Obama on the Zimmerman Verdict

 

President Barack Obama’s statement on the acquittal of George Zimmerman:

The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.

First, Martin’s death was a tragedy just as all death is a tragedy, but it was not a specific tragedy for all of America, no more than the death of a child in a car accident in California is a tragedy for people in Montana. No more than the shooting death of a child in Chicago is a tragedy to politicians in Washington, D.C.

Second, the only reason this case “elicited strong passions” is because the media built the stake of racism and President Obama lit the match. Over the last several months, the media, racial activists, legal commentators, and Americans ignorant of the law have stoked the flames.

Third, yes, Mr. President, we are a nation of laws. You would do well to remember that fact when you make appointments like czars outside of the legal process, delay the implementation of laws as in the case of the Affordable Care Act, and ignore rules relating to foreign aid, such as the requirement to cut off money when a democratically elected government has been toppled in a military coup.

Fourth, we should not “ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence.” We should ask one another if we’re doing all we can to raise children who do not resort to violence when they feel disrespected, and we should ask politicians to stop exploiting tragedies to promote gun control legislation, twisting pain and loss into a political agenda.

Finally, collective guilt is as unacceptable as collective redemption. If the president’s call for the prevention of future tragedies is to be taken as he presented it—following a call to “stem the tide of gun violence”—then he thinks Martin’s death could have been prevented if Zimmerman never had a gun.

That’s technically true, obviously. But what Obama and so many others fail to see in this situation (and on the broader issue of gun control) is that if Zimmerman had not had a gun, he might be the one dead today. That’s because Martin attacked him and beat his head repeatedly against the cement. 

As the jury determined, Zimmerman didn’t murder Martin, so he must have acted in self-defense as he claimed. Without a gun to protect himself, he might not be alive today. Would that have been a national tragedy, Mr. President? Would we be spreading collective blame in that situation and calling for collective redemption?

It is not the job of each American to try to prevent tragedies by taking away every American’s Constitutional right to defend themselves. That is not the way to honor Trayvon Martin. The way to honor Martin, to honor anyone who has died, is to show love, grace, and compassion to their families. And, yes, where it is appropriate, to examine the cause and to seek justice if warranted. In this case, the cause was a violent attack by a teenager who chose hostility over communication.

That is a reason to reflect, to examine the state of our culture. But the question of why a young man’s impulse was toward violence and not peace is one that is not being asked. Not by the media or activists or social commentators, and not by the President of the United States. 

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DCMcAllister

    FloppyDisk90—I couldn’t disagree more in this particular instance. Obama inserted himself in the case from the beginning, something that was outrageous. He continues to stoke racial tensions and to manipulate tragedies for his own political agenda to take away our liberties. His words not only need to be picked apart, he needs to be confronted for his unconscionable behavior.

    • #31
  2. Profile Photo Inactive
    @JoALT

    Obama would not let any young grave of Narrative potential go to waste. Amazing how fast he is standing on it promoting his own agenda in the same breath that he is calling for calm for Trevor’s parents. Despicable. 

    • #32
  3. Profile Photo Thatcher
    @DanHanson

    Obama shouldn’t be saying anything at all.  This has nothing to do with him, and one of the reasons it turned into a big deal is because he opened his mouth and inflamed racial tensions before all the facts were in.  He has a habit of doing that.

    As the court case showed, the facts are pretty much consistent with what George Zimmerman claimed:  Travon Martin jumped him, got him on the ground, and started beating him mercilessly.  What the black community should have been lamenting is the fact that Martin’s actions fed right right into the stereotype they are trying to fight.  He’s the one who initiated violence here.

    Now, you can argue that Zimmerman was a cop wanna-be, maybe a guy who thought strapping on a gun made him a tough guy, or that he was irresponsible in not listening to the cop’s advice to stay in his car.  But using that as an argument against shooting someone who is beating you to death is just like saying, “Hey, she wouldn’t have been raped if she didn’t wear that short skirt and walk down that dark street.”  Perhaps true, but irrelevant.

    • #33
  4. Profile Photo Member
    @ColinBLane
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.

    D.C. McAllister

    IANAL (obviously!) but …

    You might want to consider not using an acronym in this instance, unless you don’t mind being confused with Tobias Funke …

    • #34
  5. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Valiuth

    Wow, there is no proof other than Zimmerman’s testimony that Trayvon started the fight. We know a fight happened and that Trayvon was winning until Zimmerman shot him. That isn’t enough to make either party guilty of any crime beyond a reasonable doubt. I think Trayvon deserves some assumption of innocence too.

    • #35
  6. Profile Photo Inactive
    @GroupCaptainMandrake

    I was studying the Office of New York City Comptroller to see what NY is going to get into if they choose to elect Eliot Spitzer.   The powers and duties of the office are set out here.  The website summarizes it thus: 

    The mission of the office is to ensure the fiscal health of New York Cityby advising the Mayor, the City Council, and the general public of the City’s financial condition.

    I read the document fairly quickly, but it seems to be in the spirit of the quotation above.  It came as something of a surprise to me, therefore, to read this statement from the Comptroller’s press office.    I must have missed the duty which includes “mouthing off on a matter with bugger-all relevance to the office of NY City Comptroller”.

    • #36
  7. Profile Photo Member
    @RyanM
    D.C. McAllister: Valuith—the was an eye witness that Martin was on top of Zimmerman with his fists rising and falling. Also, there were no marks on Martin except scrapes to his fists (and then the gun shot of course). It was assault and while he might not have been found guilty of it, he most likely would have been charged. · 1 hour ago

    … and he would, as you said, have been “presumed innocent.”  Valuith, I think your protests are kind of odd.  Martin has not been found guilty by virtue of Zimmerman being found innocent.

    • #37
  8. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MTS
    Ryan M

    M. T. S.

    My interpretation is that the jury determined that the government could not prove that Zimmerman did not act in self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. Self-defense does have to be a part of the verdict, because I think there was no doubt as to whether Zimmerman actually killed Martin.

    Self defense is an affirmative defense.  The prosecution is not required to disprove it beyond a reasonable doubt.  Rather, the burden is on the defense (to show self-defense).  Prosecution still must prove intent. · 4 hours ago

    So am I interpreting the jury instructions incorrectly?

    “If in your consideration of the issue of self-defense you have a reasonable doubt on the question of whether George Zimmerman was justified in the use of deadly force, you should find George Zimmerman not guilty.

    However, if from the evidence you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman was not justified in the use of deadly force, you should find him guilty if all the elements of the charge have been proved”

    from Legal Insurrection

    • #38
  9. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Solon

    The lesson as I see it: community guards like Zimmerman should wear something to identify themselves as such, so people know not to mess with them. Trayvon Martin probably would not have engaged in a fight with a cop. The racial narrative is just so frustrating, I can hardly take it. I will only add that OJ killed two white people.Also, Bon Dylan’s real name is Zimmerman (just saying).

    • #39
  10. Profile Photo Contributor
    @TommyDeSeno
    D.C. McAllister

    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.

    They weren’t asked to determine how or why Zimmerman acted but they had reasonable doubt about the government’s case. It’s a much more limited finding, but it’s the bedrock of our legal system that the burden is on the prosecution. · 12 minutes ago

    I think the change from this, “As the jury determined, Zimmerman acted in self-defense” to this might be better: “As the jury determined, Zimmerman didn’t murder Martin, so he must have acted in self-defense as he claimed.” · 5 hours ago

    Edited 5 hours ago

    Actually, the Jury never has to get to self defense.  Perhaps they did not get there based upon their requesting clarification of manslaughter.

    It could very well be that they never got to the self-defense issue if they found the State didn’t prove any listed element of the crime.

    I pointed out before the verdict that the toughest part the State would have proving would be the mens rea elements in the charge.

    If that was the case, they never had to consider self-defense.

    • #40
  11. Profile Photo Member
    @RyanM
    M. T. S.

    So am I interpreting the jury instructions incorrectly?

    (see quotes above)

    The first paragraph seems to be differentiating the standards…  the affirmative defense doesn’t have to be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” meaning that if the prosecution raises a doubt, you can still find not-guilty on those grounds.

    The second paragraph also seems to reassert that the prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.  The standard is very low for the affirmative defense.  It can be a mere assertion on the part of the defendant, but it still must come in through evidence, or you will not get the instruction.  So my statement was confusing – it is a weird dynamic.

    It may also be phrased “prosecution proves it’s case beyond a reasonable doubt, and you do not believe the defense.”  That jury instruction is pretty interesting, because it does imply that the standard shifts back to the prosecution – it may be a Florida thing… I’d be interested in hearing another attorney weigh in.  Blake?

    • #41
  12. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MTS
    Tommy De Seno

    Actually, the Jury never has to get to self defense.  Perhaps they did not get there based upon their requesting clarification of manslaughter.

    It could very well be that they never got to the self-defense issue if they found the State didn’t prove any listed element of the crime.

    I pointed out before the verdict that the toughest part the State would have proving would be the mens rea elements in the charge.

    If that was the case, they never had to consider self-defense. · 0 minutes ago

    I think most likely they had to consider self-defense to not convict on manslaughter, unless they found Z shooting to have been a negligent act. Though that seems very unlikely, as he said he intentionally shot M.

    “To prove the crime of Manslaughter, the State must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:  

    1. Trayvon Martin is dead.   

    2. George Zimmerman intentionally committed an act or acts that caused the death of Trayvon Martin.

    George Zimmerman cannot be guilty of manslaughter by committing a merely negligent act or if the killing was either justifiable or excusable homicide”

    • #42
  13. Profile Photo Member
    @RyanM
    Tommy De Seno

    Actually, the Jury never has to get to self defense.  Perhaps they did not get there based upon their requesting clarification of manslaughter.

    It could very well be that they never got to the self-defense issue if they found the State didn’t prove any listed element of the crime.

    I pointed out before the verdict that the toughest part the State would have proving would be the mens rea elements in the charge.

    What he said.  As I was discussing above, you can look at it in parts:

    1) Prosecution must prove it’s case

    1a) if it doesn’t, there could be a halftime motion… but only if there would still be a not-guilty even taking all the prosecution’s assertions as true.

    2) defense discusses its issues with the prosecution’s initial case

    3) defense raises any affirmative defenses…

    so they’re considered in that order.  Jury first looks to see if the prosecution made a case (burden on prosecution); it then looks at the affirmative defense (lesser burden on defense); the burden then shifts back to the prosecution…

    Is that a fair and easy summary?  It’s hard to break down.

    • #43
  14. Profile Photo Member
    @RyanM
    M. T. S.

    I think most likely they had to consider self-defense to not convict on manslaughter, unless they found Z shooting to have been a negligent act. Though that seems very unlikely, as he said he intentionally shot M.

    “To prove the crime of Manslaughter, the State must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:  

    1. Trayvon Martin is dead.   

    2. George Zimmerman intentionally committed an act or acts that caused the death of Trayvon Martin.

    George Zimmerman cannot be guilty of manslaughter by committing a merely negligent act or if the killing was either justifiable or excusable homicide”

    again, maybe I’m just woefully ignorant because I wasn’t paying attention.  Was Manslaughter included as a lesser charge option for the jury?

    • #44
  15. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MTS
    Ryan M

    The first paragraph seems to be differentiating the standards…  the affirmative defense doesn’t have to be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” meaning that if the prosecution raises a doubt, you can still find not-guilty on those grounds.

    I think I see what you are saying – the defense has to affirmatively assert self-defense, or else the prosecution doesn’t have to prove it. That makes sense.  But once it is asserted (not proven), doesn’t saying that if there is reasonable doubt as to whether it was self-defense = not guilty then mean that the prosecution must get beyond that (i.e. beyond a reasonable doubt) to prove it wasn’t self-defense? As in they need evidence that disproves self-defense.

    Maybe not.

    • #45
  16. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MTS
    Ryan M

    again, maybe I’m just woefully ignorant because I wasn’t paying attention.  Was Manslaughter included as a lesser charge option for the jury? · 4 minutes ago

    Yes it was – the charges were Murder 2 and Manslaughter as lesser. Check out that link – Legal Insurrection – it has the exact jury instructions they were given.

    • #46
  17. Profile Photo Member
    @RyanM
    M. T. S.

    Ryan M

    again, maybe I’m just woefully ignorant because I wasn’t paying attention.  Was Manslaughter included as a lesser charge option for the jury? · 4 minutes ago

    Yes it was – the charges were Murder 2 and Manslaughter as lesser. Check out that link – Legal Insurrection – it has the exact jury instructions they were given.

    no, I had not seen that (and I don’t really feel like reading them now).  :)  I think Tony is referring to the Murder charge…  but I also don’t know about Florida’s stand-your-ground law; given that, they still may not have had to get to self-defense.  That may also change the color of the self-defense burden, but I don’t really know.  Washington and Florida are pretty different…

    • #47
  18. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MTS
    Ryan M

    no, I had not seen that (and I don’t really feel like reading them now).  :) 

    ha! i understand.

     I think Tony is referring to the Murder charge…  but I also don’t know about Florida’s stand-your-ground law; given that, they still may not have had to get to self-defense.  That may also change the color of the self-defense burden, but I don’t really know.  Washington and Florida are pretty different… · 0 minutes ago

    I know SYG did not really play a role, as it was not claimed on the part of the defense. Tony could have been thinking only of the murder charge, on which I agree that the jury could have acquitted without even considering self-defense, but for completeness I still think for the jury to reach not guilty on both counts they had to give some level of acknowledgement to the self-defense claim.

    • #48
  19. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Valiuth
    Ryan M

    D.C. McAllister: Valuith—the was an eye witness that Martin was on top of Zimmerman with his fists rising and falling. Also, there were no marks on Martin except scrapes to his fists (and then the gun shot of course). It was assault and while he might not have been found guilty of it, he most likely would have been charged. · 1 hour ago

    … and he would, as you said, have been “presumed innocent.”  Valuith, I think your protests are kind of odd.  Martin has not been found guilty by virtue of Zimmerman being found innocent. · 2 hours ago

    My complaint is this. It seems to me that some people who wish to defend Zimmerman seem to want to do this by making Trayvon into a bad guy who brought this wholly on himself and deserved his fate. I don’t think that is fair.  This is just the impression I get from some of Zimmerman’s supporters. I feel that there is a certain antipathy towards Trayvon which I don’t understand and that leads to a too favorable and sympathetic view of Zimmerman. 

    • #49
  20. Profile Photo Member
    @EugeneKriegsmann
    Valiuth

    My complaint is this. It seems to me that some people who wish to defend Zimmerman seem to want to do this by making Trayvon into a bad guy who brought this wholly on himself and deserved his fate. I don’t think that is fair.  This is just the impression I get from some of Zimmerman’s supporters. I feel that there is a certain antipathy towards Trayvon which I don’t understand and that leads to a too favorable and sympathetic view of Zimmerman.  · 13 hours ago

    The whole situation is unfortunately polarizing. Sharpton started this process. It grew from there. I don’t think that any kid who attacks a person as Trayvon did is necessarily a bad guy or deserves the death penalty. Unfortunately, once the ball got rolling it was pretty hard to keep it from following the fall line. As a teacher I often warned my students that the free pass they got in school when being aggressive or disrespectful to adults would not necessarily be what happened in the real world. Many adult males wouldn’t put up with the crap we did.

    • #50
  21. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DCMcAllister
    Valiuth

    Ryan M

    … and he would, as you said, have been “presumed innocent.”  Valuith, I think your protests are kind of odd.  Martin has not been found guilty by virtue of Zimmerman being found innocent. · 2 hours ago

    My complaint is this. It seems to me that some people who wish to defend Zimmerman seem to want to do this by making Trayvon into a bad guy who brought this wholly on himself and deserved his fate. I don’t think that is fair.  This is just the impression I get from some of Zimmerman’s supporters. I feel that there is a certain antipathy towards Trayvon which I don’t understand and that leads to a too favorable and sympathetic view of Zimmerman.  

    I don’t favor Zimmerman or Martin. I’m not emotionally invested in either of them beyond the grief of a human being dying and another human being having his life basically ruined because of racial activists who don’t care about the law. I do care about justice. I’m not saying Martin was  “bad guy.” I will say he did a “bad thing” by attacking Zimmerman, and the consequences for those actions were deadly. 

    • #51
  22. Profile Photo Contributor
    @TommyDeSeno
    D.C. McAllister

     I’m not saying Martin was  “bad guy.” I will say he did a “bad thing” by attacking Zimmerman, and the consequences for those actions were deadly.  · 7 minutes ago

    This is where I part company with you and the jury.

    I have a 17 year old son.  If someone was following him in a car, I would tell my son to do what Tray did – run away.

    If my son later encountered the same man who now exited his car and followed him to a walkway between buildings where he felt cornered, I would have no problem with my son standing his ground and fighting.

    Zimmerman put himself in a position where he should have reasonably expected to get punched (there is no sucker punch in this situation).  He got hit and because he is not a trained police officer, he panicked and shot the boy.

    • #52
  23. Profile Photo Member
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    I completely disagree with you, Tommy. My son, now well up in his 30s was trained to defend himself. However, my advice to him was always to avoid conflict when possible. 

    Trayvon was under no compulsion to attack Zimmerman. The intelligent thing to do would be to simply go home. Assaulting Zimmerman as he did from ambush was completely unnecessary and an act of stupid machismo. If he felt threatened he should have used his cellphone to call home or the police. That would be the civilized response, and it would have kept him alive.

    • #53
  24. Profile Photo Inactive
    @WhiskeySam

    If, as Zimmerman claims, he was looking down and fumbling in his pocket for his cellphone when Martin hit him, there is no other description for it than a sucker punch.

    • #54
  25. Profile Photo Contributor
    @TommyDeSeno
    Eugene Kriegsmann: I completely disagree with you, Tommy. My son, now well up in his 30s was trained to defend himself. However, my advice to him was always to avoid conflict when possible. 

    Trayvon was under no compulsion to attack Zimmerman. The intelligent thing to do would be to simply go home. Assaulting Zimmerman as he did from ambush was completely unnecessary and an act of stupid machismo. If he felt threatened he should have used his cellphone to call home or the police. That would be the civilized response, and it would have kept him alive. · 1 hour ago

    So Stand Your Ground is good for Zimmerman, but not Martin?

    • #55
  26. Profile Photo Contributor
    @TommyDeSeno
    Whiskey Sam: If, as Zimmerman claims, he was looking down and fumbling in his pocket for his cellphone when Martin hit him, there is no other description for it than a sucker punch. · 8 minutes ago

    A sucker punch is dependent on a circumstance  – the victim of it is in a situation where he could not reasonably expect one was coming.

    If you believe Zimmerman, he thought he was following a criminal into a dark area.

    C’mon man.  You have to give me this one.  

    I’m conceding the first punch.  You have to give me that George had to be on guard for it in this situation.

    • #56
  27. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DCMcAllister

    Tommy—#61. The defense didn’t defend Zimmerman on Stand Your Ground. It was Self-Defense.

    • #57
  28. Profile Photo Inactive
    @WhiskeySam
    Tommy De Seno

    Whiskey Sam: If, as Zimmerman claims, he was looking down and fumbling in his pocket for his cellphone when Martin hit him, there is no other description for it than a sucker punch. · 8 minutes ago

    A sucker punch is dependent on a circumstance  – the victim of it is in a situation where he could not reasonably expect one was coming.

    If you believe Zimmerman, he thought he was following a criminal into a dark area.

    C’mon man.  You have to give me this one.  

    I’m conceding the first punch.  You have to give me that George had to be on guard for it in this situation. · 8 minutes ago

    You are correct that Zimmerman should have been on his guard.  He made a potentially deadly mistake in taking his eyes off Martin while Martin was approaching him.  But if I walked up to a guy and punched him in the face when he wasn’t expecting it, that’s a sucker punch.  I think both guys misjudged what the other could potentially do, and it got Martin killed.

    • #58
  29. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Antiphon
    Tommy De Seno

    Whiskey Sam: If, as Zimmerman claims, he was looking down and fumbling in his pocket for his cellphone when Martin hit him, there is no other description for it than a sucker punch. · 8 minutes ago

    C’mon man.  You have to give me this one.  

    I’m conceding the first punch.  You have to give me that George had to be on guard for it in this situation. · in 0 minutes

    It’s all just very odd isn’t it?

    Your assuming GZ thought TM was a criminal, and in many respects he suspected he was up to no good, or at least a “punk kid”. But what does it say about his trust, about the deference he thought youth had that he would let his guard down like that? If he really thought he was a “criminal’ he wouldn’t have done that. He would have exposed his weapon, something to give him more of an advantage. 

    I’ve started to think GZ was foolish not to be fully trained with a weapon, or to bring one at all, but I still just see a guy obsessed with observing and calling the cops.

    • #59
  30. Profile Photo Contributor
    @TommyDeSeno
    D.C. McAllister: Tommy—#61. The defense didn’t defend Zimmerman on Stand Your Ground. It was Self-Defense. · 6 minutes ago

    Not sure how you come to that conclusion – the judge charged both.

    • #60
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