Thursday, April 05, 2012

"Like The Duke Lacrosse Scandal But Worse"

[Update: Friday, 6.11pm: Coincidentally, the H-S reports on a Duke Law School forum about the Martin shooting. The analysis all seems on-point, especially on the peculiar nature of the Florida "stand-your-ground" law, though I'm far more skeptical about the likelihood of any federal prosecution than is Prof. Beale. That said: it's striking to note the contrast between the scheduling of this panel and the lack of such a Law School event while the lacrosse case was occurring. (There was an excellent law school panel several months after the exoneration.)]

Last week, Andrew Sullivan’s highly-trafficked Daily Beast blog ran a post with the above title; it consisted mostly of a letter from a Sullivan reader analyzing the George Zimmerman case.

The item captured my attention for three reasons: (1) It represented a break from the increasingly unhinged anti-Israel fanaticism that has come to characterize the Sullivan blog; (2) It clashed with Sullivan’s utter indifference to the abuses of Mike Nifong, the Duke faculty/administration, or the New York Times as the lacrosse case was occurring; (3) The argument made little sense.

Alas, the Zimmerman/lacrosse comparisons have become increasingly commonplace—in a particularly high-profile example, the linkage occurred this morning in a Shelby Steele op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. And unlike Sullivan, virtually all of these comparisons have come from the right side of the political spectrum. See, for instance, Rush Limbaugh terming the Zimmerman affair “the next Duke lacrosse case,” or a former Justice Department attorney describing the Zimmerman case as “Duke lacrosse, squared,” or Business Insider’s Michael Brendan Daugherty implying that the media’s mishandling of the lacrosse case explains why we should be skeptical of its Zimmerman coverage. (While avoiding any negative critique of Zimmerman’s character, Daugherty helpfully added that the falsely accused players were “pigs.”) A google search of “George Zimmerman” “Duke lacrosse” yields 17,000 hits. Among the few to reject the comparison—in an analysis with which I agree—was Steven L. Taylor at Outside the Beltway. But most of the other hits appear to attempt to link the two cases.

It’s worth making an obvious point: in the lacrosse case, nothing happened. In the Florida case, Zimmerman shot to death an unarmed teenager. Beyond that basic and overwhelming difference, the Zimmerman/lacrosse comparison is strained, almost apples-to-oranges, at best; and at worst a deliberate attempt to exploit (and tarnish) the students’ innocence as a shield to advance an unrelated ideological agenda.

Broadly speaking, the lacrosse case featured three differing loci of misconduct. First and most important, of course, was Mike Nifong, and those who worked at his behest (the Durham Police Department, DNA Security). Without Nifong’s serial violations of procedural norms, the case never would have developed; without his race-baiting demagoguery and improper public remarks, the case would have received less media attention. Nifong was also critical in exposing the hypocrisy of many who presumed guilt (the Group of 88, the Times, the state NAACP), since these were groups and people who never would have bent over backwards to defend prosecutorial misconduct in almost any other circumstance.

There’s no equivalent of Mike Nifong, or anyone resembling him, in any of the various prosecutor’s offices who have evaluated Zimmerman—calling into question the merits of any comparison between the two cases.

Second, the lacrosse case featured a litany of dubious behavior by members of the Duke faculty and administration—conduct that betrayed the academy’s traditional ideals of dispassionate evaluation of evidence in pursuit of the truth. The Group of 88 statement represented the low point of faculty misconduct, which also included in-class harassment, grade retaliation, indefensible statements from the university president (“whatever they did was bad enough”), and ignoring the plain language of the faculty handbook and student bulletin.

There’s no academic equivalent of the Group of 88, or Richard Brodhead, in the Zimmerman affair—calling into question the merits of any comparison between the two cases.

Third, the lacrosse case featured a torrent of questionable behavior from the media, ranging from the fact-challenged material in the New York Times and Herald-Sun to the guilt-presuming screeds of Nancy Grace, Wendy Murphy, and Selena Roberts. A central characteristic of the media mishandling of the case was the guilt-presuming crowd’s imperviousness to the unimpeachable evidence that undermined their assumptions. And so revelations of the negative DNA tests, or the Seligmann ATM video, or the Nifong-ordered lineup transcript, or the full statements of Kim Roberts and Mangum’s “driver” (which contradicted Nifong’s version of events) had virtually no impact on how the Times or the H-S or Grace or Murphy or Roberts approached the case. Elements of the media, along with many of those who purport to cover or analyze the news (Grace/Murphy/Roberts), were revealed to be not truth-seekers but closed-minded ideologues.

The Zimmerman case certainly has featured a rush to judgment from elements in the media, ranging from Al Sharpton to Michelle Malkin. And it’s also featured breaches of media ethics, ranging from NBC’s misleading editing of a 911 tape to make Zimmerman look like a racist to Business Insider’s using a misidentified photo from a neo-Nazi website to make Trayvon Martin look like a thug.

But there’s no comparison between the media response to the lacrosse and Zimmerman cases regarding evaluation of unimpeachable evidence. The three such examples in the Zimmerman case are the Zimmerman 911 tape, the video of Zimmerman at the police station, and (to a lesser extent) the audio analysis of a scream at the end of another 911 tape. Each of these pieces of evidence has been somewhat murky, although in general not helpful to Zimmerman. (The 911 tape features a huffing and puffing, armed Zimmerman improperly pursuing Martin on foot; the video shows Zimmerman with a gash on the back of his head, as his attorney had previously suggested, but no sign of the broken nose that his attorney also claimed he had suffered; the audio scream analysis hurts Zimmerman but suffers from not having any Martin audio for purposes of comparison.) In sharp contrast to what occurred in the lacrosse case, where the unimpeachable evidence always was clear and always tilted in one direction (the case was a fraud), there’s nothing from any of these pieces of evidence that would undermine or even seriously challenge a “rush-to-judgment” thesis against Zimmerman.

And so, whatever media misconduct has occurred in the Zimmerman case (and what has occurred has come from all over the ideological spectrum), it’s of a quite different type than what happened in the lacrosse case—calling into question the merits of any comparison between the two cases.

Indeed, if a reader were desperate to find some kind of comparison between the lacrosse and Zimmerman cases, the clearest one would seem to involve not Zimmerman but Martin. As Nifong’s case imploded, his defenders in the left-wing blogosphere retreated to character assassinations against the lacrosse players (the “they’re-not-saints” line of attack). At the time, my retort was that to my knowledge I had never taught any saints in my time as a college professor; and in any event the students’ alleged lack of saintly qualifications was irrelevant to the central questions of the case—explaining the misconduct of Nifong, the faculty, the media, and their associates.

In recent days, as Zimmerman’s legal peril has appeared to increase, his defenders (mostly, it seems, in the conservative blogosphere) have turned their sights on Martin and his character. (The outright “not-a-saint” line has even appeared from time to time.) Readers have had an opportunity to see Martin’s twitter feed, his e-mail account, and unflattering photos of him. This material might be interesting to those engaged in sociological studies of urban, 17-year-old African-Americans, but it’s of little relevance to the issue that will decide this case: whether Florida’s “stand-your-ground” law applies to a figure, like Zimmerman, who improperly initiated a pursuit that set into motion events for which he would later claim self-defense. The Florida law might well be elastic enough to protect Zimmerman—but if it does, whether Martin is a sinner or a saint will have no bearing on the outcome.

Of what overall relevance is the commentary of Limbaugh, or Steele, or Daugherty, or the figures like them? That in recent weeks we’ve seen hundreds of posts, columns, and radio bites—and mostly from people ostensibly sympathetic to the falsely accused students—linking Collin Finnerty, Dave Evans, and Reade Seligmann to a Florida man who killed an unarmed teenager. The prevalence of this comparison—a comparison, again, to a man who killed someoneprovides yet another reminder of how significantly the misconduct of Nifong and the DPD harmed the falsely accused students’ reputations.


skwilli said...

I'm a little dismayed to see some dated and possibly erroneous "facts" used in your analysis. Each of the three pieces of evidence in the case 1) the 9-1-1 tape 2)the police videotape and the 3)audiotape analysis were presented in a guilt-presuming and nearly criminal way by members of a Press quite readily pushing the Race, Class, (but not Gender!) meme. Each of these has been walked back or utterly impeached. Maybe the Zimmerman Martin Affair has little to do with the Duke Lacrosse Case (I agree with you there), but those wishing to capitalize on the event are the same old crew. I will reserve my ultimate judgement on the affair and realize that practically nothing presented to me from the Press is probably accurate in any way. You should have a little more skepticism on what they are feeding us too. ("improperly pursuing Martin on foot" "no sign of the broken nose" "nothing from any of these pieces of evidence that would undermine or even seriously challenge a 'rush to judgement'" are all examples I would argue with you on. You have judged them. I'll wait for better info before agreeing with you. I'll bet there will never be charges.)

It's bad enough that a man is dead. It's about time we had a President who, instead of feeding the flames, stood up and defused the situation. Won't happen though. I weep for this nation.

kcjohnson9 said...

To the 4.37:

I'm not sure what you mean by the three pieces of unimpeachable evidence having been "walked back" or "impeached." They are what they are.

The first two items have been posted (and are widely available) on the web--they're primary sources, and the versions available on the Fox website are the same as on the MSNBC site or the same as on the ABC site. Yes, it's true that they've been "presented" in the press--but in the same way the text of the police statements or the lineup in the lacrosse case were "presented" by the press.

The first, as I noted in the post, features Zimmerman, in his own words, stating that he's pursuing Martin; he can be heard huffing and puffing; he's out of his truck; and he's armed. It was not proper of him to have been pursuing Martin, as the police dispatcher tells him on the audio. There's nothing "dated" or "walked back" about this analysis--it is what it is.

The tape itself isn't conclusive--if I were Zimmerman's attorney, I'm sure there's some material from later in the tape I would use. That's why I described the evidence in the post as "murky."

The video shows Zimmerman with a gash on the back of his head and no sign of a broken nose. I'm not aware of anything that has emerged showing the video is "dated" or "impeached." It's "murky" because it shows one injury that Zimmerman claimed but not another (and arguably more important) that he also had claimed.

The third features the audio analysis. Again, I'm not aware of anything that has emerged that has "impeached" this evidence or has made it "dated"--although, as I noted in the post, it's hampered by a lack of a comparison to Martin.

I stand by the description in the post of these three pieces of unimpeachable evidence as murky but in general unhelpful to Zimmerman--and therefore wholly different than what we saw in the lacrosse case. If, on the other hand, a new & different version of the 911 tape has emerged, or a new & different version of the police video has emerged, or differing professional audio analyses have occurred, I hope you'll pass them along.

Anonymous said...

What I find irksome is that the DOJ wouldn't investigate Nifong, no matter what he did; not even when he was blatantly intimidating witnesses (Elmostafa) and exploiting the media for all it was worth, etc.

With the Florida case, the DOJ has already begun a "parallel investigation"; authorities from Sanford were summoned to Washington; and the public has been reassured that if there was wrongdoing somewhere, the local authorities won't be able to sweep it under the rug.

(Bell and Baker and Nifong summoned to Washington? Let me dream... A "parallel investigation" of the lacrosse case? The case would have ended with the DNA evidence.)

I'd ask the DOJ why it hasn't investigated Durham yet, but I know that if I got any kind of answer at all, it would only be
a bureaucratic mumble.

skwilli said...

Each piece of evidence was presented by the Press utilizing willing deceit to paint a picture which may or may not be the case. Each piece of evidence, all 3, certainly are what they are, but ask 100 Americans what they "are" and you'll have an ovewrwhelming consensus that all show that Zimmerman is a white racist who targeted, stalked and murdered The 17 yo just because he was black. Each news organization that presented the 3 pieces of evidence have had to change their presentation of the evidence, although only 2 of them have weakly apologized for their presentation.

1. Zimmerman only identified Martin as black (his word) after being asked about it. The tape was selectively edited to make him a "racist" by NBC. This will never be undone. He may or may not be one, although circumstantial evidence argues against it.

2. He is now thought to have said "f****** punks" instead of a racial epithet that ABC "experts" insisted he had. This can never be undone. I probably have said those same two words at least once in my life, and was justified when I said it. There are plenty of "f***** punks" in this world. Mr. Martin may or may not have been one. I wasn't there. Other experts supply evidence that Martin doubled back and surprised Zimmerman after he was initially followed. Cell phone tracking may or may not support Zimmerman on this. I wasn't there. I'll wait on that.

3. I doubt that you have any special abilities to detect broken noses on inferior Police videos even after they are enhanced. I don't and I have a little medical training. I've had a broken nose from being hit with a baseball bat (I was a little league catcher) and no one could really tell, other than me! Seems to me we should both defer to those that were there and examined and treated him. Not available yet, as is most of the police records.

Though these issues are just tangential to your entire analysis that really deals with other issues, it makes me wonder why you would let the obviously poisoned Press supply the evidence on which you base your analysis of the affair. Most of the opinions you rely on seem to come from what the NYT has written on it. You know they cannot be trusted with even the simplest of "facts". It further feeds the carrion-eaters at the bottom of the food chain; Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the Wendy Murphys of the world. They really need no help from people 3 times as smart as them to attain their nefarious goals.

You do realize that I'm a big fan of much of what you write. I just think you made a slight error when discussing this case's relationship to Duke's fiasco.

(Also a citizen can certainly initiate a pursuit on someone who is "suspicious". I would never do it, but I don't think US Law forbids it. Thus he can also be jumped from behind and have his nose broken after he loses track of whoever he initially pursued. I wasn't there, but it does seem possible.)

Born Free said...

Being lynched by the media, including the major networks, is reason enough to draw the comparison. Whether the comparison goes deeper than that is arguable.

As to the facts of the Zimmerman case, you also seem to be pronouncing guilt. Not at all what one might have expected from you, just wow.

Anonymous said...

KC, the Group of 88 and the Popular Uprising in Support for Trayvon Martin are related in the goal of getting White America to cower in the face of the African-American Jaggernaut.
You are commendable in trying to keep the Duke Lacrosse incident from being polluted by questionable comparisons.
You have noted the Duke payoff; how much do you think that the city of Sanford will pay to Trayvon's parents, et al?
Big Al

Anonymous said...

I would only add this about the broken nose - from personal experience I can say that visible damage often does not present itself until a day or two later. Since there is no frontal picture of Zimmerman taken either after the shooting or a day later, claims that there were no injuries present must be taken at face value. There is the report of the EMT that he was treated at the scene. Again, from experience I can state that there is little if anything that is done at the time of injury for a broken nose.

Anonymous said...


This is a (typically) brilliant exegesis of a complex issue. If there is to be a positive legacy from the complete and total fraud of the Crystal Magnum/Mike Nifong (NOT Duke lacrosse) case (why on earth should it ever be referred to as "Duke lacrosse" when the only transgressions were CM/MN/ group of 88 and their crowd?), it must be a careful and considered analysis of these complicated issues. How can we use the past to illuminate the future? That is, and should be, the touchstone.

Nicely analyzed, KC


Thom Mayer, MD

Anonymous said...

Correct: in the LAX case there was no rape, while in the Martin shooting there was a death - but let's remember that that shooting just might have been in self-defense. No, Trayvon was no angel, and he didn't need to be - but Zimmerman may not be some devil, either. We just don't know. Of course, we can always Brodhead this thing, and say that whatever Zimmerman did was bad enough...which is what you seem to be implying. Fine, Z. was involved in an action that killed a man, but it is just possible that Z. reasonably felt that he had no choice - in which case no crime was committed, was it? Of course, even to argue against a rush to judgment in this case is to be seen as racist. Unless one immediately assumes Z's guilt, one is denying the tragic experience of young black males, who -- the narrative goes-- really fear nothing more than being unfairly singled out as thugs and mowed down by marauding whites. Hmmm... the more you know; I really had no idea that that was the cause of the terrible death rates among young black males.
Anyway, we do not know what happened between Zimmerman and Martin. So how is this similar ot the LAX case? The rush to judgment here is based on the endlessly repeated claim that blacks "always" face this sort of violence - which particular piece of nonsense is very similar to those preposterous claims about whites' penchant for raping black women during the LAX fraud. The Emmett Till case is also being raised here, just as it was in the LAX case. Some other similarities: Jesse Jackson's repellent presence; the NBPP getting away with intimidation and incitement that would never ever be tolerated if that 'B' wasn't in their name; the hypocrisy of media like the NYT and CNN playing this story to maximize racial tensions so that they can then breathlessly "report" on it. One could go on and on... but let's keep one thing in mind, please: if the LAX players are being associated with George Zimmerman, they may not be being associated with a murderer. It is just possible that this dumb-seeming guy was trying to protect his own life. Or that he was a pathetic, racist idiot looking to kill an inoffensive young black man. One thing I do know, however, is that the outrage about this case is strangely at odds with the sound of crickets one hears when other shootings, black on black, or black on white, occur. That silence reminds me a great deal of the silence about other rapes that prevailed while the crowds foamed at the mouth over what they dearly wished to believe had happened in the LAX case.

Jim In San Diego said...

In the Zimmerman case, we know for sure that an unarmed teenager who was shopping for skittles and iced tea was shot dead.

If this had been a police shooting, the police officer would have been suspended from duty while an investigation was conducted to determine if the homicide was justified.

Under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, there is no such requirement for an investigation if the homicide is by an armed civilian.

Why is that?

Apparently, the killer has only to claim he was reasonably in fear of great bodily harm, and he cannot be prosecuted. Conveniently, the most important witness is dead.

We note that "justifiable homicides" have tripled in Florida since adoption of the "Stand Your Ground" law. The number has jumped from about 30 per year to over 100 per year.

The chance that all these additional homicides in Florida were actually "justified" is exactly zero.

There are other, disturbing facts about the Zimmerman case I have read, but cannot personally confirm, so they do not stand as proven:

One of these is that Zimmerman was nearly 100 pounds heavier than Martin.

If this is even approximately true, one would immediately ask how Zimmerman could possibly be threatened by Martin, who was certainly unarmed.

Another piece of information I have seen (not verified by me) is that Zimmerman worked for two different security agencies as a bouncer at drinking parties.

In our ordinary experience, a bouncer at a drinking party knows how to take care of himself. Or, he would not be a bouncer. He is highly unlikely to be threatened with great bodily harm by a 140 pound, unarmed teenager.

Zimmerman claims he was attacked by Martin, and Zimmerman had to shoot the teenager in self defense.

In Florida, if you are losing a fist fight, are you justified in killing someone?

If you are, then this law is immoral and must be changed. Life is too precious. Parents cannot and should not fear their children may not come home from the 7-eleven because of a law like this.

We also know from Zimmerman's own words that he was following Martin. I heard the Florida legislator who drafted the "Stand Your Ground" law, and who today is staunchly defending it, tell an interviewer the law does not protect someone who pursues someone else, as Zimmerman was doing.

The comparison with the Lacrosse case seems to amount to this: In the lacrosse case, the evidence a crime was committed was fundamentally unbelievable; nevertheless, a prosecution was initiated and pursued.

In the Zimmerman case, the evidence that Zimmerman actually acted in self defense is fundamentally unbelievable; however, there has not been any prosecution (as of yet).

Btw, those of you with an ideology about guns, please save your breath.

My ideology is that our young people should come home to their loved ones from trips to the convenience store to buy candy without being killed.

(Also btw, I am a lifelong gun owner, an expert marksman, and served 15 years in our armed forces during the Vietnam War. This is 15 years longer than most of you have served in any military.)

Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

In an earlier thread, I had posited the theory that Durham, Duke and Sanford might each suffer on account of their "closed systems." As we all have seen, Durham is an echo chamber of race/gender politics. Duke is much the same -- at least in the upper echelons of its administration.

I did give myself some wiggle room regarding Sanford, Florida because I noted that the situation needed more study. The reason Sanford needed to be studied in the first place is because of the Trayvon Martin incident. What are the politics of Sanford? Which is the dominant political party? What is Sanford's recent history regarding race relations. & Etc.

Still, for me, the Trayvon Martin incident, standing alone, required further study of their whole system. As soon as I had heard the 911 tape, I knew that an injustice had been done and a murderer set free. Bear with me.

The only thing that kept George Zimmerman from being arrested that night was, in my opinion, the blatantly inappropriate application of the Florida Stand Your Ground ("SYG") law. Zimmerman was obviously not standing his own ground, he was stalking another person -- and doing that in order to confront him. The Neighborhood Watch Program also requires its members to patrol sans handguns.

Without application of the SYG law -- and it obviously doesn't apply -- Zimmerman is a murderer, plain and simple. Whether he can make a case for an affirmative defense based upon the standard self defense law in Florida is an issue for a jury to decide. He would still be a murderer, but he'd get off because it was a supposed "justifiable" homicide.

The thing is, under Florida law, the standard self defense law is something for a jury to decide -- not a prosecutor or police chief. (Arguably, SYG, on the other hand, leaves the prosecutor with some discretion to initially bring charges; but as we know, the SYG law did not apply to this situation.).

In my opinion, probable cause for George Zimmerman's arrest existed the moment the police received the 911 call, and the moment they arrived on the scene to find a dead body many, many yards away from Zimmerman's vehicle. It is so plain and so obvious, that that fact alone necessitates further investigation into Sanford, Florida.

For that reason, I completely agree with Al Sharpton on this issue: There was ample probable cause to arrest George Zimmerman on the night of the murder. I did not agree with Sharpton about his actions in the Tawana Brawley fiasco, but he's 100% right in this instance, and I have not heard him call for anything more than an arrest and investigation in the Martin murder.

I will be interested to see how close -- but on the opposite end of the spectrum -- Sanford and Durham turn out to be. MOO! Gregory

Anonymous said...

KC -- You are overstating the differences. The key similarities are that (1) at this early stage, the facts are largely unknown and disputed, (2) that has not stopped the usual suspects (Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, etc.) from leaping to conclusions with over the top racially-charged rhetoric, and (3) the media has already been caught a few times doctoring evidence to sensationalize (e.g., NBC splicing a 911 call to make Zimmerman appear to be obssessed with race when the actual transcript revealed something else entirely). That is off the top of my head and I am confident that more detailed analysis would show greater similarities.

Your point that it is easy to overstate the similarities is also well taken. Obviously, the big difference is that there is an actual victim. Let the local and state police (federal, if necessary) do their job, figure out what happened and treat Zimmerman accordingly.

Until then, efforts to compare or distinguish the Nifong hoax and the Zimmerman incident are premature.

-- Haunches

Anonymous said...

>>The video shows Zimmerman with a gash on the back of his head and no sign of a broken nose.<<

KC, what is the "sign of a broken nose?" I await your expert medical opinion.

jim2 said...

The on-scene police report includes blood from nose and back of head, and that Z was treated at the scene, so any absence of visible blood later should hardly be any surprise.

I confess that I - also - find your "improperly" troubling.

AMac said...

KC, you say the Trayvon/Zimmerman case is not comparable to the Duke Lacrosse Rape Hoax/Frame. As you frame the argument, I think you are largely right and partly wrong.

Looking at the "three differing loci of misconduct":

1) "There’s no equivalent of Mike Nifong, or anyone resembling him... calling into question the merits of any comparison between the two cases."


2) "There’s no academic equivalent of the Group of 88, or Richard Brodhead, in the Zimmerman affair—calling into question the merits of any comparison between the two cases."


3) You make two claims here, which are severable.

3a) "A central characteristic of the media mishandling of the [lacrosse] case was the guilt-presuming crowd’s imperviousness to the unimpeachable evidence that undermined their assumptions."

Agreed. As you discuss, there is little in the way of such clear-cut unimpeachable evidence in the Trayvon/Zimmerman case.

3b) "whatever media misconduct has occurred in the Zimmerman case (and what has occurred has come from all over the ideological spectrum), it’s of a quite different type than what happened in the lacrosse case—calling into question the merits of any comparison between the two cases.


The hallmark of the conduct of the prestige press during the Duke Lacrosse Hoax/Frame was that reporters and editors tailored facts, quotes, reactions, and rumors to fit a narrative of white racism and privilege that, they believed, explained what had happened.

Very few started by withholding judgement. Few tried to evaluate evidence, consider the plausibility of varying explanations, and apply skeptical reasoning, before promoting a narrative of guilt and innocence.

That same criticism of the mainstream press should be applied in this new case.

Yes, as far as low-traffic blogs, misconstruals have come from "all over the ideological spectrum." Focusing on the prestige press (ABC, NYT, NBC, CNN, PBS, etc.), not so much. For weeks, interpretations skewed in one direction. Only recently and reluctantly have the wheels started to come off the Preferred Narrative of Racism and Oppression.

A stopped clock is right twice a day, and it may yet turn out that Trayvon bears no responsibility for this tragedy, and that Zimmerman is a devil (albeit a Mestizo one, rather than the as-reported White one).

I don't see how there is enough clarity at this point for observers to draw conclusions. Far more likely, to me, is that each party behaved imprudently at best. And that a reality-based apportionment of blame will not be possible for some time.

It seems to me that key parts of Zimmerman's story are holding up as true or probably true. Under these circumstances, it seems likely that no criminal case could "fairly" succeed against him. This, in turn, makes it likely that he will not be charged.

It is very unfortunate that many people have stayed with the prestige press' original narrative, and are thus primed to view such an outcome as one where an unjust criminal justice system has given a racist a free pass to murder an innocent black teen. Whatever his character flaws and errors of judgement may turn out to be, Zimmerman deserves better.

Michael McNeil said...

K.C., you mentioned Florida's “stand your ground” law in regards to the Zimmerman/Martin case, and indeed the media have been heavily playing up this legal principle as supposedly the basis for Zimmerman's defense against prosecution in this case.

However, that appears not to be the case. As Denver University law professor Dave Kopel writes in the (libertarian-leaning) multiple-contributor legal blog The Volokh Conspiracy (founded by UCLA constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh):

“Media coverage of Florida’s self-defense laws in recent weeks has often been very inaccurate. While some persons, particularly from the gun prohibition lobbies, have claimed that the Martin/Zimmerman case shows the danger of Florida’s ‘Stand your ground’ law, that law is legally irrelevant to case. So let’s take a look at what the Florida laws actually say.” Read the whole thing.

Here also is a piece that Eugene Volokh wrote in this regard.

Then too, here's a case where a black man was convicted for there not being a “stand your ground” provision in the local law.

William L. Anderson said...

The Duke comparison to me would be the rush to judgment by people on both sides of the spectrum, the Out-Of-Central-Casting actions by media people from Limbaugh to Malkin to O'Donnell to Maddow, and by the insistence by Al Sharpton and others not only for an arrest but a subsequent show trial that would lead directly to a conviction.

We had all of that in the Duke case, but the obvious difference is that there is a dead person in the Martin case. Furthermore, I believe that judging from the media response after the Duke case -- "We promise to be more circumspect until we know the facts" -- in reality, no one has learned anything, given the rush to judgment on all sides.

There is one other thing here: this time, the federal government is investigating, something that was not done in the Duke case. K.C. has aptly noted in the past that Nifong did not talk about "hate crimes" because he did not want to invite federal scrutiny that well might have undermined his case even further.

I will say that I believe President Obama has acted deplorably in his statements, essentially stating as "fact" that this was a "hate crime" when, in reality, we don't know the particulars of what happened, only the end result. The president has managed to throw gasoline on the fire when he should have been acting as a peacemaker, not the leader of a lynch mob.

Unfortunately, because of Obama's statements, the authorities MUST not only indict Zimmerman no matter what they find, but also secure a conviction, both of which now are POLITICALLY necessary. What Barack Obama has managed to do is to turn a criminal investigation into a political spectacle, and once criminal law goes down that path, all is lost.

Locomotive Breath said...

"It’s worth making an obvious point: in the lacrosse case, nothing happened."

Like that would have made a difference had Nifong actually been able to get the three falsely accused in front of a Durham jury. It's only because Brian Meehan cracked on the stand that the truth came out.

"But there’s no comparison between the media response to the lacrosse and Zimmerman cases regarding evaluation of unimpeachable evidence."

At one time Tara Levicy's report was cited as unimpeachable evidence. At one time, Kim Roberts Pittman's 911 call was cited as unimpeachable evidence.

Meanwhile NBC has already been nailed for selectively editing Zimmerman's 911 call.

Here's what NBC reported:
Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.

Here's what was actually said:
Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.

Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?

Zimmerman: He looks black.

See the difference?

ABC has already been nailed for reporting that the police video showed no injury to Zimmerman then having to reverse themselves.

I think the media and grievance groups rush-to-judgement comparison is valid. You're using hindsight. At this point, about a month after Mangum's observations, everyone just KNEW the three were guilty.

Anonymous said...

As far as evidence of a "broken nose" - are you able to diagnose a broken nose from the videotape? Please do NOT use that line. I have seen broken noses with blood gushing and some with little or no blood at all, very little swelling to moon face. So unless you are a medical doctor privy to some information the rest of us don't have available to us - do not use that. Tragedy yes, different in many ways than the lacrosse players case, but this is also another example of the main stream media at its worst.

kcjohnson9 said...

To the 6.43:

This is an excellent point--the willingness of the DOJ to involve itself in this case & its refusal to conduct an investigation of Nifong is troubling (at best) and indefensible at worst.

To the 7.01, etc:

I have no idea whether the shooter in the Martin case suffered a broken nose. I merely pointed out that the video tape shows no evidence of one. (For instance, the videotape shows no blood, nor does it show the shooter tipping his head back as might be expected from someone with a broken nose.) I'm not aware of anyone (including Zimmerman's defenders) who have claimed that the video provides evidence he had a broken nose.

I do appreciate, however, the comments insinuating that my lack of medical training should neuter my comments on medical-related matters in the legal sphere. Tara Levicy and Dr. Meehan would approve!!

To the 12.31:

On the stand your ground law: Zimmerman's chief attorney (who doesn't strike me as very good, from the few interviews of him I've seen) has been inconsistent on this point, but has suggested at least some of the time that he might involve the SYG law. I'm a great admirer of Prof. Volokh's blog, but if the shooter's attorney says he might invoke the SYG law, it's my sense we must treat it as relevant.

I should note: I think such laws are bad public policy. That seems to be the opinion of most police & prosecutors. I suspect that (however this shooting turns out legally), the killing will cause other states to think hard about following Florida's example and adopting such a statute.


Finally, allow me to reiterate the central point of this post: the comparison of the Zimmerman case and the lacrosse case has become increasingly common (and increasingly high-profile) in recent days, despite the enormous, almost yawning, differences between the two cases. As someone who has spent a good deal of time on the case, I consider repulsive the willingness of some in the conservative media world (and Andrew Sullivan) to link the reputations of three falsely accused college students to that of a guy who shot an unarmed teenager. It surprises me that any DIW regular would think otherwise.

A Duke Dad said...

Notes to Racists:

1 - Do not call the police and have a conversation of nearly 5 minutes, then tell them where to find you, before going out and shooting someone.

2 - You are a very inept racist if you get into a rolling-on-the-ground brawl with the person you are about to shoot.

Joan Foster said...

Just today, Jesse asked Blacks to VOTE wearing hoodies. is not a DA pimping a racial hot topic for votes, but it is the Democratic party in general using this case to turn out votes. "Holder's people" ( his expression) vote when panicked...or so Jesse and Al presume. Obama needs the Black vote. KC, as an Obama liberal, can see how Nifong exploited the Duke Hoax for votes, but does not see the agents of Obama's Team doing like wise.... the CBC, Sharpton on MSNBC...scaring Black voters that there is a "war on black on Black Men"..or evidence of Blacks "being shot in the streets like dogs." The rhetoric is just as exaggerated and extreme. Where are all these White Hispanics shooting Black children in the street? Statistics show most Blacks are murdered by other Blacks. Maybe if the racial stupidity is not coming from Wahneema, KC doesn't take much notice?

Correct...there is no 88...but is KC reading the drivel that the CBC puts out...and, hey, they don't need to buy one ad...they presented a resolution yesterday that this case is all about race. The Congressional Black Caucus is doing a great job of subbing for the 88. On a much larger stage!

I would put the use of a five year old CHILD'S picture for that did look like Obama's son...and the absolute beatification of Trayvon ( otherwise known as NO LIMITS NI€€A) and the outrage about allowing his own words, his chosen picture, and his troubled school behavoir in the past 3 months...right up there with the beatification of Sister Survivor...and the prettying up of her "performance obligations."

KC may have his opinions about "huffing and puffing"...but I will wait for the witness statements as to who was doing what. The witness John says it was TM. I had enough of amatuer sleuths who divined things for themselves from media quality tapes.

And ANOTHER PARALLEL...I would remind KC how the "slur" hysteria erupted and smeared the kids...very early is happening here...when the MSM is having to know ponder if "c@@ns" is "cold" or well, fill in the blanks. The very possibility of a slur seems to justify a with the Team.

I suppose if one supports OBama...thinks he is a FAB president....I suppose it is similar to those who felt the need to be blind to the political ramifications of Nifong's quest for votes in a tough year. Maybe it's that Kerry Sutton syndrome.

And Obama sure jumped right in. Was he the fax machine?

Did Obama feel the need to speak to the pain of the British "crackers"... made to strip and executed in FLA.? Their parents said their letters were ignored because they offered no political gain for Obama. But KC is correct in that Obama has yet to dramatize Zimmermann's "huffing and puffing" ..a la the Nifong choke.

In another BLAST FROM THE PAST...guess who is coming to visit? The Black Panthers may not be coming during exam week..but like the Hoax, they are coming to indimidate the Grand Jury on the very day it first meets. "DIE RAPIST!" or DIE WATCH CAPTAIN!....something like that. But KC sees no parallels?

One more parallel...Nothing "criminal happened at that party and it well may be that, by Florida Law, nothing criminal happened In Sanford that night either. Therfore under law, NOTHING HAPPENED. Just a "useful" local tragedy to be exploited for Democratic votes. Obama, like Nifong, knows he must motivate his base.

A Duke Dad said...


Imho the "similarities" of this incident and the Duke Hoax are the utter contempt the Media has for the truth. And the predictable rush to judgement by a segment of the political/social spectrum.

IF Zimmerman had indeed lost track of Martin, and was on his way back to his truck, and was confronted and attacked by Martin, it is a case of assault with deadly force. Getting punched and having your head beaten on concrete and being told you are going to die that night will make you fight for your life.

That narrative was the testimony of eye witnesses, as well as Zimmerman (reported by his father).

IF Martin was minding his own business, or just mouthing off, then Zimmerman has committed assault with a deadly weapon.

We don't know the facts.
Will the entrance wounds indicate the position of Martin (on the ground, standing).
Do powder burns confirm the point blank range indicated.
Besides grass stains on Zimmerman's back, does anything else confirm a struggle on the ground.
Can the paths of the two be documented with cell phone calls, footprints, blood spatters.

Anonymous said...

K.C. -- Your analysis misses a central point of the comparison. No one is comparing Zimmerman to the three falsely accused players. The similarities are the media coverage to support a metanarrative before any facts are really known, as well as the usual cast of characters exploiting and sensationalizing the situation. We do not know what happened yet that night, and after NBC's and ABC's performance we should exercise great caution in credsiting what is being reported (all of which seems to weigh against Zimmerman until later corrected). If Martin really did attack Zimmerman causing a gash in the back of his head and broken nose, that is a much different fact pattern than that of the "unarmed innocent teenager" shot to death by a merciless racist killer. Yet, despite significant disputed facts, the media is off to the races, including doctoring evidence to fit the metanarrative. That is the comparison, and nothing more.

I've loved your blog for years but I think you're too far ahead of the facts on this one.

-- Haunches

No Justice, No Peace said...

Good comments all and a provacative post.

KC to emphasize that we don't know what we don't know, you are incorrect about how to properly treat a bloody nose, broken or otherwise. I believe the current medical wisdom is, while pinching the nostril, to tip the head and nose forward rather than backward.

Like others, I too have experience with not one broken nose but at least three. It seems while I apparently may have played rough in my youth, others clearly played rougher. Only once did my nose swell and that was a few days later. Only once did it bleed profusely and that was immediate.

While the DOJ actions relative to their inaction during the lacrosse hoax is distressing it is no surprise to see them engage now. On the other hand it is a surprise to find the President again rushing in and interjecting himself into a race-baiting opportunity.

There currently are at least two numbers, $15,619,740,170,408 (public debt) and 88,000,000 (Americans not working) one would hope are front-of-mind for the President in lieu of this tragic series of events. It turns out not much has changed and he thinks it his place, much like the Gates incident, to interject himself and irresponsibly raise the temperature. Sadly, given the timing of the President's remarks the objective does not appear to seek the truth, but to divide.

By the way which media propagandist coined the identification of Zimmerman as "White-Hispanic"? Have they been nominated for a Pulitzer yet? This to speaks to the one clear similarity which is the absolute sorriness of leading media figures.

Jim In San Diego said...

An additional thought, from the facts we know about the Martin killing:

Zimmerman followed Martin so conspicuously that Martin was concerned. Yet, Zimmerman had no right to accost Martin, had no uniform, no badge, and was driving an unmarked car. Martin really had no way to know what Zimmerman had in mind for him.

By all rights, it was Zimmerman who would have, to me, been the threatening figure in this vignette.

This would be especially true if I weighed, say 150 pounds, and someone following me weighed, say, 240 pounds.

That being the case, would Martin have been justified in shooting Zimmerman?

If Martin had killed Zimmerman in self defense under the "Stand Your Ground", would Martin be in jail right now,or not?

Just asking.

After all, Martin was killed on "his" ground, not Zimmerman's.

In another note: apparently, 600,000+ Floridians have submitted requests for firearms permits this year.

It looks like we are going to find out what really will happen under a policy of guns for everyone, and a law that allows a killing anywhere and anytime a gun carrier claims to feel threatened.

Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

KC, your analysis is detailed and excellent as it goes. However, when we look at Duke Lacrosse and Trayvon Martin shooting from 30,000 feet, I see these similarities:
1. Rush to judgement of guilt of the accused, often by people who appear to have an agenda other than getting to the truth in order for justice to prevail.
2. White on black incident.
3. Media distortions and lies.

The details of the 2 cases are, of course, radically different. But surely you see why people are naturally comparing the two based on the bigger picture.

Anonymous said...

I went to college in this area and lived in Florida before I joined the military. So what if he was following Trayvon? Talking to a 911 operator while observing where the suspect is going is not a crime. And if he put Trayvon's picture as he was wandering around a gated community, that would have been fine and legal too. Asking this young man "who are you? Where are you from?" is not a threat. But assaulting someone because you cannot control your temper is. KC and others would whether Zimmerman be beaten into a coma whether than defending yourself. From my college days, that is called assault and battery.

We do know that the local college expelled him because of "students safety". That sounds like Broadhead and the Gang of 88 to me. Two witnesses saw Trayvon on top of Zimmerman and heard him yelling for help. CNN, NBC and ABC have admitted they editted the 911 tape and the video. We also know there were no skittles or ice tea on the scene. We only have the family's lawyer word, that he was talking to his girlfriend.

As for being like the Duke Lacrosse case, when the black panthers put a bounty on his head, reminds me of all the lacrosse team profiles on campus with the word "Rapist".

As for Trayvon, he was no innocent. The young adult was 6'3, 185 pounds, and suspended from school 3 times. We know he was visiting his father's girlfriend because he had been suspended for 10 days.

Personally, I wish the prosecutor filed charges of impeding an investigation, withholding evidence and perjury with Trayvon's parents. Frankly, the Martins remind me of Terri Schiavo parents. Especially now, with both of them campaigning to have the SYG thrown out by the legislature.

As for the father's girlfriend, why didn't she tell the neighborhood watch Trayvon was visiting. The fact nobody recognized him, when according to the NYT he had been a regular visitor to the area, tells me the NYT lied through its pearly teeth. And isn't it strange no one has heard an audio of Trayvon and his girlfriend.

skwilli said...

"I do appreciate, however, the comments insinuating that my lack of medical training should neuter my comments on medical-related matters in the legal sphere. Tara Levicy and Dr. Meehan would approve!!"

Touche! Good one. I have enjoyed reading all the comments on both sides of the discussion. I hope you return to this issue when all of it gets shaken out. Which will be a very long time from now. I'll gladly rescind and acknowledge all my errors if necessary.

kcjohnson9 said...

I didn't get a chance to respond to all the comments last night; I'll do so here & below. Let me reiterate the point of this post: to, at least, get on record the wild inappropriateness of the growing comparisons between the lacrosse case and the Zimmerman shooting.

At 7.01, skiwilli suggests that the unimpeachable evidence in the Zimmerman case has been walked back because: (1) an NBC producer (who since has been fired) improperly spliced one broadcast of the 911 tape; (2) I lack the medical expertise to say that the police video doesn't show evidence that Zimmerman had a broken nose; and (3) Zimmerman probably said f-ing "punks" in a muttered utterance.

First, let me reiterate the post's argument: that in the lacrosse case, this kind of evidence (photos, videos, audio, etc.) all tilted in one direction, making it impossible for any fair-minded person to believe a crime occurred, while in the Zimmerman case, this type of evidence has been "murky" but in general more unhelpful than helpful to Zimmerman--in short, completely different than what we saw in the lacrosse case. Nothing skiwilli notes about an alleged "walkback" suggests otherwise.

On (1)--there have been hundreds (thousands?) of broadcasts of the 911 tape. It's hard for me to see how one improperly spliced version of the tape permanently damaged Zimmerman's reputation, especially when the network subsequently apologized & fired the technician who was responsible. (Contrast NBC's behavior on accountability to that of the NYT in the lacrosse case.) In any event, I didn't mention or rely on this single improperly-spliced version of the call in the post; I hadn't even heard the version until I saw reports of the NBC internal investigation.

Point (2) I have addressed above; I'm not aware of anyone (though doubtless there will be someone, somewhere who will make the claim) who has suggested that the police video shows evidence that Zimmerman suffered a broken nose. That doesn't mean he didn't (perhaps he's a fast healer; perhaps his nose had been broken so many previous times that an additional break had no impact this time; perhaps his injury wouldn't manifest itself till later). But the tape isn't helpful to him in making this claim.

(3) On Zimmerman allegedly saying "punks" in the 911 call, I'm unaware of any "walkback" here. I realize that Ann Coulter and a sliver of the media have argued for a "punk" transcription, but I don't believe Coulter has any audio-analysis expertise. In any event, what Zimmerman may or may not have said under his breath is irrelevant to the point of the post--that the 911 call is murky but more unhelpful than not to Zimmerman. Why? Because absent the 911 tape, Zimmerman could have advanced this storyline: he was walking in his apt. complex when a scary black man bopped him on the head, forcing him to take out his gun & start shooting. In a shooter-friendly state like Florida, that version of events might well be enough for a self-defense claim. The 911 tape prevents a straight self-defense claim, by showing that Zimmerman spotted Martin, not the reverse; that Zimmerman, not Martin, initiated the series of events that led to the shooting; and that if Zimmerman had simply stayed in his vehicle and driven home, it's almost certain nothing would have occurred.

This doesn't mean, of course, that Zimmerman might not escape indictment--the initial police investigation appears to have been quite poor, so perhaps this will be a JonBenet Ramsey-like case; and the Stand Your Ground law is so elastic that it might cover behavior like Zimmerman's. But those issues have no bearing on the post's argument about the fundamentally different nature of the early audio/video/photo releases in the Zimmerman case & in the lacrosse case.

kcjohnson9 said...

To 9.34:

Big Al asks how much the city of Sanford will wind up paying to Martin's parents. That's premature, of course--a lot can happen between now & then. I suspect the only way there could be a civil suit against Sanford would be if evidence of police misconduct (as opposed to a not-so-great initial investigation) emerged. The homeowners' association for which Zimmerman served as a watch captain is another story--there have been comparable instances in which these groups have been sued. I'd be surprised if at some point in the future there isn't a suit filed on those grounds.

To the 10.38:

It's absolutely true that the outrage in this case differs from that of most killings. We can speculate as to why. But surely a major part of the reason is that an unarmed teenager was killed, the local law enforcement didn't appear particularly concerned about it, and the teenager's parents (with whom it's difficult not to sympathize) chose to take their story public. The SPD's behavior has been interpreted quite negatively in many parts of the country. But I wonder how much it has to do with a chilling effect the stand-your-ground statute has had on police inquiries in Florida. I agree with Jim Peterson that it's hard to believe that all of the "justified homicides" since passage of s-y-g are actually justified. If nothing else good comes out of this case, it might be that other states don't pass this kind of law.

To Amac @11.50:

I note that your definition of the "prestige press" excludes FOX. That's not a terribly helpful definition when talking about the TV media, given that a significant slice of the public gets its news from FOX.

I disagree, for the reasons I pointed out in the post, that "key parts of Zimmerman's story are holding up as true or probably true"--as I explained above, the 911 call badly limits Z's self-defense claim. So I think you're too strong in saying that "it seems likely [my emphasis] that no criminal case could "fairly" succeed against him." But I do think, for reasons I noted above (weak initial investigation, the elastic nature of the s-y-g law), that it's entirely possible so criminal case could succeed against him.

My sense is that the initial handling of this case by the police and local prosecutor was colored less by racism than by the chilling effects of the s-y-g law, which appears to have strongly discouraged police departments around FL from challenging self-defense claims. In this respect, perhaps the biggest mistake the police made was not immediately checking Martin's cellphone--if the police had established (as appears to have been the case) that Martin was on the phone as Zimmerman was improperly pursuing him, they might have been able to have spoken with Martin's girlfriend to get her side of the story & then had grounds to make an arrest. And, of course, if Zimmerman had been arrested, none of us would ever have heard about this case.

kcjohnson9 said...

To L.B. @2.49:

I should have been clearer on what I meant by "unimpeachable" evidence--photo/audio/video. Levicy's report never struck me as unimpeachable--though, as some in the above thread have suggested, I was medically unqualified to analyze it, so perhaps I was wrong in my belief. You're correct that the Roberts 911 call would have fit as such evidence--but only for a few days, and only because the "mainstream media" in the form of WRAL and the N&O exposed Roberts' lie. I am, in this respect, making an assumption we won't see a comparable event in the Zimmerman case--as in: the press revealing the 911 call actually wasn't from Zimmerman, or was from a different night,. etc. But I think that's a safe assumption to make.

It's worth noting--doubtless there will be more pieces of this type of evidence to emerge--fingerprints on the gun, any type of medical inquiry of Martin that occurred, crime scene video, etc. And this evidence might very well help more than hurt Zimmerman.

Let me, again, however, reiterate the point of this post: to, at least, get on record the wild inappropriateness of the growing comparisons between the lacrosse case and the Zimmerman shooting; and the way in which linking the exonerated students with a man who killed an unarmed teenager harms the lacrosse players' reputations.

Anonymous said...

I confess; I'm guilty of comparing the LAX case with the Zimmerman case. On the most basic level they seem like two sides of the same coin. Local law enforcement decided the way the case should come down and took subsequent actions to support that viewpoint. In the Lacrosse case, they wanted the players to be guilty despite the fact that no crime occurred; in the Zimmerman case, they wanted to let him walk despite the fact that an unarmed teenager was dead. A big difference of course is the malicious intent in the first case versus the apparent carelessness or ineptitude in the second.

For the record; President Obama offered sympathy for Trayvon's parents and suggested they were entitled to know what happened. I don't know why this translates to "hate" or dividing the country. That's absurd. Sharpton and the others have never called for anything other than an arrest and a proper investigation into what actually happened. They have never insisted on a conviction. Surely they aren't the only ones who would like to know the truth?

Anonymous said...

KC, I have read you with great interest for many years. I have been impressed by your objectiveness throughout. I am disappointed in your positions on the Florida case. You seem to think that the whole case boils down to an armed man and an unarmed teenager. There is a material difference between a 13 or 14 year old and an adult in size and strength. However, there is not necessarily any material difference between a 17 year old and an adult in size and strength, so I think your language is prejudicial. Second, getting one's head bashed against concrete can be just as deadly as firing a shot at someone. Head trauma of that nature can cause internal bleeding which is often fatal. If that is confirmed, it changes the narrative completely to one where both sides had the ability to inflict mortal injuries. You obviously don't like the stand your ground law, but I would submit that laws like that get passed because the common law principle of self-defense has been emasculated over time to the point of leaving people with few legal options when violently attacked. If someone were bashing my head against a concrete sidewalk and I had a gun handy, I would not hesitate to use it. Having seen first hand the fatal outcome of a head injury, I am perhaps more sensitized than most to the seriousness of the purported (!!) attack on Z, but I am not about to choose sides based on what I have seen so far. As for the "coon"/"cold"/"punks" controversy, this was extremely relevant when the story first broke as it corroborated the deliberately edited 911 call's framing of the case as racially motivated. Here is a link that walks back the "coon" comment quite convincingly: I was left with the impression that the comment was of no relevance to the case, unlike how it was first reported. In closing, I would submit that the title of this link is the most salient point of comparison between the cases: namely, that cases should not be tried in the media.

jay said...

May I point out that if Martin had alegal firearm (in Florida, that basically means that he was breathing and had cash), he could have shot Zimmerman consequence free under the same SYG law - after all, he was being pursued by a large, armed stranger.

Anonymous said...

KC - I agree that the two incidents are remarkably different and not in any way worthy of comparison. I do see a comparison in the conduct of the New York Times. They have been silent in the last week, likely because they know that after initially stirring the racial pot and hitting their preferred narrative, the facts (those pesky things) are likely turning against them, and that Zimmerman's defense, at least from what their boots on the ground can discern, is being understood to be substantiated. I was too very suspicious of the Sanford's police actions but withheld judgment (the Duke Lacrosse case does have its lessons). The Times must now have reason to cast aside its suspicions, and are laying off the story. I think hardly just a routine editorial decision.

Anonymous said...

What bothers me the most is that you ignore the most relevant piece of evidence: That an eyewitness saw George Zimmerman on the ground screaming for help while Trayvon Martin beat him.

Anonymous said...

12:51 - I am 8:58. I understand why pointing out a very relevant and exculpatory piece of evidence. But I think outfits like the Times know more, and there are other exculpatory elements which are present, too. It makes no sense to me that they have stepped away from the story. This won't turn out well for those who thought the story was their racial Valhalla. At this point I would bet on it.

Des203 said...

One things for sure, if it wasn't for that eyewitness. GZ would be bagged tagged, and going to jail for a long time...

The rest of America would simply fold other than stand up to the politically correct bloodlust.

But because of the eyewitness who saw Trayvon beating GZ, we are heading for a collision. There are many, including myself, who do not like mob rule to begin with, and even more against mob rule willing to ignore clear exculpatory evidence that no jury in the world would deny.

The MSM record on this case has been as atrocious as the Duke Lacrosse scandal. There is your similarities. And, mostly the same players are on the offense and defense.

Jim In San Diego said...


Trayvon Martin was not a "suspect". He was an unarmed citizen going about his lawful business, as we are all entitled to do.

Zimmerman was not a policeman. Zimmerman had no right under color of law to confront Martin. By anything Martin could see, it was Zimmerman who was up to no good. Zimmerman, not Martin, was the "suspect" in this tragedy.

Zimmerman was invading Martin's ground, not the other way around.

We are now able to match the cell phone records of Martin and Zimmerman at about 7:15 p.m. the night of the killing. BOTH were on their cell phones at the same time!

Martin was telling his girlfriend there was a stranger following him. He did not know why. Martin's girlfriend told him to run.

Zimmerman AT THE SAME MOMENT was on his last call to the 911 operator, telling the operator he was chasing Martin, and that "these people always get away". He was audibly panting from the effort of his pursuit of Martin.

Three minutes later there was a shot heard in the neighborhood, and Trayvon Martin was dead.

Now pretend you do not know the race of the protagonists. Now, answer the question, "was this a justifiable homicide" under any law?

Should the shooter be prosecuted, or not?

Jim Peterson

AMac said...

KC, thanks for your response to my comment of 4/7/12 (I've been away from the internet since then).

You wrote,

> To Amac @11.50:

> I note that your definition of the "prestige press" excludes FOX. That's not a terribly helpful definition when talking about the TV media...

I didn't mention Fox because I don't get cable and don't watch them. If their reports were tilted the same way as those of the organizations I listed, it's to their shame. Conversely, if Fox was better, why weren't they an inspiring example to the others?

Interesting to note the cautious, balanced piece on the front page of today's NYT, Prosecutor in Martin Case Will Alone Determine Its Merits.

I guess that paper's reporters can focus on facts, competing claims, inference, logic, etc. -- at least once it's clear that the preferred White-v-Black narrative doesn't fit. So it turns out that the practice of journalism isn't impossibly difficult, after all. Probably never was.

kcjohnson9 said...

A few replies, with the reiteration, again: the post's main argument was on the wildly inappropriate nature of comparing the lacrosse case to the Zimmerman case, a thesis only one commenter seems to have challenged.

To Amac:

I agree with you that the NYT's reporting on the case appears to have been quite reasonable--which throws light, as you point out, on its wildly imbalanced coverage of the lacrosse case.

On FOX, my sense is that their coverage has tilted in the opposite direction from MSNBC--whereas you have Al Sharpton presuming guilt on the one hand, on the other you have Geraldo Rivera suggesting that Martin was shot because he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. So the problem with saying the TV media has been biased to the left on this case is that any equation as to account for FOX pulling in the other direction.

To Jim P.:

Based on what has been made public, I agree with you. I know the legal situation in Maine and New York (and, thanks to some work, NC!) well; I find it very hard to imagine that if this sort of event occurred near my hometown in Maine, an arrest would not have been made. It's possible (though unlikely) there would have been no subsequent indictment (Maine does not have a stand your ground law), but I can't recall anything like this (shooting of an unarmed person in which the police thanks to a 911 call knew the shooter had initiated the series of events that led to the death) in recent years in Maine in which the police did not make an arrest.

To the 2.51:

My general approach in the lacrosse case was to look at witness statements when I actually got to read the statements. I never placed much validity on what witnesses allegedly said when reported by the media--especially, as in a case like the article to which you linked, we don't even know the witness' identity. And, of course, there are other witnesses who tell very different stories. I'm sure that at some point we'll see all of the key witness statements in their full text.

kcjohnson9 said...

To Jay @4.19:

This is a very, very interesting point. And, I suspect, if an indictment occurs, a variant of argument would be used at trial--that it was Martin, and not Zimmerman, who had stand your ground rights. The key question here would be how the law has been interpreted throughout Florida since 2005--and on that matter, the reporting has been quite poor.

To the 8.58:

I wouldn't read much into the Times' going a few days without a story--there were periods in the lacrosse case when they went days or even weeks without a story, and it suggested no editorial change. I haven't read every NYT article on the Zimmerman shooting, so if there's one you want me to comment on, send it along; but of the articles I have read, they seem to have basically been competent reporting.

To the 6.06:

Martin was 17 years old, and he was unarmed. Hence he was an unarmed teenager. And he was an unarmed teenager who did not initiate the chain of events that led to his death--if Zimmerman had simply stayed in his vehicle, nothing would have happened.

We obviously disagree on the merits of s-y-g statutes, but I suspect that this case will make it harder for other states to pass such laws--especially since most of the states that currently don't have the laws are politically blue or purple.

On the editing of the 911 call, it's my sense (and correct me if I'm wrong here), that the inappropriate editing (which led to an NBC producer being fired) to make Zimmerman look like a racist occurred on one broadcast on one network. That was unprofessional, and NBC was right to fire the responsible party. But I don't see how a single broadcast's misleading editing of a widely-played tape on all networks could be deemed to have set a narrative.

kcjohnson9 said...

To the 5.04:

If George W. Bush had been president, I could have seen him giving a similar statement (except he probably would have said Martin could have been a friend's son) to Obama's; it struck me as appropriate, just as I thought Romney's and Santorum's were appropriate.

That's an interesting comparison on the police. I thought the comments from the Boca Raton police chief & the St. Mary's criminologist in this piece were illuminating--it is extremely hard to explain why the Sanford police appear not to have checked Martin's cellphone on the night of the killing (after all, he could have pressed a & actually recorded everything), and the investigation does suggest a lack of . . . intensity . . . which is surprising.

To the 1.14:

I can't imagine why the father's fiance would have told the neighborhood watch (which was, after all, not an official organization) that Martin was visiting. There's been no indication in any of the reports that I've seen that suggests this was a requirement or even an expectation in the community.

To the 11.11:

The whole point of this post was to show that a 30,000-feet level of analysis distorts far more than it illuminates.

To the 10.18:

You suggest that "No one is comparing Zimmerman to the three falsely accused players. The similarities are the media coverage to support a metanarrative before any facts are really known."

This is a distinction without a difference. The context and facts upon which the media reports accounts for how we analyze its coverage. A comparison of the Zimmerman shooting with the lacrosse case implies that Zimmerman, like the lacrosse players, is being unfairly treated as a result of the press coverage--and, since we all know how the lacrosse case turned out, that Zimmerman is likely innocent as the lacrosse players were.

Viewing the facts most favorably toward him, Zimmerman killed someone who attacked him after he decided--for reasons that remain unclear--to initiate a pursuit of his eventual attacker. Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty, on the other hand, attended a party in which they played no role in organizing & drank some beer. There's no way that linking the falsely accused students to a guy who killed someone can do anything but tarnish their reputations.

Anonymous said...

Trial junkie here. I recall in 1970, then President Nixon opined on the guilt of Charles Manson. It almost caused a mistrial and Nixon was justifiably criticized.

Now, President Obama (as Bill Anderson pointed out) injected himself into an ongoing legal proceeding. No one seems to mind.

IMO a president should NEVER make comments in this kind of situation.

Anonymous said...


It's me 2:51, again. Selma Mora Lamilla and Mary Cutcher never saw anything hence their claims about what happened are pure speculation. I have listened to all 7 9-11 calls, and read everything else that has been released by the police. Bill Lee has stated that Zimmerman's version of events was supported by eyewitness testimony and physical evidence.

As for sworn statements, none of these have been released to the public so far (AFAIK). If these sworn statements contradict George Zimmerman's account why has he not been arrested? The burden of proof seems to lie with those who think he is guilty, because they would have to show that the police are either corrupt or negligient.

Anonymous said...

Jim Peterson, well written! Your comparison between the Mangum Hoax and Sanford is dead on, in my opinion. In one, there was no reasonable basis for filing criminal charges; in the other, there was no reasonable basis for NOT filing criminal charges. Agree 100%.


cks, I disagree about broken noses. I've never seen a broken nose that didn't become obvious within seconds -- or at the most -- within 15 minutes after the break. I was a wrestler and boxer from high school, through college and into my thirties.

Usually, there is blood everywhere. In a very few instances, there is not, but even under those circumstances, there is massive swelling and the onset of black eyes. (Embarrassingly enough, I tried a week-long jury trial with two black eyes and a broken nose myself! That was my last fight.).

Most significantly, Zimmerman was apparently NOT furnished a cold pack to cover his "broken nose" even though he was treated by EMS for his "injuries." Even the most ill-prepared paramedic is going to have a cold pack available, and even the most ill-trained paramedic would know enough to use one for a broken nose. MOO! Gregory

Jim In San Diego said...

It is disheartening that the taking of Tayvon Martin's life is viewed as an ideological issue.

On this blog and elsewhere, conservatives generally identify with the shooter, and liberals generally identify with Tayvon Martin.

Why is this?

Our Declaration of Independence proclaimed everyone's right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".

This sentence has been identified as "one of the most influential sentences in the history of the English Language".

Therefore, a law which liberalizes the taking of human life to the extent that Florida's Stand Your Ground appears to, is not remotely conservative.

It is instead a radical liberalization of the right of one person to deprive another of the life which our Declaration of Independence defines as "unalienable".

Now, in Florida, this most conservative right of all can be alienated by any gun-toter who claims to feel threatened.


Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

Professor Anderson, I believe you owe us an explanation for this:

"I will say that I believe President Obama has acted deplorably in his statements, essentially stating as "fact" that this was a "hate crime" when, in reality, we don't know the particulars...."

Do you understand the meanings of words like "essentially," "fact" and "that"? I'm afraid that you don't. MOO! Gregory

Anonymous said...

Well, Joan Foster, you've managed to libel 69,456,897* people with your post! A new high! Talk about a rush to judgment based on non-existent evidence! You win most hyperbolic ever!

* Which was 9,522,083 more than voted for John McCain.

I want to be like you! How's this: John McCain is from Arizona, and that state harbors the craziest 2nd Amendment zealots in the country, so everyone who voted for John McCain voted for the right to shoot innocent black children in the street! (How did I do?).

I was only able to smear 59,934,814 people based on non-existent evidence, so I'm no match for you -- but I'll keep trying! ; )

Anonymous said...

TO KC's last post ...thin logic... the media lynching without due process is the same. ...we have already had MSM distortions ...sound familiar. I am looking for some kind of government misconduct next to fulfill the media meta-narrative. This will just get better and better IMHO...

Anonymous said...

No Justice, No Peace,

I'm hoping President Obama is busy working on regulating businesses and markets so that we don't go back to the President Bush era of non-regulation that brought us the Great Depression II. Still, I don't mind my President taking 45 seconds to respond to a reporter's question that was unrelated to the reason he was before the media in the first place. But, you're right, the President needs to get back to regulating commerce before corporations and speculators dig us another Great Economic Grave, and perhaps he can slow the "Trickle Down" of American money to secret Cayman and Swiss bank accounts because that's where the "job creators" like Governor Mitt Romney are stashing their cash! MOO! Gregory

Anonymous said...

No Justice, No Peace,

I agree that President Obama shouldn't be spending 5:00 to discuss a topic of national debate when a reporter asks him a question about it in an unrelated forum. Luckily, he only spent 1:58 of time to perfectly respond:

I also hope that President Obama spends his time regulating commerce so that we don't go back to the President Bush era non-regulation of markets policy that led to the Great Depression II. While he's at it, I hope that President Obama also taxes the 1% their fair share instead of letting them "trickle down" their assets to secret Caymen and Swiss bank accounts like Governor Mitt Romney has been doing. MOO! Gregory

Anonymous said...

For the posters who are so enraged about President Obama's 1:58 comment on the injustice in Sanford, why no complaints about the Republican Florida Governor?

The REPUBLICAN Florida Governor answered a question about the Trayvon Martin murder while dealing with unrelated problems. It was in response to a question from a reporter, he extolled his sympathy for Trayvon's parents, and he mentioned his own children. Moreover, the United States DOJ decided independently to investigate Sanford; The REPUBLICAN Florida Governor, himself, ordered a "Task Force" to investigate the Martin tragedy.

Q: What is the sound that hypocritical crickets make? A: The same sound that crickets make, they're just "hypocricketal"! MOO! Gregory

AMac said...

In this 6-minute YouTube interview, Zimmerman's former attorney Hal Urhig runs through Zimmerman's version of events. (I don't know the date of the taping.)

There are a number of claims that can be checked against forensic evidence, and against Zimmerman's extensive statements to police that night. These include timing, Zimmerman's exchanges with the 911 dispatchers, his locations at different points, the notion that Trayvon initiated the violent second encounter, Zimmerman's injuries, the positions of the two parties at the time Zimmerman shot Trayvon, and other details.

In many regards, this narrative is at variance with the one offered by the Martin family, and promoted in the month after the killing by NBC, ABC, NPR, CNN, the NYT, and others (though not, apparently, by Fox).

In time, it should be possible to establish a factual account of most of what transpired that night. Perhaps the rush to judgement by the prestige media (with the apparent exception of Fox) will be vindicated; perhaps not.

Anonymous said...

The claim that it was only a single broadcast is misleading at best. The tape was played on the Today Show (broadcast nationwide) and then played on my local NBC affiliate for several days every time that the news was on. Additionally, the altered tape (before the comparison was made between the edited tape and the actual call) made its way to other networks who showed it as well - and, though I have no proof, it probably was shown on various local news programs throughout the country. Thus, there was real damage done to Zimmerman's reputation. (keep in mind that commentators and the usual "spokesmen" made reference to this to claim that this shooting was racially motivated). This ws not some low level assistant who made a careless mistake - this was shown on a national news show where there are many (or should be)levels of editing and vetting of what is broadcast in any given segment.
There has been way too much supposition by many from the president on down which has done nothing but enflame the issue. (For starters, I doubt very much if Trayvon was the president's son he would have been posting the comments that he posted on facebook and twitter or that he would be sporting gold grids) so spare us, please, Mr. President the comment. While I would contend that the Florida legislature should never have passed a Stand Your Ground Law - wouldn't wise heads have considered that such a tragic case as this might be the result? - the fact is that they did and a tragedy has occurred. The special prosecutor should be allowed to conduct her investigation. The DOJ should crack down on the Black Panthers for issuing a bounty on a citizen of this country, and MSNBC should tell Al Sharpton that you can't be both before and behind the microphones - if he wants to be an activist, fine and dandy but he then can't comment on a television program as a host on said activities. Should Zimmerman be charged the presumption of innocence must prevail until a jury of his peers - uninfluenced by the media, protestors, a city manager who demands a forum, or the president of the US - has viewed the evidence and listened to the testimony presented and rendered a verdict.

Anonymous said...

Whether it turns out that Zimmerman is found guilty of some type of "killing" charge or found to be innocent of any/all charges, remains to be seen. As of today, he is going to be charged with the moment, unknown what.
I do agree with others that we had a very similar left wing media frenzy to lynch Zimmerman in the early days.....grossly fueled by the usual wingnuts like Jackson, Sharpton, et al....and dangerously fueled by bounty issuance from the Panthers. They had Zimmerman all but strung up....which is so painfully similar to the terrible treatment of the LAX guys. I wonder if any of these same lunatics will bother to apologize if Zimmerman is found not guilty in a trial....

Anonymous said...

I emphasize: The similarities are the "MSM media" coverage to support a meta-narrative before any facts are really known". It IS the common thread. This is simply a statement of what been observed so far, nothing more. In support of this statement there are troubling examples such as the edited 911 tape, statements about "cold" and head wound claims. Only extremely tortured thinking by liberals would argue the statement is somehow connected to guilt or innocence at this stage is little more than an attempt to excuse MSM bias that is obvious to many of the rest of us. Again, like at Duke, MSM bias is on display. What is next? Government misconduct?

Anonymous said...

In case you would like to know Mr. Dershowitz's thoughts, they are linked above. It seems he might draw an interesting comparison between Mr. Nifong and Ms. Corey.

I have little to say about this case, yet, except that we don't know enough to make judgments. Nor, as Mr. Dershowitz notes, does Ms. Corey seem to know enough either.

I am not sure why this incident couldn't simply be the result of a tragic misunderstanding worthy of Shakespeare, where each person utterly and completely misreads the other.

I support restrictions on handguns as well, but this incident happened in Florida, where they do not care (nor should they) what New Yorkers think about their firearm laws.


Anonymous said...


With all due respect, I think you have the wrong end of the stick on this one.

The similiarity of the case is that the media jumped to a conclusion based on their ideological commitments, and made numerous false statements that created a lynch mob mentality.

One example of the false statements is misreporting Zimmerman's weight as being 240-250 pounds. He actually weighed 170 lbs according to the police report The NYT initially reported his weight at 250 but an April 1 article contained this paragraph "However it started, witnesses described to the 911 dispatcher what resulted: the neighborhood watch coordinator, 5 foot 9 and 170 pounds, and the visitor, 6 foot 1 and 150, wrestling on the ground."

Many people, including Jim Peterson in the comments on this blog, see the initially (mis) reported 100 lb weight differential as being decisive fact destroying Zimmerman's case. How could someone attack a man outweighing him by 100 lbs? But a 150 lb football player might very well expect to prevail against a 170 lb man. If the facts had been reported correctly there would not be a widespread presumption of Zimmerman's guilt.

Also NBC did not make just one false report on the audiotape. They reported it on March 22 and 27, and it also aired three times on their Miami affilate as local news. NBC has claimed that their was only one false report, but this is a lie.

Anonymous said...

Mr Johnson

Your assertion:
"There’s no equivalent of Mike Nifong, or anyone resembling him, in any of the various prosecutor’s offices who have evaluated Zimmerman—calling into question the merits of any comparison between the two cases."

Alan Dershowitz has a different opinion:

Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball where fill-in host Michel Smerconish asked him his opinions of the arrest warrant issued and carried out for alleged Trayvon Martin murderer, George Zimmerman. Dershowitz called the affidavit justifying Zimmerman’s arrest “not only thin, it’s irresponsible.” He went on to criticize the decision to charge Zimmerman for second degree murder by special prosecutor Angela Corey as being politically motivated.

RELATED: Trayvon Martin’s Mother Following Zimmerman Arrest: ‘The Heart Has No Color’

“You’ve seen the affidavit of probable cause. What do you make of it,” Smerconish asked. “It won’t suffice,” Dershowitz replied without hesitation.

“Most affidavits of probable cause are very thin. This is so thin that it won’t make it past a judge on a second degree murder charge,” Dershowitz said. “There’s simply nothing in there that would justify second degree murder.”

Dershowitz said that the elements that would constitute that crime are non-existent in the affidavit. “It’s not only thin, it’s irresponsible,” said Dershowitz.

There are several widely available analysis about Zimmerman supposedly pursuing Martin after being advised not to by a dispatcher.

Anonymous said...

K.C -- I am the 10:18. Your position rests upon "the context and the facts" being known. The problem is we do not know the context and facts. A lot of it is hotly disputed, in some instances misreported, yet that has not deterred the media from pursuing a metanarrative nor has it stopped people with less than noble agendas (e.g. Sharpton) from promoting a racially divisive angle. I don't consider these comparison all that signifincat but neither are they non-existent. Wasn't the title of your book "Until Proven INnocent"? So why should the burden be on ZImmerman to prove he is innocent under law? To make the mob happy?

By the way, the criminal information against Zimmerman for second degree murder is a remarkably weak and inept document. What the special prosecutor put in the criminal information is hotly disputed (whose voice cried for help?), contradicts the charge of second degree murder (it contains passages showing Zimmerman did not act with legal depravity) and what she did not disclose is very significant. A competent defense lawyer should get these charges significnatly reduced, if not outright dismissed.

I understand you have passionate feelings about this but with all due respect you are way out ahead and there remains the possiblity that the comparisons are valid. In my view, it is premature to say one way or the other but there are some very fishy and questionable aspects of the charge.

TO be clear, I have no problem with Zimmerman being charged. THere is a victim and Zimmerman did shoot him. That is incontrovertible. Whether it was self-defense or not (the Stand Your Ground law likely does not apply here) will be up to a jury who will review evidence in the cold light of reason.

SO yes, it remains plausible that there are significant comparisons to the Nifong hoax to be made. It would be wise to let hte process play out before dismissing it as outrageous.

-- Haunches

Anonymous said...

Having read thousands of posts about the Trayvon Martin tragedy on the progressive blog "Daily Kos," I can testify that only once did a commentator ask for anything more than an arrest of George Zimmerman. Maybe a lesson was learned? MOO! Gregory

Anonymous said...

The amount of deliberate misinformation -- and imbalance of attention on the evidence -- by the media makes the Zimmerman case stink just as badly as the lacrosse case. It's the standard bias and unfairness that conservatives constantly fight.

This is a rather simple case of the prosecutor having to show that Zimmerman either 1. provoked a fight or 2. used deadly force too rapidly while being under an assault. If anything, the preponderance of the evidence is in Zimmerman's favor on both of those points, not vice versa. It would take a conspiratorialist belief that the initial local prosecutor brushed aside stronger evidence (as yet unrevealed) to unfairly let Zimmerman walk the first time. Until I see something stronger than Angela Corey's misrepresentations, I do not see that ... nor a "beyond a reasonable doubt" case for murder, of all things.

What also is noxious is the new standard that vigorous citizen watches are to be discouraged, and that the only legitimate form of property protection is an initial call followed by retreat by the caller. I'm sorry. I do not accept that people must rely solely upon the non-efficient efficiency of local police forces. In many jurisdictions like my own, there have been declarations of surrender in property crime efforts: disbanding of detective units, lowering priorities, etc. If citizens are also now to be more legally burdened by getting out of a car to watch from afar--only to be persecuted by panderers like Corey--then the slope becomes even more slippery. I intend to defend my right to take such proactive steps. I do not to wish to become automatically tagged as an aggressor when a "watchee" does some overreaction of his own.

Anonymous said...

What the media did in this case was try to incite a white / black race war when the principle players were brown / black. And it is highly improbable that white racists cops decided to cover up a brown on black murder. White racists hate equally.

The media first said Zimmerman was white. Then "white-Hispanic", like Cameron Diaz (wtf??) They are now only, grudgingly and after massive ridicule, calling him simply "Hispanic."

The media doctored tapes with made up racial slurs and then breathlessly reported these lies.

Their behavior was outrageous and despicable for the so-called "fourth estate." They are totally irrelevant now as anything in American society other than sensationalist instigators (both this case and Duke lacrosse as examples) and sports reporters (games and circuses.)

The leaders of the black community are equally nauseating. They were absolutely frothing over a non-existent white on black crime, just like in the lacrosse case. This isn't to say that a crime wasn't committed. What didn't happen was a white on black crime and cover-up. And this, initially, was what the entire spectacle was about. Had it initially been reported as a Hispanic-American on African-American murder it would have been met with a collective yawn.

How have we got to this miserable state? Read some of the comments above, lamely trying to link national economic policies to this event, and you get a good idea of the mentality that still views the pigmentation of one's skin as a weapon in the war of national political policy.

Anonymous said...

KC PUH-leeseeee tell me again there is NO comparison to the Duke case. Wow I sure hope you don't become number 89. Let's see where we are now as events unfold. So far we have "MSM BIAS (except for FOX) - edited tape, cold, and head wound reporting" supporting one of their favorite meta-narriatives. That is clearly the same. The next is politics and government misconduct. We might not be there yet ...but it sure looks like we are getting close.... "“But it’s worse than that,” said Dershowitz."“I think what you have here is an elected public official who made a campaign speech last night for reelection..." “It’s irresponsible and unethical in not including material that favors the defendant.” See:
If you are not careful Dershowitz might write Part two of your book, instead of you!

Jim In San Diego said...

It has been a while since any thread here has provoked so much passion. It has touched a nerve, because culture is being attacked and defended.

We know for sure an unarmed teenager shopping for candy was shot dead. We know that three minutes before his death, he was fleeing George Zimmerman, who was not a policeman, and had no legal right to accost Trayvon Martin, who was committing no crime.

Nevertheless, somehow, the unarmed teenager ended up shot dead.

Something is very wrong, with either George Zimmerman, or a Florida law which excuses homicide anywhere if the shooter claims to feel threatened.

I served as a training officer in a Basic Training Company early in the Vietnam war. I and my cadre were forced to remove about 3 of every 100 trainees from the weapons training program because of emotional or mental issues that made them a danger to themselves or to others.

They could not be trusted with firearms, not even after several weeks intensive training on firearms, and not even under the close supervision of highly qualified weapons instructors.

It is statistically certain that Florida's Stand Your Ground law, coupled with its extraordinarily lax gun carry laws, is arming some of these misfits. This is because, among other things, legislators do not have enough personal knowledge of all the dangers of firearms.

This is a huge, dangerous experiment. By all accounts, Trayvon Martin is just one victim of this experiment.

Among the 70 or so new "justifiable" homicides in Florida each year are other victims like Trayvon Martin. We know this is so because of our ordinary experience with human nature, and our knowledge of the dangers of firearms.

So far as I know, every single state allows self defense as a defense to a homicide.

Unlike Florida, however, most states require the shooter to retreat to their home before using deadly force, and if they do not, the shooter has a huge burden of proof to justify his or her taking of someone else's life. My ideology is this is as it should be.

The idea of guns for everyone is dangerous, because some people simply should not have ready access to firearms. This, coupled with just the idea that they can be used against other human beings without consequence threatens to return us to the Heart of Darkness.

Jim Peterson

zarkov01 said...

KC Johnson,

Did you actually listen to the recording of the conversation between police dispatcher Shawn (Sean?) and Zimmerman? If you did, then you would realize the following.

1. Zimmerman did not improperly pursue Martin.

2. Shawn asked Zimmerman, "Are you following him? Zimmerman said "yeah." Then Shawn said "You don't need to do that." To which Zimmerman replied "Okay." Unless we get more evidence, we don't know if Zimmerman continued to follow Martin or not. BTW I don't think that that Shawn is a 911 operator. More likely he's a desk Sargent or a dispatcher.

3. The police station video does not have enough resolution to determine if Zimmerman had a broken nose. But we can find out. Zimmerman was treated by medics and he saw a doctor soon after. You should not be assuming something not yet in evidence.

4. You don't understand Florida's so-called "stand your ground law." Even if Zimmerman had a duty to retreat (old law), he couldn't if Martin punched him and then began hitting his head against the ground. It does not matter if Zimmerman "set in motion events ..." for a claim of self defense. If Zimmerman was in reasonable fear for his life or serious injury then he can claim self defense, and use lethal force. His following (if he did) does not mean he's supposed to just passively allow someone to beat on him.

Jim In San Diego said...

One final comment, as it relates to the subject of this blog, and this thread. Then, we will try to let go.

The brouhaha created by the press was absolutely necessary to provoke a review of the Trayvon Martin killing. The Sanford Florida police had already closed their files, and given George Zimmerman a free pass.

The shooting occurred on February 26th, now 8 weeks ago. By the first week of March, the Sanford police had filed Trayvon's killing in the "justified homicide" file.

The Sanford police investigation did not include either Trayvon's or Zimmerman's cell phones, or a canvas of the immediate neighborhood for witnesses. They instead excused Zimmerman, including his ignoring of the 911 operator's warning, "we don't need you to do that" (i.e., follow Trayvon). According to the Sanford police, this was not an "order", so Zimmerman was free to ignore it.

But for the reaction of the press, including this blog, Trayvon would be just one of the 70 or so new homicides this year that the State of Florida has elected to excuse.

If you believe, as I do, that this is fundamentally wrong, then the press reaction was necessary, timely, and highly productive. The case will be tried in a court of law, on the facts. At least, it will be tried.

Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

FYI: “George Zimmerman had bandages on nose and head after shooting, neighbors say…”

CBS News: Tuesday, April 17, 2012
According to his neighbors, George Zimmerman had bandages on his nose and head the day after he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on February 26th. Zimmerman claims Martin jumped him, broke his nose and pounded his head into the ground…..

Anonymous said...

Wow! It seems Jim In San Diego believes the "press reaction was necessary, timely, and highly productive". Really? ...with all the MSM bias! ...(again except for Fox). Clearly he has concluded that whatever happened is "fundamentally wrong" and believes he has enough information (from the vantage point of his living room, I suspect) and has subsequently eliminated any possibility of self-defense or a twist, as the facts unfold. It seems Jim and a few others on this list have their own meta-narratives and certainly lack the patience to see where the unfolding facts lead. I truly believe the 88 would be very proud of his (or their) rush to judgment. Sadly, have we learned nothing from what went on at Duke?

Anonymous said...

I hope this is also my last post on the subject! However, I've been very displeased with the actions of the attorneys in the case, as they've made it a public spectacle. Early in the Crystal Mangum Hoax, I researched the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct to determine if Mike Nifong was violating them. I determined that he was obviously violating them, so I sent him a fax to that effect from my office to his office on my professional letterhead.

I have not conducted the same due diligence for the Florida attorneys, but I suspect they've gone at least into the gray area. That includes the new prosecutor and all of the defense attorneys. That's very disappointing to me, and I hope somebody IS DOING the due diligence.


Note to Jim Peterson: You seem to be pretty passionate about gun control. So am I. If you are aware of any good websites or groups, please let me know. I am very much against handguns, concealed-carry laws, open-carry laws, stand your ground laws, etc. I would keep them locked up in homes or at gun ranges. Long guns I'm pretty cool with -- as long as they aren't assault rifles!


Note to Professor Johnson: Thanks for providing this forum for discussion and for your continuing effort on behalf of Justice in Durham.


Finally, Alan Dershowitz got on TV to say, "everything in the [Zimmerman] affidavit is consistent with self defense." The legal answer to that is, "So what?" It is the defendant's burden to prove traditional self defense at trial. It is not the state's burden.

All a probable cause affidavit has to do is show there is cause to believe a violation of the law occurred, but Dershowitz seems to think it must also try the whole case from the defendant's perspective as well. He is 100% wrong.

In relevant part, the affidavit read: The police dispatcher told Zimmerman to wait until officers arrived. Later, Zimmerman was instructed not to follow Martin. A witness indicated that Martin contemporaneously said that he was being followed by a strange man. A struggle ensued, and witnesses heard Martin calling for help. Martin was shot dead in the chest by a gun in the possession of Zimmerman. Zimmerman admitted to the killing on the scene.

I would agree with Dershowitz that there has likely been some over-charging with the second degree murder filing. Prosecutors have a long, sordid history of doing that, which I never appreciated, but they think it is like negotiating with a pawn broker -- start high and settle on a lower number.

The facts in the affidavit, if proven at trial, would show Zimmerman twice ignored police dispatcher requests to stand his ground, and he then went to confront Martin. That, to me, is the bare bones for the "depraved mind" aspect of the 2nd degree murder charge. And, most significantly, that's all a probable cause affidavit has to do! (Still, I see this as being more likely a manslaughter verdict or an acquittal. But we'll see.). MOO! Gregory

Anonymous said...

For all those concluding the guilt of Zimmerman, I like to remind them that the Duke approved politically correct phrase to use is "whatever (he) they did is bad enough"

Locomotive Breath said...

And here we go with the politicized prosecution for PR purposes. Grand jury? We don't need no stinkin' jury.

Anonymous said...

Have now listened to the 911 tape, looked at the neighbrhood map and the relevant points, heard the interview with the witness who observed Martin beating Zimmerman, looked at the police report which describes Zimmerman's injuries and the grass stains on his shirt. In listening to the 911 tape, I believe what some consider to be "huffing and puffing" is simply the wind, not Zimmerman at all. In fact, it seems that Zimmerman stopped following Martin and spoke with the dispatcher for some period of time explaining where to send the police officers and where/whether he would meet them...this was enough time for Martin to get away from Zimmerman and run home. On the tape Zimmerman comes across as a reasonable person who is trying to keep track of someone he considers suspicious (and he offers perfectly plausible reasons why he considers Martin suspicious) while waiting for the police. Frankly, the evidence seems to point to simple self defense on Zimmerman's part. I agree with zarkov01 on all points.

Perhaps there will actually be some evidence of guilt of murder or maslaughter eventually, but, if this is a simple case of self defense (as it currently appears to me), no crime ocurred.


Anonymous said...


ABC just posted an Iphone video of G.Zimmerman taken 3-4 minutes after the shot was fired. (Witness on the scene) There was more than enough graphic evidence to support Zimmerman's account. If the police saw the latest video I understand why they didn't charge Zimmerman.

I have felt from the start no neighborhood watch person would murder an individual after calling the police. Based on that belief, I probably came down on Zimmerman's side from the beginning.

IMO, this case will never make it past the evidentiary hearing.

BTW, as a matter of professionalism, I think you should acquaint yourself with the actual number of times the edited 911 (he's black) was broadcast, re-broadcast and published.


Anonymous said...

Professor Johnson,

I've faithfully followed your blog writing here since shortly after you began DIW. I respectfully disagree completely with your analysis. I see obvious parallels between the Zimmerman and the Duke lacrosse cases. Of course, they're not identical and we have to see how the Zimmerman case plays out.

I'm surprised you made the "obvious point" that in the lacrosse case, nothing happened. I thought it was commonly understood "nothing happened" in that context was shorthand for nothing illegal happened. Strippers were hired. Strippers did what strippers do, however briefly. Words were exchanged and strippers left. That's something, but we say "nothing happened" in good conscience because it's understood none of the alleged illegal behavior actually happened.

To draw a distinction between the lacrosse "nothing happened" case and the Zimmerman "shot to death and unarmed teenager" case presumes something illegal happened in the latter case. We don't know that yet. If the Zimmerman case is tossed (not likely) or the jury acquits him, which I think is entirely possible, both cases can claim "nothing happened" as a shorthand for "nothing illegal happened."

I think the three loci of misconduct you identified in the lacrosse case has ample parallel in the Zimmerman case, beginning with the prosecutor. Thankfully, few prosecutors approach the level of misconduct displayed by Nifong, but Angela Cory is taking some serious criticism for bowing to political pressure and overcharging the case. Alan Dershowitz has gone farther, suggesting she may have made a "grave ethical violation" by excluding exculpatory evidence from the charging affidavit. If she has the evidence, she'll be a hero, but she's taking heavy criticism for not putting anything substantial in the charging document. It's too early to tell, but Nifong wasn't revealed to be a monster until much later in the process.

Your second point centered around the "litany of dubious behavior by members of the Duke faculty and administration." While Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, The New Black Panthers, and even Barack Obama aren't members of the academy, they certainly represented a concerted effort by individuals and groups to capitalize on an apparent racial injustice and fan the flames of hatred for their own political gain. Just like the Group of 88, Reverends Al, Jesse, and their ilk weighed in with wildly unsupportable accusations and character assassinations in an attempt to further their own cause. Both groups had great initial success taking control of the "narrative" and spinning it to their own ends.

Finally, the media behavior in the two cases is far more similar than you state. Nearly all of the widely read or watched media outlets immediately took a side. NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and others continued to run accurate, but not timely photos of Martin long after more recent photos were available. The continued to refer to Zimmermann as a "white" Hispanic, despite having rarely used the term in the past. It fit the narrative they were promoting. Analysts were hired to dissect audio and video "evidence," nearly always reaching conclusions that fit the mainstream media narrative. There was so much mind reading going on of Zimmerman and Martin, Miss Cleo was ready to demand royalties. This is so much like the early days of the lacrosse case.

I suppose you might be wary of any other case being hooked to the coat tails of the lacrosse case. After all, if everyone believes these two cases are quite similar and Zimmerman turns out to be a racist vigilante gunman, it could indirectly tarnish the lacrosse case. However, I like the comparison so far because the lacrosse case is the most visible example of true justice winning out over public opinion influenced by people with a race/class/gender agenda aided by lazy or sympathetic media.

AMac said...

Steve Sailer's reflections on the media's (mis)handling of the Martin-Zimmerman case.

Anonymous said...

KC, why no comment on the Special Prosecutor's "performance?"

sabril said...

The key similarity is that for many people, the Narrative trumps reality.

It's looking more and more like Zimmerman is innocent. And yet for a lot of people (apparently including the prosecutors), that sort of evidence doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

From Victor Davis Hanson--

"Perhaps before the second-degree-murder charge is thrown out, the prosecution can so entangle Zimmerman in testimony that they can recharge him with perjury or conspiracy and then plea bargain him down to a year or two. The case is now not concerned with justice, but with politics, defusing threats of violence, and salvaging the careers of so many who so foolishly rushed to judgment."

This sounds more and more similar to Duke Lacrosse.

Jim In San Diego said...

to the 2:54 and a couple of others:

It is fundamentally wrong that a teenager shopping for candy is shot dead by an armed vigilante who chased him across a community the teenager had a right to be in.

No parent on the planet wants their children to be chased by armed strangers, least of all when they are not breaking any law.

I suspect you are not a parent?

The legal system will sort out what laws, if any were broken. If Zimmerman broke any laws, he can and should be prosecuted. If none were broken, then we must work to change the law, so this fundamentally wrong situation does not occur again.

You are quite right, there is a meta-narrative here. The meta narrative is that human life is precious, and should be guarded carefully by all of us. This is true even if armed vigilantes must control their fears and call the police first.

Some of the people I and my cadre were forced to remove from weapons training while I served as a training office in a Basic Combat Training Company during the Vietnam war were fearful of many things: ghosts .... goblins .... Black people .... teenagers wearing hoodies ....

I ask all of you who think there should be no prosecution: would you feel the same if your son were shot dead under these circumstances? If you answer "yes", I do not believe you.

Would you feel the same if a black vigilante had shot a white teenager on his way back from the 7-11, while breaking no law? Please answer honestly, even if you keep your answer private.

Jim Peterson

Jim In San Diego said...

MOO Gregory: as usual, an excellent analysis based on application of informed logic to the known facts.

To anonymous: To clarify: I am not in favor of strict gun control (I am a life-long gun owner and an expert marksman). I am in favor of safe use of guns - this inevitably means some reasonable controls on who can carry guns, when they can be carried, and when they can be lawfully used.

To a number of others, who argue the evidence demonstrates conclusively that Zimmerman was only defending himself, and therefore he should not be prosecuted:

a. The chief police investigator testified at Zimmerman's bail hearing that Zimmerman initially gave accounts which both conflicted with each other and conflicted with the physical evidence. This individual actually believed, at the time, Zimmerman's story was not credible and he should be charged.

b. A witness saw one person chasing another through the community moments before the gunshot.

c. Two audio experts have analyzed the last 911 tape, in which someone is heard crying for "help, help", just before a gunshot. They conclude that the person crying for help is certainly not George Zimmerman, although they had (at the time) no recording of Trayvon Martin's voice to see if it was him.

d. No witness apparently viewed the start of the final confrontation (who is still alive).

e. In most states, if you are the one who starts a confrontation, you lose the right to claim self defense if your victim defends himself. Therefore, Zimmerman would only have a defense of self defense if he did not initiate the confrontation. There is evidence he chased Martin throughout the subdivision. The only evidence that Zimmerman did not start the confrontation comes from Zimmerman's own self-serving statement, which, according to the chief investigator, conflicts with Zimmerman's first explanations, and is not consistent with the physical evidence at the scene.

f. Two weeks ago, the mother of a 13 year old witness who saw part of the confrontation, but who was not interviewed by the Sanford police, was asked by an interviewer if her 13 year old son believed Zimmerman had acted in self-defense. Her response: "not at all".

We shall have to wait and see. If Zimmerman broke no law, he should be found not guilty. If he broke the law, he should be punished.

Jim Peterson

No Justice, No Peace said...

Not sure why my prior comments responding to MOO Gregory didn't pass muster, but am disappointed.

Tucanae Services said...

"There’s no academic equivalent of the Group of 88, or Richard Brodhead, in the Zimmerman affair—calling into question the merits of any comparison between the two cases."

I would suggest that for the Zimmerman case the MSM == Group of 88. Especially considering what is going on at NBC and the subsequent firings.

Jim In San Diego said...

Yes, there is no point to adding to this dead thread, but have to get this off my chest:

Florida's Stand Your Ground law is legally arming street gangs. (Anyone who has not been convicted of a crime must be issued a concealed weapons permit, even if they have multiple arrests!).

Some of the consequences are detailed in this article:

Gangs arrange for a car pool: one gang member carries the drugs; another drives; another legally carries a concealed(!) weapon.

The guns-for-all crowd have their ideology. They are beyond hope.

Florida law enforcement and prosecutors opposed SYG. SYG puts the police, as well as the rest of us, as well as (the now deceased) Trayvon Martin, at grave risk.

Credit for this insanity goes to a shamefully spineless state legislature. Incidentally, as with most such issues, the spinelessness is bipartisan. (Not a single Democratic Senator in the Florida Senate voted against the SYG law.)

Nothing, just nothing, is more important than getting a nice campaign contribution with which to get re-elected.

Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

Have you been following the case? Have you noticed how all the evidence that is now coming out supports Zimmerman? That it's pretty clear that the prosecutor issued charges she couldn't actually support, in a politically charged case?

I used to have a lot of respect for you. Your behavior in this case is causing that respect to drain away. Which is too bad.

Abdul Abulbul Amir said...

There is absolutely nothing improper in attempting to keep a person in visual range. The use of the word "pursue" implies that Zimmerman was attempting to catch it attack Martin. The use of that word is part of the smear just as the "something happened" was in the Duke case. Shame on you.

Phaedrus said...

"There’s no equivalent of Mike Nifong, or anyone resembling him, in any of the various prosecutor’s offices who have evaluated Zimmerman—calling into question the merits of any comparison between the two cases"

Dear MrJohnson

Given the recent revelations about the Sanford Florida prosecutors threats aginst critics I wonder if you are willing to reconsider this statment from your comparison? See Legal Insurrection web site for details

flicka47 said...

While I agree that what happened in the lacrosse case is much worse, are you still willing to say there is "no equivalent of Mike Nifong"?

Maybe you DO need to check the latest at the Legal Insurrection site... (link goes to Legal Insurrection site's latest post on Angela Corey filing perjury charges against Zimmerman's wife by editing testimony in the bond hearing & not stating it was editied...))