Sometimes S… Happens: The Trayvon Martin Shooting and the Zimmerman Verdict

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Criminal trials concern the guilt or innocence of a person who has broken state or federal law. The defendant is considered to be innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution’s responsibility is to convince the jury through the evidence at hand that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A verdict of “not-guilty” does not imply innocence; it means that the jury did not find there was evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to convict the defendant.

This is basic law that the liberals who claim that the George Zimmerman verdict was about racism miss. The issue is not the race of the defendant or of Tra

George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman (Photo credit: ChrisWaldeck)

yvon. Martin. The issue is not whether the killing of Mr. Martin is a tragedy–obviously it is a tragedy. A young man’s life was taken–that is always a tragedy whether it occurs in China, England, the United States–anywhere. Two paths crossed that led to disaster and pain for the family of the deceased. Mr. Zimmerman, who does not seem to be a sociopath, has a conscience–and he will have to live with what he did the rest of his life. The issue in the trial was whether Zimmerman met the criteria for Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law.” The defense failed to show this, and thus the only responsible verdict for the jury to reach is “not-guilty.” In a different state with different laws Mr. Zimmerman may have been justly charged. Given Florida’s law, the trial of George Zimmerman became a Soviet-style show trial that thankfully did not lead to a miscarriage of justice.

Personally I find Mr. Zimmerman’s actions before the shooting overly-aggressive and reckless. He kept following Mr. Martin when the police told him to stop. He left his car, thus making the situation more volatile. I think he realizes now that his actions were wrong–but if it is true, as multiple witnesses said, that Mr. Martin (who was not the saint the media portrayed him to be) began to pummel Mr. Zimmerman so that Mr. Zimmerman believed his life to be in danger, Zimmerman’s firing the fatal shot was not legally wrong.

The mainstream media’s race-baiting, and in one network, an edited audio track, are unethical actions that only stir dangerous passions. Mr. Sharpton’s usual agitation came into play–and his stirring up the pot of hatred arguably led to the brutal murder of an Orthodox Jewish man in New York a number of years ago. I would not have thought any differently about the case if it had been a white man that Mr. Zimmerman killed. The left is truly racist–in its labeling of Mr. Zimmerman as a “white Hispanic,” and in its continual exploitation of African Americans for its own agenda.

The left is obsessed with race–they see it everywhere, in every incident involving an African American. The American left treats African-Americans like children. Instead of allowing self-improvement, liberals supported a nanny state that only made African Americans more dependent. Liberals support abortion which, as a percentage of race, kills more of the African-American unborn than in any other group. Some wealthy liberals enjoy their gated communities while the poor blacks they have exploited to gain more power suffer and die under incentive-stifling liberal programs. By stirring up African Americans in cases such as the Martin case, liberals fuel the racial divisions that help keep them in power. Liberal academics get a good feeling of superiority in supporting “social justice” (i.e., socialism and the automatic assumption of guilt of anyone in a Zimmerman-like case).

Mr. Obama’s behavior has been particularly poor. His taking a side in a legal case was unethical. People complained when Mr. Nixon declared Charles Manson guilty–now liberals prefer to support Mr. Obama’s irresponsible actions. If the rumor is true that justice department officials engaged in anti-Zimmerman protests, most likely under at least tacit White House approval, the Administration has engaged in obstruction of justice.

Now there is a cry among liberals to try Mr. Zimmerman under federal civil rights laws. That may well happen–and then the result of the show trial might be a subversion of justice.

Sometimes s… happens. As a former EMT, I know how easy it is to be on a bad call–many little things add up to disaster. Police officers tell me the same thing. The Zimmerman shooting of Mr. Martin is similar–too many bad things happened, bad decisions on both sides, that led to a horrific tragedy. The Martin family can take action under civil law if they wish, but a federal criminal trial would mean double jeopardy (and while I understand why the laws were passed, it is cases like this that are politicized that reveal the injustice of those laws).

Mr. Zimmerman may have had character flaws that led him to a tragic decision to keep pursuing  a young man in his neighborhood. But his decisions, as bad as they were, were not violations of Florida law. Thus, the jury did the just and honest thing. Bless them for not yielding to public and media pressure.

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How Police Officers Should NOT Treat an Autistic Person

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Dallas Police Department (Texas)

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At  http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2011/10/03/autistic-mans-acting-odd-lands-him-in-jail/ is a story that reveals the way police officers should not treat an autistic person. Police officers have a tough job, and they deal with the worst people in American society. It is not surprising, then, that they are cynical. Sometimes such cynicism is necessary and can save their lives. However, sometimes officers can become so cynical that they do not believe what anyone says, even an autistic person who informs the officers of his condition. If Mr. Blake did tell the officers that he had Autism (and Mr. Blake was wearing a medical alert bracelet), then they should have realized that they were not dealing with the usual troublesome drunk. If an officer did call Mr. Blake a liar, and this would not surprise me, then this was unprofessional conduct and is worthy of disciplinary action. One would think that after the Ryan Moats incident that Dallas police would have more common sense, but apparently these officers did not learn from their fired fellow officer’s mistakes. Do Dallas police get training in dealing with special classes of people, those who have Autism or Tourette’s Syndrome or other medical conditions that can cause behavioral problems? If so, the officers dealing with Mr. Blake apparently ignored their training, and they certainly lacked the virtue of prudence, the ability to adjust to particular circumstances in order to make the correct moral decision. Mr. Blake now sits holed up in his room, afraid a police officer will come after him.

Paul Craig Roberts has claimed that American police are frustrated with not being able to catch the real criminals, so they turn to intimidation and violence against law abiding citizens or those weaker and vulnerable. I do not believe that this is generally the case; officers do catch a significant number  of criminals who end up being convicted and sentenced to prison. There may be some officers who fall into the class to which Mr. Roberts refers. Part of the problem may be lowered police recruiting standards due to a dearth of qualified applicants. It becomes more difficult to weed out the smart-alack, power hungry,  searching for an adrenaline rush officers who cause many of the problems departments face. Funding difficulties may prevent courses on special needs individuals from being taught to officers, even at large police departments. I am sorry if police who may be reading this think I am being overly harsh; since I have Asperger’s Syndrome, I have particularly strong feelings about such incidents. There are times I will talk to myself in public, usually when I am reasoning out some problem to myself. Suppose someone complained about my behavior. Would I be dragged out of a place of business and arrested? I suppose incidents such as this one are understandable; Americans are overly rule-oriented and do not focus sufficiently on the ancient virtue or prudence, or practical reasoning (Aristotle’s phronesis). But a failure to recognize the unique nature of unique circumstances is a moral failure, not merely a technical failure, and that is what, in my judgment, occurred in the treatment of Mr. Blake.

Criminal Justice Professionals vs. “Pure Academicians”

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United States criminal justice system flowchart.

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Criminal justice professionals, such as police officers, corrections officers, crime scene investigators, attorneys, and judges have a variety of political opinions ranging from left to right. This is to be expected, since professionals in any field hold diverse ideas. But most professionals in criminal justice are constrained by the practicalities of their chosen field to avoid extreme positions. Their focus is on what works in everyday life, at a practical, concrete level.

Academics live in a much more sheltered environment. Many, though not all, academics who teach criminal justice lack practical experience as criminal justice professionals. As such, they can “afford” to be more radical in their political views because their views are not necessarily tested in a real-world setting. It is perfectly acceptable to be naive about evil in human nature if one is standing before a classroom or sitting in a room with other academics.

Recently I attended a criminal justice academic conference–not one of the national ones, but local. There were almost no criminal justice professionals in the audience, as one might expect–the audience was composed almost solely of academicians. There was one police officer who presented an excellent paper on police leadership as well as some interesting student papers. The academicians were focused, sadly, on the usual mumb0-jumbo quasi-Marxist theories of identity politics so popular in colleges and universities today. Instead of focusing on personal responsibility, the papers focused on social oppression as the cause of crime, and on race, class, and gender being the only determinants of personal identity and behavior. “Diversity” was interpreted in the narrow sense of gender and race, now and then with economic status interspersed. A true diversity of ideas (or even a true cultural diversity) was not celebrated–any deviation from the radical left wing determinism by race, class, and gender was considered unacceptable–a sign of racism, classism, or sexism.

The problem with such theories is that the ignore the fact that all human beings have freedom and dignity–and freedom includes the freedom to make wrong moral (and legal) choices. The criminal justice system preserves human dignity by affirming that crime is an evil against others, that it must not be tolerated by society, and that the guilty should pay for their crimes. Disparities in crime statistics regarding minorities are not necessarily due to oppression by the majority of a minority, but due to the breakdown of family and social order in some minority communities that leads children to have poor role models and thus to grow up with a vicious, rather than a virtuous, character. To deny a minority the right to be punished for wrongdoing or to always blame the majority for the minority’s crimes is to deny the minority freedom and dignity. It is to place a member of a minority outside the bounds of the universal human condition of “fallenness” and outside the knowledge of sin. Such a view, in effect, dehumanizes minorities. Police officers see this human fallenness on an everyday basis and do not care, in general, for making excuses for bad human behavior. Unless criminal justice academics remove their heads from their rear ends and examine the real world of the police or correction officer, lawyer, or judge, they will remain oblivious to reality–and criminal justice professionals and academics will remain permanently estranged.