27 March 2012

More on Trayvon Martin

First off, there's a lot else going on right now - like the case of Rekia Boyd (unarmed woman shot in the head by an off-duty cop who was aiming at somebody else), or the (even more disturbing) case of Shaima Alawadi, a San Diego woman who was found beaten to death in her home next to a note that said "go back to your country."

Note: the article linked to from Alawadi's name, from ABC, says that police "suspect a hate crime." Ya think?

But I just wanted to throw out a couple of quick links on the Trayvon Martin stuff this morning, if only because I suspect that many of y'all (especially my East Coast readers) are getting weird information.

For example. You may have seen this picture floating around. I have (albeit only from my Republican friends from undergrad). A couple of versions that I've run across:

...which is all great, and good job pointing out the media bias, except for two things. First, as WTSP (Channel 10 if you're in Tampa) and, uh, the website that originally posted the image have pointed out (one in an article, one in a correction), the person flipping off the camera isn't the same Trayvon Martin that George Zimmerman shot.

Just gonna say that again, to draw emphasis: that's not the same person who got shot. Oops, I guess?

Second, as this excellent article from Salon points out, it really doesn't matter all that much anyway - as Zimmerman isn't, in the end, the major player that needs to be questioned. The conduct of the Sanford police, throughout this whole thing, has been despicable, and, what's more troubling, despicable in a predictable way:

If Zimmerman was indeed hurt in a scuffle with Martin – and news reports suggest he was bloody and bruised, with head lacerations that came from Martin pounding his skull into the sidewalk – why are there no photos? Why wasn’t Zimmerman taken to a hospital? The fact remains: An unarmed teenager was shot dead, and the man who shot him faced no rigorous interrogation. Can anyone believe that if the circumstances were reversed, and the young black man was the shooter, he’d have walked away without at minimum a meticulous collection of evidence? It’s hard to imagine he’d have walked away at all. The police were entirely too quick to believe Zimmerman had to shoot the boy in self-defense.


The fact is, whatever turns out to be true, the president was right: This case looks like too many others where a young black man was gunned down for being a young black man. A 17-year-old was shot to death, and no one was taken to a police station to be questioned about it. It then took police three days to locate the dead boy’s family. Now they’re sliming him with anonymous leaks.

Whether or not Martin was wearing a hoodie, or had ever used marijuana; whether or not he and Zimmerman had an altercation that night: at minimum, the cops botched this investigation, and didn’t do anything like what should have been required in a case when an unarmed 17-year-old shows up dead. That’s the bottom line here. Trayvon Martin didn’t have to be a polo-and-khakis-wearing Boy Scout to have his rights respected. Did some of his family’s defenders go too far in depicting him as a fresh-faced child, as some on the right allege? We don’t know that. We only know that the family and their many supporters have cobbled together a movement to demand justice, and they’ve used the facts they had at their disposal. Had the cops done their job, they wouldn’t have had to.

I want to point out, lastly, that Zimmerman's self-defense case, even if Martin did punch him or confront him, is, even given Florida's absurdly lax laws, weak at best. From the guy who sponsored the law, former State Senator Durell Peaden, as quoted by CBS News:

"He has no protection under my law," former Sen. Durell Peaden told the newspaper.


Zimmerman, 28, reportedly admitted to police that he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on the evening of February 26. He was released without being charged after claiming he killed the boy in self-defense. But 911 recordings released over the weekend suggest that Zimmerman, who has a concealed weapons permit and volunteered in an apparently informal neighborhood watch program, pursued Martin, despite being told police were on their way.

It is the fact that Zimmerman ignored the 911 operator's advice not to follow Martin that former Sen. Peaden says disqualifies him from claiming self-defense under the law.

"The guy lost his defense right then," Peaden told the Miami Herald. "When he said 'I'm following him,' he lost his defense."

Just to clarify: if you get out of your car to chase somebody, especially after the police tell you not to, you're going to have a hard time portraying yourself as an innocent victim.

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