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Trayvon Martin [Mar. 27th, 2012|08:04 am]
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[Current Mood |angry]

Other people have expressed what I wanted to say so well that it's taken me a long time to decide it was worthwhile (useful to others) to say it again, myself.    I've signed petitions.  I've retweeted people whose pithy comments or whose referenced blog posts seemed so much more articulate than my initial thoughts--which were pretty much a howl of outrage, fury, and near-incoherence. 

Everything about the events that led to Trayvon Martin's death, and the failure of the police to arrest his murderer screams racism.   There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that had the races been reversed--had a black man in a pickup truck followed a white boy in a hoodie on his way home from the store, and confronted him, and then shot him--the folks now trying to exonerate and excuse Zimmerman would be howling for that man's immediate arrest and ultimate execution.    That they see the situation as one of "self-defense"--when by the evidence of the Zimmerman's own calls to the police before he shot Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman is the one who acted aggressively and provoked the situation--makes it clear that they are biased against the black youth and for the white man from the get-go.

If anyone should be covered by the "stand your ground" law it is Trayvon--because he was being harassed, menaced, and confronted by someone who put him in fear of his life (with good reason, as it turned out.)  Whatever the unarmed and inexperienced Trayvon did, after Zimmerman began following him and threatening him, he did in self-defense.  To claim that Zimmerman acted in self-defense--let along that he acted in accordance with the Florida law--is factually and legally wrong.   If you confront someone who is not committing a violent crime--if you menace that innocent person, if you threaten or attempt to coerce or lay hold of that person, and that person defends himself/herself...then that person...not you...is acting in self-defense.   To argue that Trayvon had no right to defend himself from the obvious (and ultimately proven) deadly force Zimmerman was prepared to use is to argue that black youths have no right to defend themselves so white men have a right to kill them for trying.  

It is ridiculous to claim that Zimmerman isn't racist.   Why did he target Trayvon Martin?   Because (as he said on the 911 calls he made before the final attack)  this was a black  male in a hoodie.  Walking black made Trayvon suspicious.   Considering Trayvon suspicious because he was a black male makes Zimmerman racist.   I believe that if Trayvon had run away (as his girlfriend suggested) Zimmerman would have shot him in the back.   After all, aggressive law officers have shot black youths in the back (as in Austin, Texas recently, where the police chief's response to angry and frightened parents was that his officers had done nothing wrong and parents should tell their boys not ever to run.)    Zimmerman has shown no remorse for killing an innocent teenager; he continues to insist that it wasn't his fault; he had to defend himself, that he is the victim. 

The Sanford police department, as many have said, showed its own racial bias in the way this murder was handled.   They dispatched an inexperienced officer who had never done a homicide investigation.   He accepted Zimmerman's account without question--without checking with authorities to see if Zimmerman really was a member of an official Neighborhood Watch group,  without testing Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol, without questioning why Zimmerman disobeyed the dispatcher's order to quit following the "suspicious" person, without questioning why Zimmerman was carrying a weapon (against policy for legitimate Neighborhood Watch members),  without checking on Zimmerman's record (Zimmerman's record of assaulting a law officer and an incident of domestic violence should have been found immediately and should have been considered as a reason to doubt his account of what happened.  So also, of course, should have been the fact that he continued to tail Trayvon after the police dispatcher told him not to. )    That Zimmerman first  precipitated a confrontation and then claimed to have been in deadly peril is another obvious red flag:  the person who starts a confrontation is rarely the innocent party.   The Sanford police lied to the Martin family about Zimmerman's prior record of violence.   The Sanford police tried to change a witness's report by lying about it (the witness said she heard Trayvon screaming for help; the police said that she heard Zimmer screaming for help.)  
The Sanford police played CYA for weeks, citing the Florida "stand your ground" law which is clearly not applicable in this situation (the only violent crime going on was Zimmerman killing Martin.  Zimmerman was put "in peril"--even if you believe it was peril--only because he confronted an innocent citizen and tried to bully him.)

Like many other mothers of children who might, for any reason, attract attention as "undesirables", I have lived with the fear that our son--despite his white skin--might be the target of a bigot's attack or police violence.   Although persons of color are at risk no matter how ordinary their behavior (like, well, walking home from a convenience store with a bag of candy),  anyone at all "different" may be targeted by bigots.  A few years ago, students at Anderson High School in Austin set upon and beat up a mentally handicapped student waiting for his bus ride home...in the parking lot of a convenience store across the street from our church...and no one intervened.   (The store clerk said he was afraid of the teenagers who were beating up the other boy.)    Autistic teens and grown men have been targeted in some jurisdictions; I was even warned by another mother that our son looked odd enough, walking from his apartment to the college campus, that police might pick him up.   One time that I tried to talk to police (before he moved to the city) and suggest that they might seek some training in recognizing autism v. someone strung out on drugs or alcohol, the officer practically sneered at me and allowed that they didn't have time or patience to put up with "spoiled brats or pushy parents."   If my kid did not act perfectly normal and wasn't able to answer questions as a law officer expected, then that was just too bad.

As I've mentioned before, I've been threatened with deadly force...a man called up one night and said he was planning to come over and kill me and my husband (me first, so my husband would suffer more); he said he was armed.    We knew he was a (sometimes violent) schizophrenic.   At that time, the tiny town in which we lived had no police, and the county sheriff said all his deputies were out on other calls.  If we had a gun, we were advised, we should be sure to wait until the attacker was inside before shooting him (that was the law at the time.)   Individuals skipping their meds periodically went off the rails and took potshots at someone's house (someone we know was injured as a result.)   We spent the rest of that night on alert, as you can imagine.   I've had other, less credible, threats (people online are quite willing, in the midst of a pile-on, to make them...these I pretty much dismiss unless I know the person lives nearby.)  We are prepared to defend ourselves if someone carries through a threat or breaks down the door, and (after that night) I am sure I would nail the attacker if the attacker didn't get me first. 

But that's a very different thing than deciding to follow someone who is not committing a crime, not threatening anyone, starting a confrontation, and then shooting the innocent person.    We don't shoot someone for coming down the drive uninvited...or even up onto the porch because they want to convince us their church is the only right one or got lost.   We don't shoot someone  who comes onto our land uninvited (though I would like to have located the person who cut the gap-gate and took a dump on our land, if only to make him dig a hole,  bury his waste and mend the gap gate!   Lazy inconsiderate scumsucker.)  

Whatever Trayvon Martin did or did not do before his murder--whether years or months or days before, or just in the immediate situation--the fact remains that Zimmerman was wrong to consider him suspicious, wrong to follow him, wrong to keep following him, wrong to confront him.   Zimmerman has no right to claim "self-defense."  Trayvon Martin would have had such a right, if he'd lived to make it. 

The (white, male, Republican) Florida legislator who introduced the "stand your ground" legislation claims there's nothing wrong with that law and he's sure it's saved "thousands" of lives.   I'd like to see documentation of that, but since the Florida police (at least in Sanford, but I'll bet that's not unique) are so willing to leave claims of self-defense uninvestigatedwhere can the data come from?   I know that in my own state innocent persons have been killed in situations that make the claim "it was self-defense" just about as ridiculous.  Proponents of the law count those deaths as "lives saved"; I count them as murders unprosecuted.  (The paper boy shot by a nervous homeowner, the person lost and asking directions shot by a nervous homeowner...)   If I had shot every uninvited person who showed up on my doorstep, there's be a pile of corpses with my name on them--and yet none of them were committing a crime or threatening my life.   Annoying me, yes.  Interrupting my day or evening, yes.  Startling me sometimes, yes...but not deserving of being shot dead on suspicion.

In my view, every violent killing should be investigated to ensure that a claim of self-defense or interrupting a violent crime is justified--as it is, the law makes it easy for murderers to claim self-defense and get off without any question--as long as they're the right color.   All such laws should include recognition that paranoid and racist bigots exist, and will assume their right to continue to harass anyone they distrust on the basis of color, religion, name (e.g. Hispanic),  or way of walking (spasticity, "tics", etc.)  
That such harassment will create in the victims of it a responsive fear that that responsive and legitimate fear means some of them will attempt to defend themselves--and the bigots will use deadly force where it is not warranted.   Police departments need clear, unequivocal guidance of the investigation they must (not may...must) follow in order to ascertain the truth since it is clear that some, at least, will not do so on their own. 

In the larger scale of things, any sign of dishonesty in the law enforcement process--from the police right through to the prosecuting attorney--should be grounds for a deeper investigation.  I disagree strongly with the Supreme Court decision that prosecutors are completely free of any liability for their dishonesty...we have the case here in my county of Ken Anderson, a prosecutor who deliberately withheld information he knew would clear the accused, and who then deliberately refused for years to do the DNA test that also proved the man's innocence.   (I will double-barrel bet you a metric ton of doughnuts that this is not the only case Ken Anderson lied about.   This is a man who ran for office as a Democrat and then--as soon as the election was over, declared that he was now a Republican.   "Fooled you suckers!")  It  is a crime for citizens to lie to the police or under oath...and the law should require those who are tasked with upholding the law to abide by the same rules.  It should be just as illegal for police or prosecutors to lie and they should be held criminally accountable.   (Yes, they have a difficult job.  That does not excuse dishonesty, especially not dishonesty that puts innocent people in jail for twenty years and stigmatizes their families.)   Our legal process has this large rotten core: the supposedly "good guys" are allowed to lie and cheat;  evidence can be and is withheld from the accused and from juries, evidence can be faked by dishonest law officers.  How can juries possibly be expected to make sound decisions when they aren't given the facts?  

Recent research has shown that when people have a firearm in hand--even a toy one--they are much more likely to think another person also has a firearm.   Just seeing a firearm, having one in the same room, but not in hand, does not have the same effect of heightened alarm.   It's hypothesized that since holding an object  activates the brain circuits involved in using that object, holding a firearm activates those circuits as well (more research is needed, certainly, but the preliminary results suggest without proving this as a cause of the frequent "mistakes" when the shooter thinks the target has a gun and does not.  The shooter is already biased to see anything the target carries or reaches for as another firearm.  

COMMENT REMINDER.   If you must comment as "Anonymous",  identify yourself in the body of the comment or it may be deleted.  This is particularly likely to happen  in potentially contentious topics.   I know some people aren't on LJ and can't get the other IDs thing to work (happens to me with another blog platform) but you can certainly identify yourself, and say something about yourself,  in courtesy to both me and the existing community. 

[User Picture]From: masgramondou
2012-03-27 02:17 pm (UTC)
I'm going to do two posts. This one is factual.

Firstly this LJ post seems to be a very good summary of the events of the night.


Connected to that there is this post about geography which I think bears out a lot of that post and which (in my humble opinion) adds weight to the idea that Zimmerman is the one most at fault here because he was the one who did the wrong thing first and then continued to do so.

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[User Picture]From: thenetwork
2012-03-27 02:33 pm (UTC)
may i please post a link to this? it is beautifully stated.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-03-27 05:53 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: chris_gerrib
2012-03-27 02:54 pm (UTC)
I just wanted to say that I agree with you. Well put.
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[User Picture]From: blueeowyn
2012-03-27 03:13 pm (UTC)
The 'right' for police to react first is concerning. I seem to recall hearing recently about a man who was pulled over for erratic driving and ended up being beaten/kicked by the officers until one of them found an insulin pen in his pants. The driver was having a blod-sugar issue and thus acting 'suspiciously'. *sigh*

I agree that Zimmerman's actions in following Trayvan should negate the "fear for his life' defense ... but I don't think it will.

The research you mention doesn't surprise me, people tend to see others with their own attributes and faults overlayed with their suspicions and fears. Not a good situation for someone who wants to be in control of things and is armed.

I would love to see law enforcement people (in addition to politicians and lawyers) held to a higher standard of behavior than the ordinary citizen. Things like this where the lawmakers voted down an amendment to make sure that they weren't exempt from the speed camera enforcement. http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/27/2744.asp

Edited at 2012-03-27 03:32 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: masgramondou
2012-03-27 03:17 pm (UTC)
This is the opinion post. I expect people to disagree with some of this. I hope Ms Moon won't delete it but it is her right to do so which is why I've separated it from the other post

I will note that I certainly think that Zimmerman is guilty of manslaughter and that I agree racism by Sanford PD is a major reason why he was not arrested at the time. Bluntly if he was going to be a neighborhood watch guy he had, at the very least, a duty to state who he was and ask Martin why he was there. By not doing that sort of thing he set in train the whole mess and hence, is a fault.

However this is the controversial bit. The statistics indicate that young black males do commit disproportionately more petty crime than any other group in the US. Second I believe are young hispanic males. The differences in the numbers are too large for this to be purely racism, although undoubtedly racism in reporting may tweak the numbers a bit. What this means that suspecting a young black guy in a hoodie of being likely to commit a crime is not necessarily racism, it's simple math. And in fact there is some evidence that Martin may have, at other times, been a petty criminal. Now that doesn't mean he deserved to die, because if everyone who had once done a bit of theft or shoplifting were shot then I, for one, wouldn't be alive to write this, but it does indicate that he not only looked like a petty crook but actually was one some of the time. In other words, since he wasn't known in the gated community where he was walking, it was not unreasonable to suspect that he might have been going to commit a crime.

What I'm trying probably badly to say here, is that Martin is not as pure as driven snow and that nothing that Zimmerman did shows he's a racist. We don't know but I suspect he'd have followed any hooded, gangsta dressed young male and given that such people are actually the ones who commit most burglaries and the like he had a justification to do so that is not based on racism so much as rational evaluation of who is likely to commit a crime.

It does seem to me, however, that anyone who shoots and kills someone else should automatically be arrested for manslaughter. Now later on (possibly very quickly in some cases) the charges may be dropped when it is clear that the shooter acted in a justified manner but initially law enforcement should assume that a crime has been committed and gather appropriate evidence. By not gathering the evidence in this case the local PD have managed to exacerbate racial tensions when there was absolutely no need to do so.

To go back to racism, there is a further problem here which is that no one (other than the occasional right-winger who is promptly called a racist or worse) protests the fact that for many black males it seems that being a gangsta is considered the height of coolness and that studying etc. is considered as practically a betrayal of ones race. People protest the racism that may stop some blacks from getting ahead but they rarely protest or make any effort to fix what appears to be the highly dysfunctional US black culture (and from what I can tell a similar hispanic gangsta culture is also spreading). This unwillingness to be judgemental on such matters is a big issue - it isn't US specific, we see similar problems in the UK (where the underclass is not limited to people of African origin - witness the riots last year). It seems to me that by not calling for change in culture we're actually being racist (or classist) because, effectively, what we're saying is "you people are savages who can't handle modern civilized life so we won't complain about your inability to do so". Low expectations are just as demoralizing as overt discrimination because they make you feel like you have no perceived intrinsic worth and I suspect that contributes to the attraction lawlessness has on black youth - it becomes one way to show that you can do things on your own without help.
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[User Picture]From: blueeowyn
2012-03-27 04:10 pm (UTC)
Is it that the crimes are committed by [specific group of people] or that the convictions are [specific group of people]. For example if a person is murdered in their home and has a live-in SO, the police know that in 90 something percent of the convictions the SO is found guilty so they focus on that and may miss other potential leads.

People see what they expect (or in some cases what they want to see) which is why double-blind is so critical in science experiments, if the observer expects to see something, they will....

Do some African-Americans commit crimes? Yes, so do some Caucasians, some Asians, and some Hispanics. I agree that the gangster culture may lead people into committing the crimes but I've seen non-minorities having the same clothing and attitude.

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From: geekmerc
2012-03-27 06:26 pm (UTC)
I haven't read anything yet on proper statistical analysis concerning genetic tendencies. Does a person of a specific genetic descent have more of a tendency towards violence? Is it how they are raised, their genetics, their financial status, or their society that makes them tend to commit crimes?

My personal belief is that we still have too much segregation and not enough equality. If only 1% of a poor inner city district is of a specific profile, then there likely will only be a 1% contribution of that profile to criminal statistics. In addition, many statistics don't separate large cities from rural or poor environments from rich. When I was poor in the city, I was far more alert than when I was not poor in the country.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-03-27 06:38 pm (UTC)
There are a number of variables (at least here in the States) that make your argument less than robust. First be aware that I grew up in the Texas-Mexican border and had daily contact with both the real Mexican culture and the blended culture as well as Anglo culture. That was decades ago; the (predominantly white) American hunger for illegal drugs has made detrimental changes in everyone involved. But I live here; I'm aware of all the factors involved; and I find your analysis (which you admit is taken long-distance) to be lacking.

In the US, race culture cannot be separated from poverty culture. In my direct experience, poor young white males are as likely to commit crimes as poor young black or Hispanic males, and middle-class white males are MORE likely to commit crimes than middle-class Hispanic or black males. Poverty is associated with high crime rates, period. The majority of black and Hispanic youth are poor. The majority of white youth, until recently, were not. When a larger proportion of white youth were poor (for instance, in the periods of greatest immigration from Europe) rates of youth-committed crime in the intake cities was high, and the crimes were largely committed by white youths. If you're going to criticize the culture of a given race, consider that the culture of the Irish, Italian, and others also provided a criminal element. (It is also necessary to consider why middle-class white males are prone to crime--is it because they think Daddy can get them off? What is it in white culture that allows these boys to think that drugs, alcohol, rape and other violent assaults are cool? Because many of them do.)

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[User Picture]From: masgramondou
2012-03-27 07:32 pm (UTC)
That's a good point or rather two points.

Regarding poverty=>crime
I wonder whether the combination of poverty plus discrimination (plus urban living?) is the key to crime. As I understand it the Irish and Italians were widely despised and discriminated against due to their catholicism and they also tended to be concentrated in urban areas. Many of the other migrants of the 19th century tended to do farming.

Although the Jews were also urban and discriminated against and they didn't move into crime (unless you counting investment banking a crime)

Regarding the middle-class white guy gets away with it.
This disgusts me, and I would love to think of a way to stop it because once you think you can get away with one crime you tend to think you can get away with others and that has IMHO led to the general lack of responsibility exhibited by managers in all sorts of areas. The whole corporate culture of faking numbers so things look good for a year and then you move on and let it all collapse behind you is probably related.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-03-27 08:05 pm (UTC)
Actually some Jews did move into organized crime during Prohibition at least--the pressure on Eastern European Jews both where they came from and once they got here was sufficiently nasty that some felt no shame at criminal activity. Jewish Mafia was of course the name given to such behavior. It surprised me when I learned of it, because the Jews in the town I grew up in were intensely respectable: small-town retail merchants, for the most part, and close friends of my mother. These were the people who took care of me when my mother was in the hospital and I considered Jews, on the whole, to be nicer than most of the people in my own church (stuffy and biased against my mother for being divorced.)

I do think extreme poverty plus discrimination and the sense of hopelessness that results--"no matter what we do we're going to be dumped on, things will never get better, so why bother to seek approval/acceptance"--leads to a lot of it. Alienating anyone--and more so groups--from social acceptance leads to long-term problems. If you do that to a child, you essentially "de-socialize" that child. The longer you do it to a group, the more likely that group will give up. Post-US Civil War, former slaves tried hard to be respectable--to get an education, to move up in the world, etc. For awhile they succeeded--but the end of Reconstruction and the Jim Crow laws that followed--and the resentment of poor whites in the North during the black diaspora to the north later in the 20th c.--meant constant hostility, constant attempts to blacks on the bottom and jump up and down on them. Why would black kids, or Hispanic kids, respect a system that they can see offers no hope and no escape because of skin color? Sure, we show them rich black athletes, rich black entertainers...and some are doctors, lawyers, dentists, accountants...more than 70 years ago. But even they are under suspicion from whites. Look at Professor Gates of Harvard, arrested for being in his own home by a policement who assumed a black man in a big house in a nice neighborhood must be there illegally. No good behavior is ever enough. You can be on the honor roll; you can have no criminal record--but be dark-skinned and you look "suspicious" if the white person doesn't know you personally.

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[User Picture]From: redvixen
2012-03-27 06:46 pm (UTC)
The statistics indicate that young black males do commit disproportionately more petty crime than any other group in the US.

The statistics also indicate that young black males have a higher amount of poverty than almost any other group in the US. I believe there's a female group with a higher rate of poverty but I don't remember which minority it is.

I agree Zimmerman should have introduced himself as a member of the Neighborhood Watch. The fact that he didn't shows an aggressive personality. However, it does not prove he is racist. I would need more examples of him harassing non-whites to slap that label on him. One thing I'm not clear on was whether or not he identified Martin to the 911 operator as a black man from the beginning. If not, if all he saw was someone acting suspicious, then that does not make it a racist crime.

Another thing I'm not clear on, the gated community they were in, was it normal for the gate to be unlocked or did someone have to let people in or require them to have a key? Personally speaking, if I know the only way someone could get into my neighborhood was by having the means to get past the gate I would not jump to the conclusion that they were there to commit a crime. I would probably think they were new and still not familiar with finding their way around.

As for the police officers involved, how much of it was due to covering the person who sent an inexperienced officer on his own to investigate a shooting, a general lack of commitment and determine to do their jobs, and/or an acceptance of the say-so of a "recognized member of the community" versus "unknown youth, possibly a gang member"? Screaming "racism" is polarizing the issue and allowing the real issues to be overwhelmed and ignored.

Also, three days to notify his parents? Completely unacceptable. Obviously the police department needs to be fully investigated and major changes made to it.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-03-27 07:02 pm (UTC)
Zimmerman was NOT a member of the Neighborhood Watch. He claimed he was; he was not.

You say "he saw someone acting suspicious." He saw a youth walking down the street. Period. How is that "acting suspicious?" Are *you* acting suspicious when you walk down a street? Or do you never walk and always drive? (Did you ever read Ray Bradbury's story "The Pedestrian" in which a man who has gone for a walk in his own neighborhood is arrested? Our son walked to and from the nearest convenience store often when he still lived her; now that he visits on weekends, he walks the half mile downtown. Is that acting suspicious?

What makes walking down the street "acting suspicious?" From my experience and that of others, "walking black" or "walking Hispanic" is frequently considered suspicious in white neighborhoods and by white police (so is "driving black" and "driving Hispanic.") Did Zimmerman follow pairs of white Mormon missionaries and report them to the police? Did he report white kids walking to or from the convenience store? He described Martin as black (and apparently also as a "coon", a racist term) in at least one of his 911 calls. Zimmerman made lots of other 911 calls on other occasions: let's see how he described those other "suspicious" circumstances.

Why would Zimmerman be "a recognized member of the community" when his record included assaulting a police officer and domestic violence, along with making hundreds of 911 calls that led nowhere in the past? Does that sound like a fine upstanding guy to you? Doesn't to me. Why does "unknown youth" lead immediately to might "possibly be a gang member?" Would you think any "unknown youth"--including a white one--might be a gang member instead of a boy who's been to see his girlfriend and then gone to the store for candy? That, my friend, is bias.

The issue is already polarized. To me--a person who grew up in a highly racist state--it is clearly racism. Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, smells like a duck. Racism. Florida's no better than Texas in that regard. Deal with it.

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[User Picture]From: redvixen
2012-03-28 12:49 am (UTC)
The articles I've managed to read said he was voted in/chosen/volunteered to be a member of the Neighborhood Watch, thus I had nothing to contradict that statement. That's the problem with being in another country and getting some articles and not others. If the writers don't check their facts they pass on the wrong information.

Walking down a street while looking at the houses, maybe looking around as if checking to see if you're being followed, weaving while walking, these constitute suspicious behaviour to me. It's easy to say "he was just walking down the street" since, unless someone saw him walking before Zimmerman started following or he was caught on camera, the only person who can say how he was walking is saying it was suspicious.

Btw, when I put quotes around words it's to indicate sarcasm that the words are being used as they were intended. There was an effort made to hide Zimmerman's record from the public so someone was trying to make him out as a respectable member of society. Also, young Martin was wearing a hoodie and the common belief is that gang members and wannabe gang members wear hoodies. Therefore the link is made between unknown youth and possibly a gang member.

I know the issue is already polarized. I also believe that Zimmerman is guilty and should be punished to the full extent of the law. However, since I wasn't there, won't ever know the full story, and try to be objective as much as I can, I have to try and see what other proof there is for how the people involved acted and reacted so that any charges of racism are true and not simply a knee-jerk reaction by people who have been victims of racism in the past.

The history of Zimmerman shows a definite aptitude for aggression and racism. However, the calls of racism were being made before the transcripts of the 911 call came out, before his history came out.

I know he won't be punished as he should be. I also know that we should be able to live in a world where colour of skin, religious beliefs, gender, sexuality, mental conditions, and age don't matter. But we don't. However, if we want to make changes to our societies we have to be aware that we need proof before throwing a label like racist on anyone. Otherwise, we're just as prejudiced as they are.

And to answer your question, I walk and take the bus. No car. :) Also my husband, very white, uses a cane, likes to wear a hoodie under his waterproofed coat to keep his head warm. So I am aware of stereotypes and prejudice.

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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-03-27 06:46 pm (UTC)

My reply part 2 (cut off by the !**! limit on comment length

Endemic racism means that when a crime (vandalism, for instance, or petty theft in a school) is committed, authorities look first to youth of color and expect to find them guilty. I saw this in my schools when I was growing up; I have seen it in schools here. White kids who caused trouble were often excused--even more than once--as "boys will be boys." Hispanic kids were never given that out. The young white male who commits a crime was (and is) less likely to be convicted, and if convicted more likely to receive a suspended sentence or a fine than incarceration than the black or Hispanic male. So because the white kid stopped for speeding or reckless driving or suspected of vandalism was not charged, and if he or she came from a good family could count on Daddy's influence to get him or her out of trouble, the statistics are skewed.

You are in error in thinking that no one is "calling for a change in culture"....that's been done, and is being done, including by prominent black men and women. But that "change in culture" cannot be imposed on one segment of the population, as if the white culture had nothing wrong with it--in fact, the same things wrong with it. White kids are also violent--and have been for at least sixty years (covering a year or two less than my own school experience.) They lie, they cheat, they steal, they vandalize, they start fights, they beat each other up, they form gangs and attack other gangs, or women, or gays, or blacks...and excuses are made for them. (Think of both George W. Bush and his wife: both of them, in their youth, behaved badly. Laura's reckless driving killed someone; George was stopped multiple times for drunk driving. Neither spent a night in jail; neither has "a record." One of their daughters, arrested for underage drinking, was immediately defended by the right wing--how unfair it was that the officer checked her ID, how it must have been politically motivated. And when I say this, I know someone's going to pop up and say how unfair it is to mention things that happened in the past...that kids make mistakes and they were from "good" families and just being kids.)

Imposing higher standards on those with fewer resources--being lenient with white kids (and adults) and then dumping on black and Hispanic kids and blaming their "racial culture" for their behavior without acknowledging the equally bad behavior of white kids...is wrong. The only way to change the overall culture--assuming that the goals of that change are good goals--is to impose the same standards on the top as the bottom. If you would suspend a black kid for some act, then suspend a white kid who does the same thing. Track white kids' behavior as alertly, as carefully...no more letting someone off because his father's a wealthy doctor, or his mother is on the school board. (Both were used when I was in high school as reasons to let a white kid off punishment.) I can tell you that this is not done.

To have high expectations is not to stand over someone with a scowl and dire warnings and a heavy schedule of punishments--that's having low expectations. You cannot expect those who are always under suspicion, always treated as potential criminals, an "at risk" population, to act like angels. Doesn't work; never has; Dickens wrote about it. Having high expectations require that you assume the child will grow up to be a decent person given the chance--and the adults supply the environment the child needs to make that happen. Ensure that the child has some adults around who believe in that child's potential (ideally including teachers but I had some teachers who seemed determined to destroy potential if it would raise their own ego.) Ensure that the child has some experience of being respected (the only way to teach a child how to respect others is for the child to experience respect), that there is some reason (other than fear of punishment) for behaving well.

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[User Picture]From: masgramondou
2012-03-27 07:36 pm (UTC)

Re: My reply part 2 (cut off by the !**! limit on comment length

Yes indeed. All of the last two paragraphs I agree with completely.
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[User Picture]From: masgramondou
2012-03-27 07:53 pm (UTC)

Re: My reply part 2 (cut off by the !**! limit on comment length

There is one other comment I want to make.

It seems to me that globally and in the US particularly there are a lot more crimes than there used to be and that as a result we have devalued the concept of crime. We've come up with ways to try and reduce the consequences of the fact that, under the current thousands (millions?) or pages of law code, we are pretty much all guilty of some crime or other. And by doing so we've lost much of the respect for the law that our parents/grandparents had. Because it is so easy for a child/teenager to fall afoul of a (relatively minor) law and get treated as a hard core criminal those parents who care about their children and have influence will pull strings to get the crime expunged. Which leads to people thinking that all crimes can be dealt with the same way. And to the sort of moral equivalence that says "everyone else is doing it so I should too" as well as a tendency to stick to legalistic following of the letter of laws while deliberately flouting the spirit, indeed finding workarounds that keep you technically in compliance but which allow you to do the exact opposite.

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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-03-27 11:31 pm (UTC)

Re: My reply part 2 (cut off by the !**! limit on comment length

Actually...probably not, except that the world is more crowded, and crowding increases the opportunity for crimes. We have a lot more reports of crimes because we have better communication. The problem of the privileged being let off is nothing new--you find it in novels from two centuries ago and in history books from earlier.

We may define more things AS crimes, maybe. Although again...maybe not. One thing that's been pointed out for the US is that jury trials--as they now are, several weeks' long exhausting legal battles between attorneys--have overloaded our court system and just about ensured that the jury itself never has all the relevant facts on which to make a judgment. Thus the push to offering plea bargains and prosecutory pressure to force defendants to accept a plea. Jury trials are never prompt these days, and rarely short; the rules of evidence are vast and confusing. The rich defendants can get bail and go home before the trial and even (as with Ken Lay in the Enron case) between a guilty verdict and the start of a prison term. Poor defendants will be stuck in jail for months to years before their trial comes up and have no way to ensure that exculpatory evidence isn't "lost" or hidden, as Ken Anderson did.

I have less respect for the legal system than I did when I was younger, because I've seen so many abuses by those who supposedly uphold the law--attorneys, prosecutors, judges, and the police. The law itself--the Constitution at least, though not vast swathes of legislative stuff--I have great respect for.
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[User Picture]From: catsittingstill
2012-03-27 04:53 pm (UTC)
Recent research has shown that when people have a firearm in hand--even a toy one--they are much more likely to think another person also has a firearm. (italics added later, and oh wow, I can edit comments now; when did that happen?)

This ties in with some of the neuropsych stuff I've been reading. People's perceptions are at least in part "modelled" by the brain, using "circuits" strongly affected by emotion. Furthermore the part that judges threat/no threat is actually *faster* than the part that lets you see what (hopefully) is there. So if you're subconsciously afraid of a group, your modeling system is more likely to show you a gun when they're reaching for a wallet or a cell phone. The misperception is real and honest, but if you act on it, the innocent victim is still innocent, and still a victim.

It's kind of scary actually.

Not that I'm saying that's what happened in this case--just that I think some of the cases of cops being more likely to shoot black people stem from this. And it's crazy unfair and I don't know what to do about it, except encourage small children of different races to mix as much as possible, make friends and learn to see each other as individuals.

Edited at 2012-03-27 04:55 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-03-27 05:57 pm (UTC)

Duplicate comments

It appears that some comments doubled themselves...as we all know, sometimes emails and posts appear twice when the person writing them pushed "SEND" once. I'm going to try to delete the doubled posts without deleting the original posts, but I'm not sure it will work. For the record, at this time (just before 1 pm Central Daylight Time where I am) I am not intentionally deleting any original post. As is my policy, if persons show up who act like trolls or hornet swarms (groups of raging ranters following a troll to a site) those comments will be deleted, but none qualify for that at the moment. If deleting the second of two identical comments also blips the first--I apologize to the writer and invite an attempt to repost it.
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From: geekmerc
2012-03-27 06:30 pm (UTC)
Next we will see, "I knocked on the guy's door, he answered with a gun nearby, so I shot him." Self Defense!

I completely agree that the "self-defense against self-defense" argument is idiotic. It is obvious that the victim had the right for self-defense.
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[User Picture]From: amusingmuse
2012-03-28 10:53 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, that actually happened in Baton Rouge on a Halloween night back in the 90's. Two dudes got lost going to a party, knocked on the wrong door and got shot. And yes, the murderer got off. There wasn't even going to be an arrest, investigation or even a trial until people protested.

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[User Picture]From: kengr
2012-03-27 08:20 pm (UTC)
Regardless of the "stand your ground" law, there's also the fact that bringing a gun into it against an *unarmed* attacker counts as "escalation of force" which *normally* gets you in big trouble.

That's one of the big warnings from *all* the "pro-gun" (pro self defense) books and resources.

So that *alone* is reason for asking why the cops didn't do anything.
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[User Picture]From: vvalkyri
2012-03-27 09:24 pm (UTC)
[here via friendsfriends]
Plus, bringing a gun whilst out and about on neighborhood watch is against Neighborhood Watch basic guidelines: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57402412/experts-neighborhood-watches-shouldnt-be-armed/

(b/c of e-moon's earlier comment about 'not part of neighborhood watch' I did some looking, and apparently there are specific vetted neighborhood watch training programs which that community wasn't associated with. 3/21 article, but first I've heard.)

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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-03-27 11:22 pm (UTC)
Yes, there are. I looked into that years ago, when living in a different community. Usually the local police work with the neighborhood to define the scope of the program--make clear what the citizen should and should not do, how to make proper reports, etc.--and also collect background information on those who volunteer...it's not been unknown for someone to volunteer whom you really do not want having special powers.

You always have some eager beavers who want to strut around carrying a boatload of firepower and boasting...and they cause more trouble than they stop.
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[User Picture]From: vvalkyri
2012-03-28 02:00 am (UTC)
;nod; OTOH what I can't tell from the article is whether or not there are other groups that work with and are trained by police but don't do so under the registered name Neighborhood Watch.

I'd be curious to know whether or not a) the gated community did have a "this group is Security" contingent and b) whether, if so, there was some sort of coordination between that and police.

(I see someone mentioned hradzka's post - his word for the eager beavers was 'mall ninja')
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[User Picture]From: cissa
2012-04-03 10:20 pm (UTC)
What about when the unarmed attacker is twice the size of the person he's attacking?
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-04-03 10:41 pm (UTC)
Are you saying that Martin was twice the size of Zimmerman? That he made an unprovoked attack?

Because the Martin murder is the one under consideration here. We're not discussing every possible attacker/defender scenario. We're discussing one in which Zimmerman followed Martin, thoroughly spooking him, and then shot him, claiming self-defense. The voice analysis of the screams heard over the phone--two analyses, by two independent forensic voice analysts--are that it was not Zimmerman screaming (though he said it was. A witness said it was Martin and the police tries to suppress that statement.)

Now if you're in your own home and attacked by someone twice your size--that's a different situation entirely. It's not under discussion, and it would clearly fall within the "stand your ground" law: you could use a knife, a gun, an iron skillet, a baseball bat to defend yourself. If you're clerking in a store and some customer twice your size attacks you--what you do is self-defense.

But when someone carrying a firearm stalks someone (following them in a car counts) that person is contemplating the use of lethal force--that's why he/she has the firearm. And that's called hunting, and then murder, not self-defense. The big issue here is that the police department accepted Zimmerman's statement without question and did not do what they should have done in any case where a man with a gun shoots a person without one.

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[User Picture]From: cissa
2012-04-03 11:04 pm (UTC)
No, I was not saying that Martin was menacing. I think it is clear that he was not.

I was responding exclusively to the idea that unarmed vs. armed was necessarily NOT self-defense; that was the comment I replied to, and i don't think that's appropriate.

I seem to have derailed here, and I apologize for that.
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[User Picture]From: ann_mcn
2012-03-27 10:35 pm (UTC)
First, I'd like to link please.

Second, I grew up watching TV in the 50's and 60's - Westerns and the Andy Griffith show. A common trope on Westerns was the vigilante who killed an innocent person, sometimes another white, but most often an outsider of some sort. And Barney Fife on Andy Griffith, who was hypereager and vigilant, and so was not allowed to carry any bullets for his gun.

Where are the equivalents in mass media now? Zimmerman apparently is not racist in the strict sense of an hater and Klan member, but he did have biases that he did not recognize. We need to be taught to notice our own leanings when we are young.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-03-27 11:18 pm (UTC)
Sure--link away.

As for how to define a racist, and your statement that Zimmerman "apparently is not racist in the strict sense of an hater and Klan member"...that is not really the definition. Many racists are not Klan members, for one thing (some racists avoid connection with openly racist organizations.) But here are the facts given that point to Zimmmerman being racist: a) he found a black youth walking down the street to be suspicious, to warrant report and to warrant following and harassing. A complete review of his previous 911 calls, and their subjects (were they all dark-skinned) would clarify the matter, but considering a black person walking down the street "suspicious" and worth following and harassing is a strong indication of racism. b) On one of his 911 tapes he referred to Martin as a "coon" (a derogatory term used by racists) and expressed disgust that "they" (people like Martin) were "getting away."

Oscar Hammerstein's "They Have To Be Carefully Taught" (From _South Pacific_ from those who don't know it) is a scathing denunciation of racism in that time period. It hasn't changed, except that we've peeled off some of the excuses and left its ugliness exposed.
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[User Picture]From: ann_mcn
2012-03-27 11:30 pm (UTC)
I was unclear. Many whites try to limit the definition of racism to the Klan mentality, which is part of the vocabulary challenge when the issue is discussed. They will argue that Zimmerman is not racist, and then swallow whole the idea that walking while black and wearing a hoodie is being suspicious and threatening, never hearing the underpinnings of that idea.

Way back in the late 60's, at a church conference in the South, I was one of a group of teenagers who had an encounter session with Mickey Leland and some of the Black Cats - Black Community Action Team from Houston. They called us racist and prejudiced, and we thought we weren't. They took us apart and put us back together again, and most of us were crying, but it had a profound effect on me, making me examine all my thoughts for the unconscious biases forever. I'll always have been raised in Jim Crow Alabama, but they changed me.
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From: geekmerc
2012-03-28 04:56 pm (UTC)
We live in a racist (I really hate the term considering the last I've read scientists still don't consider us to have race) and prejudiced world. The scariest thing is that it tends to focus too much on people of lighter skin color and their viewpoints and not on the overall state. I can understand sensitivities to a degree, but I've seen little in terms of education or societal reform to correct our conceptions. Why can we have a Black Entertainment Television, but not White Entertainment Television? I can agree with having a channel dedicated to something. I mean, we do have history channels which don't play science fiction (debatable).

Racial slurs are common by comedians of specific ethnic groups, but not allowed by comedians of other ethnic groups. This in itself is racism as we've seemed to define it. It is inequality no matter how we view it.

The double standards within our society always aggravate me. It doesn't matter if we determine it based on religion, skin color, ethnicity, sex, etc. Consider the distaste that some working women have for women who consider themselves housewives. Consider the viewpoint of some African countries towards Americans descended from slaves taken from those same countries. Too often I hear that it's an American thing, yet that is usually due to ignorance. The entire world is prejudiced in one way or another. I'm prejudiced against certain authors.
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[User Picture]From: ann_mcn
2012-03-28 09:51 pm (UTC)
Well, we have had white entertainment networks for more than 60 years. There were decades with no people of color except in service positions, and few of them. The wonderful thing about the arts is getting to walk in someone else's shoes, to learn what hurts or is funny, what is a challenge that you never thought of. Most people in the US are very familiar with white middle class healthy male POVs, so it behooves us all to read and watch (I volunteer at theatres) stories about all sorts of people. Women, black, physically challenged, other nations, intellectual or emotional differences - whatever you are not. AS I said, we have had white entertainment for a very long time.

Everybody calling names and being ugly does not get rid of racism. Treating everyone equally badly is not "fair", either. All parents know that! All we can do is behave and speak as best we can, to perhaps lessen the anger.

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From: geekmerc
2012-03-28 10:40 pm (UTC)
We did predominately have white actors for years. It wasn't right. I'm not sure some of the quotas we have today, which allow lesser qualified people positions strictly based on them not being white, is right either; although I do understand the reason for it and tolerate it. My objection isn't to the material, it is to slanted viewpoint that "We can call something black and it is good, but if we call it white it will be considered racist." It is the stigma, the oversensitivity, and the idea that someone owes someone else something special that needs to die out. Perhaps it will in another 100 to 200 years.

Honestly, I don't get what skin color has to do with it. A person who grows up in the US is an American. That's it. People from the various countries of Africa don't consider themselves to be the same any more than those from North America or Europe do.

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From: (Anonymous)
2012-03-30 09:27 pm (UTC)

trayvon Martin

I can understand the presumption of racist bias in the judgments relating to the Trayvon Martin case; I assumed the same. But there may turn out to be one big problem and I wonder if people advancing this line are prepared to react to it if it is affirmed: namely, suppose it is shown the screaming on the 911 tapes is Zimmerman. Listen to it.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-03-31 03:29 pm (UTC)

Re: trayvon Martin

Surveillance tapes from the police station, released just this past week, show Zimmerman entering the police station with no sign of injury to his face, no blood, nothing. He did not visit the ER at the hospital, either (though it's possible he saw a physician elsewhere.)

So if it is "shown" that he was the one screaming for help, you have to wonder why...and you have to wonder why, when a witness said she heard Trayvon screaming, the police quickly "corrected" her to inform her (and the world) that she heard Zimmerman screaming.

And even if he is the one screaming...he started the problem by going against police orders to quit following the person he found "suspicious". That makes him the aggressor. If Trayvon hit him, Trayvon should have been protected by the "stand your ground" law in the same way Zimmerman (wrongly) claims for himself. Did Zimmerman threaten him verbally, or try to grab him and pull him into the truck, or restrain him? He had no legal right to do any of that, since Trayvon was not in the act of committing a crime...and Trayvon had a right to defend himself.

Since you did not identify yourself--and it's been long enough since I posted the notice in the original post about anonymous posts, you must identify yourself in the next post or it will be deleted. Name, location, some background of your experience that will lend credibility to what you say.
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From: paulliver
2012-04-01 08:43 am (UTC)
We still have predominately white actors, and among them predominately male actors. The only reason there were any black TV shows prior to "Cosby" was a federal regulation requiring diversity. Once the regulation was removed, black TV shows slid out of existance, because the logic of the market means attracting the eyeballs of the best consumers: white people. As long as whites have most of the disposable income advertisers want to attract, minority characters will be an after thought.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-04-03 11:03 pm (UTC)
I wrote a previous reply to this, which disappeared into the ether, so will try again.

Although ABC, NBC, and CBS do not have any all-black TV shows, they all do have TV shows featuring black actors and actresses, which is a huge change from my childhood. TV then was snowy white except for the occasional black servant or black loafer. Black roles on major network TV shows include: head of NCIS, special agent & former Navy Seal on NCIS-Los Angeles, doctors (including black female doctor) on Gray's Anatomy and Private Practice, co-starring role as investigator in Criminal Minds, forensic pathologist in Body of Proof, head of a detective division in NYPD in Castle. These are not "sidekick" roles. Before the evening shows worked that many black actors into existing series, the soap operas were already doing it, introducing black characters in non-service roles in the same venues and with the same weight as white characters: educated, ambitious, competent (as a soap-opera character is allowed to be--professionally, anyway.) One-episode parts on these and other shows include military officers as well as enlisted, clerks and store owners, medical professionals, teachers, family members in middle-class homes, as well as blue-collar workers. They are shown as intelligent, competent, principled--but with complexity, including personal problems.

TV provides more roles for women, both as leads and as secondaries, so we see black women on TV who are in positions of responsibility and perform well.

Cosby's show made it imperative for black people in television dramas to be more than crooks and servants (though some do still play those roles.) The integration of these shows is a huge change compared to TV in the fifties. It's less in movies, because a movie only lasts 90-120 minutes, making every character but the protagonist more disposable. A TV series that lasts into its second year creates expectations in its viewers, and they aren't thrilled when their favorite character is killed off or replaced by a different actor.
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From: (Anonymous)
2012-04-04 05:10 pm (UTC)

The Flaw is in the Law (Elizabeth Dowling)

In 1985 I was raped at gunpoint; yes life is tough. (I am Elizabeth Dowling.) Because of various difficulties (everything was scheduled around the defendant, not my schedule, and it went downhill from there), I started researching the rights of victims.

I agree that defendants need all the Constitutional laws that exist; imagine a place where the police could break down your door for no reason (well, it happened to Kenneth Chamberlain, shot dead inside his home Nov. 19, 2011 for the crime of a medical alert malfunctioning, in White Plains, NY). Imagine that the police could wire-tap you without any warrant (whoops, again, they are allowed to track internet, Facebook, cell phone calls, and more now under the rules of the Patriot Act and other new acts). Or imagine that they could arrest you and put you in prison without a charge (whoops...). Well, at least in lovely writing, the protection of the Magna Carta and Roman Law "Due Process" gives at least the semblance of authority in the U.S. Constitution. (Roman law is quoted by St. Paul in the book of Acts when brought to a Roman court: Acts 25:16 "It is not the custom of the Romans to condemn any man, before that he who is accused have his accusers present, and have liberty to make his answer, to clear himself of the things laid to his charge.")

The 9th Amendment of the Constitution mentions unwritten rules. "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." This had to mean the rest of common law and Magna Carta, because those were the rights "retained by the people." However, this offers no protection for victims, because for the most part, the 9th Amendment is ignored, since it spells out none of these "certain rights," and the 10th Amendment encourages laws to be ignored that are not spelled out.

In an A.C.L.U. book about victims' rights, they sift through the law in the Constitution:

Legally, the victim of any crime is "society." Society will now pay for legal actions unlike in colonial times where victims had to pay police and courts and jails or the criminals would not be tried and jailed. But the law should have required society to do these things without taking away rights of victims, who only may sue in civil court. If "society" does not feel that it is a victim, then a criminal could go free, a problem long before "Stand your ground."

Legally, the actual victim of assault or death is only a "witness" to any crime. Evidence against a criminal can be ignored. In the case of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., his son is begging the NY DA to admit the audio and video recording of police killing his father, but there is no law compelling the DA to do it. The police said that this man had come at them with a hatchet and a butcher's knife. Audio and video show a man at first telling them his heart monitor had gone off by mistake; the medical alert company telling the police that the call was canceled; the police banging on the door, telling the man they were coming in anyway; and shooting him. (The police added the "n" word, and made fun of Mr. Chamberlain when he said "Semper Fi" since he had been a Marine for 6 years. He was also a retired corrections officer.) The DA is not required to pursue the case in a timely manner, nor press charges against the police who shot Mr. Chamberlain, nor reveal the names of those police who did the crime, nor use evidence.

(A footnote to this: At least in the case of Trayvon Martin there are nationwide petitions for due process; in the case of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., his son assumed that the prosecutor would do the right thing, only to find out since that time that nothing has been done, and nothing is required to be done. Yes, those demonstrations that annoy some people are unfortunately necessary.)

As Charles Dickens had a character say, "The law is a ass." The law is flawed.
Legislatures have more "important" things to do than write Constitutional Amendments that might protect people's rights. These problems will continue. (By the way, I'm not a "survivor," I am a "witness.")
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-04-04 05:35 pm (UTC)

Re: The Flaw is in the Law (Elizabeth Dowling)

I signed the online petition that Kenneth Chamberlain Sr.'s son put up--that was damnable. One of the things that infuriates me is the way that prosecutors and judges can withhold or refuse to admit clearly relevant evidence by either side. The first time I realized this happened, it was a case involving accusations of child abuse. The child had a diagnosis of osteogenesis imperfecta since infancy--diagnosed at a top clinic, under treatment for it. One one occasion, the family took the child--who'd suffered another fracture--to a closer ER. A nurse there decided it was abuse and contacted the police. All the children were removed, and at the parents' trial, the judge refused to allow expert medical testimony on the child's diagnosis. The DA had a nice juicy case that made him look good, so let's not have any contrary evidence confusing the jury.

A DA with a similar attitude is right here in my county, where he "graduated" from prosecutor to judge. He withheld clearly exculpatory evidence in a murder and the convicted man spent many years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

These are two examples of evidence suppressed to make prosecution easier, but I know there are also cases (like that of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr, and Trayvon Martin) when the suppression of evidence is to protect the guilty. This makes a mockery of jury trials. How the heck can jurors hope to arrive at a reasonable verdict when they're denied access to all the facts? Warps my brain and infuriates me.

And that's not even counting the breaches of those rights promised in the Constitution by later legislators entertaining control fantasies.
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