Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “george zimmerman”

Zimmerman, Martin, and Legalism – Tom Rossi

The killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, as well as the trial and acquittal of Zimmerman have set this country on fire. There are many implications and many causes and contributing factors being discussed in a civilized manner, or shouted with extreme vitriol.

Today, I want to look at one aspect of Zimmerman’s acquittal. Many people are asking how… how could a jury of six people have come to the unanimous conclusion that George Zimmerman had shot Trayvon Martin as an act of self-defense.

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It’s somewhat clear that some of the jurors went into the trial with that opinion. This was not properly vetted by the prosecutors. But that still doesn’t explain the outcome.

One juror (so far) went straight to video – Anderson Cooper, that is. She said, among other juicy tidbits of insight, that the jurors looked really hard into the law, and just couldn’t find a way to convict Zimmerman, even on manslaughter charges.

From this juror’s description of the deliberations, it’s clear to me that legalism has not only reared its ugly head, but it has taken over the thinking of the average American. What do I mean by legalism? Dictionary.com gives this definition of legalism, which applies here: “strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence, to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit (my emphasis).”

This most likely comes from the constant flood of courtroom dramas on TV. Most of these shows, and even at least one Shakespeare play, feature some tiny technicality – and it’s usually employed by the “good guys.” The good guys are the heroes for either freeing an innocent defendant where there is circumstantial evidence against him, or jailing a guilty defendant who has a great alibi. These would both be good things, of course, but the way this is accomplished in these shows glorifies nitpicking and subverts the intent of the law.

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What’s the intent of the law? Generally, “Don’t hurt people.” That’s it. End of story. That means, don’t kill, don’t beat up, don’t steal, don’t kidnap, don’t embezzle, don’t deprive people of their rights, don’t poison, etc., etc., etc.

But it has become an acceptable defense to say, “Well, the law allows us an average of 30 insect fragments per 100 grams of peanut butter, and our average is 29.95, so legally, we’re not hurting anybody.” At the moment that Zimmerman shot Martin, Zimmerman was afraid. If you look at that moment, legalistically, that fear was justification to shoot. It didn’t matter that Zimmerman had caused the entire scene to take place. It didn’t matter that he ignored police instructions to stand down. It didn’t matter that he had pursued and confronted an innocent teenager for no reason.

Ironically (or maybe not) if Trayvon Martin had been carrying a gun, and George Zimmerman had followed him, chased him, and approached him belligerently (just like he did), Martin would have been justifiably in fear for his life and could have shot Zimmerman. Of course, there’s the whole race issue, but this is the way the law reads.

If juries (and judges) would pay more attention to the spirit or intent of the law, and less attention to nitpicking little details that lawmakers couldn’t possibly have anticipated, we might actually approach something resembling a just society.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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esaeleR sserP adirolF – issoR moT

From Satirificated Press Wire:

.drawrof gnivom si etats taerg siht taht desaelp si tnemnrevog adirolF ruoY

.etsaw ot enog ,gnol os rof ,evah secruoser niatrec taht dezingocer evah eW

.secruoser eseht ezilitu ot redro ni seicilop gnitnemelpmi era ew ,yhw si tahT

.sisnacirfa sunamuhbuS rof sesnecil gnitnuh gniussi nigeb noos lliw adirolF

“.elpoep kcalb” sa ot derrefer ylremrof erew sisnacirfa sunamuhbuS

.tsep a deredisnoc gnol seiceps a fo gnitsevrah eht wolla lliw sihT

.4102 ni detnemelpmi eb lliw ,yrevals sa nwonk ,margorp wen a ,noitidda nI

.ytilitu dessecca-nu ylremrof fo erutpac eht rof wolla lliw siht ,niagA

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.snoisiced truoc suoirav yb elbissop edam erew segnahc esehT

.gnitov no noisiced truoC emerpuS eht saw eseht fo tnatropmi tsoM

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.snoitcele ni etov sisnacirfa sunamuhbuS tel ot deriuqer regnol on si adirolF

.srezilitu laitnetop sserppo regnol on nac sisnacirfa sunamuhbuS ,eroferehT

.elbissop stimrep gnitnuh edam snaidirolF sikamibab sunamuhimeS xis ,oslA

.ssecorp eht detidepxe tsael ta yeht ,rO

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.snur selttikS egavas fo raef ni evil ot decrof eb regnol on lliw snaidirolF

.sgniht rehto gnomA

.erehwyreve snaidirolF rof modeerf drawot pets taerg a si sihT

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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The Good Guys and the Bad Guys – Tom Rossi

As I’ve listened to the debates about many issues in our country, most especially the “stand your ground” laws that have proliferated like mad and become so controversial after George Zimmerman chased down and shot Trayvon Martin, one thing has become increasingly clear: in the conservative mind (as in old westerns and their modern counterparts) there are good guys, and there are bad guys.

This appears to be the idea behind many Republican “principles,” the idea that people are either good or bad with little in between. And along with that comes the equally ridiculous idea that other “good” people will instantly be able to tell who is who in a conflict.

Let’s paint a scenario: You’re in a bar in Repubofantasyville, minding our own business (as “good” people always do), drinking American beer, and packing heat. All of a sudden, there is some shouting in the next room. You walk in with gun drawn, like any responsible person would do, and you find two guys in the process of drawing their own guns. It’s clear that each intends to shoot the other. So who do you shoot?

In Repubofantasyville, the good guy will, of course, be wearing a white hat, while the bad guy wears a black hat. Shoot the black hat, justice has been served, end of story. But what if it isn’t so obvious? The idea behind “stand your ground” is that, with everybody armed to the teeth, no one will try to commit a crime because of the fear of being shot.

But this particular sub-fantasy ignores passion. Sometimes, cooler heads don’t prevail and a fight breaks out. It two guys get into an argument and each knows the other has a gun, won’t each be more likely to pull their gun? It would be illogical to wait for a clearly wrong, hot-headed and mentally deficient opponent to draw his gun first. So each knows he has to be first. And if one sees the other going for his gun, the logical thing to do is to pull the trigger – first.

And there you are, having walked in on this situation and intending to prevent the bad guy from shooting the good guy. So who do you shoot?

It’s all too easy to construct scenarios where “stand your ground” laws would be (and are now) misused, abused, and just difficult to interpret – as in the Trayvon Martin shooting. But this entire idea that people are either good or bad is without merit.

If there ever have been purely good people on this planet, they have been few and far between. Almost everybody has acted (or at least thought) selfishly at some point, putting his or her own needs or wants ahead of someone else’s. Speeding in a car, jaywalking, cheating just a little bit on taxes, telling little white lies… these are all imperfections. And the same goes for the other side of this fantasy. There have been very few, percentage-wise people who could be called purely bad.

Most people are somewhere in between. Most people live decent lives but not perfect. And there is no line to cross over from good to bad, there’s only a gradient. This is human nature. We are complex beings and our social interactions are complex, as well. Policies based on simplistic interpretations of reality are doomed to fail.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Gun Control: Lisa and Trayvon Get Shot – Roger Ingalls

What do Trayvon Martin and Lisa Simmons have in common? The title gives it away but they were both shot. The circumstances behind the shootings are very different with one almost in the running for the annual Darwin Awards and the other probably marked by bad timing coupled with mutual adrenaline and fear.

Lisa was shot by her boyfriend, Steven Egan, in what appears to be a hunting accident. Ms. Simmons did not die from her wounds but she was seriously injured and had to be airlifted to a hospital where she is still recovering. The story behind the shooting would be funny if Lisa did not get hurt but I suspect some will find it hilarious. She was shot because her boyfriend thought she was a wild pig. I won’t go into the details but you can read about it here (link). Incidentally, Lisa doesn’t qualify for the Darwin Awards because she survived.

Tragically, Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman on February 26th. The shooting and issues surrounding the case have been widely covered so I will also not go into the details but if you’re not familiar with it, just Google “Trayvon”. Some will get upset that I’ve linked these two shootings and will probably become even more incensed when they now learn that I’m leading this into my view of gun control.

Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman

Most friends and some associates know that my political views lean to the left and they assume I’m against the ownership of guns but this is not true. I am a firm believer in the Second Amendment – commonly referred to as “the right to bear arms”. However, I also believe the interpretation of the amendment is grossly misunderstood.

Here is the actual Second Amendment text: A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. In review of history, the amendment was provided for the following purposes: deterring tyrannical government, repelling invasion, suppressing insurrection, facilitating a natural right of self-defense and enabling the people to organize a militia system.

As defined in The Bill of Rights and in the context of the time in which it was written, I do not believe the Second Amendment guarantees the public the right to the ownership or bearing of hand guns. How does a hand gun satisfy any of the purposes that the amendment was addressing? It doesn’t. Can you deter a tyrannical government or organize a militia outfitted with hand guns? No, that would be suicide. I DO believe the public has the right to bear rifles, assault weapons, shot guns and any equipment used by the military and government. This may be controversial but it is the true intent of the amendment. Let’s face it, assault weapons make big headline when used for murder but they kill a fraction of  the people in the U.S. when compared to hand guns.

Hand guns serve no good purpose. They are only used in cruel execution of people. They are not practical for hunting, fighting wars or home defense (a shot gun is a better choice against an intruder). Hand guns are designed for convenience, concealment and close proximity killing.

Let’s examine our everyday environment in a setting where hand guns are eliminated and only long guns can be permitted and carried. If you see someone walking down the street or into a store with a non-concealable rifle you can take appropriate action if uncomfortable. You are not afforded this opportunity if the person is concealing a hand gun. An officer, seeing a rifle carrier can request confirmation of a carry permit and ask why they’re carrying at this time – again, not possible if the arms are small and hidden. Also, an undesirable may be less inclined to commit a crime if they see big guns in the hands of legal carriers around them. It’s important to realize that people are already carrying around us so wouldn’t it be nice to know who is?

George Zimmerman had a carry permit and was obviously concealing a hand gun the night he killed Trayvon Martin. Although he was legal in the eyes of the law, his neighborhood watch group did not allow the carrying of weapons. If Zimmerman’s only choice was a long gun, his neighborhood group could have seen the gun, told him no or reported it and Trayvon would still be alive.

As far as the hunting accident involving Mr. Egan and Ms. Simmons, no law or regulation can fix stupid.

“Stand Your Ground” Justifies Trayvon Martin’s Actions, Not George Zimmerman’s – Tom Rossi

The Trayvon Martin “controversy” is at conflagration level this week. In case you’ve been living under a rock, I’ll give you the quick version of what was already a short story.

Trayvon Martin, a black teenager, was returning to the house of his father’s girlfriend in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. He was carrying a can of iced tea and a bag of the candy, “skittles.” George Zimmerman, a (some say “self-appointed”) neighborhood watchman followed him, called the police and got into a scuffle with Martin and ended up shooting him.

In the aftermath, Zimmerman (who was not dressed in any sort of security uniform) claimed to have been defending himself and therefore was not arrested by the police.

Zimmerman followed Martin. Then and only then, some kind of confrontation occurred. The only reasonable way that Florida’s “stand your ground” law could be applied in this situation would be to say that Trayvon Martin was in fear for his life – as he was the one being followed. That would have given Martin the right to use deadly force to defend himself.

But Martin didn’t have a gun, so he defended himself with his fists, it appears. Then Zimmerman shot him. Zimmerman single-handedly decided that Martin was a criminal. And as a self-styled vigilante he chased Martin, confronted him, and killed him.

This seems the most simple case to me. There’s really not much more to say. However, just as in the killing of Oscar Grant, race has become the center issue. Let’s hope that, this time, the cries of racism (though they may well be accurate) don’t drown out the simple circumstances that make it clear that this was an unjustified killing.

Is racism a factor in this case? It’s all over it. Zimmerman singled Martin out because he was black. The police immediately asked on the phone if he was black. And the police appear to have accepted “self-defense” without any question because Martin was black, even though they had clear knowledge that Zimmerman was following him, possibly even running after him.

George Zimmerman is guilty of murder and, in my opinion, it was clearly a hate crime. Nonetheless, it’s the Sanford police department that should be charged with racism. After yet another incident like this, it’s no wonder so many people of color have no faith in the rule of law in this country.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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