I have no brief for George Zimmerman. I think he acted like an idiot the night he killed Trayvon Martin–an adrenaline pumped wannabe cop; just the kind of guy who would have wanted a brown shirt and jackboots in the 1930s.
A little hyperbolic? Yes, but at least I’ll allow you to disagree with me. Not so over at Greta Christina’s “freethought” blog, where free thought “does not fracking well mean” you can disagree that Trayvon Martin was “hunted down and shot,” or that Zimmerman’s acquittal was anything but a “a grotesque travesty of justice.”
If you have anything at all to say about this that even remotely hints at implying that what George Zimmerman did was remotely defensible, or that this verdict was anything short of grotesque… do not comment in my blog. Now, or ever. Do not read my blog. Do not follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Do not attend my talks. Do not buy my books. Get the fuck out of my life, now. Thank you.
You’re welcome. Not that I ever did comment on your blog, or read it before this one time, or even have a Facebook account or understand why anybody would bother to follow anyone on Twitter, or attend any of your talks that I didn’t know about, or buy any of your books that I’ve never heard of, but I’m more than happy to continue not doing any of that. But really now, “free” thought means think as I do or get the fuck out of my life?
I think Zimmerman bears some moral responsibility in Martin’s death, but I think it’s possible Martin does also. The problem we have–the same problem I think the jury had–is that we just don’t know what happened immediately before Zimmerman shot Martin. Did Martin attack Zimmerman first, as some believe based on Zimmerman’s injuries? Or did Zimmerman try to grab Martin and end up getting the worst of what he started? We’ll never know, and the jury damn well didn’t know. So there’s reasonable doubt about whether Zimmerman actually committed an act in violation of the law, and we can’t convict someone based just on the belief–a belief I share–that he bears (at least shares) moral responsibility. As former president Jimmy Carter pointed out, “It’s not a moral question…it was a legal question.”
And that’s why I’m appalled by the petition calling on the Department of Justice to investigate Zimmerman for violating Martin’s civil rights. The jury system, for all its imperfections, is an an institutional bulwark against both authoritarian government and the lynch mob. Those who refuse to accept the verdict are calling for nothing less than a sanitized version of mob justice–thinking that by running it through government they can keep their hands clean. Or worse, thinking that justice through political pressure is true justice and not–to borrow Greta Christina’s own words–“a grotesque travesty of justice.”
Feel free to disagree with me. Unlike some who just give it lip service, I actually do believe in free thought.
[Addendum: Ken White at Popehat provides some good thoughts for free:
…I’ve been a criminal defense attorney for 13 years now, and it’s changed the way I view trials. They aren’t (or at least should not be) a vehicle for society’s judgment…
…the more I observe American culture, the less enthused I am at the notion that a jury’s verdict in a criminal case is wrong if it doesn’t reflect the collective beliefs of our society.
…People assail results like the acquittal of George Zimmerman. But critics don’t tell us what the alternative should be. Shall guilt or innocence be determined by society’s reaction to the vapid summaries of prosecutions on cable news? Clearly not. Should verdicts necessarily reflect social consensus of the time about the crime and the accused? Tell that to the Scottsboro boys — theirs did. Should we make it easier to convict people of crimes in order to reduce injustice against the weak? How foolish. The weak already suffer because it is too easy to convict…