Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 14, 2013

Thoughts on a post-racial lynching

Filed under: racism — louisproyect @ 5:40 pm

Trayvon Martin and his father

A couple of days ago I was talking to an old friend and chess partner who lives out on the Rockaways about the George Zimmerman trial. He had trouble understanding why I was so sure that Trayvon Martin’s killer would go free. He referred to all of the problems with the defense that came up on almost a daily basis on MSNBC, CNN and other cable stations except for the racist Fox News. Zimmerman was told by the cops not to follow Martin. Zimmerman’s injuries were superficial. Zimmerman demonstrated implicitly racist animosity telling the cops that “they” always get away with it. But in the final analysis, I was sure that none of this would matter. Instead, racist solidarity would trump all evidence. An all-white jury stuck up for one of their own. Additionally, the cops that the prosecution lawyers called upon as witnesses effectively functioned as defense witnesses since they obviously thought it was a good thing that a Black youth was terminated. After all, anybody walking around in a hoodie is looking for trouble.

It is very likely that if Trayvon Martin’s parents were less ready to stand up to racist inertia in Florida, the case never would have come to trial. Three weeks after he was killed, the media began to take notice. The N.Y. Times reported on March 17, 2012 that the chief of the Sanford police saw no reason to arrest Zimmerman:

”The evidence doesn’t establish so far that Mr. Zimmerman did not act in self-defense,” Chief Bill Lee of the Sanford police said this week, responding to why Mr. Zimmerman had not been arrested. He said he would welcome a federal investigation. ”We don’t have anything to dispute his claim of self-defense at this point.”

A month after making this statement, Lee resigned after the city fathers realized that Lee was far too antagonistic a figure in a period when the spotlight was being turned on their town.

Sanford has a long history of bigotry, starting with its namesake Henry Sanford, a nineteenth century orange grower who advocated sending Blacks back to Africa in order to “draw the gathering electricity from the black cloud spreading over the southern states,

In 1947 Jackie Robinson was to play on an integrated minor league team in preparation for his start with the Brooklyn Dodgers but when the white citizens found out they came out to the stadium and physically blocked the team from taking the field.

While there were never any lynchings or cross-burnings like there were in Mississippi, the reality of life is that racism pervaded city life in the same fashion as it did in cities like New York or Boston. There’s plenty of evidence of that in Patricia Dillon’s article “Civil Rights and School Desegregation in Sanford” that appeared in the Winter 1998 edition of The Florida Historical Quarterly.

In addition to citing the Jackie Robinson incident that has been referred to frequently on the Web, she points to less well-known but drearily familiar assaults on racial equality.

On September 25, 1950, citizens jammed the city council office to protest the re-zoning of a white neighborhood to accommodate black housing. A delegation of white citizens presented the council with a petition containing over two hundred signatures objecting to the proposed zoning program. The Sanford Housing Authority quickly capitulated to the white residents’ demands and revoked its zoning recommendation.

This, of course, is the same thing that would happen in Levittown, Long Island where Blacks were prevented from owning low-cost homes as part of the post-WWII suburban utopia.

Blacks were also blocked from using recreational facilities available to whites but were even ready to accept them on a “separate but equal basis”. Dillon reports:

The most contentious disagreement between the white and black communities continued to revolve around the use of recreational facilities. The minimal funding appropriated for black playgrounds and recreational centers failed to match those that the city allocated to the white football fields, swimming pool, civic center, and baseball diamonds. In the late 1950s, African Americans demanded either the integration of the superior white facilities or the construction of “separate but equal” recreational centers.

In July 1958, between forty and fifty black teenagers marched on the Sanford Civic Center’s Youth Wing. Though the Center allowed blacks daytime use of the facilities for recreational activities, officials barred them from entering the building at night for social functions. Within ten minutes after the teenagers reached the Center, Police Chief Roy Williams disbanded the group. He recounted: “There was no disorder. All of the Negro youth left in an orderly manner when told they were approaching the problem in the wrong manner.”

Eventually the civil rights movement gathered enough strength so that de jure segregation was made illegal. Sanford no longer had Jim Crow but residential de facto segregation kept the town as divided as ever, just as is the case with most northern cities.

The elimination of de jure segregation in the 1960s, followed by the election of Black politicians in significant numbers crowning with the election of Barack Obama has led many to believe that we were living in a post-racial society. Determined to maintain this fiction, the judge in the George Zimmerman trial ruled out any reference to racial profiling.

Despite all the blather about a post-racial America, racial inequality is as deep as ever. Today Juan Cole blogged about Whites and African-Americans by the numbers. Those numbers were most revealing.

  • Average household net worth of whites: $110,000.
  • Average household net worth of African-Americans: $5000
  • 1 in every 15 African American men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men

The ruling class was most adroit in selecting Barack Obama as president who has kept Black Americans in a state of stupor approximating Odysseus’s crew’s encounter with the Lotus Eaters, an island-bound people whose diet functioned as a narcotic, lulling those who ate there to sleep in peaceful apathy.

In 2009, I wrote a review of David Roediger’s “How Race Survived U.S. History: from settlement and slavery to the Obama phenomenon” for Swans titled “Are We In A Post-Racial America?” I urge everybody to check out Roediger’s book that I described in my concluding paragraphs:

Despite the Democratic Party’s reputation for opposing racism, given a new lease on life with the election of Barack Obama, there are indications that not much has changed since the mid-19th century. The Democratic Leadership Council emerged in the post-Reagan era in order to woo the white “Reagan Democrat” back into the fold, which meant backing politicians like Bill Clinton who offered only the most tepid resistance to Republican assaults on affirmative action and who scuttled Aid to Dependent Children, a welfare measure that was perceived (incorrectly) as favoring people of color.

Even under the “post-racial” epoch of Barack Obama, there are few signs that the Democratic Party is willing to attack the institutional basis of racism as long as the party is under the control of Wall Street banks, real estate developers, and other sectors of the capitalist economy that prosper on the super-exploitation of non-white workers. Obama signaled his intention to adhere to the status quo even before he became president. In his speech to the 2004 Democratic Party convention, he stated “Go into the [blue] collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you they don’t want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or the Pentagon.” Considering how welfare budgets have been slashed in the past 25 years or so while the Pentagon drains tax coffers in order to fend off one enemy or another overseas (mostly people of color in the colonial world), Obama’s remarks can only be considered cheap demagogy.

Furthermore, his willingness to condemn Jeremiah Wright for alluding to the truths self-evident to everybody in the black community and receiving a scholarly treatment in Roediger’s book demonstrate that the task is the same as it was from the beginning: to unite the victims of the capitalist system against those who benefit from it. Since we have hundreds of millions that we can count on eventually against a tiny minority, our final victory is assured as long as we have the courage to march forward without illusions in temporary fixes.

This morning I heard the pundits on various Sunday morning talk shows stating that the Justice Department has plans to prosecute George Zimmerman for “hate crimes”. I will defer judgment on its effectiveness until the wheels begin to move, but I will say this. It is incumbent on the mass movement, especially its Black vanguard, to raise hell. If it took protests to bring Zimmerman to trial in the first place, it will take even more vociferous and more massive protests to put him in prison for the decades-long sentence he deserves.

The time for eating Lotuses is over.


  1. It’s been established by this verdict that any non-black person – even a man safely in his car with a gun! – may claim to possess a fear of “death or great bodily harm” from any black male walking anywhere, get out of his car, draw his weapon and shoot this “suspect” then claim self-defense… and with no living witness to contradict his “story,” be found Not Guilty. And who is surprised at this “legal” development?

    Comment by Richard Greener — July 14, 2013 @ 5:58 pm

  2. This and the Sum Ting Wong broadcast pretty well book-end the American Values we hear so much about.

    Comment by J. Marlin — July 14, 2013 @ 6:09 pm

  3. So many inaccurate facts.To start with, a broken nose is not superficial nor is any head injury, certainly not those in the pictures. Recall a referee died from one punch to the face from a high school student months ago.

    Also, the jury was not all white and it was the prosecution who bounced the final black male juror.

    They found him not guilty because there was no case and because of this the prosecution had no consistent story as a result. Their version changed throughout the trial.

    Perhaps you have more in common
    with Nancy Grace than you thought.

    Comment by purple — July 14, 2013 @ 6:32 pm

  4. Purple, any leftist who fails to recognize the centrality of this racist murder to white supremacy and to the struggle against capitalism is no leftist indeed. Why are you giving alibis to Zimmerman?

    Comment by ish — July 14, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

  5. Sad that you hang undeniable statistics of the oppressed position of blacks on the Martin-Zimmerman incident.

    Comment by Tina — July 14, 2013 @ 6:43 pm

  6. Purple… how can there be an “inaccurate fact” not to mention “so many” of them? Only a claim or an opinion may be inaccurate. A fact simply is.

    Comment by Richard Greener — July 14, 2013 @ 7:35 pm

  7. The perspective being put forth by Lupe Fiasco is more in line with my thinking. Most on the Left have apparently decided they love prosecutors, double jeopardy, and protests organized by (alleged) snitches like Al Sharpton.

    Comment by purple — July 14, 2013 @ 7:45 pm

  8. Richard,

    Ok, you can be my editor. Or instead of being cute you could address the issues I raised. So easy to see why the Left gets trounced when it engages in hysterics rather than internal consistency and facts.But ban away.

    Comment by purple — July 14, 2013 @ 7:56 pm

  9. Ish,
    You are offering bromides. GZ is not some KKK cracker , he is not white in any accurate historical sense of the word. His mom is Afro-Indian and his Dad is white. Like many of his generation he is multi-ethnic.
    But the real point is the prosecution had no case, no consistent story. No Leftist should cheer for a convinction with so much reasonable doubt. No Leftist should cheer the type of prosecutorial skulduggery which occurred in relation to discovery, which West alluded to.

    Comment by purple — July 14, 2013 @ 8:13 pm

  10. The real point is that Trayvon Martin was black, was stalked and killed because he was black, by a person who, because he killed an African-American, is close enough to white to warrant acquittal.

    Emmett Till, the Scottsboro Boys, Trayvon Martin– as the Supreme Court has just ruled, an African-American has no rights that any government is obligated to protect.


    Comment by S. Artesian — July 14, 2013 @ 8:35 pm

  11. Head injuries can certainly be serious, but Zimmerman’s were superficial. And isn’t it quite possible that those injuries were self-inflicted? As soon as he realized that he’d capped a kid who was packing only a bag of Skittles, it might well have occurred to him to manufacture a bit of evidence – a simple matter of tapping his head forward and backward on the sidewalk.

    And remember the abuse heaped on the jury in the OJ case? Has it been suggested in the MSM that the white jurors in this racially-charged case might have been incapable of rendering an unbiased verdict?

    Comment by Seekonk — July 14, 2013 @ 10:49 pm

  12. Purple… You raise only 2 issues; the racial makeup of the jury, and that the jury returned a Not Guilty verdict because the state had “no case” against Zimmerman. As to the first, who cares? Not an issue. Five white women and one of “unidentified” or “unknown” race… that’s all anybody knows about these jurors. Second, you have no idea at all why the jury decided this case the way they did. You may have an opinion, but your speculation is just that. Until and unless the jurors speak in public none of us will know anything except: Not Guilty.

    Comment by Richard Greener — July 15, 2013 @ 12:23 am

  13. Here is George Zimmerman, criticizing police brutality/corruption in a public forum 2011. ‘George Zimmerman accused the Sanford police department of corruption more than a year before he shot Trayvon Martin, saying at a public forum the agency covered up the beating of a black homeless man by the son of a white officer.’


    Greeneer, I raised numerous points in more than one post. For instance, the nature of the so-called insignificant injuries, and the changing prosecution timeline and story. The issue with regard to jury motivation was in response to the post on the site. We know plenty about the jury. It’s unlikely a woman with eight kids from Chicago, who is a nurses’ aide, is out to protect the white race.


    The world isn’t full of cookie cutout humans, it’s a bit more complicated. Until the Left gets that on a personal and political level, it will be dead. It’s not about apologizing for Zimmerman, who was obviously in the wrong on many levels, which everyone is well aware of. It’s a matter of injecting some balance and frankly, sanity. All the illegal and shady tactics used by the prosecution will be used against political dissidents in the future. As well as the notion of undermining trial by the jury, which the ruling class is happy to pile on with. You have to call b.s. even if the defendant you’re talking about isn’t a saint. Because saints don’t exist.

    Comment by purple — July 15, 2013 @ 1:53 am

  14. Among the evidence in the Trayvon Martin case released by the Florida state prosecutor yesterday was a 15-minute interview with a former work colleague of George Zimmerman. The man, who is not identified by name, says that Zimmerman relentlessly bullied him at work.

    Zimmerman, according to the witness, targeted him because he was Middle Eastern. He repeatedly called the man a “fucking moron” and mocked him using the voice of “Achmed the terrorist.” Zimmerman’s stories about the man would involve “bombing,” “I’ll kill your family” and other “jokes” about “Middle Eastern stuff.” According to the man, this went on “for days and days.”


    Comment by louisproyect — July 15, 2013 @ 2:31 am

  15. “Until the Left gets that on a personal and political level, it will be dead. It’s not about apologizing for Zimmerman, who was obviously in the wrong on many levels, which everyone is well aware of. It’s a matter of injecting some balance and frankly, sanity. All the illegal and shady tactics used by the prosecution will be used against political dissidents in the future.”

    Shoddy and illegal tactics are already being used against political dissidents. The trial of Zimmerman will have zero influence upon what tactics are used in the future, as will anything the left says about it.

    But I think that there is something more going on here. Pham Binh posted an article by a leftist feminist criticizing John Pilger over at the North Star. I commented that the left should be able to accommodate feminist perspectives within a Marxist, class based vision of society. In other words, feminism and socialism should be compatible.

    Apparently not. And the conversation veered into whether the US white working class benefitted from slavery. A number of commenters seemed allergic to this, trying to place all the benefits of slavery within a white elite vessel. My sense is that there, as well as here with Trayvon Martin, there is a left anxiety about losing the white working class, which they believe is strongly supportive of Zimmerman. Hence, the need to manufacture an ideological window dressing to downplay the significance of the situation, and even defend Zimmerman.

    Comment by Richard Estes — July 15, 2013 @ 5:00 am

  16. http://meaningofstrife.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/now-what/

    So how do we “fix” things??

    Comment by jlcmom — July 15, 2013 @ 11:57 am

  17. it’s a bit too complicated for purple
    shake your head free

    Comment by jp — July 15, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

  18. To claim that this was just a case of an “all-white jury [sticking] up for one of their own” is ridiculous. Here are the instructions the judge gave the jury:

    There is not a single person here who would not have acquitted George Zimmerman if they had followed those directions. (I actually tried to figure out how I could do this, and I couldn’t. If you can figure out how to do it, please explain.) The prosecution had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman was not acting in self defense even after a ballistics expert gave damning testimony that Martin was on top of him at the time of the gun shot (and thus presumably it was Zimmerman calling for help). Even if the ballistics expert were wrong, that’s more than enough doubt for the self defense (“justifiable homicide”) decision. End of discussion.

    Also, I really don’t understand why a Marxist thinks that justice for Martin means sending this idiot to jail. (Debs had a wonderful line about not being free “while there is a soul in prison.”) I would assume real justice for Martin would involve socialism (preferably while he was actually alive), and the legal case itself has nothing to do with socialism. Instead of claiming that Martin was purely innocent (and that Zimmerman was a pathological maniac), a more useful Marxist contribution to the movement would be to emphasize the real background class, racial, and gender oppression that led to this tragic event: Why were homes being broken into in this neighborhood? Why does neighborhood watch (a quasi-privatized citizen police force) even exist? Why do men in this society feel the need to fight with each other (or to run around with guns)? Would it have been reasonable for Martin to assume he was being profiled (regardless of what happened), and would it have been commendable for him to fight back?

    Comment by sk — July 15, 2013 @ 9:31 pm

  19. #21: To claim that this was just a case of an “all-white jury [sticking] up for one of their own” is ridiculous.


    George Zimmerman Juror B37 Hates Media, Called Trayvon ‘A Boy of Color’

    A mere two days after finding George Zimmerman innocent of the murder of Trayvon Martin, juror B37 in the case has signed on with a prominent literary agent, as a prelude to a book deal. This juror is a woman who hates the media and went into the trial mistakenly believing there were “riots” over the case.

    The video above is the entire voir dire of juror B37— the process during which the attorneys question prospective jurors to determine their suitability. During the questioning, the juror, a mother of two who owns “a lot” of animals, revealed the following things:

    – She dislikes the media in general and considers it worthless. “You never get all the information… it’s skewed one way or the other.”

    – “I don’t listen to the radio” or read the internet, she said. Her only news about the case came from the Today show. “Newspapers are used in the parrot’s cage. Not even read,” she said. “It’s been so long since I even read one. The only time I see em is when I’m putting them down on the floor.”

    – During questioning, she referred multiple times to “riots” in Sanford after Trayvon Martin was killed. “I knew there was rioting, but I guess [the authorities] had it pretty well organized,” she says at one point. In fact, despite a great deal of salivating anticipation by the media both before and after the trial, there were no riots in Sanford, Florida.

    – She referred to the killing of Trayvon Martin as “an unfortunate incident that happened.”

    – Asked by George Zimmerman’s attorney to describe Trayvon Martin, she said, “He was a boy of color.”

    Juror B37 found George Zimmerman not guilty. Her book will surely make her a lot of money.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 15, 2013 @ 9:44 pm

  20. In my own jury experience, jurors paid strict attention to the judge’s instructions. Yes, there is no way for anyone, including and perhaps especially the judge, to know how faithful the jurors are to their instructions. Nevertheless, it appears clear that the case against Zimmerman was so poorly presented that no rational juror could claim to have eliminated all reasonable doubt and still comply with the judge’s instructions. Even if none of the jurors believed a word of Zimmerman’s “story” there simply was no evidence presented to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty according to the law. Our outrage should be with the system, the law as written, not against the individual jurors who, so it seems, really had no alternative.

    Comment by Richard Greener — July 15, 2013 @ 10:37 pm

  21. In an interesting footnote to the case, George’s father, Robert Zimmerman, a full-time magistrate from 2000-2006 in Virginia, wrote an e-book entitled Florida v Zimmerman: Uncovering the Malicious Prosecution of My Son George in which he calls the Congressional Black Caucus a “pathetic, self-serving group of racists… advancing their purely racist agenda.” He also writes that the NAACP “simply promotes racism and hatred for their own, primarily finical [sic], interests.”


    Comment by louisproyect — July 16, 2013 @ 1:11 am

  22. According to B37, half the group wanted to convict Zimmerman with something initially:


    You can’t have it both ways, Louis.

    Racism was certainly involved in that Zimmerman saw a young black man in a hoodie, something that would have most white people in America freaking at least mildly, but there was also Z’s having a gun on him (pecker-extensions make heroes of the liliest livers) and that whole ridiculous “Stand Your Ground” law. From what I’ve seen here, Z. is likely a typical American racist ie like just about anyone who’s not on the Left (and even we have our bad moments). What he wasn’t was someone like Emmet Till’s killers (that ridiculous comparison’s being waved here and there and seriously needs to stop).

    Comment by Todd — July 16, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

  23. Yeah but, “people of color” is a politically correct designation gong back to the 80s, thus I think suggesting, without more, that this juror is a racist is a bum rap. The bottom line is that the DA had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman intended to kill Trayvon. That he profiled him and all that stuff doesn’t address that issue and is not an element of the crime of murder. Consequently, I agree with Alan Dershowitz that the defense had a credible basis for asking for a directed verdict on the murder count as the evidence just wasn’t there for it and the prosecution’s entire closing argument sounded in manslaughter. As law prof Jonathan Turley has pointed out, by caving to political pressure and overcharging this case, the DA lost credibility with its case overall. Zimmerman was not a KKK racist and this is not the Rodney King case. This was a tragic episode in which yes, Zimmerman acted irresponsibly and with criminal negligence, but as the the juror stated, they were looking to convict him of something, but couldn’t based on the instructions they received from the court. Thus a major accomplice in this tragedy is the Florida “Stand Your Ground” law.

    Comment by Sue Sponte — July 17, 2013 @ 3:58 am

  24. The bottom line is that the DA had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman intended to kill Trayvon.

    Well, everything at this point indicates that he was about as determined to win this case as were the Washington Generals were to beat the Harlem Globetrotters.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 17, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

  25. Louis is correct about comparing the prosecution to the Washington Generals. But Ms. Sponte is incorrect. Intent is NOT an ingredient in Florida’s 2nd degree murder or manslaughter laws. Only that the action of the defendant CAUSED the death matters. If done with intent, that would make it 1st degree murder. All the state needed to prove was that self-defense did not legally apply to Zimmerman… and they failed to do that. So, even if the jury didn’t believe Zimmerman, they still had no choice but to vote Not Guilty.

    Comment by Richard Greener — July 17, 2013 @ 3:37 pm

  26. not exactly, they had to prove intent or a similar depraved state of mind amounting to “malice”, first degree would require premeditation in addition to that. That he profiled Martin or followed him or was a wannabe cop or a racist jerk just doesn’t come close to rising to either offense, but could form part of the basis of a manslaughter charge in terms of criminal negligence or reckless indifference: shooting someone even in self defense in a fist fight; countless people are serving terms in prison for stabbing unarmed opponents in brawls, “imperfect self defense” and “upon a sudden quarrel” being classic manslaughter scenarios. Problem was the jury did not have that much to work with, there were no direct witnesses and the defendant didn’t testify, although the hearsay statements of the defendant come in.

    Comment by Sue Sponte — July 17, 2013 @ 6:06 pm

  27. “Well, everything at this point indicates that he was about as determined to win this case as were the Washington Generals were to beat the Harlem Globetrotters.”

    Reminiscent of the SF DA’s Office in the Dan White case, who tanked the case to avoid having to publicize SFPD empathy with White: “Atta boy, Danny”

    Comment by Richard Estes — July 17, 2013 @ 11:43 pm

  28. I get the impression that many people simply don’t have any idea of what a gated community park is, and that may be adding to confusion. In fact, whatever else one may argue about Zimmerman’s temperament and manner and how that affected the situation, he was not out of line in seeking an identification of Martin. We had an incident happen here a year or so ago where an elderly woman called the police because she saw three white kids who seemed to be hanging around her house.

    This gated community park where I live in central Florida has a predominantly elderly populace. At the age of 47 I’m sort of a youth by comparison. People can sometimes invite grandchildren or even great-grandchildren, so it’s not unusual to see younger faces. On that occasion a summer or two ago, it was in the evening when the sun was still up that I was outside and noticed, as best as I recall, one younger male (quite possibly 17) and two females of similar age hanging around the house of another park resident down the street from me. I assumed that they were probably her grandchildren and didn’t think anything of it.

    Later that evening I went out again when it was dark and this time I saw a police car by the woman’s house. I inquired of her what had happened and she explained that some strangers had been casing around her house suspiciously. I made no connection in my mind but just wished her well.

    The next day I saw her again and inquired if anything else had happened. She sort of laughed and told me that some kids who were visiting with another of the park residents had thrown some kind of toy, maybe a ball or a Frisbee, I can’t recall, and it had gone missing around her house. They had tried looking for it, and she had thought something else was up. Eventually it was found the nest day after the police were gone and all was cleared up. A nice happy story with a sweet ending.

    But the point is, she called the police even though these kids were white. So it’s not as if just being white meant that the kids were allowed to walk around someone’s house in a gated community park where they were not residents. In situations like that you should expect that you will have to identify yourself and say something like “Hey there, I’m staying with so-and-so at house number ABC!” It is not out of line for someone to come up to you and demand such information.

    Zimmerman obviously did a bad job of handling this whole situation, and that got out of control. But the repeated assertion that a white boy could be expected to not have to answer any questions is just false in a similar situation is just demonstrably false. For the purposes of a legal judgment there are really two key questions which everything else would have to depend upon:

    1) Did Zimmerman keep the gun hidden away, or was he waving it around in the open?

    2) Did Zimmerman strike the first blow in the fight, or did Martin?

    I haven’t any satisfactory answer to these questions, but to able to justify a legal conviction you would have to establish either that Zimmerman struck the first blow or else that he was openly holding the weapon in a threatening way. If you assume a scenario where Zimmerman has kept the weapon out of sight and then Martin goes up and punches Zimmerman with no weapon showing, well that would be an act of assault and battery committed by Martin. I don’t really know what happened here, but you can’t make a serious case of prosecution by granting Martin the license to punch someone who just asks him “What are you doing here?”

    In some ways this does remind me of the OJ Simpson case. I was glad when Simpson was eventually put in prison at a later time on other charges, but I couldn’t disagree with the original “Not guilty” verdict in the more prominent Simpson trial. Supposedly Zimmerman has been accused of sexual molestation by some women. Maybe something like that will come out and he’ll go to prison anyway. That would be nice. But this specific case did not have enough evidence to justify a conviction.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — July 21, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

  29. I don’t always see eye to eye with him, but I’m broadly with Louis on this one, though I think he goes too far in condemning the jury. I can respect the jury’s decision even though I disagree with it. But I can’t respect the police who only charged Zimmerman after mass protests, and who botched the initial investigation, I can’t respect the lacklustre prosecution, and I have contempt for Zimmerman’s ridiculous, flagrantly racist fan club, who somehow “know,” on the basis of precisely nothing, that Trayvon was really a “thug” and not a “choir boy,” as if those are the only two categories of human being a black youth is capable of fitting into.

    “I get the impression that many people simply don’t have any idea of what a gated community park is, and that may be adding to confusion. In fact, whatever else one may argue about Zimmerman’s temperament and manner and how that affected the situation, he was not out of line in seeking an identification of Martin.”

    What makes you assume that’s all he did? In fact, he flip-flopped drastically in his call to the emergency dispatcher. There isn’t a shred of evidence that he merely politely “sought an identification of Martin” and was willing to leave it at that. In fact, what available evidence there is shows that he wasn’t behaving in a similar manner as the elderly woman in your personal anecdote. SHE called the police to handle a problem, whereas Zimmerman decided to play cop himself. She behaved like a citizen, whereas he behaved like a vigilante.

    I don’t always agree with the WSWS but when they nail something, they really nail it. They articulate very lucidly why this story stinks. This was a piece published shortly before the verdict was delivered, so they didn’t yet know he was going to be found not guilty:

    “Yielding to intense national pressure, the Florida attorney general appointed a special prosecutor, who charged second degree murder, which means killing a person with “a depraved mind without regard for human life.” The jury will also consider the “lesser included offense” of manslaughter, an unlawful killing without malice.

    Zimmerman shot and killed Martin after the young man had walked to a convenience store to purchase candy and a beverage. The gunman, who chased down Martin and then got into a fight, claims he shot in self-defense, which requires a reasonable belief that deadly force was necessary to prevent his death or great bodily harm.

    One cannot assess the impact of the evidence on the six-person jury. The talking heads who dominate coverage in the bourgeois media have tended to portray the prosecution as lackluster compared to Zimmerman’s legal team, which appears better prepared and more focused.

    The prosecution’s opening statement, where the jury first hears the outline of evidence in the case—a crucial stage in any trial—was perfunctory, only a half-hour long. In contrast, defense attorney Don West spent two-and-a-half hours methodically setting out Zimmerman’s defense, complete with maps and diagrams, claiming that he had to fire because Martin attacked him, pounding the back of his head into a cement walkway.

    The evidence began with Zimmerman’s call to 911 about a “real suspicious guy.” Without any basis other than Martin’s age and race, Zimmerman told the dispatcher, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.”

    After telling the dispatcher that “he’s coming towards me” with “his hand in his waistband, and he’s a black male,” Zimmerman abruptly flip-flopped, claiming the youth was fleeing and bemoaning that “These a_______ always get away.”

    Moments later, Zimmerman said Martin was running away and called the youth a “f______ punk.” After confirming that Zimmerman was following Martin, the dispatcher said, “Ok, we don’t need you to do that.”

    Within minutes, Martin lay face down with his arms spread out, dead from a single gunshot wound to the heart from Zimmerman’s nine-millimeter Kal-Tac pistol.

    Most of the evidence has concerned the fight between Martin and Zimmerman. A young woman with whom Martin was chatting by cell phone, Rachel Jeantel, confirmed that Martin felt he was being stalked by a hostile white man. There were three neighbors who either saw or heard portions of the altercation. None was able to give a full description of what happened.

    Experts on both sides described the physical evidence, which was inconclusive. There was none of Zimmerman’s DNA on Martin’s hands, and none of Martin’s DNA on Zimmerman’s pistol. On the other hand, Martin’s fingers had abrasions consistent with having punched Zimmerman in the face, and Zimmerman had a bloody nose and abrasions on the back of his head. Both sides’ experts called Zimmerman’s wounds superficial and minor, not in any way life-threatening.

    Taken as a whole, the eyewitness and physical evidence demonstrates that Zimmerman’s aggressive pursuit of Martin culminated in a physical fight, during which Martin punched Zimmerman in the face, causing the back of his head to hit a hard surface.

    Over a dozen witnesses, including all four parents, were called solely to identify the voice calling for help heard in the background of a 911 call placed by one of the neighbors.

    That issue could turn out to be insignificant. Zimmerman had no cause to get out of his car in the first place and pursue Martin while wearing a firearm—especially after being told not to do so. The young man had every right to use force to defend himself against such a provocation, and the fact that Zimmerman may have been getting the worse in a fight he picked does not excuse lethal force.

    The rest of the evidence related to Zimmerman’s recorded statements and the police investigation.

    Zimmerman described events to the Sanford police as if he were a police officer, calling Martin “the suspect”—there was no crime reported or underway—and employing the familiar clichés police often use to defend their unjustified shootings of workers and youth. The prosecution’s extensive use of Zimmerman’s statements, including a self-serving interview on the right-wing Hannity Fox News television hour, allowed Zimmerman to present his version of events to the jury on multiple occasions without having to take the witness stand, where he would have been cross-examined.

    Nevertheless, Zimmerman’s own words expose the implausibility of his self-defense claim. Of particular interest is the glaring contradiction between Zimmerman’s initial statement that Martin surprised him by attacking from behind a bush, and the reenactment video Zimmerman and the police investigators made the next day, where Zimmerman points to the location of the fight in the middle of a lawn, far from any foliage that could have conceal a human being.

    If Martin was fleeing, as Zimmerman told the dispatcher, and the fight began out in the open, then it must have been initiated by Zimmerman. Any use of force by Martin was therefore provoked, making Zimmerman’s shooting in response a criminal act.

    While to a certain extent the prosecution’s weakness on key issues can be attributed to gaps and other problems in the evidence itself, it is also apparent that the police apparatus as a whole—within which prosecuting attorneys play a crucial role—tends to sympathize with Zimmerman, a “wannabe” police officer whose only offense, in the eyes of the state, was perhaps excessive zeal in the defense of property.

    The real lineup of class forces was revealed most clearly during the testimony of Sanford police officer Chris Serino, who testified that he believed Zimmerman was telling the truth when claiming the shooting was in self-defense. Credibility determinations are reserved for the jury, and the testimony was clearly objectionable, yet the prosecutors said nothing until the next day, far too late to remedy their blunder effectively. Normally, police officers go out of their way to shape their courtroom testimony to convict the defendant.”

    The parts that I’ve bolded, in my view, constitute the clearest and most concise argument I’ve managed to find as to why Zimmerman should’ve been found guilty of at least manslaughter. His actions that night were indefensible, he started this fight, and he ended this fight – using lethal force.

    Comment by Pariah Dog — July 28, 2013 @ 10:51 pm

  30. Great analysis here by Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks of Geraldo Rivera’s utterly asinine observations about the case:


    Comment by Pariah Dog — July 28, 2013 @ 11:09 pm

  31. “What makes you assume that’s all he did?”

    I have not assumed anything one way or another. Your ideologically charged statement simply shows that you have a tendency to assume things without evidence. There are only a few definite facts which are absolutely clear in this case, but the rule of innocent until proven guilty means that Zimmerman can not be convicted simply because the evidence does not allow us to rule him as definitely innocent. Without strong evidence of guilt the jury is obligated to rule not guilty.

    One thing which is very definitely true in this case, and which most of the amateur prosecutors on the internet have overlooked, is that Zimmerman very definitely would have a right to demand that Martin identify himself. This much has nothing whatsoever to do with racial profiling. Any non-resident who is walking around in a gated community park, unaccompanied by a known resident, should be prepared whenever asked to simply explain who they are visiting, what they are here for, to any resident who might ask them. If a person is walking around a gated community park late at night without anyone else who resides in the park, and if that non-resident happens to of an age which clearly indicated that they are not a park resident, then they need to be prepared that any honest person could see them and become suspicious. I’ve seen that happen right here in my own park with white people who are staying as guests with some residents but who some other residents call the police about because they see strangers in the park. This much is not a racial issue.

    Now it is possible that Zimmerman either assaulted by Martin by throwing the first punch at him, or that Zimmerman was waving a gun around in such a threatening way that natural instinct caused Martin to throw the first punch. If anything like that had really been substantiated in court then Zimmerman would have been convicted. But it wasn’t established and no one outside the court has been able to suggest any other real hard evidence not used in court that could have proven this.

    That does leave us with another possibility which can’t be ruled out. That is that Martin assaulted Zimmerman without Zimmerman having flashed any weapon at him. If you look at up-to-date photos of Martin, rather than the older photos of him as a little youngster, it is clear that he would be physically capable of making such an assault. That doesn’t prove that he did. But the defense does not need to prove that he did. They only need to cast reasonable doubt on the charge that Zimmerman instigated the fight, and they did do that.

    What would have been devastating to Zimmerman’s defense is if the woman Martin had spoken to over the phone had recalled Martin saying something like:

    “There seems to be a guy following me, he probably doesn’t that I’m staying here at my dad’s girlfriend’s house as a guest, I’m going have to let him know.”

    That would have blown up Zimmerman’s defense. But from the version of things which she gave, it was quite plausible that Martin might have been intending to start a fight. I can’t prove that either way, but that is why the verdict of not guilty exists. Sometimes the evidence is indecisive, as it was in this case.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — July 29, 2013 @ 12:10 am

  32. Zimmerman very definitely would have a right to demand that Martin identify himself. This much has nothing whatsoever to do with racial profiling.

    Yeah, but the cops told him not to get out of his car. Once he did that, he was no longer a watcher but a half-assed cop even though he was probably not much different than the assholes with badges who killed Amadou Diallo or Sean Bell.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 29, 2013 @ 12:15 am

  33. Exactly Louis.

    Patrick seems to be talking right past everyone else instead of listening. He himself is guilty of the very things he levels at others.

    I’m perfectly aware, Patrick, that Zimmerman had the right to ask Trayvon to identify himself. For that matter, anyone has the right to ask that, whether the community is gated or otherwise. What you overlook is that the available evidence does NOT suggest that that’s how it went down: that Zimmerman simply politely asked Trayvon who he was and Trayvon lashed out with violence merely due to a polite and legitimate query.

    Nobody disputes that Zimmerman had the right to ask Trayvon a few questions. I am disputing your notion that that’s REALLY how this altercation began. YOU have ZERO evidence that that’s what happened. I, on the other hand, just finished linking to an article that pointed out numerous inconsistencies and self-contradictions in Zimmerman’s testimony as to what happened. Zimmerman has the right to ask Trayvon to identify himself but he does NOT have the right to go beyond that initial inquiry. He is NOT a cop – though he seems to be afflicted with the psychotic delusion that he is one (he was, in fact, turned down when he tried to join the police force – and the reason WHY is extremely revealing: he failed the psychological component – he was way too keen to make arrests and assert his authority in a bullying manner – sound familiar? Sound like he’s changed much in the intervening time period?)

    You wrote several irrelevant paragraphs which have no bearing on the point I made, by way of the WSWS – namely, that as the WSWS accurately pointed out, Zimmerman’s testimony is blatantly self-contradictory at several key points, and that the most damning evidence against Zimmerman is none other than Zimmerman himself. He contradicts himself time and again – for instance he tells one thing to the dispatcher then contradicts himself moments later. Furthermore, when the dispatcher urged him not to pursue he simply ignored him. Finally, the expert testimony delivered In court was that the physical injuries he endured were NOT very serious. Louis is quite right on that score.

    Of course Trayvon used violence – which he had every right to against a deranged, paranoid stalker who THINKS he’s a cop but in mere fact was REJECTED by the REAL cops because of several psychological red flags he had already raised even then. Quite evidently, he hasn’t resolved his emotional problems in the meantime, otherwise Trayvon would still be alive today.

    Comment by Pariah Dog — July 29, 2013 @ 2:18 am

  34. “I have not assumed anything one way or another. Your ideologically charged statement simply shows that you have a tendency to assume things without evidence.”

    I just presented you with a great deal of evidence via two separate links, which you conveniently ignored altogether. And there isn’t a single piece of journalism written about this case that isn’t charged with ideology of one kind or another, so your accusation is both superfluous and meaningless. EVERYTHING written about the Martin/Zimmerman case comes infused and slanted with ideology. It is not possible to have a completely non-political, non-ideological opinion on this case, and that goes for you just as much as anyone else.

    I am not blaming the jury, as I indicated in my first post where I mentioned my disagreement with Louis. But you seem all too ready to overlook the issues that have been raised by the WSWS as well as The Young Turks: the way the police initially bungled the investigation, the way they had to be practically forced by public protests to file charges against Zimmerman, the way so many cops identify with the Zimmermans of the world instead of the Martins, the lackluster job the prosecution did, the way Zimmerman was able to slimily utilize the racist right-wing media to, in effect, testify in his own defence WITHOUT having to take the stand and be subjected to a proper cross-examination. And so on and so forth.

    What is boils down to is this: there is no real evidence that Trayvon Martin was a “thug,” as he has been vilified as being. There is, however, a goodly amount of evidence that George Zimmerman is a thug (rejected from the police force because of his own behaviour, having a restraining order taken out against him). What does he have to do to be called a thug? And what did Martin do to earn the label “thug” other than be born black?

    Comment by Pariah Dog — July 29, 2013 @ 2:36 am

  35. A few more pieces of key info via the always interesting Young Turks:

    I don’t see how racism as a factor can be ignored here. This story is much bigger than just Zimmerman’s contribution to the tragedy. It’s the way a whole system let Trayvon Martin and his family down.

    Comment by Pariah Dog — July 29, 2013 @ 3:41 am

  36. I can’t claim to know for sure how this altercation began. I’ve looked it over again and again and come back to the fact that there are just a few possibilities with no way of clearly determining which was the true one. In such a context I have no choice but to support the verdict of not guilty.

    Now about that thing where the operator told Zimmerman that he does not need to follow. Of course he did not need to follow and it was a bit reckless that he got out of a vehicle when there was quite possibly a burglar running loose through the park. I certainly would never do anything like that. But you can’t prosecute someone over that, and certainly not for second-degree murder. The closest you could ever come to making a real charge around would be the charge of reckless endangerment. If Martin had been like the guy in Aurora, Colorado, then a confrontation between him and Zimmerman might have resulted in a much bloodier mess with many more casualties. In such a case it would certainly be better to wait until the police arrive and have the suspect surrounded.

    But really you can’t base a prosecution around the point that Zimmerman is not supposed to go up to Martin and ask somewhat rudely “What are you doing here?” He does have that right and in such a case the responsibility of Martin is to respond with something like “I’m a guest at my dad’s girlfriend’s house number ABC and I’m going back there right now if you want to come with me!” In such a case Zimmerman would probably respond with something said in a grumpy tone “OK, let’s go.” They would get to the house and the woman resident would introduce the father who is visiting her and he would identify the son and everyone would probably become friends.

    Well, we know for sure that that was not what happened. Unfortunately, we don’t really have a good enough basis for really determining what did happen. It is a real possibility that Zimmerman may have either started the fight by striking Martin first or else simply waved a gun in his face in such a provocative fashion that a fight was guaranteed to break out. Those are possibilities which can’t be ruled out. But we don’t honestly have enough evidence to support a conviction based on them.

    Another possibility which was certainly suggested by the testimony of the girl who was called to the court is that Martin hi8mself may have started the fight. Many people have tried to refute this by showing older pictures of Martin where he looks like a little runt. The more up-to-date pictures, even the photo of his dead body right at the scene of the event, make him look more like a basketball player than a squirt. That doesn’t prove that he began the assault, but it does mean that we can’t rule simply by looking at his size.

    The testimony of Rachel Jeantel showed that Martin was not only using racist terms like “cracker” (Zimmerman did not use any similar racist terminology in the known transcripts of him talking) but even more important was the fact that he showed no indication that he is supposed to identify himself. Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Zimmerman really was a sadistic child-killer who was planning to murder Martin. I can’t rule that out, though I see no reason to believe it. How would Martin have known this? He would not have. In such a context it would still be his responsibility not to run away and try to hide, nor to attack Zimmerman, but to simply go up and explain who he was staying with, what house it was, and offer to accompany Zimmerman to that house where he is a guest.

    If he had expressed to his friend an intent to do precisely this then her testimony could have shattered the defense case. We would have a sworn statement under oath that Martin was planning to talk to the guy he saw and let him know what was up. Then it would be up to Zimmerman to explain how a fight could have begun. It would be very hard for him to do that.

    As it was her testimony just made it seem very believable that perhaps Martin was planning to start a fight with Zimmerman. I can’t prove that any more than I can prove that Zimmerman was planning to gun down a black teenager. But her testimony certainly allowed this as a very real possibility. If Martin talks about a “creepy ass cracker” without evincing any understanding that he has a responsibility to let any resident of a gated community park who asks (even if with a rude abrasive tone) know the basic details of who he is staying with and where, then it certainly is easy to picture him beginning the fight.

    People sometimes point to inconsistencies between the story Zimmerman gave at the beginning when it was not apparent that he would be going to trial, and the way he described things later. I feel safe in assuming that Zimmerman buttered his original story up some when he was not facing a court, but later realized that he would have to tread more carefully. That can happen a lot in many cases, and is a cause for justifiable suspicion. But that’s all it is. Certainly when compared with OJ Simpson’s attempts to explain what was going on with Nicole, Zimmerman can seem like a paragon of consistency. Fluctuation in the story of an accused can justify suspicions but eventually something more precise would need to be found for evidence.

    The court was quite right in excluding questions about Zimmerman’s background and focusing on this specific case. If we were going to start going into the backgrounds of people then it would be necessary to account for the screwdriver which police described as a burglary tool that was found along with a dozen pieces of women’s jewelry in Martin’s backpack. The court rightly kept such issues out of the case and focused upon just the events of that night, and came to the conclusion that there wasn’t enough evidence to say much either way. If some of the women who have accused Zimmerman of sexual harassment can come forward then we can start having a separate prosecution around that. But the court was right to push all of that aside for this trial.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — July 31, 2013 @ 2:34 am

  37. “Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Zimmerman really was a sadistic child-killer who was planning to murder Martin. I can’t rule that out, though I see no reason to believe it.”

    This is a false dichotomy.

    Obviously Zimmerman is not a sadistic child-killer – he did phone the dispatcher after all. There’s nothing to suggest that he is a premeditated killer. But there’s a good deal of evidence to suggest that he is a paranoiac who misreads signals and is prone to overreaction, including violence.

    You are continuing to overlook certain key facts: Louis linked to an article that strongly points to Zimmerman having lied about his injuries and that his nose was not broken. Moreover the expert testimony heard in court was also that Zimmerman’s injuries were superficial and in no way life-threatening. Simply starting to lose a fight in an altercation does not justify firing a bullet into the other combatant’s heart. There is no evidence of any serious injury, therefore his overreaction is not justified.

    It does not matter who started the altercation – since the experts testified that Zimmerman’s wounds were superficial and minor, not serious or life-threatening in any way – his decision to end the fight by killing Trayvon is unjustified even if Trayvon threw the first punch.

    I feel safe in assuming that Zimmerman buttered his original story up some when he was not facing a court, but later realized that he would have to tread more carefully.

    So you feel safe in rationalizing away any and all evidence that points to Zimmerman’s guilt, even as you throw in wholly imaginary scenarios incriminating Martin. You feel safe in spinning Zimmerman’s lies and falsehoods to cast him in the best possible light, instead of paying more attention to the naked fact of his mendacity.

    The thing is, all the factors mentioned in the WSWS article are true facts. The stuff you’re talking about is purely speculative. Trayvon was not some little kid, he was a larger teen, therefore he could have been the aggressor. But he could not have been the initial aggressor, since it was Zimmerman who made the first move in stalking him and interrogating him in the first place. And regardless of what violence Martin employed in the confrontation, we know for a fact that Zimmerman’s wounds (like his non-existent broken nose which he lied about) were not serious. Only if they were serious could his decision to shoot Trayvon dead be rationalized and justified.

    That can happen a lot in many cases, and is a cause for justifiable suspicion. But that’s all it is. Certainly when compared with OJ Simpson’s attempts to explain what was going on with Nicole, Zimmerman can seem like a paragon of consistency.

    Given that Simpson is definitely guilty of that murder, I’m not sure why that’s supposed to help Zimmerman’s case.

    Comment by Pariah Dog — July 31, 2013 @ 7:42 pm

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