Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck Update: Yup! It’s Still Rolling

(I hadn’t posted a train wreck photo for a while. It was time.)

The ethics principle that the apparently endless ethics train wreck launched when George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin (Zimmerman’s trial is set for June) most clearly delineates is this: criminal trials, including their arguments and evidence, should take place in court, not in public.

From the very beginning, public opinion, and by extension jury biases, have been manipulated by statements to the media by an endless parade of parties and onlookers who should have kept their mouths shut. The array of unethical commentators  include Martin’s family and lawyer, Zimmerman’s lawyers, past and present, the prosecutor, police personnel, potential witnesses, journalists, pundits, elected officials, idiot celebrities, and the President of the United States.

And you’ll be happy to know that it’s still happening. The New York Times reports that the judge in the case has ruled that Martin’s school and social media records should be provided to the defense, because they are relevant in a case in which the defendant is alleging self-defense. The judge agreed with Zimmerman’s lawyers that whether a victim “had an alleged propensity to violence” or aggression is relevant in the inquiry into what happened.

Naturally, as has become routine in this tragedy, Martin’s mother and father quickly took to the newsmedia to spin the decision.  Outside the courthouse, they protested the defense’s efforts to portray their son as the aggressor. “Trayvon was the victim,” said Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father. “And I think it’s wrong that we attack the victim.”

No, it’s wrong to use the media to argue guilt or innocence in a criminal case before the case has been tried. The Martin’s are basically saying that they think it’s wrong for Zimmerman to have a legal defense to murder charges. The Constitution and American justice system say otherwise. It has been clear from the beginning that the Martins would be happy to forgo a trial and just have Zimmerman sent directly to prison for life, and they have accumulated a disturbingly large, vocal and violent group of followers who feel the same way. In every case in which a defendant accused of murder claims self-defense, his or her argument is that the deceased, the victim, provoked the violence with a credible threat that required deadly force. Trying to establish this in trial isn’t “wrong,” it’s necessary; having the opportunity to establish this isn’t “wrong,” it is what we call due process, and the right to a fair trial.

When Martin’s parents were attempting to make sure that law enforcement officials were diligently investigating their son’s shooting before Zimmerman was arrested, their public statements—some of them, anyway—could be defended. Now the Mertins are just engaged in extra-judicial interference. They have a right to talk, but they shouldn’t. It’s time to shut up and let the system work.


Facts: New York Times

Graphic: Social Mallard

8 thoughts on “Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck Update: Yup! It’s Still Rolling

  1. Help me out here, Jack.

    Regardless of what Martin’s family is saying or doing, there are (I hope, since I’d like to have some company on this) a fair number of people who do believe that Zimmerman is entitled to as active and competent a defense as possible… but who can’t figure out the reasoning behind the judge’s decision.

    I just don’t see the relevance of whether Martin had a proclivity for violence. Surely all that matters is Zimmerman’s perception, which could have been wrong. If Martin had such a record, it doesn’t mean he was acting at all in a threatening manner on the day in question. If he didn’t, it doesn’t mean he wasn’t being aggressive.

    If I interpret the law correctly, it is the accused’s state of mind that is the determinant here. That wouldn’t have been influenced by Martin’s actual history unless Zimmerman had read a dossier on him.

    We don’t know whether the defense really suspects they’ll find something. If so, they’re trying to muddy the waters by, yes, attacking the victim. If not, it’s a desperation ploy that could backfire: “Remember how they wanted to dig up evidence that Trayvon was violent. You didn’t hear anything about that, did you?”

    What am I missing?

    • The jury has to decide if Zimmerman’s account is credible. If Martin had a history of avoiding confrontations, abhorred guns and violence, and never was in a fight in his life, how plausible would Zimmerman’s story that Martin initiated a physical struggle…because that’s the story. If, on the other hand, he had numerous fighting incidents on his disciplinary record, and his reputation, words and conduct were that of someone with a temper and quick to initiate fights, then Zimmerman’s account will be more likely to fly.

      Remember, this isn’t “stand your ground.” That’s based on perception. Self-defense is based on what happened.

      • And yet in a recent case involving an alleged racial attack on a black trans woman,, the fact that the deceased had a swastika tattoo on his chest, was known even to his relatives for his racist and transphobic views, and had numerous convictions for assaults on women, were all suppressed by the judge, and not allowed to be given in evidence specifically because it might prejudice the jury against the deceased.

        Circumstances alter cases, the devil may be in the details, It’s difficult seeing consistency here.

  2. In a nation whose Congress has passed, and whose President has signed a bill like the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows the government to detain in custody, indefinitely, any American, regardless of where he is in the world, who is perceived to have commited a “belligerent act” against the United States, we should not be surprised that the innocence of an accused can be assumed before his trial by jury.

  3. I would speculate that, since an entire political cottage industry has sprung up around the Trayvon case, nobody’s going to let go of it as long as they perceive a way to capitalize off of it. That seems to include the Martin family. Not without precedent, though.

  4. Jack: Seems like the Martins want to allow push negative things about GZ, his grades, medical records, facebook, past court records, but don’t want TM facebook, school records, phone records known. Tract Martin has refused to give investigators the PIN for TM phone. Will any of this information be allowed as evidence by the judge at trial?

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