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by Peter Moskos

July 12, 2013

Zimmerman Trial (2): Justice vs. Stand Your Ground

I received this interesting and thought-provoking email from my friend Alan (bold added):
It seems to me that if Zimmerman is convicted of a felony, then the Florida laws are apparently defensible. Sure, a guy is allowed to shoot someone in certain circumstances; in this case such circumstances did not present and so he's going to jail. The laws did not apply and the state justly punishes the perpetrator.

On the other hand, if the prosecution fails and the court acquits, now we can assert the Florida laws have accommodated the brutal slaying (since you can't call it "murder"!) of an unarmed youth, and now we can more easily make a case that the FL laws are ridiculous.

In other words, as liberal pacifists who appreciate the state's monopoly on armed force, a guilty verdict serves us poorly. It has the welcome effect of obtaining immediate justice for Trayvon Martin's death (since repealing the laws presumably wouldn't remove Zimmerman's protections that applied at the time), but Florida civilians can continue to walk around with concealed weapons and use them with impunity. The long play here is to pull for an acquittal.
I prefer the short-play here and would like to see the killer of Martin convicted. But I think the Florida stand-your-ground law is so broad (and poorly written) that I can see a legal case for Zimmerman's acquittal (though not a moral one).


IrishPirate said...

I know all America awaits my predictions on the verdict. America will have to wait a bit longer.

First, my take on the whole sordid event. Zimmerman is an asshole who's trying to portray himself as both hero and victim. He's not.

Second, I doubt SuperZim will be convicted of the more serious charge. It seems a stretch given the conflicting evidence.

Third, if ZimMan is found not guilty I expect little in the way of social unrest. Many right wingers are predicting mayhem, rioting and cats and dogs living together. On Chicago's Second City Cop blog that's one general theme in recent comments. The same idiots also predicted mayhem after President Obama won the 2008 election and then mayhem after they predicted he would lose the 2012 election.



Fourth, the advantage of the Pudgy Crusader being found not guilty is that the story will slowly go off the front page and become old news. The disadvantages are the asshole right will rejoice and the concept of "justice" will be ill served. Plus Super Z might end up with a talk show on Fox News or something.

The disadvantage of him being found guilty is that the story will continue to percolate among the angry right and "Free Zimmerman" will become a right wing chant.

Now my prediction:

Zimmerman will be found guilty of the lesser charge and sentenced to 3-5 years in prison.

I wouldn't bet much on that though.

My ideal scenario is Z Man is found not guilty and as he walks in triumph out of the courthouse to the cheers of his neanderthal supporters a tiny meteorite that's been traveling through the solar system for millions of years enters the atmosphere and decapitates him on live TV.

It's the best of both worlds. A not guilty verdict to satiate the rabid right and "justice" delivered with a cosmic twist.

PCM said...

I don't know about the rest of America, but I actually was waiting for that. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Florida's stand your ground nonsense is bad law regardless of the outcome in this one case. But there's peril in looking for policy outcomes from a single jury decision. If the jury acquits Zimmerman, it will be because the prosecution was unable to overcome reasonable doubt that Zimmerman felt his life was threatened (along with other problematic evidence, eg, forensics suggest Martin was on top of him). Zimmerman confronted an unarmed youth doing nothing wrong and within seconds shot him -- let's hope he's punished. But if there's a politicized response --and I'm sure there will be-- it will be involve racial grievance, a whole lot of generalized anger and Al Sharpton. And then it becomes an asterisk. This jury will have no bearing on how the Florida legislature passes criminal laws, and nor, really, should it.

Anonymous said...

Well, so much for punishment!
Let's hope for policy.

PCM said...

There has been a lot of complaint that "stand your ground" has nothing to do with this case. That contention is contravened by the fact that it is cited in the instructions to the jury.


Anonymous said...

I can't believe you are in the law enforcement field and refuse to look at the case in a whole before making a judgement on it. Pure ignorance in its finest. And stand your ground laws are good laws. Those laws still say that if you can run SAFELY, you must do so. But how can you run when someone is on top of you smashing your head into the ground?? Your blog is so biased, it's ridiculous.

PCM said...

I don't know whether to rationally attack your ignorance (like what the law says) or stupidly attack your attitude.

But let me first say that of course my blog is biased... to reflect my exact belief. That's why it's *my* blog!


But more sincerely, let me ask you question. Like the president asked, If Martin had had a gun and been afraid, would he have been justified in using lethal force against Zimmerman?

PCM said...

There's the right to self defense everywhere.

The key to stand your ground is right there in the name: "Stand your ground."

What stand your ground says is you don't have to run. If you feel threatened, you can use lethal force instead of running.

Now at the moment Zimmerman shot, you can make, as he did, a self defense claim. But stand your ground matters because at least one juror said it did matter.