Crime

Jumping to Conclusions About My Conclusions

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Yesterday the Chicago Sun-Times ran my column about Florida's self-defense law under the unfortunate headline "Why Trayvon's Killer Should Be Acquitted," which is certainly not the argument I intended to make. I remain agnostic on that question. Based on the publicly available evidence, it seems possible that 1) Trayvon Martin started the fight and created a reasonable fear of death or serious injury, justifying George Zimmerman's use of deadly force, or 2) Zimmerman panicked and shot Martin in circumstances that did not justify the use of deadly force (or accidentally shot him and made up a cover story afterward). In either of those scenarios, it is also possible that Martin's use of force was justified by the threat he reasonably perceived from Zimmerman. As I said in a column earlier this month, we don't know enough yet to answer crucial questions about the case and therefore should avoid jumping to conclusions.

Yet that is exactly what Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn accuses me of, based on this quote from my column:

If [George Zimmerman] went to trial, he would be (or at least should be) acquitted with that much evidence in his favor, since the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not acting in self-defense.

"Unless Sullum has gotten a private peek at the bulk of evidence still under wraps," Zorn writes, "he has no idea what the jury 'should' find or even if it should go to trial at all." I agree. Here is the full paragraph from my column:

One unusual aspect of Florida's law that will be apparent in this case is that Zimmerman has a right to pretrial hearing at which he can try to convince Judge Kenneth Lester, by "a preponderance of the evidence," that he acted in self-defense. If he can meet that standard of proof, which requires showing it is more likely than not that his use of force was appropriate, the charge against him will be dismissed. But even if he went to trial, he would be (or at least should be) acquitted with that much evidence in his favor, since the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not acting in self-defense—which, as Northern Kentucky University law professor Michael J.Z. Mannheimer has pointed out, would be true "in virtually every state."

In other words, if Zimmerman could prove his self-defense claim by a preponderance of the evidence, that would be more than enough for an acquittal, assuming the jury correctly applied the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard. If it's more likely than not that Zimmerman's use of force was lawful (the standard for dismissing the charge against him), it necessarily follows that his guilt cannot be established beyond a reasonable doubt. But I am not saying that Zimmerman should prevail in the pretrial hearing or that he should be acquitted (although I do think manslaughter is a more appropriate charge than second-degree murder). My point is that allowing Zimmerman to avoid a trial if he can meet the preponderance-of-the-evidence standard does not (or should not) affect the outcome of the case. Assuming he can show he is probably not guilty, he would be acquitted even if he did not have a right to a pretrial hearing on his self-defense claim. 

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  1. Maybe Zorn wanted more alliteration.

    1. That was a wink and nod from Sullum that he is a Wasteland fan (not the poem, the game).

      Compare:

      Four foot tall pears, pleasingly plump, perfectly prepared, possibly, to plummet perilously from their precarious perches and pummel any passing pedestrian to a pasty, putrid pulp

      With,

      Portland Protects Passengers From Prompt Pickups and Popular Prices

      1. I loved Wasteland! That chainsaw was the coolest weapon.

  2. If Zimmerman can prove self-defense by a preponderance, he won’t be acquitted; he won’t even stand trial.

    1. yes. and IF it goes to trial, the burden will be on the state to disprove self defense, as in WA iirc

  3. The MSM is really digging deep into their bag of dirty tricks these days, aren’t they?

    Providing “balance” by running an opponent’s column under a misleading headline, so that other columnists can argue against the headline rather than the actual column, is pretty low.

    1. Sowell’s admonishment of the media over this case.

      http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=51042

      1. Thanks for the link. I should read Sowell more often.

        1. ^^^!!!

          sowell is awesome. imo, his articles pale in comparison to his books, because they are necessarily too restrained by word limits and he cannot fully explain/flesh out his argument

          imo, his ‘ a conflict of vision’ is a great book that really explains the fundamental difference in understandings, and how people so often argue past each other (as i see here frequently) based on different concepts of justice (process vs. results) , the law, the nature of man, the role of govt. etc.

          imo, it’s an absolute must read.

          1. I love Sowell’s articles as well. I’ve never read any of his books though. I will order the one you mentioned. I have no doubt it’s as good as you say.

            1. While I liked A Conflict of Visions I enjoyed A Vision of the Anointed: Self Congratulation as basis for social policy even more.

              His book Race and Culture was also extremely enlightening.

          2. His more polemical books (“The Quest for Cosmic Justice” is superb)are good reads. I tried to read one of his scholarly works (“Knowledge and Decisions”) and quickly realized I was far too stupid to have it in my hands.

            1. yea, quest for cosmic justice is teh awesum, just not the same kind of book

              his ethnic america is also excellent

          3. Don’t forget Sowell’s Basic Economics. It is the reason I became a libertarian.

        2. Walter E. Williams publishes at that same site. I love his stuff as well. Speaking of books Dunphy, William’s More Liberty Means Less Government is a great coffee table book. A series of his articles that you can pick up and open it anywhere and have instant wisdom at your fingertips.

        3. A Conflict of Visions is a damn good introduction to libertarianism – Sowell and Walter Williams (both economists) are what got me firmly into libertarianism.

          “Running through the tradition of the unconstrained vision is the conviction that foolish or immoral choices explain the evils of the world – and that wiser or more moral and humane social policies are the solution.
          By contrast, the constrained vision sees the evils of the world as deriving from the limited and unhappy choices available, given the inherent moral and intellectual limitations of human beings.”

          IOW – “We just need the right guy in charge” vs. “You’re better off not messing with things you don’t understand”.

          1. exactly!!!!

            and the constrained visions respect of evolved systemic rationality vs. articulated rationality. this is distinguished well by WFB famous quote about better to be ruled by names chosen at random from the boston phone book, than the faculty at harvard. the former would generally KNOW they don’t know better than the average guy, whereas the latter KNOW they know better how to lord over the common man

        4. I feel like a damn retard considering I haven’t read any of the stuff mentioned above.

          Does this mean I have to turn in my monocle and top hat?

          1. Nope. Just means you have to start reading.

  4. Conditional statements are confusing to the slow ones.

    1. Maybe this is why most people don’t program code.

  5. i empathize with mr sullum here. as somebody who often is agnostic on these force issues , where the anticop bigots are always sure it was illegal/excessive force, it is annoying to have people misstate your position.

    I FEEL YOUR PAIN.

    1. It’s even more annoying when they misstate your position, and then offer as evidence your own words stripped of context.

      1. or worse still an edited version of your words.

        1. I ran on the LP ticket years ago, and experienced first-hand what you mean. I trust virtually nothing I read in the paper anymore (as if I ever read it anymore).

    2. LOL – some of us just figure it is safer to keep a presumption of innocence when it comes to “the bad guys” and a presumption of guilt when it comes to “the good guys”.

      A crook is limited in his power to do you harm, and it is after all his job to do you harm. A man with a gun and a badge doesn’t have the limited resources a crook has, and his job is supposed to be the exact opposite of doing you harm.

      Bad cops are a danger to be feared a thousand times more than bad men and require a thousand times more vigilance to guard against.

      1. i tend to base my presumptions on evidence.

        i know that, for example, people with no prior record, who have a CCW and who get into shootings ALMOST always are in the right, JUST like cops are.

        i know that both groups tend to be very restrained in use of deadly force.

        i also know that, unless you are a complete scumbag felon, your chance of being killed by a cop are near infinitessimal, whereas your chance of being killed by, let alone victimized a crook is much much much higher

        heather mcdonald has done some very good work with those types of stats

        so, unlike you, i prefer to based my fears on actual statistics and reality, not prejudice against cops.

        the people most likely to be victims of homicide are young black males, and they are (by a huge factor) way way way way way more likely to be killed by a person of similar race and age than by a cop.

        i find it entirely unshocking that nearly every time a cop shoots somebody, it’s some guy wiht an extensive history of violence, prior felon, etc.

        if you do not fall into that group (convicted felon, etc.) you are even more astronomically unlikely to be killed by a cop

        you might as well worry about getting struck by lightning.

        you are much much much much more likely to be killed by a crook.

    3. Dude, I’m not an anticop bigot (as if having a healthy disrespect for agents of the state can make you a bigot), but sometimes your positions defy logic.

  6. For what it’s worth, I don’t even see a legitimate manslaughter charge against Zimmerman. Self defense, pure and simple.

  7. “Yesterday the Chicago Sun-Times ran my column about Florida’s self-defense law under the unfortunate headline “Why Trayvon’s Killer Should Be Acquitted,” which is certainly not the argument I intended to make.”

    You really didn’t think they were going to READ your article, did you? I mean, they had that headline written just waiting for some nuanced response they could hang it on.

    1. As per one of our local radio stations newsbreaks “months after a young teen was gunned down in florida, his killer is finally going to face charges”. Seriously.

      1. It’s important for free thinkers to all line up quickly on the side of the angels.

    2. I was just going to write something similar to this. So instead I’ll click “like.” Wait, there is no like button.

      Shmevin likes this.

  8. On purely legalese, prosecutors overstepped I think going for 2nd degree murder.

    For such a foggy case of he said/other guy can’t say they put the burden of proof unnecessarily high to get a conviction.

    Manslaughter-something would have been the smarter charge I believe.

    1. yes. it’s similar to what i see in cop cases. they often overcharge out of political pressure e.g. diallo and of course noncop cases like bernie goetz

      in both cases, acquittal was the result, although goetz did get convicted of the weapons charge of course

      1. Observation of non-cop situation here is good one. If it had been ‘Officer Zimmerman’ involved he’d just have been on paid vacation for awhile until they swept it all under the rug.

        1. the fact that you believe that makes me smile

          1. also, note a critical fact pattern difference. IF zimmerman was a cop, he would have the authority to detain martin upon reasonable suspicion and if he identified himself, etc. martin would have no right to flee or resist.

            zimmerman IF he tried to detain martin, which i see no evidence for btw, would be making an unlawful detention since he could only arrest under a in fact committed standard and martin WOULD have the right to ignore him and./or resist

            1. There is NO evidence that Zimmerman tried to detain Martin. However, I strongly believe that this is what most likely happened. I don’t believe Martin followed Zimmerman and started beating him up. I Think Zimmerman probably grabbed him and was losing the fight with this kid and then shot him. That sounds the most likely.

              But who cares what I believe. No one can prove it. Zimmerman should GO FREE…as per Florida Law.

              1. like i have said ad nauseum, i am agnostic on this case, but i LEAN TOWARDS zimmerman not being charged, because i have seen nowhere NEAR ENOUGH evidence to charge him AND his providing of a statement post arrest is very much in his favor

                IF i had good reason to believe zimmerman grabbed martin, and i do NOT, i would be much more likely to support criminal charges, since he had no legal authority to do so AND it would substantially escalate the encounter

                that’s a distinction vs. if zimmerman was a cop, where he would , given reasonable suspicion or more specifically a good faith belief that he had reasonable suspicion, have legal authority to grab martin AND MARTIN would not have legal authority to resist – totally different circs.

                1. Dunphy,

                  Doesn’t Zimmerman the neighborhood security guy, like the security guard at Walmart, have the right to apprehend someone?

                  1. he does not have the legal authority to detain anybody without the in fact committed standard.

                    that holds true for all noncops, whether security guards or not. security guards are simply paid agents of property owners… they have no more legal authority to detain than property owners themselves.

                    he did not have anything remotely close to PC that i have heard of

                    1. btw, i have responded to many walmart security detentions and i have never seen them detain without SOLID pc based on the in fact committed standard (witnessed behavior).

                      because they know their training and the law, generally speaking

                    2. I don’t mean to keep badgering you but, can I simply walk away from a Walmart Security Guard if they try to apprehend me ?

                    3. if they do not have solid PC you can. the problem is you won’t KNOW if they do. but if they do detain you, without it, you have a bitchen civil suit, to put it mildly.

                      the walmart security guys have the EXACT SAME authority to detain somebody as YOU DO based on the same evidentiary standard.

                      i explained this to sloopy, in his ignorance, the other day.

                      btw, walmart around here does not use walmart employees, but uses security companies. i have dealt with them for years. they KNOW THE standard they need to make an arrest, and they won’t make one without it, because they will get seriously bitch slapped if they do.

                    4. Thanks. Very interesting.

                    5. i have seen several occasions where walmart strongly suspected a person was shoplifting (huge bulge beneath shirt BUT they did not see the person conceal the item(s)). they may ASK the person what they have under their shirt, etc. they certainly have the authority to ask,for example, and if the person then admits, THEN they have a crime in progress and solid PC. but they will only do the habeas grabbus so to speak if they witness the entire crime . it’s way better in their eyes to let a $200 item get stolen then get sued for 100,000.

                    6. I doubt that anyone would win a case against Walmart if there was no PC since it is (he said/she said)…unless recorded on video camera.

                    7. from the cases i have looked at, they would. note also that walmarts generally have VERY good video surveillance.

                    8. Wal-Mart’s security systems are about on par with most casinos. Which means that they pretty much see just about everything.

              2. I don’t believe Martin followed Zimmerman and started beating him up.

                I think that is what happened. Martin was at least a wannabe thug if not an actual one (based on school suspensions, found with bunch of women’s jewelry he couldn’t explain, etc.), was much taller, and probably felt dissed. It is possible Zimmerman tried to detain him, but if he did, I don’t think that would justify or be a defense for slamming Zimmerman’s head on the pavement.

                A new Reuters report pretty much blows the immediate kneejerk media reaction to this case out of the water.

                1. To put one point another way: Suppose it’s proven that Zimmerman did try to stop Martin, then Martin tried to kill him, and got shot. What would Zimmerman be guilty of? Something more than false imprisonment, simply because Martin attacked him and Zimmerman defended himself?

                  1. One tragi-comic facet of the Zimmerman affair is that there is an actual self admitted racist in Tulsa that hunted down and killed 4 black people and that case is being completely ignored by the race hustlers and the legacy media.

      2. I agree with u Dunphy, the Diallo case should have never been 2nd murder. Another case where the DA asked for the “All-or-Nothing”…and got nothing.

        Although I believe that the cops in the DIALLO case should lose their Jobs or at Least their GUNS as what they committed was an act of Malpractice and not Manslaughter, let alone murder.

        1. i actually have no idea if they did lose their jobs, get suspended or whatever. i do know that nypd has a # of officers that they put on nonexpiring no-gun duty, which boggles my mind. we don’t have such a thing, but they do, even ex-post heller (despite a recent lawsuit)

          1. There were four officers…Sean Carroll quit. I don’t know what happened to the other three.

            I feel that they committed an act of malpractice.

  9. I see nothing unfortunate with the headline Why Trayvon’s Killer Should Be Acquitted.

    I don’t believe he should be acquitted.

    As per Florida law, he is immune from prosecution since the state can NOT prove beyond the preponderance that is self defense story is false. There’s no videos and no witnesses. As per Florida Law, there should be NO TRIAL.

    I’m against that Law. I feel that in such a shooting there should be at least a grand jury.

    What I think happened (and I have no evidence on this, just a hunch), that George Zimmerman went up to Travon and tried to Apprehend him until the cops came and a fight broke out. I don’t think Zimmerman was on a nigger-lynching exercise and I also don’t think Travon followed Zimmerman back to his van a beat him up…That’s my take…and I can’t prove it. But this story sounds to me to be the most likely.

    1. And 2nd Degree Murder Charge by the DA is on purpose just to Pander to the Al Sharpton Crowd. I think it is a miscarriage of Justice for BOTH Zimmerman and the Martin family.

      I would bet $1,000,000 with whom ever that Zimmerman is acquitted on all charges…but no one would make that bet.

    2. Cool story bro.

  10. Because I know we’re just about all Treyvonned out, here’s Ke$ha pissing in the street.

    1. Classy!

  11. Whatever, Sullum, it’s obvious you’re an apologist for racism.

    1. And it’s obvious you are anti-semantic.

  12. Speaking of Lawyers & Cops, tonight’s was the best episode of Community ever.

  13. Zimmerman is $200k Richer…Ain’t That America.

    I think the next time a black person gets shot in this situation, they should not even put it on the news.

    It seems liver 99.99999% of shootings like this are always danced to the direction that the black guy was at fault. These people are going to get pretty pissed off one day.

    1. I think the next time a black person gets shot in this situation, they should not even put it on the news.

      Well, if the situation turns out to be justifiable self defense (something looking more likely with every new piece of information we get and every new media lie exposed) then they won’t. At least, not with the races mentioned. The only reason it was mentioned this time is because they thought they had a case that justified the “white people hunt black people” meme they’re so desperate to push.

  14. It seems liver 99.99999% of shootings like this are always danced to the direction that the black guy was at fault. These people are going to get pretty pissed off one day.

    Hey, Sharpton, got a cite for that bullshit?

    1. I don’t.

      However, I can’t think of a single case (outside of a KKK killing) where a black guy is not at fault of his own killing.

      I guess black dudes are responsible for their own shootings in these circumstances 100% of the time.

      Not that there is any subjectivity involved.

      1. However, I can’t think of a single case (outside of a KKK killing) where a black guy is not at fault of his own killing.

        Then you’ve never read the news. That is a pants-on-head retarded statement. This is the first one I found with a picture. That’s right, the first one I came across.

        And here’s one where a black guy shot a white guy in Flordia. And guess what? Justified self defense. Also note that for some strange reason, the races weren’t mentioned in that article.

        1. Trevor Dooley will be convicted.

          Derrick Milam is black.

          1. Trevor Dooley will be convicted.

            Motion to dismiss under SYG is in less than 4 days. I’m betting it goes through. I think he’ll get off, even though there are witneses that said he started the argument. As you’ve noted, not a factor in SYG. We’ll see.

            Derrick Milam is black.

            Exactly, so your point is demonstrably wrong.

            1. Derrick is black/black crime.

              1. a) no one even knows who the shooter was, but your prejudice is noted.

                b) you said:

                However, I can’t think of a single case (outside of a KKK killing) where a black guy is not at fault of his own killing. I guess black dudes are responsible for their own shootings in these circumstances 100% of the time.

                Nothing there at all about black/black crime.

                1. Oh come on Coeus…all trolling and straw aside…who do you think Killed Derrick?

                  1. I can make a guess based on statistics, but it would only be a guess.

      2. God damn you are a stupid racist bitch.

      3. I guess I should point out that Jeffery Dahmer ate a black man or two…

    2. It probably also has to the with the fact that Black people have lower IQs as noted in the “Bell Curve Book” from back in the 90s. I guess that’s why black people always feel that they are being rail-roaded. What wild imaginations they all seem to have.

    3. The lower IQs of Blacks lead them to believe that there are a significant amount of people that don’t like them because they are black. I don’t know where they get that from. There’s been so much progress over the years.

      It’s not like they are profiled or singled out. Blacks have the same opportunities as anyone else in the USA. It’s just that their lack of intelligence stops them from seeing it. Such a pitty.

      1. Please stop posting.

    4. Plus had Zimmerman been black, the cops would have bought his self-defense story…as they’ve done with so many other blacks in FLA that use SYG. The black Zimmerman would have never been arrested and would have been out on bail for a mere $15k…just like the White Zimmerman.

      1. See above, retard.

        1. I agree with you. Black people are out of touch with reality….It’s all in their head.

          1. How can you even see my comments from that impossibly high pile of straw you’ve constructed?

    5. Just like Marissa Alexander

      see:
      https://reason.com/blog/2012/04…..nd-against

      It’s painfully obvious that SYG doesn’t apply to her. And 100% applies to Zimmerman…no questions asked…what Zimmerman said is the BIBLE truth.

      Black people just love making shit up. Marissa Alexander wasn’t defending herself, she was just a criminal.

      1. So you’re done playing footsie with dunpy then?

        God, the stupid made my poor computer bleed.

        1. Actually, I sincerely questioned whether or not a non-police officer can apprehend someone. What dunpy offered was very helpful…and was not a game of footsie.

          The reason for all of the STRAW above (and I do admit, it is straw) is that I wanted to point out that Black People and White people just see this matter differently.

          Here in NYC, generally speaking, Blacks see the racism in the Martin case. White don’t see it at all. And, that kind of pisses Blacks off.

          I’m not black. But i can clearly see that what these people have been through and what they’ve learned of the history between blacks and whites makes them very angry.

          Whites hate the racism thing because they don’t want to be blamed for what White people did in the past. And rightfully so. The vast majority of white people today (even in the south) didn’t own slaves or sick dogs on black people, etc.

          However, Whites do tend to trivialize the situation black people are in. And it is a pretty shitty situation.

          I, for one, thank god, i wasn’t born black. And not because i hate black people.

          1. Here in NYC, generally speaking, Blacks see the racism in the Martin case. White don’t see it at all. And, that kind of pisses Blacks off.

            You mean the racism that the media consistently tried to fabricate? Or the ridiculous claim that the situation would be different if the races were reversed?

        2. The law, the cops, the DA, etc. are all very very subjective. One can call it either way.

          The cops could have believed Zimmerman, or not. The judge could have offered bail, or not. To the perspective of blacks (whether right/wrong), it always seems in-just to them. And I’m not saying that it is injustice. Blacks, in general, who are not law enforcement officers, tend to see it this way.

          1. Did you say something?

            I’m sorry I couldn’t hear over the dull, wet thumping sound it makes when I hit myself in the face with this here rusty clawhammer.

            I really couldn’t take your bullshit any longer; goodbye cruel retarded world.

            1. Earmuffs, to help you with that problem.

      2. It’s painfully obvious that SYG doesn’t apply to her. And 100% applies to Zimmerman…no questions asked…what Zimmerman said is the BIBLE truth.

        Actually, her’s is a case that demonstrates what CCW owners and cops tell people all the time. If you have to fire a gun in self defense, make sure you kill the person you’re defending against.

  15. Jacob, don’t sweat it. I have a whole class full of (intended) math majors who cannot make sense of an “If X, then Y” statement, especially when either X or Y is anything more complex than LOL.

    No doubt journalists are not any better.

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    http://george-zimmerman-defense-fund.com

  17. there is a third possibility that you did not mention which was that zimmerman was the agressor. martins girlfriends testimony to police seems to support this, and mentions martins uneasyness. in that case it is martin who was lawfully standing his ground, making zimmermans case of self defense invalid. it would be like a mugger claiming self defense for killing a victim who was defending himself, or like me inviting someone to my house and shooting them claiming castle law defense. I do believe that everyone has the right to stand their ground, i do not believe that people have the right to escalate an otherwise peaceful situation to justify violence.

  18. there is a third possibility that you did not mention which was that zimmerman was the agressor. martins girlfriends testimony to police seems to support this, and mentions martins uneasyness. in that case it is martin who was lawfully standing his ground, making zimmermans case of self defense invalid. it would be like a mugger claiming self defense for killing a victim who was defending himself, or like me inviting someone to my house and shooting them claiming castle law defense. I do believe that everyone has the right to stand their ground, i do not believe that people have the right to escalate an otherwise peaceful situation to justify violence.

    1. Martin’s girlfriend is lying. Zimmerman was on the phone with the dispatcher when the events she describes would have to have taken place.

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