Standing Up For the Constitution

The Constitution is not a rough draft. You don't get to edit or erase parts of it to delete rights for an unpopular or hated defendant.

The Bill of Rights was designed to protect the rights of the citizen accused from the awesome powers of the Government. It was not enacted to protect the rights of crime victims.

The presumption of innocence is a bedrock of our criminal justice system that applies to the person charged with a crime, not the victim of a crime.

Self-defense is an affirmative defense that may be raised by a defendant in court in response to a criminal charge. [More...]

When partisan politics threatens the Bill of Rights, progressives especially need to get their priorities straight: The Bill of Rights must prevail. Those who disagree do a disservice to the word "progressive." Their backwards thinking is just the opposite.

Under Florida jurisprudence (cases assembled here), once a defendant has introduced any evidence of self-defense, no matter how flimsy, even if it's just his own testimony, he has the right to have the jury instructed on his theory of self-defense. At every trial in every state in America, the burden of proof for the charged crime always rests on the state and never shifts to the defendant. In Florida, the state must not only prove the charged crime or a lesser included offense, but also disprove self-defense.

A killing that occurs through the justifiable use of force is not unlawful. It is not a crime. The defendant does not have to produce any evidence or testify. The state's must prove the charge and disprove self-defense by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. A reasonable doubt can arise from the evidence presented or the lack of evidence presented. (See the jury instructions.)

The defense did not argue Stand Your Ground. Prosecutor John Guy told the jury in his closing argument, "Let me suggest to you, in the end, this case is not about standing your ground."

In order for the aggressor statute to apply, the state must introduce evidence that the defendant provoked the use of physical force. It is not enough if he provoked fear. The state argued and the court ruled against the state's request to have the jury instructed on the aggressor provision. It failed to produce evidence that Zimmerman used physical force against Martin or threatened to use physical force.

This was a case of self-defense. The state failed to prove Zimmerman had the mental state of ill-will, hatred, spite or evil intent necessary for second degree murder. Goodbye Murder 2. It failed to disprove Zimmerman acted in self-defense. Goodbye manslaughter.

Trials are conducted in courtrooms, not living rooms. The public has a right to view the proceedings. It does not have a right to inject its opinions into the proceedings or affect the outcome. The jury must base its decision only on the testimony and evidence produced at trial and the law as instructed by the judge. Morality has nothing to do with it.

The Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to a fair trial by a impartial jury. The jury is composed of the six people selected in court after a rigorous process designed to exclude those who cannot be fair. The public is not a member of the jury. It has no vote. Which is a good thing because the vast majority of the public commenting on this and every other high profile trial are all too willing to take an eraser to the Constitution and condemn a person, without having observed the proceedings from start to finish, viewed the exhibits admitted or read the jury instructions.

Those who are willing to throw the Constitution out the window because they don't like a particular defendant, or because of their moral or political objections to what they subjectively believe was going through his mind, or because they like a particular victim, can be called a lot of things. Progressive is not one of them.

< ACLU Reverses Course on DOJ Investigation of Zimmerman | Sunday Open Thread >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    in being the first to comment (5.00 / 5) (#14)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 01:41:50 PM EST
    that Obama, as a former Con. Law professor should know and respect these principles.

    Yup. (4.50 / 8) (#38)
    by scribe on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 03:08:17 PM EST
    I'm left to wonder why comments such as mine and Lily's, pointing out that Obama knows better and, implying he should act better, keep getting dinged with non-5 comments.

    I mean, really.  Jeralyn's main post is classic, textbook junior high school civics.  At least, from the time when civics was actually taught before it was replaced with practicing for standardized tests.

    Has the site been taken over by O-bots and knuckledragging tough-on-crime ("crime" being "someone I don't like not going to prison instantly because I said so", or similar) types?  people whose capacity to think, reason, and understand has somehow been turned off?

    Obama does know better.  He went to school at excellent schools in the days when civics were still required courses and taught.  Though he was better than McCain (whose first response to everything has long been to bomb the snot out of it and who foisted Palin on us) I never felt comfortable with Obama.  I've seen schemers and dissemblers of many, many types and am confident I can suss one out, given enough exposure to words coming from their lips.  I viewed him as the better of two bad choices.

    Nonetheless, I suspected bad things from him on Inauguration Day 09 when his site wiped out without a by-your-leave the many, many petitions posted on it that called to have the Bush/Cheney perpetration of torture prosecuted.  I came to expect the worst from him the minute we got Dawn Johnsen tossed out as a sop he never intended to have confirmed and then hung out to dry for a year or so.  And my expectations were confirmed when he decided we would "look forward, not back".

    As if every criminal prosecution is not an exercise in "looking back".

    At least he has not disappointed my expectations.  At every turn he's shown his true colors - a protector of the status quo, the wealthy, and a sociopath with no qualms about killing the innocent (by remote control) on probability.  He's also shown himself to be the worst kind of lawyer - one who uses lawyerly skill as a weapon against law and for his own benefit.  That he's a smooth talker just makes it worse.  If someone can name one time he's stood up for civil rights against the government diminishing them - not just with words, but actions - where he did not stand to benefit, I'm all ears.

    I suspect it will be a long time before anyone comes up with a valid example.  In the meantime, I expect a lot of 1 and 2 ratings.


    Professor? (3.50 / 2) (#80)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 10:54:58 PM EST

    He was a mere lecturer, not a professor.



    Not according to ... (5.00 / 2) (#86)
    by Yman on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 07:24:48 AM EST
    The world needs defense attorneys (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 02:24:05 PM EST
    It probably needs more of them.  And it often has need of aggressive defense attorneys.  I might not agree with you about many things, but I don't mistake you for a Conservative.

    If there is one single defining point about your philosophy and all you do, it is how offensive the death penalty is to you.

    And I am still very unhappy about the Zimmerman precedent and even unhappy with some of your analysis.  And that's life.  A life that I don't really care to live without good defense attorneys so nuf said for me.

    What in the hell is an original puma though?  Does that beat copycat?

    A jury verdict (5.00 / 1) (#83)
    by Peter G on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 12:32:57 AM EST
    does not establish a "precedent" of any sort, in the legal sense, at least.

    Thank you Peter G (none / 0) (#87)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 07:33:40 AM EST
    I live in Alabama, and I don't know what all of our self defense laws are but we have the exact same SYG law word for word.

    I think this verdict establishes the notion of new social norm though.  Hope I am wrong.  


    Nothing to say about the substance (5.00 / 2) (#27)
    by Richjo on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 02:24:54 PM EST
    of the argument here- it is a compelling defense of important principles.

    But I would add two things:
    I do not believe that the conception of self defense you defend, regardless of its normative correctness, is inherent to the Constitution.

    Martin v. Ohio establishes that very clearly. Maybe it should be, but I can't see a lot of ground swell of support among self-identified progressives for such an amendment if it were proposed.

    The following is my take on the whole issues of how progressives should view this, which I think is actually the really important issue for people to consider.

    I believe it takes a very interesting notion of the term progressive as it refers to some sort of political philosophy to label the argument you make here a progressive one, at least in the context of this case. One way of breaking down political ideologies is to view differing philosophies in terms of the relative weight they place upon liberty vs equality. It is very clear that the term progressive is one that in everyday usage is associated most closely with those who put the greater relative weight on equality, not liberty. The term originated during the Progressive movement in the 1900s which was all about greater equality for workers and the poor, and the advocacy of strict limits upon economic freedom to achieve it. Ever since, the term Progressive is used to describe political movements that in virtually all cases see progress towards a more equal society as their primary goal, even if restricting individual liberty is necessary to achieve that. That certainly is not consistent with the Constitution as it was originally conceived, but the fact is that the Constitution as originally conceived, before it was amended to include a commitment to the principle of equality  and civil rights, is not something most progressives would embrace. In fact many of them would have a great deal of animosity towards that conception of the constitution which they view as a tool of oppression. The view articulated here is in my opinion a great defense of a libertarian philosophy, not a progressive one. I certain have sympathy for what I believe is the underlying point which is that progressives should be committed to many more libertarian viewpoints then they seem to be in practice. In my view the root of the problem in achieving that is that too often libertarian ideas are associated with people whose racial views are so extreme and unattractive to progressives, for example  the Rand and Ron Paul's of the world and the company they keep.

    The problem with (3.50 / 2) (#33)
    by txantimedia on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 02:53:20 PM EST
    pushing for the state to enshrine equality in its laws is that liberty then is curtailed.  If at some point in the future, someone is in control of the state whose views differ widely from yours, you might find that your willingness to forgo liberties in pursuit of equality has completely deprived you of your freedom.

    Of course at that point, it's too late, but at least then one's eyes might be opened to the problem.

    That is why I strong oppose any increase in government.  It always leads to the curtailment of liberty, and while you might think yours is robust and enjoyable today, they could become quite restrictive and confining in the future.

    The purpose of government, and indeed, the purpose of our Constitution, was to wrap government in a strait jacket from which it would struggle with great difficulty to enforce the passions of the day on the people it governs.

    Once the Constitution goes away, as so many seem to wish today, then tyranny will reign supreme, and only the favored elites will be happy with the results.


    But are you a progressive? (5.00 / 1) (#40)
    by Richjo on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 03:11:21 PM EST
    You sound like a libertarian to me.

    I am a progressive because I doubt those who suffer greatly from the adverse effects that inequality perpetuates would share your view.

    I believe that dire economic need is a form of coercion, and those suffering from the ill effects of lack of opportunity to meet their basic needs often don't have the luxury of being reflexively and dogmatically opposed to government.

    And I won't fear someone in control of government whose views differ from mine as long as the Constitution guarantees that equality, and we actually have a Supreme Court willing to meaningfully enforce those limits as was intended by the framers of the 14th amendment. In other words, not the right wing hacks who sit there now and claim their job is to impose the views of racist white men who have been dead for over a 100 years as to what they concepts should mean, rather than having an independent judiciary interpret those limits in a meaningful way as a check on the power of majorities to impose upon the rights of the minority.


    You just made my point (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by txantimedia on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 03:24:31 PM EST
    Those "right wing hacks" as you call them, have a different view of the meaning of the Constitution than you do.  So you're opposed to them.  If we get more "right wing hacks" they could completely destroy your world.

    It's not supposed to be that way, any more than there should be "left wing hacks" on the Supreme Court.

    The greatest example of this is the 2nd amendment.  It's really quite straightforward and understandable to the common man.  Yet legal "brains" have managed to water it down and argue against it on "equality" grounds.

    The idea that the purpose of our Constitution is to "check on the power of majorities to impose upon the rights of the minority" is quaint.  The purpose of the Constitution was the check the power of government to impose its will on all people.

    We have never had a greater imposition of the will of the majority on the minority than we do today precisely because the government has so violated the Constitution that it no longer exists for all practical purposes.


    Government Power is like (5.00 / 3) (#51)
    by Richjo on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 04:32:50 PM EST
    a double edged sword. If it has the power to help me, it also has the power to hurt me. That can't be denied.

    Where we differ is that I find the situation without that government stepping into help, as bad, if not worse than the one where it does. Left to its own devices a market economy will lead to gross inequalities which will allow the rich to exploit the poor, the powerful to exploit the weak, the privileged to exploit those with out them, and the majority to exploit the minority. Allowing the government to step in does create the risk that it could use its power to do the same thing to me, but it also creates the opportunity to prevent that fate from befalling me. I might be damned if I do, but I will definitely be damned if I don't. My only shot is to get the government to wield that power correctly. Which is why I will fight like hell to keep it out of the hands of those who think the way you do.

    I also don't share you view that we are less free today than ever before. I don't measure freedom as a reflection of how few government limits there are on me to do whatever the hell I want. I measure by how empowered I actually am to make meaningful choices and to have genuine opportunity, which without a strong government to ensure would be denied to all but the most powerful of us by the wealthy and privileged who would exploit the rest of us for their own gain. At least I can hope to exert some influence over the government through our democratic institutions; but without wealth and privilege of my own I have no hope of influencing those whose power would be virtually unchecked in the type of society you want.

    I do believe in the importance of the Constitution, that is why I am so opposed to judges who refuse to follow it principles like the Scalias of the world. The 14th amendment wasn't written so the majority could impose it notions of liberty and equality upon the rest of society. It was written so the we could have an independent body of decision makers test out the actions of our elected branches in a thoughtful way to ensure they actually adhered to those principles in practice. That is not what Scalia does- he does not say gay marriage should be banned because that promotes the liberty of the individual and equality under the law. That is not his argument, even he could not be that ridiculous. If it was required that he actually defend his positions by making an argument as to how they promote those values, rather than simply inserting the views of people who have been dead for hundreds of years in place of that, he would have a very hard time maintaining any credibility.


    careful, TXantmedia (none / 0) (#46)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 03:34:11 PM EST
    I recommend you make your arguments without referring to hacks on either side. You may want to take a look at our regular commenting rules (as opposed to the Zimmerman ones.) I have no intention of letting conservatives dominate or direct the political discussion here. Such views are allowed, but no more than 4 comments per thread, otherwise it's "chattering." Your views on the Constitution are one thing, your politicizing those views to make claims about left wing judges or argue conservative ideology is quite another.

    I think it's safe to say (5.00 / 2) (#45)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 03:25:49 PM EST
    he is not

    Our Consititution in under attack on so many (5.00 / 4) (#30)
    by Anne on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 02:44:11 PM EST
    fronts that I wish room could be made for posts on the Fourth Amendment, the First Amendment, on something that didn't immediately devolve into a food fight over evidence and theories in a case that has been decided, and decided in the favor of the defendant.

    Now, I get that you have stuck with this because those who did not agree with the verdicts have asked for the case to be taken up in other venues, and you still believe there are too many out there who just don't get it.

    But at this stage of the game, I'm not sure there are many people interested in "getting" the Constitution at all - and far too many of those in that camp are people in very powerful positions.

    The reality is that too many of those who have passionately defended Zimmerman on Constitutional and statutory grounds will be among those taking up torches and pitchforks for Tsarnaev, Constitution be damned.

    And why not?  Our own government seems to be engaged in picking and choosing when and for whom it will hold the Constitution dear, so why shouldn't the citizenry feel they can't do the same?

    There is a rot spreading through all the things that used to matter, so I hope no one's particularly surprised when it all falls apart.

    And I, for one, would like to see more of BTD, even if he does have to get out the heavy-duty fly-swatter and stock up on dunce caps; I get the impatience and disgust with some of what passes for logic in the comments, but pretending it doesn't exist and letting a lot of people wallow in their delusions of intelligence just helps crowd out other, much-needed voices.

    How is that reality? (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by Teresa on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 03:02:32 PM EST
    The reality is that too many of those who have passionately defended Zimmerman on Constitutional and statutory grounds will be among those taking up torches and pitchforks for Tsarnaev, Constitution be damned.

    That's just opinion, and I hope you're wrong. I'll certainly defend his rights to a fair trial, just as strongly as GZ. Maybe more because his life is at stake literally.

    I really really hope you're wrong on this one.


    You should go back and read the (5.00 / 1) (#56)
    by Anne on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 05:08:33 PM EST
    comments in the posts Jeralyn has done about Tsarnaev, and see for yourself.

    And that's just here - go read at some of the conservative sites and see example after example of people who defended Zimmerman, but who wouldn't be upset if there was no trial for Tsarnaev.

    Situational ethics: people pick and choose based on who the accused is, what they are accused of, and God help you if your skin is brown or your name isn't American enough.

    I get why it's hard for people to separate the act from the principles, but that's the only way we make sure that all those accused of crimes get the fairest treatment possible.


    I did here, but didn't realize you (none / 0) (#59)
    by Teresa on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 05:40:54 PM EST
    were talking in general. I have no doubt you're right, Anne. I couldn't read their comments on the pro-Z blogs, so I know I can't on the Tsarnaev ones. I'm sure they're filled with hypocrisy.

    Maybe it's where I live, but I know more hypocrites than not, and I'll just say I'm surrounded by conservatives. That is, until they need something from the government, and then it's a whole different ballgame.


    No. (5.00 / 1) (#42)
    by scribe on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 03:15:59 PM EST
    One can rely upon every state having something different, either in its statutory law pertaining to self-defense or in the common law (judicial decisions) interpreting both the statutory law and the prior decisions.

    many people who label themselves (5.00 / 3) (#47)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 03:40:56 PM EST
    progressives are already objecting to the providing Tsarnaev with rights. You can read it in their objections to the Rolling Stone cover.

    The refusal to acknowledge that everyone is entitled to the same rights regardless of how their conduct is viewed by society is unacceptable. When done by someone who represents himself/herself to be a liberal or progressive, it's simply hypocrisy. Intolerance is not the mark of a liberal or progressive.  

    I stepped in here a few days ago (5.00 / 3) (#55)
    by itscookin on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 05:05:18 PM EST
    when I saw your post about Tsarnaev to add a voice from someone who is close to his case both geographically and personally. While there are certainly people in the Boston area who believe he's guilty, what person has ever been on trial who hasn't had some people decide his or her guilt w/o the trial? But I don't know anyone "in my neighborhood" who doesn't want him to get a fair trial. Many people are concerned he wasn't properly read his rights. Many people are concerned he was unarmed in a boat and had bullets rained down on him. Many people are concerned he is not being housed in an environment that presumes his innocence. I'm not "progressive enough" to fit the norm of a regular TalkLeft contributor. But I'm not "rightwing", either.  I expect to find support for the defense of Jahar here. Because I want him to get a fair trial, I expect I will be reading TalkLeft throughout trial. I know Jeralyn will be consistent. I am at a loss to predict how the conversation here will play out. I didn't expect to find so little support for the defense in the Zimmerman trial.

    This is OT, but I'm glad you're (none / 0) (#60)
    by Teresa on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 05:44:33 PM EST
    here for his trial, if he has one, because I think your perspective will be interesting. And I agree with you.

    May I ask you a genuine question please, Jeralyn? (5.00 / 1) (#49)
    by Leopold on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 03:58:51 PM EST
    Does not, and has not, the constitution evolved over time though? And in ways that progressives have fought for? Isn't it possible that progressive values and philosophies will sometimes require tweaking the Constitution over time? Or that one can be a progressive and disagree with some interpretations of the Constitution (e.g., gun rights) given the context of today's society?

    Thank you.

    If I may be so bold, (none / 0) (#96)
    by NYShooter on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 09:33:36 AM EST
    the answers to your questions are:
    Yes, and

    And, if I may be even bolder, I am pretty confident those would be Jeralyn's answers also.

    And, now, I have a question for you:
    Didn't you answer your questions yourself with your very first two sentences?


    Follow the money (5.00 / 2) (#79)
    by Lora on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 10:54:04 PM EST
    The media wants ratings and profits.  People's revved-up emotions are more exciting than reason and facts.

    The media-distorted version of the case revved up the hate and brought home the ratings.  Sadly, it is the version that most "progressives" seem to have bought.  I did, too, at first.

    I learned a lot about the case here and changed my mind about Zimmerman after considering those pesky things called "facts."  I am not satisfied by everything that was accepted as "fact" on this site, but in general I am truly impressed.  For this case as presented here and especially for this post, I am cheering (exception: association between one of my favorite songs and a law I think is hugely problematic).

    On behalf (5.00 / 6) (#89)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 08:29:03 AM EST
    Of those of us who disagree with this blog on the issues, can we have some sort of cease fire or truce or agree to cry uncle so that we can move forward.

    There are those of us who love the blog, disagree with Jeralyn, but want to keep reading but we have now moved into the "end zone dancing" phase of the case.

    It's over.  Who are we trying to convince that can be convinced otherwise now?

    This case was deeply hurtful to me and millions others and the callous way in which those sentiments are now being dismissed and disregarded is not something you would expect from liberal or progressive people.

    We have moved into the Rush Limbaugh zone on sensitivity to our fellow men and their perspectives.

    Meaning very little.

    I want to keep coming but c'mon.  Do you want people who disagree with the verdict or the issues to feel like their feelings are trivial?

    Part of the problem (5.00 / 2) (#90)
    by jbindc on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 08:46:32 AM EST
    At least as I see it, is those who are very vocal about their disagreement with the verdict (and who have a platform, such as - a show on MSNBC, for example), are basing that disagreement on things that are simply not true, weren't proven, or are products of memes pushed by those with agendas, but the facts be d@mned.  They keep pushing those same untruths and it's riling people up, when instead of working to address the very real problems in the criminal justice system - they are making up bogeymen.

    The criminal trial (5.00 / 2) (#94)
    by Richjo on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 09:16:49 AM EST
    of George Zimmerman was not a search for truth, just like any other criminal trial. It was a test of the state's case, pure and simple. People who are upset with the verdict either don't understand how the system works, or want the system to work differently. I disagree with them because the state failed to prove it case, and because I don't believe the outcome of one case should dictate the principles of how the system works, and I think we need that system in place to protect against injustice.

    Since there were no witnesses to either the beginning or end of the confrontation, I am having a hard time accepting that anyone can say with any certainty what actually happened. I don't think we can't say what is true (and the trial wasn't a search for that anyway), all we can say is what can be proven, and in truth with an acquittal it would be more accurate to say all we can really say is what cannot be proven.

    Given that I think people should be free to say and think whatever they want about the situation because I believe in the first amendment as well as all the others.

    I am also confused about what the real problems in the criminal justice system are? We have very strict rules in place to protect the rights of the accused. Explicit bias and prejudice are not allowed- you can't say the reason you are giving someone the death penalty is because they are black and they killed a white person. Does that mean that is not what happens? I don't know. It may very well be what actually occurs. I see the problems with our justice system being that bias is so subtle and hidden that many people want to refuse it exists. So I am a bit uncomfortable with dismissing anyone's views of a situation and attempting to delegitimize them because they might not hold up in a criminal trial. If we are actually searching for the truth, about this case or the system more generally, we are going to need to go beyond the process we would use to get a verdict.


    Sure they can say what they want (4.00 / 3) (#97)
    by jbindc on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 09:39:16 AM EST
    But the fact that SO MANY people are ill-informed and want to make this a racial case can lead to bad consequences.  Take for example - the number of people arrested in protests.  Would they have protested if they actually knew ALL the facts of this case, and not just the selected information (in some cases, completely wrong information) that they have been told by the likes of CNN and MSNBC and FOX?

    "ALL" the facts? (4.00 / 3) (#99)
    by Yman on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 09:43:04 AM EST
    What "facts" are these protesters unaware of?

    How about the fact (4.00 / 3) (#102)
    by jbindc on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 09:48:06 AM EST
    that keeps getting ignored in every protest speech, or every thing on MSNBC, that Martin was on top of Zimmerman?  That Martin had no injuries that indicated Zimmerman got off one punch?  The fact that the FBI already did an investigation that found no racial animus on Zimmerman's part.

    For starters.  You know - things that would make it an honest conversation.


    The same facts... (3.33 / 6) (#135)
    by bmaz on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 11:41:05 AM EST
    ...you relentlessly disregard while sanctimoniously badgering people and denigrating their intelligence.

    I think you would agree that the (5.00 / 3) (#103)
    by Anne on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 09:49:18 AM EST
    Constitution affords us certain rights and privileges, and many of them are built on one immutable element: the presumption of innocence, which is not determined on the basis of the nature and extent of the crimes of which a person is accused, what their race or ethnicity or religion is; no matter what, we are all presumed innocent until proven guilty - with emphasis on "proven."  

    That's a given even when there are witnesses who saw the person commit the crime.  And it's a given even when the person admits, as Zimmerman did,  "I shot him."

    So where is the presumption of innocence?  Or why is there still that presumption when there's been an admission?

    It's in the law, in how the state defines the crime, and in what exceptions the state defines that render the person innocent.

    In the case of the Martin shooting, it's how the State of Florida has defined justifiable homicide, how it defines self-defense.  And because the burden of proving that George Zimmerman was not justified and wasn't acting in self-defense was on the prosecution, their failure to do that is why George Zimmerman was acquitted.

    Was this case about race?  Not if you believed both sides in the court case, but I don't know that a declaration of such precludes, or should preclude, what others think and feel based on what they know about the events, or what they've experienced.  We are all informed by our experiences, and we are all biased in some way.  

    We're not going to change the verdict by continuing to argue the case. And no one's going to get any traction arguing against the adherence to constitutionally-granted rights and privileges.  I agree that it must be frustrating to have people tell you that since this case wasn't about race, you need to find an entry-point into that conversation in a way that doesn't include the names George Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin.  "Not about race," so you can't say that you think George might have made a different decision if he could see that the kid was white, or if the kid was a well-dressed man.  "Not about race," so just shut up about it, right?

    And then there's the argument that if you disagree with the verdict, you must be ill-informed, or ignorant or have some kind of agenda.  You couldn't possibly have questions that weren't addressed by the investigation/trial, and you certainly cannot be allowed to connect the dots in any way other than they way they were - or weren't - in order to get to the verdict.

    While the jury has spoken, and we should respect the fulfillment of their civic duty, I think it's a mistake to allow the verdict to close the door on substantive discussions on matters of race, class, crime, etc.  Whether this case should have opened wounds is not what's important - it's that it opened them, and where we go from here, that's important.


    You're 100% correct (5.00 / 5) (#139)
    by BobTinKY on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 11:46:15 AM EST
    the issue is the State law and how it applied in this case. Conflating Florida law with the Bill of Rights & suggesting those of us who believe the State law in this case yielded an unjust outcome now want to shred the Bill of Rights is as ridiculous as it is self-serving to the position of many commenters on this blog.  

    And I do not think the racial issue, at least the one that concerns me, is whether or not Zimmerman profiled Martin. The issue of concern to me, and the one I understand Obama to be pointing out, is the legal system's blindness in this case to how a young black man in this historically, uh, let's just say not blind to race region might perceive and respond to being followed by a white guy (and Martin knew of Zimmerman's heritage) in a pickup truck, as opposed to how some generic reasonable white person would view & respond to the same situation. Eugene Robinson raised the same point: why doesn't the law, the state law, even allow for the possibility that Martin may have felt a need to defend himself.  

    The trial was all legal, the defendant was afforded his Constitutional rights (I for one do not recall ever questioning those rights), the applicable law correctly applied, and he was found not guilty. The defendant walked & this leaves many of us who find Zimmerman's neither proven nor disproven story implausible believing  that the state law in this case worked an injustice. I think it is entirely approporiate, if unpopular here on this blog, to debate the wisdom of the applicable state laws that governed this case.  And to do so without being accused of wanting to shred the Bill of Rights or being something other than progressive.  

    I am no Obamabot. While I voted for him in 08 he turned me off to voting at all in 2012. Nevertheless, why shouldn't he comment on a conlcuded case as he did, respecting the jury's verdict while providing a critical viewpoint about which he has had firsthand experience? What about McCain calling for review of SYG laws? Shouldn't a healthy funtioning democracy as a matter of course review how laws are working and maybe initiate & entertain debate regarding laws which produce results, however final, with which a significant portion of the citzenry are uneasy?

    While it is ever important to be on guard for overbearing Government & thus to defend the Bill of Rights, it is equally important to be on guard against laws that enable private individuals, be they persons or corporations, to similarly violate or forever extinguish another's rights.  


    Are you saying (none / 0) (#162)
    by Darby on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 12:20:57 PM EST
    Martin may have profiled Zimmerman because he thought Zimmerman was white?

    " he issue of concern to me, and the one I understand Obama to be pointing out, is the legal system's blindness in this case to how a young black man in this historically, uh, let's just say not blind to race region might perceive and respond to being followed by a white guy (and Martin knew of Zimmerman's heritage) in a pickup truck, as opposed to how some generic reasonable white person would view & respond to the same situation."


    Bob, we know from Rachel Jeantel (none / 0) (#219)
    by SuzieTampa on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 02:50:27 PM EST
    that Trayvon never expressed fear that the man following him might be a dangerous racist. She has testified and then elaborated that he feared GZ might be a rapist.

    ABG, I'm sorry that you're hurt (none / 0) (#217)
    by SuzieTampa on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 02:46:56 PM EST
    but I would like liberals/progressives to understand that people like me are hurt, too. I've already lost one friend over this case, and in general, I'm hibernating because my friends think people have to be racist to think GZ is innocent. Some of us on the other side are deeply hurt too.

    I, too, wish this were over, but protests, the DOJ investigation, and discussion of lawsuits persists. I wouldn't be surprised if GZ was killed.

    Somehow we all need to move through this without demonizing or dismissing the people who disagree with us.


    I am a black man (5.00 / 9) (#132)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 11:33:55 AM EST
    This case is racial to me.

    Not because I am a mindless puppet controlled by MSNBC talking heads.

    Not because I do not understand the how litigation works (I am a lawyer).

    Not because I do not understand the facts.

    Not because black people all think alike.

    Not because we do not respect the constitution.

    Not because Obama told us so.

    I feel it was about race because of the I do  believe based on his background and patterns of behavior that Zimmerman profiled Martin, because of the way in which the investigation was originally handled, because of the way in which Martin was vilified afterwards for basically having the same behavior as your average spoiled prep school kid, and because as a black man who has been followed in that exact situation for no reason, I know that it happens regularly everywhere.

    Stop calling us mindless idiots.  Disagree on the facts of the case and disagree about whether you see race or not.

    But stop telling us there is no basis for our feelings and we are not mindless sheep.


    What in his background? (none / 0) (#134)
    by jbindc on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 11:40:09 AM EST
    What in his patterns of behavior?

    What was wrong with the initial investigation?

    ...because of the way in which Martin was vilified afterwards for basically having the same behavior as your average spoiled prep school kid

    What same behavior?

    I really want to understand.


    I personally believe the verdict was correct (5.00 / 1) (#157)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 12:14:04 PM EST
    but i still believe this case had all sorts of racial issues and that being found innocent isn't the same as being morally clear.

    A criminal trial is a test of whether the state can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of a charge.

    It is possible that a follow up civil trial could show that Zimmerman was civilly responsible for his death.

    And finally it is possible that he may get off there, but there still be a valid moral question about his actions.

    For some here, because this is a criminal defense blog, getting off on a criminal case has ridiculously come to mean that every analysis of Zimmerman by his detractors is wrong.

    OJ didn't kill anyone, right?


    I don't believe he was found innocent, he was (5.00 / 1) (#161)
    by Angel on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 12:20:10 PM EST
    found not guilty.  I'm sure I'll be corrected if this is not correct.

    He was found not guilty (none / 0) (#164)
    by Darby on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 12:22:17 PM EST
    But is also innocent til proven guilty

    The verdict was not guilty. (5.00 / 0) (#168)
    by Angel on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 12:25:01 PM EST
    It was not "innocent."  That was the point I was making.  It is not factually correct to say that he was found innocent.  

    Being morally clear and having racial issues (none / 0) (#174)
    by Darby on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 12:39:38 PM EST
    can most certainly be mutually exclusive issues. I have  yet to see any facts or proof that race is involved IN THIS CASE , other than what appears to be the assumption is that Zimmeran is white (which isn't true) so therefore race is involved.

    Zimmerman rescues trapped motorist (5.00 / 1) (#165)
    by Cylinder on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 12:22:27 PM EST
    George Zimmerman Emerged From Hiding for Truck Crash Rescue

    George Zimmerman, who has been in hiding since he was acquitted of murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, emerged to help rescue someone who was trapped in an overturned truck, police said today.

    Sanford Police Department Capt. Jim McAuliffe told ABC News that Zimmerman "pulled an individual from a truck that had rolled over" at the intersection of a Florida highway last week. Florida Highway Patrol is now handling the case, McAuliffe said.

    The crash occurred at the intersection of I-4 and route 417, police said.

    Aww, I'm getting all warm and fuzzy inside (5.00 / 3) (#172)
    by shoephone on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 12:34:25 PM EST
    But your comment has nothing to do with the post.

    I completely accept that (5.00 / 1) (#170)
    by sj on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 12:30:01 PM EST
    this would be your viewpoint. You are being very straightforward here. But ABG has made a good point that others might view things differently and with less self-awareness.

    Zimmerman consultant wanted all-female jury (5.00 / 1) (#178)
    by Aspidistra on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 12:44:24 PM EST
    Interesting article about the jury consultant who worked with the defense team:

    "SANFORD, Fla. -- One of the people instrumental in helping George Zimmerman's defense team pick an all-female jury says that he decided months in advance that a panel of women brought the best chance for acquittal.

    Robert Hirschhorn, a jury consultant with more than 28 years experience, told USA TODAY that women are better listeners, less judgmental, and would more easily understand the fear Zimmerman felt when he shot Trayvon Martin.

    "I wanted to make sure we were going to get jurors that would follow what the court of law required not what the court of public opinion wanted," Hirschhorn said.

    "My number one goal was to get fair jurors that would really be able to listen to the evidence and decide the case on facts and law not emotion...I believed in my heart that an all-female jury was the right jury for George," Hirschhorn said. "My experience has been that women are better at listening than men.""

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/07/17/zimmerman-trayvon-martin-jury-consultant-killin g-sanford/2530151/

    And O'Mara said on CNN he'd (none / 0) (#232)
    by Teresa on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 04:48:42 PM EST
    have preferred some men on the jury, though, he noted they were very attentive and taking lots of notes. This was the long pre-verdict interview he did with them.

    One thing I didn't understand about jury selection was why it seemed to be heavily stacked with women that were called first. By the time they'd have reached more men, they had the six. I could be wrong, but it seemed that way. That's why I think it should be 12.

    Does anyone remember how the gender and race was determined as in sequence? I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to that.


    Still don't see it (5.00 / 1) (#205)
    by jbindc on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 02:08:20 PM EST
    Look, I don't diminish your experiences as a black man.  I'm sorry for that, and no, I don't know how that feels. But how does this relates to his "history" of racial profiling since in fact, two black males DID break into his neighbor's house, and at least two of those calls you cite helped to catch them?

    That's a bad thing???

    If you're going to look at his "history" and make a judgment about his motivations and feelings, then you should look at his WHOLE history and experiences with people of different races.  Otherwise, you are just making the same kind of judgments about him that you are accusing him of.

    The current system is stacked (5.00 / 2) (#208)
    by MKS on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 02:16:54 PM EST
    against African Americans.  Too many are in jail.

    What exactly do you propose doing about these statistics?

    Oh my (5.00 / 1) (#228)
    by sj on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 03:09:06 PM EST
    You are so out there that jb and Anne are standing up for Abdul.  I think you should ponder that before your next retort.

    nonsense (5.00 / 1) (#230)
    by TeresaInPa on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 03:33:01 PM EST
    no one on the jury said SYG loomed large or was even considered important.  You must have dreamed that.  Zimmerman could not have retreated so SYG had no effect one way or the other.  If the judge included that, and I am not going to go read the instructions to find out, then perhaps she is a bit confused herself.  Or maybe she had some reason I do not understand.  However, in any case SYG had no part in clearing GZ and it was completely improper for Obama to say what he said and frankly made him sound as uninformed at Dubya, a president who prided himself on being ignorant.

    this thread veered (5.00 / 1) (#233)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 06:13:43 PM EST
    completely off topic which is the Constitution. It was not about Obama's remarks on race or why readers think race was an issue in the case. Nor was it about self defense laws in Ohio. Or about hoodies.

    It was also filled with insults and name-calling directed to commenters

    This is not an open thread. I'm leaving it closed for now.

    Well comments on this (5.00 / 1) (#234)
    by sj on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 06:21:27 PM EST
    post make absolutely zero sense now. You should have deleted all of them instead of just half of them.

    my post makes aboslute sense (5.00 / 1) (#235)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 02:36:27 AM EST
    if the comment thread doesn't you can blame the commenters who wrote the comments I deleted. These are long-time readers who know the rules quite well. An hour and a half is more than I should have to spend moderating a thread. People should think before hitting the post button.

    Amen (4.50 / 6) (#1)
    by ruffian on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 12:23:04 PM EST

    Not according to our president (2.33 / 6) (#2)
    by lily on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 12:28:00 PM EST
    a constitutional law professor, "what if Trayvon stood his ground"

    Just enough of a twist (5.00 / 2) (#163)
    by sj on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 12:21:37 PM EST
    on what he actually said to be misleading but close enough that you could pretend otherwise.

    Would that our Constitutional law professor (3.00 / 2) (#5)
    by scribe on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 01:05:17 PM EST
    President, Harvard Law Review President and magna grad, Columbia grad genius could get his head around the lesson in junior high school civics presented in the main post.

    Lily, you beat me to it.


    yeah, well (5.00 / 1) (#141)
    by TeresaInPa on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 11:48:47 AM EST
    we could debate the value of those qualifications, but I am in complete agreement with you and Lily.  Having read Jeralyn's essay and having listened to Obama's BS.  I can tell you who I would rather have educate the nation at this particular time.

    I'll take my 1 ratings now please! lol


    where did Obama say (none / 0) (#144)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 11:51:25 AM EST
    ""what if Trayvon stood his ground"?

    And for those who resist that idea (none / 0) (#147)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 11:58:30 AM EST
    And for those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these "stand your ground" laws, I'd just ask people to consider, if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?

    Out the Window? (none / 0) (#6)
    by RickyJim on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 01:11:09 PM EST
    I haven't heard any demands that the constitution be amended as a result of the Zimmerman trial.  Do the protestors want the prosecution to be able to appeal an acquittal?  I believe that there is a long history of people being acquitted of state charges but later convicted of federal ones.  The US differs from some other countries in that here double jeopardy only prevents being tried more than once on the same statute but not the same act.

    Even though he was not convicted, (none / 0) (#20)
    by Teresa on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 01:58:27 PM EST
    is Zimmerman considered a "public figure" now, meaning that people can say whatever they want about him, within whatever limits there are on public figures?

    If so, does that mean he can't sue people in the media who misstate things about him? I'm not talking about NBC doctoring tapes, but general comments like Jeralyn listed in her post?

    People (none / 0) (#32)
    by Ga6thDem on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 02:50:28 PM EST
    have a really hard time winning those types of cases in this country. It has to be such a gross mistake like the Richard Jewell case I would think.

    Very true, Ga. (none / 0) (#37)
    by Teresa on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 03:06:13 PM EST
    I'd guess at this point, his best case is against NBC whose reponse seems to be "everyone did it".

    I'm not (none / 0) (#50)
    by Ga6thDem on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 04:17:15 PM EST
    even sure how strong that case is. Maybe if he had been convicted he night have a better case against NBC. It seems to me they could argue that they did no appreciable damage to him since he was found not guilty.

    But that got part of the GZ is (none / 0) (#58)
    by Teresa on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 05:30:47 PM EST
    a racist ball rolling. If not for that, and others, he wouldn't be facing a federal investigation now, most likely.

    I'd be surprised if they don't settle on that one. They admitted they did it but fired the ones who did, right?


    Well (5.00 / 1) (#78)
    by Ga6thDem on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 10:50:14 PM EST
    some people see him a racist and as you can tell from some of the posts around there, there are lot of people that don't. So which one does the court consider? Only the ones that think he is?

    I really have not kept up with the NBC story so I'm not sure what really happened there.

    The federal investigation may amount to moot anyway. Unfortunately for the most part you only have Zimmerman's word for everything since Martin is now dead. Rodney King was on tape so they were able to slow exactly what happened. No such luck in this case.


    33 other states have (none / 0) (#29)
    by txantimedia on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 02:37:30 PM EST
    "stand your ground" laws, in one form or another.  Many are tied to the castle doctrine.  Would you prefer that a homeowner be required to run out of her house when an armed intruder breaks in?

    straw man (none / 0) (#41)
    by souvarine on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 03:14:47 PM EST
    "Your home is your castle", the infamous campaign slogan of the racists fighting integration in Maryland's 1966 governor's race. Fourtunately Maryland (and many other states) have moved to a more limited interpretation of the common law castle doctrine. Gun owners must act responsibly when they choose to use deadly force in their own home.

    Those "stand your ground" laws, given their historical ties to racist interpretations of the castle doctrine, are precisely the laws that must be repealed.


    Why do you think that? (none / 0) (#31)
    by Teresa on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 02:50:05 PM EST
    According to the jury the stand your ground instructions loomed large in their deliberations.

    That was within one sentence late in the interview. It was after she explained how they came to their decision and she'd already mentioned three or so times that she believed GZ did fear for his life and specifically mentioned self-defense.

    JUROR: Right. But that doesn't make it right. I mean, it doesn't make it -- there's not a right or a wrong. Even if he did reach for the gun, it doesn't make any difference.

    COOPER: How so?

    JUROR: Well, because George had a right to protect himself at that point.

    COOPER: So you believe that George Zimmerman really felt his life was in danger?

    JUROR: I do. I really do.

    COOPER: You sent a question out to the judge about manslaughter?

    JUROR: Yes.

    COOPER: And about --

    JUROR: What could be applied to the manslaughter. We were looking at the self-defense. One of the girls said that -- asked if you can put all the leading things into that one moment where he feels it's a matter of life or death to shoot this boy, or if it was just at the heat of passion at that moment.

    COOPER: So that juror wanted to know whether the things that had brought George Zimmerman to that place, not just in the minute or two before the shot actually went off.

    JUROR: Exactly.

    COOPER: But earlier that day, even prior crime?

    JUROR: Not prior crimes, just the situation leading to it, all the steps -- as the ball got rolling, if all that --

    COOPER: From him getting -- spotting Trayvon Martin, to getting out of his vehicle to follow him, whether all of that could play a role in --

    JUROR: Determining the self-defense or not.

    COOPER: So whether it was George Zimmerman getting out of the vehicle, whether he was right to get out of the vehicle, whether he was a wannabe cop, whether he was overeager, none of that in the final analysis, mattered. What mattered was those seconds before the shot went off, did George Zimmerman fear for his life?

    JUROR: Exactly. That's exactly what happened.

    COOPER: And you have no -- do you have any doubt that George Zimmerman feared for his life?

    JUROR: I had no doubt George feared for his life in the situation he was in at the time.

    I think people pick out that once sentence she repeated from the jury instructions and assume that's how they made their decision. Also, she plainly said she's speaking only for herself. So it was A juror, not THE jury.

    I don't think the male alternate even mentioned SYG (which I don't like, either).

    It is the Florida Supreme Court (none / 0) (#43)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 03:24:01 PM EST
    that decides the jury instructions and instructs judges when to give them. The "no duty to retreat" language is in the pattern instruction on self-defense and the judge is instructed to give it in cases where the defendant was not acting unlawfully. Instruction 3.6 says (Emphasis in original, not added by me):

    No duty to retreat (location other than dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle). Give if applicable. See Novak v. State 974 So. 2d 520 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008) regarding unlawful activity.
    There is no duty to retreat where the defendant was not engaged in any unlawful activity other than the crime(s) for which the defendant asserts the justification.

    If the defendant [was not engaged in an unlawful activity and] was attacked in any place where [he] [she] had a right to be, [he] [she] had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand [his] [her] ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if [he] [she] reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to [himself] [herself] [another] or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony..

    According to law professor Eugene Volokh, 31 states have laws providing no duty to retreat  and 19 do not.

    The substantial majority view among the states, by a 31-19 margin, is no duty to retreat. Florida is thus part of this substantial majority on this point. And most of these states took this view even before the recent spate of "stand your ground" statutes, including the Florida statute.

    The duty to retreat only applies if there is an available means to retreat. The evidence at trial (including Zimmerman's statements, witness John Good's testimony and defense expert testimony) credited by the jury was that Zimmerman was on bottom, Martin was on top, straddling him and preventing him from getting up or out from under him. Thus, since he had no ability to escape, the duty to retreat is not triggered.  This was basic self defense. Prof. Volokh says:

    Under the facts as argued by both the prosecution and the defense, I don't think that a jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman had the opportunity to safely escape rather than using deadly force (which is the standard triggering the duty to retreat) -- unless one thinks that Zimmerman didn't reasonably believe that he was facing an imminent risk of death or serious bodily injury in the first place.

    The language in the self defense instruction is not the Stand Your Ground statute that gun control advocates think should be changed. The Stand your Ground statute is an immunity statute, not an affirmative defense. Zimmerman never invoked the Stand Your Ground immunity statute in this case. Had he done so, the matter would have been decided prior to trial or by the judge at trial before the case went to the jury. (It would have been a fruitless gesture as this Judge would not have granted it.)

    In short, Zimmerman's self-defense argument did not involve a duty to retreat, any more than it involved excusable homicide on which the jury was also instructed. His argument was plain and simple: I was attacked and believed I was in imminent danger of great bodily harm which I could only prevent by using deadly force.

    The jury determined either that Zimmerman's belief deadly force was necessary to prevent imminent great bodily harm from Martin's attack was reasonable, and that he really believed he was in such danger -- or that the state failed to disprove his belief was reasonable and real. It is not necessary that his belief be correct, only that he actually believe it.

    The duty to retreat and stand your ground are not limited to incidents involving firearms. Last week the 4th DCA reversed a juvenile's battery conviction (State v. TP) because the trial judge refused to consider stand your ground in a fight between two middle-schoolers  on a school bus in which no weapons were used. A new trial was ordered.

    The alleged battery occurred while T.P. was riding a school bus. At the hearing on T.P.'s motion to dismiss based upon the Stand Your
    Ground law, a school bus driver testified that she was driving children home from middle school. T.P. and the complainant, A.F., were both on the bus. When the bus stopped, T.P. (a boy), started to get off, and A.F. (a girl) grabbed T.P.'s jacket. They started fighting. A.F., who was larger than T.P., pulled him down on a seat. The bus driver testified that A.F. first grabbed T.P. and then punched him. After A.F. grabbed his jacket T.P. fought back. T.P.'s mother and grandmother got on the bus and tried to stop the fight. The grandmother struck A.F. and then T.P. got off the bus. At that point, sheriff's deputies came and T.P. was arrested.

    Next week, trial is scheduled to begin for Quentin Wyche, a FIU football player who is charged with killing another FIU player. It is a stabbing case. The judge denied Wyche's stand your ground motion in 2012.

    I personally believe that laws should not be passed in response to a singular event, no matter how tragic. Cooler heads are needed.  

    moving beyond the constitutional question (none / 0) (#48)
    by souvarine on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 03:42:46 PM EST
    As I said, neither the defense nor the prosecution determine matters of law. That stand your ground is part of Florida's pattern instruction strengthens the point that the law has twisted Florida's justice system.

    Professor Volokh's opinions are all very interesting, but his understanding of the world stems from his conservative, libertarian framework. It should be obvious that neither his framework nor his speculations about the motives of the jury are persuasive to liberals or progressives. We know the motivations and origins of stand your ground laws in all of those states, it is not just this one case that animates opposition to them.

    I'll have to differ with you on whether a different standard of evidence regarding Zimmerman's state of mind would have affected the jury's deliberations.


    How about "moving" into the realm... (5.00 / 2) (#53)
    by bmaz on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 04:54:41 PM EST
    ...of reality with respect to the facts of this case. Where "Stand Your Ground" did not influence the jury verdict in the least. The evidence demonstrated, and the jury clearly found, that Martin was the aggressor, assaulted Zimmerman and then had him pinned on the ground placing him in fear of imminent serious bodily injury and/or death. Retreat was not physically or humanly possible, and "Stand Your Ground" and other retreat law provisions were completely irrelevant.

    Castigating Gene Volokh on his traditional politics while ignoring that he based his post on verifiable state laws on the books is absurd and poor argument. Under the facts found by the Zimmerman jury, he would have been acquitted in 50 out of 50 states in the union. It was a straight up self defense case, not "Stand Your Ground". The prosecution even conceded that in closing and so the jury found.


    facts are stupid things (none / 0) (#67)
    by souvarine on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 08:49:46 PM EST
    The jury found that the state did not present enough evidence to convict, that's it.

    Volokh is an intelligent conservative who is at least intellectually consistent. He is not a liberal, and I bet he would object to being called a progressive. He appears to take his politics very seriously, and they are different from progressive politics. None of that is castigation, but it does suggest that progressives are not going to find his opinions on the significance of stand your ground compelling.

    He states as opinion ("I don't think") that Zimmerman would not have been convicted elsewhere given the facts the defense and prosecution presented. Of course in another venue, given different laws, both sides would change strategy, so even that opinion is hedged.

    The prosecution's "concession" was clearly in hope that the jury would ignore the stand your ground instructions. According to one juror that hope was in vain.


    you do not know that (5.00 / 1) (#69)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 09:47:34 PM EST
    The verdict was unanimous. The verdict form does not distinguish between a finding that Zimmerman acted in self defense and the state failed to prove he didn't. The only voting juror who has spoken says she believed he acted in self-defense. Other jurors said she doesn't speak for them, but they also voted not guilty, and have not said whether it was because he acted in self-defense or the state failed to disprove his self-defense theory.

    Please do not misrepresent unknown facts as undisputed truths. It's the fastest route to being banned here.


    Yes, facts are stupid things (5.00 / 1) (#70)
    by Teresa on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 09:47:58 PM EST
    The prosecution's "concession" was clearly in hope that the jury would ignore the stand your ground instructions. According to one juror that hope was in vain.

    I quoted the part of her discussion that was about self-defense. In what state do they not allow self-defense? Why do you keep saying it was SYG (I agree it's bad) when it wasn't?

    She said self-defense, fear of bodily harm. Later, she quoted an instruction from memory that did have stand your ground in it, but that was after AC asked her about four different versions of "so GZ getting out of his car didn't play a part in your decision....".

    Do you want the link since the quotes didn't help you? Did you read Jeralyn's post where even John Guy told the jury it's not SYG?


    The only thing that's obvious (none / 0) (#54)
    by Mr Natural on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 04:57:01 PM EST
    is your dismissal of any ideas that deviate from those permitted under your narrow interpretation of liberal and progressive.

    Last I heard, last week FWIW, police response time in Detroit, for the highest priority crimes, was over 58 minutes.  Maybe you can run for 58 minutes but most people can't.


    are you really suggesting we (none / 0) (#71)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 09:50:48 PM EST
    abandon the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal case? That state of mind should be proven by a preponderance of evidence in a case where the penalty could be life in prison? You prove my point. You are willing to shred the Constitution so your biased, personal, moral view of the case and desired outcome can prevail.

    no (none / 0) (#137)
    by souvarine on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 11:42:50 AM EST
    Certainly not. But the picture is more complicated when a defendant admits to committing the act.

    Many self defense cases with an unarmed victim are more clear, the defendant was defending home or property and the victim was in the act of committing a felony. Stand your ground removes both requirements and leaves the jury in the very tenuous position of determining the defendants feelings only at the moment of the act.


    Instruction 3.6 (none / 0) (#101)
    by RKF on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 09:45:38 AM EST
    was specifically modified after SYG - that is not the common law language.

    And this case has social and political dimensions beyond the purely legal.  We get outside our competencies when we try to opine on those authoritatively.

    The law (in the larger sense), is not intended to be independent of those currents, under any political science theory.

    BTW, proponents of SYG used argument by limited example as well


    Is a federal probe GZ's best bet? (none / 0) (#62)
    by RonK Seattle on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 06:03:05 PM EST
    Where else does he get a piece of his good name back?

    Where else would GZ's history of interracial contacts and civil rights activism come under rigorous adversarial scrutiny?

    Where else would the predicates to GZ's finding TM suspicious receive similar scrutiny?

    And where else would the prevailing counterfeit major media narratives be exposed to sunlight and fresh air?

    He Was Already Acquitted (5.00 / 1) (#63)
    by squeaky on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 06:21:31 PM EST
    Did that clear his name in the eyes of those who see him as guilty? A federal probe will do anything more to clear his name, even if it paints him as a saint.

    Different subject matter and depth of focus (none / 0) (#66)
    by RonK Seattle on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 08:41:19 PM EST
    Won't matter (5.00 / 2) (#76)
    by Isabela Hernandez on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 10:29:41 PM EST
    People have decided what happened that night and they refuse to hear anything that contradicts their beliefs. This is especially true for those who really, really want this story to be one of white racism against blacks.

    Go to DailyKos or HuffingtonPost if you don't believe me. They hate George Zimmerman for his racism most of all. Even if they're just imagining it.


    Not Going to Happen, IMO (none / 0) (#75)
    by squeaky on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 10:28:18 PM EST
    Too many have a stake, and will not see. Waste of money, and a horrible abuse of power, imo.

    If the media did its job, they would be telling us (5.00 / 2) (#68)
    by David in Cal on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 09:26:15 PM EST
    all about GZ's history of interracial contacts and civil rights activism.

    They would at least be telling us about GZ's ... (5.00 / 2) (#107)
    by RonK Seattle on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 10:12:42 AM EST
    ... active role in earlier protests against Sanford's racially suspect police misconduct.

    They'd have fact-checked GZ's claim to have promoted a related community meeting ... vs anti-Zimmerman community leaders' counter-assertion that no such meeting ever happened ... and found not only that the meeting did take place, but that some of the very same community leaders were quoted in press coverage of the event.

    They'd have recalled, for context sake, that one of the cops on the scene immediately recognized GZ as that guy from the protests.

    But that wouldn't fit the preferred narrative. And "tragic shooting" doesn't pay the bills, the way their "will the racist get away with murder?" cliffhanger did.


    I've learned a lot about self-defense law (none / 0) (#65)
    by ruffian on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 08:11:16 PM EST
    from Jeralyn and all the commenters. I suppose the provision that the person claiming self defense not be in the act of committing a crime covers at least some of the situations in which someone could provoke a violent response, and then use justified lethal force to get the last word. I don't know how I would change the law if I could.

    It seems that we keep making it easier and easier to hurt each other. Maybe the law can't fix that.

    Like most things (none / 0) (#74)
    by NYShooter on Sun Jul 21, 2013 at 10:15:30 PM EST
    George Zimmerman's attitudes about race are more complicated than "he's a racist," or not. I don't believe GZ was/is a racist in the sense of how most people define, "racist." I know quite a few people who are racists, those who harbor the generic attitude, "put'm all on a boat and send them backs to Africa." That's not George Zimmerman. So, using the label, Racist, is a straw man and only hurts the the argument for those who believe GZ was guilty of, at least, some level of homicide.

    Along with that, the term, "profiling," conjures up the automatic, and unfair, suffix, "racial," for many (most) people. "Profiling," simply means that the person in question fit's the description of a larger group. And, that group could be Chinese, Asian, Jewish, whatever. So, I think GZ did "profile" Martin, but not as a black, but as a member of the group that had been causing many problems in that neighborhood.

    All I'm saying is that labeling GZ a "racist," beside it's being untrue, makes it a damaging distraction for those who believe GZ was culpable in that incident. And, when you're trying to put together a storyline for a defendant's guilt, if one item in that narrative is found to be false, it's just natural for the triers of fact (the jury) to question all the others.

    BRD (none / 0) (#93)
    by jbindc on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 08:58:03 AM EST
    Is required under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

    Proving the crime v. Disrpoving self defense (none / 0) (#109)
    by cboldt on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 10:23:09 AM EST
    Prosecutors still have to prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.  Disproving self defense does not result in conviction.

    Actually Souvarine (none / 0) (#150)
    by bmaz on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 12:04:12 PM EST
    We DO know the reasoning of some of the jury. The basis was specifically stated by juror B37 and the same rationale was confirmed as his view of the evidence by the alternate. Couple that with the nature of the verdict rendered and fairly decent extrapolation can be made for the sake of argument. Proo, no; argument, sure. We are all "mere mortals" and quite capable of sussing through the evidence.

    HAHAHA (none / 0) (#211)
    by squeaky on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 02:31:54 PM EST
    First step.. how innocent.. you are just trying to help society by pointing out who is responsible for the biggest problems. Oh, and it happens to be black people... surprise, surprise coming from you.

    Considering that blacks suffer a wildly disproportionate rate and degree of punishment than whites do, starting out in elementary school, all the way through adulthood, your statistics are reveal nothing taken on their face


    Media coverage, conviction rates and "common knowledge" (stereotypes) all suggest that Blacks commit crimes at a rate disproportionate to our numbers in society. Conservatives embrace this assumption, and call for tougher laws. Liberals embrace the same assumption, though squeamishly, and instead call for more social programs.

    The better question for public debate is this: do the actual government statistics bear out the claim that Blacks contribute disproportionately to the crime rate? Or is this largely a stereotype, which is driven by the disproportionate rate of ARRESTS and CONVICTIONS of Black people? And does the over-focus on Black crime conceal an alarmingly high crime rate within the white population?

    Weapons. According to the Center on Disease Control's annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey, in 2001 whites and African Americans reported similar rates of carrying a weapon (whites 17.9%, African Americans 15.2%), and similar rates of carrying a gun (whites 5.5%, and African Americans, 6.5%). [10] African American youth represent 32% of all weapons arrests, and were arrested for weapons offenses at a rate twice that of whites (69 per 100,000, versus 30 per 100,000). [11]

    Assault. According to the Center on Disease Control's annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey, African Americans report being in a physical fight at a similar rate (36.5%, versus 32.5% for whites), but were arrested for aggravated assault at a rate nearly three times that of whites (137 per 100,000, versus 48 per 100,000).


    The whole Black community? (none / 0) (#225)
    by TeresaInPa on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 02:59:34 PM EST
    I am betting not ABG.  I am betting there are plenty of people in the Black community who understand what happened and understand the law and who do not think Obama pandering to the lowest common denominator is a good idea.  I'll also bet they are not all conservatives, just like I am not a conservative, just like Jeralyn is not a conservative and lots of other people here are not conservatives, they just don't happen to agree with you.