Trayvon Martin open thread

A jury has acquitted George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watchman, of second-degree murder for killing Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.

Comments on this thread will be fully, and heavily, moderated, so please be understanding when they take some time to appear. Please keep in mind that this is a sensitive time and a painful subject, so idle questions and dispassionate speculation may not be deemed appropriate for publication.

103 comments for “Trayvon Martin open thread

  1. (BFing)Sarah
    July 14, 2013 at 1:01 am

    I just got back from vacation and this is what I come back to…I kind of want to cry. I just feel so sad. How can I protect my child when this is the world he lives in? What do I say to him about how to stay safe? Stay inside? Don’t go south? Don’t ever defend yourself because someone might shoot you and that person won’t even do any jail time??

  2. Donna L
    July 14, 2013 at 1:18 am

    Thank you for keeping this moderated. I really wouldn’t want to have to read any comments celebrating this terrible injustice.

    • BHuesca
      July 14, 2013 at 11:02 am

      But is that really the point of moderation? So that everyone is civil, or to maintain/support one viewpoint/side to the exclusion of the other?

      • amblingalong
        July 14, 2013 at 3:29 pm

        But is that really the point of moderation? So that everyone is civil, or to maintain/support one viewpoint/side to the exclusion of the other?

        When that other viewpoint is terrifyingly racist, yeah, pretty much.

  3. anon
    July 14, 2013 at 1:25 am

    trayvon’s death is tragic.

    is it true that Zimmerman was “self-appointed,” as you say? the defense brought a pre-trial motion on that point and the prosecutors had to back off because it wasn’t true, or so i thought. am i wrong about that?

  4. Marjani
    July 14, 2013 at 1:26 am

    A complete travesty of justice. How do you even justify this? As a young black woman, I pray I never have sons, cause I would be so afraid for their lives. Hell, even I’m afraid for my life.

    Ah, but the Supreme Court says that racism is dead. Yeah, sure, okay.

    However, I implore everyone here to get active and not let this fall to the wayside. Join an organization, or movement. Lobby your politicians (especially if you live in Florida) to not pass stand your ground laws. Let’s not let this tragedy happen twice.

    • amblingalong
      July 14, 2013 at 1:54 am

      Lobby your politicians (especially if you live in Florida) to not pass stand your ground laws.

      As I understand it, the defense ended up not invoking stand-your-ground but instead went with a typical self defense claim.

      Absolutely cosign the rest, though.

      • anon
        July 14, 2013 at 2:44 am

        you are correct. the “stand your ground” law in that state is a procedural protection that zimmerman did not utilize in this case.

        and the duty to retreat had been abrogated in Florida well before the stand your ground law.

        the defense was a straight forward self-defense theory of the type that is common across the country.

      • Lisa
        July 15, 2013 at 7:56 am

        He didn’t use the SYG defense, but it is what led to him not being arrested in the first place.

  5. Willa Bryan
    July 14, 2013 at 1:53 am

    As a Black woman, I see this differently. I raise my boys not to try to act tough and start a fight with strangers. If someone approaches you at night, you talk to him – you don’t jump him and pound his head against the concrete. This trial teaches them common sense, because if they do that they can get shot, but also teaches them that nobody expects them to do anything different. Everyone says Zimmerman should have stayed in his car and not approached Trayvon – makes Trayvon sound like a wild animal who cant control himself. I find that very racist.

    • July 14, 2013 at 2:54 am

      Everyone says Zimmerman should have stayed in his car and not approached Trayvon – makes Trayvon sound like a wild animal who cant control himself. I find that very racist.

      Oh, FFS. Trayvon was acting in self-defense, not unleashing anger on Zimmerman. No one supporting Trayvon is making Trayvon sound like he couldn’t control himself.


      This trial teaches them common sense

      Um…I don’t even know how to respond to this. WTF?

    • miga
      July 14, 2013 at 3:38 am

      I wouldn’t count defending yourself against someone approaching you with a gun as starting a fight. As a woman, I was taught that if someone approaches me at night I run. If I can’t run I fight like hell. These lessons were taught to “protect” me from assaults both sexual and otherwise–I was not taught to try and reason with my attacker in case I am “justifiably” murdered for neglecting to do so. Why should we teach our sons any different, or blame them if they react in an unwise way to a terrifying and impromptu situation?
      Zimmerman should’ve stayed in his car and not approached Trayvon because Trayvon wasn’t doing anything wrong, and most people would consider it creepy and “starting a fight” for a grown man to approach a boy in the middle of the night with a loaded gun.

      • Angie unduplicated
        July 14, 2013 at 8:52 am

        Second this. The jury acquitted a stalker who was called out for his actions. He was the initial aggressor. Racism rules the F state.

      • (Bfing) Sarah
        July 14, 2013 at 4:29 pm

        Agreed completely, miga.

        How could Treyvon have reasoned with a grown man that called 911 on him simply for being present in the neighborhood and being black? The 911 operator couldn’t reason with him and convince him to back off, how could Treyvon have talked him out of seeing him as a threat, as a “f-ing [slur]” (as he called him on the 911 call)? Why should Treyvon have to explain his presence to a man with a loaded weapon simply for existing? I’m sorry, but no. I’m not telling my black son to try to talk a madman out of murdering him. I don’t know how to protect him, but I am not going to go with that method! Now, I also teach him to use words and not physical actions as a response when someone comes at him aggressively, but he is five…so I think that’s appropriate. If he was approached by a stranger at night as a teenager? I don’t know; that’s a judgment call that I can’t make for another person and I certainly can’t make it for Treyvon. He defended himself when he was approached aggressively by a racist ass and he didn’t deserve to die for it.

      • baiskeli
        July 16, 2013 at 12:58 am

        Yes, this. Let us not forget that Zimmerman had called the cops 46 times! over the last year and a half. Most of the people he called about were black and not doing anything wrong (other than existing), and he even called to report a 7-9 year old child (black of course) acting suspiciously.

        36. April 22, 2011 – 7:09 p.m.
        Type: TEL
        Subject: Suspicious activity
        Report: Juvenile black male “apprx 7–9” years old, four feet tall “skinny build short blk hair” last seen wearing a blue t-shirt and blue shorts

    • July 14, 2013 at 10:43 am

      Everyone says Zimmerman should have stayed in his car and not approached Trayvon – makes Trayvon sound like a wild animal who cant control himself.

      Or it makes Zimmerman sound like the enraged predator he is. But whatever.

    • Azalea
      July 14, 2013 at 11:46 pm

      I have trouble believing you. The idea that Zimmerman had a RIGHT to call the police on someone who did not commit a single crime accept exist within his line of vision is absurd. The idea that someone, especially a stranger, in a car at night in the cold rain has a RIGHT to follow a child in the dark on an empty street is ABSURD.

    • Tim
      July 15, 2013 at 12:16 pm

      If someone approaches you at night, you talk to him – you don’t jump him and pound his head against the concrete.

      I hope you don’t mean that to be as victim-blaming as it sounds. You make it sound like George Zimmerman was handing out invitation fliers to church or free concert tickets. As for Trayvon Martin “jumping” him and “pounding his head against the concrete,” you have only Zimmerman’s word for that.

    • MH
      July 15, 2013 at 4:19 pm

      As a Black woman, I see this differently than you do. I completely agree that we must teach our children to use their words and not start fights/diffuse fights when possible – and that applies to all races. However, when a random person approaches you at night, when you’re alone, for no apparent reason, I’m not sure what the exact appropriate response is. Its situational, for sure. However, as others have pointed out, there probably wasn’t any reasoning with Zimmerman. If a police dispatcher couldn’t do it, I’m not sure what you believe a child could have said that would have been more convincing. Could Trayvon have run? Sure, maybe. I don’t know how intent Zimmerman was on detaining him/fighting. I’m not sure its fair to say Trayvon started the fight, when he was neither the stalker nor the one ignoring police directions. But was he under any obligation to not fight hard once the fight began? Of course not. What would you recommend your sons do in a situation in which they could not run away and words had not worked?

  6. July 14, 2013 at 2:07 am

    And to think that there are people who think that racism is dead…

    How awful. =[

  7. Alexandra
    July 14, 2013 at 2:47 am

    I heard the news sitting in a cafe this evening, and within ten minutes people were talking about it. The barista was arguing with an older white man about whether or not the verdict was racist. I put in my two cents, which is very similar to what amblingalong has been saying here about how what remains most disturbing to me is that there almost wasn’t a trial, and how badly the investigation was handled by the Sanford PD. How anyone can claim this was a just trial when the Prosecution’s case was so weakened by the total mishandling of the police investigation is beyond me.

    • anon
      July 14, 2013 at 11:52 am

      the true weakness in the prosecution’s case was its decision to charge it as murder 2. big mistake.

      the state’s own witnesses proved that there was a fight with Trayvon sitting on top of Zimmerman throwing down punches. the state knew of the photos with Zimmerman bloody. it was never a murder 2 case. it was a manslaughter case — a difficult manslaughter case — from the very beginning.

  8. July 14, 2013 at 2:48 am

    A complete travesty of justice. How do you even justify this? As a young black woman, I pray I never have sons, cause I would be so afraid for their lives. Hell, even I’m afraid for my life.

    Ah, but the Supreme Court says that racism is dead. Yeah, sure, okay.

    However, I implore everyone here to get active and not let this fall to the wayside. Join an organization, or movement. Lobby your politicians (especially if you live in Florida) to not pass stand your ground laws. Let’s not let this tragedy happen twice.

    While as someone wrote it went with self-defense in the end, I think the climate that comes along with “Stand Your Ground” (or in Colorado and Texas, “Make my day”) laws creates vigilantism climate and given Florida’s history of racism against African-Americans (like elsewhere) in the CJS, those laws are going to be unfairly applied.

    I’ve worked including with the NAACP (which locally refused to participate in vigils for Trayvon Martin though two neighboring ones held them) with both criminal defendants and victims who were non-white. I saw examples of racism institutionally speaking that were so outrageous most often tied with capital cases of Black on White and a lot with the jury system process. Interviewed enough jurors to unfortunately not have much faith in that process beginning with compiling juror pools before selection takes place.

    I’d been involved in the CJS as some form of advocate or reporter or another for over 10 years. I haven’t an ounce of optimism left but I still get involved in these issues. Of which there’s a lot of them tied up into the larger issues. One example? Creation of juror pools is one that’s generated a lot of problems.

    About SCOTUS, were you talking about McCleskey v. Kemp on the justice system being inevitably racist but nothing could be done to remedy it?

    • Aimee
      July 14, 2013 at 7:57 am

      I believe the comment about SCOTUS was in reference to the recent decision to strike down section 4 and effectively nullify section 5 of the Voting Rights Act on the grounds that “our country has changed.”

  9. Mike
    July 14, 2013 at 2:49 am

    I am so disappointed that there are not more protests in areas other than so-called “liberal bubbles.”Everyone should care about this. I live in San Diego, and there has been nothing here.

    I am also disappointed that some (mostly likely white and privileged) asshole thought that it was funny or appropriate to post a fake video of race riots.

  10. July 14, 2013 at 3:12 am

    As a Black woman, I see this differently. I raise my boys not to try to act tough and start a fight with strangers. If someone approaches you at night, you talk to him – you don’t jump him and pound his head against the concrete. This trial teaches them common sense, because if they do that they can get shot, but also teaches them that nobody expects them to do anything different. Everyone says Zimmerman should have stayed in his car and not approached Trayvon – makes Trayvon sound like a wild animal who cant control himself. I find that very racist.

    A lot of my friends did this with their kids too. That’s exactly the way all children should be raised in my opinion though it’s not always easy to do for sure.

    Most of them are still alive. One got beaten up and nearly paralyzed when chased by a mob of Western Hammarskins who slashed him with a broken bottle and stabbed with a knife. They got some time and so did four of the “mob” who incited it. One of the skinheads spit at his mother as he was led out of the courtroom.

    Five others died from gang violence, none were gang members, three were 13. They died because they were Black or dark skinned at the hands of Latino gang members ordered to kill them by the Mexican Mafia which ruled the prisons and the streets too. They don’t kill gang members who are Black, they just kill people that are Black even children. That’s just their rules, not sure when that changed exactly.

    Two were ambushed and run down and then shot to death. One died in a car by drive-by and the other while coming out to meet his mother after choir practice. He actually died because he was African-American but lighter skinned so some Crips thought he was Latino and killed him for that. Either that or for wearing a Phillies Baseball hat which being red, meant he could have been labeled as a Blood.

    Being good and respectful didn’t make it safer for them. It should have but it didn’t.

    Some of the killers did time. Two were prosecuted wrongfully until the DNA tests came back negative and then the positive testers were then prosecuted and convicted. A couple more recent remain unsolved and are technically “cold” technically b/c the killers are known by almost everyone but people tend to talk much about who kills who for fear of retaliation.

    And another was killed by a police officer while unarmed and with his hands raised empty palmed. He didn’t do anything really…he was just approached as a “type” because someone else in his racial and gender category was accused of stealing a car. The cop had multiple shootings.

    I think what you say works a lot of the time and I wish it did all the time certainly with these kids and adults who died, but I also remember the times that I like others comforted mothers and sometimes fathers, aunts, uncles and wives when teaching their kids how to be respectful didn’t work as it should have worked. In fact they said that, they’d taught their kids right and I know it’s true because I knew some of them personally that still wound up dead or badly hurt. Several were honor students, committed volunteers with organizations, people that many parents would love to have as children and think they’d never have to be scared to lose them to violence. But no matter how well they behaved because in part due to good parenting, they still wound up dead probably by those who perhaps didn’t benefit or receive that same diligent parenting themselves.

    The positive thing is that most people survived and I think the world’s a better place for having children raise right including by showing respect. But it doesn’t necessarily make the losses easier to bear.

  11. Mike
    July 14, 2013 at 3:14 am

    This entire trial, I was incredibly sad that there was no greater discussion on systemic racism or the “stand your ground” doctrine. Lawyers on both sides argued about whether or not Zimmerman was a “racist” , whether he is “white” or “hispanic” and questioning his black friend about his character. However, I have barely heard anyone in the mainstream media talk about how there is an latent stereotype of the dangerous, criminal black male burned into our collective unconsciousness, and that even people who may never express, or even think, explicitly racist ideas, often have a knee-jerk reaction of fear to a young black male dressed a certain way. I admit that I myself have felt this fear on occasion, even though I know that it is culturally-constructed bullshit.
    I think the fear that we all may carry some unconscious racism is what makes the media uncomfortable with having a real discussion of how societal racism might have influenced Zimmerman even if Zimmerman was not a foaming bigot.
    Sadly, this verdict does not really surprise me.

    • broken
      July 14, 2013 at 9:34 am

      Stand your ground was never invoked during this trial.

      • July 14, 2013 at 12:02 pm

        I think in the states where Stand Your Ground/Make My Day laws exists fosters a climate of vigilantism. The guy was in his car, he thought the guy warranted a call to the police but then decides to approach him on his own perhaps emboldened by carrying a gun? Self-defense? That’d be staying in your car.

      • Mike
        July 15, 2013 at 1:36 am

        yeah I think that was more what I meant. Even though stand your ground wasn’t specifically brought up in this case, the whole culture of stand your ground laws seems to encourage escalation in circumstances like this that would end much better if one party did not engage/did not bring out a weapon.

    • anon
      July 14, 2013 at 11:55 am

      stand your ground in Florida is a procedural mechanism that the defense never invoked.

      what appears to bother you is the erosion of the duty to retreat, which happened before the stand your ground statute was enacted in Florida.

      • July 14, 2013 at 2:10 pm

        Uh, that’s just what I said that it wasn’t use as a defense? In part that was tossed to insure a jury trial rather than trial by judge.

        And I don’t consider waiting in your car until the cops arrive to deal with someone who drove you to call them is “retreating”. That’s called being smart. If you’ve called the police, then you’re essentially making a decision to hand off action including the use of force to them. Any dispatcher is going to be trained to tell callers to NOT engage a person anyway, at least for most LEOs. Liability is probably one of the main reasons for that at least in Dispatcher training programs I reviewed.

        And it’s what virtually every person who volunteers to coordinate a neighborhood watch is taught in the free training course that comes with registering your NWO. The role in NWOs is to observe, document and report, NEVER to confront. They practically stamp that on your forehead in training.

        But I’m suspecting without knowing that this particular NWO was not registered with the local PD? I’m suspecting more than likely it was a more “loosely” formed and ran organization instead outside of the police. More of the problems with NWOs are from those than from the registered ones in part because to be registered you have to send people off to train.

        I’d like to argue then that if the “duty to retreat” was gone with the Stand Your Ground law than was the “duty to engage” what replaced it instead and how does that not become vigilantism including in cases where the person doing the engaging with the gun. And does this law affect the operation of NWOs in any way whether registered or not?

  12. Henry
    July 14, 2013 at 3:25 am

    Zimmerman provoked Martin’s use of force against him, under Florida law Zimmerman’s self defense rights were severely limited.

    Florida Title XLVI. Crimes. Chapter 776: JUSTIFIABLE USE OF FORCE 776.041 Use of force by aggressor.—

    • Anon21
      July 14, 2013 at 1:36 pm

      Florida Statutes § 776.041:

      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:

      (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.

      I don’t think anyone was arguing that Zimmerman withdrew, so we’re looking at a defense based on (2)(a). Then, as I understand it, the legal issue is whether Zimmerman reasonably believed he was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm, and whether he reasonably believed he had exhausted every “reasonable means” of escaping the danger.

      Reasonable belief of great bodily harm was probably a gimmie in this case; he had injuries that were at least consistent with his head being slammed on the concrete. So the question that would have been most relevant is whether he thought Zimmerman reasonably believed he had no option other than to shoot Martin. With the paucity of evidence about what was going on in the confrontation at the moment when Zimmerman shot, the jury’s verdict doesn’t seem to me to cry out for justification.

      One question is how the law could be different, so as to make what Zimmerman did a crime on any plausible version of the facts. You might say that if the person who uses deadly force initiated the confrontation, he has to show (1) or (2) to defend against first- or second-degree murder, but he just doesn’t get a defense against voluntary manslaughter; that is, if you initiate a confrontation and end up killing the other person under circumstances that otherwise fit the definition of voluntary manslaughter, you can be convicted of that crime regardless of what you believed about the danger to yourself.

      • July 15, 2013 at 11:17 am

        that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape

        Wouldn’t the defence’s claim that Trayvon Martin was the only one throwing punches negate this bit here? No evidence, to my knowledge, was made that Zimmerman made any other attempt to escape.

  13. matlun
    July 14, 2013 at 5:19 am

    A jury has acquitted George Zimmerman […] of second-degree murder for killing Trayvon Martin

    A nitpick: They also acquitted him of manslaughter. That was the less serious charge which was theoretically easier to prove.

    • July 14, 2013 at 2:20 pm

      A lot of times it’s arrest on a higher charge, prosecute on a lower. But sometimes they charge high (usually on one they think they can win) in hopes of a plea bargain on a lower. Meaning that if they charge someone with 2nd degree murder, that it’s in hopes of someone taking a plea on voluntary manslaughter. That’s done a lot and in most counties plea bargain rates are well over 80 to 90%. Logically the system can’t support many trials especially more serious felonies like murder and capital murder.

      My county tried to try all serious felonies without any plea bargains post-arraignment and wound up having to be “rescued” by the state supreme court b/c it proved disastrous in every way from shutting down the civil court, to jeopardizing family courts, to draining jury pools to the point of having to recruit jurors off the street. It took two years and a special judicial task force of retired judges to undo the damage. So I understand that mentality of plea bargains that might impact the actual prosecution including at trial. It was funny too with the emergency judges who just were mind boggled of how my county did business in its criminal courts. The DA in that case, went from an unopposed candidate/winner to a one-termer.

      Sometimes when there’s no plea taken, I wonder if it’ll backfire at trial. In many cases arguing the higher can help you “win” the lower but I don’t know if that’s necessarily true in all states.

  14. Karak
    July 14, 2013 at 6:50 am

    Truthfully? I’m not just disappointed in the verdict, I’m bitterly supported in my notion that my generation is completely neutered. Twenty years ago, there would have been rights, fifty, and there would have been giant marches. Our generational parents worked hard to cut out any ability to feel real rage either constructively or destructively.

  15. July 14, 2013 at 8:10 am

    Although crime is decreasing nationally there is a powerful gun lobby whose goal is to market guns, and fear is the sales pitch. There is also a sense of white grievance at losing the majority grip on power, and politicians who get elected by stoking the outrage.
    This verdict in Florida gives permission for all those gun owners to put their toys to use without facing justice.
    I live in Rhode Island. There will be no riots here. But we have guns and I fear the next self-appointed vigilante who is ready to shoot anyone who frightens him.

    • July 14, 2013 at 2:31 pm

      Crime’s way up where I’m at and in many cities in California due to realignment of prisoner from being under the jurisdiction of the state to the counties without the state providing any additional funding to the counties with all those inmates being diverted due to a mandatory federal court order to reduce prison overcrowding. That said, there are strategies to address that which don’t involve packing a gun and going to look for a fight. The guy made that decision the moment he stepped foot out of that car. He didn’t know for sure what Martin might do or act and no one still knows what happened for sure but he ASSUMED he was a threat when he made that call to the police.

      I don’t expect riots. I think people will demonstrate once and go back to their lives. I know the NAACP is busy circulating the DOJ Civil Rights petition but protesting is an important part of getting the FBI to get the go ahead to investigate not to mention DOJ Civil Rights and I say that having had many a conversation on these issues with representatives of these agencies and the U.S. Attorney’s office which prosecutes all violations of federal law including civil rights violations. You need heat to get them in and most importantly, to keep them busy doing their investigation and a prosecution which is pretty rare since 1) like most prosecutors they want to win and 2) their standards for prosecuting are more stringent not less than most counties. The latter surprised me when it was explained to me by the U.S. Attorney in charge of Southern California on why there’d be no federal charges in connection with the police killing of Tyisha Miller which they investigated in 1999 AND reopened in 2002 when new evidence was forwarded to them. But also on cases involving people assaulted by white supremacists.

      Riots don’t happen very often for a reason. Just like with any major fire it takes years and sometimes decades for the fueling source to build up and then that one spark which is really the culmination of a lot of almost-sparks. I’ve seen it happen up close, I’ve talked to people who were victims in riots in terms of losing businesses and I talked to people who participated and a lot of them still weren’t sure exactly why. One of them was the mother of one of the men who beat in Reginald Denny’s head with concrete. And that’s not a judgment, that’s just the way it is worldwide not just here. And that’s not addressing other types of “riots” like what took place with the presidential election in states like Florida and Ohio in 2000.

      • July 14, 2013 at 2:33 pm

        Also I wanted to add, that how seriously the feds take it is in part determined by whether or not they dispatched reps from their Community Relations division. You know the men and women in the navy blue jackets and hats who you see at community meetings and at demonstrations. I don’t know in this case. I can ask if there’s still people I know working in that division who haven’t retired. But I haven’t heard any mention of them so far.

    • (Bfing) Sarah
      July 14, 2013 at 5:08 pm

      I think you are right. This does bring up the whole “I’m going to protect MYSELF from all of THESE PEOPLE with my gun and no one can stop me” trope that is has been spewing about so frequently lately. Its nauseating. Since when are gun owners appointed the judge, jury, and executioner? Haven’t we moved on since the Wild West? Apparently not.

  16. whistlewren
    July 14, 2013 at 8:42 am

    And just so we can all rest easy that this case was about the facts, and totes not about race.

    I can not fucking believe this whole fucking thing. So I am just going to say fuck a lot.


    • TMK
      July 14, 2013 at 1:55 pm

      I have no idea why you think getting out of (not your own) house, getting a gun, returning, and shooting “warning shots” is okay.

      • S.H.
        July 14, 2013 at 4:09 pm

        What are you talking about TMK?

        (CBS News) JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Florida woman who fired warning shots against her allegedly abusive husband has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

        Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville had said the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law should apply to her because she was defending herself against her allegedly abusive husband when she fired warning shots inside her home in August 2010. She told police it was to escape a brutal beating by her husband, against whom she had already taken out a protective order.

      • TMK
        July 14, 2013 at 9:31 pm

        I am talking about the case of Marissa Alexander:

        (Marissa Alexander) …returned to their old home to collect clothes and some possessions thinking he was not there. Her ex husband was there, with their children, and they began to argue. After the argument became heated, Marissa Alexander returned to her car, picked up her firearm, and returned inside the house where she threatened him with the handgun before firing a warning shot into the wall.

      • broken
        July 14, 2013 at 9:53 pm

        You never fire a warning shot. It allows the prosecutor to argue you weren’t in fear for your life.

      • thefish
        July 15, 2013 at 3:43 pm

        Broken has it right. Bullets can fragment or miss or ricochet or go through walls. If you fire a gun you are risking the lives of everyone near by. Now if you need to use lethal force to defend yourself that is a risk you can take. But if you fire a warning shot you are risking the lives of innocent people but not even using real force.

        Only shoot if you need to kill. If you need to kill shoot to kill.

        That said the Florida law is way the hell to harsh.

      • S.H.
        July 15, 2013 at 1:43 am

        So not only is an abuser’s word taken over a victim in the Alexander case (awesome precedent there), everything she did before the shooting is used against her, whereas in the Zimmerman case everything leading up to that confrontation is totally irrelevant. Makes total sense!

      • igglanova
        July 16, 2013 at 1:00 am

        FFS, nobody thinks firing a ‘warning shot’ is ok. But it’s certainly a hell of a lot more ok than shooting an unarmed teenager in the fucking heart.

        Fuck is right.

  17. July 14, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Coupled with the Zimmerman verdict and this verdict from last year:

    Fla. mom gets 20 years for firing warning shots

    The entire state of Florida is looking like one big sundown town.

  18. Kerandria
    July 14, 2013 at 9:13 am

    Fucking fuck. No words.

  19. July 14, 2013 at 9:23 am

    To be honest, as soon as I found out that the 6 person jury contained 5 white women, I knew we didn’t have a chance in hell for a guilty verdict. I did get my hopes up when they were allowed to consider lesser charges, but…smh

    Yesterday, I went to a “last-run” theater and saw “The Purge”. Afterwards, the movie made me feel uncomfortable because it hit too close to home for me. Despite all of the sci-fi/horror thrillers I’ve seen, this one was too realistic for me.

    Gee, I wonder why…

  20. broken
    July 14, 2013 at 9:39 am

    It was incredibly frustrating how poorly the prosecution presented their case. It was a huge and unforgivably mistake to go for murder instead of manslaughter because they could have at least argued that Zimmerman willfully created the conditions for an altercation and was indifferent to the possibility that an altercation could have occurred from his actions.

    Its even more frustrating that it wasn’t investigated and prosecuted without national outrage.

    • Gretchen
      July 14, 2013 at 11:57 am

      Agreed. The second-degree murder charge was practically impossible to prove, the prosecution should have spent its time and resources on making an airtight manslaughter case. Such a mess at every level. Makes me wonder if they threw the trial on purpose seeing as the state didn’t even want to prosecute Zimmerman in the first place.

      • GallingGalla
        July 14, 2013 at 12:57 pm

        Makes me wonder if they threw the trial on purpose seeing as the state didn’t even want to prosecute Zimmerman in the first place.

        This is exactly what I’m wondering, too.

    • TMK
      July 14, 2013 at 1:59 pm

      Second degree murder includes manslaughter, at least in this case it was explicitly written in jury instructions that they can convict Zimmerman of manslaughter if they find him not guilty of 2nd degree.

      That said, both the prosecution and police seemed quite incompetent in handling the case.

      • July 14, 2013 at 2:42 pm

        The police waited too long in my opinion. You can never get back any time you lost, that’s what homicide investigators say anyway. The prosecutor should have presented both cases, 2nd degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. That’s done all the time. Including in how you interrogate under direct and under cross and how you lay your foundation. Any prosecutor with some trial skill can do that and most do to cover their bases b/c they know it might be an “in between” which means manslaughter is more provable and 2nd degree might be in doubt. Don’t lose your jury or get them confused by the two.

        Some prosecutors don’t and rely on a trickle down approach that an argument for the higher will work as well for the lower as a fallback but that doesn’t always work, particularly in cases where the way the laws are worded and the jury instructions (and that can change as my state went from CALJIC to CALCRIM) are also written that don’t make one seem as much like a “lesser” of the greater offense.

        It’s funny because jury instructions is probably the most boring part of any trial to watch by far but outside of jury instruction it matters the most. The actual trial…that’s a distant third at best.

        Lesser includeds usually can only be considered or deliberated once 2nd degree murder’s been voted down or “not guilty”. That can complicate things too though jurors rarely do as they’re supposed to because for one thing, human beings don’t work that way.

    • (Bfing) Sarah
      July 14, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      I feel the same way. The prosecution did such a terrible job it makes me think they didn’t want to win.

      • July 14, 2013 at 9:11 pm

        I knew when I first heard the charges they were pursuing that they were deliberately throwing the case. They didn’t want to win; don’t diminish their own racism in this case. May have even been some conflict of interest since zimmerman’s father was once a magistrate. i wouldn’t be surprised if parties that be conspired to lose this case.

      • July 14, 2013 at 10:46 pm

        Oh I don’t defend or minimize racist prosecutions at all. I take great pleasure in fighting those because I think the Justice System should be for everyone and I’ve done my best to help them rethink some of their worst decisions. I do my best anyway.

        Consequently I wasn’t well liked by the last three DAs in my county. Since I was actually prosecuted for civil disobedience by the one who’s likely to be our next DA (while he was a baby prosecutor), I think it’ll be four straight.

        However most prosecutors I met hate losing cases even ones they’d rather not do. I think sometimes that’s led to ego overriding strategy in some notable cases. One of the so many things that went wrong with the OJ Simpson murder case years ago.

        Some are cool. Last time I did jury selection and didn’t get picked, the prosecutor asked me to sit during the break to sit in the trial and tell me what I thought. And I’ve had prosecutors call up even when I was blogging and ask them to cover their trials just to get coverage. So yeah, ego plays into it a lot.

        But mixed with racism and ego in the institution is incompetence in some instances and sometimes not all the time they stem from the same source.

  21. Ruth
    July 14, 2013 at 9:53 am

    As an elder (79) white woman I am saddened by the verdict. I have witnessed too many verdicts against Black youth . It ‘s racism, racism and more racism.

    • tinfoil hattie
      July 14, 2013 at 10:40 pm

      Yep. Ypu’re right, Ruth. As an embittered 52-yr-old white woman, I must say I knew Zimmerman would be acquitted.

  22. chava
    July 14, 2013 at 11:39 am

    there are a handful of teenagers and young men in our neighborhood who were just his age, when it happened. we’ve been to their graduations, parties, listened to their plans…and I just keep thinking, it could have so, so easily been one of them. and nothing would happen. how good a black kid do you have to be, in america, to be worthy of not being murdered?

    I cannot even imagine what his parents are going through right now. Just…no words, man.

    • Past my expiration date
      July 14, 2013 at 2:23 pm

      Me too. No words.

  23. GallingGalla
    July 14, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Gary Younge at the Guardian had this to say:

    Since it was Zimmerman who stalked Martin, the question remains: what ground is a young black man entitled to and on what grounds may he defend himself?

    Trayvon was doing nothing more than carrying ice tea and candy, and he was stalked by a man with a gun. Trayvon must have feared for his life. So why didn’t *he* have the right to stand *his* ground and defend himself? Does stand your ground apply only to white men carrying guns?

    • July 14, 2013 at 3:03 pm

      Of course it does.

    • Anon21
      July 14, 2013 at 4:45 pm

      I think the answer is that Martin might well have been acting within his rights. Under self-defense law (not just Florida’s stand-your-ground law*), it can definitely be the case that both people in an altercation would be legally justified in killing each other.

      *Which, as someone may have already mentioned, wasn’t at issue in Zimmerman’s trial.

  24. A4
    July 14, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    When all the white people are selectively incompetent in ways that marginalize people of color then that is called racism not incompetence.

    The police, the media, the prosecution, and the defense all doing a shitty job is not incompetence. It’s racism.

    • Mike
      July 15, 2013 at 7:20 pm

      the defence did a great job of confusing/misdirecting the jury

  25. July 14, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Couldn’t decide whether to put this in “promoting yourself” of here. So I’ll go with here:

    Doesn’t Trayvon Martin have a right to ‘stand his ground’?

  26. Chataya
    July 14, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    I find it chilling that they basically ruled that stalking and killing an unarmed person is perfectly fine.

  27. July 14, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Trayvon was doing nothing more than carrying ice tea and candy, and he was stalked by a man with a gun. Trayvon must have feared for his life. So why didn’t *he* have the right to stand *his* ground and defend himself? Does stand your ground apply only to white men carrying guns?

    Pretty much yes. Just look at some of the states that passed these kinds of laws and their histories. We don’t even know when Zimmerman pulled his gun out. Was it at the end when he shot or was it earlier? What if he got physical with Zimmerman to try to save himself?

    Since he’s not alive to challenge Zimmerman’s version of events, then it doesn’t matter. The guy had a history of assaulting police officers which a judge apparently thought along with the DV issues were “run of the mill” which is news to me. I didn’t know so many men were running around doing those things. He even got ‘diverted” on the cop charge which I’ve never even heard of happening. Probably other violent outbursts that didn’t make the court records. He just comes off not so much as racist (as I don’t think “profiling” necessarily makes a person racist as much as it makes an institution that operates under it racist) but as an anger management case gone unaddressed situation. He seemed like a powder keg with a gun living and operating in a society steeped with racism if that makes some sense.

  28. Donna L
    July 14, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    It’s too bad that this couldn’t be introduced at the trial. Not that I really believe it would have changed the outcome:

    A woman with close ties to George Zimmerman and his family told investigators that members of Zimmerman’s family were boastfully proud racists and that for more than a decade Zimmerman sexually molested her.

    “It started when I was six,” the woman told investigators during an interview on the morning of March 20. “We’d all lay in front of the TV and we had pillows and blankets and he would reach under the blankets and try to do things and I would try to push him off but he was bigger and stronger and older,” the woman said, audibly weeping in the Florida State Attorney’s Office interview recording released Monday. “It was in front of everybody and I don’t know how I didn’t say anything, I just didn’t know any better.”

    The woman, identified in various reports and in taped interviews with investigators as witness 9, said that from the age of six to 19 Zimmerman repeatedly fondled her, at times penetrating her vagina with his finger.

  29. mh
    July 14, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    I was really hoping to keep talking about…anything else. Not that I don’t want this to be talked about here. I just can’t bear it.

    This is so bad for all of us.

  30. July 14, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    My god, the more I read into this case the more disgusted I become with our legal system.

  31. Jason Thrasher
    July 14, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    What was most infuriating about this trial was the complete mishandling of it by the prosecution. There was more than enough evidence to convict Zimmerman of manslaughter. What a complete half-assed effort on the part of the state prosecution. It’s like they didn’t even want to be in that courtroom. Trayvon and his parents deserved better.

    Zimmerman has an actual history of violent criminal behavior (battery against cop, restraining order against him from ex-fiancé), but Trayvon Martin is the “thug”? Why wasn’t Zimmerman’s criminal past brought up time and time again by the prosecution. I just don’t understand it.

    Ashamed as an American that the Zimmerman verdict could ever pass as “justice” and even more ashamed that horrible injustice like this is more the rule than exception.

    • a lawyer
      July 15, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      Why wasn’t Zimmerman’s criminal past brought up time and time again by the prosecution. I just don’t understand it.

      Because it’s not usually allowed under USian criminal law.

      This has nothing to do against Zimmerman in particular. There are many larger problems with reading a criminal record into evidence as a way to taint a jury against the defendant.

      Like all universal rules, there will be a few times when the rule produces a “WTF?” result. This may be one of them.

      Still: I am simultaneously saddened and disturbed by the verdict, and also concerned by the calls for “justice against Zimmerman” in this specific case. The outcome sucked, to be sure–still, IMO it is a very very bad, very very dangerous thing, when we ask the government to prosecute people based on public demands. It doesn’t usually end well. “Don’t let this kind of travesty happen to any more victims like Trayvon” is something I can get behind; “get the DOJ to go after Zimmerman because we want him punished” is not–even though I don’t think Zimmerman is innocent.

      • Lolagirl
        July 16, 2013 at 3:20 pm

        After having spent nearly ten years of my career as a litigator, I have to say my faith in our U.S. jury system is pretty much now zero. Even though there are supposed safeguards built in to weed out the prejudices and personal shortcomings that undermine a juror’s capacity to do their duty, I don’t think it does nearly enough to insure that actually happens. And the verdict in the Zimmerman case only further serves to underscore that opinion. I’ve never been so frustrated as when I’ve spoken with jurors after an adverse verdict for my client and discovered that they disregarded jury instructions, or failed to even understand them properly in the first place, and brought their own personal prejudices and misapprehensions to bear upon their verdict.

        Even though it is antithetical to our USian system and all that the glories of American Exceptionalism stand for (/sarcasm) I is ply no longer believe that we have the market cornered on how to assess guilt and dispense justice.

        Just my $.02

  32. pheenobarbidoll
    July 14, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    I’m really sick of people calling for Black people to not riot.

    Honestly. As if Black people are riot happy animals just waiting for a reason.

    Fucking racist shit.

    • July 15, 2013 at 11:13 am

      I’m honestly pissed off at the idea that people are telling Black people not to riot on another level – that they think they don’t have every right to do so, whether they choose to or not.

      • pheenobarbidoll
        July 15, 2013 at 12:44 pm

        That too.

    • July 15, 2013 at 2:34 pm

      I’m really sick of people calling for Black people to not riot.

      Honestly. As if Black people are riot happy animals just waiting for a reason.

      Fucking racist shit.

      Ironically, we’re currently at the 150th anniversary of the NYC Draft Riots.

  33. July 14, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Apparently a cousin complained that she was molested by him beginning as a child too.

    article about his cousin’s allegations

  34. Coraline
    July 15, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Maybe I have too much naive faith in our justice system, but the verdict surprised me.

    I was fully expecting him to dodge the Murder 2 charge (because the bar is set pretty high for that) but I honestly expected him to be charged as guilty for manslaughter.

    I was also (assuming that he got hit for any of the charges) expecting him to immediately move to have everything thrown out on account of “incompetent counsel”. I saw a lot of the things that his lawyer pulled during the trial (opening the proceedings with a fucking knock-knock joke? Are you shitting me?) as laying the groundwork for something like that….

  35. July 15, 2013 at 10:52 am

    The march in support of The Martins (aka the ‘Trayvon Martin riot’ in the media,) in Union Square, was incredibly powerful and moving. Unfortunately, being a fucking idiot, I thought it would be a biting comment to wear a hoodie to the event- in the middle of July.

  36. VG
    July 15, 2013 at 11:46 am

    I believe:
    1) We live in a society that is still racist.
    2) George Zimmerman’s actions were driven by his own racial stereotypes and his cop-wannabe attitude.
    3) George Zimmerman provoked the confrontation.
    4) Nobody witnessed the confrontation and the testimony as to who was doing what to whom was weak and contradictory.
    5) IF I am pinned to the ground and being beaten and am not able to get the guy off of me, I do feel that I am in danger of great bodily harm.
    6) There simply was not enough evidence to refute the claim of self-defense BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT.
    7) George Zimmerman is morally responsible for the death of Trayvon Martin, but justice will have to wait until he is called before a higher court.
    8) As my attorney-brother was told his first day in law school, “If you want to study justice, go to divinity school. We are here to study law.” Sometimes, the law is not just.
    9) That won’t help Trayvon Martin’s family one damn bit.

    • Azalea
      July 15, 2013 at 2:58 pm

      Honestly VG,

      The biggest issue about self defense is entitling the aggressor to use that claim.

      Could you imagine?

      All any violent person would ever have to do is invade your personal space, taunt you, follow you until finally you strike back then bam, they kill you.
      People say there was “only” a thirty pound diffrence. Well Trayvon was damn near 6 feet tall and didn’t weigh 160 pounds! The great discrepancy in body mass, adrenaline (as Zimmerman was angry and prepared for a confrontation with Martin) were all favorable to the adult.

  37. EG
    July 15, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    VRA is gone, and it’s legal to murder an unarmed black teenage kid. Why did I ever think this country had changed? It hasn’t, and I doubt it ever will. It’s a racist cesspool.

  38. Mike
    July 16, 2013 at 1:47 am

    Can anyone with a criminal law background tell me if there seems to be a legitimate chance of Zimmerman being retried at the federal level on hate crimes/civil rights charges. To me that would seem to be an obvious case of double jeopardy, but I have heard it discussed. What are the circumstances that would make a federal trial possible? Is the DoJ also planning a civil rights investigation of the Sanford Police Department’s actions in this case?

    • a lawyer
      July 16, 2013 at 12:27 pm

      It’s possible in theory (that’s what happened with some of the Rodney King assailants) but very unlikely in practice. Most obviously, the evidentiary problems that existed w/r/t the murder and manslaughter charges are also going to be there for the civil charges. You run into the same issues as a result; if folks think that Trayvon threw the first punch then it’ll be very hard to charge Zimmerman.

      For a post with some good explanations and other links to still more posts/explanations, see here:

  39. July 16, 2013 at 8:00 am

    Some good news: Tom Joyner of the Tom Joyner Morning Show just offered Rachel Jeantel a full-ride scholarship (including costs of tutors to help her finish high school and pass the SATs) to any HBCU of her choice.

    • A4
      July 16, 2013 at 8:54 am

      Wow I would not have thought that would hit me so hard but I just teared up.

    • debbie
      July 16, 2013 at 2:08 pm

      That’s really lovely.

  40. chava
    July 16, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Ugh. A reasonably close relative just posted a disgusting meme of a white teen who was murdered (M. Lion) next to a photo of Trayvon, asking “One of these cases got national attention. One didn’t. What’s the difference?”

    I called him on saying something racist, and now apparently I’m a snotty, brown-nosing cunt with too much education. Lovely. Nice to know how people really feel when you scratch the surface. I guess he’s at least being more honest with his real opinion than my mother, who’s blathering on about “black on black” racism.


    • July 16, 2013 at 7:04 pm

      I’ve already seen 4 of those racists memes – 2 from a (former) Facebook friend from high school (she posted the 2nd one even after I pointed out that the 1st one was made by a white supremacist) and 2 that was posted by commenters at Feministing.

      Racist dipshits won’t even let us mourn for our loss.

      • (BFing)Sarah
        July 19, 2013 at 4:18 pm

        That’s what I don’t get. I mean, you want to put your head in the sand and tell yourself racism doesn’t exist, why can’t you just do it and not blather on various media about it? Why do you have to throw your ignorance in everyone’s face? Why do you have to add insult to injury by telling black people that racism has nothing to do with it? Why do you have to tell black people that their lived experiences are not real? Why can’t people just shut up and keep silent about things that they know NOTHING about?? I mean, if you don’t understand how this has anything to do with racism, why is the approach NEVER just to shut up and LISTEN and LEARN something???! It ALWAYS has to involve posting some status message with some ignorant, racist bullshit. It makes me so angry. Don’t the Zimmerman defenders ever just step back and think, “Hey, right now I am defending a guy who shot an unarmed kid? How did I get here?”

      • Tyris
        July 19, 2013 at 9:44 pm

        This may or may not fall under “not helpful, shut it,” but the coin came up tails, so:

        When someone sits back and shuts up, you don’t see it. Because they sat back and shut up. They didn’t post a status message… so the ones who didn’t shut up get all the airtime.

        And now we’ll get back to sitting back and shutting up. (Not that we’re head-in-sand-hiding, we just have a huge amount yet to learn about American racism.)

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