Sunday, July 21, 2013

The “State” vs Zimmerman (as required by Internet Rule # 47854b)

This is a political post. 

Far too many times of late a African American male has been killed as of late, and its nobody’s fault.

I’m taking a moment to comment here on the Zimmerman trial, because after glancing through the commentary I’ve come to believe that due to the messaging we are missing the point. I got this after the watching Bill O’Reilly, who I cannot believe still has a TV show, suddenly consider the NRA’s stock answer of “arm everybody” to reduce crime to be too extreme after his guest Tavis Smiley suggested the concept be applied to black people as well.

Before I get started, I’d like to remind everyone that just because you agree or disagree with the verdict doesn’t mean it just or unjust. It is just a verdict. The reality is that the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt” is an inherently relative term. 

It is terribly sad that a youth died. Trayvon Martin might have posted pictures of himself dressed as a thug and maybe even gotten in trouble a time or two at school, but was his path set for the penitentiary? Not necessarily. At the time of his passing he was looking at college applications. He was the typical middle class American child, rebelling a little. But for some reason the media chose to frame this question as if the rebellious nature of a black male youth somehow disqualified him from justice. And while extremely troubling, that’s not THE troubling issue. Nor is it black on black crime.

The problem is, that under Florida law, as it is in too many states, if one feels as though one’s life is threatened, one has the right to kill.  

The ramifications to me, personally, are frightening. The context is far too fluid, the criteria is far too subjective. This because the default setting for black American males is “threat”. We start on danger level. Let me give you an example: During my litigation exercise in my second year of law school, I stood up to make an objection. Just like on TV, “Objection Your Honor!” Afterwards, during the critique of our work, one of the first year law student jurors, a small white female, said that when I stood up to make that objection, I frightened her. Me. A middle aged man, a fellow law school student. In a courtroom, wearing a six hundred dollar suit, acting as the attorney. My presence "frightened" her. And if I’m a threat under those circumstances, then imagine a black male in the dark coming towards her.

The weird part is that Zimmerman didn’t even plead the Stand Your Ground defense. But reading of the jury instructions shows that it was something that the jury needed to consider.

It is my opinion, that the execution of the Stand Your Ground law (even in the “don’t apply but do consider it” reality we just experienced) erodes the rule of law, in that the criteria is now custom cut to fit the individual. Even worse, you now take into account the “egg shell” defendant. Were they recently robbed? Or previously assaulted? Are they small in stature? Let’s not  kid ourselves into to believing that we don’t assess what’s contextually “reasonable.” It something we all do  automatically, unconsciously. And that's not how the law should work.

Now I’m not trying to vilify George Zimmerman. Nor am I trying to make Trayvon Martin out to be some angel. I just find it odd that I haven’t heard about any Stand Your Ground cases where the “aggressor” survived to tell their side of the story. Does the law encourage killing? Can't you wound in self defense? Or just scare the aggressor? Oh, wait, maybe not.

I’m not going to speak on the “trial” until I’ve had a chance to look at it.

Now, back to the books. Georgia Bar in a week.

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