Under: Self-defense
27 Jul 2013

 

As you all know that read this blog entitled, “MySelfDefenseBlog” I mostly speak for the underdog in society – the ones that criminals try to take advantage. I also support guns/laws that regulate guns so long as they make sense. This is why this case has been so hard for me. Here is the NY Times verdict piece.

 

The thing is whenever someone enters into an confrontation with another – things can go south fast. That is why I hated working as a bouncer at a bar. I was representing the bar when I had to throw drunk and unruly patrons out! I got in about one hundred fights in the two years I did that. One time when I was chasing a couple of pranksters down the street – a wise old black man watching the parking lot next door stopped me on the way back and gave me some sage advice. More on that but in this post I want to address the real issue I see – not the verdict but how people are treated based on the legal system in a state from my perception.

 

 

In California, in most counties, one does not have the right to carry a concealed weapon (county Sheriff’s do not approve the permit). That means only the criminals have guns. So for most folks in California – where you live makes a difference. If you go to the poor section of town at night – that’s where drive by shootings occur. So for most folks – Crime is rare. One just has to be prudent later in life. Don’t do the bars and drunken open parties but rather hang out with your friends. I tell you this because except for the young and dumb (my acronym for youth), most people have no problem staying out of trouble.

 

All people are vulnerable that have kids… you know the young and dumb. No matter how much a parent tells the kid how to stay out of trouble – they are old and do not understand as much as their friends know. Any if they get hurt – their parents, friends, and acquaintances also get hurt!

 



So what I am leading up to is in California – issues like happen in Texas and Florida would not happen because unless someone breaks into your house – you cannot legally shoot them in most cases.

 

California also has the reasonable man standard. If in the opinion of the cops, jury – the person acted reasonably outside of their home and had to take a life – they can be acquitted of any crime.

 

However if the person did not act reasonably – that person will be held by the cops and convicted for the crime if everything goes right.

 

In my own personal experience – I’ve had to beat up many people that tried to hit me first. This was back in the days with no cell phone camera’s (heck – no cell phones). So the winner is the only one that could tell a story. Back then any of the people I was trying to knock out because they started it – would have gladly shot me if they had a gun I am guessing. In every case as I was throwing someone out of the bar and they attacked me and I turned the tables on them (remember about 100 times) – I could have been killed I reckon.

 

How about morally? If their are no witnesses – only the two combatants know what happened. Morally a person ought to take every measure to first avoid a fight and if they have to fight – quickly end it with any means needed. Yes I still believe in self defense and I know how easily it is to hurt a person. But if you do not at the very least incapacitate your opponent – he can rally and take you out!

 

Regarding the Martin/Zimmerman case – I have no idea if the verdict is just – just as I guess the jury does not. Juries base their decision on the laws.

 

What I will say is Florida and Texas ought to have laws that require that the victims do everything they can to avoid an altercation before resorting to self defense.

 

About that wise parking lot attendant – he told me that even total jerks have a mother, father, brother, sister, wife, husband, sons, or daughters, friends and lovers that will miss them. If you don’t think much of the jerk in front of you – remember you will be hurting a lot more people than just him if you end up hurting him.

 

What do you think?


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12 Responses to “Does Might Make Right! Musings on the Zimmerman Self Defense Claim”

  1. Bob Patterson Says:

    I think the jury did the best they could, considering their instructions and the law. I also tend to think that so-called “Stand your ground” laws are too lenient and flawed.

    “What I will say is Florida and Texas ought to have laws that require that the victims do everything they can to avoid an altercation before resorting to self defense.”

    IMO this example is not about the right to bear arms, rather, it’s about a reasonable standard for what constitutes self defense.
    Bob Patterson recently posted..Back in Black — New York vs. TexasMy Profile

  2. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Insightful comment Bob. In states that do issue CWP’s – this will be part of the conversation I’d bet.

    I agree about the self defense standard question from my perspective: “it’s about a reasonable standard for what constitutes self defense.”

  3. Dr. J Says:

    Living in Florida, I followed this trial very closely. I predicted the outcome from the very onset of the killing, although I had to wait to see if I would be correct.

    The law and justice are not the same. We are a republic, governed by laws. The jury reached the correct decision by the law. Where is the justice in this case anyway? Everyone had their own agenda based on believing is seeing. What we had were two less than perfect people who both made bad choices, sadly one ended up dead! I wish that Zimmerman did not have a gun at all! Then Martin would have beat him up and that would have ended it without anybody dying!

    The whole thing is so sad for the families and friends who were involved. Their lives are changed forever.

    A last thought: I do not like the way a jury is selected at all. I don’t know if a random selection or if the judge should choose them is the way to go, but having the attorneys pick the jury knowing that the selection will make all the difference as to the outcome is just plane wrong!
    Dr. J recently posted..Precommitment: Like Willpower, Only BetterMy Profile

  4. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Dr. J,

    yep – a very sad case that could have been avoided.

  5. Melissa Says:

    I agree with you, this situation can be avoided.
    He could’ve just escape from that horrific scene instead of hurting people.

  6. Zara Says:

    In my view the morally correct thing to do is to try to avoid a confrontation if you can before resorting to violence. I don’t know enough about either the American legal system or the relevant law(s) to judge whether this is a legally sound decision but it baffles me to hear of an unarmed man being shot dead while the man responsible gets away with it. The more so because the victim in this case was black and it is rather well known that racism is still an issue in the US (in other countries too of course) so this does cast doubts on the fairness of the verdict. In any case it’s a bad precedent: if you feel threatened start shooting, no legal harm will come to you.

    I’m not a fan of the concept of trial by jury: in my country the jury system is only used for the highest penal court (Assisen, trial for murder, rape and the like) and it has been shown that laypeople can be easily manipulated by shrewd lawyers (not many are able to recognise logical fallacies and keep their objectivity under emotional stress and the honey-coated words of a hired mercenary), the result is often a perversion of justice. There was one case whereby a woman was convicted to 30 years in prison for murder without there being one single shred of material evidence against her: in other words she was convicted based solely on conjecture and the rhetoric of the public presecutor and the lawyer for the family of the victim largely based on her supposed abnormal personality (I was under the impression you could only be convicted for what you do and not what you are, being unpleasant is not a crime and therefore not punishable).

    Another peef pet of mine, partially based on the above menioned trial, is the abolition of the role of so called ‘forensic psychiatric experts’ in the courtroom: personality tests and the like are not based on science and predicting someone’s future behaviour is quite impossible (my psychology professor even admitted as much) seeing there are too many variables inluding ones that aren’t even in play yet so I fail to see their added value. Untill there are actual physical tests able to determine the presence of so called ‘mental illnesses’ I very much doubt they’re anything more than ways of describing and judging people’s negative behaviour. Still a great way for the pharmaceutical industry to make of ton of money so it’s no surprise a great number of leading psychiatrists (including those who wrote the DSM-V) are on their payroll one way or the other. To me it’s legal dope-slinging, at least to a large extent. Slap a label on somebody (make up one if you have to, which they do on a regular basis) and give them a prescription, reap in the cash: it’ as simple as that really and what infuriates me most is when I read about little children and youngsters being given antipsychotics (the heaviest type of mind^-altering drugs), not because they’re delusional or hallucinating but because they act out of control… It’s a brave new world indeed. Parents should just man up and take care of their own business instead of helping to drug their kids into complacency. Might aswell give them marijuana to keep them quiet but no that’s illegal and therefore bad…

  7. Zara Says:

    An extra argument for retraction of the stand your ground law, at least in states permitting the carrying of a firearm, is that anytime you shoot there’s a chance you might miss and hit an innocent by-stander: for this reason alone (there are others of course, basic morality for one) it’s a bad idea to allow people to start gunning down supposed attackers, especially when they could have just minded their own business and let the police (paid professionals) handle it.

    The irony is that apparantly the victim was moving away from the killer: if he had his own gun he could have used it and afterwards invoked the exact same defence. I must say the US is a strange country at times. Under our law chasing somebody down or playing the vigilante is not self-defense and you will not be acquitted not matter how ‘scared’ you were. Scared people don’t generally run after supposed bad guys too.

    If I were living in Florida I’d buy my own gun asap and shoot anybody who I thought might be a threat: better be safe than sorry. It’s the wild west all over again. Especially in states that permit concealed carry of handguns allowing citizens to basically deliver their own brand of justice (which is what this is: I consider you a bad guy who might attack me, therefore I have the right to kill you) is madness. It’s a surprise not more people are killed in the States. Hell, as long as there are no witnesses it’s a recepy for the perfect murder.

    The only place you shouldn’t be forced to leave is your own home: if someone enters your home without being invited in they’ve already proven their bad intent and a man’s home is still his castle.

  8. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Melissa – thanks for your comment – I do think that avoiding rather than confronting is the best policy. Too bad it is not the law everywhere.

    Hi Zara! – The old west worked when there was little law enforcement… today I tend to agree that the reasonable man standard to avoid if possible should be the law.

    While the argument is criminals do not obey laws and have guns anyway… and our constitution – gun permits should not be carte blanch to be aggressive.

    I live in California where our version of gun laws ask few questions only if the criminal is in your castle.

    As a human being and karata ka – I think one should not use deadly force unless there is no other way… hopefully more states will make this the law now.

    Thanks for your comment.

  9. Zara Says:

    I’m not opposed to private gun ownership (if you can legally drive a potentially deadly object like car after you passed a test and you’ve shown you can do so safely then surely a similar system should work with guns) aslong as certain safety measures are in place (i.e don’t give a loaded gun to a madman): I was referring to the carrying of fire-arms in combination with stand your ground laws since in my views this is a recepy for unnecessary bloodbaths. I couldn’t care less about a criminal shot dead if a) he was indeed a criminal and b) no others were endangered in the process. Plus the more guns the more accidents and I’m not convinced more guns is the answer to voilence and crime. As you said in the wild west everyone had to look after themselves but in a modern, well-governed society there are organizations and people to take over that job and punish the guilty. The law and the legal system are not perfect (not in my country, not in yours) but it sure beats anarchy.

    Of course compassion and the preservation of life are at the core of the martial arts and pacifism (within reason) is a moral principle I strongly support: don’t use force unless you absolutely have to and then no more than is necessary to avert the danger. The irony is that you’re training to avoid having to use the fighting skills you’re learning: if you know you can fight you’ll be less willing to do so (one may hope) and you come across as confident so it’s less likely people will attack you.

    That being said I am prepared to use (deadly) force if my life or the lives of those I love are threatened: absolute pacifism will only lead to extinction (turn the other cheek and you’re basically at his mercy) and if someone means to kill you they’ve basically given up their right to live as far as I’m concerned. Combatting evil is also a moral duty (i.e helping those who can’t defend themselves) and I for one am grateful for all those who died fighting to rid the world of evil dictators like Adolf Hitler. This the sole purpose for which violence should be employed under international law: to preserve the peace, protect the people and punish wrong-doers whoever they may be. The US did much to liberate us during WW2 and that is why I believe Europe and the US should always be allies: we share a common cultural heritage (the first settlers came from Europe after all) and I believe we share the same core values inspite of the differences.

    It sounds like the laws in your state are quite reasonable: our self-defense law is basically the same (avoid trouble but you are allowed to defend yourself aslong as you don’t overdo it, depending on the situation and within reason) with the exception that it’s technically not allowed to fight for belongings (the idea is that life, even of criminals, is worth more than material goods – although this is interpreted mildly) and theoretically you’re not supposed to engage a burglar who entered your house but if you play your cards right in court (‘I think I saw a gun in his hand, I feared for my life’) I’m sure you’ll have no problem. Just don’t shoot them in the back while they’re running out of your house like a jewler did a couple of years ago. Of course the man was robbed several times already but still: the law is the law and he could have missed and the bullet could have ricocheted and hit someone else. That’s a big advantage of impact and sharp weapons (or empty hands for that matter): there’s no accidental dammage, you hit what you aim for.

    I still have to take a few exams but next year I’ll have a first introduction to criminal law so that should prove most interesting although I’ve heard it said many times the bulk of the knowledge and skills you need as a lawyer you’ll learn outside the classroom so basically after getting your degree. For now it’s still fairly dull (imagine having to sift through the 12 constitutions France had during her history, thank god the US only has one) but one does what one must, I’ll be glad to get rid of that subject once and for all though. Historical introduction to law is fairly boring too since by definition historical law is no longer applicable in today’s society and I’m really not interested in the finer legal points of marriage or sale in ancient Rome, the middle-ages or early modern times.

  10. Matt Klein Says:

    I am baffled by this case. So you are losing a fight, so it is okay to pull out a gun and shoot someone. I don’t see the point of even being allowed to have a gun except in your house for self protection. Why should they ever be allowed out in public at all except for target practice at an approved facility? We don’t have a problem with guns much down here in Australia and I am thankful for it. There have been drive-bys, mostly between biker gangs and ethnic rivalrys, but I think in America has reached the point of no return. Gun culture is well-entrenched.

    I have had a gun pointed at me a couple times in my life and you are well and truly at someone’s mercy. Luckily I kept my cool, otherwise it could have ended badly.

    John, I am guessing that if you were a bouncer today, the odds would be that sooner or later you would be shot.
    Matt Klein recently posted..How the Martial Arts Can Improve a Child’s BalanceMy Profile

  11. Eddie Says:

    I think the reason people are baffled by this case is that they don’t understand the law and haven’t bothered to study the case or evidence in depth. Stand Your Ground Laws, which were not even used in the Martin/Zimmerman case, do not give a citizen the right to commit murder when they feel scared. Deadly force can only be used when there exists a “disparity of force” between you and your attacker. This can exist in many forms. A larger attacker vs. a smaller one, armed versus un-armed, ect.. This can also exist when someone has you in a position of disadvantage that is so great that your life is in danger as was the case with Martin and Zimmerman. You also cannot be the one you started the conflict in order to claim self defense….the evidence in this case shows that Martin attacked Zimmerman. People tend to repeat things they hear about what constitutes as self defense rather than looking up the statues in the state that they live in and finding out.

  12. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Matt – great insight… seems like common sense should prevail. I’m glad I’m not a bouncer anymore!

    Eddie – a sound perspective. I’m uncomfortable with abusing self defense laws as seems might have happened here. I don’t think we will ever really know what happened in this case but it does not seem like it needed to happen.