Ethics Train Wreck Update: Martin-Zimmerman Reflections

Is it only fair to show one version of the victim?

As the NAACP joined with Al Sharpton today to lead a protest of thousands in Sanford Florida, some notes on recent ethics carnage and confusion in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s shooting death:

  • Roslyn Brock, who chairs the national board of directors for the NAACP, perfectly illustrated  ignorance of the justice system and short-sightedness that has characterized this whole, sorry incident. “We come to make sense of this great tragedy and the entire world grieves with us,” she said . “When the Sanford police did not arrest George Zimmerman, they essentially placed the burden of proof on a dead young man who cannot speak for himself.” But of course, as every American should know, that is where the burden of proof lies. The alleged victim in a death is represented by the state, and it is the state that has the burden of proof of guilt as well as having the burden to justify an arrest. It is not Zimmerman’s responsibility to prove his innocence, though that is what the un-American process engineered by race-activists and the media has come to. Does the NAACP really want to take the position that there should be a presumption of guilt in criminal matters? Or just in circumstances where the victim is an African-American and the suspect is not?
  • While CNN has taken the lead in trying to present a balanced picture of the controversy, NBC, mostly through MSNBC, has thoroughly disgraced itself by essentially taking an advocacy position on Zimmerman’s guilt, even to the point of doctoring his 911 call to make it seem clear that this was a case of racial profiling. “This guy looks like he’s up to no good…He looks black.” is how Zimmerman’s 911 call was played on the  “Today Show” and relayed on MSNBC’s website. The actual conversation was this:

    Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around,  looking about.

    Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?

    Zimmerman: He looks black.

NBC is reportedly doing an internal investigation on how this could happen.

Yeah, good idea.

  • Joe Scarborough (among others) condemned conservative media sources, like Tucker Carlson’s “The Daily Caller,” for uncovering and publishing information about Martin that contradicted the image of the boy, passionately promoted by his parents, that he was a gentle, civil, model child, who “respected authority” and was incapable of a violent impulse, much less action. Various reports revealed Trayvon’s two school suspensions, suspected illegal drug use, and an odd episode in which jewelry and possible burglar tools were allegedly found in his backpack. The Daily Caller tracked down Martin’s Twitter account, which showed this tweet:

Scarborough said,

“This is the equivalent, Mika, just as immoral as somebody trying to say that a rape victim who was brutally raped was a slut and had it coming to her,” Scarborough said. “It’s the same exact thing. These people that are trying to turn Trayvon Martin into a thug should be ashamed of themselves. But since they are doing it, they obviously have no shame. They are just disgusting human beings. Disgusting.”

 Joe’s characterization is wrong and unfair. This kind of information is relevant. As long as Martin’s parents and race-hucksters like Sharpton are going to try this case in the media, there is nothing unethical and everything fair and responsible about challenging their slanted representations of both the shooter and the victim, when the sole purpose is to paint George Zimmerman as a homicidal racist who gunned down a harmless child in cold blood. What Scarborough is arguing is that the anti-Zimmerman lynch mob must be allowed to frame the discussion and choose which facts are relevant without rebuttal. Zimmerman’s argument is self-defense; Trayvon’s parents paint their son as someone incapable of causing anyone to be in legitimate fear of personal harm. The various incidents reported and the tweet at least keep open the possibility that this may not be entirely true. Scarborough is pushing the false choice that you must either accept the Martins’ assumptions or be trying to vilify a dead child. That is dishonest and wrong.

  • ABC attempted to challenge George Zimmerman’s claim (and that of a so-far unnamed witness) that he was injured by Trayvon by showing a grainy film of the shooter being let into the police station that didn’t show any clear signs of injury. This was irresponsible. The video was not close enough to make a determination (CNN’s John King claimed that he could see signs of blood) one way or the other. Either Zimmerman had injuries when he was examined at the police station or he did not; the video won’t even be evidence in the case. What was ABC’s purpose? Since it has no way to show the Zimmerman was lying, it shouldn’t be implying the Zimmerman is lying; that only feeds the bias and hysteria.
  • In addition to Rep. Bobby Rush’s grandstanding hoodie stunt on the floor of the House, and Maxine Waters’ irresponsible declaration that Martin’s death was “a hate crime,” something she cannot possibly know, other Democratic members from the Congressional Black Caucus made unethical statements that compromised Zimmerman’s rights, misled the public and abused their elected positions. Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat, said that “Trayvon was murdered for walking while black in a gated community.” The statement is outrageous, vicious, unsubstantiated and prejudicial to the administration of justice. Even worse was Rep. Fredericka Wilson of Florida, who stated that “Travon was murdered. Racial profiling and lax gun laws all contributed to this tragedy.” Lax gun laws, perhaps; we know enough to support that argument. But it is unconscionable for a Congresswoman to state that Martin was murdered, which she cannot possibly know; nor can she know whether racial profiling was involved or not. President Obama opened the floodgates for all of this by making the blunder of commenting on the case himself, and doing so using words that appeared to presume that it was a race-based incident.
  • Today’s protest march, made with the specific intent of forcing authorities to arrest Zimmerman, is unethical philosophically and practically. The protest was ostensibly for “justice,” but “justice” is not accomplished when authorities act in response to mob pressure and threatening rhetoric, nor is it anything but sullied when law enforcement decisions are made based on political pressure and media distortions. This is not the lynching of Emmet Till or the covered-up murder of the four civil rights workers in Mississippi. This is a complex and tragic collision of two men without records of violence, magnified by bad decisions, bad laws and bad luck, that ended with one man dead and another in fear of his life. It needs objective investigation, not hysterical action; it requires the courage and determination to do the right thing, not to satisfy agendas, grievances and ideological combatants. The protesters are at very least making justice more difficult, and perhaps impossible.

12 thoughts on “Ethics Train Wreck Update: Martin-Zimmerman Reflections

  1. I hope the selection of prosecutors will help calm this whole scenario down. I have no desire to see riots if Zimmerman ends up walking. Do people not recognize the harm they are doing by trying to get justice their way? I thought we were past lynch mobs.

    Will no one listen to reason and allow the justice system to do the job they are meant to do?

  2. You certainly got it right with this one. But I’m afraid we’re far from the end of it. There was one helluva beating episode in California – seven black kids arrested for beating a Hispanic kid, knocking out his teeth. In Illinois, one of the greatest achievements of our president when he was a state legislator was to get a law passed which forces our police departments to document every single traffic stop as to race of the driver and reasons for the stop and what the outcome was – because it was assumed that if more minorities were being stopped than whites, it must be because of prejudice. I’d like to see a law passed documenting crimes by ethnicity of perp and victim, too. Oh wait, we do. And the results must be because of those same prejudiced police….

  3. Pingback: Model Murder Jack

  4. Jack,what do you mean by lax gun laws? Before I go any further, let me stipulate: I am only asking, and am not shilling for the NRA or anyone else. But, I’m genuinely puzzled. I have reservations about the “Stand your ground” law, but my understanding is that it does not apply to guns alone, but any other type of weaponry employed in self-defense. Does Florida have other laws applying to guns (especially ones that would apply to this case) of which I’m unaware? That’s certainly a possibility, as I’m no legal expert.

    • Karl, I wasn’t saying that the laws in Florida are (or aren’t) lax. I was saying that we know enough about the incident to have that discussion. Some believe that licenses to carry guns should be severely restricted, so Zimmermans wouldn’t have them outside their homes. They think that laws that don’t have that result are lax. We don’t need to know why or how Martin was shot to have that argument–we know he was shot. No gun, no bang. That’s all I was saying.

      • Some believe that licenses to carry guns should be severely restricted, so Zimmermans wouldn’t have them outside their homes.

        This is true, and we now get to the real motivation behind this media campaign.

        From LewRockwell.Com

        It’s not just the cops who “take care of their own”: the practice permeates the entire political establishment (which is why neither you nor I received a multi-billion dollar bailout when the “big boys” did. It is also quite evident in the media’s handling of the Trayvon Martin killing: as terrible as that event was, it would have received virtually NO attention had this young man been shot, under the same circumstances, by a government cop. It may be one of the intended — but disguised — consequences of all this reporting and opinionizing to call into question the practice of alternative systems of crime prevention (e.g., Neighborhood Watches, private security firms, self-protection by individual homeowners, etc.) leaving this function in the hands of the state. What will become of the state’s monopoly on the use of force if individuals can protect themselves? This is not to excuse Mr. Zimmerman’s alleged actions — private parties are no more justified in committing wrongful acts against other persons than are state hired-guns — but may explain the amount of time spent on this incident when contrasted with the recent killing of 17 civilian Afghans (Did I miss Al Sharpton’s take on that act of mass murder?).

        And via Radley Balko

        Police respond to man’s medical alert bracelet accidentally going off, and end up killing him.

    • [I’m leaving in your link because the article is valuable, but in general this would get your comment deleted as spam; in the future, ask permission first, or I’ll delete the link.]

      As to your point: sure it was preventable, and sure Zimmerman pursuing was the trigger for the tragedy, but it certainly didn’t “doom” anyone….that’s pure hindsight. Your article also says his following Martin “provoked” the violence and precluded a self-defense claim. Where do you get that? I am not allowed to attack someone for following me….it’s still unprovoked. And if my attacker has his hands around my throat or tries to take my gun to shoot me with, I am justified in using deadly force to defend myself whether I was following him or not. What, you think my previous rash conduct condemns me to allow an attacker to kill me? Nowhere, nohow. IF Zimmerman, at the moment he shot, was legitimately in fear of his life, it’s self-defense if he didn’t initiate the attack.

      • If someone is chasing me and I feel my life is in danger why do I not have the right to stop and attack him to protect myself?

          • No he doesn’t but in my opinion Zimmerman instigated the conflict by chasing after him. What I’m interested in knowing is whether he broke it off and was attacked as he walked back to his truck or not. I think that may make a difference in whether he is guilty of a crime or not.

  5. I don’t disagree that Jackson and Sharpton are opportunists and anachronistic in their approach. It’s quite sad to see them out there saying the things they are, and casual use of the word “martyr” to describe Martin, and the irresponsible comparisons to Emmet Till. Interestingly enough, even the alleged killers of Emmet Till were charges and put on trial, the sham that it was. As noxious as Sharpton and Jackson are, however, it doesn’t detract from the validity of the underlying cause. Moreover, in my world, it is mostly nonblacks who are outraged by the lack of a meaningful investigation in this matter. For smart analysis and commentary on this incident, by mostly whites and Asians, everyone should check out The Young Turks website. Finally, even conservatives recognize the State’s disposition on this case thus far has been misguided. In fact, Rich Lowry in the conservative National Review Online wrote a cogent article titled, “Al Sharpton is Right.” The point is, don’t get caught up with who the messenger is, right is right. Check out the Lowry article everyone. It’s OK to be conservative and demand justice in this case.

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