The Stand Your Ground Law And The Zimmerman Trial

President_Barack_ObamaLast night, I appeared again (here and here) on the PBS Newshour to discuss President Barack Obama’s comments about the Zimmerman trial.  While I usually do not intrude on our weekend guest bloggers, I have received a few emails about a comment that I made about the Stand Your Ground law.  I was commenting on the President’s statement that we need to reexamine the Stand Your Ground law and noted that the law was not in play at the trial.  This led to a few emails objecting that I had ignored the jury instructions that they claim imposed the standard of the SYG law on the jury. I disagree and wanted to briefly explain.  Most were civil and insightful and I thought, after our exchange, it would be good to post a brief discussion on this insular issue from the trial.  There are important things to discuss in the aftermath of the verdict, as the President said, but we should be clear about our view of the underlying legal standards and trial record.

First, as I mentioned last night, I found Obama’s statement to be powerful and helpful. His sharing of his own experience is a valuable insight. I noted that there are two narratives in this case: a due process narrative (favored by those who agree with the verdict) and a race narrative (favored by those who disagree with the verdict). The President spoke largely to the latter narrative. It would have been useful to see the President acknowledge that this outcome can be justified by people of good faith on the basis for the evidence (though the President did commend the judge on her handling of the trial). However, his words were eloquent and deeply meaningful. I have included the full comments below for your reading if you have not had a chance.

Second, it was interesting to see the President signal that people should not expect too much from the civil rights investigation. As I have said before, this case does not present a record for a hate crime charge and would present an even weaker case for conviction.

However, it is my comment about the SYG law that I wanted to address. There is a common misunderstanding about the case. Many people believe that SYG was used as a defense. This mistaken view has been reinforced by people, including the President, calling for a national campaign against the law. (To his credit, he did not expressly claim that the law played a role at trial). In fact, the defense elected to present a traditional case of self-defense. SYG was waived pre-trial by the defense, which did not seek immunity under the law. As the Florida Supreme Court has stated, it is the immunity provision is generally referenced as the Stand Your Ground law. Dennis v. State, 51 So. 3d 456 (2010) (discussing “immunity from criminal prosecution pursuant to section 776.032, Florida Statutes (2006), commonly known as the ‘Stand Your Ground” statute.'”) The point of the law was to avoid the need for a criminal or civil trial entirely due to the immunity grant. Id. (“While Florida law has long recognized that a defendant may argue as an affirmative defense at trial that his or her use of force was legally justified, section 776.032 contemplates that a defendant who establishes entitlement to the statutory immunity will not be subjected to trial.”).

I also want to note, as many on this blog know, I have been a vocal critic (if not one of the most vocal critics) against these laws. I have written extensively against the Castle Laws currently in place in a majority of states and the SYG laws that extend these laws outside of the home. My argument for years has been that these laws are not necessary and encourage people to use lethal force with often disastrous results.

Some people have insisted that SYG was applied in the case as a defense through Judge Nelson’s jury instructions. This is understandable given the fact that the jury instructions state that there is no duty to retreat. The jury was told that if Zimmerman “was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed [as above].”

However, the common law does not impose a duty to retreat. It preexisted the SYG law in most states. If it didn’t, hundreds of thousands of cases of self-defense would have had different results after people defended themselves rather than flee. Indeed, this is a point that I often made in opposing these laws: you already have the right to defend yourself and not to retreat. There are slight difference in the jury instruction among the states, including Florida, but the Zimmerman instructions reflected the general common law standard for self-defense and the justified use of force.  If the President was referring to the no duty to retreat rule in his call for reform, he would have to change not the SYG laws but the common law in the majority of states.  This has been a rule either through statute or common law for a long time.  The change would require citizens to retreat or flee when attacked in most cases or lose the defense in the use of lethal force.

There has been much to do about the inclusion of an instruction that “If in your consideration of the issue of self-defense you have a reasonable doubt on the question of whether George Zimmerman was justified in the use of deadly force, you should find George Zimmerman not guilty.” That is also found in many states though some states have different burdens of proof. That is not a reflection of SYG immunity but a state preference in self-defense cases generally. As noted above, the legislation that included the immunity provision also adopted the common law rule on self-defense. You have no duty of retreat in many states that do not have a formal SYG law. Many people who may not like the immunity provision (barring criminal prosecution) would likely support the common law rule that, once attacked, you do not have to flee in order to claim self-defense in the use of lethal force.  Note that in cases of non-lethal force, there is no such rule even in retreat states and, under the common law, you must still show that your use of lethal force was commensurate with the threat.

Moreover, the jury verdict seemed to reflect its view of the fact in relation to the main charge of the instructions (a standard charge) on self defense that a defendant is “justified in using deadly force if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself.” That is a standard that is used in the same basic form by all states that I know of.

This case turns on classic self-defense. Moreover, Zimmerman seemed motivated by an obsession with crime and not the SYG law. Even without the law, this encounter would have likely unfolded in the same way and the outcome at trial would have likely been the same, in my view. The outcome may have been different if Angela Corey had not over-charged the case and framed it as manslaughter. Many experts have criticized her charging and handling of the case. Yet, this again has little to do with the SYG law.

None of this means that we should not get rid of these laws. Those of us who have criticized these laws for years would welcome allies, particularly the President. I do believe that these laws, including the Castle Doctrine laws, do motivate some people like Joe Horn in Texas. However, the controversy over the Zimmerman trial should not be allowed to stray from the central and material questions, in my view. Reasonable people can disagree on the facts. In fact, one of the reasons this debate has remained so bitter is a refusal of both sides to recognize that reasonable people can disagree about what the evidence shows without revealing some bias or deep-seated prejudice. The jury clearly found the evidence lacking, as I pointed out in an earlier column. That does not mean that they were carrying out a racial agenda or blind to the historic mistreatment of blacks in America. They could have had a good-faith reason for reasonable doubt of what occurred at this place at that time.

Here are all of the jury instructions.

Update: In commentary on this posting, some have objected that Stand Your Ground was used in the jury instructions, which is precisely what this blog addressed below (though one person noted that he decided not to read the whole blog). There was an insistence that there is nothing to waive and no pre-trial hearing. That is simply not true. What most people refer to as the purpose of SYG is the immunity provision, which states as follows:

Fla. Stat. § 776.032 (2013)

§ 776.032. Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force

(1) A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.

(2) A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.

(3) The court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income, and all expenses incurred by the defendant in defense of any civil action brought by a plaintiff if the court finds that the defendant is immune from prosecution as provided in subsection (1).

In order to seek immunity, you have to invoke the SYG provision and have a substantive pre-trial hearing. The court rules on the matter from the bench. If successful, there is no criminal trial. See Wonder v. State, 64 So. 3d 1208; 2011 Fla. LEXIS 1246 (Fla. 2011). That is the most significant difference in the SYG law and most of us have referred to that provision in the case. The defense did indeed waive that argument in not seeking the pre-trial hearing. They wisely chose to make a conventional self-defense argument to the jury. Moreover, for those who read the entire blog, the point was that the no retreat language in the instruction is not the invention of the SYG law but rather a common law rule (though Florida did once have a retreat rule). No retreat is the common law rule and the SYG language comes from common law cases. While the wording may differ from state to state, most states have always recognized the right to defend yourself without having an obligation to flee or retreat in the face of an attack. In other words, you can have the same defense with no duty to retreat in states without a formal SYG law.

While this may be only of interest to some lawyers, these distinctions are often lost in the actual application to given cases.  Even states with a duty to retreat like Connecticut, that duty is required only if “he or she knows that he or she can avoid the necessity of using such force with complete safety (1) by retreating. . . ” See Conn. Sec. 53a-19. Use of physical force in defense of person. As stated in Smiley v. State, 966 So. 2d 330, the legislature did indeed change a prior rule with a duty to retreat in Florida with the legislation. Furthermore, as discussed in Weiand v. State, 732 So. 2d 1044, the Florida case law required a duty to retreat, but most states do not under the common law. The prior Florida law had exceptions for home or “retreat to the wall” defense. The legislation effectively adopted the common law rule in those other states. See Wayne LaFave & Austin Scott, Jr., Criminal Law § 5.7(f) (2d ed. 1986). Notably, even under the old Florida rule, Zimmerman could have made the same defense that he used at trial. He insisted that it was Martin who attacked him and that during the struggle he had to use lethal force in the struggle. Under the prior Florida rule, “if the defendant was placed in a position of imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and it would have increased his own danger to retreat then his use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm was justifiable.” Dias v. State, 812 So. 2d 487 (2002) The adoption of the common law rule however certainly changed the instruction to expressly eliminate any retreat duty. If you waived immunity by not asking for the pre-trial SYG finding, you were left with the same rule in other states under the common law.

Below are the President’s comments which I commend to you as worthy reading:

I wanted to come out here, first of all, to tell you that Jay is prepared for all your questions and is very much looking forward to the session. The second thing is I want to let you know that over the next couple of weeks, there’s going to obviously be a whole range of issues — immigration, economics, et cetera — we’ll try to arrange a fuller press conference to address your questions.
The reason I actually wanted to come out today is not to take questions, but to speak to an issue that obviously has gotten a lot of attention over the course of the last week — the issue of the Trayvon Martin ruling. I gave a preliminary statement right after the ruling on Sunday. But watching the debate over the course of the last week, I thought it might be useful for me to expand on my thoughts a little bit.

First of all, I want to make sure that, once again, I send my thoughts and prayers, as well as Michelle’s, to the family of Trayvon Martin, and to remark on the incredible grace and dignity with which they’ve dealt with the entire situation. I can only imagine what they’re going through, and it’s remarkable how they’ve handled it.

The second thing I want to say is to reiterate what I said on Sunday, which is there’s going to be a lot of arguments about the legal issues in the case — I’ll let all the legal analysts and talking heads address those issues. The judge conducted the trial in a professional manner. The prosecution and the defense made their arguments. The juries were properly instructed that in a case such as this reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury has spoken, that’s how our system works. But I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people have responded to it and how people are feeling.

You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.

There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.

And I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear. The African American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws — everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.

Now, this isn’t to say that the African American community is naïve about the fact that African American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system; that they’re disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence. It’s not to make excuses for that fact — although black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context. They understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country, and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.

And so the fact that sometimes that’s unacknowledged adds to the frustration. And the fact that a lot of African American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuse is given, well, there are these statistics out there that show that African American boys are more violent — using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain.

I think the African American community is also not naïve in understanding that, statistically, somebody like Trayvon Martin was statistically more likely to be shot by a peer than he was by somebody else. So folks understand the challenges that exist for African American boys. But they get frustrated, I think, if they feel that there’s no context for it and that context is being denied. And that all contributes I think to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.

Now, the question for me at least, and I think for a lot of folks, is where do we take this? How do we learn some lessons from this and move in a positive direction? I think it’s understandable that there have been demonstrations and vigils and protests, and some of that stuff is just going to have to work its way through, as long as it remains nonviolent. If I see any violence, then I will remind folks that that dishonors what happened to Trayvon Martin and his family. But beyond protests or vigils, the question is, are there some concrete things that we might be able to do.

I know that Eric Holder is reviewing what happened down there, but I think it’s important for people to have some clear expectations here. Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government, the criminal code. And law enforcement is traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels.

That doesn’t mean, though, that as a nation we can’t do some things that I think would be productive. So let me just give a couple of specifics that I’m still bouncing around with my staff, so we’re not rolling out some five-point plan, but some areas where I think all of us could potentially focus.

Number one, precisely because law enforcement is often determined at the state and local level, I think it would be productive for the Justice Department, governors, mayors to work with law enforcement about training at the state and local levels in order to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists.

When I was in Illinois, I passed racial profiling legislation, and it actually did just two simple things. One, it collected data on traffic stops and the race of the person who was stopped. But the other thing was it resourced us training police departments across the state on how to think about potential racial bias and ways to further professionalize what they were doing.

And initially, the police departments across the state were resistant, but actually they came to recognize that if it was done in a fair, straightforward way that it would allow them to do their jobs better and communities would have more confidence in them and, in turn, be more helpful in applying the law. And obviously, law enforcement has got a very tough job.

So that’s one area where I think there are a lot of resources and best practices that could be brought to bear if state and local governments are receptive. And I think a lot of them would be. And let’s figure out are there ways for us to push out that kind of training.

Along the same lines, I think it would be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if it — if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case, rather than diffuse potential altercations.

I know that there’s been commentary about the fact that the “stand your ground” laws in Florida were not used as a defense in the case. On the other hand, if we’re sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there’s a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we’d like to see?

And for those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these “stand your ground” laws, I’d just ask people to consider, if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened? And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.

Number three — and this is a long-term project — we need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African American boys. And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?

I’m not naïve about the prospects of some grand, new federal program. I’m not sure that that’s what we’re talking about here. But I do recognize that as President, I’ve got some convening power, and there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the country on this front. And for us to be able to gather together business leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes, and figure out how are we doing a better job helping young African American men feel that they’re a full part of this society and that they’ve got pathways and avenues to succeed — I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was obviously a tragic situation. And we’re going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that.

And then, finally, I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching. There has been talk about should we convene a conversation on race. I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations. They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have. On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there’s the possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can? Am I judging people as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin, but the content of their character? That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.

And let me just leave you with a final thought that, as difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. It doesn’t mean we’re in a post-racial society. It doesn’t mean that racism is eliminated. But when I talk to Malia and Sasha, and I listen to their friends and I seem them interact, they’re better than we are — they’re better than we were — on these issues. And that’s true in every community that I’ve visited all across the country.

And so we have to be vigilant and we have to work on these issues. And those of us in authority should be doing everything we can to encourage the better angels of our nature, as opposed to using these episodes to heighten divisions. But we should also have confidence that kids these days, I think, have more sense than we did back then, and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did; and that along this long, difficult journey, we’re becoming a more perfect union — not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.

Thank you, guys.

220 thoughts on “The Stand Your Ground Law And The Zimmerman Trial”

  1. I suppose now would be as good a time as any to advise you that even Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara is now working to get SYG language removed from traditional self-defense case jury instructions in Florida. Further, it’s absolutely ABSURD to say SYG was not a part of the case when it was included in the jury instructions and every juror that has spoken about the case said the SYG language is what made them free Zimmerman. I suggest you delete this ignorant blog. People told you it was ignorant from the first post and Mark O’Mara is also calling out your ignorance 8 months later as well. It’s been past time for you to listen.

  2. Turley is like so many other commenters on this subject. He is quick to tell us the statutes that do not apply, but refuses to tell us which statute does. In my reading, Florida’s 776.041 Use of force by aggressor. statute comes closest. We can assume Turley’s denial.
    “Lawless” is the impression created. Due process was never really provided and so there is civil rights case.
    George Zimmerman is guilty of murder in the first degree, in fact and obviously so.

  3. Bottom line: 1. Not a poster child for racially motivated killings. Too many holes in the argument. 2. Not an air-tight case to put SYG on the trial. Too many holes. 3. Good spin by the press and the pres. Obama knows why the sentence was dictated as it was. He understands the presumed innocence, the lack of evidence, the problem with the charge made. Mom Trayvon could not have recognized the scream of son if she were paid to do so (and she has been paid very dearly). She shipped him off at age 3. Imagine a mother with a stable job history sending her infant to live with unstable dad and wife no. 2. He was a burden to her. Tray comes home when Dad wants to go twerking with the woman he traded in for wife no.2. Lives with aunt and uncle. Mom still does not want him and finally sends him back to baby´s daddy. Bio mom gets a patent and revenue off of every time “We Are Trayvon” Or “Justice for Trayvon” is printed. Where was mom when he was falling down and needed a hand to pick him up? Step mom convinces me with the tears. She is the real mom. Not interested in making a buck.

  4. Shad: “Someone LOOKED at him and he responded with racial violence.”

    Shad goes right to the heart of the matter. He’s absolutely right.

    Zimmerman looked at Martin down by Taffe’s house.
    Martin became enraged and jumped into the truck.
    He forced Zimmerman to drive past the clubhouse (where he might or might not have caught Zimmerman looking at him again.)
    It certainly appears that he forced Zimmerman to drive into Twin Trees.
    This might have been the end of the matter had not Zimmerman accidentally looked at him again.
    In blind racial rage, Martin dragged Zimmerman out of the truck and dragged him into the central dog-walk area.
    A voice said “We don’t need you to do that”, but Martin just kept on dragging Zimmerman.
    About 4 minutes passed, during which Zimmerman attempted to avoid looking at Martin. This was to no avail as Martin kept grabbing Zimmerman’s head and used both hands to force Zimmerman’s eyes open.
    Martin very unreasonably chose to interpret this as Zimmerman wilfully and wantonly looking at him.
    As Martin’s rage at being looked at rose to a climax, he screamed “You gonna die tonite yo MFing white Hispanic looker!!”
    Zimmerman then shot Martin.
    This was a lucky shot as Zimmerman was looking away at the time.

  5. Martin was not “followed and killed”. That is a gross misstatement. Someone LOOKED at him and he responded with racial violence.

  6. In Costa Rica if the only way you can stop a thief from escaping with something priceless to you is by gunning him down, then the law entitles such a response under the protection of self defense. Is it the same anywhere in the U.S.?

  7. Paul,

    The “We don’t need you to do that” came after Zimmerman got out of the truck.
    Dispatchers are not permitted to give orders to callers. This is because they could become legally responsible for any outcome.

    That aside, Zimmerman was reckless to get out and go into that dark area if he really believed that Martin was a thug.

    He had the same 4 minutes that Martin had.
    He would only have needed 2 minutes to make the entire round trip if he really walked to RVC for a house number and back to the truck.
    THe reasoning that he asserts for going to RVC for a house number is very broken – as I dramatize in the “Construction Workers” page in my blog.

    And then….. you have his unbelievable stupidity as I described in the comment just above.

    And then… you have his lies – almost certainly about circling and definitely about heading straight back for his truck.
    Why would he need to lie? Good question.

    As far as I can make out, he went in search of “the kid” and had some vague idea that “the kid” should respect his authority.

  8. Whatever happened to the “Clean Hands” concept?

    Zimmerman had no business getting out of his car and particularly after being told by the police to not get out or follow the person. His failure to follow the police order would be, or should be, a crime in my mind. He should be found guilty and punished at least for that crime and in this case for the death crime also.

    Had he not done that, THE DISASTROUS EVENT WOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED. And yet he got off completely free without any accountability for either of his criminal actions!

    People taking the law into their own hands should right then lose all standing to self defense or subsequent consequences unless some other independent criminal event by someone else intervenes. In this case, any action of self defense – aggressive or otherwise – by Martin was not an independent criminal event. It was dependent on Zimmerman’s continued pursuit of Martin contrary to instructions by the police.

    One should/must have “clean hands” before they can expect sympathy for their actions, or the results from their actions.

    And that concept should be made very clear to the rest of society and encoded in the law.

  9. Scott,

    OK. I read the Ayoob pages.

    Any assertion that Zimmerman bullied Martin or that Martin was somehow justified to use violence simply baffles me. If someone follows me in a car, I am then legally justified to punch him in the face and bash his head into the sidewalk?.. Give me a break.

    Apples: Someone follows me in a car,
    Oranges: Someone follows me in a car. When I pass the car, he winds up the window. He then follows on foot. It’s night. We come face to face in the dark. I ask him why he is following me. He does not say why. Instead he asks me what I am doing. His hand then goes to his waistband. In the particular circumstances of him following and then not explaining why, I make a reasonable assumption that he is a threat and going for a weapon. I have a reasonable belief that my life may be in danger. I defend myself.

    Now for your Ayoob pages……
    It is clear that he has not taken to trouble to acquaint himself with all of the available information. He has not listened to the NEN call. If he has, then he has not paid attention. He has not looked at the map of the area and worked out where Zimmerman would be at times during the NEN – if his walk-through account of his track is right.
    He exhibits that hallmark Zimmerman-apologist a la carte interpretation of Jeantel.

    First, the haters (like the prosecution) assiduously ignored George Zimmerman’s statement that while Martin was “ground-and-pounding” him, Martin saw Zimmerman’s gun in its now exposed holster, told Zimmerman that he was going to die tonight, and reached for his victim’s pistol.

    Here’s a clue.
    It was really dark. The only light source is Good’s porch light – which illuminates the porch only he says. The pair are on the ground about 20 feet from that light source. It’s a very small gun. It’s inside the waistband and behind the hip. Even if the gun has slipped a bit above the waistband line, there is no way that Martin will be able to see it. Did we mention that his own leg would be in the way – even if he has the ability to see small dark objects in the dark behind someone’s hip.

    The evidence indicates that Zimmerman didn’t get out of his car until the operator asked where the suspicious person was, and where the police should meet Zimmerman, the complainant.

    Listen to the NEN. On “He’s running,” you can hear Zimmerman start to move. As he is getting out he is able to say that Martin has gone down towards the back entrance. He saw that while still inside his truck. He did not need to get out to see that. He can no longer see Martin.
    The question of an address where Zimmerman would meet the police does not arise until 40 seconds after Zimmerman has left the truck.
    Anyone of even mild intelligence would know that by listening to the NEN.

    He was then told, “You don’t have to do that.”
    The evidence indicates that he stopped following Martin at that moment. His former rapid breathing returned to normal and wind noise from his phone stopped, consistent with his testimony that he stopped following and had lost sight of Martin.

    Your Ayoob has not looked at the map nor has he listened to the defence explanations of the noise and Zimmerman’s pace.
    The story is that Zimmerman is walking at a normal pace. He is not rushing. That ‘wind’ noise is purely the wind rushing past a person who is walking at a normal pace – period. Stop with the ‘rapid breathing’ please. This would indicate that Zimmerman was in a hurry.
    In any case, the noise does not die down until 16 seconds after “We don’t need you to do that”. Zimmerman had not broken pace/wind. He kept on going in the same direction at the same pace.
    The wind dying down corresponds to him arriving into the central area – if you care to work out the physics.

    When Zimmerman lost sight of Martin, the latter was a very short distance from home. Yet in the four minutes thereafter, he had to have left that location and gone toward Zimmerman’s.

    “Yet in the four minutes thereafter….”
    1) We do not know where Martin was. As Ayoob notes, when Zimmerman saw him turn down the path and out of sight he was “a very short distance from” ( aka “right by” ) home.
    2) Zimmerman arrived into the central area 35 seconds after Martin did. This means that if Martin had 4 minutes in there, then Zimmerman had 3.5 minutes in there.

    I note that Ayoob does not suggest what Zimmerman might have been doing in those 3.5 minutes.
    Zimmerman says that he walked over to RVC, where he ended the NEN call and then started for his truck. At the end of the NEN, his 3.5 minutes have gone down to just over 2. The walk from RVC to the T-junction took him 20 seconds in the walk-through.
    Zimmerman has always denied delaying in any way. On the Hannity show he overdoses on this fixation.
    MOM suggested in his closing arguments that Zimmerman might have been “looking around”. We don’t know where Zimmerman went. We don’t even know if he actually went to RVC. We do know that he says he was standing on RVC while completing the NEN. If he was, we don’t know why he didn’t give the dispatcher the house number that he says he went there to get. Also remember that he was not asked for an address until after he would have been at RVC already according to his later story.
    Perhaps you or Ayoob might be able to suggest what Zimmerman might have been “looking around” for in the pitch dark and rain for those minutes?

    Even Jeantel admits that the first words of the confrontation she heard were from Martin, before the phone went dead.

    I *love* it when Zimmerman apologists talk about Jeantel.
    When she says something that be interpreted as bad for Martin, she is telling the gospel truth.
    When she says something that is bad for Zimmerman, she is a perjurer, etc.

    If you choose to believe that she heard the first words ( and the timeline shows that their call was still connected ) then you really have to believe what the first words were.
    The first words were (from Martin) “Why are you following me?”
    In the circumstances, this is not an unreasonable question.
    A reasonable answer would have been an explanation that Zimmerman was NW and concerned.
    His response was not an answer. It was a question.

    This was a monumentally stupid response in the particular circumstances. It can only have inflamed any situation rather than the reverse.
    This is doubly monumentally stupid if you bear in mind that Zimmerman offered as part of his justification for getting tangle with plainclothes officers was that “They did not identify themselves as such”.
    Even if you choose to take Zimmerman’s account of the encounter, his response is equally monumentally stupid. If not more so.

    And then……..
    ….the final master touch…the supreme stupidity following on monumental stupidity…….
    ….according to Zimmerman’s account, the next thing Martin sees is Zimmerman’s hand going for his waistband.
    Oh my! “He’s got his hand in his waistband”!! Listen to the NEN. Zimmerman thinks that “hand in waistband” is significant.

    Zimmerman says that after his hand went for his waistband, that Martin punched him

    We don’t actually know what happened at the at encounter.
    We do have that strange conversation between Zimmerman and Singleton in which he asks her if she ever had to shoot anybody. She answers no. He thinks and than offers that she had a stern commanding presence and that people would not question her authority because of that. He says that he wouldn’t question her authority.
    Why is he thinking about people questioning authority in connection with having to shoot people?

    “Please read the blog” by moi “above before replying.”

    Please also read some of the pages indexed in the left-hand column of that page.
    I commend particularly Quiz, Construction Workers, and Juror B37 for starters

  10. Well, thank you Mike for conceding there may be areas in which I know more than you. Based on what you’ve said and written, I’d opine two of those areas concern the American South (incl. specifically why I referenced Faulkner), American Legal History, American Political History, and American History in general.

    Based on your NYC time & efforts, however, I’d definitely give you the edge in hubris. I’m well aware NYC folks had & have an interesting perspective on the end of the Jim Crow era, seeing how people up there seem to know about everything about anything. And, I concede perspective in distance and culture can be very important in any analysis.

    However, no matter how hard you might try, you don’t know what it was like to grow up in, or live in, a small town in Kentucky (or, it would seem like a small town to anyone in metro NYC). There were RR tracks, and there were folks who lived on the other side. Some Whites lived there, but ALL the Blacks in town lived there. And, you don’t seem like the type to have attended one of the half dozen+ universities in the South that are of the calibre as those in the NE, Midwest, or West Coast.

    I know it, lived it and learned from it. One thing I learned was how important it was for me to vote for Obama. Exactly what it symbolized. I also dealt with large numbers of Blacks, and not helping or organizing. Their culture, like all ethnic cultures, has some strange sides to it. It is always possible to explain things, but they are still odd. Sometimes even ugly.

    Enough ruminating & reminiscing about Dixie. Allow me to propose a bottom line:

    If I’m walking in the middle of the evening, get shadowed by a car…, you know, even if I’m not shadowed by a car. If I’m walking as noted, and some guy I don’t know says something and moves towards me in an aggressive manner, I’d defend myself and hit him as hard as I could. And I am still able to hit pretty hard.

    If the guy came close enough for me to punch, w/o my going after him, I think it’s 100% self-defense. If we end up on the ground, struggling, even if I am on top of him, it is still self-defense. If the guy who followed me & came towards me in the midde of the night had a gun and shot & killed me, there is no way the guy did not commit either manslaughter or, depending on the facts, some sort of involuntary manslaughter. Murder-? No. But it damn sure was a crime.

    And it does not matter if I’ve robbed 5 convenience stores, and just got out on parole. I, who was just walking, used reasonable judgment in defending myself against the stranger approaching me in the evening.

    Anyone who cannot recognize that a felony occurred is an idiot. Anyone who believes it was the felony of Murder, is almost as stupid. (anyone who believes there was a conspiracy to throw the case slips in right between the aforementioned idiot and stupid).

    1. Warspite,

      Your venomous nature is complementary to your nom de plume. Sorry your feathers got ruffled by logic. Has anyone ever told you that a good sign of hubris is one who denigrates others personally, rather that meets the test of refuting their logic. Have a nice day. 🙂


    Please read the four part blog by Massad Ayoob above before replying.

    I have read in more than one place on the comments here insinuating that Zimmerman picked a fight with Martin. There is no evidence that I am aware of that supports any assertion that Zimmerman picked a fight with Martin. Any assertion that Zimmerman bullied Martin or that Martin was somehow justified to use violence simply baffles me. If someone follows me in a car, I am then legally justified to punch him in the face and bash his head into the sidewalk?.. Give me a break.

  12. The Trayvonite Movement continues to degenerate into High Farce as we learn that Obama, as an Illinois State Senator, voted to strengthen SYG laws:

    “But the Illinois Review says Obama didn’t seem to have any of those concerns when in 2004 he co-sponsored S.B. 2386, which broadened the state’s Stand Your Ground law “by shielding the person who was attacked from being sued in civil court by perpetrators or their estates when a ’stand your ground’ defense is used in protecting his or her person, dwelling or other property.”

    S.B. 2386 passed the Illinois state senate by a 56–0 vote on March 25, 2004. It sailed through the state house with only two “nay” votes. Both chambers were controlled by Democrats.”

    As they run out of rational excuses for their existence, I suspect that soon, the Trayvonites will begin blaming Skittles and corn syrup.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    1. Unfortunately it appears none of the legislators who vote for or defended SYG contemplated situations like with Martin where someone who was not doing anything is followed and then killed. The sadder part is too many of them still will not concede that these laws give permission for this to happen.

  13. Mike:

    Yeah, you really seem like you know the old days in the American South. I’ll just have to bow to your superior knowledge on Southern History, Culture, and Sociology. What would someone my age, my background, where I was educated know about the American South?

    Jim Crow was a government conspiracy? I thought the whole nature of conspiracies was to be secret. Guess not, cause it seems to me Jim Crow laws were about as much a conspiracy as was the federal government’s intermittent efforts to commit genocide on American Indian Tribes.

    Jim Crow laws were state-imposed, thus varied from Maryland (yeah, that Maryland) out to Texas. Basically, the members of the Confederacy, plus three of the four states where Slavery was legal in 1860 (Mike, Delaware was technically a slave state). It involved, to be overly simple, a deal cut to end Reconstruction as part of a Republican prevailing in the contested election of 1876, a Supreme Court that undercut the 13th, 14th & 15th Amendments, an era of weak presidents & a strong congress, and the pitfalls of Federalism. There were, of course, other factors in a complex accommodation of sorts reached between the South and the remainder of the Country.

    Secretly infecting Blacks with V.D., secretly not treating them, now that’s a government conspiracy. The Jim Crow laws were no conspiracy. They couldn’t have been more blatant & cruel. Unless you lived in the South before the last vestiges of Jim Crow (not prejudice, but officially sanctioned & supported racism) were extinguished, which was largely by the mid to late 1980’s, you’re just some Yankee observer who probably thinks Blacks were “denied” the right to vote in 2000 Florida.

    The Black Community has certain distinguishing features, like all ethnic communities (does the Gay community have the same? If so, why object to the same for Blacks? And I specifically mean amongst Black, African Americans). One of those features is a higher incidence of anti-semitism than other predominately Christian communities. Yet another is the unusual extent of penetration achieved by Conspiracy theories, which is why starting stupid rumours the state threw the case is so very dumb.

    And, by the way, when you can combine something like anti-semitism with stupid conspiracy theories, you can hit the jackpot. E.g., beliefs about Jews being the group primarily behind the slave trade, or exegesis by rabbis on a particular story in Genesis (re Noah) being the religious and theological bases for two millennia of anti-black prejudice & racism.

    But what do I know compared to Mike, except maybe to read & understand Faulkner?

    1. con·spir·a·cy (kn-spîr-s)
      n. pl. con·spir·a·cies
      1. An agreement to perform together an illegal, wrongful, or subversive act.
      2. A group of conspirators.
      3. Law An agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime or accomplish a legal purpose through illegal action.
      4. A joining or acting together, as if by sinister design: a conspiracy of wind and tide that devastated coastal areas.


      It doesn’t have to be secret, only covert in the sense that the true intent is not openly acknowledged. As for your other point that Jim Crow laws were State imposed and so the Federal government was not part of the plan I just answer you as dismissively as you do others: poppycock. Those Amendments made Jim Crow unconstitutional as you stated and yet as you further stated the Presidents, Congress and Scotus turned their back on the Amendments and allowed, nay encouraged Jim Crow to continue. You make my point.

      “But what do I know compared to Mike, except maybe to read & understand Faulkner?”

      And yes I have read Faulkner and many other writers of the South on the South. I’ve also read Baldwin, Ellison and Malcom X, have you?

      “One of those features is a higher incidence of anti-semitism than other predominately Christian communities. Yet another is the unusual extent of penetration achieved by Conspiracy theories, which is why starting stupid rumours the state threw the case is so very dumb.”

      This is nonsense. I am Jewish and proud. I worked an entire career working with, working for and supervising Black people. I spent many years in the areas of NYC that White people were supposed to be afraid of day day night. I never experienced anti-Jewish feeling from a black person. Beyond that though, there was a determined effort made by some in the Jewish Community, a small minority, to try to convince Jews that Black people hated them per se. I guess you bought in, but then you seem to buy into much that is unproven, or unprovable.

      As far as believing in conspiracy theories though, if I was Black, given the history that my people had lived through in this country, I would be insane not to believe in some conspiracy theories.

      Finally though Warspite, I know nothing of you except for what you’ve written and your rather menacing nom de plume, so I can’t say much about you other than so far based on your writing on specific topics, I believe I do know more than you and you have yet to prove that wrong. That wasn’t a challenge by the way, nor was it a threat. You have the right to your opinion and you have been a good commenter here. However, on these issue we’ve discussed I think I know more than you do. I’m sure though that there are areas where you know more than me.

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