Redux

I haven’t weighed in yet on the biggest trial of the year because I wanted to get my response together.

I believe the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial was the legally correct one.

The prosecution lost that case; it had no story stitched together based upon neither evidence nor witnesses who were credible nor experts who didn’t end up biting the prosecution backside (and some witnesses actually ending up helping the defense). None of its case was “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

I became a trial junkie on this case. When it was first presented in the media, the narrative presented was: “Neighborhood watch captain shoots and kills unarmed teenager.” My first thought was, “That’s terrible.” – and I put it out of my mind.

You see, the evening news is glutted with horrific stories – babies being left to roast in parked cars; children falling out of 4th floor windows; women being held hostages, beaten and raped; old men being kept prisoners for their government aid checks. And, yes, gang violence, drugs, guns, murders, guns and more guns.

And the horror, the horrors, suffered by billions of persons in the rest of the world cannot be comprehended, nor can it be spoken of.

But when this trial resurfaced, I became fascinated by it. My husband would say “obsessed” – but, we quibble. Always.

The best and most fair summary online of all evidence presented at trial is at Wikipedia. This crowd-sourced site is more reliable than anything you’ll find on personal blogs because every statement submitted has to be documented. Also pro-con forces call out errors and balance each other.

So go here and read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Trayvon_Martin

Here’s one excerpt that might explain “why” Zimmerman stopped that night when he was on his way to get his lunches for the week:

“From January 1, 2011 through February 26, 2012, police were called to The Retreat at Twin Lakes 402 times.[47] During the 6 months preceding the February 26 shooting, Zimmerman called the non-emergency police line seven times. On five of those calls, Zimmerman reported suspicious looking men in the area, but never offered the men’s race without first being asked by the dispatcher.[62][63][64] Crimes committed at The Retreat in the year prior to Martin’s death included eight burglaries, nine thefts, and one shooting.[65] Twin Lakes residents said there were dozens of reports of attempted break-ins, which had created an atmosphere of fear in their neighborhood.[32]

“In September 2011, the Twin Lakes residents held an organizational meeting to create a neighborhood watch program. Zimmerman was selected by neighbors as the program’s coordinator, according to Wendy Dorival, Neighborhood Watch organizer for the Sanford Police Department.[4][4][66]

“Three weeks prior to the shooting, on February 2, 2012, Zimmerman called police to report a young man peering into the windows of an empty Twin Lakes home. Zimmerman was told a police car was on the way and he waited for their arrival. By the time police arrived, the suspect had fled. On February 6, workers witnessed two young black men lingering in the yard of a Twin Lakes resident around the same time her home was burgled. A new laptop and some gold jewelry were stolen. The next day police discovered the stolen laptop in the backpack of a young black man, which led to his arrest. Zimmerman identified this young man as the same person he had spotted peering into windows on February 2.”

On the night Martin would die, here’s the transcript of Zimmerman’s original call to the Sanford Police.

http://www.motherjones.com/documents/326700-full-transcript-zimmerman

He does not say, “There’s a young black punk wearing a hoodie that doesn’t belong in my neighborhood.” Instead, the operator asks for a description: “Is he white, black or Hispanic?” Zimmerman answers, “He looks black.”

It was dark out and raining. Frankly, I think each guy was startled and/or scared of the other guy.

We know that Martin approached Zimmerman who was in his truck because there’s audio of the dinging of an alarm when Zimmerman opens his truck door. That’s also what he reports to the 411 dispatcher. We’ll never know why Martin walked around Zimmerman’s truck. Maybe Zimmerman flashed his flashlight in Martin’s face – an aggressive enough move, certainly.

We’ll never know who said what to whom. MARTIN: “What are you looking at?” is just as likely as ZIMMERMAN saying: “What are you up to?” In his walk-through the following day with police (which he consistently stuck to and his neighbors’ descriptions on 911 seem to back up the vast majority of the time), Zimmerman says Martin was wandering slowly through the rain, sort of looking into the windows of houses. It’s just as possible Martin was looking for his father’s place in this huge development of hundreds of identical-looking homes.

Then, Zimmerman says, Martin disappeared. “He’s running.”

I believe that’s when Zimmerman gets so frustrated with “these assholes” and “fucking [unintelligible].” Read the 411 non-emergency transcript again. I do not believe “these assholes always get away” refers to any race; it applies to the burglars who have been breaking and entering in his neighborhood and threatening the sanctuaries of families’ homes.

The telephone responder does say: “Are you following him? (Yes) OK we don’t need you to do that. (OK)” But later on the same responder is trying to get an address out of Zimmerman that Zimmerman can’t find.

Another point about this call to police is that Zimmerman identifies himself by name, address and phone. He also, and this is important, takes great care to try to ensure the responding officers will find him. He even wants them to call him so he can escort their car into the correct area of the development. Would someone will evil intent do that?

Again, we don’t know who threw the first punch. Zimmerman ended up with documented head injuries consistent with his skull being pounded on concrete; he also had a dislocated and bloodied nose.

Martin ended up dead.

Of course there is no comparison to be made there.

A 17-year-old walking home from a store with Skittles and Arizona Tea should not have died that night. And Zimmerman should not have shot him that night.

But, and here’s my opinion, I believe it is George Zimmerman’s voice one hears repeatedly screaming for help on the 911 calls (neighbors’ recordings). I believe him when he says Martin ended up on top of him and was hitting him, pounding Zimmerman’s head.

The tragedy would strike soon when Martin began putting his hand over Zimmerman’s nose and mouth. He was in pain. He couldn’t breathe. And then – then he THOUGHT he felt Martin’s hand reaching toward his gun. Zimmerman took it out of his holster.

Boom.

Zimmerman says (and a neighbor confirms he said) that he did not even realize Martin was dead.

One other point: Zimmerman did not have a rap sheet a mile long. According to msnbc.com:

“Court documents obtained by msnbc.com on Tuesday evening show that George Zimmerman, who fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, went to court in 2005 and 2006 for accusations of domestic violence, tussling with a police officer and speeding.

The three incidents took place in Orange County, Fla.

In 2005, Zimmerman, then 20, was arrested and charged with “resisting officer with violence” and “battery of law enforcement officer,” both which are third-degree felonies. The charge was reduced to “resisting officer without violence” and then waived when he entered an alcohol education program. Contemporaneous accounts indicate he shoved an officer who was questioning a friend for alleged underage drinking at an Orange County bar.

In August 2005, Zimmerman’s ex-fiancee, Veronica Zuazo, filed a civil motion for a restraining order alleging domestic violence. Zimmerman counterfiled for a restraining order against Zuazo. The competing claims were resolved with both restraining orders being granted.”

Sounds to me that Zimmerman was a stupid 20-year-old who got caught drinking and probably driving, resisted arrest and shoved a different officer at a bar during another act of stupidity. The domestic violence case sounds to me as if its two immature (probably drinking) 20-year-olds who should have had restraining orders granted against them.

But that’s the extent of Zimmerman’s rap sheet. It begins and ends in 2005. No domestic disturbances have been filed by his wife or neighbors.

Zimmerman will have to live with the knowledge that he took the life of someone who’ll never be able even to reach 20 years old. That’s no victory. Nor could a “guilty” verdict have given the Martin family any lasting comfort. They will never see their son again and that’s an unimaginable for any parent.

So, do I think you can draw a direct line from the NRA’s relentless campaign to arm Americans to the shooting of Trayvon Martin? Yes. But let’s also include many other factors: Conceal and Carry Laws, Stand Your Ground Laws (which, by the way, always have been the way of the Wild, Wild West), crime, longstanding racial suspicions, Americans’ alienation from selves and neighbors, media hype, political opportunism, fear, the effects of divorce, of dreams unrealized, and the pressure we put on young boys so they end up believing they must grow up and fight – to the death, if necessary – to be like real men.

It’s an American tragedy.

Happy Valentine’s from Andy Borowitz

February 14, 2013
Choking Back Tears, N.R.A. Leader Marries Gun
Posted by Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In what he called “the happiest day of my life,” National Rifle Association C.E.O. Wayne LaPierre marked Valentine’s Day by marrying his longtime gun, an AK-47 assault rifle.

Mr. LaPierre grew emotional as he reminisced about meeting the firearm at a gun show in Alabama in 1991.

“The chemistry between us was amazing,” he said. “Our first weekend together, all we did was shoot.”

Marriage between a human and a gun is not legal in most states, a situation that Mr. LaPierre bemoans: “For a lot of N.R.A. members it’s the only intimate relationship they’re capable of.”

The wedding ceremony was attended by twenty-five of Mr. LaPierre’s guns and over two hundred members of Congress.

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Photograph by Chip Somodevilla/Getty.

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/borowitzreport/2013/02/nra-leader-marries-gun.html#ixzz2KuqpRz6t

(NB: I start each morning with an email of Borowitz humor. It works for me. Check him out.)

30 Murdered at Connecticut Elementary School

30 people shot and killed by a 24-year-old who carried this rifle, legal rifle, in the land of the NRA, into an elementary school while it was in session.

18-20 of the 30 dead were children – many in kindergarten – from 5 to 10 years old.

The 24-year-old also killed his mother, a teacher; he’s dead, as well.

We must take our country back from the NRA and now.

Explain this:

AP: Suspect used .223 caliber rifle. This is a picture of a .223 rifle. This is legal. pic.twitter.com/dvaJH6n8

William Souder’s “On a Farther Shore” Scores NYTimes Nod

Congratulations to our very Rowdy William Souder whose biography of Rachel Carson, On a Farther Shore, has been named to the “100 Notable Books of 2012” by the New York Times.

What a nice acknowledgment for our friend of a job well done.

Author and reviewer Elizabeth Royte calls Williams’s writing “absorbing.” Here’s part of her summary:

In Souder’s telling, almost every aspect of Carson’s life and times becomes captivating: her difficult personal circumstances (she grew up in rural poverty, was the sole breadwinner in her family and battled breast cancer while writing and then defending “Silent Spring”); the publishing milieu; and the continuing friction between those who would preserve nature versus those who would bend it to provide utility for man.

Sources also tell me Bill will be on C-SPAN’s “Book TV” this Saturday, Dec. 1, at 6 p.m. our time. (And, no, I am not his press agent.)

How cool is this all? Way cool. Nicely played, Master Souder.

What Would Nixon Do?

In light of the discussions about fiscal cliffs, spendthrift Democrats and plutocratic Republicans who never met a tax cut for the rich they didn’t like comes this video I stumbled across. Richard M. Nixon explaining that it’s not how much government spends that matters; it’s what they spend it on. This man had a heart, people.

So what would Nixon make of all of our squabbling? I think he’d be a centrist, someone you could meet in the middle and do business with. Too bad we’ve lost that.

VIDEO: From the History Channel

CAMPAIGN SHOCKER: Bloomberg + Obama

Just announced: NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg has endorsed Barack Obama for President. In the wake of Hurrican Sandy, Bloomberg now “gets it” on climate change and believes Obama will be more serious in addressing the issue.

Wow. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/02/nyregion/bloomberg-endorses-obama-saying-hurricane-sandy-affected-decision.html?emc=na

I’m at work, folks, so I can’t say much more now. But discuss amongst yourselves.

Why the London Olympics Were a Complete Success (Despite Mitt Romney)

Strange Looking People at the Olympics
This will not be a travelogue.

I will not talk about the majesty of seeing the emerald hillsides, of hearing the roaring seacoast nor spending a night in a glorious 16th century castle in Ireland; nor will I speak of ten exuberant days touring London and every great site from Westminster Abbey to the Jublilee Display of 10,000 of the Queen’s Diamonds. And only a snob of the snootiest order would speak of a you-don’t-even-want-to-know-how-much-it-cost-our-hostess dinner at Claridge’s.

Wait. Did I just give you a travelogue? Sorry. I meant to make this a brief description of the Games of the XXX Olympiad, which I attended Aug. 4-14.

The Olympics will forever more define the word “spectacle” for me. London was a superb host, completely ready for those games despite Mitt Romney’s criticism to the contrary. The city was impeccably clean although one cabbie told me it usually looks that way. Transportation was no problem. Londoners had been asked to take the tube and trains in to work earlier than usual – or find alternative means of transport – so that the lines would be free for event goers during the day and into evening. And of course, taxis were everywhere if you were willing to pay the pounds.

{Tip: If you go to London, it’s worth it to purchase The London Pass and the London Travelcard. With those two in hand, you can get from one landmark to another, get to the front of “queues” and fly through underground stations. Just Google them.)

Olympic organizers had also spent a great amount of time posting signage that lost tourists needed to find their way to three dozen different venues. Most helpful were the 70,000 volunteers, called “Games Makers” for the integral role they played, who could easily be spotted along the sides of the roads, at stations, at events – beginning at Heathrow. (Some 240,000 people applied for these volunteer positions. Interviewing began in 2010. And Romney thought the city wasn’t ready?)

Londoners themselves were very helpful and seemed happy we were there. And despite dire publicity that British soldiers would be everywhere, we scarcely saw them. (Maybe that’s how well camouflaged they were?)

We did not attend Opening Ceremonies; tickets were going for $3,700 per.
If you watched, you know they were just strange, wonderful, ducky – British, in other words. I loved that the Queen was such a good sport in agreeing to the James Bond spoof.

What a thrill to watch the U.S. women’s soccer team beat Japan for a Gold Medal. Imagine a record 84,000 fans packed into Wembley Stadium, thousands of them decked out in some combination of red, white and blue. Brilliant fun.

I admit it: I’m a sucker for pageantry. And when the U.S. women stood on the middle stage during the playing of the National Anthem and our flag was raised just slightly higher than Japan’s and Canada’s (Eh), I was verklempt.

We also attended women’s championship volleyball where the U.S. lost to Brazil, the country that will host the 2016 games.

But the strangest Olympic event we attended was women’s team handball. Never heard of it? Neither had we. But the Brits now love it. Wow. What a vicious, tough sport. Think soccer with no padding but with gouging of the opponents’ eyes allowed. Yikes.

By the way, because you purchase Olympic tickets in advance of knowing who will be playing, we ended up watching Korea play Russia in that event. Never have I cared less about rooting for anyone. Nonetheless, I cheered on Korea but had the most fun watching Russian coach Andre Trefilov go apopletic in the way he encouraged his team.

The overall feeling in London during those 10 days was that One Big Party was being held and you were in it. And it seemed that young people, those 20-year-olds who are supposed to be so cynical about everything, were having the most fun of all.

In addition, imagine having more than 10,000 Olympic athletes, all with extraordinary physiques, staying in the same place and at the same time. Rumor had it there was quite a lot of hooking up in the Olympic Village. America’s own Michael Phelps went out clubbing one night wearing three of his Gold Medals around his neck.

Ah, youth.