, which is understandable. Zimmerman may be a loathsome individual, but it's not a crime to be a repugnant racist. He could even be telling the truth about what happened! Given that nobody (here) really knows what kind of person Martin was, we really can't say. Maybe this was a meeting between two awful individuals. In any case, the fact that it may be hard to disprove that possibility, true or not, seems like it could make it difficult to convict Zimmerman. The race issue makes it hard to think clearly about this incident; of course, that could work against Zimmerman in court. People really need to keep in mind that we don't actually have a clue what happened.
posted by Edgewise at 1:53 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I do not believe that the prosecution can charge Zimmerman with manslaughter after losing the second degree murder case, which is why it was a bad move on the part of the prosecution.

The reporting I have read suggests the jury has discretion to convict him on a lesser charge. Charging him again would obviously be double jeopardy.

Other legal experts have pointed out that no one has had access to all the evidence in the case that the prosecutor has seen. Plus, a jury could decide to convict Zimmerman of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:55 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


How can the defense raise claims such as "Martin was going for the gun" without putting George on the stand? In fact, so much of any defense seems to rest on George's story but usually defendants don't testify. Otherwise, it looks like a guy with a gun got of his car, followed someone, that someone was unarmed and ended up shot dead by the defendant, the end. The prosecution can prove George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. How does the defense counteract or mitigate that without putting George on the stand, which I assume they're not going to do?
posted by Danila at 1:56 PM on June 13, 2013


I'm not sure you're right that they won't put Zimmerman on the stand. It's true that the defendant often or maybe usually doesn't testify. But most cases aren't self-defense cases. I'd think you'd almost have to put the defendant on the stand in the absence of video of the incident.
posted by Justinian at 1:59 PM on June 13, 2013


I was sort assuming that Zimmerman would take the stand. A reason he might not take the stand, though, is if his story has already been told through statements the prosecution chooses to admit. This happens sometimes.

I don't know what statements Zimmerman has given, but to the extent the prosecutors put them into evidence, there might be enough in them to put Zimmerman's theory of the case out there and allow the defense to argue its case without subjecting Zimmerman to cross-examination.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:07 PM on June 13, 2013


f that was the scenario as described, I would agree. However, the claim by the Zimmerman team is that Martin escalated the situation by going for the gun before Zimmerman used it. See, the implicit question here is whether or not Martin would be justified in going for Zimmerman's gun; if not, then Zimmerman was acting in self-defense.

For all I know, it might be legally reasonable both for Martin to have gone for the gun (if he was afraid that it could be used on him) and Zimmerman to use it against Martin. I know that sounds really fucked up, but considering that our system espouses that the defendant is presumed innocent, there may be room for both parties to be acting within their rights, vis a vis the gun, and one of them still gets killed.

I think people are reacting a bit emotionally, which is understandable. Zimmerman may be a loathsome individual, but it's not a crime to be a repugnant racist. He could even be telling the truth about what happened! Given that nobody (here) really knows what kind of person Martin was, we really can't say.


Do you not see the problem inherent in stand your ground that made all this possible, or are you just playing devil's advocate for the hell of it? The emotional reaction is as much or more about how the law allowed him to create a situation that ended up with an unarmed child dead with a gunshot to the chest. Zimmerman's moral standing is essentially secondary to the story, although it is very pertinent to the outcome of the case. I don't care if Zimmerman was otherwise a saint, he was a person with a history of bad decisions, violent behavior, and on this day like many others exhibiting the most aggressive side of gun culture and willing to blatantly lie to get a chance to do so. All of this was allowable if not encouraged by a horrible law where it is becoming more clear every day that it is a bad idea with little to no upsides and a metric fuckton of downsides, pushed by powerful people who care very little about crime and very much about getting money from other powerful people. Without that law, either none of this would have happened, or Zimmerman would have obviously been a man committing the crime of taking another person's life. He and/or his defense team are using that to their advantage (which is pretty horrible in of itself), and by extension allowing and enabling crime in the name of vigilantism.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:11 PM on June 13, 2013


His attorney said this in answer to the question about Zimmerman taking the stand: "In this case, they have to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt." So I guess that answers my question. Is this a Florida thing? Because it sounds like they have to disprove self-defense without the defense actually having to raise that defense, so is there some kind of presumption of self-defense?
posted by Danila at 2:16 PM on June 13, 2013


That's weird, I thought self-defense was an affirmative defense.
posted by Justinian at 2:19 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


This blog entry from findlaw attempts to answer that question.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:22 PM on June 13, 2013


Actually, it does a terrible job of answering that question. Sorry.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:23 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah, it is an affirmative defense. But an affirmative defense here doesn't mean they have to prove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt and case law in Florida has held that so instructing the jury is a reversible error. All the defense has to do is present some evidence that it could have been self-defense and then the burden shifts to the prosecution.

That's crazy pants.
posted by Justinian at 2:24 PM on June 13, 2013


But this article does a much better job.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:25 PM on June 13, 2013


I like that article because it says I was correct. So we should believe it.
posted by Justinian at 2:27 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Stand Your Ground v Self Defense
Case law is filled with it.
Self defense is an affirmative defense .
Stand your ground provides immunity, it is a bar to prosecution.

The defendant files a motion to dismiss claiming stand your ground immunizes him from prosecution.

A hearing is held before trial. The burden is on the defendant to prove by a preponderance of evidence that stand your ground/immunity applies.

The judge weighs the facts. If the judge agrees the defendant has shown stand your ground applies by a preponderance of evidence, the charges are dismissed. He can't be prosecuted.

If the judge finds the defendant hasn't met the burden, (including if the disputed evidence is so equal on both sides the judge can't decide one way or the other) the case goes to trial to be decided by the jury. At trial the defendant can still argue both self-defense and stand your ground immunity -- he only has to establish some evidence of his theory, which can be just his own testimony, that he acted in self-defense.

The prosecution must prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Which means if the defendant raises self-defense or stand your ground at trial and gets the instruction, the state , which much prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, must disprove it. If the jury has a doubt, he must be acquitted.
posted by snaparapans at 2:28 PM on June 13, 2013


The defense can raise the possibility he was defending himself without in any way explaining in what manner or anything detailed at all. It sounds like the defense attorney could just ask the arresting officer "did Zimmerman have any injuries at all" and the answer would of course be "yes" and then "so he could have been defending himself?" and that's it. Now the prosecution must prove he was not defending himself, which may be hard to do if they can't impeach his story directly. I guess that's where the witnesses and possible audio expert testimony come in?

I think putting Zimmerman on the stand could end up being bad for the defense. I think this because Zimmerman is a big-time liar, in things great and small, and it might be easy to make him look bad on the stand. It puts the focus on his credibility and there's a lot about his actions that make him seem incredible especially if he is allowed to give his justifications. Just simple things like him saying he got out to find out what street he was on or him detailing Trayvon's last words. That's why I wondered what other ways the defense could raise the possibility of self-defense.
posted by Danila at 2:40 PM on June 13, 2013


I'd say there's not much reasonable doubt to the included lesser offense of manslaughter ( negligent homicide, whatever Florida calls it... ) but that's just, like, my opinion, man.
posted by mikelieman at 2:41 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it is fair to say you'd have been excluded from the jury for cause...
posted by Justinian at 2:45 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it is fair to say you'd have been excluded from the jury for cause...

/me does "happy dance"

"The System Works!"

Look, when you start following people with a firearm, you're responsible for whatever consequences occur. Again, that's my opinion, and if having them excludes me from the jury pool ( above living in New York and all ) then that's just peachy!
posted by mikelieman at 2:49 PM on June 13, 2013


Totally agree mikelieman, and was having a spirited conversation (with myself) about this just earlier today. I too would be excluded from the jury and I think rightfully so. But to me, hostile person gets out of car with gun to follow someone who is just walking home...and that latter person ends up shot dead by the gun-toter, none of this is in dispute. George Zimmerman was definitely not in a friendly or neutral mood towards Trayvon, he did get out of the car with a gun, he did follow him (at least for a time) with the gun and he did shoot Trayvon dead after all of this. Well then the gun-toter did something wrong, really wrong, and there oughta be a law if there isn't but I'm hoping there is (manslaughter).
posted by Danila at 2:55 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


In one of the early reports of the incident, a CNN article referred to Zimmerman as "white Hispanic." I'm not sure whether CNN was trying to paint Zimmerman as more white or more Hispanic, or trying to be accurate, but it struck me as an odd inclusion.

You can be white and Hispanic at the same time, and you can also be black and Hispanic at the same time. Zimmerman's mother happened to have some Hispanic heritage and they're playing it up because "White guy shoots unarmed black teen" sounds worse then "Hispanic guy shoots unarmed black teen". I doubt he would have an issue with people calling him white in most other circumstances.
but I think it's inaccurate to say it's a white man killing a defenseless black boy, since that's not what he is.

Uh, no. Being Hispanic does not make you "not white". There are plenty of white Hispanics. Louie CK is Hispanic, does he look 'not white' to you?
the case is about whether if you start a fight with someone and end up shooting and killing them, whether you are guilty of murder, manslaughter, or justifiable homicide. if the prosecution has to show that Zimmerman got out of his car with the intent of shooting Martin, it's unlikely they will win a murder conviction.
Uh, what? There is the whole "Stand your ground" issue, which we went over in prior threads - If Zimmerman could show via a preponderance of evidence that Martin would have seemed threatening to a reasonable person and that Zimmerman is not the one who initiated the confrontation, then he couldn't be prosecuted. But that would be decided by a judge, before the trial.

It's important to note that this isn't a "reasonable doubt" thing. The state doesn't need to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt Zimmerman was 'qualified' under the stand your ground law to shoot him. Instead Zimmerman has to show that he was reasonably scared.

The other thing is that you can't be the one to start the fight. Imagine how much of a problem that would be if SYG meant you could go up to someone, start a fight with someone and then decide you "felt threatened" and shoot them? Basically you could legally kill anyone you got into a fight with – it would effectively re-legalize dueling.

Anyway, from what I understand Zimmerman's lawyers aren't even going to argue SYG, because obviously he's the one who 'initiated' the confrontation. Zimmerman claims Martin just attacked him from out of nowhere when he got out of the car, but how plausible is that? It makes no sense at all.
• In mixed-race cases involving fatalities, the outcomes were similar. Four of the five blacks who killed a white went free; five of the six whites who killed a black went free.
Jesus fucking Christ. The biggest takeaway from this: if you kill someone in florida, it doesn't matter what your race is, you will probably go free if you claim SYG. WTF?

And by the way, this isn't just some theoretical problem, states with SYG laws actually did see increases in homicide rates among white men.

I actually heard the other day about a case where a guy shot his wife's lover while they were fucking and he got away with it on a SYG defense (this was in his home and not on the street at least, but still - wtf?)
Zimmerman probably accosted Martin for no good reason, and it sounds like it would also be easy to prove that he's racist.


But none of that really matters when we're trying to determine whether or not he shot Martin out of self-defense or murder. Zimmerman might well be an obnoxious racist who had no business bothering Martin, but he may have also legitimately acted in self-defense.
If Zimmerman attacked Martin, and Martin reached for his gun, grabbed it, and shot Zimmerman, wouldn't that be perfectly legal under Florida's Stand Your Ground law? Obviously he would have been defending himself in that situation.

It's a perfect example of how this law is so insane. If Martin had been 18 years old, and had a legally owned gun of his own, he could have shot Zimmerman himself, and likely faced no legal repercussions. Yet, Zimmerman would have also had been justified in killing martin, because he would have been armed. Technically you're not supposed to start the fight, but if the other guy is dead you'll be the only witness.
I haven't looked at the Stand Your Ground law since this case first broke, and I don't practice criminal law, but my recollection from Crim in law school was that in general, a person having a reasonable apprehension of danger to life and/or limb has a limited privilege to meet that danger with reasonable force.
Yes, but this is Florida. Basically the same thing except replace "reasonable force" with "deadly force". I did read the law carefully when this first came out, but that's basically it. You even get your court costs reimbursed!

But from what I understand the lawyer isn't going to try to argue SYG but 'traditional' self defense? Or something?
Not at all. It really depends on how the actual fight started (i.e. if Zimmerman threw the first punch, then Martin certainly had a right to defend himself).
This is not correct, Florida law does not say anything about who starts the physical confrontation, just who starts the confrontation in general. If you think about it, it would be insane otherwise - you could legally get in someone's face, start screaming at them, and if they do anything physical you could shoot them. Of course, it's insane anyway, but I don't see any basis for the argument that it depends on who throws the first punch, as opposed to the person who starts yelling first, who grabs a shoulder first, or whatever.
Let's say you angrily shove someone who you're having a heated argument with. Then, he pulls out a shotgun, saying he's going to kill you. You fight back, successfully disarming him (guess you were lucky). In the process, he hurt his finger when you wrested the shotgun away, and now you're being charged with assault and battery for that. Does it make sense to say that, by shoving the guy, you lost the right to defend yourself against a shotgun?
I think it depends on who started the fight. But the thing is, if it's not clear then it's likely that either one of them can shoot the other one legally. And if you look at the stats, most people who do shoot someone and then claim SYG are situations just like that and they do end up getting off, so this isn't a hypothetical. It's what actually happens most of the time.

That may not make sense, but that's because the law doesn't make sense. It's fucking idiotic.
posted by delmoi at 3:15 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you look white, you don't get the same level of shit that people get for looking brown, even if your name is a clear marker of origin. Also, I know more than a few people we would call brown here but that are considered white in their home country and who are in fact very much racist fucks.

Point being that you can't assume everyone's perception of race is the same. It makes no sense whatsoever to claim that someone can't be racist because they appear to us to also belong to a minority group. What matters is their perception, not ours.
posted by wierdo at 3:48 PM on June 13, 2013


Imagine how much of a problem that would be if SYG meant you could go up to someone, start a fight with someone and then decide you "felt threatened" and shoot them? Basically you could legally kill anyone you got into a fight with

Which was essentially my point. I've read pretty much everything about this case that's come out, and i'm having a really hard time believing that there's going to be a good way to prove without some serious gymnastics that this isn't what happened here.

Because i mean really, look over the whole thing again. Occam's razor and whatnot... doesn't that sound like the most plausible explanation? with the 911 call and everything?

you could legally get in someone's face, start screaming at them, and if they do anything physical you could shoot them.

Couldn't you do that anyways though? whose going to tell the other side of the story if they're fucking dead. Yell at them until they punch you in the face, then once you have that black eye, shoot them. Which is pretty much the primary reason i just don't believe a single thing Zimmerman says(or that he's been told to say, or reword by his legal team)

This law is bonkers, and if he walks on this i hope it sets off a huge furor with protests and shit to get it off the books ASAP.
posted by emptythought at 4:59 PM on June 13, 2013


This is not a stand your ground case. Zimmerman's defense team waived their ability to claim that. This is a more "simple" self defense case.
posted by gjc at 5:08 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Which is pretty much the primary reason i just don't believe a single thing Zimmerman says

That hairbrained scheme he and his wife pulled over his passport and the bail money is proof positive of his willingness to lie and utter lack of credibility. That and the fact that he apparently rolled 2D6 for stats.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:15 PM on June 13, 2013


All You Need to Know About Irrational "Self-Defense" Laws in Three Pictures

Those cases are not the same. You cannot fire warning shots. Responsible gun owners know that.

That page also doesn't make any mention of whether the individuals were legally able to possess weapons and if those weapons were registered. Those are important facts.
posted by gjc at 5:17 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is not a stand your ground case. Zimmerman's defense team waived their ability to claim that. This is a more "simple" self defense case.

It is my understanding that waiving the pre-trial hearing did not waive their right to argue SYG to the jury and it may still be relevant

"We'd much rather have the jury address the issue of criminal liability or lack thereof," Zimmerman's lawyer Mark O'Mara said.

Zimmerman's team hinted it might resurrect the Stand Your Ground immunity hearing during the trial, and it is possible even after it. .

posted by Drinky Die at 5:44 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


That hairbrained scheme he and his wife pulled over his passport and the bail money is proof positive of his willingness to lie and utter lack of credibility.

I really hope they're allowed to bring that up in court. Because it's completely relevant to his credibility and everything. I could see how it would be excluded, but at the same time positive things to bolster someones credibility are often allowed, so that would be pretty :\ inducing if the judge junked that.

Those cases are not the same. You cannot fire warning shots. Responsible gun owners know that.

Honestly i think this is just as ridiculous as the stand your ground laws though. I know we could go back and forth on this for ages, but essentially what the conclusion always seems to become is that you do not draw or fire your weapon, or you wait until the situation becomes so dire that you would only be drawing and firing with the absolute intent to kill which is really black and white.

I realize everyone is not the police, but it's generally accepted that they'll draw their weapons essentially to threaten people in to de-escalating?(and i realize cops in general aren't doing too great in the US right now, but that's a whole other discussion. It's easy to find videos of cops being stupid with guns though) Isn't it fairly easy to imagine a situation in which she essentially draws the weapon, is told by him she'll never use it, and she then fires a shot when he advances to prove that she's serious?

What's the preferable situation here, that she just shoots at him and kills him? because i'm a fan of solutions that don't involve making more people in to corpses, even if they're abusive assholes.

This just stinks of shit, in the same way that the laws along the lines of "if you shoot someone and don't kill them, and they can maybe sorta prove you might have shot them without the absolute intent to kill as opposed to just missing a deadly area a bit, then you're in the wrong because the situation obviously wasn't bad enough for you to shoot them since you didn't kill them".

Warning shots being illegal seems pretty shitty to me. It seems like something the same people who came up with the stand your ground crap would have come up with to cover their asses when they go from 0-60 very quickly from when someone is threatening them to just blasting them away.

The main point of that link is that she got in that much trouble for not killing the guy. I guess the message here is that she should have if she didn't want to be in trouble.
posted by emptythought at 7:11 PM on June 13, 2013


The drawing your weapon as a de-escalation is a touchy (dare I say controversial?) thing among gun owners. Some say that you only pull the weapon once you feel like you need to use it, because any other use can be legally determined to be "brandishing" or assault (threat of violence) against the other person. Others agree with you (as do I) that pulling the weapon can de-escalate. That police officers don't have some special privilege to go around guns a blazin' that the regular citizen does not. Note please that I am not a gun owner, so maybe I'm missing something.

But as far as firing goes, it IS black and white. You can only pull the trigger if killing someone is legally justifiable. It isn't about increasing the harm done or giving people more opportunity to use deadly force, but rather keeping the threshold for using a weapon high. A deadly weapon is a deadly weapon, and can only be used in a deadly manner. Putting it another way, you aren't legally *required* to kill someone to make using a gun justified, but that you can't use a deadly weapon unless the situation has gotten to a point where deadly force is justified.

So firing a warning shot or shooting with the intent to maim does not meet that criteria. Either a life is in imminent danger, or it isn't. You can't fire a warning shot any more than you can stab someone to send a message or poison dog food as a warning for a neighbor to keep their dog leashed.

A third (overly simplified) way to look at it: if someone fires a gun, it's attempted murder unless there is a good excuse for it. And that excuse can only be a reasonable defense of life or limb. Don't fire a weapon unless you can make that defense.

(But I absolutely agree that *some* of the stand your ground laws, or the BS about using deadly force to protect property, is abhorrent whether it is technically legal or not. Using deadly force should always be a last resort, and only used once the threat of deadly violence has been made by the assailant. Laws that justify deadly force where a deadly threat does not exist are morally and ethically wrong.)
posted by gjc at 8:12 PM on June 13, 2013


What about in cases of "perceived imminent severe bodily injury?"
posted by ShutterBun at 9:03 PM on June 13, 2013


So firing a warning shot or shooting with the intent to maim does not meet that criteria. Either a life is in imminent danger, or it isn't.

This is actually one of the things I really hate about US law concerning the use of force.

If I am in Iraq, in an active war zone, and someone is not actively firing at me but I think there might be a danger, I can use an escalation of force. I can use my words to tell them to stop. If they don't, I can show the weapon. I can then fire a warning shot*, and then finally, shoot to kill. A warning shot does not mean I was not authorized to use deadly force, it means I was trying not to kill someone even though I could have.

(*I have an internet cite for this, but it is part of a larger document marked SECRET//REL TO USA, IRQ, MCFI//, trying to find a non-classified cite for ROE but you could probably google for it.) There are weird laws about providing classified material to other people even if it is publicly available on the internet.)

posted by corb at 2:42 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Laws that justify deadly force where a deadly threat does not exist are morally and ethically wrong.

What about in cases of sexual assault? Should a woman have the right to use deadly force to prevent a rape?
posted by corb at 2:43 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


A war zone has different rules than not a war zone. Doesn't it make sense that the threshold for firing a weapon should be higher when not in a war zone? Firing a warning shot is extremely dangerous and irresponsible. What if you accidentally hit some kid down the block? "I was trying to scare off my ex husband" isn't going to fly with the kid's family.

What about in cases of sexual assault? Should a woman have the right to use deadly force to prevent a rape?

It is perfectly reasonable for a person being raped to be in legitimate fear of their lives.
posted by gjc at 3:21 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know that this is a racial profiling issue as I don't know what Zimmerman's behavior was towards people of other races. My gut feeling is that it likely is a racial profiling issue.

The issue that I'm 100% sure is involved is a private citizens trying to behave as though they are the police. When an untrained person acts well beyond their capacity and authority resulting in a death prosecutions do need to result.

Wanna be cops and vigilantes are very abhorrent to me.
posted by logonym at 3:59 AM on June 14, 2013


Wanna be cops and vigilantes are very abhorrent to me.

Actual-for-real cops don't have the greatest track record, either.
posted by mikelieman at 5:40 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


George Zimmerman’s Father Says The ‘True Racists’ Are African-American
posted by homunculus at 8:55 PM on June 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


With friends (family) like that, who needs enemies?
posted by caddis at 5:20 AM on June 15, 2013


All-female jury chosen for Zimmerman trial
posted by maggieb at 5:34 PM on June 20, 2013


Wow, that whole article is depressing all over the place, but this is especially gross.

“When you have a panel that is dominated by females, they bring in the parental, maternal instincts of being sympathetic toward the victim, who was a young kid in high school,” Handfield said.

Why won't this fucking cavemen on the savannah evolutionary psychology bio-truth shit die?
posted by emptythought at 7:09 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


It seems like it would be relatively straightforward to test whether someone is talking bullshit or not. One could do a plot looking at the rate of guilty verdicts in murder cases vs fraction of the jury made up of women. You could even drill down and make it more specific, like rate of guilty verdicts in cases where the victim is a teenager. But it's much more fun just to make shit up I guess.

My guess is that the high paid jury consultant types already have such data but if they made it publicly available nobody would have to pay them the big bucks for their handwavy mumbo-jumbo and could just look at the statistics.
posted by Justinian at 12:34 AM on June 21, 2013


It's slightly crazy there is not a single black person on the jury.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:50 AM on June 21, 2013


Good grief:

While stopping short of explicitly calling President Obama a racist, Zimmerman Sr. does say that Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have “shamelessly” sought to exploit his son’s case “to obtain great advantage in the African-American community.”

Because Obama needs every advantage he can possibly obtain with the African-American community, he's really on thin ice with most black folks. He's got Latinos and white people in his back pocket, though.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:35 AM on June 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wait, how does this even happen, the all-female jury? Though Drinky Die, there is a black person on the jury, apparently - even if only one. They say she may be Hispanic, but there are black Hispanics.

Also, why are there no younger people on this jury? Everyone on it is at least old enough to have multiple children or is in their 40s or higher.
posted by corb at 9:00 AM on June 21, 2013


Do you mean apart from the obvious jury-packing in the favor of the defense?
posted by zombieflanders at 9:20 AM on June 21, 2013


Wait, how does this even happen, the all-female jury?

Lawyers get a certain number of challenges and they were either both looking for women for some reason or they were looking for something else and wound up with a lot of women. Though this is statistically unlikely, it's not a totally surprising thing. People also tend to view women as "sympathetic" for whatever reason and perhaps each lawyer thought they could use that to their advantage. The last thing you want is someone identifying in some way with the other side and this might have had something to do with this. Wild-ass guesses, all of these.

why are there no younger people on this jury? Everyone on it is at least old enough to have multiple children or is in their 40s or higher.

Same reason, I think. The whole way jury selection happens, starting from who even gets on juries to begin with, is a really fascinating sidenote to this. There are some loose rules of thumb that lawyers use when they're trying to make guesses at who will support their side but more importantly they only get a certain number of people they can challenge and with a high profile case like this you need to be very very tactical about that.
posted by jessamyn at 9:31 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait, how does this even happen, the all-female jury?

Having only a six person jury is one reason this was slightly more likely; but chances are for whatever reason that both sides believe that women will make better jurors for their respective cases.

I've come around to embrace a theory on the jury selection process. When I first started practicing law, I subscribed to the notion that it was possible to make educated guesses about people based on demographic information/whatever scant information was disclosed on jury questionnaires. So I'd pore over all the jury questionnaires ahead of time and tried to imagine what a "perfect jury" might be.

Then I tried a few cases and I learned through that experience that whatever I thought particular jury members might be likely to think, in reality I had no fucking idea what they might be likely to think.

Later, I attended a very compelling training session put on by one guy from the county prosecutor's office and a guy from the US Attorney's office. They flat out said, "Don't try to psychoanalyze your jury based on their demographics." That totally resonated with me when I heard it based on my own experience. I don't know that I would have been ready to hear that before I tried my own hand at juror analysis, because I think there's sort of a mythical idea that good trial attorneys are also good at picking juries, and I wanted to believe I could be good at this, too. But these two prosecutors went on to explain that in their experience, the goal for the voir dire process is twofold. First, exercise challenges on nutjobs, people who obviously don't want to be there, or people who flat out tell you (via responses to voir dire questioning) that they're going to be hostile to your case. But beyond that, don't try to infer what people might think about your case or client based on their race, their gender, their age, how they dress, how much education they have, etc. Exercise challenges on the easy cases and leave everyone else on. Second, don't use your time in voir dire to try to suss out good/bad jurors. It's so obvious to see who you should exercise your challenges on that you don't need to waste time with lots of follow up questions. The judge's questions are almost always enough. Instead, use this time to advance your theory of the case. If one of the themes of your defense is that your client is a good person who made a stupid choice, maybe your voir dire questions are like, "Is there anyone here who doesn't believe in second chances?" This way you're working your theme to the jury even before the opening statements.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:02 AM on June 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Based on the one time when I got all the way through voir dire and was actually chosen for a jury (criminal trial, as an alternate), it seemed to me that both attorneys were trying to build the best "team" for their side. Each side kicked people off for what seemed like no reason, and left people on for what seemed like no reason, and I think what they were both trying for was a jury that, as a whole, would be less antagonistic to their side (rather than outright more sympathetic).

On preview: there were definitely jurors who were excused by one side or another for perfectly obvious reasons (like the guy who was not just a lawyer, but who had been a prosecutor, a public defender, and was now in private practice as a criminal defense lawyer); I suspect other jurors were excused in order to "make room" for someone who might have struck one or the other attorney as a better bet.
posted by rtha at 10:07 AM on June 21, 2013


Though Drinky Die, there is a black person on the jury, apparently - even if only one. They say she may be Hispanic, but there are black Hispanics.

Reporting I have read says no black people?

WaPo:
All six members of the jury are women, and none of them are black:

After Thursday’s hearing, Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara was asked what he would say to people concerned there were no black jurors.

“People can look at it and have this response, that there’s no blacks on the jury, or no this or no that, or no men on the jury,” he said. “Tell me that we did something wrong in the process and I’ll agree with you.”

posted by Drinky Die at 2:53 PM on June 21, 2013


The way they're talking about this is weird. I'm seeing sources that say one juror is a "young woman of color", but Fox News has her as Hispanic. She's referenced as "a lighter-skinned black woman" in the link above.

One thing I am curious about - it seems that prosecutors sought to strike jurors that seem like they would have been most sympathetic to their side - like the juror who recognized Martin's mother, or the DV victim.

Is this a case where they have to be unanimous, or just majority?
posted by corb at 3:21 PM on June 21, 2013


Is this a case where they have to be unanimous, or just majority?

Unanimous.

Six person juries must be unanimous for "non petty" criminal convictions: Burch v. Louisiana.

(That raises another tangential question for me, though, which is how a general court-martial can convict with a non-unanimous vote on juries as small as five, if this is a Constitutional principle...there is probably a CAAF opinion on that somewhere....on further research apparently courts take the view that Sixth Amendment trial rights don't apply to military members tried by court-martial in the same way that they apply to defendants standing trial in civilian court).
posted by MoonOrb at 3:34 PM on June 21, 2013


The jury deciding George Zimmerman's fate will not hear from state voice experts after a judge ruled Saturday that the methods they used are not widely accepted.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:34 AM on June 22, 2013


Not widely accepted is an understatement. On the other hand the state can ask witnesses who know the voices of Martin and Zimmerman to listen to the tapes and opine as to who was screaming.
posted by snaparapans at 1:47 PM on June 22, 2013


Oh my.

*adjusts tie*

"Tough room!"
posted by tonycpsu at 12:13 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh my.

*adjusts tie*

"Tough room!"


That really needs some kind of warning for being painfully awkward and horrible to watch.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:17 PM on June 24, 2013


The Quote That Should End the Trayvon Trial (emphasis in original)
The officer plays the tape of him with the police dispatcher, when he refuses to give his address to the dispatcher “out loud” — the embattled neighborhood watch volunteer so afraid of the fking punks in his neighborhood that he’s afraid of giving the police his address, despite the complete lack of evidence that any of those punks had ever attacked him before. Like these fearsome criminals are tapping the public airwaves and listening to cell phone conversations just to get him.

Again, the officer asks why he didn’t get back in his car after being told to, why he was so determined to get Martin that he stood in the rain. “You wanted to catch him, you wanted to catch the bad guy, fking punk.”

Zimmerman goes silent. Prodded again, he says, “I felt like I didn’t give them an adequate description.” There’s an edge in his voice at this point like he’s starting to get offended. The officer tries to reassure him: “We’re working for you here.”

But they persist. How could Martin have been smothering Zimmerman at the same time Zimmerman was, as he claimed, screaming his head off for help? (This is on the disputed tape that won’t be allowed in court, which foundered because voice experts couldn’t agree who was screaming.) This was just before the fatal gunshot.

“It’s continuous screaming,” another officer asks, “how can you be smothered?”

Damn good question.

“You think he might have seen you had a gun before he punched you?” the first officer asks.

Another damn good question.

“What was the provocation for punching you other than you were following him?” another officer asks.

By this time, Zimmerman is losing his patience. “I’ve gone through it a million times.” Despite his passion for justice, repeated questions about the death of a 17-year-old boy at his own hands annoys him.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:19 PM on June 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: " That really needs some kind of warning for being painfully awkward and horrible to watch."

Yeah, I was going to close with "Douche chill!" but thought that ran the risk of over-determining the audience reaction.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:24 PM on June 24, 2013


zombieflanders: (This is on the disputed tape that won’t be allowed in court, which foundered because voice experts couldn’t agree who was screaming.)

I believe that it is admissible. It is just that the experts cannot chime in as there is no agreed on science about identifying screams. The tape can be played and anyone who had heard Martins or Zimmerman's voice can opine as to who was screaming. The jury can decide what to believe.
posted by snaparapans at 12:28 PM on June 24, 2013


That makes sense as a ruling to me. Putting a quack up on the stand to claim, without basis, that he can tell you scientifically who was screaming would have been a joke. But playing the 911 call gives the jury information they can judge for themselves.
posted by Justinian at 4:55 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Apparently Owen is apparently not a quack, when it comes to identification of normal speech using conventional means, spectral analysis.. the ability to identify a scream is not possible, and the biometric process Owens uses to identify screams has no backing in the scientific community. So in that area he is a quack.

more on the ruling here.
posted by snaparapans at 5:28 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The officer plays the tape of him with the police dispatcher, when he refuses to give his address to the dispatcher “out loud” — the embattled neighborhood watch volunteer so afraid of the fking punks in his neighborhood that he’s afraid of giving the police his address, despite the complete lack of evidence that any of those punks had ever attacked him before.

In fairness, the killer was in Zimmerman's car.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:35 PM on June 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Witness to testify to Trayvon Martin's last words on phone
Prosecutors were expected later on Tuesday to reveal a star witness, the teenage girl who was talking with Martin on the phone in the last minutes of his life.

The girl, who had been known as Witness No. 8 ahead of the trial and was identified in court on Monday only as Rachel, was due to testify about what Martin was saying moments before his cellphone went dead.

Martin's friend from Miami, she heard a running account about what was happening in the minutes before the shooting, starting when he noticed Zimmerman watching him in the gated central Florida community he was visiting.

In previous written testimony, Rachel described Martin as scared and trying to get away from the man. She was urging him to run. She last heard Martin say, "why are you following me" after which she said she heard what sounded like Martin falling.
posted by maggieb at 1:01 PM on June 25, 2013


I've caught some of the testimony today since I'm trapped inside my apartment due to construction on the walkway outside. It's giving me flashbacks to my jury service. It's so tedious and boring and yet if you're on the jury you can't (or at least aren't supposed to) tune it out, ever, at all. But the witness has so much trouble with even the most basic and easy questions and gives such meandering answers.

Unfortunately in my experience jurors sometimes do start tuning it out.
posted by Justinian at 1:16 PM on June 26, 2013


I am riveted by her testimony. Yes, she is hard to parse at times but, wow, she is holding up well so far. I loved it when she stood strong against the defense attorney's cross. He is not doing too well by my (Perry Mason, LA Law, Boston Legal) standards. IANALBIWTOTV.
posted by maggieb at 1:45 PM on June 26, 2013


The thing is, he hasn't even gotten to the real meat of his cross-examination so far as I can tell. He's still laying the groundwork about when she was interviewed, when she learned certain facts, and so on. And it has been hours.
posted by Justinian at 1:47 PM on June 26, 2013


I'm not sure anyone ever does well by television standards. Court is far more tedious, boring, and drawn out than anything you'll ever see on primetime dramas.
posted by Justinian at 1:49 PM on June 26, 2013


She's done for the day. It's interesting how differently people view witnesses, maggieb. Because I thought she was an awful witness and so far would be inclined to discard much of her testimony as unreliable.
posted by Justinian at 2:14 PM on June 26, 2013


I honestly have no idea how good or bad she did from a legal standpoint, but I was impressed by her taking of no shit. Less impressed by her obvious desire not to be there, she did not come off at times like she understood the importance of the process. She's a 19 year old girl being asked a ton of complex questions and nobody should expect her to be perfect.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:16 PM on June 26, 2013


I'm not just talking about her demeanor, although that was not good, but that even before getting to a lot of the most important bits the cross has caught her in numerous contradictory statements about relevant matters and gotten her to admit that she wasn't taking her under-oath testimony seriously. How can that be anything but terrible for the prosecution?
posted by Justinian at 2:22 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was under the impression the interview she admitted was "rushed" was not under oath.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:26 PM on June 26, 2013


The question the defense cross (smartly) closed on was getting her to admit that she repeated that testimony under oath later.
posted by Justinian at 2:43 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


She's a teen girl. She obviously dislikes Zimmerman's lawyers, I get the impression she's been deposed and interviewed a bunch of times and is sick of them. The fact that they've been slandering her dead friend in the media wouldn't be helping either.

It's easy to imagine someone like that being bullied into giving contradictory answers in a deposition. And I think if she was basing her testimony off a lie cooked up by the Martin family lawyer she would be a lot more consistent.

The key thing, though is that her testimony lines up with the timeline in Zimmerman's 911 call. So there's no actual evidence that anything she's said is false, everything so far has been ambiguity brought on by her imprecision.
important bits the cross has caught her in numerous contradictory statements about relevant matters
In a technical, logical sense her statements that the voice could have been Travon's and that the voice was Travon's are not contradictory. In fact the second can't be true unless the first is also true

(To get super-technical the second implies the first)
posted by delmoi at 12:52 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


So there's no actual evidence that anything she's said is false

From what I have read that is far from correct (IANAL):
Rachel Jeantel was a train wreck as a witness. She did not help the state's case. She exposed the manipulations of Team Crump. She was impeached on a few significant matters (see below the fold.) And she admitted multiple lies. It was cringe-worthy but you couldn't take your eyes off it.

Most strikingly, she made Trayvon Martin out to be the profiler of Zimmerman.
TalkLeft
posted by snaparapans at 7:21 AM on June 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


delmoi: I just don't think I could ever convict somebody on the basis of the testimony of someone who had been caught lying under oath multiple times. Any single instance can be explained away, sure, but it's a pattern. She clearly doesn't take an oath to tell the truth seriously. Is that because she's a nervous teen girl? Maybe. But that doesn't change the fact that she clearly has no problem with telling falsehoods under oath.
posted by Justinian at 9:05 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, I recognize she isn't the only witness and there is other evidence. I wasn't implying that her lack of credibility meant Zimmerman is innocent, I was speaking more generally.
posted by Justinian at 9:16 AM on June 27, 2013


The TalkLeft piece says, in the beginning, that Rachel's testimony seemed memorized & rehearsed since it didn't differ from what she told prosecutors, but then later goes on (& on) about how much her story has changed. Pick one please.

I didn't watch much of her testimony, but I read a fair bit, and despite the bit that I watched being nearly incomprehensible to me, I think she did okay at recounting the moments before Trayvon was murdered. The timeline has not changed, and neither have the main facts of what she says she heard. I, personally find her way more credible than Zimmerman, for example.

I chalk her incomprehensibility and her demeanor up to being a nervous young black girl caught up in a circus of a situation who does not, and still does not, want to get involved in police/law matters. Add the pressure of being the last person to talk to Trayvon Martin before he died and the trauma of losing a friend in such a horrific manner, and the common defense tactic of being condescending/skirting the edge of rudeness and this outcome is pretty understandable. Of course, I wish her testimony had gone differently, but I'm not her, and I'm not the one up there.
posted by eunoia at 10:20 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Most strikingly, she made Trayvon Martin out to be the profiler of Zimmerman.
What difference does it make if Martin profiled Zimmerman? Do you think it's illegal to profile someone as a threat and try to run away from them? What's illegal is profiling someone as a threat and then shooting them dead while they're running away.

Anyway, she's the only witness other then Zimmerman who knows what was actually said that night, which is all that's relevant. From the TalkLeft "article"
Her recitation of events during the shooting was almost identical to her version to the prosecutor. It seemed memorized, she even used the same word choices in multiple places. While she denied listening to her taped interviews with Crump or the prosecutor (at least not the whole thing), her story on direct was almost a total match.
That's all that really matters here, and weirdly the author seems to be criticizing her for being consistent about the key facts of the case.
delmoi: I just don't think I could ever convict somebody on the basis of the testimony of someone who had been caught lying under oath multiple times.
Unless Zimmerman takes the stand, it's the only version of the story the Jury will hear from a direct witness. It's not like there is a question about who shot who here, we know Zimmerman shot Martin.

Does she seem like someone who lie on the stand in order to help put the guy who shot her close friend to death behind bars? Sure, but I think most people would. But she also doesn't seem smart enough to come up with a totally consistent version of the story that matches up with the 9/11 call. So was it a conspiracy between her and Crump? But if he made up the story why would he have Trayvon using all that profanity? And why would she lie about Trayvon using that terminology in the first place?

Zimmerman let his wife lie about their financial resources during the bail hearing, he was speaking in 'code' about it with her on recorded jail telephone calls. His story is full of holes, He initially claimed that Martin attacked him immediately after he got out of his car, but according to the map the body was 370 feet away from his car, and due to the building placement he would have had to have run 420 feet.

So in order to buy Zimmerman's story, you have to believe that martin immediately attacked Zimmerman, then martin chased Zimmerman 420 feet, and that Zimmerman just happened to have been running in the direction of Martin's father's house then finally he took out his gun, martin tried to grab it and he shot him?

And in another interview he told a different version, claiming that he needed to get a building address to give to the cops, except he gave them an address on the 911 call.

So if Zimmerman testifies, it'll be a disaster.

Zimmerman's self defense case is about as credible as Jodi Arias' I mean it's hypothetically possible that Alexander attacked her after she walked into the bathroom with a knife, just like it's hypothetically possible that Martin attacked Zimmerman after he followed him around suspiciously with a gun for a few minutes, in a car and then on foot. Maybe Arias should have used the "he tried to grab the knife out of my hand so I had to stab him" argument.
posted by delmoi at 10:24 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the profiling comment was pretty dumb. There are all kinds of different implications for how bad profiling is when it is being suspicious of someone for simply walking down the street verses profiling them for actively following you at night.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:33 AM on June 27, 2013


delmoi: the difference is that the burden of proof is on the prosecution. Zimmerman doesn't have to prove anything. Of course we're free to believe he is guilty since we're not on the jury, but I've been speaking mostly as to what I'd be thinking if I were a juror. And if I were a juror I simply wouldn't be able to put much stock in her testimony. As you said, it's pretty obvious she is an advocate rather than an impartial witness.
posted by Justinian at 10:41 AM on June 27, 2013


What White People Don't Understand About Rachel Jeantel
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:46 AM on June 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen: That article is exactly what I was trying to say in my above comment. Thanks for the link.
posted by eunoia at 10:54 AM on June 27, 2013


What difference does it make if Martin profiled Zimmerman?

Not exactly 100% sure as IANAL, but I believe that the reason that this may be important for the defense is that in order for the State to prove a 2nd degree murder charge they must show that Zimmerman was profiling Martin, not the other way around.

The state believes there is no need to show Zimmerman had a racial bias, if it can show he disliked and had a bias against criminals and he thought Trayvon was a criminal.


The State has to prove all three of these conditions:

1. A person of ordinary judgment would know is reasonably certain to kill or do serious bodily injury to another, and

2. is done from ill will, hatred, spite, or an evil intent, and

3. is of such a nature that the act itself indicates an indifference to human life. (my emphasis)

Zimmerman's profiling would relate to #2.
posted by snaparapans at 11:20 AM on June 27, 2013


Not exactly 100% sure as IANAL, but I believe that the reason that this may be important for the defense is that in order for the State to prove a 2nd degree murder charge they must show that Zimmerman was profiling Martin, not the other way around.

From the link I posted upthread (emphasis in original):
Why did he follow Martin, a police officer asks.

“These assholes, they always get away,” Zimmerman answers.

The officer asks, “What’s behind that?”

“These people who victimize the neighborhood,” Zimmerman answers.

In Zimmerman’s angry mind, without trial or jury, even after he killed him and learned he was a 17-year-old who was legitimately staying in the complex, Martin was an asshole victimizing the neighborhood.

The officer gets a little defensive at this point. “There was an arrest a week ago,” he points out, though it is also a gentle reminder that Zimmerman’s fear might be a tad misplaced. He continues, skeptically. "How was he running?" Zimmerman describes it and the officer says, “Sounds like he was running to get away... you jumped out of car to see which way he was running? That’s not fear … it’s going to be a problem.”

Then Zimmerman whispers something. “What is that you whispered?” the officer asks.
“Fucking what?”

“Punks,” Zimmerman says.

This time, the officer seems genuinely taken aback. “He wasn’t a fucking punk,” he responds.

A few moments later, he asks Zimmerman why he kept following Martin even after the police dispatcher told him not to. Zimmerman’s answer is staggering.

“I wanted to give them an address.”

An address? This may be the moment that will convict him. It means that even he suspected that Martin was a legitimate visitor to the complex, staying in an apartment and legally on the property, Zimmerman continued to pursue him. And it makes sense that Martin was staying there because of the terrain, the complex being isolated from other complexes and a mile distant from the nearest shopping center. A professional thief would be moving intentionally, not wandering down the middle of the street in the full light of the streetlamps. Although Zimmerman’s fear supposedly hinges on the series of robberies that the police believed had been addressed already with an arrest, it seems clear that even Zimmerman didn’t really believe his own alibi. More likely, even in his mind, Martin was a kid from the neighborhood out smoking a joint and at the worst, looking for a little illicit excitement — a “fking punk.”
posted by zombieflanders at 11:28 AM on June 27, 2013


Testimony is back on, here's a livestream
delmoi: the difference is that the burden of proof is on the prosecution.
To prove what? Usually when people talk about "reasonable doubt" they're mostly talking about reasonable doubt that the defendant killed the victim. But there's no doubt about that, it's an obvious fact that everyone agrees with.

So what is this "reasonable doubt" supposed to be about? From what I understand people are supposed to reasonably doubt that Zimmerman didn't act in self defense. That is to say, reasonably doubt that a particular fact is not true. Which is essentially a double negative. That's a pretty complicated logical formula for most people to understand.

Symbolically, if you specify 'reasonable doubt' of x as rd(x) as p(!x) > ε where ε is some threshold probability of 'reasonableness'. In that case reasonable doubt that it's not self defense would be expressed rd(!'self defense') = p(!!'self defense') > ε.

That is to say, people need to believe that there is a certain probability that Zimmerman might have shot Martin in self defense. But in order for members of the jury to understand that, they have to both understand the formula and the equivalence. There are lot of ways jurors might get confused about what it is they are supposed to think might be possible.

But basically the question is: is it reasonable to think it's reasonably possible that Zimmerman needed to fire the gun in order to save his own life. Prosecution needs to show that it's not reasonable to believe that.

But the problem is, how reasonable is it to believe that in the first place? Simply given the 911 call, and the map I'd say it's not really very reasonable at all. So the prosecution does need to bring some evidence to the table to show that it's more likely then it seems at first blush. Nothing that Jeantel said makes it seem more likely that Zimmerman needed to Kill Martin.

Now, remember. Zimmerman isn't trying to argue Stand Your Ground, which is A) Insane and B) would require the defense to show prove their case via preponderance of evidence. They're trying to argue "normal" self defense, which actually requires Zimmerman to have tried to get away.
What White People Don't Understand About Rachel Jeantel
Too bad the Jury is all white! (Well except one person of ambiguous ethnicity, but they need a unanimous decision of guilt)
posted by delmoi at 11:30 AM on June 27, 2013


But the problem is, how reasonable is it to believe that in the first place? Simply given the 911 call, and the map I'd say it's not really very reasonable at all.

That's fine to believe since we're not on the jury but it is not what you're required to do if you're on the jury. If you told them this in voir dire you'd be excluded.
posted by Justinian at 11:34 AM on June 27, 2013


Not exactly 100% sure as IANAL, but I believe that the reason that this may be important for the defense is that in order for the State to prove a 2nd degree murder charge they must show that Zimmerman was profiling Martin, not the other way around.
That's the point I was making. It doesn't matter if Martin 'profiled' Zimmerman as someone he needed to run away from. That 'TalkLeft' person is smoking crack.
That's fine to believe since we're not on the jury but it is not what you're required to do if you're on the jury. If you told them this in voir dire you'd be excluded.
Uh, no, the point is that once they see that evidence it should be obvious he's guilty, unless the defense has a good explanation for why Zimmerman needed to shoot Martin.

The people on the Jury should be people who aren't familiar with any of the evidence, not people who've seen all the evidence and just haven't come up with a conclusion.
posted by delmoi at 11:38 AM on June 27, 2013


It seems like you're assuming the evidence proves Zimmerman is guilty. You're assuming your conclusion. Isn't the point of the trial to see if the evidence shows Zimmerman is "obviously guilty"? Just showing that Zimmerman shot Martin isn't sufficient to do that; everyone agrees that's what happened. Now the prosecution has to prove that Zimmerman didn't act in self-defense.
posted by Justinian at 11:41 AM on June 27, 2013


(And you can check earlier in the thread. It surprises me that is the case. I thought Zimmerman had to show he acted in self-defense! But he doesn't.)
posted by Justinian at 11:42 AM on June 27, 2013


As I understand it, Zimmerman would have the burden of proving self defense to get immunity from prosecution based on the FL SYG law, but for self-defense in the context of defending against 2nd degree murder, it is up to the state to prove he did not act in self-defense.
posted by snaparapans at 11:46 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


It seems like you're assuming the evidence proves Zimmerman is guilty.
Yes.
Isn't the point of the trial to see if the evidence shows Zimmerman is "obviously guilty"?
The obviousness depends on how racist you are. If you think all black people are scary and dangerous it might seem reasonable to think he had to act in self defense. If not, it's not. Would anyone buy Zimmerman's self defense argument if it was a 17 year old pretty white girl he killed?

There is a difference between the result of a trial and the actuality of what truly happened, as you can see from all the convictions that have been overturned by DNA evidence, and so on.

So there are two separate questions: 1) What actually happened in reality. and 2) What is the Jury going to decide. That is, to predict the outcome of the trial.

My point is that the Jury may be able to understand your concept of how reasonable doubt applies to this case. (and remember, it's not proof beyond all doubt but reasonable doubt)
posted by delmoi at 12:04 PM on June 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


A verdict isn't about what you think actually happened, it's about what the prosecution proved! It's a check on prosecutorial abuse and overreach.
posted by Justinian at 12:14 PM on June 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


FWIW, this isn't just talk on my part. I've put my money where my mouth is. Was on a jury for a murder trial with a 16 year old victim executed with 3 shots to the head at close range. I think the guys accused did it. But we found one not-guilty and hung on the other guy.
posted by Justinian at 12:17 PM on June 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's not a question about the verdict is "about" it's a question about what the verdict is going to be.

And the only thing that matters is there is what the jury decides.

We can make a prediction about what the jury will decide based on the evidence we've seen so far. New evidence may be presented during the trial, but I expect it will favor the prosecution.

(Because, duh, Zimmerman is guilty so obviously any additional evidence will likely be consistent with his guilt)
posted by delmoi at 12:17 PM on June 27, 2013


Oh okay. I've been talking about what I would think or do if I were on the jury rather than what I think this jury will do. Which isn't necessarily the same.
posted by Justinian at 12:21 PM on June 27, 2013


Heh, it looks like the prosecution is blowing another hole in Zimmerman's story, he claimed he followed Martin so he could get a street number for the cops, but he was out on the sidewalk between the buildings, and as you can see, the buildings don't have addresses on the back
posted by delmoi at 12:33 PM on June 27, 2013


Z's story is full of holes you could drive a fleet of trucks through, IMO: inconsistencies, the way that everything he relates to us about Martin makes Martin out to be one of the most vicious thugs ever while every detail Z gives us about himself makes Z out to be an angel on loan to us from heaven, etc.

I'm still deeply worried that the prosecution won't do its job well enough to get a conviction.

As gauche pointed out way upthread, if you truly believe in justice, you want every person caught up in the court system -- even someone you're absolutely sure is guilty of a heinous crime -- to have a vigorous defense that does everything within the law to prevent a conviction for its client. I totally get that. But I still have a hard time following this trial, because it hurts me deeply every time I feel like the prosecution misses a slam dunk.
posted by lord_wolf at 12:57 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


haha, the prosecutor doesn't understand twitter.
posted by delmoi at 1:21 PM on June 27, 2013


What difference does it make if Martin profiled Zimmerman? Do you think it's illegal to profile someone as a threat and try to run away from them? What's illegal is profiling someone as a threat and then shooting them dead while they're running away.

It's pretty clear that no one was shot while running - the position of the body if nothing else showed that. So what you're talking about, just didn't happen.

Now, if Martin profiled Zimmerman, and hit him based on that profiling? Then yeah, it's relevant.
posted by corb at 6:47 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]



Now, if Martin profiled Zimmerman, and hit him based on that profiling? Then yeah, it's relevant.


If Martin hit Zimmerman, it was because Zimmerman put him in direct fear for his safety. Maybe it's being a Jewish Hippie from New York, but *I* don't like the idea of a stranger in the South following me at night, so I can see Trayvon Martin thinking "I'm going to be kidnapped and lynched!" the entire time. So when the "crazy-ass cracker" gets close enough to be a threat to his life and safety, he defends himself.

The question to determine if Martin acted correctly is, "How close would a police officer allow Zimmerman to approach that evening before considering his own personal safety?" The moment Zimmerman crossed that line, Martin's self-defense of his life became justified.
posted by mikelieman at 11:26 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now, if Martin profiled Zimmerman, and hit him based on that profiling? Then yeah, it's relevant.
Everyone understands that Martin "profiled" Zimmerman, as someone who posed a threat to him.

Profiling someone and trying to run away from them is not a crime. It's profiling someone and then shooting them based on your profile that's illegal.

The defense hasn't presented a case yet, but the theory that people are proffering seems to be:
1) Martin profiled Zimmerman as a "creepy-ass cracker" who might be trying to kidnap/molest/who knows him.

2) Because of this, Martin hid and waited for Zimmerman to show up, somehow magically knowing exactly where he would go in order to "read the street number"

3) Martin attacked him out of nowhere, pushed him to the ground and starts punching him.

4) Zimmerman starts screaming for help

5) Martin holds his hand over his mouth, and tells him to "shut the fuck up"

6) When Zimmerman shifts so he can keep yelling for help, martin sees the gun and says "You're going to die tonight", and tries to grab at it.

7) This puts Zimmerman's life in danger, so now it's legal for him to use deadly force to defend himself.

8) Oh and then martin says "you got me" after he's shot?
So basically the question is whether or not there is "reasonable doubt" that that's not not true. In other words, is it reasonable to think that might be true?

I think the story is preposterous for a number of reasons.

1) Why would Martin lie in wait and attack him? It's not a normal thing for people afraid of someone to do. I don't find it reasonably plausible.
2) The witness said she heard one normal voice, then another, then the first again, then screaming. That's not consistent with Zimmerman's story.
3) "You're going to die tonight"?? and "you got me"!?!?! Why the fuck would Trayvon say anything like that? Unless the defense can prove that Martin was the kind of person who randomly went around threatening to kill people that's completely implausible. And no one would say "you got me" after getting shot.
4) The screaming stops immediately after the gunshot. The most obvious explanation for that is that the person who had been screaming just got shot in the chest and could no longer breathe, let alone scream.
5) Zimmerman claims martin was on top of him when he shot, but Martin was face down, but Zimmerman would have had to have rolled him off of him in order to get up, which would have meant martin would have ended face up.

Finally, there's the whole issue of the difference between the obvious panic and fear heard in the voice of the person screaming and Zimmerman's behavior after the shooting. Why would someone with a gun scream in absolute panic and terror about someone punching him? Seems more likely to me they'd yell something like "get off me" or "the cops are on the way". I don't think someone with a gun would be that terrified.

The only plausible explanation for that behavior would be if he was absolutely terrified of shooting Trayvon, and didn't even want to reveal that he had a gun until Trayvon discovered it on his own, after he started yelling for help. But if that were the case, why would he immediately stop calling for help he shot him? Wouldn't he want someone to call for help? Why did he seem so calm in the immediate aftermath of the shooting? Why would he roll Trayvon on to his back? Why wouldn't he roll him on his back to make it easier for him to breathe? Why no attempt at CPR, or even a request that a bystander call for an ambulance as opposed to just 'the police'? Zimmerman didn't seem very concerned about whether or not Martin died after he shot him.

Obviously that's just my subjective analysis of human nature, other people might have a different subjective view and think it might be possible to scream like that in sheer terror and panic one moment, then shoot someone, and immediately calm down.

There's also a question of why Zimmerman hasn't provided a simple of his own screaming voice for spectral analysis. But that might come up in the defense portion of the trial.

So anyway, the point is in order for there to be "reasonable doubt" about Zimmerman being a murder, there needs to be reasonable doubt that Zimmerman's story is not not true.

It's not simply "reasonable suspicion that Martin might be the kind of person who might get into a fight". Trayvon Martin is not on trial for beating up George Zimmerman. He's the victim. The fact that he was scared of him justifies his behavior, it's helpful for the prosecution, not the defense. You can't legally shoot people just because they're afraid of you.

The defense needs to show that not only was he a person who might get into fights, but that he was the kind of person who would actually lie in wait to beat people up for being "creepy", that he would randomly attack people, that he would threaten to kill someone, etc. If they don't do that, Zimmerman's story won't be in any way plausible. And if the story isn't plausible there's no reasonable doubt.

It's possible the Jury won't understand reasonable doubt at all, but in that case they'll just for whatever story seems more plausible, and it's likely that will be the prosecutions.
posted by delmoi at 3:09 AM on June 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Justinian: FWIW, this isn't just talk on my part.

Hard to imagine how hard that must have been. Wow.. Hats off to you.
posted by snaparapans at 9:10 AM on June 28, 2013


There's also a question of why Zimmerman hasn't provided a simple of his own screaming voice for spectral analysis.

What? I sure wouldn't do this! Never, ever, ever help the prosecution. They would quite easily produce an "expert witness" willing to testify it wasn't Zimmerman's voice. Whether or not it was his voice.

The defense needs to show that not only was he a person who might get into fights

The defense doesn't have to show anything at all. That's the basis of our legal system.
posted by Justinian at 9:34 AM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


The defense doesn't have to show anything at all. That's the basis of our legal system.

That might be technically true- I mean the defense doesn't have to make an opening statement, cross examine witnesses, call witnesses, or make a closing statement, but what does the majority of good defense counsel do?

One guideline of defending a case is that, in order to to assist their client, the defense should show weaknesses in the prosecution's arguments for conviction. But you're 100% right, they don't have to. It might be a good idea, though.
posted by eunoia at 9:58 AM on June 28, 2013


It seems to me that a defense asserting self-defense (or, for another example, insanity) would need to do more than nothing to prevail.
posted by maggieb at 10:15 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's what I thought as well but it appears not to be the case here. The prosecution has to show it wasn't self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
posted by Justinian at 10:17 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The defense doesn't have to show anything at all. That's the basis of our legal system.
I think you're a little confused about what I'm trying to say. I am talking about what I think the defense has to do in order to win the case.

I mean, yeah, technically you could do nothing the whole trial except shrug your shoulders and say "hey maaaan who really ever knows what's really real?" for your closing argument if you want.


____
The prosecution has to show it wasn't self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
Can you explain what you mean when you when you say "reasonable doubt"? Especially what you think it means to reasonably doubt that something is false?

Let's look at the legal definition, then I'll explain what I think it means.

____
According to Wikipedia:
In the United States, juries must be instructed to apply the reasonable doubt standard when determining the guilt or innocence of a criminal defendant, but there is much disagreement as to whether the jury should be given a definition of "reasonable doubt."[10] In Victor v. Nebraska, the U.S. Supreme Court expressed disapproval of the unclear reasonable doubt instructions at issue, but stopped short of setting forth an exemplary jury instruction.
Looking at the standard Florida standard jury instructions it says (section 2.03, page 10 in the PDF):
A reasonable doubt is not a mere possible doubt, a speculative, imaginary or forced doubt. Such a doubt must not influence you to return a verdict of not guilty if you have an abiding conviction of guilt. On the other hand, if, after carefully considering, comparing and weighing all the evidence, there is not an abiding conviction of guilt, or, if, having a conviction, it is one which is not stable but one which wavers and vacillates, then the charge is not proved beyond every reasonable doubt and you must find the defendant not guilty because the doubt is reasonable


In which case in Florida reasonable doubt is supposed to be defined by the jurors individual subjective assessments of their own emotional sensation of certainty.
____
Now, to me 'reasonable doubt' means is that the probability of something being true is less then some threshold. Let's say, for example 98%. In terms of predicate logic you would say,
REASONABLE-DOUBT (X) ↔ P(X) <>
.In that case the having reasonable doubt that something is false would be
REASONABLE-DOUBT (X) ↔ P(X) <>= 0.02
Now just to make my terminology a little more clear I'll define REASONABLE-DOUBT (X) as REASONABLY-POSSIBLE (X). So in English I'm just saying that if you have reasonable doubt that something is true, then you have a reasonable belief that thing might be false. And if you have reasonable doubt that something is false then you have a reasonable believe that it might be true, or in other words you have a reasonable belief that it's possible

I'm not trying to be pedantic here (okay maybe a little), but mostly I'm trying to make it clear that I'm not trying to redefine anything, rather I'm coining a label for a logical construct that can be confusing to when expressed in English: "reasonable doubt that something is not true", even though it's simple in predicate logic: (It's just REASONABLE-DOUBT (X))

Does that make sense to you?
____

Because the thing is: It's not exactly clear what you think reasonable doubt actually means, and it's especially unclear what you think it means to say that there is reasonable doubt that something is false.

So, for example what do you actually mean when you say
"The prosecution has to show it wasn't self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt."?
My guess would be that you think the prosecution needs to show evidence that proves Zimmerman couldn't possibly have shot martin in self defense, but that's essentially "proving a negative", (technically prove an existentially qualified negative).

On the other hand, from my perspective the prosecutors only need to prove that it's extremely unlikely that Zimmerman need to shoot Martin to save his own life.

By that standard Jodi Arias could have gotten off because, as I said, you could never prove that Travis Alexander didn't attack after she went into the bathroom with a knife and she took a picture of him alive in the shower in the 51 seconds before she took a picture of him stabbed to death. It's just extremely unlikely.

Now, to make things even more complicated in Florida there are multiple aspects to a self defense claim. In a philosophical these are 'necessary conditions', and the prosecutor only needs to prove that one of the facets is false beyond a reasonable doubt.

The big problem for Zimmerman is FL code 776.041 which states that you can't use any force to defend yourself if you provoke the confrontation unless you are facing what a reasonable person would consider themselves in imminent danger of great bodily harm or death and you've exhausted every attempt to run away.


Anyway there's a new thread
posted by delmoi at 10:24 PM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


(huh, I just noticed my predicate logic got completely completely destroyed when I tried to post it. Its... probably pretty incomprehensible without the negations. If anyone cares it was supposed to be:

"REASONABLE-DOUBT(X) ↔ P(X) >= 0.98"
"REASONABLE-DOUBT(¬X) ↔ P(X) < 0.02"
"I'll define REASONABLE-DOUBT(¬X) as REASONABLY-POSSIBLE(X)"
"even though it's simple in predicate logic: (It's just REASONABLE-DOUBT(¬X))"

I guess because I forgot to replace my >s with &gt;s, and my unicode ¬s seem to have been erased completely. Looked fine in live preview. Fun)

posted by delmoi at 5:39 AM on June 29, 2013


Why did the prosecution charge Zimmerman with 2nd degree murder, an overreach that the state has little chance of proving?

this seems like the most plausible reason I have seen so far:
One of the elements of manslaughter, recited right in the Florida manslaughter statute, is "without lawful justification according to the provisions of chapter 776."
When the state charges manslaughter, the charge/information asserts that, and the affidavit of probable cause would have to summarize the evidence that supports the assertion.

By charging Murder 2, the state is able to duck the formality of formally asserting that the killing was without lawful justification according to the provisions of chapter 776.
TL
posted by snaparapans at 9:28 AM on June 29, 2013


That TalkLeft site seems full of Derp and people who don't know what they're talking about.

I don't think people understand FL's non SYG self defense laws, which Zimmerman is trying to use. If Zimmerman provoked the confrontation, then his killing of martin wouldn't be legal (and yes, that's under chapter 776, which I just linked too).

The state is going to try to prove that the non SYG self defense laws don't apply, obviously. Why would they have trouble asserting that in the beginning.

Angela Corey has a reputation as a rather extreme prosecutor. This is a women who sent another woman to jail for 20 years for firing warning shots at her abusive boyfriend. I would imagine part of that is political, she might want to get votes Nancy Grace types, or she might just love throwing people in jail. I'm not usually a fan of people like that but if there's one thing that should be taken seriously by the criminal justice system it's killing other people.
posted by delmoi at 12:04 PM on June 29, 2013


That TalkLeft site seems full of Derp and people who don't know what they're talking about.

OK.. to each his own.. where are you getting your information on this case?
posted by snaparapans at 12:12 PM on June 29, 2013


where are you getting your information on this case?
The trial live stream and Forida's legal code. (Plus googling for a few specific things, like the crime scene in Google Earth and FL's jury instructions on reasonable doubt, etc)
posted by delmoi at 12:16 PM on June 29, 2013


Are you a lawyer? and where did you get your information before the case started?
posted by snaparapans at 12:21 PM on June 29, 2013


Are you a lawyer? and where did you get your information before the case started?
Dude, you linked to a user comment from someone named 'cboldt' on TalkLeft, who was obviously spouting total nonsense - premised on the idea that the prosecutor couldn't even assert that the self-defense exceptions in 776 didn't apply. But the prosecution will need to prove that those sections don't apply to Zimmerman to get a conviction. What they said makes no sense at all.

I am not a lawyer, the law in this case is not particularly complex, and part of my understanding on 776.041 comes from this analysis that I previously linked too. I've linked to pretty much all of my sources for specific information.

If you think I've made a specific error on the law or the facts feel free to point it out.
posted by delmoi at 12:36 PM on June 29, 2013


IANAL, but cbolt and bmaz (responder to cbolt's comment) are lawyers, very well versed in the case. bmaz, writes on emptywheel, if you are interested, usually has interesting things to say. Sorry that you believe that they were spouting total nonsense, from my POV, the comment is right on the money and IMO, both commenters are a valuable resource.

As far as the site you linked to, one thing may be incorrect, or I may have read it wrong. It applies to the aggressor statute. In florida law, Zimmerman was not required to use equal force in self defense. Here is a handy rundown of the laws in FLA, regarding the major aspects of the case. As long as Zimmerman felt he was in mortal danger and had no choice but to kill Martin, he is legally entitled to use deadly force. Also the danger need not be real or actual, as long as the slayer reasonably believes that killing is in order to save his or her own life.
posted by snaparapans at 1:34 PM on June 29, 2013


snaparapans: what specifically would have prevented Corey from asserting that 776 didn't apply in her indictment? Why couldn't she do it, exactly? What reason was there for her not including it, other then the fact she wanted to charge murder 2 in stead of manslaughter?

IANAL but the only reason I can think why Corey might not have wanted to raise 776 in the states case directly is that by not doing so Zimmerman would have to raise it himself. If her team raised it herself, then the defense could attack that theory during cross. But if the prosecution doesn't bring it up themselves, then the defense has to do it. From the rundown that you just linked too:
1. To get a jury instruction on self defense, all Zimmerman must produce is some evidence, no matter how flimsy, even if it's just his own version of events.
And, so, how can Zimmerman produce that evidence without taking the stand himself? Well, if Corey's team brought it up as a factor to prove manslaughter, then the defense could try to discredit the evidence in cross or using other witnesses. But if the prosecution didn't bring it up, then Zimmerman would have to take the stand in order to produce the evidence himself.

So if that's correct it's not a weakness in the case, rather it's just be a shrewd move on her part, something that would make her case stronger not weaker. The problem is you presented it as some kind of flaw, something that indicated it would be difficult for her to prove he wasn't defending himself.

But if that's not the case, what is it you think makes it 'on the money'? What do you see as the significance there?
Zimmerman was not required to use equal force in self defense.
776.041(2)(a) says:
Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or
'Reasonably' is the key there. He isn't allowed to use any force in self defense if he's the aggressor unless he reasonably believes he's at risk of great bodily harm or death. It's not enough to simply stipulate that he believed that, they have to show a reasonable person wouldn't have felt that way (stop the prosecutor from showing reasonable doubt that a reasonable person would feel the need to use deadly force)

You're right that it doesn't say "equal" force, but it does say you can't use deadly force unless you're at risk of death. But since deadly force is the issue here, Zimmerman needed to be in immanent peril of death or seriously bodily injury in order to shoot martin in self defense.
posted by delmoi at 4:02 PM on June 29, 2013


Not exactly following you with your question about 776.. My understanding is that a manslaughter charge cannot be brought if any of the reasons for justifiable force (776) are claimed. Zimmerman claimed self defense, which precludes manslaughter. So Corey went out on a limb and decided to make a case that Zimmerman hated criminals so much that he was deranged, and had little regard for the life of anyone he deemed a criminal.

And regarding the use of deadly force in self defense:
While the danger need not be real or actual, the appearance of danger must be both real and imminent and the slayer must actually and reasonably believe that it is necessary to act in order to save his own life or that of a member of his family from death or great bodily harm in order to constitute justification.
Zimmerman claims that he was on the ground, Martin banging his head against the concrete, and when he tried to get away Zimmerman believed that Martin saw his gun and was going to grab it to shoot Zimmerman.

I was not there, but it does appear that there is some evidence to back up Zimmerman's story. Any reasonable person would think it was reasonable for Zimmerman to believe he was in mortal danger, given that scenario.

Jeralyn at TL postulates:
The problem in this case, the way I see it, is the Martins' lawyers got impatient and were afraid no one would really investigate, so they started their media blitz. There was no just cause for arresting Zimmerman that night. Investigations like this can take a year or more. The more thorough the investigation, the better the prosecution's ultimate case will be. By rushing the state into a charging decision, the state may have moved too soon, when it doesn't have the evidence and now, because the case has become such a lightening rod, witnesses with information may not come forward or tell the truth, and other witnesses, who are morally outraged, have changed their stories, which may make them not credible at trial.
posted by snaparapans at 4:41 PM on June 29, 2013


There was no just cause for arresting Zimmerman that night.

What sort of justification is required before arresting someone who has just fatally shot a teenager in a suburban housing complex?
posted by winna at 5:07 PM on June 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


As long as Zimmerman felt he was in mortal danger and had no choice but to kill Martin, he is legally entitled to use deadly force.

See, the thing here is that Travyon Martin felt he was in mortal danger as soon as the guy who was following him in the car got out of his car to hunt him down on foot.
posted by mikelieman at 5:44 PM on June 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


My understanding is that a manslaughter charge cannot be brought if any of the reasons for justifiable force (776) are claimed.
What are you talking about? Claimed by who? In order to indict someone all the prosecutor has to do is type up an indictment and file it with the court. The defense can get it thrown out if there's no probable cause - but to claim that no reasonable person could possibly believe that Zimmerman didn't absolutely need to kill Martin is insane. Is that what you're trying to claim?
I was not there, but it does appear that there is some evidence to back up Zimmerman's story. Any reasonable person would think it was reasonable for Zimmerman to believe he was in mortal danger, given that scenario.
If that's what people on Talk Left are saying, they are definitely straight bonkers. In fact, wasn't it one of those insane fringe pro-hillary sites in '08 posting conspiracy theories about Rezko and stuff? and ... yeah, looks like it was.

Seriously dude, that is completely insane.
Zimmerman claims that he was on the ground, Martin banging his head against the concrete,
What does that have to do with probable cause? A reasonable person might think Zimmerman was lying. The prosecution is under no obligation to take what he says at face value, WTF are you talking about?
I was not there, but it does appear that there is some evidence to back up Zimmerman's story.
Again dude, this is just -- insane. If people on TL think there wasn't even probable cause to indict Zimmerman then they are completely delusional. Not surprising from the kind of "liberal" who basically supported Hillary in '08 because they didn't like republicans or black people, and got themselves mired in crazy Obama conspiracy theories as well.
posted by delmoi at 5:59 PM on June 29, 2013


The question to determine if Martin acted correctly is, "How close would a police officer allow Zimmerman to approach that evening before considering his own personal safety?" The moment Zimmerman crossed that line, Martin's self-defense of his life became justified.

If we're going to do that, then it is equally valid to say, the question to determine if Zimmermman acted correctly is, "How much violence would a police officer have taken from Martin before choosing to shoot?" Because I'm betting it's actually lower than the amount of violence Zimmerman actually took.
posted by corb at 6:05 PM on June 29, 2013


"How much violence would a police officer have taken from Martin before choosing to shoot?"

No police officer in the country is trained to let anyone get close enough without taking control of the situation for to them to need to shoot them in the first place. They would have had Zimmerman at gunpoint the moment Zimmerman didn't stop and identify himself as ordered.
posted by mikelieman at 7:17 PM on June 29, 2013


"How much violence would a police officer have taken from Martin before choosing to shoot?"
That's completely irrelevant, as there are specific laws governing use of by police, that do not apply to non-police.
Because I'm betting it's actually lower than the amount of violence Zimmerman actually took.
Since he wasn't a cop, it couldn't matter less.
posted by delmoi at 7:47 PM on June 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Since he wasn't a cop, it couldn't matter less.

You're right. But that applies to both Martin and Zimmerman. The entire "If he was a cop" idea was idiotic. Especially because cops are sadly not known for their restraint.
posted by corb at 9:42 PM on June 29, 2013


There are two separate questions - one is what is a cop legally allowed to do, and the other is how would a sensible cop act in Zimmerman's position. The point is a well-trained police officer wouldn't have behaved as irresponsibly as Zimmerman, getting into a close quarters physical fight with his gun accessible.

The police would yell "Freeze, Police" and if he didn't stop then, he'd be justified in pulling his gun.

On the other hand Zimmerman didn't even say "stop or I'll shoot!".
posted by delmoi at 10:15 PM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Zimmerman would have been completely, completely wrong to say "Stop or I'll shoot." Completely. No crime had been committed (yet). He was trying to check on someone suspicious in the neighborhood. There was no reason for him to announce that he was carrying a gun and it would have been a stupid, escalating move if he had.

I do not think that Zimmerman expected a physical fight. I don't think that he threw the first punch. I think he was surprised by it.

Should he have expected one? Maybe. But I don't think he was preparing for one.
posted by corb at 10:29 PM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I have a gun" might have been a good thing to say in order to possibly avoid a close quarters fight where the gun might be stolen.

Though, "Hi there, I'm George with the neighborhood watch, sorry if I freaked you out. We've had some burglaries here recently, do you live here?" would have been a much better choice that would have likely resulted in no dead teenagers.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:45 PM on June 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


I do not think that Zimmerman expected a physical fight

I would suggest that if you train at a Mixed-Martial-Arts gym three times a week, then you're preparing yourself for a physical fight. If all you want to do get in shape, cardio and squats can be had at "Asteroid Healthiness" for 10 bucks a month.
posted by mikelieman at 4:50 AM on June 30, 2013


"Asteroid Healthiness"

I would totally join that gym.
posted by delmoi at 3:21 PM on June 30, 2013


There was no reason for him to announce that he was carrying a gun and it would have been a stupid, escalating move if he had.
Sure, if your goal is to avoid liability for killing an innocent person, as opposed to avoiding killing an innocent people due to a misunderstanding.

Also I was talking about after Martin had already seen the gun. Something like "I'm not going to shoot just get off me the cops are almost here" might have been something he could have considered doing, instead of pulling the trigger and killing martin.
posted by delmoi at 3:23 PM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


No crime had been committed (yet).

"Yet"? Amazing.
posted by aught at 12:15 PM on July 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


That's probably how Zimmerman thought, on account of being racist as fuck.

Also if giving a warning was the wrong thing to do its all the more reason why the stupid fucking idiot shouldn't have been stalking the kid.
posted by Artw at 12:59 PM on July 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


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