Leon J. Podles :: DIALOGUE

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Zimmerman: Law, not Justice

July 20th, 2013 · 9 Comments

President Obama has talked about the racial aspect of the Zimmerman case, but what no one has talked about is the explosive ingredient: testosterone.

Would Zimmerman have followed a black (or white) woman around the neighborhood? Would Martin have felt threatened if a white woman had been following him?

Confrontations between young males often end in violence,  bodily harm, or death.

The scenario is all too common: a guy walks down the street in a dubious area and sees a young guy trying to break into a car (his own; he has lost his keys or locked them in the car). First guy yells at second guy, “Hey, what are you doing?!” Second guy: “None of your goddamn (expletive, expletive, expletive) business.” First guy: “You can’t talk to me like that!” and so on, until someone gets his face punched in. Race has little to do with it, and masculinity a lot.

As to the verdict: it was correct. There was a reasonable (and very large) doubt that Zimmerman had the mental frame of mind to commit murder, or even homicide, within the meaning of the Florida statute. Zimmerman might have been found guilty in other states of some form of homicide, but Florida law does not cover what he did.

Zimmerman was guilty of something like reckless homicide or reckless endangerment. He was armed and had the responsibility to avoid situations in which he might have to use his gun, and instead sought out such a situation. Martin did not trail him; he trailed Martin. Who threw the first punch? Probably Martin, but Martin felt that his masculinity was being challenged and perhaps that Zimmerman was a threat (which he in fact turned out to be).

“When asked by his law clerk whether justice had been done in the Sacco-Venzetti case, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes replied,

Don’t be foolish, boy. We practice law, not “justice.” There is no such thing as “justice,” which is a subjective matter… The image of justice changes with the beholder’s viewpoint, prejudice, or social affiliation. But for society to function, the set of rules agreed on by the body politic must be observed – the law must be carried out,” (Understanding Lawyers’ Ethics).

Law, not justice, was done in the Zimmerman case. Florida can and should amend its laws so that what Zimmerman did is not only wrong but illegal. But our Constitution forbids ex post facto laws, so such a new law cannot be applied to what he did.

Tags: Masculinity · law enforcement

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Quite Contrary // Jul 20, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    Or is the question ….
    Would the Zimmerman Case have been broadcasted everyday all day on all the major News Networks and covered ad nauseum on the talk shows for weeks on end if Snowden had not had something bigger than what we already know to reveal ?

  • 2 learning // Jul 21, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    Thank you Leon for pointing this out. A public defender in Philly who would tell us stories of how the need to prove themselves or the feeling of being “dissed” has led to tragedy for young men.

    Unfortunately collective, tribal based feeling of injustice in this case prevent rational discourse in the Martin-Zimmerman case.

  • 3 Mary Ann // Jul 22, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Why should it be illegal to carry a gun, and, when someone who is on top of you beating you up pushes you so your shirt comes up and he sees the gun and says you are going to die and you get to the gun first and either fire it or it fires? Once you are wearing a gun, which is legal, that sort of thing is going to happen when a thug jumps you and beats you up. Fortunately the jury had “the law” to find him innocent with, because the thug part, the drug part (he was high, and skittles and Arizona Ice tea are 2 of 3 ingredients for his drug of choice) were left out of the trial, and those plus the attacking part were left out of the media.

  • 4 Mary Ann // Jul 22, 2013 at 9:44 am

    In other words, how is what George Zimmerman did wrong? And what should be made illegal? It is very hard to control deadly force in the situation he was in.

  • 5 learning // Jul 22, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    The same PD lawyer said that in most cases the truth lies somewhere in between what both parties say. If Zimmerman really followed Martin, that doe not mean he was guilty of murder. It could mean that he was guilty of rash judgement.

  • 6 Quite Contrary // Jul 23, 2013 at 8:10 am

    I find it interesting that Zimmerman will never really be free , while policemen who have definitely been guilty of racial profiling and even unprovoked attacks and deaths, fade into obscurity. Newsworthy diversions capitalized on in the media seem to work that way.

  • 7 Mary Ann // Jul 23, 2013 at 9:50 am

    He followed him a little bit, then turned around and was walking back to his car. Then he was jumped from behind by Martin. And, to be fair, a guy in a hoodie had been burglarizing condos in that section. The facts have really gotten lost in all the reporting.

  • 8 Learmomg // Jul 24, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Consistent with what I’ve been told, QC. Cops can bang down a door, shoot people and their dogs. They will claim they saw a weapon and nothing much is done. It happened to little girl in Detroit while the cops had a TV crew along.

  • 9 A. // Aug 10, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Justice by TV cameras. There doesn’t even need to be a trial. Knowledge of the law ? Who cares about the law.The law is boring and antiquate. We need the cameras to be pointed somewhere at all times. The tv camera+public symbiosis is what the sun is to the sun flower. The lines of reality and real tv are blurred .

    We do not know what actually happened because the narrative is quickly taken and embellished. The same product packaged for a different purpose. Because the whitch doesn’t even get dunked in the river anymore but straight to the pyre.

    Cops bang on doors and shoot people because it is what cops do.However,if under that uniform resides a lowlife lunatic with a badge (due to lower standards in officer picking,demonizing of the uniform by the movie industry and media alike) and you end up with innocent people and their dogs dying on tv

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