It’s heating up…

by Pete Mazzaccaro

It’s shaping up to be a brutal summer. Through all of July, when it hasn’t been too hot to be outdoors, it’s been too wet. The only reasonable outdoor activity anyone should attempt is floating in a pool.

I had been planning to write about the difficulty of keeping up with a running program in this heat. But luck intervened, and I nearly broke a toe on my right foot two weeks ago. So no running for me.

And that’s just as well. It’s been too hot for running, and there are far more important things to write about than a jogging routine.

Just as this heat wave began, our national discourse reached a near boiling point over the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the Florida man who gunned down a 17-year-old black teenager, Treyvon Martin.

Zimmerman’s acquittal was met with predictable and justifiable outrage by many. That an unarmed boy can be gunned down lawfully without consequences is shocking.

Most of what I’ve heard and read decrying the verdict misses the mark, in my opinion. I don’t believe that the fault here lies at all with the jury. In fact, I’m pretty sure the jury followed its instructions, given the law. And I think it’s likely that they reached their conclusion fairly. Racism is not the problem. It’s the law.

Yes, racism was at work. When Zimmerman first spotted Martin in his gated Florida community, he quickly assessed that a black teen in a hoody was suspicious. He followed Martin in his car and later on foot, even though he was instructed by police not to follow the boy.

But racism and the kind of prejudice that prompts many to reach the same conclusion is pervasive and predictable. There is really no way to legislate against it. And its manifestation here should not, sadly, be all that surprising. In fact it should be planned for.

And that, I think, is where there is clearly fault with the law. The jury found that Zimmerman was within his legal rights to shoot and kill Martin in self defense under Florida law – the famous Stand Your Ground law. The law states that a person may use “justifiable force” in self defense when he or she believes an assailant represents an “unlawful threat.” The defender, here, is also under no obligation to retreat first.

This law makes logical sense when one is defending home or property, but Zimmerman was doing neither. He was out on his own, acting as a police officer, even though he was not. And, again, he was informed by police that he was not needed to follow Martin. Here the ground on which he was standing was not his own. He had put himself in a situation he had no real business being in to begin with.

That law in the Zimmerman/Martin case has clearly interpreted broadly, giving Zimmerman the legal authority to stand his ground, even though he had initiated contact with Martin by following him.

And that, to me, is the the shocker. Martin’s past and activities that night are irrelevant. Even if he had been out in the night looking to commit a burglary or buy drugs or whatever other motives Zimmerman might have imagined, that any law made it right to pursue, confront and then kill him, should be shocking and give us all serious pause. That is the law of the Wild West, not a civilized society.

Perhaps Martin’s family will ultimately obtain a measure of justice through a civil wrongful death suit or a federal civil rights conviction. Meanwhile, the best justice might be the elimination of laws that give anyone with a gun the right to act like a vigilante.

  • dweller

    What a muddled mess – did you not watch any of the trial?

    “Stand Your Ground” wasn’t ever at issue in this case – conflating it with self-defense (Zimmerman was having his head repeatedly smacked against the pavement) is a cheap, lazy and self-serving journalistic maneuver.

    Zimmerman was not “out on his own”, as you put it, and he was not “informed by police that he was not needed to follow Martin” (sic).

    Zimmerman was functioning as an actual Town Watch operative in a mixed-race community that had been plagued by robberies and break-ins where the suspects were almost always described as “Black”.

    Your charge of racism & predjudice is absolutely loathsome – it’s the 21st Century equivalent of crying “witch” during The Inquisition.
    There is no acceptable defense (the Obama campaign infamously cried “racist” against the Clintons, for crying out loud), and the inquisitors can never be guilty of the same behavior,

    If you’re feeling some sort of Liberal Guilt, then just speak for yourself, and not for those of us who don’t wish to wear your scarlet “R”.

    And a civil suit or federal case – your last, best hope for “a measure of justice”?

    Brace yourself for more bad news, Pete.
    Admissable evidence can range widely in such cases, and may include young Martin’s legal history, school expulsion records, drug test results, the ME’s toxicology report, facebook and twitter posts that could demonstrate a violent predisposition (presently expunged, but all recoverable).

    Further, Zimmerman’s past history would also be largely admissable, including a long, long line of character witnesses who happen to be Black, and will testify that he is not, and has never been a witch.

  • myg

    “Just as this heat wave began, our national discourse reached a near boiling point over the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the Florida man who gunned down a 17-year-old black teenager, Treyvon Martin.”

    Cheap, loaded language. When police or other victims shoot assailants is that the terminology you use?

    “Zimmerman’s acquittal was met with predictable and justifiable outrage by many. That an unarmed boy can be gunned down lawfully without consequences is shocking.”

    Now here you are lying: he was armed with fists and concrete and you had to have known that.

    “Yes, racism was at work. When Zimmerman first spotted Martin in his gated Florida community, he quickly assessed that a black teen in a hoody was suspicious.”

    Neither surprising nor sinister in that neighborhood nor in Chestnut Hill under the same circumstances.

    “He followed Martin in his car and later on foot, even though he was instructed by police not to follow the boy.”

    Again, you made that up.

    “But racism and the kind of prejudice that prompts many to reach the same conclusion is pervasive and predictable.”

    Like Jesse Jackson “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”

    “And that, I think, is where there is clearly fault with the law. The jury found that Zimmerman was within his legal rights to shoot and kill Martin in self defense under Florida law – the famous Stand Your Ground law.”

    Again, you are making things up: SYG was not claimed at all.

    “This law makes logical sense when one is defending home or property, but Zimmerman was doing neither.”

    Are you claiming our lives are worth less while out in public?

    “He was out on his own, acting as a police officer, even though he was not.”

    Again, you are making it up—even the prosecution never said that.

    “And, again, he was informed by police that he was not needed to follow Martin. Here the ground on which he was standing was not his own. He had put himself in a situation he had no real business being in to begin with.”

    Even the prosecution said he had a right to be there.

    “That law in the Zimmerman/Martin case has clearly interpreted broadly, giving Zimmerman the legal authority to stand his ground, even though he had initiated contact with Martin by following him.”

    Another flawed assertion: observing someone is not following him and following is not initiating contact anywhere in this country.

    “Even if he had been out in the night looking to commit a burglary or buy drugs or whatever other motives Zimmerman might have imagined, that any law made it right to pursue, confront and then kill him,”

    Something that you also made up and have absolutely no evidence to substantiate.

    “Perhaps Martin’s family will ultimately obtain a measure of justice through a civil wrongful death suit or a federal civil rights conviction. Meanwhile, the best justice might be the elimination of laws that give anyone with a gun the right to act like a vigilante.”

    I know you want your pound of flesh—however, I doubt you’ll get it.

    What SYG does in Fla. is to immunize crime victims from suit when they have already been found not guilty. It forces anyone bringing these meritless suits in that situation to pay for the acquitted person’s attorneys and more.

    Additionally, if you think that our gun-running Attorney general is doing anything more than political pandering and racial huckstering, let us know why hasn’t GZ, who is black himself under our weird definitions (he is an Octoroon), been prosecuted in the seventeen months since the shooting?

    • RW Hall

      Two well written responses to the most absurd editorial I’ve ever seen in the Local. The editor was merely trying to pile on, and thought no one would notice.

  • Michael

    As other commenters already noted, this was a very poorly written and researched editorial, full of straw men and non-sequiturs. Pete, what value did you think you could add to the absolute mess this case has become on a national level aside from piling on with your guilty liberal drivel? You’re entitled to your opinion, as illogical as it appears to be, and your position as editor gives you a platform to express it, but I tune into the Local to hear thoughts and news covering matters related to our neighborhood – you don’t even try to tie this back to local dynamics even though you probably easily could have…I probably would have disagreed with you but at least it would be more relevant to this paper’s mandate. With all the larger media outlets that are already out there pushing their agenda, I don’t think we need another predictable liberal echo chamber accusing white “profiling,” and “racism” (including “White Hispanics,” I suppose), whatever that means anymore. The CH Local is best suited to focus on CH, please take heed of that when you’re writing these editorials.

    • Rebecca Etterston

      Well said, everyone.
      Read Shelby Steele’s opinion piece in the 7/22 WSJ, for an example of writing that’s on a qualitatively different level of courage and skill than the above editorial.
      This WAS merely “piling on” by an editor who is comfortable with his own set of biases, and just lazy enough to wrap them in progressive cant, arrogantly assuming that his take would be the accepted truth.