Sunday, July 14, 2013

Blaming the jury is misguided. So how are you?

So far, anger is prevailing in the "morning after" comments I read on Facebook.

They are responding to the "not guilty" verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman.  That's the neighborhood watch guy who pursued a kid on a rainy night in Sanford, Florida in February of last year.  He got into a personal confrontation with the kid even after 9-1-1 told him to stay put, and ended up in a physical fight that ended with Zimmerman shooting the kid in the chest.  The kid was armed with a snack and a soft drink he had bought at a convenience store.

The trial was televised and the story behind it is upsetting. The verdict was also disappointing to many.  Unfortunately, the sampling represented by my Facebook feed suggests an awful lot of people are confusing the verdict with the root causes of the situation.  

There is a widespread assumption that a "not guilty" verdict in the case could only be a miscarriage of justice.  The possibility that the state did not make its case, did not reach the threshold of "beyond a reasonable doubt," that the jury may well have considered Zimmerman at fault but could not convict him on the basis of the prosecution, are not popular.  Indeed, I'm seeing ugly personal accusations fly around in the heat of people's anger or disappointment; and angry indictment over the supposed inability of jury trials to convict people we think are obviously guilty.  Weirdly, I'm even seeing instances of homophobic language being used to express disdain for the verdict (like the man who claimed that justice had been "ass raped"). 

In the end, I'm still happiest with the presumption of innocence and the higher threshold of "beyond a reasonable doubt" in a criminal trial.  Even though it means that a person who is at fault may go free if the prosecution does not prove the case.

This is not naive.  The system certainly has biases based on race and economic status.  Even in this particular case, social inequality expressed itself.  There was Zimmerman's decision that this kid was suspicious looking in the first place, and his judgment that he was justified in pursuing the kid even after he made his 9-1-1 call.  There was the police, who initially let Zimmerman go.  In order for there to be an arrest and charges, so we could even have a trial, there was a public campaign that led to the appointment of a special prosecutor.  Economic status is also a major factor: those who can afford an expensive legal defense stand a better chance of walking away free, whereas those without resources have a harder time defending their liberty.

There is injustice all over this story and this trial, but it is not this jury's fault.

A better place to focus would be the root causes of the situation.  What happened in George Zimmerman's mind that night, when he saw a kid walking home in the rain and decided this was such a threat he had to take his weapon out and pursue the kid even after calling the police to report a suspicious person?  What makes a kid with dark skin wearing a hoodie more of a threat than someone who looks different?  Why was the impulse to chase him down and detain him rather than than greet him and ask him if he was lost, if he had far to walk in the rain?  Why were the police initially so quick to clear this shooter?

This person's state of mind led to the death of a young man, but it also led to a decision that has arguably ruined his own life, and once again divided friends and neighbors against each other and their society. 

We can accept the verdict of the jury in this criminal process, even if it means Zimmerman gets away with killing a fellow human being.  How pre-meditated the confrontation or the shooting was, we can never know with certainty.  And it probably isn't even the most important thing to focus on.

How do we take responsibility for this story?  For the story we are making out of it?   What is the most helpful way to respond?

Shall we start to address, wherever we find ourselves in society, the biases that determine how we perceive things?  Shall we address forthrightly the inequalities that allow some to enjoy privileged status while others are dealt injustice?

And in particular, can we begin to address racial bias as a natural phenomenon, being a product of conditioning? Can we do this with compassion?   Racial bias ties minds into knots and interrupts lives.   Everyone suffers.

Let it not go unsaid that the process begins with our own selves: owning our own knots and untying them with compassion, for ourselves and our world.  Our problems originate in mind, and our minds express themselves in our actions.

Then, sharing the process.  

Not everyone will recognize it or respect it right away.  This is not going to satisfy a desire for quick and visible changes in the world. Indeed, the sentiment of this post would likely arouse derision in many.  The ways of peace, reconciliation, and healing are frankly unpopular in the United States; they are scorned and laughed at.


If we insist on seeing the world change in our own lifetime, maybe we're still doing this for our own selves and not for all of us.  Cultural change takes many generations.  And it's not guaranteed to go the way we think it should.

So how about this: let's start with our own healing and awakening, and do it openly.  Others will take from it what they will.  And to blazes with the scorn and laughter.  Let that strengthen our vow to grow up. 


Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking the time and care to present this, Algernon.

Algernon said...

Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Algernon.

Kelly said...

The Zimmerman case is one I really didn't like discussing. I have mixed feelings and most people seem adamant in their beliefs, one way or the other.

This is a very thoughtful piece.

Debby said...

Thanks, Algernon. In my neck of the woods, I am shocked by the number of people who believe that Zimmerman has done nothing wrong. I thought our world was better than that, and to find out that we've got such a long way to go has been disappointing. Your words are a balm.

Anonymous said...

Algernon, while your write-up is very thoughtful and level-headed, I think you still took some liberties to express your own presumptions about what happened that night. #1 "after 9-1-1 told him to stay put"...this is NOT what the 9-11 operator said. The 9-11 operator, as it turns out, does not give instructions in the first place, at least not of this nature. What the 9-11 operator DID say was "we don't need you to do that..." meaning we don't need you to follow him, and Zimmerman is recorded as acknowledging this in the transcript by saying "ok". #2 "There was the police, who initially let Zimmerman go." They released him because the officers on the scene saw no probable cause for arresting him. The arrest came only after political pressure was brought upon them to do so...probably thanks to NBC's manipulating the 9-11 recording to make it appear that Zimmerman was profiling Martin based on race...which ignited a plethora of racist emotion and hate speech, and a multi-million dollar bounty on Zimmerman by the New Black Panthers. #3 "(Zimmerman) decided this was such a threat he had to take his weapon out and pursue the kid even after calling the police to report a suspicious person?" You make the presumption that Zimmerman went after Trayvon with his weapon drawn and ready for action, which is simply a stretch and not factual. I mean, come on, would YOU confront someone who had a weapon drawn on you like Trayvon did Zimmerman? If so, you are either a very brave soul, or a fool, and if Trayvon did that it only shows how blatantly foolish HE was for doing so. In the testimony, the weapon was not wielded until such time as Trayvon was on top of Zimmerman breaking his nose and beating his head into the pavement, and then after there was an alleged struggle for the gun as Zimmerman's jacket had slid up to expose it, at which point Zimmerman became seriously scared for his own life as Trayvon allegedly said "you're gonna die" or words to that affect. When you are in a physical struggle and your head is being pummeled it is not likely that you would be able to pick your shot so as not to cause death, but you would certainly want the shot to ring out so as to make the beating stop.

What IF Zimmerman actually stopped following him and Trayvon doubled back on him and attacked him? There has been no real proof that this did not happen. For all we know, if Zimmerman was given to opportunity to ask Trayvon what he was up to, Trayvon did not try to explain that he was on his way back to his father's house from the store. I think if I were in that situation and it was apparent to me that the neighborhood watchman suspected me of wrong-doing, I would do my best to explain myself politely, and since it was raining I may have even asked him if he could give me a ride.

In any event, this was a tragedy which really didn't need to happen for a variety of reasons. But I think it's wrong to assume race had much to do with it. Zimmerman is of mixed race, to include Black. There is a litany of other things to be said about this but I have gone on long enough.

Algernon said...

Anonymous, while I appreciate you taking the time to write a response, in your effort to re-litigate Zimmerman's defense you are yourself taking liberties with what I wrote.

When I wrote this, I took great care not to presume that I can read Zimmerman's mind. Nor did I say that he chased the boy with his weapon drawn. I said he took his weapon out with him in pursuit of the child -- a fact that is obviously not in dispute.

What is true is that there is inequality in our justice system and race and economic status are both major factors.

On the 9-1-1 operator, you are fighting common sense. The 9-1-1 operator said, "We don't need you to do that" meaning "Stay put." Zimmerman called the police and reported a suspicious person walking around. Having done that, the correct procedure was for him to let the police follow up. Going out, weapon or no weapon, to pursue the person is unsafe at best and at worst can lead to a dangerous confrontation, which is just what happened.

#2, you are revising history about the initial investigation and the protests. The reason there were protests is that the initial investigation was negligent, not investigating Mr. Zimmerman's self-defense story and the physical evidence. The chief of police actually offered his resignation because of this. A special prosecutor was brought in to assess the evidence and determine whether charges should be brought. Murder 2 was a surprise to many who assumed the charge would be manslaughter if anything.

Bob Barbanes: said...

Sorry Algernon, you're wrong - simply wrong. Talk about revising history: You're doing it! YOU claimed that Zimmerman pursued Martin with his weapon drawn, and you say this is an indisputable fact. WRONG! GZ did not draw his weapon until Martin was on top of him. THERE is your indisputable fact.

But even before that, you claim that Zimmerman pursued Martin. WRONG! Listen to the whole, unedited 911 tape (have you done that?). Twice...TWICE!...Zimmerman makes reference to the fact that Martin ran. "He ran... He's gone," he says. There is no huffing and puffing in Zimmerman's voice to indicate that he was actually running after (pursuing) Martin. No, in fact when the dispatcher tells him they don't need him to go after Martin, Zimmerman says, "Okay." Then he coordinates on where to meet the cops, settling on his own house. Why? Because Martin was GONE...toward the back entrance of the subdivision, according to GZ.

Let's keep in mind that GZ was not some random vigilante out on the prowl for perps. He was the Neighborhood Watch guy in a subdivision that had a number of breakins and burglaries. WHAT WAS HE SUPPOSED TO DO? Well, he did what he was supposed to do: While on patrol he saw a suspicious person and called the cops. "Something" in Martin's behavior alerted GZ that there might be a problem. SO HE CALLED THE COPS. Then the guy ran. Apparently, AFTER the guy ran and GZ hung up with the 911 dispatcher, the guy doubled back or whatever and a confrontation ensued. You CANNOT presume that GZ "hunted Martin down" like a dog, with his weapon out, initiated a confrontation with him and then shot him in cold blood.

Oh, and about the cops. Yes, they did get on the scene quickly. They saw GZ's injuries (broken nose, bashed-in head). They did their assessment and decided that it was a simple case of self-defense ("stand your ground" probably didn't even come into it). And so they didn't charge him. The police chief thought it was righteous, and did end up resigning rather than bringing GZ up on some trumped-up murder charges.

Let's talk about Martin: Everybody keeps referring to this horrible shooting of a "kid." As if Trayvon Martin was OBVIOUSLY just some young guy...just some little, defenseless skinny kid with a bag of Skittles and a Watermelon Soda (ooops, sorry, "iced tea" - which it wasn't) who posed no threat to anyone. Yet this "kid" was practiced in MMA fighting and in fact was pummeling GZ "MMA-style" as he was on top of him. Kid? Kid, my ass.

F-I-N-A-L-L-Y, why did the state charge Zimmerman with murder? Hah! That's easy: THEY KNEW THEY COULDN'T WIN. They knew they couldn't even get a manslaughter conviction, much less one for murder. Angela Martin knew it was bogus. I'm betting that even she wouldn't have charged GZ without the pressure from Governor Scott, who was obviously feeling pressure from the White ("Trayvon Martin could be my son") House. Hah. So she went after GZ for murder. Made her look good to the black community, no? And when she lost, as she undoubtdly knew she would, in her statement afterward she effectively said, "Hey black people, we tried!" I was laughing all the way through that piece of work (her statement flanked by her dour, oh-so-serious attorneys).

So Algernon, don't try to hide your biases behind some faux-objectivity. You obviously believe that GZ *was* guilty, because you have so many of the facts of the case WRONG. The jury heard all the evidence and came to their decision fair and square. The way it's supposed to be done.

We can't hold it against George Zimmerman because he was acquitted when he might not have been if he was black. But that's exactly what many are trying to do.

Algernon said...

Dear Bob,

I appreciate critical comments, but there are two things I do not appreciate. One, your overtly hostile and accusatory tone, coupled with (two) false statements about what I wrote in the post. What is your intention in responding? Are you interested in an actual discussion about facts and perceptions about this case? If you would like me to take your comments about my "biases" seriously, it would help your cause immensely if you were more accurate about what I wrote.

I do welcome your comments, but ask that you revise your personal tone and also endeavor to represent my statements more accurately.

Most importantly, after reading my lengthy defense of the presumption of innocence, you state that I "obviously" think Mr. Zimmerman is guilty. Nope. I really do in fact believe in the presumption of innocence, and while I may question some of Mr. Zimmerman's decisions based on the facts of the case, he was found innocent in a criminal trial and this piece is a defense of that process. It also points that there are problems which lie elsewhere and influence the process.

Some of your additional errors are as follows.

"YOU claimed that Zimmerman pursued Martin with his weapon drawn, and you say this is an indisputable fact." Again, no. I stated the fact that he went out, armed, in pursuit of Martin, and that fact is not in dispute by anybody.

"You claim that Zimmerman pursued Martin. WRONG!" This is just silly. He didn't leave his apartment (with his gun) to go for a lovely stroll in the rain. At one point Mr. Zimmerman himself explained that he wanted to see where the kid was going so he could get an address in order to help police investigate.

"WHAT WAS HE SUPPOSED TO DO?" you ask in all caps. (No need to shout.) Calling the police and reporting what he saw is what he was supposed to do. Neighborhood watch people are supposed to volunteer as "eyes and ears" and alert law enforcement; they are not to go out and follow anybody, question them, or enter into a situation where they might confront somebody. The National Sheriff's Association issued a statement in 2012 specifically criticizing Mr. Zimmerman for these actions, and noted that he was not part of any neighborhood watch program registered with the NSA.

Your other comments about the case don't require any response from me because the criminal case has been concluded.

Something that strikes me about the tone of your comments, however, comes when you complain that "Everybody keeps referring to this horrible shooting of a 'kid.'" Defending George Zimmerman does not require demonizing the unarmed teenager who died that night. The stuff that was brought up in the media about Trayvon Martin's grades in school, having tried marijuana, his alleged interest in wrestling or MMA, are immaterial. The only reason to bring these things up is to portray the victim of this shooting in a less sympathetic light.

Even if we completely concur with Mr. Zimmerman's story and his decisions that night, and fully exonerate him, surely we can note with some regret that an unarmed teenager who was not, on the basis of any evidence, involved in anything other than walking home from the convenience store, lost his life.

Even if you exonerate Mr. Zimmerman 100%, if you can't acknowledge something regrettable about the death of this teenage boy, then you really aren't well qualified to lecture me or anyone else about *our* biases.

Nathan said...

The vast majority of people 100% defending Zimmerman AND blasting Martin are white. I find that damn suspicious given the long history of racism and how it plays out in this nation.

No one knows for sure what happened that night, but clearly Zimmerman made the decision to pursue at some point. He'd already called 911. The authorities already knew about Martin's presence. Even if there was some legitimate reason for being suspicious of Martin's behavior, he did his job as Neighborhood Watch already. Going beyond that is on him, regardless of the trial outcome.

I tend to agree with Algernon that given the conditions of the case, the jury may have been stuck. At the end of the day, though, classism and racism have always been central problems in our justice system. And whether Zimmerman was guilty or not, both of those issues were at play in this case.

Rick said...

Race was never on trial in the Zimmerman case, instead, it was second-degree murder followed by manslaughter at the eleventh hour when it was apparent by the prosecution that they didn’t have a strong case before jury deliberation. The burden of proof lies solely on the government in criminal cases and the state couldn’t introduce enough evidence because there wasn’t enough – which was why an arrest wasn’t made initially after the shooting.
In regards to race being introduced into the case, thanks in great part to irresponsible reporting of the news media (which would make for a great blog in the future), there is a lot to consider as to why was Trayvon even suspicious? Do white people look at black people, or some black people, differently? I believe the answer is yes. Again, referring to my studies of the criminal justice system, I can assure you that most of the crimes (especially violent) are committed by black people. There are numerous statistics listed on the Internet and we studied many sources in college before the Internet came to being, but my point is, the info is readily available. Because the media introduced race and tried to portray the criminal justice system as being biased in favor of whites, I am obligated to share some data. These data are not secretive and are studied in many forms, I’m sure Zimmerman was introduced to them in school as well which may have lead to his trailing of Trayvon (even though I thought it was a bad idea – but, poor judgment isn’t illegal). Also, I’ve added some bullets but a better informative paper can be found at: Here are the following statistics that the media doesn’t like to report:
•Blacks are seven times more likely than people of other races to commit murder, and eight times more likely to commit robbery.
•When Blacks commit crimes of violence, they are nearly three times more likely than non-Blacks to use a gun, and more than twice as likely to use a knife.
•Hispanics commit violent crimes at roughly three times the white race, and Asians commit violent crimes at about one quarter the White race.
•The single best indicator of violent crime levels in an area is the percentage of the population that is Black and Hispanic.
•Of the nearly 770,000 violent interracial crimes committed every year involving Blacks and Whites, Blacks commit 85 percent and Whites commit 15 percent.
•Blacks commit more violent crime against whites than against blacks. Forty-five percent of their victims are white, 43 percent are Black, and 10 percent are Hispanic. When Whites commit violent crime, only three percent of their victims are Black.
•Blacks are an estimated 39 times more likely to commit a violent crime against a White than vice versa, and 136 times more likely to commit robbery.
•Blacks are 2.25 times more likely to commit officially-designated hate crimes against whites than vice versa.
•Only 10 percent of youth gang members are white.
•Hispanics are 19 times more likely than whites to be members of youth gangs. Blacks are 15 times more likely, and Asians are nine times more likely.
•Between 1980 and 2003 the US incarceration rate more than tripled, from 139 to 482 per 100,000, and the number of prisoners increased from 320,000 to 1.39 million.
•Blacks are seven times more likely to be in prison than Whites. Hispanics are three times more likely

With the aforementioned stats, is it reasonable to assume that some whites may suspect some (or many) blacks? Are they being, “racist” or are they acting out of concern or fear? Is the same sort of instinct that people have when they fear a snake or shark (because not all snakes are bad nor or all sharks but some folks are just concerned nonetheless)?

Thanks again for your blog and I hope I did not add any disrespect to it. My intent was to add an open debate on this sensitive subject.

Rick said...

I tried to thank Algernon for his blog but this plus more information had to be cut in order to fit into the comment block. One thing I wanted to add and had to cut was the fact that I live and work in Africa (five years now) and feel quite comfortable working with the locals. I've made a lot friends here and never feel threatened while out at night; however, the same cannot be said while in the U.S. Why should I feel threatened if walking in a minority neighborhood in the U.S., say the south side of Chicago or Compton? This shouldn't happen in the U.S., but it does.

Nathan said...

Rick, I won't waste my time sharing the endless amount of counter information, or 500+ years of history since the beginning of the colonial era in the US that shows another story. Battling like that is boring, and pointless.

All I will say is that race was never "introduced" - it's always there. It's in the very water we drink. And until we all take a damn hard look in the mirror - especially us white folks - nothing will change.

Zimmerman, by the way, is biracial. Half Latino. Notice that this detail is lost on the majority of Americans, regardless of their racial background.

Algernon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Algernon said...

Hello to Nathan and Rick. Thanks for your responses.

Nathan -- as ever, you succeed at being more succinct than me. And the taboo on discussing class apparently remains. While there are some helpful statements being made about race relations on the ground, zero discussion of class implications.

And that dovetails nicely to what Rick contributes. Rick, you wrote to introduce the statistics from the "Color of Crime" pamphlet issued by the New Century Foundation in 1999. It's been around for a while and I think it should be better known, though not for the reasons you might expect. :-) So thank you for bringing it up.

The pamphlet selectively presents crime statistics that support a racial thesis: blacks are vastly more likely to attack whites than the other way around. The pamphlet follows these implications to cultural and even genetic conclusions about blacks, asserting that race itself is predictive of criminality.

It should be noted that the New Century Foundation is a project of Jared Taylor, whose views on race are, um, controversial -- and I'll leave it at that. Look him up if you wish.

As science, the report is an often-cited example of selection bias: selectively arranging the data that helps support the desired conclusion. In particular, focusing on interracial crime presents a very distorted picture for the general reader because statistically *most violence is intra-racial.*

So now I want to bring economic status -- class -- back into the discussion. Criminologists understand that crime has much to do with poverty (so did Aristotle and Lao Tzu), yet for some reason the media and general readers fixate on racial and ethnic profiles to the exclusion of class considerations. It's frustating, because rigorous analysis shows that race has little predictive power when controlled for social and economic factors.

When you look at the poverty rates for brown Americans compared to white, and the amount of wealth on average owned by whites compared to brown, and then look ONLY at interracial crime, it's hardly surprising that the less privileged racial group targets the more privileged racial group more often.

As complex as race relations are, I think addressing them might be simpler (or at least less heated) if we were able to identify and discuss poverty and class, and better distinguish racial characteristics from the characteristics of generational poverty.

Rick said...

Algernon, you have some good points and these have been discussed for years but where are we today? Has it gotten any better? We have more blacks/browns in politics then ever before but has there been a reduction in poverty or crime?

Nathan, actually it's not, "pointless or boring," because it appears that most of the attention given to this case is one-sided. I would like to see any info that you may have that would counter the current crime rates and which people are committing most of these crimes. Having studied the criminal justice system for six years I would be surprised if you were to tell me that more whites commit more violent crimes in the U.S. than blacks. I'm sure the whole CJ system would love to see this information as well. My point in the data which I provided could be a reason why some in law enforcement or watch programs actually, "profile" certain types of people. When folks are concerned about crime in their neighborhoods, they are going to be on the lookout for suspicious people which fit a certain, "profile," not 500 years of history and colonialism.

Nathan said...

Rick, it's pointless because I sincerely doubt my spending hours digging up all the research, studies, and history will make one ounce of difference. The mere fact that you dismiss race and class as factors in the justice system (and specifically in this case), to me, suggests it's a futile effort.

In the end, this is at it's root, a matter of the heart/mind. Our individual and collective heart/minds. Reasoning and debating won't solve shit. It really won't. It can expose flaws in arguments, misleading data, and the like, all of which is good. And I sometimes am all over that kind of effort.

But with race in America, ultimately all the data and reasoning in the world rarely convinces people to "change their minds" or "see the world differently." People spend thousands of precious hours digging in on their views, trying to out "other" the other, and in the meantime the suffering goes on and on.

You're convinced black folks are dangerous. More criminal. Etc. That's deep in your heart/mind. And in the heart/mind of many white Americans, as well as some Americans of color. I accept that this is where you are coming from, but have no interesting in getting into a rational boxing match with you or anyone else about where I am coming from.

All I can is that I've never understood why some people are so intent on "proving" that another group of people are lesser than they are. It's such a denial of our interconnectedness, and such a lost opportunity to learn about how others have gotten to the places where they have.

Rick said...

Nathan please don't think that I disregard race and class in the justice system, I believe that it does factor in. Example, O.J. Simpson's "class" (being a celebrity and having wealth to afford the, "dream team") was without a doubt, a factor. Race plays an important piece too. Police will target minorities, especially in minority neighborhoods - profiling I'm sure.

As far as my heart/mind goes, I'm a realist. I'm a retired Army officer and have spent countless years overseas (I'm still overseas at this moment as a civilian working and living in Africa - not government related). I see things differently than you I'm sure and that's not bad because everyone has different backgrounds and are different in general. My background is being raised in poverty. I joined the military to become part of a team; pay for college and contribute something back to this country that I love. My heart/mind is focused on what's best for the country as a whole.

I am also a huge advocate in taking responsibly for one's actions and also one's future; this is where I see a problem in our society. Do we have a terrible past? Yes, of course. I'm not proud of the racial differences of the past, but we move, "Forward." That sounds like a political slogan from the last general elections by a presidential candidate. Although I finished grad school I don't consider myself a scholar. I like to think of myself as a doer. I did the best that I could given the environment in which I was raised and don't have much sympathy in claiming to be, "victimized" every time I believe there may be some injustice along the lines of race. Claiming oneself as a victim of society every chance one gets will only make a person weaker. Doing something about it can make one stronger, e.g., gaining a skill; education, working for a goal, etc.

Lastly, referring back to the case I believe that since Zimmerman was tried in the media before his criminal trial, it only makes sense to look at Trayvon's history and where this, "innocent" young man was possibly heading with his life. The media has the luxury of turning a, "blind eye" to Trayvon's past and conveniently leaves out his extreme violent past (which supports Zimmerman's affidavit that he was in fact attacked by Trayvon). If only the, "truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" was allowed in the media and the courts...

Algernon said...

Rick, what is your motivation for questioning the character of the young man who was killed in this incident?

Why are you willing to afford George Zimmerman a wide presumption of innocence, while bringing up anything you can to cast Trayvon Martin in a suspicious light?

The only facts material to the case are what happened that night. And some of the details are known only by Mr. Zimmerman.

Why do the quotation marks go up around the word innocent when applied to the victim of this shooting, but not the person who pursued him?

You complain that George Zimmerman was tried in the media, but have nothing to say about the campaign to question the character of the victim even though it had nothing to do with the facts of the case. Far from turning a 'blind eye,' the media faithfully reported on irrelevant rumors about his marijuana use, his interest in mixed martial arts, his personality. While you complain that Mr. Zimmerman was tried in the media (and yes, that is true) you don't seem at all concerned about Mr. Martin being tried in the media posthumously.

What is the purpose of these questions about the young man's character? Let's look at that honestly.

Rick said...


I'm glad that you brought this up, questioning Trayvon's past and not Zimmerman's. Also, just a reminder I'm only debating as opposed to arguing so I appreciate your openness by letting this happen on your blog; thanks.

As you know during the trial more was brought up by the prosecution than what just happened that night. You'll remember that one of Zimmerman's professor from his CJ studies was brought into court by the prosecution in an attempt to show the jury that Zimmerman knew about self-defense (and the controversial, "Stand your ground" law). There was an attempt to portray Zimmerman as a, "wanna be" cop based on his past. With that being said, Zimmerman's past was brought into the court, not just the facts of that night. Now, since Zimmerman's past has been in court as well as the news media, specifically CNN's Nancy Grace, it is only right to paint a whole picture of both involved in the fight that night; what type of personalities did they have and who actually might have instigated the whole event.

People now actually "hate" Zimmerman and want him dead. There have been many death threats and this has been exposed in the media (reason why he is in hiding...along with his parents/wife). These same people believe that Travon was an innocent victim in this event (victim yes, law abiding innocent young man, no). I think it's only fair that we know about both men in this case and not just the night.

The media has folks like CNN's Nancy Grace and I'm familiar you've heard of her. She has the tendency to spread rhetoric and inflame many folks, not just in relation to this case. Because there is no real counter in the news to her, many have to resort to the Internet for the whole picture. If you wouldn't mind, take a look at this video and see if it strikes a chord. Maybe it will, maybe it won't but at least you may be a little more informed. It's only about 10 minutes.

I'll come back later but now it's dinner time and I've been flying all day (I'm a pilot). Let's keep the discussion alive.

Thanks much again for opening this up to debate.



Stan Grossman said...

Per your request I'll reply on your blog. If you'll check the record you'll find I've previously posted exactly one comment on this topic. In my post I called to your attention the fact that what you actually wrote did not agree with what you apparently meant to say. I also made a general comment that the (news) media all seem to have their own agendas and report only the facts that bolster their view.

I now find myself accused of attempting to re-litigate the case and of putting words in your mouth.

I guess it serves me right for breaking my rule against commenting on politically charged issues.

Rick said...

Exactly Stan, that's been my point too, this whole case has been one-sided. God forbid if we're to talk about Travon's past and actually bring the forth the whole truth.

Take care Stan and fly safe.


Algernon said...

Thanks for responding, Rick, and for helping maintain a neighborly tone.

My question was: "what is your motivation for questioning the character of the young man who was killed in this incident?" Your response was to talk about George Zimmerman. Is that your answer to the question I asked? Is this some kind of tit for tat where you feel that George Zimmerman has been treated unfairly in the media, and so you're going to demonize the other guy, too?

Why demonize either of them? What does that help us?

George Zimmerman was tried in a highly publicized trial regarding a very sad incident. A lot of what happened, none of us know. Mr. Zimmerman was presumed innocent by the state, in accordance with our justice system; tried on the basis of evidence; and found not guilty.

Trayvon Martin was never charged with any crime and there is no evidence implicating him in any wrongdoing that night. Even if one exonerates George Zimmerman completely in their personal judgment, I still do not understand the lack of compassion and even spite that is directed towards the young man who died in this incident. I find the efforts to demonize him pointless and ugly. I don't want my blog to be a platform for this kind of hatred. This post really wasn't much about Trayvon Martin to start with. Maybe you can convince me this is constructive. But so far, I got nothin'.

Maybe this isn't an "instant answer" kind of question. Maybe this is one of those "take some time and reflect" questions. Maybe it doesn't even need an answer. That's the point of this post, which has been completely lost in all the heat: this incident might be grounds for persona reflection. Something went very wrong here. One young man is dead, another youngish man's life is never going to be the same, and the community and the nation certainly has much to talk about in terms of why this happened.

Rick said...


Sorry, I didn't answer your question directly and that's my fault. To answer your question, "what is your motivation for questioning the character of the young man who was killed in this incident?" Well, in brief, I believe it's because of Travon's violent history. Could it be assumed that Travon waited for Zimmerman so he could act on his violent past? Based on Travon's affection of, "MMA" style of fighting and his history of instigating fights in school, one could assume that he instigated the conflict which led to his death. Can we objectively assume that Zimmerman passively followed Travon and Travon aggressively attacked Zimmerman? Is this possible?

The news media has presented Travon as being threatened and acted in his self defense. However, in order to gain a holistic overview we must consider both individuals' past. Undisputedly, Travon has a troubled past with a history of violence. This should not be dismissed when forming an opinion of that night's events.

Please don't get me wrong, I do not agree with Zimmerman's tactics to follow Travon that night. I believe it was poor judgement, however, it was not illegal. My focal point is still on this topic, review each individual's past objectively. This has not been done. It's not fair for the news media to demonize the person with a gun (legally) for using it in self defense when he didn't actually instigate the conflict.

Compassion is not unwarranted towards Travon. I'm sad that he died. I wish there was something I could do to bring the young man back. However, do we, as a nation, sympathize for young black men who work hard to achieve goals which lead to success? What about young black men that have worked hard in high school and college to achieve success and die of a terminal illness; car accident; homicide, etc? Are we wearing the, "hoodies" for these men? These men were to be law abiding citizens who would be contributors to our societies. Why don't we protest their deaths? Why don't we even hear their names? How many young black men have died for their country wearing their country's uniform? Have you taken a picture wearing their uniform in their honor? What is honor? Do we even know anymore? I've served with and for many black men that I would have placed myself in harm's way for. Men who deserve to be honored.

I don't have all the answers to today's problems but I'd like to think that I'm on the right side of thinking and my conscience. I'd like to ask you how does protesting this case - and not other cases (say the young black woman who accused the white men of rape in the infamous lacrosse rape) - seem justified? Why is the case so special? Is it because of media hype? Is there a hidden agenda that wants the attention? Are we all duped? Why were we not outraged when O.J. Simpson walked from his two first degree murder charges? Biased I believe some are.

Thanks again for letting me letting me post my opinion.



Algernon said...

Dear Rick,

So, we have a presumption of innocence for Mr. Zimmerman, but when it comes to Mr. Martin suddenly we are saying, "Could it be assumed that Trayvon waited for Zimmerman so he could act on his violent past?" To me this looks like a clear double standard.

Because Trayvon Martin studied martial arts, and because he had been involved in fights (which is not unusual among teenage boys), you state: "one could assume that he instigated the conflict which led to his death." Nope, you do not have evidence.

Rick, let's apply your logic to me. I have studied kung fu and aikido. (Not to mention fencing and swordplay!) When I was a young man, I got into a few fights. So I have what you would call "a violent history" as well as an "affection" for martial arts. If someone shot me and claimed self defense, would you immediately assume that I must have started something? This is not even circumstantial evidence and it is certainly not proof of anything that happened *at that moment.*

Don't you suppose a lot of people would look at me differently than they would at Trayvon Martin?

Why not presume innocence on both their parts and admit that we don't know and mourn the incident?

Why not take this opportunity to examine our assumptions and the ideas that shaped them?

Perhaps some of the people who have replied to this post feel annoyed that Trayvon Martin is being accorded the status of a martyr. I think that's a little exaggerated, but I'll meet you at the fence and say no, this kid was not an angel. No human being is. But that isn't what is important. I gently submit that whatever happened, something went very wrong. We can carp about this media story or that, a stupid editorial here or an edited tape here. But ultimately, taking a wider view, it is a sign of a healthy society that we examine what happened (through the trial process and yes through journalism) and look for whatever answers we can. We examine and debate our laws, our feelings about armaments about self-defense, our feelings about crime and, yes, race.

Those are signs of health. And we benefit from diverse perspectives by debating constructively.

Rick said...


I wanted to share this with you. This article is what we should be celebrating and spreading throughout the country to encourage other African-Americans and inspire hope. There are a lot more in this country and they should be supported. I hope you enjoy reading about them.



Algernon said...

I took some time before responding but it's just so ugly.

You remain stuck on making this about Trayvon Martin's character. It's as if you are fishing for reasons to cast him as a bad person who can thus be held responsible for his own death.

This is not about "other African-Americans" and who you think is more deserving of being "celebrated." This is not about Trayvon Martin's personality or his academic record. Mourning his death that night and looking for why this happened has nothing to do with "celebrating" him or turning him into a role model of whatever is you are so concerned about.

Let him rest in peace. At the very least, stop using this space as a platform to continue maligning his character. Let him rest in peace, at least here.

Otherwise, I'm going to keep challenging you to look very honestly at yourself and your motivations for doing this with his memory.

Rick said...

Fair enough. I'll leave on this thought. I'm not sure why this case was elevated to the heights that it was because there are more cases that are just as severe if not worse. This case was all about politics and if people don't believe this then I could cite delusion running interference. I would like to know if we are going riot, protest, etc..., the next time an unarmed person is shot in self-defense? What do you think the chances are? I've asked the question before but it went unanswered so I'll ask again. Why didn't we protest when O.J. Simpson walked after killing two unarmed people?

This should not be about picking sides, e.g., either Trayvon or Zimmerman, it should be about respecting our judicial system. I would have supported it either way in this case based on facts and rules of evidence presented. We either live with the verdict or we revamp our legal system. Do I believe it's perfect? No, and this is one of two reasons why I'm against capital punishment.

There is political pressure to charge Zimmerman in federal court for civil rights violation. I honestly believe that this is being driven by emotions and not factual support. Again, no protests or outrage to charge O.J. in civil court after he walked.

This case has been so polarized since it first broke in the news that having an objective view on it has been next to impossible. The state was pressured by the federal government (and many other organizations) to throw everything it had at a conviction and still couldn't convince a jury. Many people don't like the verdict but many of these people don't understand our criminal justice system. Maybe some people would like to eliminate a court trial and have public opinion decide the verdict? However, I would be more in favor of educating the public via secondary schools in the basics of our judicial system.

Algernon said...

The aftermath of the Simpson trial was controversial and is still spoken of today as a botched case, with some emphasizing the prosecution's failings, some emphasizing Simpson's ability to assemble an expensive legal defense, and various allegations about the defense. If your question is why that trial did not attract the kind of popular attention this trial has, let's compare: in one case, we have a husband probably murdering his wife in a crime of passion; in the other, we have the probably unnecessary death of an unarmed teenage boy, and -- if we assume innocence on the part of Mr. Zimmerman -- a tragic event that will forever change Mr. Zimmerman's life. The latter also exposes some questions about the laws under which Florida citizens are governed, and so there is pretty clearly a legitimate public interest in that case.

Then you write, "This should not be about picking sides, e.g., either Trayvon or Zimmerman, it should be about respecting our judicial system." Well that IS what this blog piece was about. I'm glad we have finally come back around to the point I attempted to make writing this in the first place.

However, I am concerned that you are still being partial about what the judicial system does and to whom. You are very much in love with the idea that there was no evidence worthy of prosecuting a case. There was. And it is good for Mr. Zimmerman, in the long run, to be able to stand trial and face that evidence.

I like trials. The only problem I have with them is that legal representation is so expensive, and the results tend to favor those who can better afford quality representation.

Rick said...

BINGO! We are in agreement! You are so correct, with money, you get better representation. This should not be a surprise to us or to many in other countries. You know the old saying about the Golden Rule; "He who has the gold makes the rules." Well that is also true in our CJ system. There is also an old saying about attorneys, "A new attorney knows the law, an old attorney knows the judge."

As far as the Florida law goes, I'm not sure if other states don't have self-defense laws. I'd be willing to bet that most do; however, state demographics in regards to political views will influence these laws and how they're prosecuted. For example, if a person used a gun to protect himself/herself in a house break-in in Texas, chances are, he/she (defendant) will do ok in court. If the same person were in California, well, the odds may shift more against the homeowner. This is also the beauty of our Constitution...State's rights. Remember, we are a, "United States" which consists truly of 50 sovereign states with their own governments in unity under a Federalist Republic. In other words, if their state constitutions are not in violation of the nation's Constitution, they are lawful. Sometimes what's good for Florida isn't always good for California and vis versa.

Thorsten said...