Saturday, March 24, 2012


Sad Statistics

One of the good things from a legal education is being able to sort out of the largely irrelevant mess of details the few operative facts which matter to the law. Let me do that with the sad tale of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. Young Mr. Martin died of a gunshot wound caused by Mr. Zimmerman. Mr. Zimmerman was bleeding from his nose and a wound to the back of his head. It is impossible not to think that Mr. Zimmerman and Mr. Martin were fighting before the gun was used to kill Mr. Martin. One eyewitness says Mr. Martin was on top of Mr. Zimmerman beating him and George Zimmerman was yelling for help just before the fatal shot was fired. We are far from having the complete story in front of us.

What ultimately will matter is who threw the first punch, as initial aggressors generally cannot then claim self defense. Generally when someone starts a fight which goes badly for the initiator, if he then uses deadly force to prevent grievous bodily injury, he's facing manslaughter charges.

Other than that bit of legal analysis, the case is not that interesting or, for that matter, newsworthy, however sad it is. Here's why. It is a very rare thing that a non-black person kills a black person. We are not a nation constantly involved in interracial violence (here is an exception but it is getting no national coverage even though the racist hate element is fairly pronounced). Blacks in America are 18 times more likely to be murdered by another black person than by a person of any other racial background. But we never, or hardly ever, talk about the common scenario. We, or at least those on the left politically, would rather talk about the rare case as if it were instructive.

President Obama said that the homicide should cause all of us to do some "soul searching." Why?
The News One ("for Black America") staff says stop using the death of Trayvon Martin to talk about black on black crime. Why? They have prejudged the incomplete evidence and called it "murder" rather than "death."

I'd rather wait until we have more information before I pass judgment.

UPDATE: Here are more recent figures than the DOJ statistics I was using (which showed that 93% of murders of black Americans were by other black Americans). Virtually the same sad statistics.

UPDATE 2: Clear thinking columnist for the Washington Post, Eugene Robinson, chimes in with his specious conclusion here. Money quote:

But the tragic and essential thing, for me, is the bull’s-eye that black men wear throughout their lives — and the vital imperative to never, ever, be caught on the wrong street at the wrong time.
There may well be a bull's-eye on the back of black males, but it's almost exclusively other black males taking the shot at them.

Here's Charles Blow at the New York Times with his take on the early state of conjecture. He brings it home:

As the father of two black teenage boys, this case hits close to home. This is the fear that seizes me whenever my boys are out in the world: that a man with a gun and an itchy finger will find them “suspicious.” That passions may run hot and blood run cold. That it might all end with a hole in their chest and hole in my heart. That the law might prove insufficient to salve my loss.
It's fear of someone with a gun finding his boys 'suspicious' that fills his heart with dread? Is that the real world top threat to his sons?

He ends somewhat out on a limb:

Although we must wait to get the results from all the investigations into Trayvon’s killing, it is clear that it is a tragedy. If no wrongdoing of any sort is ascribed to the incident, it will be an even greater tragedy.
I'm not sure he is aware he's using the rhetorical device of apophasis. If I might paraphrase: We should await the investigation results but it's clear a crime has been committed? Really? Based on what?


At least some of the hand-wringing re. Zimmerman has to do with Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which I infer is coming from the "guilty" camp, who are worried about him getting off due to that law, which as I understand it, undid the "duty to retreat" provision of prior law.

Why Mr. Obama even feels the need to comment publicly ... well, of course he's as free to do so as you or I, but it feels like just another opportunity for him to lecture us about some sort of collective societal fault, as if we're all somehow responsible for creating an environment in which things such as this happen. I wonder what he thinks of Watts.
Another example of his inability to prioritize. This tragedy was not worth Presidential comment. It's not worth much more of our time either. Thanks for the comment.
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