Kent Pitman

Kent Pitman
New England, USA
Philosopher, Technologist, Writer
I've been using the net in various roles—technical, social, and political—for the last 30 years. I'm disappointed that most forums don't pay for good writing and I'm ever in search of forums that do. (I've not seen any Tippem money, that's for sure.) And I worry some that our posting here for free could one day put paid writers in Closed Salon out of work. See my personal home page for more about me.


Editor’s Pick
MARCH 24, 2012 7:20AM

Legalized Murder

Rate: 46 Flag

  “If I had a son, he’d
      look like Trayvon”
 —President Obama, 23 Mar 2012

President Obama said Friday, “My main message is to the parents of Travyon Martin: ‘You know, if I had a son he'd look like Trayvon.’ And I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and that we're going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”

Predictably, Newt Gingrich found a way to take the other side, calling the President's remarks “disgraceful” for “trying to turn it into a racial issue.” One can only presume that a flying saucer landed shortly thereafter and took Mr. Gingrich back to whatever Universe he lives in—obviously a place so distant and detached from our own that he is able to indulge the fantasy that without President Obama, race would not have entered the discussion.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

President Obama's remarks, of course, were really just an acknowledgment of the obvious—that because race prejudice does exist—already, I mean, since it turns out that President Obama he didn't create race prejudice—black men are especially at risk to this highly questionable “Stand Your Ground” Law.

It made me think of the situation back in January where Arizona Governor Jan Brewer confronted Barack Obama on the tarmac of an Arizona airport. Governor Brewer later defended her finger-pointing by saying she “felt a little bit threatened” by the President.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I remember being surprised that she didn't invoke Arizona's “Papers Please” Law (SB1070) on him. She's the governor that signed it into law (and has pushed for Arizona to adopt Alabama's even more stringent variant). But it turns out SB1070 never went into effect. And, fortunately, Jan Brewer has said publicly that she isn't “birther.” So I guess President Obama was safe from being menaced, at least by her.

But what if there had been a “Stand Your Ground” Law in play when she was feeling so threatened. Might the President have been in danger? Would all that stood between him and an unprosecutable bad outcome be a personal choice on her part?

It's really quite scary to contemplate the implications of laws like these that offer such sweeping power of life and death with very little review.

Frankly, it worries me to visit Florida these days as a tourist. There was an incident in December, for example, where someone was stabbed in the head with an ice pick after a road rage incident, but the police didn't pursue it because they felt it was covered under the “Stand Your Ground” Law.

That case is not an isolated incident. The Tampa Bay Times reports that reports of justifiable homicides tripled after the law went into effect. Proponents argue this is what was supposed to happen, but the Times notes, “The law has also been used to excuse violence in deadly neighbor arguments, bar brawls, road rage—even a gang shoot-out—that just as easily might have ended with someone walking away.”

And that's the point, really. The use of deadly force where reasonably necessary for “self defense” has existed for a long time. The person doing the killing still has to stand trial, but can be acquitted. But they do have to defend their action, and show that the force was warranted.

Let me close with one last observation. MSNBC, like probably most news outlets, has been playing some of the George Zimmerman 911 tapes in the Trayvon Martin incident, with offensive words bleeped out.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

That's because something bad can happen to you if you use offensive language on the public airwaves—unlike killing someone, which in Florida is really more of a private act and nothing the Florida government really wants to hassle you about.

This needs to change.

If you got value from this post, please "rate" it.

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Seer, it's hard to tell. I've heard people suggest this is the Big Event that will change everything. That's probably overly optimistic. Change happens slowly. Still, it's an important event. I see it as an opportunity and reason for hope.

Jane, yes, I envisioned some of those same abuses. I don't think it's the case that whoever put this law in didn't anticipate such things.
With this type of law in place, all of our sons and daughters look like Trayvon.
I dare say that if Barack Obama had a son...he would look like Trayvon. Fact is, the picture of Trayvon could easily be passed off as a picture of the president as a young man.

And speaking of pictures...when I see the pictures of Trayvon and Zimmerman side by side...I am amazed by how nonthreatening Trayvon is and by how threatening Zimmerman looks.

My guess...this incident will not impact these nutty laws anywhere near as much as it ought.
Coyote, yes, the degree to which people of all races have come together on this issue is heartening. It's good to see so many people not treating this a problem of “them” but really just treating him as part of the national fabric. That's a very good thing.

And yet, because of the way race prejudice manifests, it must be just especially scary to be on the receiving end of such hatred for no other reason than skin color. Still such a ways to go.
Frank, yes, I had to hunt around for a while to find some images I could legally use (I try to be careful about copyright) which made this point properly side-by-side. It really could have been him, I agree. And given how much he's stayed clear of racial issues, I think in an attempt to head off those who want to call him a Black President instead of just a President, it was good to see him not distancing himself too much in this case. It surely must feel personal to him, and it's important he allowed himself to express that.
Jane, I suspect the concern is that they'll be sued for slander if they fail to use allegedly. In the case of a non-trial, there is no formal proof of the claim. They may have intended “at the hands of” to mean “murder” or something more than accident anyway, and so they're just being safe. I understand sometimes it doesn't seem to be in dispute, but what is obvious sometimes won't save you from a suit.
The Wild West in the swamps of Florida! And I think that Jan Brewer should have had a finger waved in her face! And this law is really legalized murder! Excellent points! R
Excellent analysis! I visited Florida over the Xmas holidays and I was thinking of going back again later this spring. Perhaps I should think again about my trip plan.

With all these new laws that are being considered elsewhere (e.g., Minnesota, etc.), why not get it over with and make it legal to murder anyone for any infinitesimal levels of menace...
My first thought was, that young man died BECAUSE he looked like Obama. With all the hate speech directed at the President, this could be a case of a more convenient target in a state with a convenient "lie your way out of murder" law.
"One can only presume that a flying saucer landed shortly thereafter and took Mr. Gingrich back to whatever Universe he lives in". One would assume that Newt already has staked out a claim on the Moon.

As for the "stand your ground" law (I much prefer another construct "make my day" because the former seems to at least have some semblance of decency while that latter bespeaks the hellish vigilantism which is really at the heart of these laws), it is merely a logical extension of the politics of fear -- and testimony to the evil consequences that flow from a hobnailed, single-issue, lobbying group like the NRA.

I notice Jeb Bush trying to back away from this law, a law he signed into effect, by saying it doesn't apply in this case. Au contraire, Jeb; that's for the courts to decide, not you. But whatever the courts ultimately decide about this particular case, the fact remains this is a very bad law, and you signed this evil into law, and now you must live with the consequences. Just count your lucky stars your consequences pale in comparison to those of Trayvon and his family.
The problem is that we want this kind of world. Well at least enough people do to over ride the objections of people who want a just society. They want to give police invincibility, they want to be free to use any excuse to eliminate people they find objectionable for any reason, they want a totally christian evangelical world where simply not believable in their god makes you subject to execution as an evil person. The fear has been beaten into their skulls by politicians who know that unless the poor and working people find that they have much more in common than they do with the rich, bigoted folks who pay for the conservative "movement" that we will never rise above the tacit slavery that binds us all to a world where the ruling class is able to pay what they wish without regard for the value of the work received.
The poisonous laws you talk about here are truly vile yet we see that the goal of our so called representative government is to drive the wedge as deep as they can for personal and political gain. Repulsive isn't it?
I totally agree. The Stand Your Ground Law cheapens all life. I believe in deadly force only if someone is trying to kill me or an innocent. I do believe I should have to justify my actions. A life is a life.
Your assessment is grossly premature given the pending investigations. Pounce now; think later?

Having shamelessly used his daughters to defend his call of support for the equally shameless Sandra Fluke, Papa Obama has conjured up an as-yet-unborn son to buttress presidential outrage at the killing of a young black kid in Florida.

Is it necessary to invent a phantom child to express what has become universal outrage of what happened to Trayvon? Is it necessary to make the phantom child black?

Can it be that Obama feels that his political future, if any, depends on selling not one, but two brands of poisonous snake oil--Brand A (class warfare) and Brand B (racial warfare)?

These moves, taken together with Obama's twisting and turning on the issue of oil, makes one wonder about a possible fine line between unprincipled political pragmatism and psychological instability.

In either case, where did the rumor start that Obama is bright and/or wholesome?
Juxtapose the Trayvon Martin situation with the 18 year-old mother in Oklahoma who protected her baby and herself from two intruders a few months ago. On the line with a 911 operator, she was told she had to wait until the drug-addled men broke through her barricaded front door so she could stay within the law and shoot. She killed one. The other will stand trial. She was a hero. Two different states. Two very different sets of circumstances. The 'stand your ground' law is shameful, especially if Zimmerman gets off.
The stupid Florida law has resulted in some bizarre consequences. Gang-bangers going free after chopping one guy to bits with AK47 fire. In another case, gang-banging drug dealers kill an innocent child in the cross fire. Law says they are immune from criminal and civil law, no matter how irresponsible their actions, so no consequence.
Jeb Bush is a liar, and the records of those legal murders proves it.
The old canard that "if people would just stop talking about racism, there wouldn't be any racism" has a long, despicable history. I remember hearing it in the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. Your next-to-last senence really packs a punch: "something bad can happen to you if you use offensive language on the public airwaves--unlike killing someone, which in Florida is really more of a private act..."
Jane Brogan (don't mean to sound formal but there are two Janes in the crowd now), thanks. I'm glad it worked for you. I think wagging fingers at Brewer wouldn't really help. For my money, we should stick with behaviors we want to see emulated out of context.

Kanuk, I think this law really is such a right. That's what's scary about it. I saw a story recently saying that the GOP wants to make it so if you have a concealed carry permit in one state, it works in any state. And I think I saw others saying there are Stand Your Ground laws being pushed in other states. Add to mix study that says holding a gun makes you more likely to think others might be carrying a gun, too. A deadly brew being whipped up.
Ardee, from the 911 tapes, not just this one but others, it seems to me this guy was much more equal opportunity about his “conccerns” than that. But it's true that it could in some situations work that way. Thanks for the comment.

Tom, I've not thoroughly researched it, but I thought Make My Day laws were different. Not sure. You can google for Make My Day Law and find stories like this.
bobbot, it's so. Sad thing is that while I'm sure some of the fear and hatred goes back to the dawn of time, some of it is artificially whipped up by the GOP because they've figured out that it gets them votes, toxic side effects be damned.

Lucy, thanks for the comment. I'm glad you agree. By the way, my 2009 post Disobedience, Civil and Not-So-Civil touches on some of those issues if you're looking for related reading on the philosophy of breaking laws justly and yet having to stand trial for it.

Gordon, first, I don't find Sandra Fluke to be shameless. I think she's handled herself with considerable poise in difficult situations. But I bet you can't even make the case that her actions were shameless. Your remark sounds like it's based on the kind of misinformation that Rush is making up and not on actual data. Did you hear her firsthand testimony?

And Obama didn't invent a phantom son, but what color would you expect a son of his to be? Weirdly, your wording sounds like you think race is a personal choice. He merely tried to convey how personally the issue was hitting him. He has been remarkably restrained in his taking up of racial issues, avoiding many issues he probably should have done, I'm guessing to avoid a sense of abusing his office to wage exactly the race war you insist on accusing him of. After all the restraint he has shown, I find your remarks completely inappropriate. Though perhaps most sadly, your remarks are what I would have expected from you. I'm really sorry for you that you were not able to surprise me and show some compassion. And check the label on those Brand A and Brand B products you seem to be buying. Both class and racial warfare are registered tradeproducts of the GOP.
beauty, the case you describe sounds dreadful, but I agree with you there's a huge difference between someone with a gun violating your home and a kid with a different skin color walking home from the 7-Eleven on a sidewalk that goes by your house.

Paul, thanks for the extra data points.

DD, I'm glad that closing got to you. It really is a stark contrast. Thanks for visiting and for the supportive remarks. I always like hearing what parts of a post work (or don't, actually).
My view is Gingrich isn't stupid or unaware, he's just a vicious man, Brewer is a vicious woman. They're just bad people and they're smug about it. I'm revolted by them. I'm old enough to remember when we understood these are simply bad people.

A large number of lawmakers are using fear to bring out the worst in the populace and legitimize their own animal behavior. There's an astonishing number of sadistic brutes leading the right. I'm grossed out thinking of the fantasy land a brute like Gingrich lives in.

"Though perhaps most sadly, your remarks are what I would have expected from you."

Good, I go for consistency. By the same token, your endless posts are not exactly a bundle of surprises.

I think it is shameless for a privileged law student to be manipulated by presidential lackeys into making stupid remarks about not being able to afford birth control and, ergo, entitled to have other people pay for it. The first part is patently ludicrous; the second, parasitic.

Obama created a black child that doesn't exist. Are we to assume that Obama would be less concerned if the phantom child weren't his and weren't black? My point, which you must surely appreciate, is that a personal connection to the event, complete with racial connotations, is hardly necessary to appreciate its horror. But the honest expression of emotion, without a political plus, is simply beyond the capacity of this poor excuse for a president we're, for the moment, stuck with.
That's a good collection there.
At Common Law, in the eastern U.S. there was a duty to retreat, to avoid taking life at most cost.
If you were in a store, and someone had a gun on you, well, that's fair game, but, you couldn't chase them down and shoot them in the back either. Its not a free fire zone even with stand your ground.
Tell me, dear Gordo- you walk the Cortico much in your adopted land? Hm, well, that might be just a little bit too close to you having, finally, some relevant experience ...

K- what is very, very, very highly instructive is how everything right wing authoritarians do is without exception against not just conventional wisdom but the best advice available.

Again, without exception, every single self-defense expert says rule 1 is to always run away as the first option, find shelter from harm as the second, and fight only as the last ... my Sensei, who could easily kill a larger man in seconds, would have roughed us up if he ever heard we had knee-jerked or shown off ... but, expertise in anything simply is non-existent on what is passing for the Right Wing now, no pun intended, but, they can't do ANYTHING right! (see economy, wars, racist laws, oil spills, ad nauseum)

And the hypocrisy, lies and credulity have no end- these folks fancy themselves Cowboys, and hearken back to the late 19th century for seemingly every excuse for a policy they can think of, but, what really happened in Dodge City, etc.? Well, the Sheriff's all practiced gun control! How many Westerns does anyone need to see where guns are checked at the door, or on the outskirts of town? Amazing the way hate and racism show themselves after being institutionalized.

Finally, other than Southern and hater Sheriffs like Arpaio (hates Mexicans after his own Italian forefathers were treated like Catholic dirt when they hit Ellis Island, fascinating) every single legitimate and responsible Police Chief in the Country, hell, in the whole World! (Sao Paolo's little gang and problem getting to behind those gates, Gordo?), is for regulating firearms, especially handguns, for the most obvious reasons that no reasonable person without a hate agenda could every call in question for a fraction of a second.

In review, every respectable martial arts master and self-defense teacher is against these practices, along with every respected law enforcement official in the whole world. Those opposed? All haters.

I left the South because of the extreme HATE, and will be staying out, hopefully I will live long enough for the young folks there, the majority of whom are NOT haters (thank you MTV and social media for their knowledge of "others"- and their resultant lack of hate), to grow up and take the place back to normalcy after 4 long centuries of murder, lynching, rape, whips and chains.

Imua (Onward)
Bleue, it is indeed awful to contemplate the mob that's plainly out there.

Gordon, if my posts are so predictable, it's a wonder you keep showing up. In the early days of the web, I put up a web site and was sure no one would like my posts. I put up stories and they seemed to read them. “Ah, there's a disappointed soul,” I would tell myself. Then I could see they moved to another. “They weren't satisfied with the first one, but can't believe they'll all be bad,” I would tell myself. One by one they would read them all and I'd conclude “They must be really disappointed having read that many stories and finding none they liked.” If one of them wasn't you, they had reading habits very like you. I apologize personally for the disappointing fare and discharge you from any guilt you may feel in just giving up.

As for Sandra Fluke, though, I'm curious which remarks she made that upset you so. She mostly didn't talk about birth control as a way of dealing with pregnancy, not that you'd know from third-hand lies like Rush was telling. Nor did she speak for herself. She spoke for people who need birth control for other medical reasons. I guess you're saying people should be ashamed of those other reasons. But there are, in fact, people who can't afford birth control. It does neither them nor society nor even the anti-abortion movement any favors to make birth control expensive. And it would be expensive to post armed guards to make sure they don't have sex. So the policy you are implicitly endorsing is foolhardy on its face.

Don, yes, I agree. Even the Stand Your Ground Law, is not a Press for a First Down Law.
Surfer, thanks for the extra texture. You make some good points about the basic common sense of it. I think the reason they're unable to resist is, at least in part, due to media reinforcement of “leaders” who offer words that effectively endorse ignorant positions, allowing those people to not only feel fear but to feel comfortable feeling fear, as if being driven by fear is what one should aspire to. I worry that that, in turn, leads to a casual sense of confidence about pulling the trigger in cases like this. Not to mention the confidence shown by the police department in releasing him. If you don't believe me, consider it with the races reversed. Would they have felt confident releasing a black man that had murdered a white man, with all other details the same? I'm guessing (and I've heard a lot of people speculate similarly) that they would have held the hypothetical black shooter—you know, “just to be sure.” Doesn't do to take chances. But they were apparently sufficiently confident they were not taking chances letting Zimmerman go.
Other than some very basic facts about the case, and that the initial police investigation appeared to be lacking, we really don't know very much.

We don't know what specific behaviors prompted Zimmerman to follow Martin. We don't know if the account of the phone call by Martin's girlfriend is true or accurate. We don't know who was the first aggressor in the encounter. We don't know if Zimmerman's actions were motivated by race. We don't know if Martin attempted to seize Zimmerman's handgun, and if so, whether or not it was holstered at the time. We don't know if there are other witnesses who may come forward. When the 911 operator told Zimmerman not to follow Martin, we don't know if Zimmerman heard that. The list goes on and on, but these come first to mind.

These are things that will come out during the investigation and trial, if there is one. Until then, I hesitate to pass judgment on the situation either way. Right now I see a lot of accusations based on very little knowledge. There are many different factors -- the great majority of which we DON'T KNOW -- that would determine what kind of crime this is or if it is a crime at all.

The laws and legal principles that govern the use of lethal force in self-defense -- if those are even relevant in this situation -- are very complex, and at this point we do not possess the relevant facts that would allow us to apply those laws and legal principles, even at the layperson level.

Notwithstanding, there are a lot of people who claim to know a lot. Just yesterday I heard a pundit proclaim that Martin was "totally innocent." How does he know that? How could he possibly know that?

I am not an attorney, but as the holder of a concealed handgun permit I have spent years trying to educate myself on the laws and issues surrounding this topic. I've tried to follow the Zimmerman/Martin case, but at this point I don't know enough to make any kind of judgment. If other people know enough to assign guilt and innocence, more power to them.
6er, I am simply entirely unsurprised you're a concealer, truly it explains so very much.

"We don't know if Zimmerman's actions were motivated by race."

---F-Bomb Coon? These @$$holes?---

Really? Wow, lau-lau!!!

K- "they would have held the hypothetical black shooter—you know, “just to be sure.”" Brother, even when I was a kid if that were the case he might be swinging from a tree right now ... too easy to provide photographic examples of this, so I will leave it to the imagination of the educated, and those who would like to be, rather than those who fall into the Right Wing Authoritarian aberrant behavior of protecting the group first no matter what the crime, and never, ever admitting the truth.

Again, I so look forward to the day when these folks become so small a minority that they have no influence anymore. Those in power do not give it up- YOU HAVE TO TAKE IT FROM THEM WHEN THEY MISUSE IT!

Aloha Kakou
mishima, what we do know is that if a cop had shot the same person, his weapon would have been taken and he'd be suspended from duty pending investigation. And we know that because a private citizen was involved, no such precautions were taken.

And we've heard 911 tapes that say he wasn't being pursued but was pursuing. He didn't need the 9i1 operator to tell him not to pursue. That was redundant. It's not like the default is “pursue unless told not to.” The point of knowing he was told not to is only to reinforce the obvious. It appears to me that we know he was not standing his ground. I don't see any argument that says he wasn't pursuing.

You say he may have been alerted by other activity, but when given an option to say what that was all he told the 911 guys was that he had a hoodie and was black and that “they” always get away with things. If all he knew was that the guy was black, that's a pretty strong indication of who the “they” were in his mind. I find that to be pretty compelling. If you don't, I'm surprised.

Also, it certainly doesn't sound to me like proper forensics were done, though I admit they could have other data they are not telling us. His injuries should have been carefully documented so that his testimony, if false, could be rebutted. We know that police just arriving on the scene don't have the on-site expertise to resolve such matters on-the-spot like a Star Trek doctor with a medical tricorder or some sort of Avis rental guy waving a wand over a used car being returned and pronouncing the renter good to go. We don't have firsthand knowledge of the complete set of data. (In the end, if he gets off, I predict it will be because the police grossly mishandled it, not because meticulously gathered evidence unambiguously exonerated him—just a guess.)
Kent writes: "And we've heard 911 tapes that say he wasn't being pursued but was pursuing. He didn't need the 9i1 operator to tell him not to pursue. That was redundant."

There's nothing illegal about pursuing. That said, depending on many other facts that we do not have, the pursuit could be shown to be a contributing factor to the confrontation, or something that even provoked the confrontation. Or he could have pursued because he reasonably believed that Martin was about to commit a serious crime. Again, it depends on other facts that we don't have.

Kent: "You say he may have been alerted by other activity, but when given an option to say what that was all he told the 911 guys was that he had a hoodie and was black and that “they” always get away with things. . . . I find that to be pretty compelling. If you don't, I'm surprised."

Perhaps where you and I disagree is that I don't think that the content of the 911 phone call necessarily contains ALL of the relevant information. Zimmerman may have had other observations or reasonable suspicions that he did not explain to the 911 operator. In a 911 call you're going to focus on where to send the police and what the suspect looks like. A single 911 call may not reveal the totality of a person's state of mind, motivation, or perceptions.

Kent: "Also, it certainly doesn't sound to me like proper forensics were done, though I admit they could have other data they are not telling us."

The police investigation certain appears to have been very lacking, and many of the things that we would have expected to happen did not happen.

Without writing an essay, I will just say that someone carrying a concealed handgun has a special responsibility, because he knows that a lethal weapon is at the scene. Therefore the concealed handgun holder must never act so as to provoke a confrontation unnecessarily. If it turns out that Zimmerman provoked the confrontation, then he cannot use self-defense as a legal defense. Even if Martin was the first aggressor in the confrontation, Zimmerman could still be held partially responsible if he provoked the confrontation, or if Martin posed no real threat of causing death or serious bodily injury.

For example, if I come up to you and say that your mother wears army boots, and you come at me with a knife, if I shoot you in "self-defense" I can still be held partially responsible because I needlessly provoked the attack. Or let's say that you attack me for no reason, but you're a 98 pound weakling and I'm a professional bodybuilder. I would not be justified in shooting you, because you posed no real threat to me.

Given the few facts that we have, I can imagine scenarios in which Zimmerman could be found innocent, or guilty of involuntary manslaughter, manslaughter, or second degree murder. It all depends on the facts and on what can be proven in court.

For anyone interested in this case, I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND anything written by Massad Ayoob, the nation's leading expert on the legal aspects of the use of lethal force in self-defense. Ayoob has written a number of books, and countless magazine articles most of which are published in handgun magazines.

Much of the initial information appears to argue against Zimmerman. But things may come to light that turn everything we think we know upside down. It wouldn't be the first time that has happened. So I'm going to wait until we really know what happened before I march around with a hoodie and bag of Skittles.
". . . it's a wonder you keep showing up."

Don't flatter yourself, KP. In fact, I hardly ever show up, but I guess I make an impression on the few occasions I do.

I think triple 6 has pretty well settled your hash on the point of premature judgment on your part. Paragraphs of sophistic meandering doesn't obscure the basic fact that you're poppinjg off prematurely to make a partisan point.

As far as I know, you're the only OS poster who begs for ratings at the conclusion of posts. What's the point, other than to boost an insecure ego?
Gordon, it's off-topic and it's hardly begging, any more than your query could be described as begging to know. Some things are what they are. I think they should have the Rating button after you read a piece, not before it. So it's a reminder to go back to the top if you want to rate it since a lot of people forget. I don't twist arms or offer guilt trips. But I do spend a bit of care preparing the pieces and no one pays me, so if a few people voluntarily rate me who would otherwise have forgotten, I don't see the big deal. For someone who seems to champion free market libertarianism, I'd think you'd be thrilled at the use of market techniques that people are welcome to patronize or not. Isn't that life as it should be? :)
Mishima, nothing illegal about pursuing. Um, yes, if there's no confrontation, certainly. But if I were arguing the prosecution's case I'd say that at the point a person is fearful enough to call 911, if they then pursue, they are neither retreating nor standing their ground. That is, it should be no surprise that if you're surprised and have an option to opt out but you follow beyond that, then you are no longer covered by the stand your ground protections. Stand your ground should license to move from an admittedly vulnerable position to a more vulnerable situation. I can see some debatable utility in a law that says someone can't force you to retreat in all cases, but really this is the opposite. So it's perhaps like opening a machine that has a label saying “if you open this you void your warranty.” Nothing illegal about opening, but some protections may vanish.
There's a difference in what might be a general legal theory of armed response and Florida law. According to the National District Attorney's Association:

"The second section, however, creates a new standard not
seen at common law. (my note: Not ever seen in centuries of common law) It provides that a person is presumed to
have reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary if the
person against whom the force was used had entered or was
in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering a dwelling
or occupied vehicle, or if that person was attempting to remove
another against that person’s will. Once this presumption
is in place, the prosecutor is given the difficult task of
proving a negative, making this a virtually “unrebuttable presumption.
The test before the expansion of the doctrine asked what
a “reasonable prudent person” in similar circumstances would
have done if similarly attacked or threatened. This objective
test has largely been abandoned in favor of a “presumption of
fear.” This presumption prevents prosecutors—and the jury—
from considering the actual facts that show whether the force
used was reasonable or unreasonable, essentially eliminating
prosecutorial discretion in evaluating whether the use of deadly force was justified."

"The “presumption of reasonableness” is complicated by the
fact that the Castle Doctrine now extends to public areas. This
raises serious questions about whether real-world situations
are ever as clear-cut as lawmakers assume them to be. What
one may think is reasonable and what is protected by the law
can be two different things."
"Certainly these are difficult situations, and a prosecutor
would want to weigh carefully the specific facts of each scenario.
But to presume from the outset, as Florida’s law arguably
does, that a deadly response in these situations is justified
would be at best irresponsible; at worst, that assumption could
create a new protected set of behaviors that might otherwise
be considered hate crimes or vigilantism."


"Proving a negative is very difficult
when the evidence is in the hands of the

Florida has a stupid legal murder law, put in place by right-wing politicians without regard to the consequences and, of course, pushed by that phony "liberty" flag-waving gun manufacturers lobby, the NRA.
Paul, that's an interesting analysis. Thanks. If you missed it, there was an interesting discussion on Up With Chris Hayes this morning about this. (I think it's this segment but I didn't re-watch to be sure.) Someone (Chris?) made the claim that the NRA had basically won a few years back, that the Democrats no longer fight them on most of what used to be their basic agenda, and that this had made the NRA basically irrelevant, but that they need to feel still needed and so they're having to drum up weirder and weirder things to push for in order to remain relevant—and, presumably, fundable. It was a fascinating and somewhat plausible line of discussion I'd not really thought about.
It has even worse aspects than what I posted. Besides legal immunity for the deaths of innocent bystanders, somebody like Zimmerman could claim, after coaching, that even though he started the incident, he backed off, announcing his intention to not go on, and would be justified in shooting if he claims Trayvon kept coming at him.

This law restrains prosecutors from filing charges in the first place, as they have to prove a negative. It's an insane law, which is probably why it's never been a part of western civilization common law until now.

On the upside, maybe Florida can draw more sportsmen who like hunting people.
It is so crazy that law enforcement and quasi-law enforcement get to make instant judgements about what is "Standing your ground" or self defense and not a court of law. Of course, we all know what a court of law is like in Florida, the defendant might get to be president if we don't watch out. How's that for Newt Logic.
rated with love
Hoodied Poetess, thanks for visiting. I concur. It is crazy.
I think you get the important issues right. The Newt rubbish I'd not herd yet but it's because I ignorant comments like that the I took the time to lay this all out so some people can keep the facts and issues straight.
Everyone should rest assured that Zimmerman will be prosecuted. The admitted facts (in his own words) and the plain language of the statute assure he is toast.

 Thank you for this perspective.

 This might also interest you. See Trayvon Martin: Defense a Pig-Sty Beneath a Racist Facade?
The elephant in the room of the "stand your ground" laws on shooting is that this legislation has been systematically pushed by ALEC, Frankenstein step child of the Koch brothers. So all of this appears to be the best linkage between perpetual racism in this country, and the interests of the ideological right wing big monied interests. It's what made 'Merka great!
Francoise, thanks for the cross-reference to your post on the matter, which offers quite a detailed analysis of the situation.

Lefty, yes, I saw an interview with one of the legislators who said objections were raised but overridden. One issue with the ALEC legislation is it is worked out in considerable detail through external processes and one may may presume that there's considerable pressure to take it as is, either positive pressure in the form of incentives or negative pressure in the form of being told you'll have a campaign against you if you don't like it. Not a good situation for legislators. (I suppose its some argument for my idea of limiting term frequency (2008), since at least the primary concern of a sitting legislator wouldn't be “getting reelected.”)
I'm proud of Obama for saying what he did. Fact is, being middle class or even wealthy, not to mention important, might not save you in a situation where your class status was not in play. Me, I won't go to Arizona and I used to live there. They passed laws to harass people of my race. While I'm not likely to be a target, it makes me uncomfortable that a law was passed, which, though it doesn't explicitly single out one race, was clearly directed at that race.
OMG what is our world coming to. Thank god for brave opinions written by you here and now.
Sirenita, thanks for your visiting and adding your comments. It is dismaying, isn't it? I envy your ability to just avoid the state; alas, I have family in Arizona, so merely boycotting the state is harder for me. Then again, maybe there's something good about engaging the state, as there must surely be people there who don't agree with these laws and need our support. Tough call. I guess we all do the best we can under difficult circumstances.

Algis, thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you liked the piece.
Paul writes: "Florida has a stupid legal murder law, put in place by right-wing politicians without regard to the consequences . . . "

I'm not sure why you are concluding that it is a "legal murder law." Look at it this way: let's say a couple of guys break into your house at night. Of course, you fear for your life. So what legal obligations should now be placed on YOU in the defense of your own life?

1) You should be legally obligated to try to flee from your own residence, if reasonably possible, before using lethal force against them. Or
2) You should have to ascertain whether or not these guys really intend to harm you before you use lethal force against them. Or
3) Given that these guys have unlawfully and forcefully entered your house, the law should grant you the presumption that you have a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury, and that your use of deadly force, if you choose that option, is justified.

As I understand it, the current Florida law is represented by option 3). Question: how is that legal murder?

Paul: " . . . somebody like Zimmerman could claim, after coaching, that even though he started the incident, he backed off, announcing his intention to not go on, and would be justified in shooting if he claims Trayvon kept coming at him."

Someone could make that claim, with or without the "stand your ground" law. Even if someone were the first aggressor in an incident, it doesn't mean that he loses all legal right to defend his own life, especially if the other fellow escalates the situation. You say that Zimmerman "could claim, after coaching . . . " Sure, anyone can make any claim, but that doesn't mean it will hold up in court.

Let me put it this way: any time you use lethal force in defense of your own life, whether justified or not, there is a good chance that you will end up spending tens of thousands of dollars for a legal defense, in both criminal and civil courts. And even if justified, there is still some chance that you will end up being sent to prison for up to and including a life sentence, depending on how badly the prosecutor wants to get you and how stupid the jury is that hears your case. A good prosecutor (good in the sense of "skilled") can make any justified shooting look like a crime, and he will do that if it advances his career or if there is political pressure to prosecute.

That alone constitutes a very good reason not to use deadly force in self defense unless you truly have no other reasonable option.
Mishima, I don't think you're right that just because there is risk that people will go to prison that they necessarily perceive it that way. I think people misjudge these things. For some it will just give permission and they won't realize until after they've done something they themselves regret or that will get them into trouble. It is inconceivable to me that it doesn't make it somehow easier to kill a person, for those who are in the position of contemplating that. I'm rather of the opinion that in the appropriate circumstances, we all know how to kill to survive, but that we are best able to judge when the right time is by leaving out any consideration of what the law is. In a real such situation, we're just going to do it and society will forgive us after if the right circumstances prevail. But it's the intermediate situations, where there were other options, to which this speaks.

And what if the person turns out to be a relative or lover trying to surprise us? If you're busy thinking you have no obligation to talk to them, you might miss this. What if the person is just a starving person not looking to hurt anyone and needing a few dollars to eat? It doesn't excuse what they're doing, and you might even not want to worry about this until later, but you might feel a lot worse if you realize you weren't in a life-threatening situation. If the door is right there and you could as easily walk out it, why not do so?

And that's where we are here. It is clear that this situation is avoidable. The person could have stood down. Trayvon was not after him, and by his own admission had done nothing more than to be black, wear a hoodie, reach into his pocket while out on the street, and be a member of a class of people who “always get away with it.” That isn't exactly life or death, but this guy felt comfortable he could shoot to kill. I don't see how you could possibly argue that the same considerations would have gone through his mind if there was only English common law to back up a decision to pursue him, and not a law that he surely knew would protect his right to “stand his ground” and apparently thought he know protected some right to “push his ground.”
Glad to see you weighing in on this. I can hardly discuss the situtation, it makes me so mad.
A TV station in Florida is now reporting that there was a witness to the altercation. The witness says that there was a man, with a red sweater, on his back yelling for help as he was being beaten by another fellow who was on top of him. Zimmerman was wearing red; Martin was wearing a gray hoodie. Zimmerman, so I've read, claims that he was returning to his SUV when he was jumped from behind. Sanford police said that Zimmerman had blood on his head and face, and that his back was wet and had grass stains.

Is the witness telling the truth? Who knows. It seems the police thought he was. It is still way to early to come to any conclusions, but I would not be surprised if more things come to light that contradict the "evil racist white man assassinating saintly black teenager" narrative, and some of those things may have a bearing on the legal aspects of the case.

Kent: "If the door is right there and you could as easily walk out it, why not do so?"

You should. The issue is, should there be a legal requirement that you walk out, and if you don't you could be charged with murder? I think we need to distinguish between things that are prudent to do and things that should be legally required.

Remember, in Florida, in order to claim self-defense, the intrusion has to be both unlawful and forcible. It is highly unlike that the "loved one" is going to smash in the front door in order to enter the house.
Nobody has made the claim you can't defend yourself in your own home, or elsewhere. I don't know why you waste words on that. The point was transferring castle doctrine "stand your ground" to places where you are legally allowed to be. No "duty to retreat" which isn't as much about running away screaming as it is about the burden of proof.

The point is the law changes the burden of proof from the subject explaining why deadly force was needed to the prosecutors explaining why the subject wasn't afraid. Until we can read minds, it's an easy defense.

One guy can be the aggressor, resulting in the other reciprocating. Whoever doesn't die wins in the immediate sense, and in the eyes of the new law. The "innocent" winner is the one with the gun, period.

Zimm initiated contact, per common sense and his GF's testimony. If the new witness saw Trayvon punching a downed Zimmerman, it was pretty much assuredly because he either knew how to leverage his lighter weight, or Zimm slipped.

Either way, the consequence of hitting his aggressor was a street applied death penalty, sanctioned under the new law. We can safely assume Zimm knew he wasn't going to die and that he was capable of escaping. He was pissed-off, so he shot Trayvon. "Gee, I was afraid." Case closed.

You ignore the law, the known consequences and make this statement:
"Let me put it this way: any time you use lethal force in defense of your own life, whether justified or not, there is a good chance that you will end up spending tens of thousands of dollars for a legal defense, in both criminal and civil courts."

Not in Florida, at least it's all too common you will never see a courtroom if you make the self defense claim. You have as much immunity as is commonly found in cases where you shoot an intruder in your home. The difference is the body is obviously in your home, not "placing you in what you claim was fear pretty much anywhere." Like Zimmerman, you won't be arrested. Before the law, Zimmerman would have been arrested.

I was afraid. The dead guy made a move at me. Gee, I'm sorry the innocent bystander was killed, but I'm immune from any consequence.

Police think gang-bangers ambushed a guy. The guy got off one shot. The bangers riddled him with AK47 fire. They hid the weapon, which normally goes to guilty mind. The cops arrest, jail. Self defense is invoked, they walk free. Immunized before they ever saw a judge.

Given that real world example (and it's one of many similar), your what ifs and it is or should be comment doesn't amount to much.

Everything you say are abilities and consequences that applied under the old laws, which lasted for centuries. Evidently you were satisfied with the old law. You're defending the new law by offering the same defense, but ignoring it doesn't work the same way. I think you're reaching for a defense of the bad law because it's NRA created and initiated. Of course you can claim you're defending it because green Martians told you to and, if this is anything like the Florida law, I must accept that explanation and declare it a rational thought. :)
Mishima, you seem willing to consider any evidence that supports your case and none that doesn't. Moreover, these things that keep coming up later have no evidence to back them up.

According to Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, the shirt was not kept as evidence, so there's no way to admit it as evidence. He didn't say that like he was waiting to find out, he said it like he heard someone tell him there was no such evidence. So the evidence of any altercation is just what some cop thought he saw and has not been subjected to any kind of CSI-like double-check.

Likewise Zimmerman was not taken for any kind of on-the-record examination, so a claim that any injuries anyone saw him with later came from the scene is not possible to fully corroborate.

And there's a risk that after-the-fact accounts (both the one you cite and, in fairness, the girlfriend's account) were added.

But what there's not a risk of is that the original account is faked. The 911 tape is pretty clear on quite a number of things, and certainly is adequate to establish a prima facie case that what occurred here is not a guy merely standing his ground.

Bottom line this is the problem I have: The dead cannot speak for himself, and you're cutting him no slack for that. I know you to be pro-Life and had understood that part of the issue in the pro-Life position was a concern that some could not speak in their own interest, so others must speak for them. Supposing even the possibility that this is all fabricated by Zimmerman and corroborated by a friend who feels as he does? How would that be discovered, or has society signed away its right by enacting this law to ever know? Are you morally OK with that, independent of law? All we know for sure is that this boy was walking down the street in a neighborhood that had someone in it who didn't like “them.” What if it were your child wearing a hoodie? Remember that in siding with him you are not just championing him neutrally, waiting to find out the truth; you are championing his right not to face a trial at all and taking away society's right to find the truth.
Sorry. In a feat of what I'd like to call technical clumsiness, two comments (one from me, one from Mishima) got deleted here at the end. I sent an explanation/apology to Mishima privately. Anyway, I reposted my comment and will now paste a copy of his reply, though he may want to add a redundant copy of his reply in his own voice instead, in which case I may be able to delete this comment and my pasted copy. We'll see.
This was the text of Mishima's reply to me and Paul at this point. (It was deleted by me, but not because I objected to anything he said. I'm restoring the text of his reply from a copy I had saved in order to hopefully leave the conversational stream essentially intact. Sorry again, Mishima!)

----- Text written by Mishima666 follows -----

Kent writes: "... you seem willing to consider any evidence that supports your case and none that doesn't. Moreover, these things that keep coming up later have no evidence to back them up."

I just don't find the popular narrative convincing, because there is still so much that we don't know, namely most of Zimmerman's side of the case. Many of the most basic facts of the case have yet to come out, so I'm interested when new information shows up.

Witnesses also provide evidence. The night of the incident a witness told police that a fellow with a red shirt (Zimmerman) was on his back on the ground, yelling for help, and was being beaten by some other guy. Also -- and I just heard this tonight -- there is a 911 call during which a women refers to the guy with the gray sweatshirt as being "on top of" the other guy. It appears that these accounts are consistent with what police saw at the time. This does not exonerate Zimmerman, but it certainly is contrary to the popular narrative.

If it turns out that Zimmerman is guilty of a crime, that's fine with me. For his sake I hope he's not, but it doesn't affect me in either case.

Kent: "So the evidence of any altercation is just what some cop thought he saw and has not been subjected to any kind of CSI-like double-check."

No, there is one witness who states that he SAW the altercation, and another who saw a Martin on top of Zimmerman. Do you not see this as relevant?

Kent: "But what there's not a risk of is that the original account is faked. The 911 tape is pretty clear on quite a number of things, and certainly is adequate to establish a prima facie case that what occurred here is not a guy merely standing his ground."

There's much that the 911 recording doesn't cover, namely most of the incident. Beyond that most of what we have heard so far is speculation.

Kent: "Remember that in siding with him you are not just championing him neutrally, waiting to find out the truth; you are championing his right not to face a trial at all and taking away society's right to find the truth."

I'm not siding with Zimmerman or championing him. I'm taking seriously the eyewitness accounts. Beyond that I am happy to see what other facts and evidence appear before coming to a conclusion. In contrast, many OS members appear to have already found him guilty.

Paul writes: "Zimm initiated contact, per common sense and his GF's testimony."

It appears that he initiated contact, but it is not clear who was the initial aggressor, or even how a physical altercation came about. I can imagine a number of reasonable scenarios in which either would be the aggressor, and scenarios in which Zimmerman's actions would be justified or not. At this point we don't have enough information.

Paul: "Either way, the consequence of hitting his aggressor was a street applied death penalty, sanctioned under the new law. We can safely assume Zimm knew he wasn't going to die and that he was capable of escaping. He was pissed-off, so he shot Trayvon. "Gee, I was afraid." Case closed."

Highly unlikely. IF (big if at this point) it is in fact true that Martin was sitting on or straddling Zimmerman and beating him in the face, and IF because of that Zimmerman shot him, the main factor for Zimmerman would have been panic. Legally speaking, panic does not necessarily constitute reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.

An argument that Zimmerman might make is disparity of force. I've read that Zimmerman weighed 240 pounds and was 5'6" tall, and that Martin was 140 pounds and 6'2" tall. One person who knows Zimmerman described him as "portly." A disparity of force argument would claim that Zimmerman was fat and out of shape, and he was being beaten by a young, athletic football player who was 8 inches taller than him. Since blows to the head can be fatal, and since Martin was physically more powerful than Zimmerman, Zimmerman was unable to defend his life without the use of lethal force, and thus lethal force was justified. If Zimmerman had any medical problems those could also be brought in.

Disparity of force arguments can have various forms -- multiple attackers vs. an individual, young person vs. elderly, powerful man vs. weaker woman. But they can also involve a more powerful man vs. a weaker man. Don't be surprised if Zimmerman makes the disparity of force argument.
mish per Kent,
That all sounds good, but it assumes that an attempt to prosecute will be made. In too many cases, and due to the vague law, it doesn't apply or isn't applied. The same defense could have been made under the old law, so the question isn't what type of defense, but what type under the new law and whether there's an up-front immunity.

I can buy police misconduct in the investigation, but they could properly claim that, under the law, it wasn't their job to make an arrest. In many cases in Florida the police instantly kick these to the DA because the stand your ground law offers a too-easily applicable self defense.

So we can argue justifications both ways, but should keep in mind the new law makes those arguments superfluous in many cases supported by example. Under the old, time-honored and workable law, the nuanced justification arguments you and I make would be a given. That is why the PDs and DAs consider this law an abomination, and the downside consequences they warned about when the law was briefly and politically being considered have turned out to be prescient.

The law is the problem. If you try making your case based on the old law, I think you wouldn't be deterred from having your statements about the theories apply directly and significantly. So the question is why you support the new law. Justifying that based on a compare/contrast might reveal that you can't justify the new law based on some added and practical advantage that works in the name of expanded, not diminished, justice.

It seems "diminished" is winning the legal battle.
I feel a need to clarify since apparently Herr Zimmerman has decided that he had a "Right" to "Stand his ground"

Bullshit. Herr Zimmerman was the aggressor. It was Trayvon Martin's Right to defend himself from an erratically behaving armed madman. Trayvon had the Right to "Stand his Ground" -

Whether it was wise to have done so is debatable. In the event he was unable to effectively assert that Right. As I was trained in my youth, I would have killed Herr Zimmerman first and asked questions later.
Here's the thing, though. Trayvon wasn't a "man." He was a child. I don't care how tall or filled out he was. Seventeen is still a child by law, by psychology, and by the standards of most parents. If the tables had been reversed, the GOP would be calling for the shooter's head on a silver platter and making a lot of political hay with it.
Point Blank: I don't give a crap about what the laws are in this country. When a person is assaulting you or a loved one, you have the absolute right to defend yourself, and this includes the possibility that the other party may be assaulted. This assault upon the other party includes death. Period.

If any person assaulted me, regardless of age, gender, color, etc., I would first try to escape and even if that person continued to threaten me I wouldn't pull out a gun and shoot them dead without first giving them the opportunity to get away from me.
Paul, I think you're right in your meta-analysis that diminished justice overall is the result of this law. All three of you that I'm replying to in this comment are hitting that same essential point in different ways, I think.

Rudolphus, thanks for the comment. It's a good point that the directionality of righteousness can run both ways, although it's the law is worded in such a weird way that it's clear to many of us that reliable justice was not its intent; rather, it's just the legalization of exasperated anger, sometimes warranted, sometimes not. The law just doesn't seem to care about the cases where it's not.

Deborah, thanks for visiting. I think the sad truth is that courts exist to make such fine distinctions but this law exists to keep courts from being involved. That's why this is such a mess.
Belinda, I think a lot of people agree with you about the assault part, but the question is whether the account is true. Many of us believe the evidence is strong that this man knew he had a gun and, as a friend of mine put it, set out on an urban hunting safari based on a fear that was primarily racially caused. The worst he could tell the 911 operator was that the guy was black and looking around. That's not an assault. There is no physical evidence that Trayvon started the fight, nor that he was predisposed to. What there is evidence of is that Zimmerman was setting out to confront, and that itself suggests he started the argument, or at least gives us reason to suppose there is absolutely legitimate question, which ought to call for a trial. That there is no trial is to say that whether or not Trayvon started it, he gets the short end of the stick.
Lucy - I agree with you. But how if you know if someone is trying to kill you.
Example. You are minding your own business in a bar. For some silly reason something escalates before you can even walk away. You get smacked in the face breaking your jaw and knocking you to the ground. Now as you are in pain and picking yourself off he ground, should you be compelled to assume the aggressor will do nothing more as long as you just walk away? I would be assuming that I am about to get kicked in the head, ribs, abdomen in the next few seconds. So why shouldn't you get up with beer mug in hand and smash his head in? I am assuming you are perfectly innocent here and you just got significantly injured.

This is not about being viewed as a coward. I have friends in martial arts who are taught the running away is always the best option.

I hear about law say that say one should only respond with equal force. don't want to respond with equal force. I will get my ass kicked hat way. I want to eithe retreat OR ewspomd in a way that will insure this fight is over. NOW.
Joseph, I think the example you picked is a bad one because you don't have reason to suppose you were targeted personally, and seem to know that, and that means you have, in some cases, a clear knowledge that if you just get out of the line of fire, you're not going to be chased after. In the case that some madman shouts your name or just points at you and clearly has it in for you, it's perhaps more like what you say. But it doesn't matter. English common law would already protect you if you have a sense that you are threatened and would not survive to exit.

But the duty to retreat, as it's sometimes called, has to do with the question of avoiding mistake. For example, suppose it turns out that the person was improperly provoked or simply mistaken or under some drug influence (perhaps not initiated by himself—not necessarily recreational). English common law allows you to do what you need to survive, but it asks you not to be executioner merely because you feel you're being whooped. Stand Your Ground allows you to become executioner without hearing any defense, and supposes there cannot be any defense. That's oart of what people are objecting to. I don't like that part of Stand Your Ground.

HOWEVER, let's suppose I agreed with you, that it was your right and duty to not just use equal force but really just do the other person in and finish things then and there when you're being clobbered. Just hypothetically, even in that circumstance, where you're going to be found innocent in that way, there is still a problem with Stand Your Ground that many are here objecting to. And it's this: Stand Your Ground forbids you from being brought to trial, so it's very difficult to tell if the rule even applies. It doesn't really stop you from just shooting people in private for no reason at all and then claiming it was self-defense. For example, there might be surveillance video that could be obtained proving you were not, in fact, defending yourself. Or there might be audiotape which disproves a claim you made about how the event occurred. Or footprints or angle of a shot might show something interesting. Often, if you watch CSI or any other similar TV shows, you know that forensic evidence can disprove someone's story for unusual reasons. It might be possible in this case of Zimmerman for forensic evidence to confirm or deny that the alleged evidence of a fight is proper. All of these things get decided by the courts. But the law says something more than that if you're attacked you can defend yourself zealously, it says that you may not be put on trial to determine the actual facts of the evidence unless the police have strong foreknowledge (more than is ordinarily required for an arrest) that you are right. It places the police department at risk of lawsuit not just for doing something unethical, but in fact for doing something proper—asking questions. The reason we talk about “innocent until proven guilty” is that we expect sometimes people will come to trial and be found not guilty. But in this case, there is no trial, so while your scenario may be a righteous one, there is no way to detect a non-righteous one. And surely you must agree there are non-righteous people.

In other words, maybe that guy in the bar kills you and then proceeds to kill every other person there. The police arrive and he says “they started it.” End of story. No one avenges a murder of a dozen people. (He's very strong.) Because it was self-defense, not as a matter of fact, but because the facts cannot be examined. He's the only witness and he smugly asserts his right to protect himself.

So even if I agreed with you that sometimes this strong, immediate, mindless force was needed, I can't agree with you that just because the winner of the brawl says the law applies that every case is such a case. I still think a trial is needed to establish that the law applies, and that it's not just some other kind of homicide.
I always appreciate your thorough well thought out pieces Kent. This is no exception. And it does what every really well done post invites conversation, discussion, debate. The comments below were indication of that and you handled them all beautifully. Thank you.
I never thought of Obama's remarks as racist, so much as an observation that realistically, his son could resemble Trayvor Martin physically- and age wise. I guess the people crying racist just assume that any and all blacks look the same. Perhaps they are mad because they can't come up with anything sounding like empathy on their own.
It may not seem like it, but I still think that history is on our side, and racism will continue to decrease- same as sexism and acceptance of homosexuality. There would never have been such a loud conversation about this when I was a kid growing up, or perhaps any conversation at all, because it would have been more acceptable to accept the racist and violent offense.
Well, maybe the Bernard Goetz stuff got people talking a little, though people felt he was justified- he certainly didn't serve much time. I think the times have changed a lot, just not fast enough for those who have been victimized by hate laws and hate crimes and hate speech. So much of that is no longer considered acceptable that more people can talk out against it, social media and real media do cover it more, and the older more entrenched generations of haters are dying off. It just takes time for ignorance to die off.
I hope the laws for the Stand your ground/Shoot as you please get revoked. As you noted, lethal force for self defense has always been allowable. Maybe the Florida police wanted to cut back on costs by investigating fewer crimes, much like Oklahoma decided to decriminalize domestic violence so they wouldn't have to pay for prosecuting it. I've been thinking that part of why the Hunger Games is so popular is that is not that far fetched, and not that far from reality for some already.
Hi Kent,
It is a well written piece considering the seriousness of the incident, but the answers are not going to be easy as to why the man who shot that young man felt at the least bit intimidated by Trevon. There are many gray areas as to what that man thought he saw, that he felt so strongly that he had to first call 911, then follow him nonetheless. It is pretty scarry how far fear can eclipse a person from logical thinking, a sense of panic almost. The other examples are extreme, and share a glimpse of how Americans are tightly underwraps in thier little articulate cellular worlds, that are far from perfect. One little etch, or something out of place and bang someone is going to seek help from an accident or incident. When people say that art is essential, when people say that poetry heals, when people say that all the wrong things are right, then self preservation becomes enchanting. Words like that don't exist nearly often enough to remind ourselves that not only do negative provisions of all kinds provide an eggshell enviornment, that even the most negative of nuclei has room to expand and vibrate enough that monsters are made of out of paper. These signals are not as absurd as one might think, the dark side is out there, unfortunealy is part of our innate selves as well. But nourshing our souls is divine and can help us mend our broken hopes, and our dashed dreams. To the parents of Treyvon, I can only offer them my heart felt condlolcences, but to the person who felt so intimadated, I ask for him to seek grivance and ask for petition and ask for help as to why he felt so in need to act aggregiously. He needed to count to 10 and aak for reverence and drop his sense of alarm, to the sense of some kid going to a store, any store with and however he looked. It is wrongful, I wonder if that man had a young man who looked like Treyvon, if someone thought he looked suspicious, if he would consider the same for his son how he might feel.
I'm 65 and black. Do you have any idea of how tired I am of writing aboutthese atrocities for people who just don't or won't "get it".

My mother feared for my life every day of hers....I taught my son to be respectful but I also taught him to "stand his groun", k
...knowing that "stand your ground could never mean the same for a person of color, even those of fair complexion, as he is...His mother, who is white, would never have feared for him as mine did for me as I did for him in his youth and still do now.

What a blessing it must veto not have to live in fear of the LAW....
Interesting piece, though I do think that it's important to connect the Stand Your Ground law with ALEC and all the implications thereof... I have an article touching on that too, if you're interested!
Thanks for your article!
Kent, and how about you at least try to be honest enough to use a current picture of Martin? Since you have already used the old one why don't you put them side by side?

I like the ones taken after he was busted with drug items or maybe the burglary tools and all the female jewelry.

Since you have an ax to grind why don't grind it. why should someone with whom you have a beef carry your water. I would love to see the pictures of the jewlery you speak of. You do have pictures right? This being the internet pictiures or STFU.
Anthony writes: "I would love to see the pictures of the jewlery you speak of. You do have pictures right? This being the internet pictiures or STFU."

How about a report from ABC News:

"Women's jewelry and a watch found in Trayvon Martin's school backpack last fall could not be tied to any reported thefts, the Miami-Dade Police Department said Tuesday.

"The Miami Herald in its Tuesday editions reported that it had obtained a Miami-Dade Schools Police Department report that showed the slain teenager was suspended in October for writing obscene graffiti on a door at his high school. During a search of his backpack, the report said, campus security officers found 12 pieces of women's jewelry, a watch and a screwdriver that they felt could be used as a burglary tool.

"The Herald reported that when campus security confronted Martin with the jewelry, he told them that a friend had given it to him, but he wouldn't give a name. The report said the jewelry was confiscated and a photo of it was sent to Miami-Dade Police burglary detectives. Miami-Dade school officials declined Tuesday to confirm the report when contacted by The Associated Press, citing federal privacy laws regarding students."

Catnlion seems to be requesting that Kent Pitman post pictures. I thought that meant he's knew of some that were available. I am well aware of the news report and that suspicious as that incident was there was no arrest as there was no proof th jewlery was stolen.
What are the facts? The fact is an adult with a criminal record armed with a gun continued to follow an unarmed child even after the police adviced him not to.(obstruction of justice) In my opinion the stand your ground law should be in Trayvon's favor. He was being hunted down by a wannabe vigilant on a mission. Even if Trayvon threw a punch, he had every right to do so. If an armed person follows, approaches and confronts you (intimidation) I think it should warrant self defense. (Standing your ground) Pulling out a deadly weapon escalating the situation, shooting and killing a child (assault with a deadly weapon and murder)

I guess you are right. You can't believe those lying school principals. They will say just about anything, right?

Here is your picture:

How about the witness who called 911 because Zimmerman was being beaten by Martin:

Maybe President Obama will speak out about the New Black Panther's putting a bounty on Zimmerman's head:

So, as you put it, why don't you STFU and let the officials do what they need to do and quit with your rush to judgement. You are not Jackson or Sharpton the kings of being a race pimp. If these guys really cared they would be upset by the dozens of black kids that were killed in Chicago last week.
sweetfeet, sorry, didn't mean to skip you. I'm sure you're not the only one left without words. And me, I've been accused of having a few too many. But I'm glad I was able to put them to good use for you and perhaps others.

Mary, that's very kind of you to say. I'm glad you enjoyed the piece and the discussion.

Oryoki, I don't think any objective observer could call Obama's remarks racist. It's a bit like the sexist vs. sexual. Not all sexual (pertaining to sex) comments are sexist (pertaining to the stereotyping, devaluing, or diminishing of an individual based on gender), I think. Race discussion, likewise, we might say by abuse of terminology here is sometimes “race-ual” (pertaining to race) and sometimes racist (pertaining to the stereotyping, devaluing or diminishing of an individual based on race). He wasn't trying to devalue or stereotype Trayvon, he was trying to indicate a sense of connection. But anyway, I think we agree it was nothing bad. (And I haven't seen the Hunger Games, so can't comment on that.)

Where's the jewelry? And, when did I ever say high school principals are intrinsically prevaricators? As you ignore my admonishments I ignore those from you. I guess there will be no STFUing.
Momsacomic, I'm looking forward to a trial and hoping the evidence is fairly considered. Everyone needs that. And yet from the evidence I've seen so far, it's hard to think he even was intimidated by Trayvon. He sounded like he was spoiling for a fight. And you're right he should have counted to ten and tried to calm, but I think he was aware of the SYG law and I think laws like that give implicit permission not to count to ten. That itself is a problem.

RonPo, I can't even imagine how tiring it must be. But I'm glad you stopped by to offer your perspective.

Lauren, thanks for mentioning ALEC. Indeed they are part of this, but I was happy to keep the piece relatively short by not hitting every aspect. Anyone wanting more background on ALEC might see my article Sociopaths by Proxy (in addition to looking in the usual places like Wikipedia).
Catnlion, I can't speak to that. And maybe he isn't a saint—not my area of expertis. But it's a grand tradition under US law that you can't convict a person of one crime just because you know him to be guilty of another. So supposing you're right, the fact that he's stolen something once (or even many times) doesn't mean he deserves death. I note that in the scenario you describe, no gun was found, so there's no evidence he ever threatened a single soul.

And let's just get marijuana disposed of likewise. Not too many people have ever gone on a blind rampage or become violent while under the influence. It's not usually even addictive. And anyway, I used to know someone who was actually addicted to it and it didn't make them violent by any means. It affects short term memory and makes people mellow.

So even if you could successfully change the narrative to where we referred to him as the pot-smoking thief, it still isn't a compelling reason to kill him. It's not like Zimmerman knew him (did he?), so he couldn't have known his prior record. And if there were burglary tools found, why didn't he have them on him when he was coming to rob someone? I think the obvious answer is that he didn't come to rob, he came to snack. In fact, coming to a fight with your hands full of food and drink isn't very bright. And if you plan to beat or kill someone, leaving food containers around isn't bright either. It just doesn't add up.

Anthony, although I agree with most of what you said, I'd ask you not to speak to others on this thread or any of mine in a disrespectful way. I don't mind if you correctly call out Catnlion on any of a number of substantive issues. But just don't resort to name calling or naughty language (even abbreviated) to promote your case. It's clear you can succesfully make your case in other ways.

Mishima, I've already touched on the issue of the possible thievery above.

180xs2, thanks for the summary. Melissa Harris-Perry made a similar remark one some MSNBC discussion recently—that SYG shoud apply to Trayvon.
Catnlion, I understand you didn't start it, but let's hear no more of that acronym from you (or anyone). Anyone continuing to push such grade-school taunts is headed for The Cornfield.
@Kent Pitman

I apologize for my coarseness of language. You are correct it adds nothing to the conversation and I will refrain.
"One can only presume that a flying saucer landed shortly thereafter and took Mr. Gingrich back to whatever Universe he lives in—obviously a place so distant and detached from our own that he is able to indulge the fantasy that without President Obama, race would not have entered the discussion. "

perfectly said! I found this, via your o
oops ~ I found this OS post via your outside blog. You have an incredible amount of writing and your observations make me think more deeply - thanks for that ~
Heidi, glad you managed to find the post and that it spoke to you. Yeah, I recently counted and it seems I have over 300 posts here at Open Salon. Even more amazing so many people have had the patience to read them. I'm always grateful for that. Thanks for joining in.