Trayvon Martin Updates

[Content Note: Violence; racism.]

In case you missed the news yesterday afternoon, George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin, was finally arrested after 45 days. He is in custody and has been charged with second-degree murder, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. He is being held without bond.

A couple of things to note about the charges: The incident doesn't meet the requirements of the first-degree murder statute in Florida, which stipulates premeditation beyond just harassing Martin that afternoon. Maybe even more importantly, a first-degree murder charge in Florida requires the consent of a grand jury. I imagine that, even had the case met the technical requirements of a first-degree murder charge, the possibility of a grand jury throwing out the charges altogether was a risk the special prosecutor was not willing to take. So the second-degree murder charges seem to be the right call all around.

Also: Zimmerman will have the opportunity to argue self-defense before a judge before the case even goes before a jury. If the judge agrees that it was self-defense, then Zimmerman could never see trial on these charges at all. One hopes that will not be the case, but it is a possibility.

In other news: George Zimmerman's new attorney says his client is "troubled by everything that has happened," and tried to garner him some sympathy points with: "Truly, it must be frightening to not be able to go into a 7/11 or into a store and literally to be in fact a prisoner wherever he was." Wow. That would be some real bullshit even if Zimmerman had not killed Trayvon Martin while he was walking home from a 7/11.

Finally: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a strong case against "Stand Your Ground" laws in DC yesterday:
The so-called Stand Your Ground self-defense laws in Florida and some other states amount to "a license to murder" and an excuse for "vigilante justice," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg charged Wednesday.

"The laws are not the kind of laws a civilized society should have and the [National Rifle Association] should be ashamed of themselves," Bloomberg, a leading gun-control advocate, said at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. "This has nothing to do with gun-owners' rights. This has nothing to do with the Second Amendment."

"Plain and simple, this is just trying to give people a license to murder," he added of the Stand Your Ground laws.

...Bloomberg blasted the Stand Your Ground laws as "Shoot First" laws.

"The fact is, all Americans already have a right to defend themselves with commensurate force," he said, "but these Shoot First laws have nothing to do with that or with the exercise of Second Amendment rights, instead they justify civilian gunplay and invite vigilante justice and retribution with disastrous results."
Good for him. That is not a popular view for a politician to hold these days, and such uncompromising rejection of any gun law, no matter how outrageous, is rare.

And even if Bloomberg were wrong (he's not), and "Stand Your Ground" laws did not entrench fear and tacitly encourage vigilantism (they do), they are inherently corrupt by virtue of their vague definitions about the "reasonable belief" that one's personal safety or very life is in imminent danger.

In a kyriarchal culture, where "existing while black near a white person" is routinely considered a threat to do harm, and where "a man raped me" is routinely considered not a threat to do harm, there can be no such thing as a reasonable Stand Your Ground law. The laws favor the already-privileged, and make the world a lot more dangerous for the not-privileged.

That alone is reason for their repeal, in a democratic country ostensibly interested in equality.

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