What risk management has taught me about the Trayvon Martin shooting

Avatar

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

187 Responses

  1. Avatar Russell Saunders
    Ignored
    says:

    One of the most important and yet troubling things that risk management has taught me is this: cultures often unintentionally and unknowingly signal tacit approval to people who wish to engage in extreme anti-social behavior.

    How depressingly, horribly trenchant.Report

    • Avatar Miss Mary in reply to Russell Saunders
      Ignored
      says:

      What part of this post wasn’t?! Caregivers abusing people, molestation, dead teenagers… I’m glad I don’t live in Tod’s head.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Miss Mary
        Ignored
        says:

        Risk management requires a certain ability to parse depressing data routinely without getting depressed about it.

        Disaster preparation is the same.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Patrick Cahalan
          Ignored
          says:

          Boy, ain’t that the truth.Report

          • Avatar Russell Saunders in reply to Tod Kelly
            Ignored
            says:

            Not pediatrics, though. No, it’s pretty much zip a dee doo dah all day, every day.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Russell Saunders
              Ignored
              says:

              I can handle reading tons of literature about massive earthquakes, floods, famine, pandemics… and all the attendant misery that comes with it.

              I read a story about a pediatric oncologist and I want to blow my own brains out (metaphorically speaking).

              I don’t understand why reports of thousands of children dying of starvation or cholera don’t break me the way a story about one kid dying of cancer does, but it’s just the way my brain works. I’m weird.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                How do you feel about puppies getting trapped in wells?Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to James Hanley
                Ignored
                says:

                That it’s surprisingly hard to get them all the way down without hurting them.Report

              • Avatar Miss Mary in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                Did I mention how lovely it is to be reading your stuff again?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley
                Ignored
                says:

                Arf!

                What’s that, Timmy? Lassie’s puppy is trapped in the well? And are you spending way too much time with that dog?Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                I think this is pretty common, actually, and really, really healthy.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                You realize that most people can’t read about earthquakes and floods and the attendant misery that comes with them, right?

                I mean… you realize that we’re abnormal… right?Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                I’m always mystified at the ‘one for all, all for one’ conundrum.

                Perhaps the league can enlighten me, here, there must be a whole body of philosophical work on this. So often, we fail at the statistical analysis of what’s best for the greatest number of the individuals, and overreact to what’s best for a particular individual; so we are unresponsive to a thousand kids dying from a simple fix such as water treatment, but outraged when a single kid dies from a complicated fix such as a cure for a rare disease.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to zic
                Ignored
                says:

                See: Jason’s charity post for a classic example of the pushback on that.

                The part that gets me is that many people can get some sort of vicarious something out of reading the heartbreaking story of the one kid, but avoid stories about the widespread misery (people don’t prepare for disaster largely because they don’t want to think about it.)

                There’s a feedback mechanism there that I lack, I guess.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                Yes, Jason’s post was very much in mind when I wrote the comment, Pat.

                More and more, I suspect it’s a shortcoming of not understanding even the basics of statistics, at least in part. I think were I agitating for education reform, ways to include statistical analysis and risk management as core learning goals would make the list. At least today.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to zic
                Ignored
                says:

                I’ve said before on the blog, here and there, that we should drop Calculus from the high school mathematics curriculum and put in Statistics and Probability (maybe even before Geometry).

                I say this as a bona fide mathematics major.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to zic
                Ignored
                says:

                I would introduce children to a rudimentary form of calculus and physics pretty early. I’d start with the experiments of Galileo and teach enough of the calculus to explain what’s really going on.

                I’d also teach some basic astronomy. Stats and Prob are awfully useful, I’ll admit. I’d ditch a good deal of Algebra, that much is for sure.

                But if I were to introduce children to mathematics at all, it would be on the basis of physics.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to zic
                Ignored
                says:

                FYI, most high school classes cover basic statistics in the same class they cover trig — generally labeled “Pre-Calculus” or “Trigonometry”.

                Also tends to cover the basics of linear algebra and discrete mathematics. It doesn’t take a full year to teach kids trig, so they cover a lot of math that’s not generally covered in algebra and geometry. Sometimes stats is covered in a second year of algebra.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                People dont’ prepare for disaster because they’re IDIOTS.
                Who buys milk and eggs when a fishin’ hurricane is coming?Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Patrick Cahalan
                Ignored
                says:

                We tend to reason using one of two types of systems: a “hot,” fast, intuitive system in which emotion plays big a role, and a “cold,” slow, deliberate system, in which we tend to work our way through problems consciously and analytically. There’s some data in the moral judgment literature, for example, that suggests that people make moral judgments differently depending on their level of personal investment. The gist of it is that if we feel personally invested, we tend to make quick, intuitive, perhaps rule-based (there’s some speculation that the rules are hard-wired) judgments, whereas if we feel removed from the situation, we make more deliberate judgements that weigh the consequences.

                I suspect that this two-system approach explains this sort of thing pretty well. When we read about a person, or a family, or even a few people or families, particularly with a lot of personal detail, it’s pretty easy to empathize with the plight of the people we’re reading about, to put ourselves into the situation essentially, and to thereby activate the hot system, with all the emotional reasoning that comes with it. When we read about huge numbers of people being affected by unthinkable disasters, it’s much more difficult for us to empathize, and as a result we tend to feel less personally invested. This means that the cold system is going to be doing most of the work when we think about those people and their plights.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                Thank you, Chris. That makes a lot of sense.

                It’s also helpful in terms of thinking how to frame a response; because I can think am I responding to hot or cold; am I responding from hot or cold.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                Chris, not sure if this is what you are referring to, but another interesting aspect is not just that there are two systems, but that they appear to be mutually exclusive in their use; so while one is engaged, the other cannot be.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                Glyph, that’s related to what I was talking about, but man, that article is awful. First of all, when we’re thinking “rationally,” the “empathetic parts of our brain” don’t “shut down.” They’re just less active. Second, “rational” is being used fastly and loosely here. We can make rational choices with the “empathetic parts of our brain,” and in fact, our emotions tend to make us reason more rationally (that’s one of their purposes, it seems). But it is true that the two systems don’t work together in parallel, and when one is active the other tends to be less active. What’s more, activating the hot system has a way of overriding whatever decisions the cold system might have already arrived at.

                Also, the cold system can be used to rationalize the decisions the hot system made previously.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                Yeah, io9 is not always great with their science stuff, but that was the most recent place I remembered reading about the phenomenon.

                “activating the hot system has a way of overriding whatever decisions the cold system might have already arrived at.

                Also, the cold system can be used to rationalize the decisions the hot system made previously.”

                Man, we are just screwed going both ways, aren’t we?Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                Glyph, that’s fascinating.

                And also leads to thousands of questions about what the triggers for each analytical network are; how we resolve internal conflicts when both are potentially triggered at once (I’m guessing the social network may take precedence), and how we might train ourselves to stop and use both.

                This may be totally unfounded, it’s always possible I’m full of shit, and self-observation is prone to trickery, but: I’ve a sense that my childhood abuse builds toward internal negotiation between what Chris labeled hot and cold. Being stalked by a pedophile, I wanted to respond from the social network (using the terms from your link), but to maintain sanity and make sense of it, I needed to turn to the analytical network. I’ve long had a sense it was a bit easier for me to step back and fourth — to navigate ambiguous situations — then the norm.

                I have much to ponder, now. More reading, please, if anyone has some.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                And of course while I wrote, Chris added value beyond measure.

                Sweet.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                Zic and Glpyh, coincidentally, after this little exchange, I got an email alert with this paper in it:

                http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9221.2012.00937.x/abstract

                Here’s the abstract:

                We offer a theory of motivated political reasoning based on the claim that the feelings aroused in the initial stages of processing sociopolitical information inevitably color all phases of the evaluation process. When a citizen is called on to express a judgment, the considerations that enter into conscious rumination will be biased by the valence of initial affect. This article reports the results of two experiments that test our affective contagion hypothesis—unnoticed affective cues influence the retrieval and construction of conscious considerations in the direction of affective congruence. We then test whether these affectively congruent considerations influence subsequently reported policy evaluations, which we call affective mediation. In short, the considerations that come consciously to mind to inform and to support the attitude construction process are biased systematically by the feelings that are aroused in the earliest stages of processing. This underlying affective bias in processing drives motivated reasoning and rationalization in political thinking.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                Chris, in a similar vein I really wanted at one point to discuss the furor that has occurred over the different photos that emerged over the course of this case (Martin as young skiing “angel” vs. Martin as budding teen “thug”; Zimmerman as “real beefy dude with no visible injuries” vs. Zimmerman as “somewhat skinnier dude who looks like he got the snot beat out of him” – all scare-quoted preceding picture captions meant for illustrative purposes only, so you’d know approximately which pics I mean) and how that relates to emotional “priming” and the daisy-chaining associations we then make – but there was just no way to discuss it in that climate.

                See this comment for some idea of where I wanted to go.

                Because this cognitive stuff plays a factor all over the place – on why Zimmerman was following Martin in the first place; on the initial media narratives that got formed; in how angry people got when those narratives were shifted or challenged at all (because people feel like they were, or are, being lied to); etc. And this can all happen totally independent of racial factors (though depending on the case these factors obviously can have their own roles to play too).

                Maybe when all this dies down a bit you could do a guest post on this kind of stuff, you are probably way more qualified than I.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                Glyph and Chris, I do hope you’ll follow through with a post. I’d be most grateful.

                I just wrote this post on James’ Taxpayer-Directed Welfare post, with this very much in mind; describing something from the hot, and how it warps the cold.

                Chris, thank you for the link.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Miss Mary
        Ignored
        says:

        On the plus side, there is pretty music in here.Report

  2. Avatar David Ryan
    Ignored
    says:

    “Safety tends to happen at slow speed” is something I read somewhere. It struck me as wise.Report

  3. Avatar aaron david
    Ignored
    says:

    Tod, do you have link for the DC photos? I can’t seem to find them.Report

  4. Avatar Dan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    This is right, but stand your ground is only part of the story here. The real issue is the presence of the gun itself. If both men had been unarmed, there almost certainly would have been no confrontation at all, or if there was it would have remained a case of assault at worst. A society where it’s acceptable to carry a gun around your neighborhood is also sending the signal that guns are an OK way to resolve conflicts, which greatly increases the risk that they’ll end violently.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Dan Miller
      Ignored
      says:

      See my response to Kazzy, below.Report

    • Avatar Scott in reply to Dan Miller
      Ignored
      says:

      Really?

      “A society where it’s acceptable to carry a gun around your neighborhood is also sending the signal that guns are an OK way to resolve conflicts, which greatly increases the risk that they’ll end violently.”

      Get real. Maybe when the gov’t assigns me a cop to provide personal protection 24 hours a day. Until then, I want to be able to protect myself. Despite the fact that gun control clearly doesn’t work liberals still keep pushing it.

      Martin didn’t have to assault Zimm and get himself shot. TM made that choice and paid the price for it, too bad.Report

      • Avatar DRS in reply to Scott
        Ignored
        says:

        Yes, and Zimmerman didn’t have to jump to the conclusion that Martin was a criminal just because he was walking through the townhouse complex and Zimmerman didn’t know who he was. The (pretty obvious) point Dan was making is that if you’re going to get into the habit of toting a gun around as a normal procedure then pretty soon you’re going to see yourself living in a dangerous place where everyone is a potential attacker. It becomes easy to see everything through one filter only. And if having a gun makes you feel more in control and protected, your interactions with others could escalate very rapidly into the unforeseeable and tragic.

        And Martin “didn’t get himself shot” – Zimmerman pulled the trigger. Taking refuge in the passive voice doesn’t disguise that.Report

        • Avatar Scott in reply to DRS
          Ignored
          says:

          “And Martin “didn’t get himself shot” – Zimmerman pulled the trigger. Taking refuge in the passive voice doesn’t disguise that.”

          Zimm only pulled the trigger when TM beating. If you do something like then you do “get yourself shot.”

          “The (pretty obvious) point Dan was making is that if you’re going to get into the habit of toting a gun around as a normal procedure then pretty soon you’re going to see yourself living in a dangerous place where everyone is a potential attacker.”

          Sorry, the fact is that you can be attacked anywhere. Not too long ago a guy got killed by a carjacker in the Wal Mart parking lot in my city. You don’t expect to have a car accident or a storm destroy your house and yet you have insurance for both.Report

          • Avatar DRS in reply to Scott
            Ignored
            says:

            You’re just repeating yourself.

            Zimmerman was being beaten because he’d confronted a stranger who was doing nothing to him. If you’re going to go around at night confronting people who weren’t bothering you personally you should anticipate that it might be within the realm of the possible that you’re eventually going to get bopped in the nose for it.

            Or if a total stranger walked up to you and demanded that you account for your actions on a public thoroughfare would you just stand there and politely answer him? Seriously? Somehow I doubt it.Report

            • Avatar Scott in reply to DRS
              Ignored
              says:

              I might not be polite but I would try to not let it escalate into violence b/c you should anticipate that it might be within the realm of the possible that you’re eventually going to get yourself shot for bopping other people in the nose.Report

              • Avatar DRS in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                Shoot or be shot. That’s some quality of life you got there.Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to DRS
                Ignored
                says:

                “Shoot or be shot. That’s some quality of life you got there.”

                Really? How about this story, Teens Ask for Smoke, Kill Woman When She Replies “Get a Job”: Cops

                http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Teens-Ask-for-Smoke-Kill-Woman-When-She-Replies-Get-a-Job-182999041.html?dr

                This is the real world not the fantasy world you seem to live in.Report

              • Avatar DRS in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                Somehow I’ve managed to walk around for over 4 decades without getting shot or murdered or mugged or robbed. That’s my reality and I’m quite happy with it. Please don’t visit.Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to DRS
                Ignored
                says:

                DRS:

                Good for you, I sincerely hope you are never the victim of crime, however, not everyone is so lucky. Just remember that just b/c it hasn’t happened to you in four decades doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen to you when you least expect it.

                I wonder if that woman in the story thought should would be killed that day?Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to DRS
                Ignored
                says:

                I’m working on five.

                It’s truly amazing how afeared some people are. Because we get a handful of stories every day about something bad happening to someone. Too bad we don’t get BREAKING NEWS: Millions upon millions of people got home safely today. And yesterday. And the day before that.Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to DRS
                Ignored
                says:

                Zic:

                As many liberals do you mistake being afraid with the desire to be prepared. I learned in the Boy Scouts to “Be Prepared.” That doesn’t mean just assuming that I will get home safe b/c I did yesterday or the day before that. Don’t forget that some of those who assumed they would get home safely didn’t, like the woman in the story. If you really believe that nothing bad will happen to you tomorrow, then you really should go out and cancel all of your insurance policies.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to DRS
                Ignored
                says:

                No Scott, I suspect you are a bonafide fraidycat; need your gun to feel safe, or absolutely unable to process statistics.

                Me? I insist on my right to be free. That means talking a walk at midnight by myself if I want. I’d rather shoulder the risk then be trapped by fear.

                But I’ve looked into the faces of monsters who mean me harm. Being prepared is being prepared for how you’ll respond when you think the monster appears, and that’s a mental thing. Because most often, you don’t have that gun or the time to pull it. And all too often, the monster’s only a shadow, and if you do have that gun and use it, you’re the monster.Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to DRS
                Ignored
                says:

                Zic:

                Yes, you sure have me pegged with your cereal box degree in pop psychology. I desperately need to carry my .44 magnum to make up for my tiny penis. I feel so much better for admitting that, maybe my healing can now begin and I ‘ll become a good liberal.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to DRS
                Ignored
                says:

                Scott, using ‘liberal’ as an insult is so last century.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to DRS
                Ignored
                says:

                “I learned in the Boy Scouts to “Be Prepared.””

                Was that before or after they taught you to hate gays?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                What, exactly, makes that the real world?

                Oh wait… I forgot we declared you a troll a while back. Never mind.Report

          • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Scott
            Ignored
            says:

            Zimm only pulled the trigger when TM beating. If you do something like then you do “get yourself shot.”

            You seem awfully certain of Zimmerman’s position that Martin, somebody with no history of violence, attacked him out of nowhere for no apparent reason in an attempt to kill him. If that’s true, I’m totally with you that Zimmerman should be allowed to do whatever he had to do to protect himself. I just don’t happen to find the story very credible given the people and the circumstances.

            I find it much easier to believe that the guy with a cop complex and an actual history of violent behavior who was actively pursuing the other guy probably started it. It’s easy to go from following somebody to deciding to head him off and keep him from leaving the scene, especially when you think you’re in the right and you’re armed. All it takes is grabbing somebody’s shirt when they try to get away and you have a potentially violent situation on your hands.Report

            • Avatar Scott in reply to Troublesome Frog
              Ignored
              says:

              If the evidence about Martin being on top of Zimm and beating him is correct and Zimm was in fear of his life, then Zimm will not be criminally culpable for the shooting. This is what folks don’t seem to understand, it won’t matter what transpired before that, who may have been the person that started it, etc.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                Yeah, that’s actually the whole point.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                I disagree. While possibly not legally culpable, what matters before DOES (to me) and OUGHT to matter. Otherwise, what stops me from picking a fight with someone I hate, deliberately falling into a compromised position, and shooting them when pounced upon?

                Who threw the first punch absolutely does matter.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                Ought to, yes.. but part of SYG is that you have no legal responsibility to de-escalate.

                I believe that Scott is in fact right – that you can be a dick to someone, push them into a fight, actively work to escalate it, and – if you get yourself into a situation where you’re getting your ass kicked – pop the guy.

                Where Scott and I disagree, obviously, is that only one of us thinks this is totally awesome.Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                Tod:

                No I don’t think that scenario is “awesome.” I just don’t think you should have to get beaten up or killed to satisfy that sensibilities of silly liberals like Kazzy.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                But you obviously think, per your last comment, that you should be able to pick a fight with someone and – if you find yourself losing – kill them, and that doing so should be seen as perfectly acceptable:

                If the evidence about Martin being on top of Zimm and beating him is correct and Zimm was in fear of his life, then Zimm will not be criminally culpable for the shooting. This is what folks don’t seem to understand, it won’t matter what transpired before that, who may have been the person that started it, etc.

                Did I misunderstand your meaning somehow?Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                Tod:

                Simply acknowledging legal realities doesn’t mean that I think something is “awesome.” Yes, I think it is necessary to have the legal right to defend oneself b/c of the realities of the world we live in.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                Tod, could you point out more precisely where the statutes say that if you’re fearing for your life you can “stand your ground”? I’ve read what I thought were the relevant sections and I don’t recall them saying anything about the use of force in response to a legitimate threat of violence. I think Burt touched on this earlier this morning, but standard self-defense covers the use of lethal force in response to an imminent threat to ones own life.

                More importantly, the statutes were pretty clear that in saying that some basic conditions had to be met for the law to apply: that the person had a right to be where they were, they hadn’t engaged in any illegal activity, and they had to have a legitimate reason to think that a felony had been, or was about to be committed. None of those conditions apply in the Trayvon/Zimmerman scneario, it seems to me.

                But, I could be – most likely am – wrong about this.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                So a more accurate way to put it, then, might simply be that where we disagree is that one of us think you should be able to start a fight with a stranger and then – if you find yourself losing – kill the person you picked a fight with.

                Would that be more accurate?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                Scott, You and Tod are focusing on different things here. Tod is arguing that SYG laws at least tacitly permit someone to start a fight and then kill that person if they respond to the perceived threat. You’re saying that people ought to have the right to defend themselves.

                I think you both agree that people in fact do have the legal right to defend themselves, independently of whether the SYG applies or not. Legitimate self-defense is already legislated.

                So what Tod is arguing (at least, in this context, it seems to me) is that SYG constitutes an unnecessary extension of normal self-defense to cover a situation where a person starts a fight, and can then legally kill the person they provoked. You’re saying people should be able to kill anyone who threatens their life.

                There’s a lot of room in there for disagreement, no?Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                Still –

                That might well be what advocates of the law wish to be the case. However, the State of Florida’s own examination found the actual wording to be ambiguous and confusing. Adding to the confusion is that in many cases – including the Martin case – there is no evidence to determine who started a fight. And this has consequences that are more than theoretical.

                For example, the law is currently being used to acquit people who have killed others in bad drug deals. Also, as I linked to in the original piece, justifiable homicide rates have tripled since SYG was passed. And in many cases (including the Martin case) the State’s examiners have found that police do not bother to investigate these cases.
                Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                Is your view that DAs and PDs are taking a deliberately broad reading of the statutes (for whatever reason), or that there is in fact a real indeterminacy in the language of the laws?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                To break this down a little bit more, I, personally, am of the opinion that if someone has broken into your house, you have the Right to shoot them. You don’t know why they’re there, you don’t know if they are there to kill or rape you, if someone comes at you, you should be able to shoot them without having to deal with arguments like “but what if the robber was just looking for food to feed his toddler?” or the like.

                Now, whether or not you personally agree with that argument, I hope that you see how someone could hold it in good faith.

                Now, from there, it’s not *TOO* hard to get to the carjacking scenario. If someone is carjacking you, should you have the right to shoot them?

                Surely you might be able to see how someone else could see the argument “no person’s life is worth a car, just give the car up and trust the police that you’ll get it back safe and sound… and even if it’s wrecked, at least you’re alive” as being insufficient.

                Well, the SYG laws, as far as I understand, were written to deal with the carjacking phenomenon from a while back. People were very upset that, after a carjacker was shot, the driver was given a court case. “He should have been given a medal!”, some said.

                Anyway, while I do tend to think that the SYG laws are a bad idea insofar as they can create a situation where two people could be standing their ground against each other (see this very case right here!), I do tend to think that there is a problem with law enforcement if self-defense is not seen as a fairly fundamental right.

                I suspect that those who think that Trayvon was justified (to some degree, anyway) in kicking Zimmerman’s ass are in agreement on that point.Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                Tod:

                In general I don’t believe that folks should be allowed to use the law to protect themselves when doing wrong. I would hope that laws are carefully crafted to stop such a thing and that the justice system be able to see thru such ploys. I guess the final question is whether we as a society will tolerate the few times folks misuse the laws to protect the majority of those who use the protections of our laws for their intended purpose.

                All of that aside, there is no proof that Zimm started this fight in order to kill Martin. So all this talk about folks starting fights to kill others seems rather hypothetical. Is there any evidence that this is even a real problem or is it just liberal fear mongering?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                Scott,

                Your use of the word liberal as a pejorative is indicative of just how unserious you are.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                All of that aside, there is no proof that Zimm started this fight in order to kill Martin. So all this talk about folks starting fights to kill others seems rather hypothetical. Is there any evidence that this is even a real problem or is it just liberal fear mongering?

                There may never be evidence that this is a real problem as long as the only other person who might be a witness ends up dead.

                I don’t think anybody here is suggesting that the problem is people starting fights with the express intent of getting away with premeditated murder. I don’t think that Zimmerman started a fight with Martin in order to have an excuse to kill him or even went into the situation expecting to shoot.

                I do think that Zimmerman likely started a fight because he was a macho blowhard on a power trip. I also think that people like him are more likely to have the confidence to start fights when they’re armed, and that encouraging a culture of vigilantism is dangerous because it attracts exactly the sorts of people you wouldn’t want as vigilantes.

                We all have a responsibility to avoid causing or escalating violent situations whenever possible. I’d argue that when you’re armed, you have an even greater responsibility to avoid looking for trouble. While I don’t think that Zimmerman will end up on the wrong side of the law here, I’m far from convinced that he lived up to his responsibilities as somebody who carries a gun in public.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                All of that aside, there is no proof that Zimm started this fight in order to kill Martin.

                No one – least of all Tod – is arguing that point. In fact, if a liberal interpretation of SYG in Florida holds, then Martin’s intent is actually irrelevant. All that matters from a legal pov is whether he had a legitimate right to stand his ground (not retreat) when confronted with a forcible felony.

                {{Heh. I think I just answered my own question about the ambiguity in the law.}}Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                Kazzy:

                You keep talking about ought, ought ought versus what is, is, is. That is your fantasy world.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                You’re talking about what’s not… you act as if people routinely get shot for denying strangers cigarettes.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                Something tells me Scott doesn’t spend much time in places where people might ask strangers for cigarettes.

                (I was asked for a cigarette once today, probably 5 or 6 times in the last week. I haven’t been shot once in that period.)Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                Clearly you live in a fantasy world.Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                Kazzy:

                Sadly, folks get killed all the time over little if nothing, a few dollars, an ounce of weed, a perceived insult, etc. You can argue that it is rare but even if true those folks are still dead.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                OK, Scott is cracking me up at this point.

                I picture him driving really fast through the “bad” neighborhoods, telling his wife and kids not to look them in the eyes and they’ll be OK. “Just… don’t… look them in the eyes.”Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                Scott,

                Sense of scale.

                You know what else happens all the time? Maybe even often as someone gets killed over a few dollars? People *don’t* get killed.Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                Does this woman live in a fantasy world?

                Elderly woman attacked in NYC elevator.

                http://www.greenwichtime.com/news/article/Elderly-woman-attacked-in-NYC-elevator-4107688.phpReport

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                No, she lives in the real world. A real world where SOMETIMES people die but ALMOST ALL THE TIME they don’t.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                You know what else happens all the time? Maybe even often as someone gets killed over a few dollars? People *don’t* get killed.

                In my own case – can’t speak for others – I haven’t been killed at least five or six times this week….Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                Kazzy:

                Next you are going to tell me that her chance of being attacked was very small, so we don’t need to worry about it happening to us. You are welcome to have the victim mindset. Funny thing, everyone gets told that their chance of wining the lottery is so small yet someone always wins.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                Scott, ironically, by focusing on the extremely remote possibility that you will ever be the victim of such a crime, much less a crime in which you would be able to defend yourself with a gun, you are the one who’s adopting a victim mindset.

                Me, I live life, realizing that of course there’s a possibility I could be shot, or be in a car accident, or be struck by mysterious objects falling out of the sky, but that if I go around worrying about that all of the time, I’ve already lost.

                (p.s. Read that book.)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                Funny thing, everyone gets told that their chance of wining the lottery is so small yet someone always wins.

                Doesn’t citing the lottery undermine your entire argument?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                Still,

                I was actually just about to cite the lottery as an example in the flaw in Scott’s logic.

                Obvioustroll is obvious.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                Kazzy, I was, too. I settled for no comprehension of statistics. Same thing. Really do believe we should be doing a better job of educating the masses on that topic (statistics), but sense so much of school funding comes from lotto sales — the tax on the stupid who don’t believe in taxes for education — that would be self defeating.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                agh, migraine stupid, here. Since, not sense. nonsense. scent of a big win if you want my two cents, because it smells like a way to part a fool and her money on a gun to defend her right to walk to the convenience store for lotto tickets on the night of a big prize.Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                Kazzy:

                You seem to ignore that fact that a small chance doesn’t mean no chance. You can assume that nothing will happen to you tomorrow b/c there is only a low chance but why be foolish? I’m sure the folks that got killed in the mall today didn’t think anything would happen to them so why be prepared for it? Nothing happened at the mall yesterday, but that has no bearing on what may happen today but Kazzy says don’t worry.

                http://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/index.ssf/2012/12/clackamas_town_center_shooting.htmlReport

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                And you forget that a small chance means a small chance.

                Let’s be generous and assume I have a 1% chance of dying tomorrow at the hands of an assailant and a 99% chance of not. How much of my energy should I devote to that 1% chance, either in preparing for it, worrying about it, or attempting to prevent it?

                Again, no one is denying that horrible things might happen. What I’m arguing is that the guaranteed loss associated with overly concerning one’s self with unlikely scenarios eventually outweighs whatever gain might come from being prepared, which is still no guarantee that the horrible thing winds up any less horrible.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                Kazzy, the googlefu of looking this up is beyond me right now, but I do recall that the vast majority of gun deaths happen at the hands of someone the victim knows, not random strangers.

                So in a sense, Scott’s prepared to kill someone who he’s familiar with, not to protect himself from some unknown assailant.

                Please feel free to correct me if my recalled knowledge is incorrect.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                Scott has created a world in which he is constantly a potential victim. I feel genuinely bad for him.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                I feel bad for any potential wife (or husband) and children.

                Living with a paranoid person is difficult.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                As much as I love disagreeing with people and being morally superior to them (I do it all day, as a matter of fact), can we *NOT* speculate on their home lives?

                Hay-Zeus, people.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                /hangs head in shame.Report

  5. Avatar Major Zed
    Ignored
    says:

    Your thesis lends some creedence to Doug Casey’s admittedly self-serving rant about the TSA.Report

  6. Avatar zic
    Ignored
    says:

    Tod, excellent post.

    I’m not saying that bad management makes monsters of good people that are already in the organization. I’m saying that once bad management is implemented it calls the monsters to the door. People who live to cross certain lines go out of their way to identify employers they believe will allow them to do so, or at least look the other way for a while.

    I wanted to unpack this a bit, because it reveals important tensions at work. Let’s start with the term ‘bad management.’ It’s easy to read that and have all these stereotypes of bungling incompetence. But there’s another dynamic at play here — bad management often comes from good people with good intention who lack the capacity to question themselves. They live comforted in the knowledge they’re good, they intend good, and so assume their actions are good and result in good. An example might be the devout parents of a gay child, with all the attending complications of emotional abuse, denial, and efforts to ‘fix’ the child, resulting in good people doing great evil. I think much of what rises to the level of bad management stems from these types of conundrums.

    (An aside, I find it endlessly amusing that good intentions gone astray is often a charge conservatives lay at liberal feet, but rarely apply to their own workings.)

    Then we’ve the problem of predators who seek out inept goodness to create opportunity for their predatory behavior. Certainly this is exactly the situation I lived in as a child; a good but stressed and overworked mother, seeking what supports she could to help her family survive, and a pedophile looking for victims.

    When we bring the discussion to pedophilia; to the Sanduskys of the world, a common response is, “Are we supposed to fear everyone who works with children?” And that, in the context you’ve laid out here, is helpful. Because the answer is yes. Or more precisely, we’ld be better at managing the risk if we had a better method of examining our trust, our goodness, our own actions in a way that made it habit; a willingness to question our assumptions and realign our actions when we see the weaknesses that let the predators have fertile ground.

    While I do not believe in God, I can see why the binary battle of God vs. Devil for our immortal souls is a convenient way to help sort this out. But religion also seems subject to recursive failings of bad management; it’s easy to write those predators off as losing that war for heavenly grace. Yet unless the predator is totally sociopathic and incapable of empathy, her or she is also good. He does good things, she love others.

    Perhaps it’s wisest to resist the urge to view Martin and Zimmerman each as either good or bad, but to instead view each as flawed and a mixture of good and bad. And while I personally feel Zimmerman forfeited his right to freedom, I think you’re correct. The greater trail we need to hold is a review of the Stand Your Ground laws in light of bad management, and what those laws do to free the potential predator in each of us.

    I would see humans work toward a better frame of work management, a habit of reconsidering, challenging assumptions, questioning; I’d have that be the norm; the tradition. Radical.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to zic
      Ignored
      says:

      As they say, true villains rarely see themselves as evil in the “Classic Evil” sense, but rather as good people making tough decisions in order to further their own ideal of good.Report

  7. Avatar Burt Likko
    Ignored
    says:

    Excellent as always Tod. A few quick thoughts:

    In an interview Zimmerman gave with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, he apparently gave a somewhat different accounting of events than he gave to police. In addition, he and his wife have already been caught lying to a judge during his bond hearing.

    People rarely get into serious trouble for what they do. They much more often get into trouble for lying about it afterwards. If he was honestly acting in self-defense, Zimmerman had no need to lie either to the judge or the media. If they were exclusively focused on arranging an acquittal, Zimmerman’s attorneys would have imposed rule one on their client. Zimmerman had nothing to gain from going on even the putatively friendly Sean Hannity show, and his lawyers ought to have known that beforehand.

    The law gives Zimmerman the legal right to take a life if he feels his life is threatened…

    Florida Statutes, Chapter 776 is not written quite like that. It speaks to the “reasonable belief” of the person receiving physical force at the hands of another. Florida’s Legislature then laboriously and awkwardly attempts to pre-define situations in which a belief in the necessity of force is reasonable. A prime emotional motive behind the law is the notion — based on urban myths founded on ill-understood reasoning — that the law imposes a duty on homeowners to tolerate burglars in their homes and even make their homes safe for burglars. The law does not require, and never did require, any such thing. I’ve challenged my business law students at both the graduate and undergraduate level for nearly a decade now to find me a link to a newspaper report about a burglar who was hurt during a home invasion, and subsequently sued a homeowner for damages and won. No one has yet done it. But because someone mistakenly believed that such an injustice is a real problem, the Florida Legislature undertook to solve it, in atomized detail.

    The mistake that the Florida Legislature made in drafting such an elaborate SYG law was in some cocktail of not understanding what the use of the word “reasonable” in a statute makes a court do, and not having faith that a jury would be able to do it appropriately in a given case. The Legislature tried to be the jury in advance of even hearing the facts of a particular case, instead of letting a jury decide on a case-by-case basis what would have been reasonable under the circumstances of a particular case, which is what the use of a word like “reasonable” signals to judges and lawyers ought to happen.

    This is part of the root of why the direction that SYG encourages the culture to grow is so pernicious. In a comment thread over at Will and my sub-blog, multiple commenters like this one pointed out the widespread existence of people who at least claim that if they encounter even a non-violent criminal, they would shoot to kill, perhaps arrange the scene of the evidence to suggest a particular reconstruction of events, and afterwards state that they were subjectively in fear for their lives to support a claim of self-defense. In other words, people who brag that should they encounter a petty, non-violent criminal, they have already formed a plan to murder him,* and then alter evidence favorably to themselves and lie about it to law enforcement afterwards,** claiming superior enough intelligence to succeed and affecting a high degree of moral justification for doing so. The clunky SYG law provides rich fertilizer in which such an attitude, already germinating within the lizard brains of those who worry about crime, can take root and bloom into reality.

    As you correctly point out, Florida’s “…prisons are not exactly overflowing with suburban fathers who shot armed murderers and rapists who were coming at them with knives.” That’s because both juries and prosecutors already knew, before SYG was enacted, that the use of force in a situation like that would be reasonable. In enacting SYG, the Legislature tried to re-solve a problem that already had a great solution. It involved, and still does involve, asking twelve ordinary people if they think the use of force in a given situation was reasonable.

    You do your work, Legislature, and let the courts do theirs. You’ll find that the system works just fine. I think that concept is also supposed to be a part of our culture, too.

    * Note that by planning the act of killing beforehand, the murder is typically elevated to first-degree murder.
    ** Note that this is an additional and qualitatively different crime usually called “obstruction of justice” and/or “perjury.” And now notice how those who would invoke the law to buttress their moral claim have willingly made themselves criminals in the furtherance of their private morality.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Burt Likko
      Ignored
      says:

      People rarely get into serious trouble for what they do. They much more often get into trouble for lying about it afterwards.

      +1Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Burt Likko
      Ignored
      says:

      “Zimmerman had nothing to gain from going on even the putatively friendly Sean Hannity show, and his lawyers ought to have known that beforehand.”

      IIRC the lawyer(s) on the case quit when he went on the show against his/her/their advice.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Burt Likko
      Ignored
      says:

      Burt, this is not to alter your fundamental point – and Tod, excellent piece as usual, containing much of the nuance that is sorely missing from many discussions on this topic – but I do want to focus on one aspect, since my comment is being referenced by Burt.

      “people who brag that should they encounter a petty, non-violent criminal, they have already formed a plan to murder him,*”

      I will not speak to the legal definition here of “murder” but of a moral one, so Burt, please allow me a bit of tiny slack as I try to explain the person to whom I made reference’s position (and note that I also find aspects of it troubling, while I also reluctantly understand some bits of it).

      The person to which I was referring does not necessarily “plan to murder” a person; their concern is in the case of a mistake being made, and their presumption is that someone in their house, uninvited, has already demonstrated a presumed intent to harm; and so any moral fault for bodily injury, falls entirely on them.

      Example: I am awakened in the middle of the night to downstairs noises; I come down the stairs with my pistol, sleep-blurred yet on adrenal high-alert, and see a human shape silhouetted against a now-open window. I cock the pistol and tell the person to freeze; they raise their hand, in which I see an oblong object; I fire, killing them dead.

      I reach the bottom of the stairs and turn on the light; the object was the screwdriver this petty junkie used to jimmy the window; they were raising their hand in surrender, but forgot they still had it in their hand.

      Even leaving aside any racial dynamics, their worry is that they will be unfairly persecuted/prosecuted for what they see as an honest mistake; they believe that the very act of violating a man’s “castle” is de facto an aggressive act for which all moral (and therefore legal), consequences should fall on the shooting victim.

      I do not condone these actions, nor perjury/fraud; but I do sympathize a bit with the idea that if someone is in my house uninvited, and I encounter them in a darkened room with my wits not completely about me, I should be given a *lot* of legal leeway in how I handle that situation. Any cornered animal may react viciously and violently to protect their den and family.

      Their worry that they would not be given this leeway may be, as you say, unjustified; but the fear that they could lose everything for an honest mistake (prompted by what they see as the de facto aggression of another) terrifies them to a degree that they have decided that this would be their contingent action. They never intend to spend years of their life on trial/in jail/under public scrutiny for something that was (in their view) not their fault at all.

      Again, I don’t think this changes your or Tod’s essential points, but I thought I should clarify.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Of course I sympathize with a person such as you describe too. And so will a jury, making an acquittal substantially likely. And in all likelihood, so will a prosecutor, making the likelihood of a prosecution happening in the first place unlikely as well.

        As for “murder,” I am using the legal definition: the intentional killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Why is it murder to kill a nonviolent burglar? Because the question postulates that he is nonviolent and, by implication, that he is known to be nonviolent. In your hypo that fact is not known and assuming violent intent is reasonable.

        We don’t need a legislature to tell us that, is (part of) what I’m saying.Report

        • Avatar Glyph in reply to Burt Likko
          Ignored
          says:

          Gotcha. I also mentioned in one of my initial comments on this subject that in college, I had some blind-drunk friends attempt to “break into” an apartment that was not theirs upon returning from the bar (a case of “mistaken apartment identity”, in one of those bland faceless complexes that everyone lives in when they are broke).

          Had they gotten a door or window open and gotten themselves shot by the occupant, that would’ve been tragic; but absent clear malice or negligence on the part of the occupant, I’d see the fault as wholly on my friends’ side.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Burt Likko
      Ignored
      says:

      I know a lot of gun owners. I know people who sell guns for a living, or work or own pawn shops with a hefty chunk of their trade being guns.

      Heck, I managed to tear a chunk out of my thumb a few weeks ago because I was learning to shoot an automatic (hint: Don’t use a two-handed grip suitable for a revolver. That slide will eat your off-hand thumb) and, well, bad grip.

      People own guns for lots of reasons. Most of the ones I know for hunting with a minority for target shooting. (Call it Zen Archery, but much louder).

      But there’s one class of gun owners that worry me. They’re the dangerous ones. They buy a gun for ‘self-defense’, but not out of fear. But out of hope. They’re eager to use it. Desperate for it. They buy it and fantasize about getting to use it, about showing some thug, some criminal, that they messed with the wrong person.

      Those guys? When they talk about crime, about self-defense, you get the deep impression they’re almost angry that no one has attacked THEM yet. Those guys are why SYG laws are bad, bad law.

      Because you’ve removed the last thing standing between them and a massive overreaction, because now they don’t even worry about going to jail. (They do love to talk about how good, law-abiding Americans went to jail for ‘just defending themselves’. True or false, such a belief keeps them from acting unless out of true need. Jail is better than death, hmm? And given that it’s pretty darn rare for an actual case of self-defense to end up in jail, it works out well for them).Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Morat20
        Ignored
        says:

        But there’s one class of gun owners that worry me. They’re the dangerous ones. They buy a gun for ‘self-defense’, but not out of fear. But out of hope. They’re eager to use it. Desperate for it. They buy it and fantasize about getting to use it, about showing some thug, some criminal, that they messed with the wrong person.

        Q.E.D.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Burt Likko
      Ignored
      says:

      I thought the point of the law was to tie the hands of an over-zealous prosecutor, such that a person who kills in “honest” self-defense should not be traumatized a second time by a DA with an axe to grind (re: Marissa Alexander)?Report

      • Is this really a problem? For Ms. Alexander, perhaps it is. But on a systemic level, does this sort of thing happen all that much?Report

        • Avatar Will H. in reply to Burt Likko
          Ignored
          says:

          Particularly, prosecutor over-zealousness in the prosecution of self-defense murder cases may not be so much of an issue; however, prosecutorial misconduct is a fairly pervasive issue.

          Here’s a story of one prominent locally for some time. It was the OJ Simpson thing on a smaller scale: high-profile murder, botched investigation, sloppy prosecutor.

          My preferred solution would be to amend the civil rights acts providing for a cause of action in 42 USC 1981 et seq., with two short sentences to abolish all common law immunities in reference to that chapter.
          Attorney-client privilege is statutorily abolished in 18 USC 1512(f) for purposes of certain Chapter 73 offenses. I don’t see why they couldn’t do it to immunity privileges, which are doctrinal rather than statutory.
          Congress tried that twice before, first in the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and then again with the Hobbs Act; but both times, it didn’t take the courts very long to determine that the wording of the statute, and perhaps especially in cases where it was written specifically to apply to them, didn’t really apply to them after all.

          Basically, as I understand it, the argument is that prosecutors should be permitted to perform illegal acts in the course of their ordinary duties, else prosecutors would be unnecessarily constrained in the course of their ordinary duties to the extent that they would no longer be able to perform illegal acts.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Will H.
            Ignored
            says:

            Basically, as I understand it, the argument is that prosecutors should be permitted to perform illegal acts in the course of their ordinary duties, else prosecutors would be unnecessarily constrained in the course of their ordinary duties to the extent that they would no longer be able to perform illegal acts.

            If that’s a correct analysis, I need to sit in a quiet place for a while.Report

            • Avatar Will H. in reply to Patrick Cahalan
              Ignored
              says:

              Yes, that’s a fairly accurate assessment of the argument.
              The argument is made in terms of being “free from suit” or “free from fear of suit;” but the suit they’re talking about is the one where you’ve just violated someone’s rights secured by the US Constitution.

              It’s reasonably justifiable in certain circumstances.
              Suppose there is a state law that a prosecutor prosecutes someone for, and then the state law is found to be unconstitutional. Without that prosecutorial immunity, the prosecutors would be subject to suit (to some extent).
              Too often, it’s used to justify departmental deficiencies.
              It seems like reckless indifference would reduce the level of immunity.Report

        • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Burt Likko
          Ignored
          says:

          What Will said.

          IMHO, maybe what the SYG law should do is remove or reduce the duty to retreat, & expand the affirmative defense self-defense provides a bit. Make it so that any technical violations of the law committed during the act of self-defense are not indictable. For instance, I believe in WA state, if you have to use a gun to defend yourself, & you accidentally hit an innocent bystander, the DA has to be able to show you were grossly negligent (e.g. you were running away and shooting over your shoulder).

          Ms. Alexander was punished not for defending herself, but for firing a warning shot. This is actually a common way for DAs to go after people who defend themselves with guns (the other is to question why the defender did not fire a warning shot). (PS I’ve read different accounts of what happened with Ms. Alexander, & I honestly don’t know if she was guilty of something real, or the victim of an over-zealous prosecutor).

          Such laws create a nasty catch-22, in that a person may use lethal force to stop an attack, but may not do anything short of using lethal force to cause the attack to abort. Most people do not want to kill or maim another, even in self-defense. Their instinct is to try and scare off their attacker first. Too bad in most jurisdictions, warning shots are illegal (hell, in some, brandishing is illegal).

          Now you may be right, that such prosecutions are few & far between, but damn they make for good stories, and TV, and people read & see such things & fear that should they find themselves fighting for their lives, & they don’t do it exactly right, they’ll face a trial. Such things frighten people, make them do stupid things, like lobby for badly written laws.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Burt Likko
      Ignored
      says:

      If you go out into the night with a gun after a person who doesn’t know you exist, come back with that person dead by your gun, and that person proves to have been unarmed, at that point the presumption in the law ought to fall back on you to demonstrate by at least a preponderance of the evidence that you did in fact reasonably believe you needed to shoot the person to save your own life or avoid grievous (not just serious) bodily harm at his hands in order not to be guilty of at least 2nd degree murder, manslaughter, or a like crime. The law should not say that the prosecutor must show that there can no reasonable doubt that you didn’t reasonably believe this otherwise you will be guilty of no crime. I may be mistaken that this is what the law is (with or without a SYG regime), but that is what I understand Burt to be saying it is.

      I don’t have worked out all the general variables that lead me to that view yet. I’m trying to separate the elements of this situation from other hypotheticals, such as one that occurred in the light of day where there could be witnesses; or a situation in which neither party was looking to encounter the other before the confrontation that ended violently began; etc. But the moral and practical intuition (which to me seems the basis for much of the argumentation in favor of SYG laws and liberal gun control regimes – basically the pro-gun self-defense position) to me is clear. If, while packing heat, you initiate contact with someone on neutral, public ground who turns out to be unarmed, and end up killing them in view of no witnesses, then you should be prepared to be put in prison for along time if it can be proved you did physically kill them, unless you can show that you feared for your life (etc.). You can’t be going around initiating encounters away from witnesses with people who were minding their own business before you approached them that end with your using your gun to kill them and then enjoy a 95% presumption (my understanding of what a lack of reasonable doubt means) in favor of your reasonableness in so doing (because of a lack of (good) enough witnesses to the event).

      I’m in favor of the tilt for defendants in the criminal justice system – the high bar to conviction. But this is too much. In my view, it is a high bar just to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you physically killed someone where there were no witness to testify to what happened. If it can also be proved that you sought out for confrontation that person when he showed no interest in making contact with you, then in my view an additional no-reasonable-doubt standard for showing that the use of force that ensued was not taken in reasonable fear of your life is simply unrealistic, and we have effectively legalized a form of predatory killing properly executed.

      If you can be shown beyond a reasonable doubt to have taken your gun and killed people you sought out for confrontation, then you need to show you were reasonable in doing so. You should not enjoy a 95% presumption in favor of your reasonableness, such that it must be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that it was unreasonable to have used the force in order for you to face legal consequences for your action. If that is not what the law is, then it should be changed.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
        Ignored
        says:

        Might I request some feedback on this from the legally-trained-or-knowledgeable in the community here, even just on the factual level? Do I have correct here what the law requires (or doesn’t) wrt estabishing a self-defense legal defenses relating to incidents that occurred in public but out of view of witnesses? Generally, or only in certain places? Is this a function of relatively recent changes in the law (say, within the last three decades) in the fashion of SYG laws, castle laws (I realize those don’t apply to the condition I gave above, but they are a cousin to SYG), etc.? Or am I simply tilting at the ages-old standards for conviction on murder/manslaughter/assault w a deadly weapon charges, and I just need to get over it?

        If anyone has time to straighten me out, I’d appreciate it. Cheers.Report

  8. Avatar Miss Mary
    Ignored
    says:

    Nice to see you posting.Report

  9. Avatar Damon
    Ignored
    says:

    Couple thoughts not necessarily linked.

    Good post. Well thought out.

    Anyone who’s been around for a while knew how this incident would play out in the press and in the politics. Twana Brawly, Rodney King, etc. It hits all the preconceived notions, stereotypes, etc. I’m reminded of a thread about biased media somewhere else in this site given the well-known actions by NBC. That kind of “reporting” should get folks fired and those that exploited this for their own advancement/publicity deserve nothing but contempt-and I’m happy to give it.

    SYG: I’m generally a SYG proponent, if only because where I live, I have less rights. You see, even in my own house, I have to retreat from an invader until I can’t retreat anymore. I’m sorry, but that’s wrong. I shouldn’t have to retreat, at all. If someone comes at me with the intent to do violence, I should be able to stand my ground and defend myself, whether I’m in my own home or on the street (in a responsible manner of course). However Todd, you make some good points about “good people calling monsters to the door”. A review of the law SYG and a possible refinement MAY be in order. But do you really expect that level of nuance and clear thinking in this charged environment? I’m not optimistic.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Damon
      Ignored
      says:

      As I’ve noted elsewhere, the killing of Jordan Davis hasn’t cause one percent of the furor that Trayvon Martin’s caused, even though the circumstances are far less equivocal. And that’s because the police are seen to have done their job. SYG, which gave those police a reason not to do theirs, is the problem, not the solution.Report

  10. Avatar James Hanley
    Ignored
    says:

    Tod,

    More posts about risk management, please. They’re always exceptionally interesting to me (as a guy who’s done some reading on the effects of both rule-design and institutional culture).Report

  11. Avatar Pierre Corneille
    Ignored
    says:

    Do not misunderstand my meaning: I’m not saying that bad management makes monsters of good people that are already in the organization. I’m saying that once bad management is implemented it calls the monsters to the door. People who live to cross certain lines go out of their way to identify employers they believe will allow them to do so, or at least look the other way for a while.

    Tod (or others),

    Do you ever encounter a situation where bad management might actually create monsters out of non-monsters? I’m thinking of the Stanley Milgram Experiment(which perhaps says nothing more than that no one in their right mind ought to participate in a Stanley Milgram experiment)?

    I’m not saying this in an attempt to excuse anyone, but I do wonder what even the best of us might do if given the right (or wrong) incentives.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Pierre Corneille
      Ignored
      says:

      I believe there is truth to this as well, but the dynamic is different.

      To use the case of organizations that look after children, for example, I am unaware of studies that show that a lack of checks and balances creates sexual predators out of people not initially wired to be such.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Pierre Corneille
      Ignored
      says:

      I think the difference is that the “monsters” you can create are only pseudo-monsters; they’ve not evil, just weak (which I think is the real meaning of Arendt’s “the banality of evil”). Once you correct the rules, they’ll be good again. These are folks who will be troubled by what they’ve done–the bad rules harm them as well–and will be glad for matters to be set back on a good, less emotionally distressing, path. They’re the ones who will stick around when things are corrected, rather than quitting or getting themselves fired.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Pierre Corneille
      Ignored
      says:

      I don’t think bad management is capable of creating bad people all that easily. Attracts them, yes. Perhaps even demands them (there are times I think there’s a solid case that sociopaths make the best upper management.)

      But creates them? Eh, maybe the lower level sort of thing. Petty crimes, so to speak — supply theft, inappropriate workplace behavior (mild sexual harassment or racism, etc). People tend to adapt to the culture they work and live in, but….

      For Milgram to be relevant, management has to be pushing them actively into unethical behavior. Which is different from management overlooking unethical behavior. (Which also happens!)

      So passive permission and absent oversight might have the average joe act a little less ethically than he ordinarily would, but it’s corner-cutting versus crime.

      I do agree that poor oversight attracts people willing to exploit it. That’s basically the same dynamic that leads con-men to good marks.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Morat20
        Ignored
        says:

        sociopaths make the best upper management??
        ROFL. Yeah, if you like having poisons in your coffee.
        It’s a bad day when your dept. hires a poison tester, because “that would be too easy”Report

        • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Kim
          Ignored
          says:

          Think about the requirements to run a successful, cutthroat business. Especially the last decade or so in finance.

          Having an absolute total lack of empathy towards your clients, your coworkers, or your competitors was pretty much required. Sociopaths don’t have to be killers — they just have to be, in general, uncaring of the existance and problems of anyone other than themselves. Throw in a dash of “I deserve anything I want” and there you go — the modern leaders of the business world.

          If I’d simply said “heavily narcisstic” — well, what bigwig CEO’s have you met that aren’t ridiculously full of themselves and never, for a moment, doubt themselves? Heck, look at Gordon Gekko — or for a real life example, Trump. Or Madoff.

          Narcissism, self-confidance beyond any reasonable levels, completely unconcerned with the impact on anything but themselves….is there a better word for it?Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Morat20
            Ignored
            says:

            It’s not the self-confidence I have a problem with. It’s that they’ve never seen a whit of trouble in their carefree lives.

            I know a couple bigwig ceos that aren’t ridiculously full of themselves. the guy who runs costco. Hell, sam walmart wasn’t full of himself, either! (here’s the post where I reveal that I know people who lived in arkansas, way back when…).

            But for a lot of corps, the uncaringness about human lives, the killer instinct for the best deal, no matter the cost if it fails… That’s trouble.

            “Either I win, or everybody loses” is the motto of the sociopath.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Kim
              Ignored
              says:

              Exactly. I’m afraid that a lot of the skills upper management looks for (when they’re not engaging in the casual incest and nepotism of the boardroom) are the same things that characterize, at best, an extreme narcissist.

              There are always exceptions, but I tend to view those exceptions as genuinely talented people rising to the top — they don’t need to be sociopaths or extreme narcissists to do the job well.

              But they’re an isolated exception. Most of the managers I interact with (I’m white collar) are good people. But the level up or the level above them? You start getting to people who associate aggression with skill, who view themselves as sharks or predators, who take everything as a high-stakes, zero-sum game that they’re going to win come hell or high water no matter the cost.

              And someone relentless, mindless aggression somehow looks better (even if the results are worse) than knowledge and skill.

              Bluntly put, the upper reaches of management consist almost solely of people I don’t like, don’t trust, and whom I firmly believe would stab me in the back for half a dollar.Report

              • Avatar Major Zed in reply to Morat20
                Ignored
                says:

                I’ve had similar nightmares, that many of the people who “get the really big things done” in the world share those types of personality traits. Now, here’s the punchline. Why would political leaders be any different than business leaders?Report

    • Thanks to all who answered. I was at work today and couldn’t read them until just now.Report

  12. Avatar Mike Schilling
    Ignored
    says:

    Great stuff. I have one quibble:

    You’ll notice prisons are not exactly overflowing with suburban fathers who shot armed murderers and rapists who were coming at them with knives.

    I’m not going to defend SYG, which is a horror show, for the reasons you pointed out and others we’ve discussed these past months. But the thing about it that stands out to me is how it short-circuits the process: even if someone is indicted, if he wins his SYG motion, there is no trial, criminal or civil. What it’s intended to remedy, I think, is the suburban fathers who shot armed murderers and rapists who were coming at them with knives and were then bankrupted by attorney’s fees and a settlement paid to the criminal’s survivors, of which you can find many anecdotes (which I suspect are all exaggerated versions of the same two or three cases, but I don’t know this for a fact.)Report

  13. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    Tod,

    This is a fantastic piece, containing exactly the type of nuanced, reasoned thinking that most other coverage lacked.

    I will quibble with one part… your continued reference to Martin having committed no crime. Even if Martin HAD been committing non-violent crime (the type of crime he might have committed in the past and seems to be suspected of having been committing that night), it shouldn’t move the dial on our acceptance or tolerance of his death. I don’t care if Martin was robbing every house on that street blind; if he posed no threat to life or limb, it should not matter, not when assessing the acceptability of his death.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      I say this because, more broadly, folks tend to overly focus on these types of elements when discussing the outrage we should feel about particular victims.

      When Professor Gates had his run-in with the Harvard Police, much of the outrage was centered on, “He’s a professor! At Harvard! How outrageous?!?!” I understand this outrage is often offered as if to say, “If this can happen to someone like this, then what might happen to someone less ‘pure’?” acknowledging the reality that certain folks among us are more likely to be wrongly victimized, fair or not. But too often it seems to morph into, “Well, we shouldn’t accept innocent teenagers getting gunned down. But if he was smoking weed/stealing TVs… it’s not such a big deal,” which I find highly problematic.

      If someone was not engaged in actions that directly contributed to or legitimately upped the likelihood of his becoming a victim, that it shouldn’t matter where they fall on various “purity” spectrums (spectra?).Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      There is much truth to this, as there probably is in Dan’s comment above about gun culture in general. I considered discussing each point, but left them out for the same reason I chose not to discuss race issues that may or may not have played a part: basically, I wanted to frame everything around those parts that most reasonable people could agree upon so as not to muddy the waters with the point I was trying to make.Report

  14. Avatar James K
    Ignored
    says:

    This was a really interesting piece Tod.Report

  15. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    Tod,

    Slightly OT, but what are the types of safeguards or checks-and-balances a school might put in place to avoid attracting predators? At the very least, I know we do background checks (I believe they are mandatory). We solicit character references, at least for faculty. Generally speaking, we are a community of thoughtful, attentive people, though this isn’t mandated in any sort of formal way. Is this typically sufficient? Or is there more you’d recommend if you were consulting for us (realizing full well that you are not consulting for us and can only give the most general of advice)?Report

    • Avatar DRS in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      When I was working at a Boys and Girls Club some 10 years ago, keeping an eye out for predator volunteers was a big deal. A lot of them would be scared off by the mandatory-required-by-law police check or wouldn’t be able to provide character references that were timely (someone who’s 29-30 years old should have got past using high school teachers as sole character references – or “best friends” who barely remember them).

      The advantage for the clubhouse managers was that the overwhelming majority of these guys had already tried to volunteer at the Y or at local community centres as well so a few quick phone calls could elicit the right information. But I could see it was the kind of special insight that an experienced clubhouse manager would have acquired over the years.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      It depends on the specific situation, but pretty common tools are things such as having a policy where an employee is not allowed with a child in a room with a closed door by themselves. Or in the case of agencies that have overnight supervision of children, having a “one adult on site” policy to save money. (Some organizations, however, do have 1 employee – but have cameras set up that feed their data into an off-site server.)Report

      • Avatar DRS in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        No over-nighting but there were policies re the kids’ changerooms where non-staff adults (including parents – there was some squawking over that) were not allowed. And other things that the clubhouse manager didn’t mention, largely because they were gut feeling things rather than official things.

        He did say that in his 30+ years experience of working with kids he’d never seen wanna-be-predators vary their tactics much. They tended to do the same things that tripped staff sensors over and over again, and kept getting told their volunteer services were no longer needed.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        I think we might have some of those things technically on the books, but I don’t know how stringently they are enforced or followed.

        As a male in early childhood, a role that invites undue suspicion, I am hyper vigilant about protecting myself, and follow such practices voluntarily as best I can, whether or not they are policy.

        When I was interviewing, I know that a lot of the corporate day care organizations (e.g., Kindercare) videotape everything that happens in their facilities. This is partly intended to send a signal to parents about safety and security, but also probably has to do with the high turnover rates, low pay, and low hiring standards that such centers often have. These seem the type of place that might be targeted by sexual predators were it not for the cameras and other safeguards.Report

  16. Avatar DRS
    Ignored
    says:

    Another definition of “bad management” might be “passive management” – if there’s no structural incentive or even positive feedback for pointing out potential problems down the road, people aren’t going to do it but will fall back on deferring to the powers-that-be. If SYG wasn’t road-tested farther than Election Day, then it was almost guaranteed to have flaws built in.Report

  17. Avatar WhangoTango
    Ignored
    says:

    Given that “justifiable homicide” basically didn’t exist before SYG, it’s not particularly surprising that “justifiable homicide” would increase afterwards.

    And it’s not as though there’s blood running in the gutters around there. We’re talking something like one-in-a-hundred-thousand to one-point-five-in-a-hundred-thousand. If we shouldn’t have passed SYG because Cory Maye is just a statistical outlier who can be safely ignored, then why can’t we say the same about the results of SYG?Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to WhangoTango
      Ignored
      says:

      “Given that “justifiable homicide” basically didn’t exist before SYG”

      ???

      Not even remotely close to being true. All states have some kind of justifiable homicide law; all states that have SYG had them prior to SYG. In FLorida, the average number per year tripled the year after SYG, and has remained at that same tripled level since.

      “If we shouldn’t have passed SYG because Cory Maye is just a statistical outlier who can be safely ignored, then why can’t we say the same about the results of SYG?”

      Because the entire universe of possibilities does not consist of only “screw Cory Maye” or “incentivize people to not de-escalate” as the only two possible options.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        “But your honor, he shot my child 5 times and had put the gun up to her head to deliver the coup de grace, and I was 30 feet away, so of course I shot him before he could pull the trigger. ”

        “I’m sorry, but this state does not have a stand your ground law, so you cannot claim it was justifiable homicide. I hereby sentence you to 99 to life.”Report

  18. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    Hey, Tod. This was, again, a brilliant piece.

    From what I understand from folks in Law Enforcement, the folks most likely to benefit from SYG are not law-abiding citizens who find their own homes invaded but people like drug dealers who are fighting over turf. A guy comes onto your turf and tries to take, say, your corner? You can shoot him. When he is shot, you stood your ground.

    There were folks who were in mind when the law was passed. (Carjacking victims, I understand.) These folks are not the folks most protected by application of the law. Instead the law protects interactions that, rightly, we’d want our law enforcement officers investigating and then arresting folks for… like drug dealers stealing street corners from each other.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      “From what I understand from folks in Law Enforcement, the folks most likely to benefit from SYG are not law-abiding citizens who find their own homes invaded but people like drug dealers who are fighting over turf.”

      This sounds exactly right to me. Which, I guess, means that we’ve ever-so-slightly reduced the cost of the WOD by eliminating those pesky drug-related homicide trial costs.

      …yay…Report

  19. Avatar Samuel
    Ignored
    says:

    WOW just what I was looking for. Came here by searching for
    ribble cyclesReport

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *