July 19, 2013
'Stand Your Ground' Laws Are Winning

On Tuesday, the same day that Attorney General Eric Holder said that “Stand Your Ground” laws “sow dangerous conflict,” Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer called her state’s version of the law “important” and a “constitutional right.” And Wednesday, Florida state Sen. David Simmons called Holder’s comments “inappropriate” and “inaccurate.” Stand Your Ground may be getting more attention now after the Zimmerman verdict, but the laws themselves don’t look like they’re going anywhere.
And that’s not for a lack of effort from critics of the self-defense policy. While the exact laws differ somewhat from state to state, Stand Your Ground laws justify the use of force in self-defense when there’s a reasonably perceived threat. It’s on the books in some form or another in more than 21 states. Florida was the first to adopt the law, and the state is the focus of the law’s critics now. Those critics range from Stevie Wonder (who has decided to boycott any state with a Stand Your Ground law) to the dozens of student activists who crowded Gov. Rick Scott’s office on Tuesday.
But the critics aren’t limited to Florida.
Read more. [Image: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters]

'Stand Your Ground' Laws Are Winning

On Tuesday, the same day that Attorney General Eric Holder said that “Stand Your Ground” laws “sow dangerous conflict,” Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer called her state’s version of the law “important” and a “constitutional right.” And Wednesday, Florida state Sen. David Simmons called Holder’s comments “inappropriate” and “inaccurate.” Stand Your Ground may be getting more attention now after the Zimmerman verdict, but the laws themselves don’t look like they’re going anywhere.

And that’s not for a lack of effort from critics of the self-defense policy. While the exact laws differ somewhat from state to state, Stand Your Ground laws justify the use of force in self-defense when there’s a reasonably perceived threat. It’s on the books in some form or another in more than 21 states. Florida was the first to adopt the law, and the state is the focus of the law’s critics now. Those critics range from Stevie Wonder (who has decided to boycott any state with a Stand Your Ground law) to the dozens of student activists who crowded Gov. Rick Scott’s office on Tuesday.

But the critics aren’t limited to Florida.

Read more. [Image: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters]

July 17, 2013
Howard University’s medical students, taking part in the “Am I Suspicious?” campaign.

Howard University’s medical students, taking part in the “Am I Suspicious?” campaign.

July 16, 2013
"

The thing to understand here is that Stand Your Ground laws do not exist in some segregated section of Florida’s criminal code. They are not bracketed off from the rest of Florida’s “standard” self-defense laws. Stand Your Ground laws are integral to the very meaning of self-defense in the state.

I do not think you can argue that Zimmerman would have been convicted if not for Stand Your Ground. But you certainly can’t argue that the law had “nothing” to do with this case. And you most certainly can argue that SYG reduced the chances of Zimmerman being arrested. If that arrest hadn’t happened we probably would not be talking about this case right now.

"

Ta-Nehisi Coates on how Stand Your Ground is relevant to the George Zimmerman trial.

July 15, 2013
"To the extent there is a lesson from the events in Sanford, Florida, it is that the U.S. is at once a country that can twice elect a black president and one in which the most reductive stereotypes can drive public policy. It tells us the presumption of innocence applies to a defendant in a courtroom but not to a black teenager walking home in the rain. In short, it tells us absolutely nothing we didn’t already know."

Jelani Cobb

July 15, 2013
Who’s Afraid of Young Black Men?

In conversation, I keep accidentally referring to Zimmerman’s defense lawyers as “the prosecution.” Not surprising, because the defense of George Zimmerman was only a defense in the technical sense of the law. Substantively, it was a prosecution of Trayvon Martin. And in making the case that Martin was guilty in his own murder, Zimmerman’s lawyers had the burden of proof on their side, as the state had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Martin wasn’t a violent criminal.
This raises the question, who’s afraid of young black men? Zimmerman’s lawyers took the not-too-risky approach of assuming that white women are (the jury was six women, described by the New York Times as five white and one Latina).
"This is the person who … attacked George Zimmerman," defense attorney Mark O’Mara said in his closing argument, holding up two pictures of Trayvon Martin, one of which showed him shirtless and looking down at the camera with a deadpan expression. He held that shirtless one up right in front of the jury for almost three minutes. “Nice kid, actually,” he said, with feigned sincerity.
Read more. [Image: AP Images]

Who’s Afraid of Young Black Men?

In conversation, I keep accidentally referring to Zimmerman’s defense lawyers as “the prosecution.” Not surprising, because the defense of George Zimmerman was only a defense in the technical sense of the law. Substantively, it was a prosecution of Trayvon Martin. And in making the case that Martin was guilty in his own murder, Zimmerman’s lawyers had the burden of proof on their side, as the state had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Martin wasn’t a violent criminal.

This raises the question, who’s afraid of young black men? Zimmerman’s lawyers took the not-too-risky approach of assuming that white women are (the jury was six women, described by the New York Times as five white and one Latina).

"This is the person who … attacked George Zimmerman," defense attorney Mark O’Mara said in his closing argument, holding up two pictures of Trayvon Martin, one of which showed him shirtless and looking down at the camera with a deadpan expression. He held that shirtless one up right in front of the jury for almost three minutes. “Nice kid, actually,” he said, with feigned sincerity.

Read more. [Image: AP Images]

July 15, 2013
"It is painful to say this: Trayvon Martin is not a miscarriage of American justice, but American justice itself. This is not our system malfunctioning. It is our system working as intended. To expect our juries, our schools, our police to single-handedly correct for this, is to look at the final play in the final minute of the final quarter and wonder why we couldn’t come back from twenty-four down."

Ta-Nehisi Coates, on Trayvon Martin and the George Zimmerman trial.

July 14, 2013
"Everything that is immoral is not illegal—nor should it be. I want to live in a society that presumes innocence. I want to live in that society even when I feel that a person should be punished."

Ta-Nehisi Coates, on the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.

July 13, 2013
"The murder trial of George Zimmerman did not allow jurors to deliberate over the fairness of Florida’s outlandishly broad self-defense laws. It did not allow them to debate the virtues of the state’s liberal gun laws or its evident tolerance for vigilantes. It did not permit them to delve into the racial profiling that took place that night by Zimmerman or into the misconduct and mischief that Martin may have engaged in long before he took that fatal trip to the store for candy. These factors, these elements, part of the more complete picture of this tragedy, were off limits to the ultimate decision-makers."

Andrew Cohen

June 1, 2012
Judge Revokes Bond, George Zimmerman Headed Back to Jail

May 16, 2012
"

I could very easily see how Martin, fully within his rights to walk back to his father’s home, could judge a strange man following him to be possessed of ill-intent.

What always shook me about this case, was not the belief that Zimmerman ruthlessly slaughtered a 17-year old child, but the act of putting myself in that child’s place, and seeing how I just as easily have ended making a decision to defend myself.

"

Ta-Nehisi Coates, on why his thoughts about Trayvon Martin remain unchanged.

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