Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"Stand" vs. "Stalk": the Martin/Zimmerman Case and Political Hay

These facts are known beyond dispute. George Zimmerman -- actually a Hispanic -- was a nasty little racist cop-wannabe who couldn't qualify for the Sanford, Florida police department, so he joined the local unofficial Neighborhood Watch. Purely on his own hook, he went out to patrol one night, and spotted a Black teenager -- Trayvon Martin -- walking home, carrying a bag that held some iced tea and candy.

Zimmerman decided that the boy was "suspicious" because he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and walking slowly. He duly reported the sighting, using some racial insults, to the Sanford police. The police told him not to pursue, promising to send a patrol car around. Zimmerman ignored the police order, and followed Martin.

Martin received a phonecall from his girlfriend at 7:12 PM, and told her he was concerned about a strange "White" man following him. His girlfriend told him to run. A moment later she heard Martin saying: "What are you following me for?" followed by a man's voice saying: "What are you doing here?". After that came a sound of pushing or impact, and then Martin's phone went dead. She tried to call Martin back, but got no answer.

Eyewitness accounts of what happened next are contradictory: the two men were seen wrestling on the ground, no there was no wrestling, Zimmerman yelled for help, no it was a "very young voice" crying for help. One witness, who claimed he saw the two fighting on a grassy lawn, phoned the police. The call, which the police recorded, contains the sound of a single gunshot and then what is clearly identified as Martin's voice screaming for help.

When the police arrived, they found Martin lying face-down on the grass, dead. Zimmerman was standing nearby, still holding his gun, and the police reported that his back was wet and covered with bits of grass. They also claimed that he was bleeding from the nose and the back of the head. Zimmerman claimed to them that Martin had attacked him, punched him in the face and pounded his head on the ground several times, and he'd fired in self-defense. The police had an EMT examine him, then cuffed him, put him in a police car and drove him to the police station.

Police security videos show Zimmerman walking into the police station with no stumbling or staggering, no blood on his face, and only a single small wound on the back of his head. The police confiscated Zimmerman's gun -- of course -- but didn't administer any drug or alcohol tests nor give him any physical examination. The chief detective wanted to charge Zimmerman with manslaughter, but the state Attorney General said there wasn't enough evidence for a conviction -- even though very little investigation had been done. After questioning him, the Sanford police let Zimmerman go without charges.

Within days, the media got hold of the story and the political grandstanding began. Professional Black political activists howled that the whole incident was a case of blatant White Racism, despite the fact that Zimmerman is Hispanic, and the Black Panthers put a $10,000 bounty on Zimmerman's head. Right-wing pundits insisted that Zimmerman was justified in shooting because Martin stood a few inches taller than he did, even though Martin weighed all of 140 pounds and was distinctly skinny. Left-wing politicos attacked Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which states that someone threatened with violence in public is not required to "retreat" -- neatly overlooking the fact that "Stand Your Ground" does not mean "Stalk and Confront".

What nobody seems to have considered is that the Sanford police were simply sloppy, incompetent, and -- along with the states Attorney General -- overly swayed by the fact that one of Zimmerman's relatives is a retired judge. In the absence of Left/Right and racial politics, that would have been scandal enough.

Ah, but this is an election year, isn't it?

--Leslie <;)))>< Fish

10 comments:

Aya Katz said...

On top of all that, there seems to be some kind of overall belief by many people that minors should not go out walking alone. Ostensibly, this is for the "protection" of the young people, but it creates a sort of presumption that any minor out alone is fair game.

But yes, your point is well taken. Standing your ground and stalking are two different things.

Technomad said...

I have this really, really wild idea...let me bounce it off you.

Why don't we let the police gather evidence, and the grand jury decide about what charges, if any, to file? I'm not keen on letting the media be judge, jury and chief whipper-up for the mob.

And there've been a good few cases that turned out not to be what they seemed at first, these last few years.

TJIC said...

Leslie,

I love your music, and I love your blog, but after just two paragraphs I stopped reading.

> These facts are known beyond
> dispute. George Zimmerman --
> actually a Hispanic -- was a nasty
> little racist

It's beyond dispute? Zimmerman engaged in charity aimed at blacks, and has blacks in his family.

> cop-wannabe who

Zimmerman, of his own accord, passed out flyers decrying a police beating of a black homeless man.

> couldn't qualify for the Sanford, Florida police department

source?

> so he joined the local unofficial Neighborhood Watch.

Since when is "unofficial" an insult among libertarians?

I run an unofficial workshop in my basement, I cook unofficial meals, and I've written an unofficial science fiction novel.

> Purely on his own hook, he went out to patrol one night, and spotted a Black teenager

False.

Zimmerman, while a member of the neighborhood patrol, was not on patrol that night. He was on his way to go shopping at Target.

> -- Trayvon Martin -- walking home, carrying a bag that held some iced tea and candy.

Unproven. I've seen the question asked as to whether Trayvon was on his way home, and whether his path took him from the market through the Zimmerman neighborhood, and I have not yet seen an answer.

How do you know that Trayvon was on his way home and was not on some other errand?

> Zimmerman decided that the boy was "suspicious" because he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and walking slowly.

The transcript of Zimmerman's 911 call makes it clear that he was suspicious because he was walking aimlessly in the rain.

Zimmerman mentioned the hoodie ONLY after the police asked for a description.

> He duly reported the sighting, using some racial insults

False.

Zimmerman didn't mention Trayvon's race at all until the police asked.

Read the transcript.

> The police told him not to pursue, promising to send a patrol car around. Zimmerman ignored the police order, and followed Martin.

False.

Zimmerman turned and went back to his vehicle.

Read the transcript.

Given that pretty much every word in the first two paragraphs you wrote was incorrect, I'm giving up on this post.

Come on, Leslie. You're normally a great blogger, and really on the ball...but you're spouting nonsense here.

Mark Horning said...

Les,

Let me be clear, if a 6'3" 180# dude had me on the ground and was beating on me, I'd shoot him. I don't care if he's white, brown, black or polkadot.

The media has been playing you. They keep showing a picture of Trayvon from 4 years ago. The guy was a big ass football player.

There are only two witnesses that actually SAW anything, though several folks heard stuff. The two folks who saw something both said the same thing, namely that the guy int he black hoodie had the guy in the red sweater on the ground and was beating on him and the guy on the ground was calling for help.

Also, Florida's "Stand your ground law" never even applied. If Martin had Zimmerman on the ground then he could not have retreated.

StEwPiD_MoNkEy said...

Leslie,

I noticed that you have never responded to anyone's comments on your misrepresentation of the case as we know it so far. Are you one of those people that once your mind is made up, you are so narrow minded that nothing will ever sway you. Even the truth? Everything that you have stated is pure fiction, conjecture and your own vew according to meida hype. I hope you don't have asperations as a serious blogger.

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Aya. Yes, one minor alone is "fair game" -- and for more than just bullying bigots. Then again, two or more kids together can be called a "gang". Ya just can't win!

Hi, Tech. I'd like nothing better than to see the cops do their job on this! I don't trust the Sandford cops to do a decent job, but thanks to the media-storm -- maybe its one good result -- the state troopers and even the Feds have reason to be involved. Let's hope that, between them, they can dig up all the facts.

Hi, TJ. True, all my sources came from the media -- but a lot of the media: Left, Right, Center and undecided (CNN, FOX, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, NBC and PBS), which should be enough to cover the ground. Okay, Zimmerman may have some Black relatives, but that doesn't guarantee anything; the version of Z.'s first call to the cops was censored when CBS first aired it -- to avoid being "offensive", of course -- but in the uncensored original version (CBS) he did use some nasty racial epithets to describe Trayvon M. I think it was NBC who reported that Z. had seriously tried to become a cop, back in either 2006 or 2008 (the print on the document they showed was fuzzy), but was rejected right at the start. Z.'s "neighborhood watch" was "unofficial" in that it not only wasn't organized, encouraged or even known by the cops, but it wasn't organized or known by most of the "civilian" neighbors, either.

(cont'd.)

Leslie Fish said...

(cont'd.)

If Z. went out shopping (at that hour?), well, so did Trayvon W. One thing that all the police and media reports agree on is that TW went to a local all-night mart and bought a bottle of iced tea and a pack of Skittles. After leaving the market with his tea and candy, Trayvon phoned his girlfriend (confirmed by the phone company), who thereby overheard part of what followed. As for Trayvon's "suspicious" walking, remember that it was nighttime, and raining, in Florida(NBC mentioned that), which adds up to very poor visibility, especially on foot and without a light. That alone would explain his walking slowly and somewhat aimlessly; talking to his girlfriend on the phone (and being a teenager!) would also explain it. As for his being on some "suspicious" business, where would he be going carrying a bottle of tea and a pack of Skittles? Anyway, the 911 call from Z. (MSNBC) also includes the police clearly telling him not to pursue -- which he did anyway. Okay, so Z. got into his car to follow TM. ...So how did he, supposedly, wind up grappling with TM on the ground(reported by all sources)? When, and why, did Z. get out of his car? He may or may not have been in his car when TM's girlfriend overheard them talking, but he was certainly out of it (all sources) when the neighbor made the 911 call that includes TM's voice crying for help. Other than that, all eye-witnesses' accounts are fragmentary and contradictory. Remember, it was nighttime, and raining. What little the eyewitnesses saw could have been faked by Z. simply lying down near TW and whacking his own head on the wet ground. The police videotape of Z. walking into the police station (CBS and MSNBC) shows him walking steadily and strongly, with a cut visible on the back of his head but no wounds visible anywhere else. He doesn't look like somebody who's just been in a life-treatening physical struggle. And there's still that question which nobody else seems to have asked; why did Z. get out of his car?

Hi, Mark. If TM wasn't the cute little kid shown in those school photos, Z. wasn't the soulful-eyed pouty-faced youth shown in those first photos, either. Look at the police videos of him arriving at the police station; besides looking remarkably unharmed for somebody who's just been in a life-or-death fight, Z. is also just as tall, just as big and just as burly, as the cops walking beside him. I haven't been able to dig up any information about Z.'s weight, but in a real fistfight between those two, I'd say the odds were pretty equal. And there's still that nagging question about why Z. got out of his car to confront TW, while the kid was talking on the phone. Hell yes, a police department a helluva lot more competent than the Sanford cops needs to do some serious CSI-style investigation here.

Hi, SM. I was late replying to the blog comments because I was busy doing my (damn!) taxes and editing (for money) three manuscripts at once. Sorry 'bout that, but RL intrudes. See my above commentary about the veracity of what showed up on the news.

--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

Doragoon said...

I'm very surprised to see you going along with the press's slandering of gun owning civilians.

Leslie Fish said...

"Gun owning civilians"? So far, even the most bleeding-heart of the media haven't gone after private gun ownership about this. If anything, they've tried to go after the "Stand Your Ground" law -- and had damn little success at that.

--Leslie <;)))><

windmills said...

Perhaps I'm the only gun-toting Libertarian in America who doesn't give much of a damn about this story, but I would point out a couple things, purely as Devil's advocate...
Leslie, you minimized Z's injuries. You made good points elsewhere... but if Z was a woman fighting off a rapist her own size, would you point to minimal physical injury and say she should have fought harder?
All, who gives a sh1t who looks bigger, takes a sweeter photo, is what color or related to whom? I weigh a buck-fifteen soaking wet, and anyone who thinks that matters has never seen a 200lb man confronted by a thoroughly pissed-off 85lb pit bull.
I have (to my shame) had cause to call 911 many times, and they have always urged me to stay on the line... we have the G'friends account of the kid's call, why don't we have the dispatch tapes from him still being on with P.D.? If (Gods forbid) I ever shoot someone, and the cops know about it, its gonna be because they have a tape of me screaming "drop the weapon! Stop! Drop it! BANG! ... BANG. BANG. Stop moving! BANG. Operator, please send an ambulance, I'm afraid he might be dead."
In my opinion, we need a new word. "Vigilante" hearkens to ancient Rome, is the same root as "vigilant", "vigil", etc, and describes a watchful, unpaid, servant of his neighbors. There is another type, motivated by a need to swagger, mind his neighbors' business and feel important, who should be called something more French sounding... maybe... "Bullé"? Or would that be pronounced too much like Bully?
Not saying it applies in this case, I'll freely admit my own ignorance, but we all know the personality type exists.
-J