Arguments for Trayvon

It’s 10:30 here in Las Vegas and 96 degrees, and with tonight’s news out of Florida, I know I’m not going to be getting any sleep without howling a bit first.

In spite of the widespread shock and outrage at the acquittal of Florida neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman for the murder of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, there are still plenty of people out there trying to come up with defenses for this, the most widely publicized miscarriage of justice since the wrongful execution of Troy Davis.

In the coming days, we’re going to be seeing rallies, marches, and perhaps even riots around the nation in response to this travesty, and some responses are going to be needed to the litany of excuses that are going to be offered for the decision of the jury.

Here’s what we’re probably going to be hearing:

I. The Court Must Be Right, Because It’s The Court

This image was posted about half an hour ago, and was receiving no small amount of support in the comment section. I imagine that this is going to be the first line of defense that critics of the outcry are going to fall back upon: citing the greater knowledge of the jurors and the accountability of the legal system.

Because we’ve never convicted innocent people before, or let guilty ones go free.

This is America. In 1993, The Scott Sisters were sentenced to life in prison for the heinous act of stealing 11 bucks. A trio of teens dubbed the “West Memphis Three” spent nearly twenty years in prison for a crime they were only recently acquitted of by DNA evidence.  LAPD officers Koon, Powell, Briseno and Wind who viciously beat Rodney King were acquitted of their crime. Bay Area Rapid Transit officer Johannes Mehserle was given just over a year’s worth of prison time, in spite having been caught on camera shooting prone suspect Oscar Grant in the back.

The point is, our courts aren’t exactly known for producing justice. Blind faith in the infallibility of the legal system is just, well, dumb. No, we don’t know everything that the jury did, but to use that line of thought would mean that we’d just accept the verdict handed down to the Scottsboro Boys.

II. Trayvon Had Drugs In His System

You’re going to be hearing this argument from people who don’t understand what drugs are or how they work. Good thing is, you don’t have to explain it to them- the drugs aren’t the issue. As a buddy of mine put it, “Trayvon could have been on PCP, that still wouldn’t have given Zimmerman the right to shoot him!”

And that’s really all there is to it. Being under the influence doesn’t mean it’s suddenly open season on you.

Oh, and just for the record, Trayvon had small amounts of marijuana in his system.

You know that drug that makes you really aggressive and violent?

Yeah, that’s not weed.

III. “Trayvon Martin Was A Thug!”

I didn’t know him, I can’t speak to his character- I seriously doubt that you can either, but that’s not the point.

I imagine it gets pretty cold in that glass house…

Trayvon Martin could’ve been the reincarnation of Pol Pot, Cortez, and Caligula rolled into a single person, and it still wouldn’t matter. Zimmerman had no way of knowing who Martin was when he started stalking him- not that it makes a difference. If we’re going to be determining who can or can’t be gunned down  on the basis of what your personality’s like, then we all might want to check our comment history and our past treatment of service industry workers and start investing heavily in some Kevlar.

IV. “Hey, Zimmerman Did This In Self-defense!”

If I followed you with a gun, stopped you, and started interrogating you, and you hauled off and hit me in the nose, and then I shot you, would that be “self defense”?

Of course not.

Self defense is when you’re minding your own business and you suddenly have to defend yourself against an unprovoked attack. Say you’re walking back to your house and some guy with a firearm stops you and starts grilling you because you look vaguely like someone else. You’re being detained against your will and intimidated by someone carrying a deadly weapon. In spite of being outsized and outgunned, you wallop the guy.

Now who’s acting in self-defense?

V. “You’re Just Angry Because This Is A Racial Thing…”

First, with the state of things in this country, it’d be pretty damn hard to imagine that this would have gone down the same way if Zimmerman had been black. But ignoring that issue, you’re still missing the point.

Each and every person in the rallies could be a raging bigot, but they are not on trial here. Whether people are angry for the right or wrong reasons is inconsequential; we have no bearing on justice. We could be frothing at the mouth because the judge didn’t wear a curly wig, and that wouldn’t alter the fact that a guilty man has been allowed to walk free.

Again, this isn’t about my reaction. This isn’t about the reaction of some politician or celebrity. This is about justice.

VI. “People Get Killed Every Day…”

I read the news at least three times a day- you don’t have to tell me. And yeah, that is true, this isn’t the first time murder has been committed. Heck, as tragic as this case is, it’s by no means the most heinous murder committed in recent memory. But that’s not the point either. This trial is not about those deaths- it’s about Trayvon’s. What’s happened in other places is irrelevant- this trial was meant to exact justice for this dead teenager, and it failed. To say that Martin shouldn’t get justice because other people don’t is nothing short of depraved.

VII. “I Don’t Want To Get Pulled Into This…”

This is by far the most vile response to the outcome of the trial yet. As the story is making it’s way around the internet, people are saying “Hey, I just want to look at my pictures of cats,” and really, this is the source of the other arguments attempting to disregard or downplay the result of the trial.

If something wrong has happened, it therefore means that you have to do something about it or be generally understood to be something of an ***hole. Or, of course, you can come up with some flimsy argument that there somehow hasn’t been some grievous miscarriage of justice, sparing you both the effort of taking action and your recognition of being an ***hole.

These aren’t defenses, they’re deflections by people too scared to either take a stand or to out themselves as selfish and egotistical.

Call them out on it. The result of the Zimmerman case is enraging enough without it being used by people to duck out of raising a voice.

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18 responses to “Arguments for Trayvon

  1. (1) The American justice system certainly is not perfect, but what exactly do you propose? That defendants should not receive a presumption of innocence (thus putting the burden of proof on the prosecution)? That they may be convicted regardless of any reasonable doubt? Those are cornerstones of the system, and if they are compromised then the likelihood of an erroneous conviction increases dramatically.

    (2) You are making a lot of assumptions re: self-defense. Simply following someone does not equate to confrontation (Zimmerman could have followed Martin all the way to his dad’s house with nary a modicum of interaction). More importantly we don’t know who started the confrontation that did occurred; maybe Zimmerman stopped Martin, maybe Martin stopped voluntarily. We simply do not know, and that’s where reasonable doubt creeps in.

    George Zimmerman is a racist prick because he saw a young black male and thought ‘he’s up to no good’, but it was the state’s responsibility to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that Zimmerman was either the aggressor (murder) or criminally negligent (manslaughter). They didn’t, because quite frankly it’s impossible given the dearth of evidence.

    • 1. My point about the imperfection of the justice system isn’t to say anything about justice system- it’s to respond to people who parrot that the court’s are infallible.
      2. Meh, I think there’s still a strong argument to be made that freaking about after someone’s been relentlessly following you- even from a distance- is justified. I frankly find it hard to believe that some kid on his way back to his house suddenly turned around and started beating the living daylights out of Zimmerman. As pro-gun and pro-self-defense as I am, I think Zimmerman shooting Trayvon was unjustified and Zimmerman had purposefully placed himself in a situation where he expected some form of confrontation. That might not be outright murder, but that’s still something.

      • Feeling uncomfortable is legitimate, preemptively defending yourself is not (assuming Martin was the aggressor, which I’m not necessarily asserting). If the former justified the latter then anyone could start a fight under the pretense that they felt unsafe; if I were in a bad neighborhood and felt unsafe because of its reputation for crime, I could confront the guy across the street regardless of whether or not he intended to mug me. That’s simply not how it works; danger must be clear and imminent in order to claim self-defense. Being followed (even by a stranger) is not clear or imminent danger.

        And as far as the notion that Zimmerman purposefully placed himself in a situation where he expected confrontation, what does that amount to legally? Claiming criminal negligence dependent upon the reaction of someone else is extremely tenuous, and according to Florida statutes if Zimmerman had reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury (which seems plausible given the evidence) he was justified in using lethal force. Zimmerman may be a racist dumbass, but strictly speaking there’s nothing illegal about being a racist dumbass.

        The true injustice here is not the verdict, but rather the focus on the verdict rather than the circumstances of the case. Why was a young black male seen as inherently suspect? Why was a man allowed to essentially self-deputize? Why, as a culture, do we see guns and self-defense as mutually inclusive? There simply isn’t enough evidence or rationale to convict George Zimmerman of a crime; but we certainly have reason to question what precipitated and enabled his actions.

        • I won’t disagree with anything you’ve got in the last paragraph, with the exception of the issue of the evidence. What it comes down to, I believe, is the question of whether or not Troy Martin initiated the fight by acting in such a way as to make Zimmerman feel that his life was in immediate danger. A situation in which Martin was wholly at fault (for the fight) strikes me as being highly far fetched. Doubt may be there, but reasonable doubt? I disagree.

  2. Adam Reinhardt

    The Prosecution should have gone for manslaughter. They would have likely won on that.

  3. I appreciate the concern and passion but feel that the argument you make is simply not rational. In fact, the four points you highlight (“This is what you’re probably going to be hearing”) evidence to me that you’re not thinking about what is crucial in this case. People may say all the things you’ve listed (and will) but the only one that is important is the point about self-defense, which you dispatch very cavalierly in a single sentence: “If I followed you with a gun, stopped you, and started interrogating you, and you hauled off and hit me in the nose, and then I shot you – would that be “self defense”?

    In this case, all that really counts is “What happened when Zimmerman and Martin came into contact with each other? What happened?” Because while following (I’ve read tons of comments focused on this as though it were all that matters – “He followed; he’s guilty!”) may be STUPID (and virtually everyone agrees to that) following is not a crime. What counts is: “What happened when they met?” And in order to convict the jury had to believe that whatever happened once they made contact, there are no plausible grounds for thinking Zimmerman was acting in self-defense when he pulled the trigger. None.

    And on this, the evidence simply does not close the door on the idea that at the moment Zimmerman shot he was acting in self-defense. An eye-witness saw someone on top of someone else and beating him. The back of Zimmerman’s head was cut. He had the broken nose. His back was soaking wet from being on the ground. The evidence suggests that he was the one screaming for help (even his own father, interviewed at the beginning, said it wasn’t his son’s voice on the tape screaming). Martin showed no signs of beaten beaten, and was found laying on his stomach with a single shot to his chest.

    Could anyone look at these facts and say that beyond a reasonable doubt it was Martin who was on the bottom being beaten? And if it was Zimmerman being beaten, head being bashed into the ground, screaming for help, then it’s not hard to see how he might at that moment have feared for his life. Could he have feared for his life at that moment? Is it possible that he could have feared for his life?

    It’s important to ask the questions in this strong form because to find him guilty of murder, the jury had to essentially conclude — “beyond a reasonable doubt” — that Zimmerman did NOT fear for his life at that moment and therefore just murdered Martin. I don’t see how a rational juror could have come to that conclusion.

    • Again, the issue is reasonable doubt, and there simply isn’t any doubt on the part of Zimmerman that’s reasonable. Consider the interaction. If Zimmerman wants to argue self-defense, then he must argue that Martin was unprovoked when he attacked- and there’s really no plausible situation imaginable for that. If Zimmerman had asked Martin if he had a minute to talk, and Martin had suddenly begun savagely beating Zimmerman, that would’ve been self defense, and grounds for acquittal. The likelihood of this having happened, however, is virtually nil, and considering the state of Zimmerman’s mind (acting against police orders to detain a bystander without any evidence or cause)- it really just makes that idea all the more far fetched.

      Even if Zimmerman had simply started a scuffle, and Martin had escalated it (by the way, seems illogical to give credence to Zimmerman just because he got beaten in a fight he, in all probability, initiated), as the initiator of the conflict, Zimmerman would still be guilty of either voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

      Let’s face it- he killed Martin. The burden of proof is upon him to demonstrate that he had due cause to do so, and he is unable to produce such evidence. Trayvon is also innocent until proven guilty.

      • The burden of proof is not on Zimmerman, it’s on the prosecution. Our justice system is predicated on the notion that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty; the trial started with the presumption that Zimmerman was innocent and his account was factual. It was the prosecution’s job to prove that he committed a crime; they couldn’t do that. And your last line is a non sequitur, because Martin isn’t the one on trial.

        And as far as ‘reasonable doubt’ is concerned, who are you to dictate what is reasonable? A scenario in which Zimmerman questions Martin, Martin shoves Zimmerman, and a scuffle ensues is wholly plausible. And for as implausible you find scenarios where Martin is the aggressor, there are people who think it’s implausible Zimmerman would assault someone when he knew the cops were coming.

        • In regards to the first paragraph, allow me to offer an illustration. If there was a dead body in my house, and I stated that I had killed the person, it would be on me to prove that I was justified in doing so. That I killed a guy is established, that I was right to do so is not. I must, therefore, prove that I was right in killing someone.

          In regards to the second paragraph, in a sense, Martin is on trial. If Zimmerman was justified in killing him, it would therefore mean that Martin was the assailant, something which hasn’t been proven either. But you are right that the jury simply found a lack of evidence to convict- which wouldn’t mean that Martin, by proxy, has been found in the wrong either.

          • Again, that’s not how it works. It is the prosecution’s burden to prove your guilt beyond reasonable doubt; you are only burdened to the extent that you must offer a rebuttal to their claims. That you killed a guy is established, that you were right to do so is not; the state must prove you were not. You are presumed innocent.

            • I won’t argue that the state didn’t botch the trial. The evidence is still stacked against Zimmerman in such a way where presenting proof of his evidence would be impossible. Acting against the demands of the police, Zimmerman stalked and confronted an innocent bystander. That Trayvon is dead is entirely and indisputably the fault of Zimmerman, which manslaughter, even if only involuntary.

            • You guys are misunderstanding burden of proof. And I’ll take your illustration: if a guy is dead in my house and I call the cops and say flat out “I killed him”, the DA must interview me and investigate the situation and decide whether to prosecute me, and for what crime. If they choose to prosecute the burden is on them to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I committed the crime they’re charging me with.

              In fact, if the cops say, “So why did you kill him?” and I say, “I woke up hearing a noise and came down stairs that this guy rushed at me like he was going to kill me, so I shot”, the state might decide to not even press charges. After all, how will they be able to prove that I simply murdered the guy? How will they know my story isn’t completely true?

              Now, if I had a cut on the back of my head and a broken nose and a witness looking through the window saw him sitting on me and pounding me and I was screaming for help before I shot him, even more so. In fact, after interviewing Zimmerman, the authorities at first decided not even to press charges. That’s how much they believed there wasn’t a case.

              Bottom line is that you guys can say all you want about how Zimmerman shouldn’t have followed and how he just has a few scrapes on him and how “his life wasn’t threatened” and … but neither you nor I were there watching what happened between them. So the reality is: you don’t know if Zimmerman was scared to death and thought his life was in danger or not. You don’t know. And if you don’t know, how can you say he’s guilty of murder “beyond a reasonable doubt”?

      • Listen, what I am objecting to in your original posting, in tons of comments I’ve read on other threads, on what Sharpton and others are doing to stir up anger all over the country (bet you $10 bucks some innocent people wind up dead), is NOT that people think the verdict was bad. Of course it’s possible that Zimmerman murdered Martin or committed manslaughter. The problem I have is with the confidence with which all of these people are “pronouncing” on this case, as thought it’s perfectly obvious that what we have here is a racially motivating killing. Ignoring so much of the evidence that was presented in the case that went to creating reasonable doubt..

        Just saw a headline today describing what happened as Zimmerman killing a guy who was “armed only with a packet of Skittles.” That kind of PURPOSEFULL misrepresentation of the situation…

        Again, the only eyewitness identified (from his cloths) the man on the bottom as Zimmerman. His back was soaked. He had the cut on back of head. He had the broken nose. The knees of Martin’s pants were soaked. Martin had to evidence of having been beaten. He was found laying face down whereas if he’s been on the bottom when shot he would have been on his back. The screaming for help seems to have been Zimmerman (why would a guy sitting on top and beating someone else be screaming for help?). It also makes no sense to think taht Zimmerman threw the first punch. When you have a gun you stand back and talk — you don’t walk up and slug someone. The actual evidence strongly suggests that whatever led up to it, Martin was sitting on Zimmerman and proceeding beat the daylight out of him and Zimmerman screaming and in a panic got to his gun and shot.

        Maybe it WAS manslaughter. The jury thought there was enough reasonable doubt. But this case is certainly not so OBVIOUS as it is being portrayed by Michael Moore and others with all this “He shouldn’t have followed – fry him!” “So now we can kill black teenagers whenever we like?” “Unbelievable!” (as though there is no evidence that points in any other direction). All this massively incendiary stuff based on gut feelings people have about this after reading headlines like “Zimmerman guns down black teenager armed with only a bag of Skittles” rather than (it seems) any knowledge of the details presented to the jury.

  4. All points are sound except for the first one, which is muddled. The Morpheus meme makes a good point, but instead of arguing against the point made by the post, you pretended that there were people claiming that the justice system is infallible. If there really ARE people out there that believe an absolute like that, they’re either trolls or ignorant dolts not worthy of recognition.

    Perhaps you followed the evidence and testimony of the court case very closely, but most people are casting their own judgement on this case based on what they hear in the news. I know all I’ve heard about it has been on internet media outlets. I have no right to argue with a jury who has witnessed evidence and testimony, when all I know is what I’ve been told by the mass media and memes. There is a good likelihood of a wrong decision, but so far, the people arguing that he should’ve been convicted are just as wrong as the ignorant bigots saying “n****s get killed all the time, etc.”

  5. Adam Reinhardt

    You don’t get to pull a gun in a fist fight and call it self defense. I’ve seen the pictures of Zimmerman after the altercation. He has a bloody nose and a few scrapes on his head. His life was never threatened. He got his ass beat because he stalked Martin and made him feel threatened. If Martin reacted inappropriately, Zimmerman should have gone through the appropriate channels of authority and prosecuted him, exactly as Zimmerman’s apologists have expressed they expected Martin should have done when he felt threatened by Zimmerman. But what we have here is the story of an over zealous watchman who stalked and chased down a kid – for being suspicious, based solely on his skin color – got his ass kicked after harassing him, and then responding to his ass kicking with lethal force. That does not fall under the category of self defense. Martin is dead because of Zimmerman’s reckless vigilantism and his bad temper in the face of losing a fight. Thats not murder, in the legal sense, but it could be considered manslaughter.

    • “You don’t get to pull a gun in a fist fight and call it self defense.” Is that really true, Ryan? Doesn’t it depend on the circumstances? It doesn’t matter whether it’s fists of rocks or knives or bottles (and when someone starts to bang my head against concrete, I don’t think of that as a “fist fight” any longer), if I am in fear of death or great bodily harm, of course I can pull a gun and shoot. A trained fighter might have far more control, but most people aren’t going to say to themselves, “OK, I’m going to fight with this guy and only when he’s banged my head six times on the pavement and I’m fairly certain he’s not going to stop and I’m going to die will I pull out my gun.”

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