Sunday, July 14, 2013
This isn't the first time I've said that Justice in America isn't about the law, it's about the lawyers. It won't be the last time. The web footed honkers and quackers at CNN were still telling each other as I switched it all off and went to bed that we have a pattern of letting killers go free, but if you have a memory longer than a goose and if you still make an effort to look past the selected stories the angertainment industry allows us you'd be aware that if there is a pattern, it's a pattern of framing the innocent.
I was appalled last Friday night when Cornell West told us on Bill Maher's show that Florida's Stand Your Ground law allowed everyone to carry a gun, but not surprised. The level of ignorance about gun laws is shockingly high, stubbornly held and sadly near universal amongst those most vociferously opposed to public ownership of weapons. Tragically sad because the law is written to exclude the right to chase down, confront and threaten or even to escalate a dispute if one wants to claim self-defense, but as I said, it's not about the law, it's about glib and sarcastic trial lawyers, dull witted jurors and ignorance.
I dread to read the news this morning. I don't want to lose my breakfast over yet more railing against guns, I don't want to hear that the decision to acquit Zimmerman was all about race or any of the other stale arguments imposed on this case before Trayvon Martin was interred. As far as I'm concerned, it's just another flim-flam defense based on making the law seem to say what it doesn't, and it doesn't say that you can shoot someone -- an unarmed someone who knocks you down or gives you a bloody nose particularly when you instigated the fight and violated someones civil rights in the process. In fact, the law was designed to allow someone like Martin to use deadly force to defend himself against someone, some "crazy cracker" posing a credible threat to his life to force him out of any place he had a right to be. He brought his fists and some skittles to a gun fight.
Innocent people wind up on death row. People are incarcerated for decades and their lives ruined for smoking Marijuana or receiving naked pictures of a girlfriend on a cellphone. People are locked up with false accusations and to me, that's worse than that a guilty man should go free, but although the NRA will doubtless try to make him a folk-hero like Bernhard Goetz, there is little similarity. Martin wasn't carrying a sharpened screwdriver and demanding money and Goetz didn't corner the muggers in a dark alley. Goetz wasn't a vigilante, Zimmerman I think, was, defending a community against burglars by carrying weapons and confronting and chasing suspicious people, something the gun laws do not permit.
But again, it's about the lawyers and while it's a respectable and necessary profession in any civilization, people like Mark O'Mara disgust me, convincing a jury that his "muscle tone" and perhaps his dangerous, hoodie wearing image was responsible not only for Zimmerman having chased him down but justified shooting him.
No doubt many axes of all sorts will be ground on this case. Perhaps as with OJ and Bernhard Goetz there will be a wrongful death suit and I think there's a good case for it. Although I don't think either victim or vigilante was without fault or are in any way heroes, I do think the preponderance of responsibility is on Zimmerman. There is a responsibility on us as well -- not to traduce the law, misrepresent it or to make more of this case than it is for the purpose of furthering our politics, but of course, this being America it's a false hope to expect us not to -- as false as we are.