27 March 2012

Update on Martin v Zimmerman

The Sanford police department has leaked a witness story, with apparently some claim to corroboration, that Martin did indeed attack Zimmerman (and it has been long known that Zimmerman suffered some minor injuries for which he did not go to the hospital). This is basically because they have been under siege from public and media circles for weeks now, and police departments across the country are unaccustomed to having their public releases and interpretations of events questioned (hence their continued war on cameras in some jurisdictions to remove contradictory evidence or interpretation from ever seeing the light of day), as media tends to report such things uncritically.

From what I can tell, this does little to reduce the demand that Zimmerman should have been charged or arrested, at some point. It is possible that their conclusions at the scene were that he acted properly, and that this may even be a sensible and appropriate conclusion. But that additional evidence would have led them to question this (Martin's girlfriend's story, other potential witnesses, the 911 dispatch call) and that they could leave it up to a prosecutor or judge or grand jury or jury trial to adjudicate whether his actions were in fact appropriate. Some police discretion is appropriate of course. It's questionable whether discretion is usually appropriate when someone has died. I already see considerable parallels to the often deliberately shoddy handling of police violence and use of force against citizens and the manner these are investigated or handled and this is not an encouraging trend to see as it regards non-police action by ordinary citizens where the most serious forms of violence are involved.

Further, whether or not his actions in the ultimate and unfortunate conclusion were appropriate responses in defence of his person against an aggressive attack, his actions leading up to that attack could be construed as aggressive (wherein the "attacker" could be believably acting in defense of his person as well). 
Instigating a fight through suspicious and intrusive behavior, even unintentionally, and then using lethal force when in a position of defending one's self against that fight does not seem like something we should be in the habit of encouraging through the law by interpreting self-defense laws to automatically and without question protect such actions as legally and morally sensible (consider for example that there are many levels of criminal code for causing the death of another human beings, wherein even unintentional, or at least unpremeditated, death is sometimes a punishable event).

Nor is having neighbourhood watches that involve armed and aggressive patrols. As in this case, what are considered "suspicious" actions by untrained and apparently paranoid civilians (and indeed, often by trained police officers) are often as not, mundane tasks which should not deserve suspicion. Placing paranoid and overly suspicious people in the position of determining rapidly which actions deserve the neighbourhood's closer attention is hardly the best means of reducing criminal behavior to begin with, but then arming them and allowing them to act as vigilantes strikes me as a further step too far in a very questionable direction.
Post a Comment