Trayvon Martin’s Mother Says That The Killing of Her Son Was An Accident. Well, That’s Certainly A Generous and Reasonable Thing For Her To—Wait, WHAT???

Great. Thanks for that statement, Sybrina. Now look what you've done to my head!

You think the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck is almost done? Ha! I would love for you to be right, but the signs are not promising:

  • Yesterday, the special prosecutor ended the suspense and announced that Zimmerman would be charged, putting a sock in the collective mouths of activists who claimed that the case was already closed. That was nice, but it also allowed Al Sharpton to claim that it was the demonstrations, the threats and the public outcry that forced that outcome. This is bad in three ways:

1.) It suggests that the U.S. justice system can be manipulated by mob rule;

2.) It tells the public that any citizen might be arrested, not because law enforcement believes it has a legitimate case, but because his rights have been balanced against other political and popular factors and found to be dispensable; and

3.) He may be right. Angela Corey, who made the decision to charge Zimmerman without a grand jury, strongly denied Sharpton’s point, and we should all hope she was being truthful.

  • But she almost certainly over-charged. Again, with a second degree murder charge, she is saying that there was no self-defense and that Zimmerman shot Trayvon out of spontaneous anger, animus or other cause that does not include any excuse or legally recognized mitigating factor. Here’s hope again: I hope she has sufficient evidence to support this. Otherwise, she has set everyone up for another round of mob fury and even violence, when Zimmerman is released by the judge who must rule on the “Stand Your Ground” law’s application to Zimmerman before trial, or when a jury finds that the evidence doesn’t support the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Unethical: if Corey took this path  intentionally to take the city and state off the hook, guaranteeing that a judge would take the heat, and everyone could attack the judiciary for following the law, since that is the current fad. Unethical: if she overcharged to give the jury the unenviable job of freeing Zimmerman, since people are used to blaming Florida juries. (See: Anthony, Casey) Requiring less suspicion is the theory, advanced by some defense lawyers, that Corey is over-charging to put leverage on Zimmerman (he will be facing life imprisonment) and squeeze him to agree to a lesser charge, like manslaughter. Prosecutors are not supposed to charge citizens with crimes they know they can’t prove in trial; it is professional misconduct. I know, Jack McCoy used to do it all the time on Law and Order. So do too many prosecutors. It’s still unethical.
  • Zimmerman promptly turned himself in, which means that his blabber-mouth lawyers were even more unethical than I thought they were, suggesting that Zimmerman was on the run and out of state when, obviously, he wasn’t. George is well rid of these two.

If this wasn’t enough to prove that the Trayvon train wreck was still rolling, Sybrina Fulton, the dead teen’s mother, weighed in with this jaw-dropper:

“I believe it was an accident, I believe that it just got out of control and he couldn’t turn the clock back.”

NOW she tells us?

The entire uproar was originally launched by Martin’s parents, who provided the catalyst for activists, demagogues,the media and members of Congress to declare Zimmerman a murderous racist, Martin’s death a hate crime, and law enforcement a cabal of racists right out of “Mississippi Burning.” Zimmerman had a $10,000 bounty placed on his head; he was vilified nationwide—and now his mother says she thinks it was all an accident?  This should be Exhibit A for why people who are completely ignorant of the law should never meddle in law enforcement. If it was truly an accident, than Zimmerman shouldn’t have been arrested for Second Degree Murder, though now his parents are also saying that all they ever wanted “was an arrest.” If  Trayvon’s parents believed his shooting was an accident, then this entire, ugly, nation-dividing, bias-exposing, exploited, horrible exhibition of race politics at their worst was advanced under false pretenses.

An accident at most would mean that Zimmerman engaged in  involuntary manslaughter, which is the only serious charge close to murder that Zimmerman could be guilty of unintentionally. Florida calls it involuntary manslaughter when the defendant acted with “culpable negligence,” which Florida statutes define  as a disregard for human life while engaging in wanton or reckless behavior. This does not comport with any of the rhetoric and accusations pressed by the hoodie-wearers, and certainly not with their intensity and venom.

At this point, I almost hope it was second degree murder;  that at least all this insanity and chaos produced a fair trial and a just verdict, and that law enforcement is proven to have finally done its job effectively and completely, getting to the truth at last.

Trayvon’s mother apparently wanted to have an man arrested out of deference to her son. Wrong. To show that Trayvon’s life mattered. Wrong. To make Zimmerman sorry about what happened. Wrong, wrong, wrong. None of these are appropriate, ethical reasons to arrest someone and make him stand trial for his freedom. None of these justify inflaming a nation against him, and placing his life in peril while destroying his prospects of a normal existence forever. The family allowed its supporters to scream that Trayvon was profiled and hunted down. That would be no accident. The parents allowed Sharpton and others to say that their son was shot “in cold blood,” and didn’t believe it themselves.

And Trayvon’s mother had more to say.

“One of the things that I still believe in: A person should apologize when they really — when they are actually remorseful for what they’ve done.”

Absolutely true. I was surprised to learn that Zimmerman hadn’t already said he was genuinely sorry about the shooting—maybe his previous lawyers, Bozo and Clarabell, told him not to because they thought it would weaken his self-defense claims. If one good thing comes out of this epically awful episode, maybe it will be to teach everyone that when you’ve shot someone’s unarmed teenage son, no matter how it happened, the right thing to do is to tell his parents you’re sorry about it, and mean it.

That won’t be  much of a payoff for a tragedy and and a national disgrace, but at least it will be something.

38 thoughts on “Trayvon Martin’s Mother Says That The Killing of Her Son Was An Accident. Well, That’s Certainly A Generous and Reasonable Thing For Her To—Wait, WHAT???

  1. Crimes can be accidental, meaning, you didn’t intend for someone to die, but through your own criminally negligent actions, you caused someone’s death. In other words, Trayvon’s mother seems to be suggesting manslaughter, though an argument can certainly be made for 2nd degree murder, depending on exactly what Zimmerman said in his chat with the cops when he was initially brought in, and exactly how far away Zimmerman was, and the angle, when he shot Trayvon.

    • Ugh. I left out a paragraph…thanks for the catch. Yes… “accident” fits the charge of involuntary manslaughter in Florida. But that has not been the crime that the parents’ supporters have been claiming. Thanks. I fixed it.

  2. I don’t see why a Self Defense defense would make 2nd degree murder unchargeable. If the prosecution can prove that Zimmerman initiated the situation, then this seems reasonable.

    Also, is the 2nd degree murder charge set here? Do juries in Florida have the ability to convict on lesser offenses or is it normal procedure for lesser offenses to be added at a later time than indictment?

    • The defense doesn’t make it non-chargeable; if there was truly self-defense, it can’t be 2nd degree. The charge would then be intentional manslaughter, which was the charge I (and almost everybody else) expected.

      Yes, the prosecutor can drop the charge down,and the jury could also, unless the state insists on an all or nothing verdict. At least, that can happen in my jurisdictions. I haven’t checked in Florida. It’s still unethical to intentionally over-charge.

      • If it truly was self defense, then intentional manslaughter seems inappropriate to me. if the prosecution thinks (and can show) Zimmerman harrassed Martin causing Martin to fear for his safety, then I think 2nd degree would be appropriate for Zimmerman

        • It can’t be both. How the fight resulting in Trayvon’s death (Zimmerman’s story) occurred is only relevant if it continued into the boys death through the original animus. If the death occurred because a fight broke out and Zimmerman was legitimately in fear of his life, then it can’t be a murder with malice attached…it’s either justifiable self-defense (no crime), or excessive force, which is intentional manslaughter. The Stand Your Ground law comes in if Zimmerman could have avoided danger by just running away.

          • It can’t be both what? 2nd degree murder and self defense? Intentional manslaughter and self defense? Intentional manslaughter and 2nd degree murder? Sold on all counts. What most definitely is possible is the DA’s 2nd degree murder charge and the defense’s self defense defense.* Of course, I’m not making the unwarranted assumption that a fight spontaneously broke out. Start from that point, and 2nd degree murder doesn’t make sense, but I don’t see any reason us bystanders should make that assumption.

            * I may have rewritten this just to write so many defenses in a row.

  3. Whereas I agree with your earlier posts that a rush to judgment against George Zimmerman was unwarranted, I’m not sure that your declaration that Angela Corey “almost certainly over-charged” helps the situation any. It’s perfectly reasonable to criticize the lawyers, or the media evidence manipulators, or even Sybrina Fulton, all of whom we know acted inconsistently, incompetently, and/or unethically. But Ms. Corey is in a better position than you or I to know the full extent, relevance, and credibility of the evidence. To suggest at this juncture, even as possibility, that she bowed to political pressure or passed the buck to someone else or is working a power play for a plea bargain is as problematic as it would have been to claim she was motivated by racism or a desire to cover up police incompetence had she decided to file no charges at all. It is perfectly possible that Ms. Corey is indeed over-stepping, but until there is actual evidence to that effect, she deserves the benefit of the doubt.

    • I see the apparent inconsistency, Rick, it is my personal opinion as a former prosecutor and a defense attorney that there is almost no way the fact pattern could sustain a conviction on that charge beyond a reasonable doubt….as Trayvon’s mother’s comments confirm. I said “almost certainly” because, as you suggest, maybe there’s some secret video or something similar, but absent that, I don’t see it. I see your point, but every defense attorney who’s weighed-in thinks this is a ploy. I’m not presuming to say whether or not George IS guilty of 2nd Degree…I’m saying that they can’t convict him of that, which is very different. And since I think Corey should know that, I wonder why she’s charging it. That opinion doesn’t inflame public emotions or undermine the justice system…we second-guess prosecutors; it’s fair game. Now, if I started a national movement condemning her actions….

      They overcharged Casey Anthony, too.

  4. Attacking the media, activists, agitators, the police, and the prosecutors is all fine, but going after a grieving mother who has shown remarkable courage and restraint crosses a line. I saw her speak shortly after the killing was in the news. She said then that her son’s death deserved a full investigation, and she was right. She has said along the way that she trusted the authorities to do the right thing. She also expressed gratitude for the support the family got from the community. If I lost my son, I am sure I would not be as clear in my thinking and speaking as she has been. She deserves nothing but compassion and respect, even if everything she has said has not been perfect. Yes, I hold grieving parents to a lower standard than people who have not just lost a 17-year-old son.

    For the same reason, I have nothing critical to say about Rick Santorum at this moment. Nothing compares to the pain of a parent losing a child.

    • My compassion for parents grieving for lost children stops at their seeding racial hatred and future violence. She’s responsible for her actions, even in grief. The vast majority of grieving mothers manage to do so without ripping nations apart. The time for her to say it was an accident was when Spike Lee, the New Black Panthers and Maxine Waters were declaring that it was a hate crime. There are no accidental hate crimes, you know.

      Another example of the same principle: Cindy Sheehan.

      • She did clarify her statements:

        “Trayvon Martin’s mother says the encounter between her son and a neighborhood watch volunteer was an accident, not the shooting that left her 17-year-old son dead. Sybrina Fulton clarified her remarks Thursday to The Associated Press after she referred to what happened to her son on NBC’s “Today” show as an accident.

        Some interpreted her remark to mean she was referring to the shooting, but she says that isn’t what she meant. She says the encounter between Martin and George Zimmerman was the accident.”

        I think that helps enormously as to exactly what she thinks hppened, when, and why.

        • Too late–per the recently debated debacle with Guillen once somebody says something it is out. Doesn’t matter if that is what she intended or later corrected. What matters to Jack is that it was said. Martin’s mother can neither retract nor clarify.

          • Pretty juvenile post, Greg.As you should know, it depends on the statement, the context, the effect, it’s intent, the timing, and the “clarification”, as well as the timing of the clarification and whether it is credible. You want an iron-clad clarification rule?

            • No, I don’t want rules except for some leniency and understanding. Besides I don’t think any proposed rule could be effectively applied. This is not black and white–there are shade of grey that I like to call compassion or giving someone the benefit of the doubt.

              This woman was thrust into the national spotlight against her desires. What’s to say that she doesn’t have a fear of public speaking. I can image that cameras, microphones and glaring lights (not to mention all of this attention) would cause a bit of anxiety. The normal healing process from her son’s death has been hindered by this becoming a national issue. She misspoke. So what? And she probably didn’t even catch it until it was pointed out to her. It’s not her fault that she doesn’t have a bully pulpit to immediately broadcast a clarification. Give her a break. If she was constantly on a soapbox stirring up the masses (see: Sheehan) then maybe you’d have a point.

              But this ultimate standard of perfection seems absurd. It’s funny that the posters on your blog can’t edit our comments. I think the frequent ones have, at one time or another, wished that ability existed. Whether we say and/or type things it doesn’t always come out right the first time.

              We’re human and thus fallible. Someone above said it best, I wonder what other careless mistakes I made in this post.

        • Oooohh, brother. Do you really? Then you might be the most generous and gullible person on Earth. Here’s the quote again—she was talking about the murder charge, now:
          “I believe it was an accident, I believe that it just got out of control and he couldn’t turn the clock back.”

          What possible sense does that statement make in context it it means the “encounter” and not the shooting? Wasn’t the shooting the part of the encounter that got out of control? Is she saying that he wanted to turn back the clock—when? The encounter was the accident? Well, duh, yes, it wasn’t a planned meeting—was that her observation? She was just stating what everyone knew from the beginning, like, “I believe Mr. Zimmerman’s name is George”? Is it your position that every time anyone says something that causes problems because it gets the speaker in trouble, the calculated denial and reverse spin should be taken as literal truth rather than dishonest retoactive repair work?

          • Well, some say Zimmerman “stalked” Trayvon, and she thinks it was an accidental meeting. She’s basically trying to say, in her own layperson, inarticulate way, that she doesn’t believe it was premediated murder. I’m quite certain she doesn’t know the difference between first degree and second degree murder, and the different gradiations of manslaughter, nor should she. That’s what the prosecutor is for. And since Trayvon’s mother wasn’t even there that night, nor does she know all the information about the case that the prosecution has, parsing her statements isn’t really even particularly relevant to the case against Zimmerman anyway.

            • Her comments or beliefs aren’t relevant, yet she made them relevant for a month, and stood by as they caused others to accuse Zimmerman of a hate crime, profiling, hunting her son, and “cold-blooded murder.” You don’t have to parse her statements—she said accident; it’s a fourth grade word: she knows what it means. In this context, it means that she thinks Zimmerman didn’t intend to kill her child because he was black. But she let the Black Panthers put a price on his head, and didn’t say a word.

    • Where do you draw the line with your benefit of the doubt? Making stupid comments to the press: check. Trying to set up theocracy: check.

      While gratuitous criticism may be mean spirited, being on the bad end of something doesn’t absolve one of responsibility for their actions and words.

  5. Dude, your inconsistencies are staggering. You chastised the world, saying they don’t know the facts, putting your faith in the Sanford cops and the State. You said they know what’s going on and everyone else needs to shut up. A tough, Republican-appointed prosecutor files dramatic charges– charges that stunned everyone and would be reckless if she couldn’t back it up– and you insinuate that she may be playing games, or once again, another one influenced by Sharpton, New Black Panthers, (insert emotional black person here). Maybe she and her team, whom she introduced as serious homicide invesitigators know something we don’t.

    I also love how you’re holding Trayvon’s Mom to the standards of a lawyer. While I swear I saw her in IL at Harvard, she disappeared after a week. She may not speak in legal terms. Should the prosecutor now scale back her charges in deference to the mother’s remarks? Some thought her remarks didnt even warrant an arrest weeks ago.

    Maybe just maybe the justice system is trying to work fairly?

    • [Don’t call me “Dude” if you want your next comment posted. I’m not kidding.]

      At this point, thanks to the pollution by threats and public pressure, the justice system can’t work properly. At this point, virtually no one believes that the factors like public unrest haven’t influenced the process. Sharpton and others are taking credit for the arrest. Everyone knows that if there wasn’t an indictment, Obama’s meddling Justice Department would be swooping in claiming civil rights violations—Holder spent earlier this week sucking up to Sharpton’s group. There is nothing in the least inconsistent in my acknowledging that all this factors in to the charges. I assumed, when I first heard the charge, that it would be supported by new evidence that indicated intent and malice, and ruled out self-defense. I am no Dershowitz fan, and he distrusts all prosecutors. But his assessment of affidavit on MSNBC was fair. Everything points to the state making a politically motivated charge that won’t stand up.

      Regarding Martin’s mother, her remarks are irrelevant to the charges, and I didn’t suggest otherwise. They are 100% at odds with the rhetoric and demands she helped foment. It’s not a complex point, but an obvious one. Don’t mix up “saying what you mean” with “talking like a lawyer.” They aren’t even close to the same thing. If you speak in public, you are accountable for your words. So is she.

  6. Pingback: Trayvon Martin’s Mother Says That The Killing of Her Son Was An Accident. Well, That’s Certainly A Generous and Reasonable Thing For Her To—Wait, WHAT??? | Ethics |

  7. I’ll admit, I’m nit-picking Jack about this: “This should be Exhibit A for why people who are completely ignorant of the law should never meddling in law enforcement.”

    Juries typically include citizens who at least are susceptible to being suspected “completely ignorant of the law,” at least prior to their selection for a jury. I would go so far as to say that most selected jurists learn more about the law as a trial progresses than they ever knew beforehand. Ideally, that learning only adds to the already carefully vetted jurists’ seriousness and diligence about doing their part of law enforcement.

    So, it’s just my reaction perhaps, but I took that particular statement of Jack’s as a possible reflection that he has misgivings about trial by jury. I am sensitive about that, since my experiences in court have included both selection for a jury in a trial that led to a conviction, and giving testimony under subpoena at another trial-by-bench that also led to a conviction.

      • Exactly right, and no, I was not referring to the jury. Trial by jury is a cornerstone of participatory democracy, (and also one of my favorite Gilbert and Sullivan shows: I’ve directed it 3 times). Like all democratic institutions, it is flawed, and the more complicated laws and forensics get, the more flawed it is. Jurors no understanding the law does become a problem in many cases—like the case I was on a jury for. I had to explain to a very educated jury that civil liability wasn’t like criminal guilt—a defendant could have behaved horribly and negligently, but if his actions didn’t really cause the plaintiff’s injuries, he wasn’t liable for them. They just couldn’t get that, despite the clear judge’s instructions.

        • Jack and tgt, honestly, I wish it were otherwise, but you got too fancy for me here. I am begging for your patience and pleading for your help, so that I might understand better what I thought I understood full well.

          I do thank you Jack, for clarifying what you were referring to. I agree that juries are vital to justice. So vital, I hope I never get selected again.

          As a selected juror who answered a juror-screening question (“What is the purpose of the criminal justice system – punishment or rehabilitation?”) with “Punishment” – and, knowing that if I had answered “Justice” that I would not have been selected, because the question posed to me did not offer that choice, even if that choice was the one I would have enjoyed arguing for – I am compelled to ask, in light of your corrections of me: Why (and how), then, if I am a participant in a procedure that results in punishment, or non-punishment, of a person under our criminal justice system, do I, as a juror at least, nevertheless “have absolutely no role in law enforcement?” Are you saying that “nullification” by a jury is strictly “non-enforcement?”

          • Law enforcement is the process of investigating cases and arresting people. I’d also include the prosecution of cases, but some people wouldn’t. The judge, jury, defense council, defendant, court reporters, witnesses, and the like are part of the justice system, but not part of law enforcement.

            • Okay, so it’s a fine point of distinction where one person may conceptualize more or less inclusively. Thanks tgt, you saved my day!

  8. Alan Dershowitz appeared on Hardball last week where he also argued that Prosecutor Corey overcharged. He was even more definitive and vehement in his criticism of Corey and her affidavit. He suggested it was politically-motivated and unethical. He didn’t think it even made a case for probable cause and predicted, incorrectly, that the judge would throw it out. You may want to consider linking it.

    What was also interesting was an unsolicited comment Dershowitz made at the end. He praised the Martin parents for their conduct throughout the case. You say the mother “now” says all she wanted was an arrest. This is what these last six weeks was always about! The Martins and their tens of millions of supporters were all outraged because Sanford police, at the direction of the State, had declined to arrest Zimmerman. At least one mainstream commentator remarked that conservatives have created this straw man that this huge protest was about whether Zimmerman should be convicted of a crime. Sure, many argued that too but, the core of the protest, has been the failure of the police to arrest Zimmerman and send this case to a jury. Somehow conservatives (usually) have always elided this critical distinction and insisted on conflating the issues. Most who were protesting could not even concern themselves with the ultimate question when they did not even see the prospect of this going to trial, since no arrest had occurred.

    Finally, even if Martin’s mother did think this tragedy was an accident, she did believe it was a crime and that Zimmerman should have been arrested for it. Some of her supporters went further. I suppose you believe she should have either silenced those people or distanced herself from them. Well, there’s only so many of them who she was directly associated with. But even then, she didn’t know everything that happened only that we might never know because it appeared that Chief Lee saw nothing to prosecute. It’s fair for her to suspect all of the above and demand an arrest on what she did know. I know I thought an arrest was warranted and like many, I expected a manslaughter charge. I was open to the possibility of a negligent criminal accident and thought that Zimmerman should face th music. Corey’s charge of second-degree murder stunned me. Should I or the Martin mother demand lesser charges and pull her back because we think it could have been an accident. I don’t think justice should be limited, or people’s advocacy for justice in this matter should be limited, by the perceptions of the grieving mother about the facts of this case. Like Dershowitz and others, I think the parents have been great through all this.

    • Obsviously, I don’t, and I think your comment is pretty incoherent. If there was probable cause that Zimmerman committed a crime, he should be arrested, if there wasn’t, he shouldn’t. Neither the parents, nor Al, nor the President, nor you, nor I knew or know enough about that to demand he “should” be anything, yet the parents (and Al, and the New Black Panthers, and the CBC, and Obama, and Spike, and MSNBC, NBC, ABC, CNN…) mounted a pressure campaign on the state to make a decision that should be independent and objective on political and public opinion grounds, and seem to have succeeded. The parents may have said that they wanted justice, but since they were unwilling to accept justice if it came in the form of a reasoned decision that Trayvon’s death wasn’t the result of a crime, what they really wanted was revenge. Their son is dead, so they wanted Zimmerman to be harmed as well.

      He’s now going to be in jail for a year, while a dubious case goes to trial. His life is effectively destroyed, and that was the objective—never mind trials or laws. An elected prosecutor decided to charge, and based on the affidavit, at least, doesn’t have enough evidence to convict. People who can’t be convicted shouldn’t be arrested. It’s as simple as that. Mothers don’t have to understand that, but ethical prosecutors do.

      I’m not citing Dershowitz, because most of the time I think he’s an unethical blowhard himself. He hates prosecutors and police; he has no credibility on this issue. He happens to be right, in all likelihood, but he didn’t make any point I didn’t, except to praise the mother and the parents for making justice impossible while making sure that they got partially even with the man who killed their son. And that point is dead, dead wrong.

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