As Predicted, Guilty Parties Walk in Zimmerman Trial
All around the Internet, journalists, pundits and bloggers are acquitting Stand Your Ground laws. “George Zimmerman’s defense team didn’t even invoke SYG!” they declare with an air of that’s that.
They are wrong.
Stand Your Ground didn’t need to be called as a witness for Zimmerman to be important; it didn’t need to have a FOX News “legal expert” tie its legislative tentacles into the shooting of a young black man to be relevant. SYG played a integral part in Martin’s death, and was entirely necessary in the cable news cottage industry that was the circus-like coverage of Zimmerman’s trial. Racism may or may not have held the gun that killed Martin (though it was absolutely used to turn his corpse into the living Rorschach test that followed), but it was absolutely SYG that pulled the trigger. Even if it wasn’t invoked in the courtroom, it was what was used to both set the stage and forgo a thorough investigation in the first place.
Back in December, I put on my risk manager hat to write the following:
As I have noted already, cultures often unintentionally and unknowingly signal tacit approval to those who wish to engage in extreme anti-social behavior. Were I Florida’s risk manager back in 2005, I would have advised them that shootings and subsequent political nightmares like the one involving Martin and Zimmerman were the inevitable outcome of Stand Your Ground. Telling your citizenry that, as far as the government is concerned, they have no legal or moral obligation to de-escalate a potentially deadly situation increases the odds of a deadly result. In fact, in a state of almost 20 million people it guarantees that certain types of people will go out of their way to put themselves in such a situation. To believe otherwise is to live in a fantasy world.
Was George Zimmerman such a person? I certainly can’t say for certain one way or another. But his history of “run of the mill” domestic violence and police assault – combined with his disregard for both his neighborhood watch training and instructions from the 9-1-1 dispatcher – suggest that the question is certainly open for debate. If so, then it’s folly to pretend that he missed his state’s message about the acceptability of escalating violence.
And if he wasn’t that guy? If he really is just some poor, well-meaning schmuck in the wrong place at the wrong time? Then a proper and thorough investigation would undoubtedly have put him in a damn better position than he is now: painted as a villain by many and facing a possible prison sentence in order to provide political cover for the same people that passed Stand Your Ground in the first place.
I also wrote then, as I believe now, that the real villains were the politicians who exploited public fear of criminals, thugs, and (yes) young black men for their own political gain by passing the unnecessary SYG:
Write us donation checks and vote for us, they cried in creating Stand Your Ground, for without our protection street thugs will come into your living room to kill you and your family, and you will have no legal choice but to let them! Never mind that it was a law designed to needlessly frighten people, and that didn’t actually solve an existing social problem. (You’ll notice prisons are not exactly overflowing with suburban fathers who shot armed murderers and rapists who were coming at them with knives.) So Floridians opened their checkbooks and voted appropriately, and the people who conceived, took credit for, and ran campaigns based in part on their support for Stand Your Ground were richly rewarded.
When the Martin shooting occurred and it became obvious that the ramifications of their law were going to be extremely unpopular, they decided to prosecute Zimmerman to placate the crowd. And they did so knowing full well that, thanks to their legislation, no actual prosecutable crime had been committed. Better for their reelection hopes and donation goals to let a jury take the heat for either acquitting him or ignoring the law and erroneously declaring Zimmerman guilty. I won’t even guess as to how the jury that’s picked ultimately will judge Zimmerman. But I’ll tell you right now that it’s going to be a hung jury – in the sense that they are going to be hung out to dry by Angela Walker, Marco Rubio, Richard Scott, Jeb Bush, and every other Florida pol who either pushed through Stand Your Ground or later pretended that the subsequent sharp increase in “justifiable homicides” was a good thing. They actively enabled this fiasco, and with their prosecution of Zimmerman they are hoping no one notices.
This morning, as I puruse both condemnations of the “white supremacist” jury and various apologetics for SYG, I see that what I sadly anticipated seven moths ago is tragically and predictably coming to pass. Those that set the stage for Zimmerman’s and Martin’s tragedy to fill their own coffers have gotten off Scot free; those whose necks were thrust into the hangman’s noose to take the fall are beginning to feel the floor beneath them dropping.
In the week or two , we’ll all forget all about George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin as some new cable-news cottage industry pushes them from our consciousness. Maybe a nice white blond girl will go missing in Ft. Lauderdale, and we will all fret that someone who looks so much like a professional model could come to harm. Maybe some young man in Brooklyn will sexually assault a woman, and that person will be reported to have been sporting a Kanye West tattoo, and we can all have heated debates over the role of hip-hop in Western Civilization’s decline. Maybe some affluent couple living in a gated community in Beverly Hills will be murdered by a person that entered the country illegally, and we can shout at one another over the degree to which that murderer represents all people of Latino decent who don’t have the proper paperwork. Who knows what it will be that we’ll talk about? All we really know for certain is that whatever we discuss, it won’t be Zimmerman and Martin because their use as a ratings booster is quickly coming to an end.
But those other stories will come, and when they do politicians in Florida – and your state too – will use the fear they engender to pass even crazier and even more unnecessary laws to protect you from the wolves. And as we rush to donate money and pledge our votes, we will be able to do so guilt free. After all, we’ll say to ourselves, SYG had nothing to do with the murder of that boy – what was his name again? – in Florida last year. The pundits said so.
And so it goes.
UPDATE: Not only are the comments here getting overly repetitive without getting anywhere, it’s pretty much an exact replica of what’s already going on (over and over) at Elias’s post. No sense in having two of posts full of the exact same 12 or so comments being repeated ad naseum, so I’m closing comments here. Feel free to join in at Elias’s threads, which you can find here.