It’s not just about the Trayvon Martin case. Now it’s about your kids. It’s about other kids. What do we tell our sons?
– Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, whose first thoughts after learning of George Zimmerman’s fate were of “shock” and “disgust,” in a moving interview with Good Morning America. This is the first time Martin’s parents have spoken out since Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder in the death of their son. They are still weighing their options with regard to a civil suit.
Before the George Zimmerman verdict, I said that the case had nothing to do with Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law. I said this because Zimmerman and his attorneys were not arguing “Stand Your Ground.” Stand Your Ground has to do with Florida’s wild west approach to the duty to retreat. Florida extends the castle doctrine to public spaces. To take the legalese out of it, Stand Your Ground simply means that if you are attacked in public, you don’t have to run, even if you can safely and reasonably do so. You can stand and fight, meet force with force, and shoot to kill if you fear for your life or a serious injury.
But that wasn’t the case Zimmerman was making. He argued that he had no opportunity to reasonably and safely escape anyway, so it was a simple issue of self-defense. Stand Your Ground had nothing to do with it.
Anyway, I wrote that, and then an hour later, the judge gave jury instructions ripped right from the Stand Your Ground statute. And now the idiot juror B37 is going on television talking about how Zimmerman had a right to stand his ground, so what do I know? It’s my fault for even thinking for a second that the people of Florida could apply their own laws correctly.
So, I agreed to go onto HuffPost Live and debate whether Stand Your Ground laws are essentially a “license to kill.” Interestingly, one of the people on the panel was a Florida state representative who accepted the challenge of defending Florida’s statute….
I discussed the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial with my mother, a 65-year-old white woman. She, unlike me, is politically and socially liberal. She was perplexed, though, by the media response to the verdict. Why the outrage?
What I explained to my mother was my best exercise in empathy, because I struggle to understand the outrage too.
If we were a black family, especially one living in the Deep South, this might look different to us, I reasoned. If she had been born black, when she was a little girl, white people wouldn’t feel the need to apologize for calling her a “n*gger child,” or telling her she couldn’t eat near them, or shuttling her off to an elementary school that was certainly separate but was only equal in theory. My mom would have grown up watching white police officers call her father “boy.” She would have had to observe my grandfather grow meek and obsequious when approached by a white man, especially one with a badge or a gun. He wouldn’t shrink into obeisance because he wasn’t strong and proud, or because he wasn’t law-abiding. He would do so because he couldn’t risk being perceived as “mouthy” or “uppity” by someone who could hurt him or his family for social transgressions as minimal as that….
I was a senior in high school when the O.J. Simpson verdict came down. I was in a classroom in Indiana, everybody was watching on television. After the verdict was announced, the first thing I heard was my white teacher saying “bulls**t.” The next thing I heard was a bunch of black people screaming (I went to a pretty diverse high school). Then, basically, all the black people started streaming out of class. Nobody went back to school that day. I found my cousin. We high-fived. At that moment, I really believed that a racist cop had planted blood evidence to frame O.J.
Of course, that’s not what I think happened now. I think O.J. murdered those two people in a jealous rage, got caught and thought about killing himself, didn’t, then hired the best lawyers in the country, and beat the rap.
Still, I’m happy he got off. I know that is a controversial thing to say. It’s not really normal to be “happy” when a guilty person evades justice, unless you’re watching a mob movie. But I think Mark Fuhrman was a racist cop, and I think the O.J. case went a long way towards showing state prosecutors that basing your cases on racist cops is a bad thing. The state knows that putting blatantly racist people on the stand isn’t the best way to get a conviction. I’m willing to suffer the injustice of a guilty man going free to make the larger point that racist cops are not credible witnesses.
And so as I sit here, watching the news and reading Twitter accounts of people who are just “happy” that George Zimmerman was acquitted of any wrongdoing in the death of Trayvon Martin, I’m forced to wonder what “larger point” is being serviced today by the release of a man who shot an unarmed teenager to death?
What if this the last ‘reasonable man’ you ever saw?
Like many Americans, I’ve spent the last 24 hours seriously considering the physical and scientific evidence available to support or refute the contentions being made in one of the greatest television events of our time. I’m talking, of course, about Sharknado. Would a tornado carry sharks miles inland, and could those sharks be stopped by a chainsaw-wielding Ian Ziering?
Of course, if they had hired a black actor to kill great white sharks, he’d be on trial for murder now.
Based on our traffic numbers, a lot of you want to talk about the George Zimmerman trial. As closing arguments wrap up today and the case goes to the jury, let’s talk about the legal standards in play. What will the jury actually be trying to decide? We’re talking about the legal standards in Florida, so you know it’s going to be interesting…
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