Monday, July 15, 2013

Same Old, Same Old

Calhoun's Cannons for July 15, 2013

This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice.
                                            Oliver Wendell Holmes

George Zimmerman went looking for trouble.  Trayvon Martin was out looking for Skittles and an iced tea. Zimmerman found his trouble. Trayvon found his death. Trayvon's parents then went looking for justice.  Their community went looking for justice.  What they found instead, was The Law.

It was The Law that operated differently for black and white, rich and poor.  It was The  Law blind to human bias, bigotry and racial profiling.  And it was The Law that had been poisoned by Florida's ALEC-led "stand your ground" rules, a gun-lobbyist's wet-dream, a license to pack heat and kill with impunity because the ALEC laws bestowed authority upon any gun-packing fool and turned a civilian into an untrained, armed militiaman, a cop wannabe who knows that he can act with impunity. A law that protects unconscious race bias, unwarranted lizard-brain fear, and appalling carelessness.

In Florida, as in other states with ALEC-led pack-your-heat and stand-your-ground anywhere-you-like, if you foolishly and wrongly profile your fellow citizen as a scary black man, a punk, "one of those," provoke a confrontation and then shoot him dead, The Law allows you a get-out-of-jail free card.  Especially, if you're white.  I mean, this is Florida, after all, and there's a history there.

Which is what made this case so bizarre.  It was a drama absolutely brimming with racial fear and back-story animus, (All those f--ing punks getting away with it.), awash in the politically generated fear and paranoia that animate so much of our society nowadays. (Just who are those ALEC-led laws aimed at?  Against whom is one standing one's ground?  Martians?) Yet all parties utterly denied that such a thing could possibly be going on. 

And, like many cases involving white and black America, the narrative changed during the trial from one involving an innocent dead kid into the narrative of a dangerous black man responsible for and deserving of his own death.  The victim became the perpetrator and the perpetrator now became the victim.  And nobody wanted to deal truthfully with what really happened that night. Or why. All critical elements if you're looking for justice.

But who and why and what happened are irrelevant if you're looking at The Law.

And when the verdict came down, it was another national O.J. moment.  A familiar narrative of two nations: one white, one black, both viewing a single case through their own historical lenses.

The verdict also became the new Law-sanctioned narrative of the now transformed Zimmerman who, through his lawyer and Robert, his spokesman brother, re-tell the story of a totally innocent man who, through no fault of his own, was wrongly set upon by a dangerous young man and so he had to shoot.  It's a story that I don't buy, but I can't blame Zimmerman for sticking to it so fiercely.  Far better to go through your life thinking of yourself  as an innocent victim than face the terrible truth that it was your own foolish actions and bad judgment that set in motion events that resulted in the death of an innocent young boy. That these tragic events would never have unfolded.  Until it was started by you.

Zimmerman's path forward will not be an easy one and that, I suppose, is a kind of rough justice. Scant consolation to Trayvon's family. But for the rest of black America, the verdict was an old, familiar tune.  And for them, their way forward is also an old, familiar path: work to change The Law into something more like Justice, eliminate the un-civilized ALEC-fueled license to kill laws, continue to counsel their young sons not to be caught Driving While Black, and seriously consider outfitting their children with Kevlar vests whenever they go out for a snack and a soda at the corner store.

New rules for an all-American post racial world.      


Sandra Gore said...

ALEC is a movement we must bring to everyone's attention. Koch Bros leading blind and ignorant Teabaggers to the new CSA - this time the Corporate States of America.

Most disgusting today? Toss-up between Juror B37 getting a literary agent for her book deal and Zimmerman telling Hannity on Fox that what happened that night was God's will.

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

Don't forget that travesty of law, "stand your ground."

Churadogs said...

Heard on the news last night that Florida officials "reviewed" the Stand Your Ground laws and see no reason to change them. The implications of all these concealed weapons laws is to tacitly, and, as Zimmerman shows, legally give cover to almost anybody to shoot on sight and make up a story afterwards.

These NRA, ALEC-led laws all come into being when Obama got elected. A black man as chief executive and a changing demographic unnerved and unhinged white folks to an astonishing degree. In this country, there's ALWAYS the soft echo of Nat Turner coming up from the slave quarters carrying a cane knife.

TCG said...

A few thoughts-

The events in this case, and the deadly outcome, were extremely unfortunate for all involved--especially the young man who died.

I saw no evidence, whatsoever, in the trial that indicated that Mr. Zimmerman and Mr. Martin clashed because Mr. Martin was black.

Mr. Zimmerman is Hispanic, not white--at least as Hispanic as our President is black.

Interesting how Martin Zimmerman was always referred to by the press and others as "Zimmerman" and Travon Martin was always referred to as "Travon."

As the 4 minute delay during the trial indicated, Mr. Martin had a very long time to move on after he first interacted with Mr. Zimmerman. He chose not to leave.

As the evidence in the trial showed, Mr. Martin, although 17 years old, was physically bigger and stronger than Mr. Zimmerman.

91 % of the blacks murdered in this country are murdered by other blacks.

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

And 85% of white people are killed by white people.

I guess because the 30 or so calls Zimmerman made to the police on people (read young, black men) who in his view were "suspicious" was withheld from the jury and only 5 or 6 were allowed, had no bearing on knowing Zimmerman's mindset......

Somehow the fact that the President is called black yet he is half white and Zimmerman is called white yet he is half Hispanic has no bearing on where people's collective heads are....?

I find interesting the Zimmerman/Travon name thing too.

Maybe Travon Martin did not know that George Zimmerman had a gun?

Mr. Zimmerman always knew he had a trump card with a gun in his possession, so he could pursue and confront with ease.

Ann Calhoun said...

TCG: Officially, we've divided people into Caucasian, Negroid, Asiatic and "hispanics" are still categorized as "white." (Weirdly, the Irish, when they came to this country, weren't considered "white." They had to earn that label, which shows you how weird our categories are. There's an interesting book, "How the Irish Became White," about that.)

If you live in black enclaves, then you'll get black on black crime. Ditto white on white crime. Those stats have also been misused to fuel white fear of old Nat Turner creeping up from the slave quarters, heading for the Big House, carrying his cane knife, which is what it always comes down to, ultimately.

Suspect the Zimmerman/Trayvon tags are result of age? We call kids Billy or Susie, and adults Mr. or by last name.

Toonces: I also suspect Trayvon didn't know about the gun, which is what makes concealed carry/stand your ground laws so pernicious. Was Trayvon frightened and thought he'd go after and scare away this guy who was following him? Did Trayvon have a right to stand his own ground against the strange man who was following him? (BTW, didn't Zimmerman have karate training? TCG is implying he was some weak, helpless wimpy guy)

Sadly, if there hadn't been a gun, would this have ended up with Zimmerman getting ass whupped for stalking and threatening an innocent citizen walking home, the police arriving (they were on their way) and both parties getting arrested for collective assault?

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

Without the gun I'd bet Zimmerman wouldn't have gotten out of his car!

Great column in yesterday's NY Times where the author flipped races - Zimmerman as a black man and Martin as a white boy. The trial result - well, not the same!

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

If Zimmerman had not looked white and had been dark skinned with less "white" features, I wonder what they would have called him?

Ann Calhoun said...

Toonces: Re what media would have called Zimmerman had he looked "less white," good question. With black folks, the "one drop rule" pertains. But not for other folks.(at the turn of the century, dark skinned middle eastern people were labeled "Negro." I think it was a Lebanese immigrant who took to law to get that designation changed.) Well, such is the American mythic power we've historically given to "black blood." Wooo. As I say, ultimately it always comes down to Nat Turner coming for the white slave owner in the big house . . . with his cane knife. Even though "Nat Turner" is, in reality, a 49 year-old foreman down at the local plant, guy with two kids, wife, picket fence who likes to putter around in his garden and listen to ball games on Sunday afternoon. Or, as we heard recently, "Nat Turner" is the Attorney General of the U.S. who is running to get to a movie theatre and is stopped and questioned. Such is the power of our dark racial history and the power of projection.

What could possibly go wrong with such a scenario?

And, yes, without that gun, Zimmerman would have stayed in his car, the police would have handled things, Trayvon would be alive and Zimmerman would have a life, instead of this horrible nightmare he's facing now. That's what makes these stand your ground laws so pernicious. They encourage very, very bad choices which then have dire consequences.

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of BS!

Slavery ended several years ago! Quit using that as an excuse to continue to cry poor is me!

Equality for everyone is already here, but you have to get off your own ass and make something of yourself. No one owes you anything!

There is absolutely no reason for the continued violence in retaliation for your own perceived wrongs! You can do something about how you chose to act, live and be judged. It's always been up to you!

I grew up in a poor family, but my hard working parents kept us moving forward. I'm the first to have gone to college and to work more with my brain than my back. I had every opportunity to get into drugs, fighting and stealing, but I chose not to.

It's time to give up the old excuses and move forward. We don't need more government investigations, we need more individuals not starting the drug trail into a self imposed death sentence. There is a better way through individual responsibility.

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

Slavery may have ended, but mind sets have not. Travel around the country a bit in the other guy's shoes since you don't seem to see what we are talking about. People who have "made it" will get stopped and questioned if the wrong color in some parts of this country

The hard working parents that you talk about may belong to people of any race, and in fact do. Successful people of color are not immune to suspicion.

And here you are talking about lazy people and drug trails. We're you referring to white trailer trash in South Carolina or inner city New York Black youth when you thought up that sentence?

Anonymous said...

How about the drug users/pushers right here in Los Osos?

People who are lazy by choice are being coddled by the welfare systems throughout the US. Cut off the free ride!

Drugs are just an excuse! Maybe the US doesn't need to "take care of" all those who, through their own (and their parents) choices, don't want out of the gutters!

Ann Calhoun said...

The anger "Anonymous" feels and expresses is interesting to me. Angry at who and exactly why, I wonder. Sure, there are plenty of people who are deliberately lazy bums who think the world owes them a living. But there are also a whole lot of folks doing the best they can with limited brains or resources or poor health (yes, some of their own making living in a toxic culture, but much luck of the DNA draw), and many more trapped in a system that is rigged against them ever getting ahead (while the system shovels resources and $$ UP to the select few.) But instead of getting angry at a rigged system, or factors that destroy people instead of giving them a fighting chance, you get angry at the people who are already injured by that system.

I mean, Why didn't your parents deserve (and get) the same cushy breaks The System regularly gave their rich neighbors? Seems like getting mad at a System that made sure your folks would continue to get the short end of the stick would make more sense.

As for drug addiction, don't get me started. Our Drug Wars are insane and have been insane from day one. And suggest you take a closer look of the "welfare" you're pissed off at. What percentage goes to disabled, elderly,what portion to children, etc.And if you hate welfare, then let's think of another mechanism to create jobs, even though the working poor now need food stamps because they aren't being paid a living wage (while corporate profits are beyond obscene, or do you want to claim that WalMart can't afford to pay a living wage and health care coverage for it's "associates?" -- the lack of which ends up with their "associates" on food stamps and Medicaid?)

Anon, you're looking at a system that's screwed. Get mad at that.

Alon Perlman said...

Great post and discussion (with the exception of “Anon” of course.)
I agree with most of what you say but…(Begins rant).
If only this was so…
Some time had passed since America had used it’s fourth and fifth estates to engage in a national hand wringing and finger pointing session on the subject of race, and when this unfitting example came along it was force fed into the gaping maw mulled and chewed and spat out miss formed and undigested.
Ugly and dripping with bile and saliva it will enter into our collective conscious and sub-conscious as something other then what it was.
Each faction savored the flavor they imagined was at the heart of this morsel, but it was all for naught as it aught. Nothing of value could be extracted from something that was not really there.
Ad fundamentum is the premise that regardless of his actions leading to his predicament, the half Hispanic man in the moment of final predicament feared for his life as a clear and imminent danger to the point where drawing his gun was a necessary choice (to be later adjudged as reasonable). His account of his actions was proved consistent with the little external evidence. Yes; George bears full culpability for initiating and sustaining a series of events that brought about the unnecessary killing of the Martin Man-Boy. Possibly inducing Trayvon to stand his ground before the creepy cracker followed him to his home address.
At the trial, try as they might with drama and emotion appeals and an appeal to “Use your common Sense” (Because the instructions to the Jury are based on application of logic to stated law. If “common sense” was the basis for just decisions under the law, “Instructions to the Jury “ would not be necessary) When the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defenses account was as stated, the foundation was set for mistrial or acquittal.
And that is the scariest thing about this. Because the legal system did work in this instance. Had this jury come to a conviction, based on the evidence and argument presented before them a miscarriage of justice would had taken place. And had the jury composition been different, leading to conviction, perhaps racism would had been involved in a more clear fashion.
A lesser charge? Carrying a concealed weapon while stupid? Criminal negligence? Mentally impersonating a peace officer? A definition of a chain of consequences leading to criminal responsibility for outcome? Guilty if so charged.
Guilty of “profiling”? another word enhancing the confutation of “discrimination” and “prejudice”
The lack of initial prosecution, the halting of a civil rights case was due to the weakness of the prosecutorial case. And as much as it is gratifying (and inherently infused with a grain of truth) to complain about the uneven application of the law, falsely applying it when inappropriate, helps no one.
The first losers, where the justice system can be bowed to political pressure, are always the minorities among us.
America had its hissy-fit, the public was engaged. Images of cutouts and hoodies and the aerial views and the greens and the concrete path and the parents and shouting talking heads talking over each other interspaced with Impossibly thin people of color having joyous hallucinogenic experiences associated with eating hamburger and driving new cars through clean cityscapes.
Everybody defended their starting point and comfortably returned to it. The case was the case. The outcry was about something else. And therefore any conclusions drawn, lessons to be learned, are false until proven otherwise.
Ad fundamentum fidei sanae jaciendum.

Ann Calhoun said...

Alon: Some wit posed another question. Imagine Trayvon was your white 17 year old daughter who was being followed by a creepy man on a dark rainy night, and she stood her ground and came at him in an effort to defend herself and he shot her dead. What would the outcome have been then?

Sadly, Florida's stand your ground laws are pernicious. In addition, they don't have much of a gradation available to jurors in cases like this. Don't need gradations. Just shoot to kill, claim "stand" and you're home free. It really is a license to kill with no accountability.

Alon Perlman said...

I think there was a case easily a decade ago where a suspicious looking person coming up a walkway for directions from a presumptive Samaritan got blasted with consequence lacking impunity. Perhaps in the other Florida, Texas.
One of them was Asian possibly and I'm pretty sure who wasn't.(update-Hattori-East Baton Rouge Parish shot by Bonnie and Rodney Peairs)

And I haven't researched the case mentioned in passing on the squawk box, a Florida black woman at her home firing a warning shot at an abusive ex husband and facing serious jail time.
As for the Derringer wit: "Mah Dahter knows bettah than to leave owah house without her trusted Hello Kitty AR-14 with night scope ahssesory.(Linkt to ohn these very owhn payges not more dan a yeah aygo). If she coulden drop the peckerwood varmint at 400 paces, Ah'd shoot her misself.
Tooth be toled, ahd be proud to tears, if she instaid used her Krav Mahgah tek-neeks that ah tourted her, to crush his winpipe up close an personal like".

But ahs thay say “Thayt eehs nat the caysh befoh us”.

My point is and was -That when America accepts; that to find justice in a case, it has to place the events within its own framework of laws, having previously adjudged the laws when conceived for their inherent fairness, not prejudge the case on the basis of emotion without examination of all facts and with awareness of self bias and prejudice Not, even with the trial televised, petulantly and belatedly decry the unwelcome outcome, bemoaning the violation of its self instilled sense of entitlement.
Until then, there will be race war, injustice and self victimization.

And the rare case where the law is wrong and the trial brings out that flaw is simply not supported here. There are opportunities for abuse in stand your ground, but I don’t see them manifesting as this case unfolded. I see bass ackwardness.

And the other point is that the state premised its prosecution on prejudice and emotion and ridicule, failed to disprove the defense’s narrative, misrepresented the words of the law and attempted to sway the jury with catch phrases, “Trayvon would have had to have three hands”. “armed with skittles”, “wanna-be cop” . This is unethical’ outrageous, yet it happens every day, unwatched by America and daily influencing the degree ( lack) of justice afforded to poor mostly minority defendants. But that got conveniently and fully overlooked because the bloody glove was on the other hand this time.

Alon Perlman said...

Belaboring the standing point.

Trayvon was within a distance from his dwelling that is unknown to me, but given the description was close enough so that he could conclude that he was being followed home, therefore it could be argued that in a "stand your ground at your dwelling, protect your HOME" concept, a concept found in many jurisdictions, he was within the law.

Now on to George by George!
This was easy to find Florida 2012 Title XLVI
776.013 Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.— The section of interest (3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be ….has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
Criminal jury instructions affirm no duty to retreat both in the home (CALCRIM 506) and elsewhere (CALCRIM 3470 and 505) the Castle Law. In California
Beginning with the premise of “Immediate harm”
[The defendant's belief that (he/she/ [or] someone else) was threatened may be reasonable even if (he/she) relied on information that was not true. However, the defendant must actually and reasonably have believed that the information was true.]
And even more interestingly applicable to Trayvon’s rights than to George’s in a putative California case
[A defendant is not required to retreat. He or she is entitled to stand his or her ground and defend himself or herself and, if reasonably necessary, to pursue an assailant until the danger of (death/bodily injury/ ) has passed. This is so even if safety could have been achieved by retreating.]

Thanks for the forum Ann.
If America was listening I would tell her “Let’s not pretend. You wanted this to be a Rodney King story with Trayvon as a more innocent Rodney and George as a more lethal phalanx of officers.
So you want to throw the half white man under the back wheels of the bus, cause “The Man” will stick together and do anything to protect his own.
How about a non defensible clause in stand your ground relating to culpability in the case of initiation of actions leading to or forcing confrontation? What? Your head hurts? Oh “armed only with skittles” yeh, catchy.
And then you will feel better and Trayvon will take his rightful place next to Crispus Atticus and Dubois and racism shall rear its ugly head no more.”
Good luck with that.
“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our minds.” Bob Marley

Ann Calhoun said...

Sorry, but stand your ground laws are pernicious. They move the line too close to shoot-on-sight and give too little space to require people to get OUT of bad situations and hold them accountable if they don't take that required out. (Or if they instigate things that result in violence they they started, etc.)In addition, if you don't also have gradated "lesser charges" available, you get a miscarriage of "justice" which is what happened in this case. Apparently, Florida didn't have any "lesser charges" (than manslaughter) or the prosecution didn't bring them, either way, "justice" was not done and was not SEEN to be done in this case. Add in race and you make things worse. It's no surprise to me that most of the stand your ground laws were written and passed by ALEC-led Republicans in "southern" states, states with . . . a history.