Some Devil’s Advocacy in the Martin Shooting in Florida

I still stand by my statement yesterday that Zimmerman was out of line in confronting Martin, largely because, based on what we know, I think what got Zimmerman’s dander up was that a black kid with a hoodie was walking through his neighborhood. That’s what primed him for wanting to confront, and that’s a reprehensible motivation.

But given the statement that the confrontation happened between two rows of townhouses, let’s suppose for a moment that was trespass. If your neighbor confronted a kid walking through your side yard, the kid started a physical altercation, ended up bloodying your neighbor and slamming him to the ground, and the neighbor drew a pistol and shot the trespasser, would that not be legitimate self-defense? The trespasser, by his trespass, initiated the confrontation. I would confront kids if they cut through my property, as I think most people would. I wouldn’t shoot them, but I’m certainly not going to stand there and be a punching bag for a trespasser either.

I’m not saying these are the facts in this case, but just offering a way this could have gone down. The fact is that we will likely never know the facts surrounding the confrontation that lead to the initial shooting. There’s only two people who could know, and one of them is dead. Our legal system doesn’t allow putting people away on a hunch. It doesn’t allow putting people away because “we just know he’s guilty,” and it also doesn’t allow us to put people away because they are racist bastards. There has to be evidence beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction, and Florida requires probable cause to detain someone. Zimmerman was taken into custody and questioned, but in our system of “innocent until proven guilty,” there wasn’t probable cause to keep him in custody. He’s walking the streets now, yes, but that’s based on first principles of a free society, and I’d like to think that’s all something we ought to hold out as the standard, even if it’s not always lived up to by authorities who have learned justice favors those who can afford good lawyers.

22 Responses to “Some Devil’s Advocacy in the Martin Shooting in Florida”

  1. Pat says:

    This was what I was commenting about in your other thread. At what point did Zimmerman (or Martin) initiate physical contact? Did Zimmerman pursue Martin with gun drawn or threaten the use of it prior to any physical contact on the part of Martin?

    Did Zimmerman commit a crime for confronting what he thought to be a possible crime in progress?

    I’ll reiterate this was not a good situation on either side, nor does Zimmreman appear to be one we would want to hoist up as a model permit holder.

  2. Your scenario makes a good deal of sense.

    Given that Zimmerman is a Neighborhood Watch Captain, it is likely that he is known in the neighborhood, as well as knows a good portion of his neighbors. Martin was “unknown” to Zimmerman (?), and at the point that Martin decided to cut across someone else’s yard, it’s not unreasonable to think that a NWC would confront him.

    Not saying that’s necessarily a good idea, but it’s not unreasonable …

    • Jeff says:

      It is unreasonable if zimmerman’s actions were the sole cause of the kid altering his route. The kid had been with his dad about a week and had no reason to know or trust a non uniformed individual following him in a car. What would you advise your daughter to do if a strange guy was following her down the street? My guess is yell and scream and get the heck out of there even if you have to cut through a neighbors yard.

  3. Jake says:

    One question I do have: does “between two rows of townhouses” mean he was cutting through somebody’s property, or was he in an alleyway (public property)?

    Like I said in the earlier thread: The whole thing sucks, and I very strongly suspect that Zimmerman did something that would ordinarily short-circuit a self defense claim, but there’s no evidence and no witnesses to critical events, so he will probably remain free (and should). Unless something else came to light during the trial, as a juror I would have to vote to acquit based on what little we know so far.

    • Jeff says:

      I think zimmerman actually caused the kid to alter his route home because he scared the kid. He actually became to this kid what he was patrolling the neighborhood to prevent.

  4. Jason says:

    I think in this case Zimmerman does not have a valid self defense claim – the relevant florida statutes :

    776.041 Use of force by aggressor.–The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:

    (1) Is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of, a forcible felony; or
    (2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless:

    (a) Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or
    (b) In good faith, the person withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.

    I think its very likely he was both the initiator, did not use every other means to escape, and was likely committing several crimes at the time (assault, unlawful arrest)

    • Jujube says:

      (2) contains that pesky word “unless” which seems to mean you can be the aggressor and, if it gets too hot for you, you can shoot in self defense.

      Does anyone else read it that way?

  5. DirtCrashr says:

    I really-really HATE hoodies and have an instinctual mis-trust for the wearer(s) thereof. How/what do you say, “Show your face!” -?? It’s a confrontation trigger right there.

    • Jeff says:

      You must be out of touch because everyone was wearing hoodies from Beverly Hills to the Bronx. It was a fashion statement just like skinny jeans,bell bottom pants, or the unshaven long haired hippy look. You would be surprised if you saw some before pics of some of the most respected people in the USA during the young fashion statement phase.

  6. Oliver Perry says:

    Not that it matters, but CSGV is trolling this blog for shit to take out of context.

  7. Bob Owens says:

    Under NC law at the time I got my carry permit, this situation would have been a textbook violation of the law by Zimmerman for instigating the confrontation. The laws have changed considerably, however, and it’s now very gray.

    Morally, I think Zimmerman was in the wrong confronting this young man for what appears to me nothing more than being an outsider in the wrong place. Under those same loose guidelines, I could have been gunned down twice last weekend when people stopped to ask what I was doing parked on the side of the road in a golfing community (trailing my daughter, who was selling Girl Scout cookies).

    Your right to carry does not convey law enforcement powers, and my gut is that Zimmerman is in the wrong here.

  8. mobo says:

    I guess it was kind of stupid to give them fodder like that, with my comment, made in passing, about the kid’s ebonics name – which had nothing to do with the rest of my comment.

    I believe I was the first one to say thay this Zimmerman guy is a mall-ninja and a first-class jerkoff. Yet none of that made it on CSGV’s web page.

    And yes, it is true that I have a very strong dislike for the black ghetto ebonics culture.. Which, by the way includes many whites these days. So if that is how we are going to define racism, then I suppose I am a racist.

    But it’s unfair to Sebastian and the rest of you to get the dreaded “scarlet letter” just because of my comments. For that I apologize.

  9. FONZ says:


    • Jake says:

      Got a source for that information?

    • My wife likes to peak into windows when we take walks in high class neighborhoods too, to see how the other 1% lives. I suppose she deserves to be shot too?

      • Bitter says:

        Not anything to do with the Martin-Zimmerman issue, your wife peeks into windows? That’s creepy as hell. Again, not speaking on the issue of what happened in Florida, and not saying that anyone who peeks in a window “deserves to be shot,” but if there’s someone I don’t know walking on my property to peek into the home, I’m going to grab my gun. I don’t care how curious your wife might be, that is behavior that is reasonable to cause someone to go on alert.

        • The definition of “peeking” can be stretched a lot of ways. When I say peeking, I mean walking leisurely on the sidewalk and giving long stares to open windows.

  10. Oliver Perry says:

    “A gunshot can be heard on the 911 calls that night, police said.”

    Interesting. If it’s Zimmerman’s call, that means the entire confrontation is recorded. If not, it means that the scuffle was ongoing long and loud enough that someone called 911 before the fatal shot.