The Media’s Disgraceful and Irresponsible Reaction to the Zimmerman Verdict

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george-zimmerman3By Jonathan Marks

Monday’s New York Times editorial on the case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman is a sorry piece of work.

The editorial board says that the case is all about race: “ask any black man, up to and including President Obama, and he will tell you a few stories that sound eerily like what happened that rainy winter night in Sanford, Fla.”

I have no reason to doubt that most black men in America have a true story to tell about being unjustly suspected of wrongdoing. But the story of race in America has never cast Hispanics like George Zimmerman in a leading role. And we still don’t know what happened that night. My guess is that the stories to which the Times refers foreclose the possibility that the storyteller knocked down the unjustly suspicious person and slammed his head repeatedly into the concrete. Yet the prosecutors never came close to discrediting that part of Zimmerman’s story, much less proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman committed second degree murder or manslaughter.

From the beginning, politicians have attempted to turn State of Florida v. Zimmerman into an advertisement. The Times has now joined in. The case proves that it was “sanguine” of the Supreme Court to say that things have changed dramatically in America since 1965. Shelby v. Holder may be open to criticism, but is the Times really on record as proposing that race relations have not changed dramatically since 1965? And are they really on record proposing George Zimmerman as an exemplar of Southern white racism?

The Times, like the rest of us, does not know much about George Zimmerman. But the editorial board feels free to discount the testimony of neighbors and its own story on the FBI’s “wide-ranging investigation,” which “found a man not prone to violence or prejudice and who moved easily between racial and ethnic groups – a ‘decent guy,’ ‘a good human being.'” Never mind all that. What is “most frightening is that there are many people with guns who are like George Zimmerman” (my emphasis). And of course, the “Justice Department is right to continue its investigation into whether George Zimmerman may still be prosecuted under federal civil rights laws.”

And like many commentators, the Times insists on treating the case as an indictment of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, even though the defense did not invoke it during the trial. To repeat, the prosecution was never able to cast serious doubt on Zimmerman’s contention that, at the time of the shooting, he was pinned to the ground and had had his head slammed into the ground repeatedly. Under such circumstances, there is no state in the union in which there is a “duty to retreat.”

The prosecution was more successful casting doubt on Zimmerman’s denial that he set out to follow Martin that night. But even if it could be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman followed Martin, the rest of the story, in which Martin becomes the aggressor, breaks Zimmerman’s nose, bashes his head into the concrete, and reaches for Zimmerman’s gun, would be sufficient to make out a case for self-defense not just in Florida but in any state.

That is not to say that Zimmerman’s story is true, that every jury would have acquitted Zimmerman, that it is as hard to prove self-defense in Florida as it is elsewhere, or that Zimmerman bears no responsibility for Martin’s death. But it is disingenuous to make State of Florida v. Zimmerman a commentary on recent Supreme Court decisions or on gun control. The Times even says that what may well have been a case of justified self-defense “should be as troubling as . . . mass killings” like Columbine and Sandy Hook. While I understand that day-to-day killings and policies to prevent them deserve as much or more attention than rare mass murders receive, the Times has no way of knowing whether it was fortunate or unfortunate that Zimmerman was armed.

Now that the case is over, Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the Martin family, compares Martin’s case to that of Medgar Evers, a civil rights activist deliberately shot in the back outside his home by a member of a White Citizen’s Council. While no one expects the Martin family to accept George Zimmerman’s acquittal, it is up to observers like the New York Times editorial board to attend to the cases that the defense and prosecution put on, to take account of how little we know about what happened between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, and to resist the urge to turn the living or the dead into cartoon heroes and villains in a story about civil rights.


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  1. The real serious problem that is occurring is the lack of respect for the processes of law, here in the USA.

    No one knows what happened, and there is not nearly enough evidence to convict anyone.

    Along with the lack of respect for laws and their being carried out in the judicial system is the violence which is being carried out, preached and encouraged by low life “leaders” and even very high ranking members of the government itself.

    I can’t put this very well, but these are extremely serious problems that have surfaced again now. The lack of respect for creating just laws and abiding by the results continues. So does the feeling that violence can be used, including homicide, if blacks are victims. The same is not true, generally, of whites. Blacks feel that they deserve special rights, and often the opposite may apply. Racial profiling is unfortunately appropriate at times. But even if not, they cannot expect to be treated with kid gloves at all times. Even to the point of letting one of them attempt to murder a non-black.

  2. I forgot to mention that of course, yes, the media seems to have almost created, but certainly to greatly fan the lawlessness and violence.

  3. People communicating through all media need to react calmly and responsibly and without name-calling when something big or small doesn’t go their way.

  4. The jury has spoken! That is our legal system! To double guess now is akin to a child being a sore loser in a game! This is much ado about nothing more than igniting and fanning racial tensions! It was done in the rodney King story too! Nobody questioned the jury when O.J. walked after killing his wife!
    Also this story is not like the Yankel Rosenbaum HY”D lopsided jury who went out and partied with Lemrick Nelson Y”S after they acquitted him. They were all black and had such Sinaas Yisroel and were so eager to acquit the confessed killer whose knife had the blood of his victim on it and who paraded in the street “let’s kill a Jew!” just before doing it! He was even identified in the Kings County hospital where poor Yankel Z”L wasn’t given medical treatment and left to bleed to death! HY”D.

  5. What is not being discussed is that the reason this case even came to trial is that the accused’s name was Zimmerman. I think if his name would have been Martinez, Gonzales, or some other Hispanic name, the press would never have been all over him, nor pressed the Prosecutors to chase him. He has been the victim of having a white-jewish name, Zimmerman.


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