Stilt dancers right outside the crib #harlem
#Afrobeat grooves in the apt.. Hope the neighbors don’t mind! …@scooter615 I wasn’t kidding on Sunday lol.
Several days have passed since the George Zimmerman verdict was handed down and I felt it was imperative to give myself some breathing room before chiming in with an opinion. Whether it is deserved or not (more on that later,) this case is surely to be the most polarizing and opined racial event of 2013, and I feel it deserves a measured and thorough response.
The debate thus far has been so rancorous and wide-reaching that it feels hard to organize and focus the discussion. I feel the best instrument for expressing my views is in Q and A format so what follows is some (and certainly not all) of the key questions which I believe have emerged.
Should George Zimmerman have been convicted?
In all honestly, given the laws as they are, probably not. Florida statues require that once self defense is introduced into the argument of the defense, the burden of proof lays with the prosecution to disprove that claim. Without going into a blow-by-blow rehash of the case, it will suffice to say that the prosecution, either though incompetence or as matter of what evidence was available did not prove this. We know that Zimmermann believed Trayvon to be suspicious even though he was unarmed, breaking no laws and had a right to be in the development where the incident occurred. We know that George Zimmerman followed him, with no credential or position entitling him to do so, and he did so while carrying a loaded weapon. We know that after George Zimmerman lost visual contact with Martin, a physical altercation occurred, one man was on top of the other, one or both men were screaming for help, and Zimmerman eventually removed his 9mm weapon and fired at close range to Trayvon Martin’s chest. We know that during the altercation, George Zimmerman took blunt trauma to the nose and the back of the head.
We do not know which man initiated the physical altercation, who was screaming for help or who was on top of who as the evidence in either direction is wholly inconclusive. It seems almost certain based on the evidence that Zimmerman fabricated parts of his account, including who said what to whom , as well as the volume of blows landed by Trayvon during the fight. Likewise it has been demonstrated that key witness Rachael Gentile fabricated part of her story as well, specifically her whereabouts at the time of Trayvon’s funeral. Though somewhat trivial, and understandable to wit, in a courtroom it necessarily challenges the veracity of her entire version of the events.
Does this ruling demonstrate that Stand Your Ground is a bad law?
It certainly does not demonstrate that it is a good law. It is actually a challenge to ascertain exactly how big a role the law had in the decision. Zimmerman waived his right to a stand your ground hearing and the trial was supposed to be decided entirely on the veracity of his claim to self-defense. In theory, if it had been proven conclusively that Zimmerman had not been acting in self-defense, he would not have been eligible for protection under the stand your ground law; and seeing as the jury came to the opposite conclusion, stand your ground was not required. Ultimately though, the spirit of the law was invoke, in the statement made by the acquitting judge that “If he [Zimmerman] was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force.” In an interview with Anderson Cooper, one of the jurors explained that the jury considered stand your ground, and it was a part of the jury instruction.
Much more damming to these laws is a Texas A&M (bastion of liberal thought that it is) study which demonstrates that these laws correlate directly to an increase in homicide rates. Attorney General Eric Holder’s comments regarding the law yesterday were extremely salient.
By allowing and perhaps encouraging violent situations to escalate in public, such laws [as stand your ground] undermine public safety. The list of resulting tragedies is long and, unfortunately, has victimized too many who are innocent. It is our collective obligation; we must stand OUR ground to ensure… that our laws reduce violence, and take a hard look at laws that contribute to more violence than they prevent.
More damming— or at least equally damming— is the racial disparities outside of this specific case which have emerged in studies and indicate with little ambiguity that the law is being applied with blatant prejudice.
If the statistics seem too dry, then consider two anecdotal examples— Cece McDonald and Marissa Alexander. Cece, a Black trans-woman was attacked by a group of drunk, meth-addled, Nazi-sympathizing Whites outside a bar in an altercation which began with a broken glass to Cece’s face resulting in a severed salivary gland and eleven stitches. After stabbing one of her attackers with scissors, she was the only person arrested and was eventually charged by an over-zealous Minnesota District Attorney with 2nd degree murder and thanks to a plea down to man-slaughter, Cece is currently serving a two year term. There was no evidence that Cece was stalking this man, or that she was suspicious of him until he and his associates provoked and assaulted her. Stabbing a person with scissors suggests the height of desperation, and as a trans-woman— the specter of a burly White-supremacist intimating comments of her impending rape during an assault surely suggests the height of vulnerability and intimidation.