Sunday, July 14, 2013

Zimmerman Trial: Miscarriage of Justice

In the highest-profile racial case since the Rodney King trial, George Zimmerman was found innocent of second degree murder.  Besides the gratuitous pieces on how sweet it is that no riots occured, as they did after the first King trial found the brutal cops innocent of all charges, a few opeds managed to see the miscarriage of justice by the six women, and probably white women, late yesterday.

From the Chicago Tribune, a piece by Eric Zorn, "Zimmerman trial has all the ingredients for a miscarriage of justice,":

"In following the George Zimmerman trial somewhat closely online last week, I noted a familiar pattern:

"A 'heater' case that draws intense media interest.

"Sympathetic victim.

"Unsympathetic defendant.

"Evidence of innocence explained away with far-fetched theories or else ignored.

"Evidence of guilt magnified and bolstered with irrelevant detail and innuendo.
"These are among the key ingredients for all the wrongful convictions I've written about in the last 20 years.

"Investigators and prosecutors put on the blinders early, before all the facts come in. They fill the gaps and inconsistencies in the case with suppositions inspired by sympathy for the victim, rage at the defendant and a desire for what they've decided is justice.

"I don't presume to know exactly what happened between Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin on the subdivision walkway on that rainy night in Sanford, Fla., in early 2012. And, a week into the prosecution's case, I don't know how anyone else can presume to know.

"Zimmerman shot the unarmed Martin dead at point-blank range after a brief, noisy confrontation. But who struck the first blow in that confrontation, escalating a mere misunderstanding between an officious neighborhood resident (Zimmerman) and an innocent visitor (Martin) into a fight and then a tragedy?

"Who was getting the worse of that fight? If it was Zimmerman, was he justified in using lethal force to defend himself?

"The original gloss on the story that galvanized protests nationwide was that a white, armed vigilante had pursued and murdered a black child just for sport, and authorities were shrugging it off.

"This summary had great appeal to many of my fellow liberals for whom it confirmed their worst fears about firearms, the malignant endurance of racism and the cheapness with which law enforcement regards African-American lives.

"I felt it too. But they've clung to this narrative long after the emerging facts have shown that the actual story is, at best, far more complex and murky than the first news stories and protest chants had suggested.

"Martin wasn't the slight middle-school student seen in first photos of him made public, but a tall, athletic 17-year-old who'd had plenty of time to walk safely home once he knew he was being followed. Zimmerman was of mixed ethnicity, and he'd lost sight of Martin that night while attempting to keep an eye on him for police.

"Witnesses who last week testified that they heard or saw fragments of their fatal confrontation have been all over the place — literally, in the case of the young woman on the phone with Martin up until the altercation began. Her testimony places the fight roughly 50 yards from where it actually took place.

"Still, the presumed-guilty crowd has continued to alter their narrative — Martin didn't double back to confront Zimmerman, as the timeline suggests, but he hid in fear after he was seen running away, and Zimmerman found him! Zimmerman's bloody head wounds weren't bloody enough to suggest he feared for his life! — rather than alter their perspective.

"But if they can just take a few steps back for perspective, my friends will see in themselves here the very police and prosecutors whom they've justly criticized in so many other instances. They will see a rush to judgment, tunnel vision and an almost desperate attempt to sidestep accumulating reasonable doubts. They will see that skepticism about the legal process is not something to be set aside when a prosecution suits your politics.

"Again, I don't presume to know exactly what happened between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin that night. I don't presume to say I know whether Zimmerman was actually justified in using deadly force to defend himself, or whether the jurors who will listen to every last word of the testimony will find him guilty.

"But I do presume to recognize a familiar travesty brewing when I see one.

"9 songs and a lesson for all of us

"Old devil time, consider yourself fooled.

"Marge Weber, 79, of Elk Grove Village, has just released her first CD, 'The Circle Game,' an album of nine folk songs.

"Included on the disc is Pete Seeger's defiant, hopeful 'Old Devil Time,' which begins 'Old devil time, I'm gonna fool you now / Old devil time, you'd like to bring me down.'

"She played and sang it at the release party Tuesday night at Chicago's Grafton Pub and Grill, the lyrics a reminder that she took up guitar at 70, when most people are thinking about conclusions rather than beginnings.

"She told me, 'Whenever I think about starting something new that I know will take a very long time to accomplish, my first thought is, "I'm going to be so old by the time that's finished ...." Then I come back with, "I'm going to be so old anyway, I might as well just do it!"'

NBC's Lisa Bloom warned that the case would go awry if the prosecutors ignored the most significant fact about the murder: the racial angle.  In an article at by Noah Rothman, "NBC’s Lisa Bloom Says Zimmerman Prosecution Needs To Go Hard On The Racial Angle In Summation, we see:

"As the trial of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin enters the closing phase, NBC News legal analyst Lisa Bloomrecommended that the prosecution focus extensively on the racial element of the case. She said that proceedings thus far have been clinical and have avoided dwelling on the implication that Zimmerman’s racial profiling of Martin led to their fatal confrontation. Bloom advised the prosecution to focus heavily on the racial angle in summation.

“'In your closing argument, you’re allowed to make argument,' observed criminal defense attorney Seema Iyer. She said that the prosecution may want to introduce the notion that Zimmerman’s bias led him to confront Martin which ultimately led to the fatal escalation.

"RELATED: ‘Race Is The Case’: O.J. Simpson Prosecutor Describes ‘Uphill Battle’ For Zimmerman Prosecution On Piers

“'What is wrong with that?' she continued. 'What is wrong which bringing in race, culture, politics into your summation? you tell the jury when they are picked, "use your common sense, life experience." Go for it.'

"Bloom agreed with Iyer’s recommendation for the prosecution.

“'You know, this case, from the beginning, got a groundswell of public support because of the racial angle, and yet we have heard relatively little about it in the courtroom,' she observed. 'What we have heard is that — 100 percent of the time — that George Zimmerman called police about a suspicious person in the neighborhood, it was because of an African-American male.'

"She added that one defense witness testified that there had been one burglary in Zimmerman’s neighborhood and the perpetrator was a black male.

“'Does that give George Zimmerman the right to call the police anytime someone’s walking while black in the neighborhood?' Bloom asked. 'I don’t think so.'

"She advised the prosecution in the case to focus extensively on the racial angle of the case against Zimmerman in their closing arguments."

Chauncy Devega at summed it up very well in his article, "If Trayvon Martin Had His Slave Pass Maybe He Would Still be Alive: George Zimmerman is Found 'Innocent':

"The United States government has historically worked to protect and serve White people and their interests. The jury's decision in the George Zimmerman trial is one more data point in a centuries-long trajectory of racism in this country.

"The jury looked at the narrative of a white Hispanic stalking, hunting, shooting, and killing a young black man and found it a simple one to litigate. When in doubt defend the right of white vigilantes to kill and murder black people.

"Moreover, the jury bowed down to the power of the gun. The gun protects 'us' from 'them'. The Zimmerman 'not guilty' verdict is a reinforcement of the reality of the colorline, and that the jury intimately and deeply understood from their cultural training and political socialization, that when in doubt side with the white shooter against black 'criminals'.

"The Zimmerman 'not guilty' verdict is proof that black life is cheap again. There is a paradox proven once more about black life in the Age of Obama. We can have a President who happens to be black, but black people are under existential threat, in a near state of 'social death', and once more must prove that we have a right to exist--a right to life that can be nullified at will by those like George Zimmerman who are in bed with White Authority.

"A year or so ago, I predicted that George Zimmerman would be found innocent. If police can shoot and kill innocent black people for the 'crime' of holdinghouse keys, wallets, cell phones, and other harmless objects, Zimmerman's walking away from this show trial spectacle was a given.

"The jurors have to return home to a community with a long, deep history of white supremacy and anti-black racism. The shadows of Jim and Jane Crow were in George Zimmerman's ear that night, telling him to shoot and kill those 'fucking punks' 'who always get away'. Those punks weren't vague chimeras or generic 'bad guys'. They are black men. Zimmerman did the (White) community's will of being a 21st century slave patroller hunting down and killing black human chattel.

"The Zimmerman jury simply agreed with their own racial 'common sense' about black people, our inherent criminality, and threat to white civilization and order. The jury bowed down to their community norms. They could not, nor would they go home, to their white peers in a very conservative, segregated community, and justify how could they send one of their "defenders" to prison for the 'petty crime' of killing a black person.

"The Zimmerman jury also validated the day-to-day life experiences of how race is lived as a series of small slights, micro aggressions, institutional discrimination, and pointed stabbing reminders--as in this decision--of the semi-permanence of white supremacy as a social force in American life.

"The 'niggerization' of black Americans by the American legal system continues with the George Zimmerman 'not guilty' verdict."

And what does all this have to do with criminalizing Conservatism?  A lot, if the decision by the jury was based on racial fears by the six female jurors.  More, if the prosecution threw the fight.  And even more, if the judge's ruling that Zimmerman's violent past couldn't be brought in as evidence was faulty.

The fact remains that the defense raised the racial card when it brought in the woman who was burglarized by an African American, and the larger fact remains that the prosecution decided to leave the issue alone, thus legitimizing racial profiling in Sanford, Florida - and the rest of the country.

Perhaps Eric Holder will try Zimmerman for violating Trayvon Martin's civil rights in the way that Rodney King was exonerated, but it's another dark day in the history of race relations in America, a history still being made not only by Southern white Conservatives, but by Conservatives all over the country - even those very few non-whites.


"For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'."

John Greenleaf Whittier (Influential American Quaker poet and ardent advocate of

the abolition of slavery in the United States. 1807 – 1892)