Can Scapegoating Be Used To Overturn “Bad” Laws & Verdicts?

George Zimmerman was acquitted by a jury in a fair trial, and “Stand Your Ground” was legally enacted as law. Agree or not that this is how it should be, we should all at least be able to agree that scapegoating is not an appropriate way to overturn either.

Let it be noted that on this day, Saturday 13 July 2013, it was still deemed legal in the US to chase and then shoot dead an unarmed young black man on his way home from the store because you didn’t like the look of him.

from The Guardian

I’m also getting angry at the various and obviously deliberate misrepresentations – does anyone at The Guardian honestly believe Zimmerman shot Trayvon “because [he] didn’t like the look of him”? Seriously?

A pair of House Democrats warned Sunday that George Zimmerman’s acquittal on murder charges in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin sets a dangerous precedent for protection under “stand-your-ground” laws.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) said they were worried that the ruling in Florida would embolden others to act accordingly.

“You empower individual citizens to basically take the law into their own hands,” Grijalva said, adding that he supported calls for the U.S. Justice Department to level federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.

from The Hill’s Blog Briefing Room.

George Zimmerman isn’t the only one blamed for Trayvon’s death. “Stand Your Ground” is being targeted as the cause of a gross injustice.

The controversial law states that a person is justified in using force in self-defense if they have a reasonable belief of an unlawful threat. Though George Zimmerman’s defense did not stress the law during the trial, it was the Stand Your Ground law that led police to initially dismiss Zimmerman as a murder suspect.

from The Inquisitr

The problem: the law in question has nothing to do with the Zimmerman trial. His self-defense claim could have been brought anywhere in the nation.

The story that George Zimmerman told about his fight with Trayvon Martin, the one that yesterday persuaded a jury to acquit him of second-degree murder and manslaughter, never had anything to do with the right to stand your ground when attacked in a public place. Knocked down and pinned to the ground by Martin, Zimmerman would not have had an opportunity to escape as Martin hit him and knocked his head against the concrete. The duty to retreat therefore was irrelevant. The initial decision not to arrest Zimmerman, former Sanford, Florida, Police Chief Bill Lee said last week (as paraphrased by CNN),  “had nothing to do with Florida’s controversial ‘Stand Your Ground’ law” because “from an investigative standpoint, it was purely a matter of self-defense.”

from Reason

“I think it is important to note that the media sensationalized this entire tragedy to be an anti-gun movement,” said state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-105th District. “At no point did the defense file a Stand Your Ground motion. At no point was it brought up to the jury as a defense. At no point did it play a role in this episode.

from CBS Miami (bottom of article/page)

George Zimmerman verdict: Department of Justice to revive investigation into Trayvon Martin civil rights violation as protesters take to streets

The jury may have found George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin, but onlookers are not as convinced. The former neighborhood watchman has years of hiding ahead of him as the death threats and potential civil suits pour in.

from New York Daily News (headline)

There is no evidence supporting the idea that justice has not been done, nor is there evidence that race ever had anything to do with it. Nonetheless the Justice Department is opening a “civil rights investigation” at the behest of the NAACP and “other civil rights leaders”, and we’re blaming a law that isn’t even instrumental to the case causing all the kerfuffle.

It sure looks to me like we’re starting with the desired outcome and bending due process toward making that outcome “fit” somehow.

“Legally, we have to accept” a jury’s ruling late Saturday night to acquit former neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, the victim’s family lawyer Daryl Parks said Sunday on “Face the Nation.” But, countered NAACP president Benjamin Jealous, federal criminal charges could still await Zimmerman “for what he has done.”


The problem with the Zimmerman acquittal was not Florida’s ill-conceived “stand your ground” law. The problem with the acquittal was not a racist and unreasonable jury, either. Rather, the acquittal of Zimmerman reflects something else equally serious and unsettling: the failure of the law in many states to keep up with the realities of America’s gun culture. In a society in which many African-Americans are presumed to be criminals and large numbers of people carry concealed deadly weapons, some ways of defining self-defense (even if they do not entail a right to stand one’s ground) may no longer be workable.

Trayvon Martin, guilty of nothing but walking on the street in a hoodie, was certainly killed because of racial profiling.

from American Prospect

The evidence does not support the claim made by the American Prospect (above) that Trayvon Martin was “guilty of nothing but walking on the street in a hoodie”.  If Trayvon had acted like any normal person would have – that is, going straight home – none of this would have happened.

Following someone is not a crime. Physically assaulting someone is.

The idea that Zimmerman somehow committed a civil rights violation by thinking Trayvon might be a troublemaker is a seriously problematic idea; the whole point of Neighborhood Watch is to pay attention to unfamiliar faces, especially suspicious-looking ones.

Yesterday, six women in the state of Florida, five of them white, made clear that the inherent value of black life and black personhood is legally indefensible.

The legal sanctioning of George Zimmerman’s murder of Trayvon Martin gives veracity to an argument that Chief Justice Roger B. Taney made in 1857:  A black person has “no rights which a white man is bound to respect.”

No, George Zimmerman is not white. But his assumptions about black men are rooted in the foundational assumptions of white supremacy and his treatment by the justice system have conferred upon him privileges usually reserved for white men. The malleability of white supremacy for non-black bodies says something about the singular power and threat of the black body in this kind of racialized system.

Though much of the mainstream media who have covered this case have convinced themselves that race did not play a role in this trial, a black kid is dead because being young, black and male, and wearing a hoodie in the rain is apparently a crime punishable by death.

from Salon

What really alarms me is the idea that our media is focusing on stirring up trouble here – presumably so that more important policy issues (and scandals) are neglected in all the fuss.