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The race card


The Zimmerman verdict.

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  • jim, some guy in iowa

    that’s very good. thanks

  • Richard

    Guess I’m a liar and an idiot because I think it was much more complicated than that and think that the evidence at trial and the jury instructions mandated acquittal. (Also, Zimmerman didn’t weigh 230 pounds at the time of Martin’s death.He weighed between 185 and 200 pounds.)

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      how d’ya figure it was *much* more complicated? Zimmerman did more or less stalk a kid walking around where he, Zimmerman, decided the kid didn’t belong, and things went downhill from there.

      (genuinely curious, not busting your chops – and I kind of think the jury did what it had to do, myself)

      • Richard

        I fully agree that Zimmerman shouldn’t have followed Martin with a loaded gun and that this act led to the death of Martin. But the evidence at trial clearly showed that Martin struck Martin in the face and very, very likely hit his head against the concrete and, at the time the shot was fired, Martin was on top. Legally, this was more than enough to create reasonable doubt on the question of self-defense.

        Given the facts introduced at trial – since I now work from home, I was able to watch quite a bit of the trial- I dont think its a given that a black man accused of murder of a white man under the same facts would be convicted. I thought that the defense absolutely destroyed the prosecution’s case and that the prosecution was reduced to arguing nothing but emotion and irrelevancies in the closing argument and, very unusually, couldn’t offer a version of what actually happened. I think that if the same prosecution had been put on and the same defense put on but with the race of the victim now being Hispanic (as Martin is and as he self identified) and the shooter being black, there still would be a verdict of not guilty. Given the facts here – the eyewitnesses, the injuries to Zimmerman, the inability to determine who was yelling help on the tape, I dont think there would have been a conviction even if the races of the two persons had been reversed. This was just a very weak case and NEVER should have been charged as second degree murder.

        • Ronan

          “since I now work from home, I was able to watch quite a bit of the trial”

          I know that bro. On the dole, eh?
          Otherwise, meh

          • Timb

            Richard is one of the best and most thoughtful commenters on this site. He’s a lawyer and works from home

            • Ronan

              I know. I regret this comment. My apologies Richard, it was frustration at some of the defences I was reading, but wasnt justified.
              Again Richard, my apologies

              • Richard

                No offense taken. This is an emotional issue and I understand comments made in the heat of passion. Just to set the record straight, I have been a trial attorney for 37 years, four of them spent practicing criminal defense. A couple months ago, I decided to give myself more options than being in the office 8-6 every day so i set up my own practice which I run out of my home. Still busy but I have more time for other interests. I post to this blog on when the topics are law or music (and generally leave the economic, labor, women’s issues, etc to persons with more expertise). I’m an old line liberal (have voted Democratic in every election since Bobby Kennedy in the 1968 California primary) and my views on law tend to be a little more centrist than those of Scott and considerably more centrist than those of Paul. I have no problem with anyone disagreeing with me on any issue. I do find it irritating when someone takes a position and declares that anyone who disagrees must be an idiot, a liar or insane. There are honest, intelligent and sane people who can disagree with me (or Paul) on any issue.

                On the Zimmerman case, my position is pretty simple. Zimmerman was wrong to have followed Martin and this set off the series of events that led to Martin’s death. However, the evidence at trial warranted an acquittal because of self-defense. The prosecution’s case was so weak that I think the defendant would have been acquitted even if the races of Martin and Zimmerman had been reversed.

                • Ronan

                  Thanks for the generous response!
                  I’m enjoying/learning a lot from your posts on this topic, and (to my ears anyway, with no knowledge on the relevant law)your position seems convincing
                  I’m generally not such a hotheaded arse in my offline life ; ) (I think)

                • Timb

                  Few of us are, Ronan. Few of are

        • Royko

          Personally, I think it’s more likely, though by no means certain, that a jury will find an excuse to convict if the shooter is black, even with this weak a case. But really, the realistic outcome in that scenario is the shooter’s court appointed defense tells him to take a plea and it never gets before a jury. It’s not just the law or the jury — the entire process will treat them differently.

          • Kurzleg


          • Richard

            I agree, in general, that its more likely that a jury will find an excuse to convict if the shooter is black, even with a weak case. But I think the case here was extremely weak and assuming the defendant had the money to engage the defense counsel here, even a black defendant would have gotten off.

            This case was very much an anomaly. Zimmerman was not this rich white guy able to hire the best defense counsel. He was able to hire the counsel because of the publicity the initial decision not to charge got and because, when he was then overcharged with second degree murder, he became a cause celebre for the right and was able to get donations to a legal defense fund sufficient to hire very able defense counsel.

          • joe from Lowell

            Personally, I think it’s more likely, though by no means certain, that a jury will find an excuse to convict if the shooter is black, even with this weak a case.

            That’s my sense, too. There’s no way a black shooter gets acquitted, even if he should be, short of being a celebrity and hiring a zillion dollar defense team.

            • Malaclypse
            • Richard

              I just dont think so. I think that if we take this exact case, use the exact same prosecutor and defense teams, and the exact same witnesses and flip the races of Martin and Zimmerman, the defendant gets acquitted. In my opinion, the prosecutor’s case was extremely weak. They never could find a way of countering the pretty undisputed fact that Zimmerman had suffered blows to the face and the back of the head and that Martin was on top of Zimmerman when the shot was fired. It was probably a better strategy to conced that at the beginning rather than first arguing that Zimmerman was on top (it never helps to change strategy during a trial) but I’m not sure if that would have made a difference. Things might have been different if there was a way of determining who was screaming help on the tape but each side had credible witnesses regarding their own position (and the judge, properly, prevented the prosecutor’s experts from testifying that the voice was Martin because the methodology they were using was extremely suspect and because the defense expert testified credibly, in the pretrial hearing, that there was no valid scientific way of identifying that voice)

              • joe from Lowell

                They never could find a way of countering the pretty undisputed fact that Zimmerman had suffered blows to the face and the back of the head and that Martin was on top of Zimmerman when the shot was fired.

                It would have been perfectly within the jury’s discretion to convict on manslaughter even if they accepted that, based on Zimmerman’s provocation of the lethal confrontation. His behavior could have been found to meet the requirements of the law (even if you want to argue that it would have been legitimate for them to find that it did not).

                • Richard

                  They could have convicted him of manslaughter even if Martin was on top but it was very hard to disprove self defense, a defense to manslaughter , with the evidence of Martin being on top and the evidence of Zimmerman’s wounds

                • joe from Lowell

                  The jury would have been well within their rights to convict on manslaughter based on Zimmerman provoking a lethal confrontation while armed.

                  There is no self-defense involved in Zimmerman following the kid and confronting him while armed. Zimmerman didn’t do any of that to defend himself or others from bodily harm.

              • efgoldman

                I think that if we take this exact case, use the exact same prosecutor and defense teams, and the exact same witnesses and flip the races of Martin and Zimmerman, the defendant gets acquitted.

                I think the thing that’s most upsetting to folks on this and related blogs is: With the same set of facts (especially leaving the car against the dispatcher’s order) in another state, the outcome might well have been different. Granted that states have wide latitude in both legislating statutes and in law enforcement, the sense that justice should give at least a shot at equal treatment to everyone, everywhere, and that it doesn’t in large swathes of the country, fuels the outrage.

            • Right. Race mattered in this case not because the jury verdict was unreasonable — sadly, because of the failure of the law of self-defense to keep up with large numbers of people carrying concealed weapons, it wasn’t — but that is much less likely that an African American killing a white guy would have gotten a fair trial.

              • Richard

                I agree with that. My only disagreement is that I think the prosecutor’s case here was so weak that a switch of race would not have mattered in this particular instance (assuming a black defendant could have had the same legal defense team that Zimmerman had)

          • DrDick

            There is also this.

        • Richard

          meant to say “Martin struck Zimmerman in the face”

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          I must be worse than a liar and an idiot put together (hoping that keeps me a notch above ‘troll’) but I find myself agreeing with you *and* Campos. Z’s not guilty legally for various reasons.

          but Trayvon Martin is dead because he was black. There just isn’t any other way to look at it.

          thanks & I’m out of here for tonight

        • slightly_peeved

          But the evidence at trial clearly showed that Martin struck Martin in the face and very, very likely hit his head against the concrete and, at the time the shot was fired, Martin was on top.

          So you’re not legally guilty of murder provided the victim gets a fighting chance?

          I guess that’s why they made the musical “Chicago”, not “Miami” – it would have finished after the song “We Both Reached For The Gun”, because she would have been acquitted immediately.

          • Chet Manly

            So you’re not legally guilty of murder provided the victim gets a fighting chance?

            In Florida, pretty much, provided a jury’s biases favor you. In nearly every other state in the country Zimmerman would have been guilty of 2nd or 3rd degree murder. The problem is Florida’s ridiculous stand your ground law.

            In Florida you essentially have no obligation at all to try to back down and defuse the situation. There’s no law against following someone around the neighborhood or confronting someone you don’t think belongs there. So long as there’s any reasonable doubt about who started the physical confrontation Zimmerman’s not guilty of murder under Florida law.

            As others had said below, the problem is that Florida’s bullshit legal system is set up to allow prosecutors’ and juries’ subjective opinions about suspects and victims to determine the legal outcome.

            • Scott Lemieux

              The stand your ground law was not relevant to this case. Zimmerman’s defense didn’t invoke it.

        • Another Anonymous

          “very unusually, couldn’t offer a version of what actually happened”

          That is an excellent point.

    • demz taters

      There is nothing complicated about the fact that Zimmerman singled Martin out as suspicious because he was black, and his decision to follow while armed was the trigger for everything that followed.

      • john not mccain

        yeah. but you’re talking to an admitted liar and idiot.

      • Timb

        Yeah, but that act is not a crime. Following someone while armed is not illegal.

        Zimmerman is a liar, a creepy ass cracker, and morally responsible of the death of an innocent, but the law is not about morally culpable.

    • PolythenePam


      2. When the killing occurs by accident and misfortune in the heat of passion, upon any sudden and sufficient provocation.”

      This is a definition you could drive a truck through, with huge spinning saw blades on the front.

      There is apparently another manslaughter charge that WAS NOT included in the jury instructions:

      “Manslaughter by Culpable Negligence (Involuntary Manslaughter): Engaging in “Culpably Negligent” conduct that resulted in the death of another person.”

      Part of what’s amazing about the excusable homicide definition is that it demands that the jury judge it in isolation from prior events, and that it has a forced mutual exclusivity to a manslaughter finding, which of course is not mutually exclusive in the real world, but in Florida… in other words, negligent homicide is homicide that occurs after creating a situation that a reasonable person could predict might very likely lead to violence. In a twist on the classic case, if I found out my wife is at home sleeping with my best friend, and I drive home, get my gun and confront them in bed, a sensible person would reasonably believe I created that powder-keg and I should be blamed if it goes off, regardless of any “heat of passion” I may have felt at seeing them in bed or whatever, because I knowingly brought a gun to a likely hugely volatile situation. So I guess I just don’t see how those two are mutually exclusive, but they are treated that way by Florida law.

      And more importantly, the Zimmerman jury instructions for manslaughter did not include the definition for involuntary manslaughter:

      To prove the crime of Manslaughter, the State must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

      1. Trayvon Martin is dead.

      2. George Zimmerman intentionally committed an act or acts that caused the death of Trayvon Martin.

      Another thing I read was that the Chief Police Investigator testified that he believed Zimmerman. That would never have happened if Zimmerman was black.

      Arguing that this case would’ve been decided the same way if the races were reversed (all other things being equal) is just plain old bullshit for one simple reason: the “all other things being equal” caveat is an impossible hypothetical, as shown in the CPI’s testimony.

      This was a pathetic attempt at justice, and most of the blame falls on the disgusting Florida justice system.

      • Timb

        Or, more likely, the Sanford PD’s less than stellar job at the crime scene

        • joe from Lowell

          Oh, yeah. Florida police, covering themselves in glory yet again.

      • Jon C.

        Not that I’m happy with the outcome of this case, but is there a source for instructions for culpably negligent manslaughter that do not allow a self-defense excuse? Is it from case law? Doesn’t appear to be in the Florida homicide statute:

        782.07 (1) The killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification according to the provisions of chapter 776 and in cases in which such killing shall not be excusable homicide or murder, according to the provisions of this chapter, is manslaughter, a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084

        • PolythenePam

          That’s not what I was trying to assert — I was noting that the wording of the “excusable homicide” jury instruction was so broad that it was not mutually exclusive from an act of involuntary manslaughter for the very reason that the “setup” of the incident is totally ignored for the excusable homicide finding. The “setup” in this case is Zimmerman instigating a series of events he should’ve and reasonably could have predicted would lead to violence. Of course this means we have to throw out Zimmerman’s assertion of events (and the Chief Police Investigator who “believed” him). My argument was that it is easy to do so because he’s just not believable, given all the lies he told, his obvious prejudice, and his also obvious self-interest in creating an acquittal narrative.

    • stratplayer

      Do you really mean the evidence mandated acquittal? That the judge should never even have submitted it to the jury? That had he been convicted Zimmerman would have been entitled to reversal on appeal on grounds of insufficient evidence?

  • Royko

    Here’s another scenario: unarmed Zimmerman stalks a (legally) armed Martin, and Zimmerman ends up killed. Even in that case, I see Martin getting convicted.

    • bspencer


    • The Wrath of Oliver Kahn

      Undoubtedly. The system here in Florida is intentionally set up to achieve these results.

  • Marek


  • InnerPartisan

    Of course race was the deciding factor in this trial. No sane human being could honestly deny that Zimmerman would have been sentenced in the harshest possible way if the skin colors were reversed (deservedly or not).

    But there’s another factor: Guns.
    My dear Americans: This is what happens in a nation which has adopted as its’ preeminent religion a quasi-historical Death Cult, with the Almighty Gun as the highest deity.

  • Timothy Fescue

    I don’t get this “the jury had an obligation to acquit” shit.

    • Paula

      Apparently we are all being too emotional.

      Per lawyers, the case was “too weak” even for manslaughter.

      But seriously, though … this WASN’T a SYG case. But so what? I don’t see how the hell that should have made a difference in how one sees that Zimmerman deliberately ignored instructions and racially profiled someone who tried to defend himself. That IS manslaughter, even if it’s not premeditated murder.

      • Timb

        If I confront a stranger on a public sidewalk about his loud music and we argue. After the argument, as I turn to leave, he coldcocks me with a rock and knocks me to the ground. He then gets on top of me and continues to beat with the rock, then anything I do to defend myself is “self-defense”.

        That’s basically Zimmerman’s version and there was no piece of evidence to show it was a lie. How can you, beyond a reasonable doubt, know that story is untrue?

        When I was in criminal law class in school, we read cases of self-defense which boggled my mind. For example, a case where this guy tells the people arguing with him in his driveway that he’s going to get his gun (after they threatened to beat him; there were three of them) and kill them if they’re still there.

        They thought he was bluffing, but, when thy saw the gun they started to get into their car. One of them ran away. The homeowner shot and killed his antagonist — in the back — and was acquitted because the guy was still on his property.

        In another case, a guy a nightclub is attacked and blinded (mace? Drink in the face? Can’t really remember) by assailants. He fires blindly at them and kills an innocent and he was acquitted on the grounds that he acted in self-defense.

        • Timothy Fescue

          Thank you, but…

          and there was no piece of evidence to show it was a lie

          I would counter that with

          a) Zimmerman was armed.

          b) Zimmerman stalked Martin.

          c) Zimmerman surprised Martin.

          d) Zimmerman profiled and then assumed the worst about an innocent person.

          e) Nothing compelled Zimmerman to behave this way except his own prejudice and fetish for morbid drama.

          The benefit of the doubt belongs to the victim here. Isn’t a juror entitled to give more weight to the above facts over a teenager’s understandable urge to protect himself?

          At least loud music is something. In your examples, at least the defendants did not precipitate the threat.

          • Paula

            The problem seems to be that the jury wasn’t instructed to include INVOLUNTARY manslaughter in their deliberations.

            (Racial profiling apparently being an “involuntary” tick rather than voluntary and deliberate. At least, that’s the only way I can accept that this ruling made any sense.)

            PolyethylenePam above.

        • Barry

          Bullshit. The analogy would be if you picked a gun and ‘went after’ a guy, against police advice.

      • joe from Lowell

        racially profiled someone who tried to defend himself

        You’re assuming that Martin was attacked and tried to defend himself. The prosecution never showed that.

        • Timothy Fescue

          Not attacked, necessarily, but confronted by an armed stranger with ill intent, which constitutes an immediate threat.

          Do you argue with that?

          • joe from Lowell

            If Trayvon Martin had been arrested for kicking George Zimmerman’s ass, I would agree that Martin would have had a self-defense claim. He had a reasonable concern for his own safety, confronted by that creepy-assed cracker.

            But the boundaries of each party’s self-defense rights overlap each other. Actions that one person takes that meet the law’s requirements for self-defense can, themselves, give the other person legitimate grounds for self-defense.

            Attacking Martin would have nullified Zimmerman’s self-defense claim, but being attacked by Martin, even if Martin’s actions could have given Martin a self-defense claim and made that attack defensible, to not nullify it.

        • stratplayer

          That is a big problem when the victim and only other percipient witness is dead.

          • joe from Lowell

            Yes, it’s one of those frustrating catch-22s in the law.

            • Richard

              But this is the situation in any case involving the death of a human being. You are always going to be missing the testimony of an essential witness.

              • joe from Lowell

                But in a case in which the death of the human being is caused by the person who is being charged with that death, we have an extra element of counter-productivity in the law.

                • Richard

                  But how do you get around it. Every murder case is missing an essential witness. Because of that, do you want to change the rules of evidence or change the burden of proof? I think that would be a very bad idea.

  • It’s a horribly depressing verdict, but let’s not hesitate to criticize a fuckwitted prosecutor.

    Plenty of blame to go all around.

    • Karen

      As the Internet Tradition requires, THIS.

      Whoever was responsible for prepping Rachel Jeantel for trial needs to return their law license and their diploma. Seriously, she was the key witness and obviously out of her element in that case. Everyone knew that the letter she wrote was going to be an issue, so question her extensively about the fact that she had a friend transcribe it for her and explain the reasons she did that. She could, actually, have been a sympathetic witness who got the jury to think about what would have been going through the mind of a black teenager while walking through a white neighborhood. Instead, she’s destroyed on the stand and probably helped make the defense case as much as any single witness.

      • Richard

        I’m not so sure about that. She didn’t want to testify and seems to have spurned attempts to meet with the prosecutor to be prepped. You can’t force a witness to meet with you to be prepped. On the other hand, they did a terrible job of prepping the coroner who did the autopsy

        • Karen

          That, too. As to Jeantel, the only excuse for her appalling testimony is that the prosecutor had no idea what she was going to say, in which case she should never have been a witness for them. Make the defense call her as a hostile witness, then cross-examine her brutally. It sucks for Ms. J, but it would have been better for the prosecution.

          • Richard

            I dont think so. They HAD to call her because she was the ONLY witness who could testify that Martin said that he had been confronted by Zimmerman. Without her, there is no evidence that Zimmerman confronted Martin and the jury would have been left only with Zimmerman’s statements that he had not been able to locate Martin and was then confronted by Martin. They couldn’t take the chance that the defense would call her. (She was important for a crucial part of the defense case- the gap of four minutes between her last call from Martin and the shot – but the defense could have gotten that from the phone records alone)

            I think they knew she might be a problem and either didn’t prep with them or was unpreppable but they had to make the decision to call her. I would be very interested in hearing the jury’s take on her testimony

      • elm

        But, according to Paul, the defense’s cross-examination of her was so bad that it could only be explained by the defense being in the bag for the prosecution. Now, you’re telling me that the defense’s cross-examination is what got Zimmerman acquitted? Unpossible.

        (Less snarkily, I haven’t read everything Paul has written on the case, but did he ever explain what about the cross was so bad or has he changed his mind about the quality of the cross in the time since?)

        • Richard

          I never saw his explanation for his comment. I saw the cross. It was pretty good.

  • Hugo Torbet

    There was a certain despicable irony in the prosecutors bending over backwards to describe Trayvon as a “boy” in their pathetic attempt to win on emotion (instead of the law). How many teenage black kids have these very same guys sent to the gas chamber or life imprisonment arguing that they were dangerous criminals who deserved to be treated as grown men?

    The government lost this case because the government did not have a good case.

  • Mike L.

    “And his killer is a grown man who provokes a fight with an otherwise harmless kid, starts losing it, and then shoots the kid dead.”

    This, to me, is the clincher. In no sane world can it be said that Zimmerman was acting in self-defense. Maybe he didn’t set off to kill anyone that night, but on this basis alone I think this has to be at least manslaughter, no?

    • c u n d gulag

      Apparently, not – if the victim is black, and the guy who killed him is white.

      The white guy was ‘standing his ground’

      Way outside of his home.

      He was even outside of his car.

      He was standing “HIS” ground on some sidewalk, or someone else’s yard.

      Apparently, wherever he was, it was “HIS” ground to stand on – and so, he could defend it against some young black man.

      And why is it that I’m not surprised?

      I’m not surprised at all.

      And how sad is that?

      How sad, is that…………………

      • john

        Zimmerman is NOT white. Can we all please at least use the “white Hispanic” or “self-identified Hispanic” terms the media made up for this trial.

        • Djur

          “white Hispanic” is a made-up term now?

          • The Wrath of Oliver Kahn

            I’ll alert the Census Bureau ….

        • The Wrath of Oliver Kahn

          Yes, he is. And yes, “white Hispanic” is absolutely a real thing – because Hispanic is an ethnicity, and not a race (accepting as real for the moment the completely human-created concept of “race”).

          • Manny Kant

            In fact, the majority of US Hispanics identify as white.

        • Timb

          Zimmerman looks white enough that Martin sure thought he was white. Everything else is right wing sophistry, including the idea that Hispanics aren’t white, cause, uh, yes they are

          • JL

            Er…Hispanic people can be of any race. I know white Hispanic people, black Hispanic people, an Asian Hispanic person, mestizo Hispanic people. There are plenty of Native Central/South American Hispanic people.

            Gina Torres, for instance, is a Hispanic person who is clearly not white.

            • Timb

              Excellent point. What I meant to write was Hispanic is not a race. It is an ethnicity

  • john

    If you are goig to reverse the roles, you need to go all the way. The kid needs to be Hispanic, he has to refer to the black guy as a gnarly a** ni** er and the jury needs to have five black women and one mixed women. Acquitted on all charges.

    • Manju

      the jury needs to have five black women and one mixed women.

      Unless there where 5 Hispanic women on the jury, I think you want to keep them white.

  • Manju

    George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin because the boy Zimmerman killed was black.

    If you deny these things, you are either a liar or an idiot, or possibly both.

    “I think the jury basically got it right”
    -Ta-Nehisi Coates*

    *Since I’m sympathetic to Campos’ position, there is one way to get around a defacto calling of Coates “a liar or an idiot”. That is, the jury got it right but would’ve gotten it wrong had the victim not been black.

    • Uncle Kvetch

      Immediately after the “liar or idiot” line, Campos writes:

      “Nothing above requires the conclusion that the jury’s verdict was wrong as a matter of law.”

      But you knew that.

      You just can’t help yourself, can you?

      • Anonymous

        Happily, Campos seems to’ve thought better of that.

      • Manju

        But you knew that.

        You just can’t help yourself, can you?

        Actually, I didn’t know. Somehow I thought the article ended with the lines I quoted.

        But I was wrong. In light of the lines you bought to my attention, I retract my original comment and apologize to Campos.

  • Manju
  • montag2

    Both the cops and the prosecutor’s office pretty much bollixed up this one from the start. They’d already dug a hole for themselves well before the decision to indict, so the outcome is not unexpected. On matters of law, they just fucked it all up (intentionally or not is for someone else to determine).

    Unfortunately, the end result of this will be more shootings. More George Zimmermans. More Trayvon Martins.

    • Richard

      How did they fuck things up on matters of law? I think they made a mistake by charging murder in the second degree rather than just going for manslaughter but what other matter of law did they screw up. As I say above, I watched a good deal of the trial and thought that the trial prosecutors did a pretty good job (it wasn’t their decision to go with second degree, that decision was made by their superior). I think they made a bad decision in trying to argue that Zimmerman was on top in opening argument and then essentially conceding the reverse later and in not adequately preparing a couple witnesses like the coroner. And they asked a few too many questions of defense witnesses when they didn’t have a follow-up to an adverse answer (especially with Dr. De Meo). And I think referring to Martin repeatedly as a “child” in Mr. Guy’s rebuttal closing was a somewhat patronizing attempt to appeal to the five mothers on the jury. But other than that, they were competent and professional.

    • joe from Lowell

      I so wanted to be able to point at this case and say, “See what happens when strap on a gun and go out to play Batman?”

  • Maria

    I find it astonishing that you could have a column saying that this case was all about race and no where mention that blacks commit over 50% of the violent crime in this country yet only consist of less than 14% of the population.

    • Liam

      Therefore any black person is subject to summary execution by any citizen for suspcion of a possible future crime? Or do you mean anytime one has an alterction with a black person one must necessarily use in self defense because of how scary and intrinsically violent they are?

      • Liam

        I accidentally lethal force. Too bad I’m not in FL.

        • Maria

          Oh yeah, Liam, that’s what I said. Do you even take yourself seriously?

          And that’s the problem, this country can’t have a rational conversation about race and crime b/c the basic underlying facts can’t even be discussed without comments like yours.

          Thanks for being part of the problem. Go pat yourself on the back.

          • MAJeff

            Let me guess, a “racial realist.”

            • Lord Jesus Perm

              She’s just telling the hard, uncomfortable truths that us libtards won’t talk about in honest discussions about race.

              • Maria

                Just like you “just know” that Zimmerman was guilty of murder – evidence be damned.

                • Lord Jesus Perm

                  It probably isn’t smart to make assumptions like that given that I never said Zimmerman was guilty of murder.

                • Timothy Fescue.

                  Well, he did murder someone. That’s quite obvious.

                • joe from Lowell

                  It’s obvious he killed someone.

                  Not all killings are murders. Not even all unlawful, immoral killings are murders.

          • The Wrath of Oliver Kahn

            Let’s assume – generously, I might add – for the sake of argument that your statistic is true.

            Why do you suppose that is, Maria? What causes that disparity?

            I’m really, really interested in your answer.

          • bspencer

            Rational conversation about race=We wanna say black people suck with impunity.

            • Maria

              Thanks bspencer for proving my point. You must be a fascinating intellectual.

              • Malaclypse

                Yes, because being scared of the scary, scary black people makes you the true intellectual. And a brave truth teller.

              • bspencer

                What point did I prove, Dennis?

                • Dennis feels pretty
                  Oh so pretty
                  He feels pretty and witty and gay!
                  And he pities
                  Anyone who isn’t bigoted today.

          • Liam

            And that’s the problem, this country can’t have a rational conversation about race and crime b/c the basic underlying facts can’t even be discussed without comments like yours.

            Funny, I though we were having a conversation about someone dying because someon else saw them and assumed they were a criminal because of their race. My mistake. Seriously.

    • bspencer

      Where did you get that statistic, Dennis?

    • lawguy

      Uh, where do you get your statistics there Maria?

      • Maria

        Anyone willing to spend an earnest 20 minutes on the internet to find this information; I’m sorry that’s so hard for you. Here’s a good insight about the numbers for a Harvard Law School professor (hardly any bastion of right-wing thinking):


        • Liam

          The guy at your link says crime is higher in poor black neighborhoods because of less police enforcement. What does that have to do with race in the “intrinsic racial quality” sense you seem to be implying without stating it overtly or prexenting any causal link?

        • Barry

          Harvard Law School is quite comfortable with right-wing thinking; they are a major feeder to Wall St firms.

    • The Wrath of Oliver Kahn

      Source or STFU.

    • lawguy

      On second thought what does the amount of violent crimes committed by any race have to do with this discussion?

      • Maria

        You can’t be serious? O, you are. Wow. Did you read the post?

        • Popeye

          Why are the racial stats relevant? Is it because we don’t know who killed Trayvon Martin, so we need to use statistics to make our best guess as to the killer’s race? Is it because we don’t know if Trayvon Martin was a killer or not, and so the stats help make that picture clear?

          The application of irrelevant data to this case basically proves Campos’s point. “But black people are less human, I have stats to prove it!”

          • joe from Lowell

            The racial stats are completely relevant.

            Maria’s point – that paranoia about black people in general can cause the weaker-minded among us to project that fear onto individual black people, despite there being nothing whatsoever to suggest that that individual is violent, and result in bad verdicts.

            I appreciate the middle-aged white guy demonstrating how this works. I can even understand how he can be so bitter about his parents giving him the name of a Latino woman.

            • dl

              Exactly what I was thinking about “Maria”

    • Butt-Sourced Statistics, Inc.

      98% of unconvicted crime is committed by white people, even though they make up only 73% of the population.

  • chip

    another option would have been jury nullification…

    • Maria

      You mean, like what happened in Rodney King’s case?

  • Karen

    The problem in this case appears to me to be the way Florida law defines manslaughter. Texas actually has something called “voluntary manslaughter”* which applies to cases where the perp gives a “disproportionate response” to an admitted provocation. The case I know of personally involved a guy who surprised a burglar, the burglar escaped, the perp chased him, caught him, and shot him dead. He was tried for capital murder but convicted on voluntary manslaughter. The jury instructions for VM clearly included the “disproportionate response” language. This also applies when a guy in a bar fight responds to being hit with fists by shooting his assailant. The best response, for those interested in seeing that this isn’t repeated, is to advocate for a change in the Florida manslaughter law.

    • Karen

      Caveat to my previous post: I have not had a chance to review Texas law on this subject since about 2006. We’ve had 7 years to make a decent law much, much worse.

    • The Wrath of Oliver Kahn

      The best response, for those interested in seeing that this isn’t repeated, is to advocate for a change in the Florida manslaughter law.

      That will never happen. For the Florida legislature, outcomes like this are a feature, not a bug.

    • Maria

      Wrong. The “problem” with the case was the insufficiency of the evidence.

    • Richard

      Florida has the same rules about disproportionate response. The distinction is the Texas guy could not claim self defense because he never had a reasonable fear of serious bodily harm. Zimmerman was able to convince the jury that he had such fear and had signicant evidence that when he fired the shot, he had been hit in the nose, had his head hit against the sidewalk and was still receiving blows from Martin who, without question, was on top. The question for the jury was did he have a right to use deadly force at that point or did the state prove that he didn’t have the right to use deadly force at that time. There is nothing unique about Florida’s laws about self defense and the verdict, given self defense laws, isn’t surprising. I think Martin is morally culpable and stupidly chose to follow this kid which was the catalyst for the killing. But if I were on the jury, I would have followed the instructions and voted to acquit

      • DocAmazing

        Martin who, without question, was on top.

        I’m not privy to the evidence the jury saw, and perhaps I didn’t follow the case closely enough, but how do you get from Martin unquestionably being on top to Martin face down on the pavement, hands under him? That doesn’t fit the physics of pushing the dead body of an assailant off of oneself. Was that description the one made by Zimmerman and witnessed by, well, nobody?

        • Richard

          There were several witnesses to portions of the event. Most of them were were very uncertain about who was on top. One, however, was very certain and testified so credibly that he was hardly cross-examined. (Cant recall his name but his credibility was enhanced because he was reluctant to get involved, had not spoken to the press, didn’t want to testify at trial). He was able to identify Martin being on top by the clothing worn by each and said that Martin was pushing his hands down toward Zimmerman possibly throwing blows or shaking his head against the concrete. He compared what Martin was doing to a pound and ground in MMA. The testimony of Dr. De Meo, who is one great expert witness, said that the trajectory of the bullet wound and the injuries to the back of Zimmerman’s head were consistent with Martin being on top and inconsistent with any other scenario. By the end of the trial, the prosecution was not arguing that Zimmerman was on top and was trying to come up with murder/manslaughter scenarios that fit the supposition that Martin was on top.
          Given the eyewitness testimony and the expert testimony, the idea that Zimmerman was on top was just not possible to argue. The final position of Martin came from Zimmerman pushing him over.

          • Richard

            One correction to my post above. The credible witness who said Martin was on top was called by the prosecution. There was considerable cross-examination but mainly to flesh out his conclusion that Martin was on top and to elicit the pound and ground statement.

  • Zimmer Style

    Trayvon Martin was beating the hell out of George Zimmerman. And Zimmerman shot him in self-defense.

    That is what the jury found.

    That is what The Sanford Police Chief found.

    The jury saw through the race-baiting, and saw a man who was being beaten by a stronger, more-agile man.

    The jury saw that George Zimmerman could not at that time retreat, and therefore had THE right to defend himself — which is exactly what he did indeed.

    There were no facts supporting a manslaughter or murder charge.


    Now those who turned this case into a race-baiting “get whitey” game need to face the music for what they did.

    The Jury saw through tht State’s crap and the race-baiting garbage and did its job.

    To the jury: Thank you for finding the truth.

    Now let’s see that Justice is done for George Zimmerman.

    • bspencer

      A teenager was murdered and you’re gloating. Disgusting.

      • Zimmer Style

        He was killed, not murder. The moment Martin chose to beat the hell out of Zimmerman while mounting him, he became homo sacer (someone who can be killed without that act being a murder).

        To kill someone in self-defense is not to murder.

        • Malaclypse

          Yes, Dagney, the darkie had it coming. The darkies always have it coming.

          I picked the wrong weekend to find To Kill A Mockingbird to a quarter at a yard sale last weekend and reread it. Shit hasn’t changed at all.

          • Zimmer Style

            Ain’t about darkies or whatnot. It’s about recognizing the effectivity of self-defense.

            • MAJeff


              • Zimmer Style

                Paranoid ??

                • MAJeff

                  Nope, you’re lying.

                • Zimmer Style

                  My stance would have the same were the so-called ‘races’ the reverse: Martin the Hispanic, and Zimmerman the Black.

            • Malaclypse


              You’re cute when you try and use words, Dagney.

        • joe from Lowell

          He was killed, not murder.

          So, you know, gloat gloat gloat, happy happy happy. Teenaged boy killed by his racial-profiling stalker – whoo-hoo! You’re so happy!

          The moment Martin chose to beat the hell out of Zimmerman while mounting him, he became homo sacer (someone who can be killed without that act being a murder).

          Woo-hoo! Open season, boys! Let’s git ‘I’m! It’ll be a great old time!

          It’s nice to know that your glee at this death has a legal basis, because that makes it so much less revolting.

          • Zimmer Style

            I’m glad Zimmerman escaped a verdict of culpability. Now it’s time for Zimmerman to get justice…

            • Timb

              If by justice, you mean thousands of dollars in speaking fees to right wing nuts and a book deal, then I’m there for you. Because Georgie gonna lose that upcoming civil trial and the Martins will get everything he makes until he dies

      • Demogogues,Guns & Money

        Whereas if GZ HAD been convicted there would have been zero schadenfreude at any progressive blog?

    • joe from Lowell

      In true Zimmer style, nothing that happened before the asshole who provoked the fight began losing it comes into this narrative.

    • Timb

      Justice was done for Zimmerman. He killed someone, because he was a racist douchebag and everyone will know he was one as long as google lives. That right wingers will celebrate a killer does not change the fact that you people are 30. Percent of the population

  • Ken

    I’m still not sure what we’re supposed to tell the kids now. “Stranger Danger” was so simple. Now we have to explain to them that when the strange man approaches, they shouldn’t run or call for help, because that shows they’re guilty. Instead they should – what? – answer the strange man’s questions about who they are, where they live, where their parents are? Then if the strange man says “I think you’re guilty of something and I’m making a citizen’s arrest,” you should get in the man’s car?

    • Nathan Bedford Forrest

      Well, if the stranger is not as dark-skinned as your kid, your kid ought to do what the stranger tells them — that’s a natural law.

    • Informant

      Slight problem for your hypothetical: Martin wasn’t shot in the back while running away.

      • Ken

        I don’t see the problem, as long as the hypothetical shooter can catch up with the target and force a confrontation. Tackle the target, perhaps; anything to get them facing the right way for the shot. Plus, once they run away the shooter knows they’re guilty of something.

  • Jim48043

    Wasn’t this post longer a couple of hours ago?

    The Atlantic article, I thought, was thoughtful. Unlike some other things I have seen, including on this blog (but not by any of the actual lawyers who contribute).

    • Paul Campos

      The paragraph that was the post is the last paragraph of the Salon piece (it includes the link to the Atlantic article).

  • Zimmer Style

    Race-baither Al Sharpton:

    “The acquittal of George Zimmerman is a slap in the face to the American people but it is only the first round in the pursuit of justice. We intend to ask the Department of Justice to move forward as they did in the Rodney King case and we will closely monitor the civil case against Mr. Zimmerman. I will convene an emergency call with preachers tonight to discuss next steps and I intend to head to Florida in the next few days.”
    — the Rev. al-Sharpton

    • Timb

      Race baiter, you

      See above

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