Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Zimmerman verdict

Not much has happened to cause me to change my original interpretation of the George Zimmerman case.  We now know that Trayvon Martin described Zimmerman as "a creepy-ass cracker," and we have definitive evidence that Zimmerman was seriously injured in the struggle.  (I have heard people question whether Martin inflicted the wounds to Zimmerman, but I haven't heard a plausible alternative scenario.  Do they think Zimmerman broke his own nose to create a cover story?  Do they think he was on neighbourhood watch with a broken and bleeding nose?)

We still don't know how the encounter between the two of them went, having only Zimmerman's statement that he was ambushed and little else to go on.  Some people claim he was the one on top in the struggle, and it was Martin screaming for help.  This is only credible to me if Martin managed to turn the tables on him, because I don't see why Zimmerman would have pulled a gun when he was on top.  If he wanted to shoot Martin, why wait until they were in a physical altercation?  That makes drawing and using a gun much more perilous, with no corresponding benefit to waiting.

I visited the Daily Kos to find out what liberals are saying about the verdict.  I read several comments claiming that Zimmerman "hunted Martin like he was an animal."  This makes no sense to me (not that I expected a lot of sense from the Daily Kos, but I try to give the benefit of the doubt).  Zimmerman had participated in the neighbourhood watch before, and I find it hard to believe that he hadn't seen other people walking around unaccompanied.  There is no reason to think he wanted to kill Martin when he had not killed other people.  The idea of someone in a neighbourhood watch "hunting" someone is pretty unlikely in any case.  People who say that must never have lived in an unsafe neighbourhood where a number of robberies have occurred recently.  They can't understand why someone would be concerned for the safety and property of residents and would want to investigate suspicious behaviour.

This is a national story for two reasons.  First, some people think that Zimmerman went after Martin because he was black.  I don't know why they feel comfortable with that conclusion, which seems to contradict Zimmerman's history.  He obviously was on good terms with a number of black people.  His concern with Martin was that he was walking the neighbourhood at night in the way that a burglar might.  He may have drawn unjustified inferences, but I think it as likely that the hoodie concerned him as that Martin's race did.  (As far as I am aware, whites also wear hoodies.)  In any case, we can't know for sure whether race played a role in Zimmerman's suspicions, and I'm not sure why it should matter in a legal sense.

The second reason is that people don't think Zimmerman should have carried a gun, much less used it.  Of course, in their narrative, he was hunting Martin and looking for an excuse to kill him (and apparently wasn't too particular about the excuse, either, if you are to believe their story that he was on top of Martin in the fight).  In the more likely scenario that Martin was beating the crap out of him when he pulled a gun and shot in self-defense, the problem is more complicated.  One can make a case that, even in these circumstances, Zimmerman should not have shot Martin, but one has to accept that he was going to get beaten up and possibly killed in that case.  I don't like the idea of being defenseless, so I would not agree with that argument, but at least it would be an honest debate (as opposed to making Zimmerman out to be a cold-blooded killer).

As an interesting side note to the Zimmerman case, liberals have been making a comparison to the case of Marissa Alexander (also a Floridian) who was sentenced to 20 years merely for firing warning shots at her allegedly abusive husband.  Alexander is black, so I suppose this is meant to show that there is a double standard in justice based on the race of the perpetrator.  It doesn't quite work, because Alexander's husband is also black.  You could argue that it is an example of wildly inconsistent applications of the provision for self-defense, and I would have to agree with that.  Although Alexander was not being physically beaten at the time that she fired the shots, it does appear that her husband admits to being physical with her, to threatening to kill her previously, and to refusing to leave the house.  (See the court documents here.)  And, of course, she didn't actually shoot him, instead aiming for the ceiling.

To all appearances, this is also a travesty of justice.  Guns are especially important to women, who usually lack the physical strength to confront men who threaten them.  Although this incident had not, perhaps, risen to the level of actual threats, her husband's behaviour certainly seems threatening in the usual sense of the term.  Since she was not firing shots that had any chance of hitting him, I don't think she acted inappropriately.  On the other hand, the fact that this case was decided wrong does not mean that the Zimmerman case should have been decided in a manner consistent with it.  I'd rather fix the wrong case than be consistently wrong.

No comments:

Post a Comment