Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, and Florida’s “Age of Barbarity”


Justice in the South - William Gropper
Di Goldene medineh (New York: Freiheit, 1927) Translation by Mir Yarfitz

On Saturday, February 23, 1923, in downtown Gainesville, a black man named Arthur Johnson shot and killed a white road construction worker named Hugh Cross. Johnson and another man had passed Cross on a sidewalk, “crowding” him, according to the Gainesville Sun’s first day story. Words ensued, and Johnson shot Cross just above the heart, killing him before he could be treated by a doctor. Cross had moved to Gainesville with his wife and young daughter just one month before his death.

Johnson made little effort to hide after fleeing the shooting. Police arrested him at his home and took him to the county jail, where a mob of 75 men immediately formed outside. They eventually dispersed without violence. After that, the Alachua County sheriff transported Johnson to Palatka and the custody of Sheriff Peter Hagan, who accepted the prisoners at the Putnam County Jail.

A few nights later, Peter Hagan single-handedly repulsed a mob of Cross’ co-workers as they stormed the Putnam County Jail in an effort to lynch Johnson. I’ve already published my account of that historic, heroic stand in an earlier Lakeland Local article. It left Hagan wounded in the hand. And the mob fired shots that narrowly missed his wife and terminally ill daughter.

But what I want to focus on briefly is the trial that Peter Hagan bled to secure for Arthur Johnson. The prosecutor was a man named J.C. Adkins, who would become Gainesville mayor eventually and whose son would become a prominent Florida Supreme Court justice. But the Johnson trial was Adkins’ first high-profile, media-saturated trial.

During that trial, according to the Gainesville Sun account, Adkins told this to the jury about the conflict that led to the killing:

“Johnson was coming along Virginia Avenue on the night of the shooting and bumped against [the victim] Cross, knocking him from the sidewalk. Cross came back at him as one naturally would and said, ‘what do you mean bumping into a white man’?”

After that, Johnson allegedly went into his sister’s house, grabbed a gun, and went back out to shoot Cross. A black woman, the sister’s neighbor, testified that as Johnson left with the gun, he declared, “He’s playin’ bad but I’m goin’ to show him how [expletive] bad I am.”

Think about that sequence of events — and the human nature on display — in connection with the awful case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, a black teenager suspended from school and a white, unregistered “neighborhood watch captain” with an apparent obsession with “suspicious” characters and at least one arrest related to violence towards cops.

Exactly how Martin, who was unarmed, ended up dead is obviously the core of the outrage in this case. But it’s also worth looking at the nature of the conflict that led to it. Ultimately, Martin is dead because George Zimmerman believed Martin did not have the right to walk through Zimmerman’s neighborhood acting “strangely” while wearing a hoodie in the rain. Perceiving those circumstances gave Zimmerman the right to carry out aggressive civilian surveillance, as one naturally would, in such a situation.

The 911 tapes indicate that Martin, an American citizen walking in a public street, reacted to this aggressive surveillance, this “playing bad,” with confrontation of his own — as one naturally would.

The rest is madness and death and pointlessness.

I compare these two cases to emphasize that the tribal and masculine instincts that underlie them have not changed in 89 years. We are still, all of us, I would argue, more likely to view people outside our tribe with suspicion. We are, all of us, apt to resist authority or scrutiny we consider unjustified or unfair. We don’t like people having power over us. Period. Men are particularly prone to let our testosterone get the best of us.

What has changed since 1923, since the Age of Barbarity, is how our laws read and how police enforce them. Those boundaries have helped shape custom. And thankfully, because of these well-ingrained customs of behavior, a vigilante case like Martin’s and Zimmerman’s makes big news because it is so shocking and aberrant. (Actual police killings — and the day-to-day tension of the failed drug war — are a bit of a different story for a different time.)

Back in 1923, Arthur Johnson was convicted of murdering Hugh Cross and sent to the gallows. He may have been the last person legally hung in the state of Florida before the electric chair and Death Row came into existence at Florida State Prison. (He was definitely one of the last two or three.)

But the trial that Peter Hagan bled to provide helped change Florida’s law enforcement customs — or so I argue in my book.

Just three years later, in 1926, J.C. Adkins aggressively prosecuted the murders of two Palatka black men — Willie Steene and Ed Chisholm — who were killed by vigilantes as they tried to rescue Steene’s mother from a vicious flogging by Ku Klux Klansmen. Adkins hauled in for questioning virtually the entire Putnam County political and law enforcement power structure in the face of withering public disapproval of his investigation.

The results led Gov. John Martin to threaten to declare martial law in Putnam County if the new sheriff — who had defeated Peter Hagan in 1924 — did not halt the mob violence in the county. It was the first and only such state-level intervention against Florida’s organized white vigilantes or the Klan during the heyday of their power in the 20s. But even that couldn’t get anybody punished. The Putnam grand jury refused to indict anyone and dismissed Adkins findings with a critical public statement.

Despite that, 1926, because of Adkins and many others, became a turning point in establishing civil society in Florida. It’s impossible to know, but I think it’s very likely that the 1923 trial of Arthur Johnson, during which Adkins was forced to prosecute Johnson using a disclaimer — as one naturally would — fed his commitment to fight the Klan. I think the idiocy of the sidewalk confrontation and killing — based on the pointless application of power — helped drive Adkins to apply the spirit of the 14th amendment, the equal protection amendment, to his jurisdiction.

And Adkins’ investigation wasn’t the only futile, but vital, act of law that emerged from 1926. Just before the Steene-Chisholm killings, a mob of respectable white men in the southwest Florida city of Labelle — most likely including the town marshal — gruesomely murdered a black man named Henry Patterson on May 11.

Why did they do this to Patterson, a construction laborer? A white woman had seen Patterson and become afraid. That seems to be it. It was enough to justify the torture and lynching of a completely innocent man.

And what does torture mean in this instance?

First the men of the mob shot Patterson, without killing him. Then they let him get away a few times, like the proverbial cat taunting the mouse, before catching him again. Then they cut pieces of his flesh and waved it to each other and bystanders.

One of the bystanders was the county prosecutor, who was named Herbert Rider. He unsuccessfully tried to talk the mob down. And in the aftermath, he moved to prosecute them with the full force of his office. It was the first 20th century prosecution of a classic lynching in Florida. It unfolded with no support from the state or local police, who were most likely involved in the lynching. It went nowhere. But again, like Adkins would a few months later, Rider began to establish custom and legal expectation that would pay dividends later.

These were men, agents of the state — doing great, great things — difficult things — with the power of their offices. They suffered the consequences. Peter Hagan lost the 1924 election after his stand at the jail. Rider was reviled in his hometown for years. Adkins was publicly humiliated.

Contrast the bravery and duty of Hagan and Adkins and Rider with the whiny buffoon who runs the Sanford Police Department today.

Our investigation is color blind and based on the facts and circumstances, not color. I know I can say that until I am blue in the face, but, as a white man in a uniform, I know it doesn’t mean anything to anybody.

The lie to this, of course, is obvious. Just ask yourself if there is any chance if Zimmerman was black and Martin was white — given the exact same circumstances — that the gunman wouldn’t have been arrested. Be honest.

What’s the out there that allows this to happen? What allows the Sanford police to go so passive aggressive? It’s the awful gray area inherent in our state’s stand-your-ground law. Based on honest observation of this case, we might as well rename it the vigilante-enabling act. It provides an easy excuse — a custom — for doing nothing.

The only conclusion one can draw from this case — thus far — is that we all have a license to kill as long as no one sees us, and we claim that we felt fear for our lives. At least when the conflict involves a clash across tribes. And we’re in the right tribe.

With the state and feds getting involved now, I’m hopeful this case will simply become an awful footnote, a moment of madness that killed a child and ruined lives. That’s the best case.

The worst case is a cultural move toward death by feeling. George Zimmerman says he felt scared of Trayvon Martin. So did the woman who encountered Henry Patterson in Labelle in 1926. You tell me what the difference is between what happened to them and how local police reacted. Loopholes for feelings are dangerous. When law enforcement permits tangible force based on abstract feeling, it undermines hard won custom. And custom is not permanent.

The Age of Barbarity always lurks where humans dwell. In a world where feeling dictates the contours of power, we all just play bad with each other.

Creative Commons License image credit: Tobias Higbie

40 thoughts on “Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, and Florida’s “Age of Barbarity”

  1. So how does Zimmerman’s revelation as a Hispanic instead of White change your meme? Slate updated their reporting just today with that little tidbit.

    But anyway, Zimmerman should be stripped of the “stand your ground” defense because he followed the “suspect” against instructions and purposefully placed himself in that situation. It wasn’t a chance meeting where Martin became an aggressor, Zimmerman sought the confrontation. Having the right to self defense does not deputize anyone. 

    Frankly, I’m quite pleased with the change in Florida’s Castle doctrine laws. Contrary to the catastrophic predictions of its opponents, much like AGW theory, the changes to our Castle doctrine has not led to any bloodbaths in the streets. As you well know, isolated things like this have happened all through history and a careful statistical analysis will almost certainly reveal there to be no increase in violence. There never has been in any State that has liberalized its gun and self-defense laws. Let me repeat that, there has never been a statistical increase in gun related violence when gun laws are liberalized. In fact, the evidence is overwhelmingly in the opposite directly. There is a direct correlation between tighter gun restrictions and increased violence. Liberals always do the Chicken Little when gun laws are loosened, but never get to come back with non-anecdotal proof to say “I told you so”…

    Licensed concealed carry individuals commit gun crimes at vanishingly small rates, far less then the general population. You can document that in any State that permits concealed carry.

    • Eventually, those statistics will change.  In the mean time, I will say it, “I told you so.”

    • Skep: 

      I don’t think you know what meme means. Go look it up, and you’ll find that “as naturally would” is the closest thing to a “meme” in my piece. I think you’re asking how my point or argument would change.

      And for that, consider that the core of my piece, as other readers seem to realize, was this: 

      “The only conclusion one can draw from this case — thus far — is that we all have a license to kill as long as no one sees us, and we claim that we felt fear for our lives. At least when the conflict involves a clash across tribes. And we’re in the right tribe.”

      So you tell me how it would change. In this case, the tribe is as simple as a guy from inside his neighborhood attacking someone from outside it. And then there are other layers built on top. I choose my words carefully, unlike you. I used the tribe generically for a reason. 

      Here are some questions for you, which I challenge you to answer with something other then fake-Libertarian tourette’s.

      1) Can you name a single instance in which the “stand your ground” law has been used to appropriately clear someone who would not have been cleared by any longstanding self-defense laws? Because I can now cite one case in which it likely enabled murder.

      2) Why is a teenager shot dead in the street not a “bloodbath?”

      3) Can you cite a single instance of me attacking the right to armed self-defense or concealed carry permits? You should be screaming at SPD. They’ve done more in undermine your law than any liberal possibly could.

      4) I love that you think Zimmerman “should be stripped” of his defense.  Really, by whom, libertarian man? The magic of enlightened self-interest? Thus is the core of libertarianism’s intellectual and moral bankruptcy. You hate the idea of a thing that would have power to “strip” Zimmerman and his defense right up until the time it’s politically useful for you. Shouldn’t you be furious that the feds have pushed the state to act, thus overriding the judgment of local law enforcement.  

      In short, I suggest you read more closely and answer with answers, not bumper stickers. But I also realize there’s no chance that will happen, which is why I don’t respect you or your beliefs — unlike say, DonkeyRock, from whom you could take lessons.

      • So you recount Florida’s racist past in some detail and you expect to segue into some generic “tribes” conversation? It appears Zimmerman was a “wanna be” cop and might have done the same to anyone, regardless of race. This was a failure of an individual and not his “tribe”. The HOA didn’t form a posse or a lynch mob and go after the kid. The MSM was all over this while it appeared to be a white on black crime, that’s now souring for them as Zimmerman was revealed to be Hispanic.

        Oh, this will make you upset: A Black man acquitted because of “stand your ground”… One more straw man burned…

        Bloodbath: An event or situation in which many people are killed in a violent manner.

        A single teenager is a sad, stupid tragedy to be sure, but it is not a bloodbath.

        Zimmerman chased the kid and I’ll bet that when he shot him he (Zimmerman) was probably trespassing on someone else’s property unless the confrontation happened directly in the street. That’s not self defense in any reasonable sense and I’ll bet my pseudonym that he gets prosecuted for this. It can’t be self-defense, by definition, if you are the pursuer and aggressor. You could possibly be defending someone else by doing that, but there doesn’t appear to be that opportunity here in this case as no one else was present for Martin to have been presenting a threat to. Zimmerman is responsible for stripping his right to self defense by his own actions. Here’s the relevant law:

        776.041 Use of force by aggressor.—The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:…(2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless:

        I have included the entire statue below to avoid charges of selective editing…

        Justice will win out here because when it’s all said and done, Zimmerman will be revealed to be the mutt that he surely must be and Martin will be revealed to be the great kid that he appears to be. “Stand your ground” does not provide the presumption of a threat in public spaces, only in private spaces. “Stand your ground” only means that you can’t be forced to retreat from public spaces, it does not provide the presumption of a threat. You are still subject to review as to whether or not the threat was real.

        You can be very eloquent Billy, but that just means you can be wrong with flair!  ;-)

        Title XLVICRIMESChapter 776 JUSTIFIABLE USE OF FORCEView Entire ChapterCHAPTER 776
        JUSTIFIABLE USE OF FORCE776.012 Use of force in defense of person.
        776.013 Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.
        776.031 Use of force in defense of others.
        776.032 Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.
        776.041 Use of force by aggressor.
        776.05 Law enforcement officers; use of force in making an arrest.
        776.051 Use of force in resisting arrest or making an arrest or in the execution of a legal duty; prohibition.
        776.06 Deadly force.
        776.07 Use of force to prevent escape.
        776.08 Forcible felony.
        776.085 Defense to civil action for damages; party convicted of forcible or attempted forcible felony.776.012 Use of force in defense of person.—A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or
        (2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013.History.—s. 13, ch. 74-383; s. 1188, ch. 97-102; s. 2, ch. 2005-27.776.013 Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.—(1) A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and(b) The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.
        (2) The presumption set forth in subsection (1) does not apply if:(a) The person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or vehicle, such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder, and there is not an injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision order of no contact against that person; or(b) The person or persons sought to be removed is a child or grandchild, or is otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of, the person against whom the defensive force is used; or(c) The person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity or is using the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle to further an unlawful activity; or(d) The person against whom the defensive force is used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who enters or attempts to enter a dwelling, residence, or vehicle in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person entering or attempting to enter was a law enforcement officer.
        (3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
        (4) A person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter a person’s dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.
        (5) As used in this section, the term:(a) “Dwelling” means a building or conveyance of any kind, including any attached porch, whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, which has a roof over it, including a tent, and is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night.(b) “Residence” means a dwelling in which a person resides either temporarily or permanently or is visiting as an invited guest.(c) “Vehicle” means a conveyance of any kind, whether or not motorized, which is designed to transport people or property.History.—s. 1, ch. 2005-27.776.031 Use of force in defense of others.—A person is justified in the use of force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent or terminate the other’s trespass on, or other tortious or criminal interference with, either real property other than a dwelling or personal property, lawfully in his or her possession or in the possession of another who is a member of his or her immediate family or household or of a person whose property he or she has a legal duty to protect. However, the person is justified in the use of deadly force only if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. A person does not have a duty to retreat if the person is in a place where he or she has a right to be.History.—s. 13, ch. 74-383; s. 1189, ch. 97-102; s. 3, ch. 2005-27.776.032 Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.—(1) A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.
        (2) A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.
        (3) The court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income, and all expenses incurred by the defendant in defense of any civil action brought by a plaintiff if the court finds that the defendant is immune from prosecution as provided in subsection (1).History.—s. 4, ch. 2005-27.776.041 Use of force by aggressor.—The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:(1) Is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of, a forcible felony; or
        (2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless:(a) Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or(b) In good faith, the person withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.History.—s. 13, ch. 74-383; s. 1190, ch. 97-102.776.05 Law enforcement officers; use of force in making an arrest.—A law enforcement officer, or any person whom the officer has summoned or directed to assist him or her, need not retreat or desist from efforts to make a lawful arrest because of resistance or threatened resistance to the arrest. The officer is justified in the use of any force:(1) Which he or she reasonably believes to be necessary to defend himself or herself or another from bodily harm while making the arrest;
        (2) When necessarily committed in retaking felons who have escaped; or
        (3) When necessarily committed in arresting felons fleeing from justice. However, this subsection shall not constitute a defense in any civil action for damages brought for the wrongful use of deadly force unless the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent the arrest from being defeated by such flight and, when feasible, some warning had been given, and:(a) The officer reasonably believes that the fleeing felon poses a threat of death or serious physical harm to the officer or others; or(b) The officer reasonably believes that the fleeing felon has committed a crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm to another person.History.—s. 13, ch. 74-383; s. 1, ch. 75-64; s. 1, ch. 87-147; s. 54, ch. 88-381; s. 1191, ch. 97-102.776.051 Use of force in resisting arrest or making an arrest or in the execution of a legal duty; prohibition.—(1) A person is not justified in the use of force to resist an arrest by a law enforcement officer, or to resist a law enforcement officer who is engaged in the execution of a legal duty, if the law enforcement officer was acting in good faith and he or she is known, or reasonably appears, to be a law enforcement officer.
        (2) A law enforcement officer, or any person whom the officer has summoned or directed to assist him or her, is not justified in the use of force if the arrest or execution of a legal duty is unlawful and known by him or her to be unlawful.History.—s. 13, ch. 74-383; s. 1192, ch. 97-102; s. 1, ch. 2008-67.776.06 Deadly force.—(1) The term “deadly force” means force that is likely to cause death or great bodily harm and includes, but is not limited to:(a) The firing of a firearm in the direction of the person to be arrested, even though no intent exists to kill or inflict great bodily harm; and(b) The firing of a firearm at a vehicle in which the person to be arrested is riding.
        (2)(a) The term “deadly force” does not include the discharge of a firearm by a law enforcement officer or correctional officer during and within the scope of his or her official duties which is loaded with a less-lethal munition. As used in this subsection, the term “less-lethal munition” means a projectile that is designed to stun, temporarily incapacitate, or cause temporary discomfort to a person without penetrating the person’s body.(b) A law enforcement officer or a correctional officer is not liable in any civil or criminal action arising out of the use of any less-lethal munition in good faith during and within the scope of his or her official duties.History.—s. 13, ch. 74-383; s. 1, ch. 99-272.776.07 Use of force to prevent escape.—(1) A law enforcement officer or other person who has an arrested person in his or her custody is justified in the use of any force which he or she reasonably believes to be necessary to prevent the escape of the arrested person from custody.
        (2) A correctional officer or other law enforcement officer is justified in the use of force, including deadly force, which he or she reasonably believes to be necessary to prevent the escape from a penal institution of a person whom the officer reasonably believes to be lawfully detained in such institution under sentence for an offense or awaiting trial or commitment for an offense.History.—s. 13, ch. 74-383; s. 7, ch. 95-283; s. 1193, ch. 97-102.776.08 Forcible felony.—“Forcible felony” means treason; murder; manslaughter; sexual battery; carjacking; home-invasion robbery; robbery; burglary; arson; kidnapping; aggravated assault; aggravated battery; aggravated stalking; aircraft piracy; unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb; and any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual.History.—s. 13, ch. 74-383; s. 4, ch. 75-298; s. 289, ch. 79-400; s. 5, ch. 93-212; s. 10, ch. 95-195.776.085 Defense to civil action for damages; party convicted of forcible or attempted forcible felony.—(1) It shall be a defense to any action for damages for personal injury or wrongful death, or for injury to property, that such action arose from injury sustained by a participant during the commission or attempted commission of a forcible felony. The defense authorized by this section shall be established by evidence that the participant has been convicted of such forcible felony or attempted forcible felony, or by proof of the commission of such crime or attempted crime by a preponderance of the evidence.(2) For the purposes of this section, the term “forcible felony” shall have the same meaning as in s. 776.08.(3) Any civil action in which the defense recognized by this section is raised shall be stayed by the court on the motion of the civil defendant during the pendency of any criminal action which forms the basis for the defense, unless the court finds that a conviction in the criminal action would not form a valid defense under this section.(4) In any civil action where a party prevails based on the defense created by this section:(a) The losing party, if convicted of and incarcerated for the crime or attempted crime, shall, as determined by the court, lose any privileges provided by the correctional facility, including, but not limited to:1. Canteen purchases;
        2. Telephone access;
        3. Outdoor exercise;
        4. Use of the library; and
        5. Visitation.(b) The court shall award a reasonable attorney’s fee to be paid to the prevailing party in equal amounts by the losing party and the losing party’s attorney; however, the losing party’s attorney is not personally responsible if he or she has acted in good faith, based on the representations of his or her client. If the losing party is incarcerated for the crime or attempted crime and has insufficient assets to cover payment of the costs of the action and the award of fees pursuant to this paragraph, the party shall, as determined by the court, be required to pay by deduction from any payments the prisoner receives while incarcerated.(c) If the losing party is incarcerated for the crime or attempted crime, the court shall issue a written order containing its findings and ruling pursuant to paragraphs (a) and (b) and shall direct that a certified copy be forwarded to the appropriate correctional institution or facility.

        • I knew you couldn’t do it.

          And I just want to remind you that “stand-your-ground” did not invent self-defense. A man being beaten to death in a parking lot would have been cleared 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, assuming there

          • You’re wrong. 

            Up until the change in the law, one of the questions asked in a defensive use of force situation was “could the defender have retreated from the threat without increasing their risk?”. I don’t have time for the citations right this minute, but there were successful prosecutions because the situation got armchair quarterbacked and the defender was convicted because the prosecutor convinced a jury that the defender could have run instead of fight and therefore made the aggressor the victim of a crime through the act of self defense.

            That’s why they changed the law.

          • So I guess I didn’t cover the 1998 trial of Ira Dixon is Palatka Florida where he was acquitted on self-defense grounds in a street shooting with facts far less clear than the case you cited. That didn’t happen, cuz, you know, there wasn’t a law or something.

            Still waiting for you to answer who should strip Zimmerman of his defense. Clown.

          • Pathetic. There are open questions to you that you won’t answer because you want to reduce a kid’s death to “winning” and some football game of the left. You’re a moral and intellectual coward in every way. And you’re a liar who can’t accurately describe what someone has written. Done with you again until you man up and answer the questions you were asked.

          • I answered your questions Billy, the problem is the answers don’t fit your confirmation bias and are therefore being filtered out by your emotional responses.

          • It’s always so refreshing to see the tolerance of the Left on full display.

          • Don’t be dense Billy. It’s all right there. Zimmerman can’t use the “stand your ground” defense because he pursued Martin. And because he pursued Martin, Zimmerman became the aggressor and therefore had no right to self-defense in the ensuing confrontation.

            Through his own actions, Zimmerman has stripped himself of his right to self defense.

            Unless there is some evidence heretofore unknown that Zimmerman was protecting a third party from an attack by Martin, Zimmerman is going away for a long time. As he should.

            And yes, the Sanford cops were total Keystone’s in this case.

      • Meme:  “an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” In this case “racist whites still commonly kill black people”. Real subtle with the whites lynching a black man for the illustration. Defines those “tribes” of yours quite well.

  2. Well said SkepticalEnlightenment. I think it can be racist even if Zimmerman is Latino, but I agree with your statements about gun control and not being deputized. I think this is a murder case without question. There’s little that Martin could have done in that situation that wouldn’t have resulted in his death.

  3. SkepticalEnlightenment: I think the author’s point isn’t about gun laws or gun control. In fact, guns seem pretty tangential to the point, which I believe is as follows: when homicides happen, the outcome of the investigation heavily depends on the victim’s race and the perpetrator’s race. Sadly, I believe that race does play a part in it.
    At least the way it has been reported lately, it seems the shooter had no reason to fear for his life and there is no evidence to suggest that the victim was committing a forcible felony. There appears to have been no questioning of people who could give evidence to back this up: apparently the victim’s girlfriend was not questioned even though she was talking to the victim no more than minutes beforehand. The shooter wasn’t tested for drugs or alcohol in his body at the time of the shooting.

    This is not about guns or gun control. This is about the law and due process that is truly impartial and not based on race or color or whatever else.

    • Sorry, sjr, I think you took Billy’s bait. He build a meme of white racism by reminding us of Florida’s terrible race history as a way to build up to the idea that racism is still rampant among us and was directly responsible for the death of this innocent teenager. In doing this, Billy was uncritically buying the mainstream media spin. When Zimmerman was revealed as Hispanic all that racial angst evaporated and all we’re left with is a tragic crime that shouldn’t have happened. Zimmerman will go to jail for a long time for this.Sadly, Martin will receive justice posthumously when Zimmerman is convicted of some form of murder.

  4. And you are offering your personal opinion to refute decades of empirical studies? Must be nice to be omniscient. What are next week’s Lotto numbers??

  5. I find it difficult to disagree with anybody here, so far. But, I do think gun control is a legitimate point of discussion in this case.  Zimmerman had a history and an agenda. Take away his gun and replay the situation. 

     And, no, Skep, I don’t know next week’s Lotto numbers, but I do know for a fact, that eventully, someone will win and lots of people will lose.

  6. So you’ve read Zimmerman’s mind now and have a complete record of his thoughts? If he’d shot a White teenager, would it have been racism? An Asian maybe?

    Why is it you think this? Aside from perhaps your own bias, what evidence do you have that a White, Asian, or Hispanic kid would have survived that same set of circumstances that killed a Black?

    Without some kind of evidence to back up a statement like that, you and people like you are responsible for perpetuating some of the remaining racial divide in this country.

  7. I’m late, but whatever.

    I don’t see the racism angle. Some claim the 911 tape has him saying “coons,” but that’s unlikely. As far as I’ve heard, he didn’t use any racial epithets in the dozens of calls to 911 before this incident, so I discount the race card.

    Also, Treyvon was not a purely innocent kid. There is a record of him getting into fights and shooting paintball guns at cars (typical teenager?), but that pattern could be evidence of Zimmerman’s story (Orlando Sentinel: Police: Zimmerman says Trayvon decked him with one blow then began hammering his head)

    This is not to say Zimmerman is guiltless, but his use of deadly force in his defense may be justified. However, because Zimmerman was following Martin in the first place, that could lead to many legal arguments about who started what. If what Zimmerman says is true, and since the police let him go I’d say that it seemed probable to them that Zimmerman was telling the truth, then his release for self defense seems justified.

    • I think, DR, if you bring a gun and a confrontation to a street, which Zimmerman did, and the unarmed 17-year-old ends up dead, which he did, you should have the expectation of being arrested. Then you go make your self-defense case to a jury. This case says the opposite, so far.

       I think this was a fight between two people “playing bad”, as I wrote, with likely mutual, but differing, levels of culpability. In these instances, more often than not, the person from the wrong tribe gets screwed. That’s just a fact of history. When law enforcement, which is made up of human beings, investigates these fairly murky cases, it’s likely that affinity plays a role, even subconsciously. You throw in stand-your-ground, which adds another layer of ambiguity, you have this.

      My piece argues that we should work to constrain, not expand, the ways in which the human beings in law enforcement can apply judgments about violence. I think the furor over this case is accomplishing that now, but without it…

      Like anybody else, cops will find reasons to excuse people they identify with and stick it to people they don’t — without even realizing they’re doing it. Human nature does not end when you put on a uniform.

      • I think that Zimmerman’s injuries clearly speak to his rightful use of his weapon in self defense. Besides, when is being prepared for a bad situation ever wrong (damn boy scouts)? For all we know, we could be talking about the (spin zone) tragic death of a saintly neighborhood watch guy who only wanted to help his neighbors keep away the bad guys who obviously were prowling around his neighborhood (/spin zone).

        I think the Stand Your Ground law speaks to an important aspect of self defense, where the victim is further victimized by an assumption of guilt because he/she didn’t retreat from an attacker. The automatic detention of the victim because he/she defended him-/herself is just insult upon injury.

        In this case I don’t see the cops acting tribally in collusion with Zimmerman. From what I’ve read (this would not be close to an exhaustive reading, mind you), they saw a bloodied victim, a dead attacker, and corroborating witnesses to Zimmerman’s account. The Sanford chief may not be great, but he seems to be doing fine under such withering scrutiny.

        • OK. Trayvon was being followed by an aggressive stranger with no legal authority who was armed. That’s assault. He was visiting someone legitimately. Why wasn’t he entitled to stand his ground with force? In what you have described, any participant bloodied in any fight has a right to kill during the fight.

          • Following someone isn’t assault, but it might put the person being followed in a defensive state of mind. Still, it wouldn’t give him the right to attack the follower, and in any physical attack it should be obvious that the attackee should defend his life and health the best way possible. I certainly won’t rely on the charity of an assailant, nor should anyone.

          • go look up assault. you’re not required to touch someone. verbal threat is enough. And you are bending over backwards to give beenfit of doubt to Z, but not T. The facts are veyr much in questionm but you are giving BOD to teh person not dead.

          • The person not dead is the reason we’re having this discussion. Giving the benefit of the doubt to Zimmerman is only right, as he’s the one who might go to trial, and he’s innocent until proven guilty. And yes, the facts are still very much in question. Zimmerman could be a psycho for all I know. Martin could be a violent thug for all I know.

          • And for the record, if you and I get in fight, and you cause me to bleed, am I justifeid in killing you? yes or No.

          • If I break your nose, punch you repeatedly in the face while I’m on top of you, and bash your head into the ground over and over again, you’re justified in shooting me dead. Especially if I punch you first, initiating the violence.

          • If you’re pursuing me, armed, based on no probable cause of anything, you can kill me if I punch you. Wow. You I want to live in very different worlds. You’re inviting death outside half the bars in the state every weekend. You have not thought this through.

          • Billy, we live in the same world, and the situation you describe happens all the time, but there’s rarely the catastrophic ending you envision. The Stand Your Ground law is in effect: no massacres. Bars are open all over the state: no massacres. People follow other people and talk shit every day: no massacres. Fights happen every day: no massacres.

            Your boogeyman doesn’t exist.

    • Also, I think if you’re going to raise Trayvon’s record, you should raise Zimmerman’s worse record, which involved domestic violence reports and an arrest for battery on a LEO. The SPD described him as squeaky clean. He wasn’t. See what I mean about affinity? People rally around the people with whom they identify viscerally. The point of my pieces is to encourage lawmakers and cops to fight that instinct, not enable it.

      • If I recall correctly, Zimmerman wasn’t convicted of anything, so his record would be clean. Being arrested is not guilt. I think what some people are reacting to is the oversimplification of good and bad, the seemingly automatic assumptions that you are talking about, but on the other side of the spectrum.

        In the end I don’t care about the case either way, what concerns me are the reactions from the public, in which the tribal aspects of your piece are coming into play, but in the opposite way. Zimmerman is mostly assumed guilty, even by a lot of non-blacks, so the tribal quality moves to philosophical affinity, not racial affinity.

        • And your own verbal treatment of Muslims never assumes guilt based on tribal motives. I think we must all assume that affinity is always at work within us. All of us. Which is why we must be very suspicious of grey ares relaetd to violence and cusomt.

  8. Remember this that yuo said to me:
    “Those are the people, Billy, that you defend. I find your support for Jihad disturbing.” you said I was a jihad supporter because I got crossways with you over an affinity issue. It’s awlasy at work, DR.

    • If you would link me to the article/comments where you got that, I’d appreciate it. No denial, just need to see all of what was written.

      Blanket statements about any group will be wrong, but I try to base my opinions on what is known, and when a majority of Muslims (not all of them) side with hard-line Islamic policies, I resort to using the blanket statement. That’s far from tribal, basing opinions on what people say about themselves and what they prefer.

      I can’t say I’m not tribal in some ways, or that others aren’t tribal, but I don’t assume such tribal predelictions are in force in this case. From what I’ve read, it doesn’t seem very tribal at all that the white Sanford police wouldn’t arrest the Hispanic Zimmerman after killing the black Martin.

      • btw, sorry i can’t type. text disappears below the box so it makes me garble words. 

    • Could they have a sub-/unconscious affinity, yes. Did they? I don’t think so, not from what I’ve seen. I’m sure more info will come out, and we may be able to clarify what happened, but as of now, I don’t think the Sanford police acted egregiously for Zimmerman or against Martin.

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