IF IT BOGGLES your mind that George Zimmerman, a 29-year-old with a gun, could be acquitted after pursuing — and killing — an unarmed 17-year-old, here’s another brain teaser: How could Marissa Alexander, a 31-year-old mother of three, receive a 20-year prison sentence for firing a bullet into a wall near her abusive ex-husband, even though no one was harmed?
It’s true. Florida is one of the worst places to fire a gun into the air, even as it appears to be one of the best places to actually shoot at a person.
Andrew Rosenthal at The New York Times also takes on Florida's stand your ground law, saying the scandal is what's legal in Florida:
Mr. Zimmerman joined a neighborhood watch group. He armed himself under Florida’s ridiculously lax gun laws and went looking for suspicious characters. When he thought he had found one – a young black man in a hoodie who had just made a snack run – he called the police. But he didn’t stop there. Like a vigilante, he got out of his truck, with his gun, and tracked down Mr. Martin.More analysis below the fold.
Was it part of his calculation that he had a right to choose not to retreat from a dangerous situation, but stand his ground and open fire? We do not know.
But we do know that, under Florida law, none of this context really mattered, because in Florida you can carry a gun in public, follow an innocent stranger and then stand your ground. The Martin case provoked some national discussion about gun laws, but like the Newtown shootings, did nothing to slow down the rush among state legislatures to make gun laws, and gun carry laws, ever laxer and more dangerous.
What happened in Florida was a miscarriage of justice, but not a miscarriage of the law.
The Boston Globe editorial board:
In this frontier mentality, besieged individuals have the right to use force against their enemies because there’s no one else to do so. But a gated community in Florida isn’t the Wild West, and this legal framework promotes a kind of vigilantism that is especially dangerous in a diverse society. Zimmerman’s suspicions of Martin, who was black, seemed to be based at least partly on the teenager’s race. Zimmerman’s acquittal reflects a presumption that, in Florida, one can pick a fight with a stranger for entirely dubious reasons, and if that stranger seems to be gaining the upper hand — as Martin did, in Zimmerman’s account — it’s acceptable to pull out a gun and shoot.Charles M. Blow:
In other areas of the law, a person who creates a situation bears at least some responsibility for injuries that result from it; it’s possible that Zimmerman will still face a civil wrongful-death suit. Yet criminal law must now address the danger — heightened in a “stand your ground” era — that one person will draw another into a physical confrontation and then use a feeling of danger as pretext to shoot.
In a way, the not-guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman for his killing of Trayvon Martin was more powerful than a guilty verdict could ever have been. It was the perfect wrenching coda to a story that illustrates just how utterly and completely our system of justice — both moral and legal — failed Martin and his family.Ekow N. Yankah:
The anger felt by so many African-Americans speaks to the simplest of truths: that race and law cannot be cleanly separated. We are tired of hearing that race is a conversation for another day. We are tired of pretending that “reasonable doubt” is not, in every sense of the word, colored.Stephen Henderson at The Detroit Free Press:
Every step Mr. Martin took toward the end of his too-short life was defined by his race. I do not have to believe that Mr. Zimmerman is a hate-filled racist to recognize that he would probably not even have noticed Mr. Martin if he had been a casually dressed white teenager.
But because Mr. Martin was one of those “punks” who “always get away,” as Mr. Zimmerman characterized him in a call to the police, Mr. Zimmerman felt he was justified in following him. After all, a young black man matched the criminal descriptions, not just in local police reports, but in those most firmly lodged in Mr. Zimmerman’s imagination.
[T[he Zimmerman verdict is an awful reminder that the urban violence we see in places like Detroit has its roots in a transcendent axiom that dates back further than the nation’s founding: that black life is cheap, no matter where or how it’s taken.The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson:
And the various dynamics that spur from that truth have become so layered and complicated, so difficult to imagine unraveling.
Justice failed Trayvon Martin the night he was killed. We should be appalled and outraged, but perhaps not surprised, that it failed him again Saturday night, with a verdict setting his killer free.Jonathan Capehart:
Our society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, expendable, guilty until proven innocent. This is the conversation about race that we desperately need to have — but probably, as in the past, will try our best to avoid.
That presumption of guilt doesn’t go away with the change of voice or the clearing of skin. It is never outgrown. And as a result of the Zimmerman verdict, black parents are holding their boys closer and tighter, no matter their age. “Be careful out there. Watch as well as pray,” my 71-year-old mother wrote me in a text message Sunday evening. “I pray for your safety everyday. Love you. Mom.”Finally, switching topics, The New York Times looks at filibuster reform:
After years of growing Republican obstruction — legislation blocked, judicial candidates forced to withdraw, presidential nominations left to languish, government agencies rendered powerless by denying them leaders — Senate Democrats say they are finally ready to take action. Barring a last-minute deal, Harry Reid, the majority leader, said he would move to change the Senate rules on Tuesday to ban the filibuster for executive appointments. [...]
The senators who have abused their office in this way are furious that Mr. Reid is proposing to change the Senate rules by majority vote in mid-session if seven nominees are not given votes. The minority leader, Mitch McConnell, has accused Mr. Reid of threatening to “blow the Senate up,” and his staff actually sent out a cartoon of Mr. Reid’s tombstone with the inscription, “Killed the Senate.” [...]
But this is a precedent worth setting. Whether Republican or Democrat, a president should get a vote on executive appointments, giving nominees a chance to make a case to a simple majority that they are fit for office. The American people have come to detest Congress for its contentiousness and inaction. On Tuesday, the Senate has a chance to begin restoring its reputation.