Holder May Undermine Rule of Law with Challenge to Zimmerman Verdict

The aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial has brought an expected, but very disturbing, reaction. From all indications, the jury weighed the facts of the case carefully and applied the law (as it was presented to them) to the facts correctly. The prosecution had more than its fair share of opportunities to make its case, and one following the trial could not help but to think that they simply did not come anywhere close to providing proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Indeed, the lead-up to the case was troublesome. The police and the prosecuting attorney’s office did not think they even had probable cause to make an arrest, and Zimmerman was charged only after misleading media coverage, the bringing in of a special prosecutor (who later fired an employee after he testified that she had withheld evidence from the defense in the case), allegations by the lead detective in the case that he was being pressured to make an arrest despite the lack of evidence, and the firing of the police chief because he believed the same. The reaction of certain groups, elements of the public, and the Obama administration since the verdict has shown how the coveted American principle of the rule of law has fallen victim to the imperatives of identity politics.

Almost immediately after the trial, demonstrations and even violence were forthcoming—although nothing on the scale of the 1992 South Central Los Angeles riots after the first trial in the Rodney King case. The demonstrations, organized primarily by civil rights groups and leftist activists, have continued. The New Black Panthers, whose apparent voter intimidation during the 2008 election the Obama Justice Department turned a blind eye to, has put out a bounty for Zimmerman. In the meantime, the Justice Department has said it will “aggressively” pursue an investigation of Zimmerman for federal civil rights violations—even though earlier FBI inquiries had turned up no racial intent on Zimmerman’s part. The NAACP has an online petition going to call for such a prosecution (this “civil rights” organization seems curiously oblivious to the possibility that this might compromise Zimmerman’s Fifth Amendment rights). Various activists, seemingly supported by Attorney General Eric Holder, want “stand your ground” self-defense laws—which say that a person does not have to retreat when trying to protect his life or property from an assailant—to be repealed. They are somehow culprits, even though Florida’s version of this law played no role in the case.

Powerful voices are insisting that despite the evidence and the fact that the criminal justice procedures have run their course—objectively and with no indication of unfairness, unless it be to Zimmerman—he just had to be guilty and should pay. So, one way or the other—even if it means twisting the law to make it happen—“we’ll make sure” that this is the result. One can hardly think of a more dramatic departure from the rule of law. Indeed, one thinks readily of the final scene in Thomas More’s trial in the movie A Man for All Seasons, when in spite of having a case built only on Richard Rich’s obviously perjured testimony against him Cromwell and the prosecution tell the easily intimidated jury that there isn’t even any need for it to deliberate because he’s certainly guilty. What we seem to be witnessing is legal decisions prompted by pressure groups and unknowing, even prejudiced, elements within the public. To be sure, we shouldn’t view the Obamaites or Democrats as unique among opportunistic or cowed public decision-makers when it comes to undertaking criminal prosecutions in such circumstances. Let’s recall that the federal civil rights charges in the Rodney King case—mostly on very questionable grounds—were brought by the George H.W. Bush administration as an obvious response to the riots. Interestingly, there were no federal charges against the rioters—some of whose actions were downright vicious—but only against the police officers already acquitted in state court.

On several points, a federal prosecution of Zimmerman would be a miscarriage of justice—or perhaps one might say an outrage of injustice. First, there is the question (for all practical purposes) of double jeopardy. The federal government was able to get away with the re-prosecution in the Rodney King case because of “dual sovereignty,” which as applied to criminal law means that since the federal government and a state are separate sovereigns or levels of government there can be separate prosecutions for the same alleged criminal act. The substantial role and presence of the federal government in the every-day lives of citizens and the increased intertwining of law enforcement efforts at different levels in practical terms seriously compromise dual sovereignty, however. The Supreme Court is long overdue in revisiting the constitutionality of such “two-layered” prosecutions. Actually, the federal government has routinely followed a policy (in line with the grounds laid out by the Supreme Court) of not commencing a prosecution after a state acquittal except under exceptional circumstances, such as corruption or intimidation, for the very reason that it would take on too much of the character of double jeopardy. The Zimmerman case provides no such exceptional circumstances. In light of that, if the Department of Justice prosecutes it would take on the appearance of a blatant act of political calculation.

Second, as some authorities have pointed out, the available federal statutes that could be used are slim pickings. Section 1983 of the U.S. Code is the usual basis for a civil rights action. That, however, is out of the question here because it requires that an action took place “under color of law.” This applies to public officials or police officers acting in their official capacity. Zimmerman was not in one of these categories; a neighborhood watch volunteer is not an extension of a police department. A Section 1985 action requires a conspiracy, which involves two or more persons. Zimmerman acted alone. The only other seeming possibility would be the so-called federal “hate crimes” provision. This, however, requires two key elements. The first is the showing of a racial motivation in the act, which seems to have gained no credence from the state trial and the FBI’s pre-trial investigation. Second, the act somehow had to have affected interstate commerce. Even though, as I point out in my book The Transformation of the American Democratic Republic, since the New Deal we have witnessed the stretching of the meaning of “interstate commerce” almost beyond recognition, to believe that the Zimmerman-Martin altercation affected interstate commerce would be a breathtakingly mindless distortion of the term.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be no federal charges. After all, as Paul Craig Roberts and Laurence Stratton point out in A Tyranny of Good Intentions, federal prosecutors have become known for a utilitarian ethic where notches on the belt become more important than legal ethics and, due to prosecutorial manipulation, the grand jury has ceased to protect the innocent. Moreover, this is the Justice Department that we now know played a role in orchestrating and funding demonstrations in Sanford, Florida against Zimmerman early in the case. Consider also that this administration has shown no hesitancy about ignoring or circumventing laws it disagrees with or that obstruct its political agenda, as in delaying the employer mandate in the health care law, tossing aside the work requirement in the 1996 welfare reform law, partially putting the DREAM Act into place even though Congress refused to pass it, and on a slew of environmental regulations.

Some are insisting that Zimmerman be prosecuted for “racial profiling,” and the Justice Department seems sympathetic to them. Will this mean that whenever people try to resist or defend themselves against criminal acts being perpetrated against them by a member of another racial group they risk being charged with a crime themselves? As far as concerns the very notion of profiling itself, can people be blamed for being wary of encounters with members of certain demographic groups known for disproportionate rates of criminal activity? To be sure, it wouldn’t be the first attempt to put in place vague legal standards—consider all the innocent parents investigated each year by the so-called “child protective system” for child abuse and neglect pursuant to another federal law, the 1974 Mondale Act—but wouldn’t this open the door to a legal free-for-all and heightened racial and ethnic conflict? Wouldn’t its very subjectivity likely result in selective prosecution against disfavored racial and ethnic groups, as some claimed happened in the Zimmerman case?

We are currently witnessing challenges to religious liberty perhaps not seen in America since colonial times. If what the law is and whether it will be enforced is determined by political whim and pressure groups, why won’t Catholics and other serious Christians—who are certainly disfavored groups in the currently secular culture—be the ones who will be targeted down the road?

The rule of law makes justice, fairness, civility, and civil peace possible. Is it being replaced by a rule of arbitrariness? An acceleration of the ongoing trend of debasing the rule of law could be this administration’s most devastating legacy.

Editor’s note: Pictured above from left to right are Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton and Attorney General Eric Holder.

Stephen M. Krason


Stephen M. Krason's "Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic" column appears monthly (sometimes bi-monthly) in Crisis Magazine. He is Professor of Political Science and Legal Studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists. He holds a J.D. and Ph.D. (political science) and an M.A. in theology/religious education and is admitted to a number of law bars, including the U.S. Supreme Court. He is the author, most recently, of The Transformation of the American Democratic Republic (Transaction Publishers, 2012), and editor of three volumes: Child Abuse, Family Rights, and the Child Protective System (Scarecrow Press, 2013) and The Crisis of Religious Liberty (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014); and most recently, Challenging the Secular Culture: A Call to Christians (Franciscan University Press). His latest book is Catholicism and American Political Ideologies (Hamilton Books). He is also the author of a new novel, American Cincinnatus. The views expressed here are, of course, his own.

  • publiusnj

    In adding his voice to the hue and cry to get George Zimmerman in March 2012, Pres. Obama famously said that if he had a son, the son would look like Trayvon. That statement was totally irrelevant to the issue of G. Zimmerman’s innocence or guilt, yet it was not called out by many for being the inflammatory racial appeal that it was. Now that a jury of his peers has acquitted him after a full and fair trial in which Trayvon’s interests were strongly advocated by the State of Florida, isn’t it time for the many of us Americans whose sons (putative or real) look more like George than Trayvon to stand up and say what is being done is a deprivation of our “son’s” rights?

  • jcsmitty

    Zimmerman’s community was rife with burglaries and at least one home invasion by black youths. Zimmerman was elected Neighborhood Watch captain by his diverse neighbors, and called police on suspicious persons who were white and hispanic as well as black. Much was left out of th emedia on why Zimmerman found Martin suspcious, and his race wasn’t even an element. Z is a hispanic male who took a black woman to his prom, publicly defended a homeless black man after Sanford police harrassed him, and tutored black kids. Does that sound like a racist to you?

    I’m truly frightened how this administration is trying to divide us by race. Somebody saw the name “Zimmerman” and thought this was the perfect “black / white” case to arouse the division, not knowing that Zimmerman was hispanic. No problem., Just call him a “White hispanic” and then drop the “hispanic” part.

    This is such a frameup! One positive thing it did do, however, was to show those of us still unconvinced that the media and this administration has an agenda–and truth plays no part in it.

  • Steven Jonathan

    Outrage of justice indeed Dr. Krason!

    There is much more widespread intellectual violence to this case than in the Rodney King case, that was just a warm up act. The Obama administration is aiding and abetting the race baiters in a badly distorted media fiasco.

    This is a fine essay, but I think “blatant act of political calculation” is a soft understatement. I would have preferred a repetition of ” breathtakingly mindless distortion.”

    This is the logical end of that racist ideology the public schools call “multicultrualism” that assumes the false narrative of the imperialistic and oppressive white hegemony that must be overthrown to fulfill the liberation promises of the US Constitution. This is irrational revenge at the hands of outright racists who have no idea what the term means because ideology drives them.

    Did anyone see the interview of the juror who felt she “let the Martin’s down?” Truth and logical consistency are no longer required to acquire a tsunami of media support. These are scary times. Law is surely becoming arbitrary just as truth had become long ago in our universities.

  • Me

    An act can be legal but unjust. “Not guilty” does not mean “innocent.” There are few who see Zimmerman in a positive light, even if they agree that the letter of the law states he must be released in this case. After interviewing Zim, the FBI found him to have “a little hero complex.” In his old myspace page (http://www.dailydot.com/news/george-zimmerman-myspace-racist-post/), he reveals himself as a man with strong anti-Mexican prejudice (yes, I know his mother is Peruvian.) He has had brushes with the law, including fighting with a police officer and having a restraining order issued against him for domestic violence. He is being investigated on child molestation charges.

    This is the frightened, officious, apparently somewhat unstable “little Caesar” who, unfortunately, targeted and stalked Trayvon Martin on that fateful night. Trayvon, on a cell phone call to a friend, described being followed by a “creepy-ass cracker.” His friend suggested that the stalker might be a sexual predator. We don’t know what happened from there — only that there was a fight, that Zimmerman was losing it badly, and that Zimmerman then shot and killed Trayvon. Whether Trayvon overreacted to Zim’s threatening “creepy-ass” behavior with teen bravado or if Zim struck the first blow is not known. Could Trayvon, had he been armed, have claimed self-defense under SYG if he had shot Zim, given he had in mind that Zim was a sexual predator? That is unclear, but the answer is probably yes, especially if he knew Zim had a gun. If he had been a woman being followed by a strange man with unknown motives, the answer would almost certainly be yes.

    None of this should ever have happened. With a little common sense, it could all have been avoided. And, yes, laws that allow this sort of insanity need to be scrutinized.

    • Carl

      “Not guilty” verdict does not mean guilty in public opinion either….

      Name calling says more about the person acting out this form of verbal abuse.

      There’s a difference between personal insults in the middle of an otherwise sound argument and the employment of baseless name calling made to devalue another’s reputation to serve ones purpose.

      “He is being investigated on child molestation charges.” Zimmerman was eight years old, the girl was six, a trial lawyers dream, try adults for what they supposedly did as children themselves! WOW

      Woulda, Coulda, maybe, it may have, shoulda, really?

      You can say with a straight face that an athletic nearly eighteen year old was stalked by an overweight-nonathletic older adult while on the phone with 911?

    • James1

      So… From reading this post, and in light of other information about Martin, I get the impression two possible criminal types got in a fight and one killed the other?

      Or is your point that Martin should have killed Zimmerman?

      • Me

        No, my point is not that Martin should have killed Zimmerman. Absolutely not. It is that under the law, if he could have proved that he felt genuinely threatened by Zimmerman, he could legally have killed him too. My point is that this law as it stands is callous and stupid. It essentially does say that two people can get into a fight and that the losing party can kill the person who is winning. There are no laws bracketing SYG with common sense. Here is the relevant extract from the jury instructions:

        “If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

        Now we know Travon Martin was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was in a place where he had a right to be. He had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force. We know he felt threatened and harassed. Had he killed Zimmerman with his bare hands, he could have made the same claims that Zim made. So we have two guys, both feeling threatened by the other, probably both posturing, and a law that allowed the situation to escalate until one of them died. If Zim, as the adult and the person with a gun, had been required — not just instructed, but legally required — to break off from escalating hostilities, return to his car, and to remove himself from the situation — all of this could have ended happily.

        • carl

          “It is that under the law, he could legally have killed him too” False, Travon wasn’t old enough to carry a gun, most states 21, there was no evidence that Zimmerman did anything other than defend himself (grass stains on Travon’s knees and grass stains on Zman’s back along with busted nose).

          “two people can get into a fight and that the losing party can kill the person who is winning.” Well, yes, without evidence of maleficence from either person….yes. Boxers have died legally engaging their chosen sport!

          “Travon Martin was not engaged in an unlawful activity'” high on drugs on private property.

          Your idea of civic duty will guarantee that criminals will have limitless gun free zones to roam at free will and where citizens when not in tormented by criminals will be living in fear of government authorities!

          • Me

            Trayvon had every right to be on that private property. His father lived in the gated community. You are making assumptions, as Zimmerman did, that he was “up to something.” These assumptions are probably based on the fact that he was young, black, and male. Zimmerman was certainly getting beat up, but we know he was following Trayvon and making him uncomfortable. We don’t know who started the fight or what preceded or escalated it. If officious white men are going to harass black teens, maybe we need to extend second amendment rights to younger people so that these teens are armed and can defend themselves under SYG. If you want to live in the jungle, accept the law of the jungle. Better yet, maybe we can tighten up gun laws and SYG law so that these potentially fatal situations can be avoided.

            It is disturbing to learn that you think Trayvon’s marijuana use somehow justified the fact that the unarmed teen was profiled and followed by an armed, adult vigilante. Trayvon certainly wasn’t the only young person to have had substance abuse problems. I can tell you about another man. At 20, he was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct after he stole a Christmas wreath from a hotel. At 26, he was arrested while on a drinking spree with his 16yo brother. At 30, his license was suspended for two years after he was caught driving drunk. Nobody shot him or followed him around with a gun. In fact, he went on to become the 43rd president. The story is here:

            • Carl

              You own all the assumptions and innuendos. Illegal drugs, failing to communicate, and even attacking an older adult in a gated and posted community watch area are not signs of an angelic person.
              MSNBC? Really?

              • me

                Trayvon was not required to “communicate” with Zimmerman and we don’t know whether he attacked or defended himself (I suspect the real answer is somewhere in between.) What troubles me about this is not just that you’re making assumptions you don’t know are true. It’s that you appear to assume that Trayvon’s death is somehow OK and doesn’t really matter very much. Whatever happened, his death was a preventable tragedy. You appear to place all the blame on a 17yo boy, while trying to justify the provocative and ill-advised behavior of the armed man.

                • Carl

                  Let’s be clear, public intoxication is illegal. Drug use is illegal. These are facts.

                  Criminals can not possess a firearm yet alone have the right to carry one. George Zimmerman passed background checks to attain a carry permit. More facts, Zman was/is not a criminal as you attest!

                  • dch

                    “George Zimmerman passed background checks to attain a carry permit. ”

                    And he used that “right” to shoot and kill a 17 year old who HE started a fight with AFTER the 911 dispatcher explicitly requested he NOT follow. GZ was grossly negligent.

                    • vicki

                      Proof by bald assertion. You have no evidence that Zimmerman started the fight. Much suppressed evidence indicates that it is VERY likely that Martin started the fight. Tesimony of witness (the girlfriend) which was not suppressed indicates that it is likely that Martin started the fight.

                      The evidence of the 911 tapes shows that Zimmerman DID stop at the request of the dispatcher.
                      When asked by the dispatcher, Zimmerman agrees not to follow Trayvon, and his heavy breathing ends. “He ran,” says Zimmerman. ” http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/06/m-what_the_media_choose_not_to_know_about_trayvon.html

                    • Me

                      We don’t know who started the fight, which is partly why Zim skated. It is usually difficult to pinpoint “who started” a fight. When a situation escalates into violence, it usually follows a pattern of less than stellar behaviors from both sides, starting with threats and posturing and going from there. I suspect neither party was completely blameless. We know Zim was not following correct protocol as a neighborhood watchman (not illegal, but stupid.) We know Trayvon knew he was being followed (they both acknowledge this in simultaneous mobile phone conversations.) Each was suspicious of the other. It sounds like a classic recipe for a fight. The next data point we have is that Zim is getting his butt handed to him, so he kills Trayvon. The SYG problem here is that one can perfectly legally strut about in a threatening manner, and, if this leads to a fight that one is losing, one can shoot and kill one’s opponent. Many problems are highlighted by this case, but this is one of them.

                    • vicki

                      Congratulations. You have just made the case for the defense.

                      Zimmerman and Martin are fighting. Zimmerman “taps out”. Martin ignores this and keeps beating Zimmerman over the head with a sidewalk. Martin is now engaged in a felony attempt to kill or cause grievous bodily harm. Oh and as a plus you have eliminated SYG as the cause.

                      Now how do we know that Zimmerman had ‘tapped out’ (Mixed Martial Arts phrase meaning to surrender.)?

                      He called repeatedly for help.

                      Good job dch. You really should have been a witness for the defense.

                • vicki

                  Martin’s death was a preventable tragedy. Martin should have gone inside when he got home.

                  Now last time I checked attacking someone and hitting them over the head with a sidewalk was assault and battery so Martin was certainly engaged in an illegal activity at the time of his untimely death.

                  I notice that throughout your entire set of comments you carefully refer to martin as a boy, but refer to Zimmerman as a child molester, a vigilante with a gun, an officious white man and so on so who is profiling whom?

    • Carl

      Not only is it not illegal to follow someone, its common law to perform legal acts such as a citizens arrest, use of Force, and Shopkeepers’ Privilege.

      Of course beware, private persons do not enjoy the same protections as police in arresting others. In fact police are allowed the mistake of arresting the wrong person and detaining the wrong person upon reasonable suspicion (very broad applications).

      This attitude really comes down to the Big-Government-Nanny-state mentality.

      One unattended consequence of this Trayvon hysteria will be that private citizens will involve themselves even less than they do now in matters such as these.

      Oh, by the way, NFL football player who is a “white hispanic,” not arrested immediately, black man shot execution style, did not carry gun legally, did not have 911 on the phone, destroyed evidence, and on and on……This is not a racial issue?? But I digress…

      • Me

        So what happens if someone saw Zim following a teen and assumed he was a sexual predator (as Trayvon apparently did)? Should we have had Trayvon (or anyone else) performing a citizen’s arrest of Zim? If not, why not? And how would you expect Zim to react under those circumstances, given that he was armed? How would you feel if some unknown person with unknown motives was following you around and staring at you? All this sounds like a good way for a lot of people to get shot.

        • Carl

          Trayvon and his star witness attacked Zman because he was a homosexual predator? Based upon no physical evidence?

          I believe George while on the phone with 911 would have engaged in a three way conversation.

          Staring person, I’d ignore or leave area when in public.

          America, no longer the home of the brave, but were Agoraphobia reigns.

          • me

            Yes, you could ignore a person who is staring at you and following you on a dark night. Similarly, you could ignore a person going home after buying something at the 7-11.

            • Carl

              Its time to ignore you

          • Tony

            To ME, the troll: George Zimmerman’s defense was NOT based upon the Florida “Stand Your Ground” law. It was a classic case of self-defense recognized everywhere in the US.

            I keep hearing that GZ was trying to play the hero here. What a filthy thing to say! Is there any EVIDENCE to that effect? He was returning to his vehicle when Martin jumped him and started to pound his head into the pavement. Had that been your head, ME, your case would not have come to trial, because you’d have been knocked out or brained on the instant. When Martin did that, he became guilty of felony battery. When he said “I’m going to kill you” he became guilty of attempted murder. As it is, he smashed Z’s nose so badly that it swelled up like a cabbage, and the blood flowing back into his oral and nasal cavity made it impossible for him to breathe. At this point he thinks he is going to die. All the third-party testimony corroborates Z’s story. Even the dotty Jeantel unwittingly corroborated it when she said that Martin didn’t really mean it when he said “I’m going to kill you,” but that he only meant he would “whoop a–.”
            But the point is, if the feds can drag Z in despite double jeopardy, we are no longer a nation of laws.

            • dch

              GZ was a self appointed ‘watch captain’ who took it upon himself to ignore all the rules of standard Neighborhood Watch procedures taught by police departments. I am involved in a FL neighborhood group that is guided by the local PD, we as a group 4x a year with the local PD. The FIRST rule we were told was absolutely NO GUNS or weapons (they repeat that at every meeting), no avoidable confrontations, and no following on foot. The rules are stay inside, or in a vehicle, and report what you see.
              If a person moves out of view we have a phone tree so we can call someone down to the street to see if they can see anything. GZ was not a responsible person in any sense. Nobody was in danger until GZ created the situation and took advantage of FL poorly thought out SYG law to use deadly force against an innocent minor. Technically, TM could have strangled GZ and claimed that a man with a gun was following him.

              • vicki

                The “innocent” minor who just took it upon himself to attack a grown man. How come no one is upset that Martin didn’t call the police?

                • dch

                  What crime did he commit again? He was walking back to his father’s home when he was confronted by a man who followed him.

                  GZ was a idiot with a gun playing policeman while “on patrol” on his imaginary beat. Taking a gun to the neighborhood watch was a direct violation of the explicit rules.

                  • Augustus

                    Where is the evidence that Zimmerman committed second degree murder? The idiot was the prosecutor who charged Zimmerman for a crime he did not commit. A fact the jury could readily see. Martin turned out to be an idiot too for attacking Zimmerman. So Zimmerman had a concealed registered firearm. No crime. So he followed Martin because he thought he was acting suspiciously. Stupid maybe. But no crime. Martin attacked Zimmerman. That IS a crime. And Zimmerman defended himself. That’s NOT a crime. Learn something about the law before you expose your ignorance to the world.

                  • vicki

                    Martin’s crime was Assault and battery.

                    Please provide ANY evidence that there is a rule that says you can not be on neighborhood watch if you have the means to protect yourself. Be precise and do remember to provide the evidence for the neighborhood watch that Zimmerman was a member of and not some other random watch program.

                  • Rock St. Elvis

                    The crime he committed was physically attacking someone who had the right to be where he was.

              • Me

                That is exactly correct, dch.

            • Me

              Actually, you are wrong. The stand your ground law was directly invoked in the jury instructions. I have provided a copy of part of those instructions below as you missed them earlier. The FBI profiled and studied Zim and concluded he had a “little hero complex”, so yes — there was indeed evidence to assume that he had those sort of issues. As for whether Trayvon jumped Zim, we don’t know that. We don’t know what happened to initiate the fight. We know that Zim was hostile (as indicated by the “these a-holes always get away” remark) and that Trayvon felt threatened (as indicated by the fact that he told his friend that he was being followed by a “creepy-ass cracker”.) It appears that Zim was provocative in his behavior. It is possible the Trayvon responded inappropriately. All we know is that there was a stupid fight that could have been avoided, that Zim was losing it badly, and that this allowed Zim to legally shoot Trayvon.

              • vicki

                So provide evidence that the jury instructions mentioned the SYG law.

                • Me

                  I have already quoted it in this thread. Essentially the law allows one to: 1) Provoke a fight; 2) Get one’s butt kicked; 3) Shoot and kill the person beating one up. If nothing else comes out of this, I hope there is a growing awareness of the stupidity of the law. Perhaps there will eventually be some change that demands a higher standard of behavior from anyone carrying a lethal weapon.

                  • vicki

                    I didn’t ask for your quote. I asked for proof. Or at least evidence that the jury instructions mentioned the SYG law

                    • Me

                      It’s not “my quote” — I quoted the judge. The jury instructions, which contain the excerpt I quoted, are here:

                      C’mon, Vicki, you should be able to find sites like this for yourself.

                    • vicki

                      It is not up to me to find the cite of your bald assertion. It is for you to provide the cite.

                      Oh and thank you for finally doing so.

                    • Me

                      I provided the quote from the judge’s instructions very early in the discussion. From there, it would be easy to google for further information. But you are very welcome in either case.

                    • vicki

                      there are many comments here. What I will often do if I am referring to a quote that I have already cited above is to mention that with the new use of the quote. I will also often add the cite again in the current comment.

                      Because of the odd way Disqus works this makes it much easier for others to keep track of the details of the discussion. 🙂

                  • Rock St. Elvis

                    No, one may not invoke the defense of self defense if one provokes a fight. That’s how we know Zimmerman did not provoke Martin.

              • Kim
          • TheodoreSeeber

            Likely not- large cities have multiple 911 operators. But it sure would have turned out better for Trayvon if he had called the cops instead of his girlfriend.

    • Adam__Baum

      “”Not guilty” does not mean “innocent.””

      That’s supposed to be a statement about the epistemic limitations of a trial , not an opportunity for mob rule to superimpose it’s presumptions in lieu of the verdict it wants.

      “”a little hero complex.””
      So the FBI is now in the business of providing mental health assessments and issuing novel diagnoses or projecting, perhaps? Of course that’s not a crime, and it seems the “complex” is now a reality, given that GZ just made news again, because the rescue he just made.

      Actually we know nothing that you state. You hear “creepy-ass cracker” and hear fear of sexual predation. I hear racism.

      There is nothing that can be said to the “creepy-ass” left that will ever liberate them from their own visceral suppositions, because the usual house organs have their pronouncements and the drones wil repeat it over and over and over like some cult’s ritual incantations.

      Of course the left thinks Che Guevera is a hero, so…

      • Me

        Of course the FBI provides mental health assessments and does psychological profiling. That is part of its job.

    • slainte

      You say,…. “There are few who see Zimmerman in a positive light, even if they agree that the letter of the law states he must be released in this case.”……

      A jury of his peers, after lengthy deliberation, determined that George Zimmerman was not guilty as charged.

      The “letter of the law” did not acquit him.

      • Me

        Actually one of the jurors said he got away with murder, but the jurors were constrained by a bizarre law.

        • slainte

          Absent a showing of fraud, the jury has spoken.
          Enough already.

        • vicki

          What law do you find bizarre?

  • Alecto

    I have absolutely no interest in Zimmerman or his trial. When I heard the jail tape of Zimmerman directing his wife to pay their personal bills with donations intended for his legal defense, I lost any belief in his innocence or moral rectitude.

    I do have an interest in the DOJ and its demonstrated racially-based prosecutions and enforcement activity. Refusing to accept an already-negotiated plea in the Black Panther voter intimidation case was the first evidence this Administration is populated by bigots. Yet, a majority of Catholics voted for this not once, but twice? Therefore, any punishments in the form of curtailing of “religious” liberty is certainly justified. Catholics have no basis to complain about policies they advocate, legislate (Boehner, Ryan, Pelosi, etc…). While Catholics complain about unfair treatment, they advocate behind the scenes for all manner of dismantling of a democratic republic. No sympathy, no quarter here.

    • Adam__Baum

      “When I heard the jail tape of Zimmerman directing his wife to pay their personal bills with donations intended for this legal defense, I lost any belief in his innocence or moral rectitude.”

      Unless the money was donated to a legally established trust to be expended for the sole purpose of extinguishing legal liabilities, I really don’t have a problem with this-part of the real costs of this extrajudicial prosecution would be loss of income.

      My assumption is that neither Zimmerman or Martin would be the people I’d trust to handle sensitive matters.

      However, the ruckus you hear has nothing to do with justice, but it is to abrade old wounds in order to maintain the one absolutely reliable block of voters whose turnout will be absolutely essential next year. Make no mistake, Obama wants the House back, even their tepid and impotent opposition grates on him.

      • Alecto

        Adam, the issue is that the majority of donors gave in the belief and with the trust that the funds were to be used for “legal defense”. People are trusting and generous, and unselfishly gave to someone they believed was self-supporting. Instead, this clown was out playing cops and robbers when he should have been working a second job to support his family or a third or whatever. That’s what a man does. This is exactly the kind of perversion of donations which has caused many people to become cynical and wary of such appeals.

        Too distracted by the latest foot in mouth by the pope to really care about racial politics anymore. Get ready for an exodus which will no doubt rival the Reformation.

        • Phil

          Great fiction.

          • Alecto

            As opposed to the fairy tale that Zimmerman is an innocent victim?

  • Well the silver lining seems to be that the civil-rights hucksters are having a lot more trouble getting traction on this than usual.

  • Uk Guy

    There are myriad articles on which to post opinion, informed or not, on what went on that night and the resulting relative culpability of Martin and Zimmerman, whether analysed on a strict black letter legal or moral/philosophical basis. On my reading the point this article makes is quite specific, and that is that it is in exactly this type of politically charged set of circumstances that the independence and integrity of the court system and due process has to be respected. Otherwise frankly due process in the US will mean little more than it does in Putin’s Russia. The US stands for better.

    I agree with the posts below that not guilty does not mean Zimmerman is a good man. But that’s not what he was on trial for. It’s not a crime to be a less than savoury character. If a case cannot be proven to the requisite standard, the punishment simply must not be meted out. If he’s done other things, charge him and prove it and he will receive the appropriate punishment.

    As someone who observed this saga from a distance (the UK), I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the way due process appeared to be respected by those now protesting, only for it to become clear that that respect was only on condition of Zimmerman being found guilty. The propriety of the way the trial was handled can surely not be faulted given the enormous scrutiny. But the moment due process produced its result and it wasn’t what was wanted, it was unsatisfactory. That is no respect at all for due process, for highly qualified and skilled attorneys, for judges, or for fellow citizens as represented in the jury.

    Martin’s death is tragic. Nothing can change that. On the other side of the coin Zimmerman has been charged of a crime, been found not guilty, yet will never be able to stop looking over his shoulder.

    Those in Martin’s “camp” should have every political liberty to pursue their ends and lobby for reforms of the law and policy if they so wish. Elected representatives can decide on that. There is a dreadful legacy of racism that still requires active work to remedy. But as far as Zimmerman personally and his trial is concerned, in my view a firm line must be drawn under it.

  • Mark

    Cool photo — where did Jackson and Holder get that life-size Al Sharpton PEZ dispenser?

    • JefZeph

      Hilarious! I wish I could give you 5 more up votes.

  • sportingjim

    You are quite clearly ‘right’ and not arguing anything inherently Catholic in this piece. It is of considerable disappointment to me that right-wing supposedly “Catholic” journalism like this can only criticize the current administration. I have yet to see a positive profile in these pages. Stick to religion please.

    • carl

      How about the Right to self-defense, loving you neighbor (community watch team), justice (Zimmerman Trial), and Just Laws for starters!

      Care to share examples of “inherently not Catholic” items?!

      Comm boxes here have plenty of calumny, slander, name-calling…

      Almost entirely towards Mr. Zimmerman.

      • Carl

        Most poignant quote for Catholics:

        “We are currently witnessing challenges to religious liberty perhaps not seen in America since colonial times. If what the law is and whether it will be enforced is determined by political whim and pressure groups, why won’t Catholics and other serious Christians—who are certainly disfavored groups in the currently secular culture—be the ones who will be targeted down the road?”

        • Carl

          quite clearly ‘right’ = name calling
          anything inherently Catholic = slander
          right-wing supposedly “Catholic” journalism= calumny

  • Bill

    The jury instructions say: “If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

    It should be noted that the instruction stipulates (what we all know for a fact) that Zimmerman was “where he had a right to be.” As regards the killing of Martin, the only question before the jury was whether Zimmerman acted in self-defense. Since one cannot plead self-defense if the stand your ground requirement has not already been met, the latter played no part.

  • Carl Albert

    how apt to reference “A Man for All Seasons”, as the devil seeks to turn ’round on George Zimmerman – if we are to take the AG at his word. I however do not. this is mere sabre rattling and red meat by Mr. Holder for his base. after all, his remarks, fresh on the heels of the Zimmerman verdict, were made in his address to the NAACP convention. the current administration has shown a commitment to “investigate” anything that moves – as their feigned interest in resolving issues and events of the day – only to watch them fade away. this posturing serves only to stoke the fires of division, nothing more. sadly, we may now add the Martin family to the progressive trash heap of political cast-offs with the likes of Cindy Sheehan, Sandra Fluke, et al.

  • Greg Cook

    Defiance of the law is now pretty common among Democratic office-holders: from SF Mayor Gavin Newsome to the latest issuance of marriage licenses by a clerk in PA, to all the AGs and others who have refused to uphold the laws voted on by citizens. Of course, they will spin their dereliction of duty by calling it “principled,” and yet they continue to excoriate figures like George Wallace who were “principled” about standing up for segregation. (Note: I am not defending Jim Crow laws!) Should it then come as any surprise when average citizens routinely disregard any law they don’t like?!