Attention, master race baiters (or racist masturbators, as you prefer)!

Whether you like it or not, the Zimmerman verdict was correct. I’m going to explain why—although this is for the benefit of clear-headed, thinking people, not you—and if you don’t like it, that’s your own fucking problem. You can check my analysis with any lawyer or legal source you like.

To arrive at the conclusion that a crime was committed, there must be at least three elements present and these three must always be present else there is no crime. First, you must have the mens rea, or the “guilty mind.” This is the intent to commit the crime, which may arise spontaneously or be preplanned. Secondly, there must be the actus reus, or “guilty act,” which is obviously the deed itself. Thirdly, you must have proof of the concurrence of the two, meaning that you must show that one caused the other.

Here’s an example. Person X wants to steal a watch. He sees one, sticks it in his pocket, and leaves the store. The mens rea is his intent to steal a watch. The actus reus is the actual theft. The concurrence of the two is obvious.

Time out: by use of the word “guilty” here to describe the act and the intent, I’m not using the word to indicate criminal or civil culpability. It’s an assignment of responsibility, not a legal finding. Back to the game.

Now here comes the kicker. For a finding of murder, there must be a fourth element present: malice. This is not an indicator of hate, but it means that the perpetrator must have previously considered killing a specific person. Although it’s a little different from the mens rea, they can overlap and we’ll see why and how soon enough. This also why the prosecutor failed to make her case in the Zimmerman trial.

Let’s revisit the events that were presented in the trial. Zimmerman tailed Martin despite being advised that it was unnecessary. Words were exchanged, and apparently after that dialog, Martin jumped Zimmerman and began beating on him. Zimmerman pulled his gun and shot Martin.

You will not be able to find all four necessary elements to prove a finding of murder here. The mens rea that Zimmerman intended to kill Martin is absent. Had he intended to kill Martin, Zimmerman would have done so from the get-go rather than waiting until he was getting beaten.

The actus reus, the pulling of the trigger that resulted in Martin’s death, is present, but absent the “guilty mind”–the intent to kill–there can be no concurrence of the two. Therefore, two of the original three criteria for murder are missing and because of that, there can be neither a commission nor finding of murder. In this case, the guilty mind was simply to shoot to preserve his own life.  There was no prior planning or consideration of killing anyone.   Zimmerman just wanted to wave his authority in Martin’s face and ended up having his butt cash a check his ego wrote. (And said check bounced quite like his head off the concrete.)

Let me briefly touch on the role that the “guilty mind” played here. The mens rea of Zimmerman deciding to pull his gun and shoot came on him suddenly, likely as suddenly as Martin’s attack on him did. The actus reus followed as soon as practicable afterward. Again, this is not a decree of criminal or civil wrongdoing; it is assigning responsibility for an action and nothing more. You can see here that the intent to commit an act, be it criminal or not, can arise spontaneously or with prior intent, as with our watch theft above. In this case, however, the “guilty mind” consisted only of, “I have to draw my gun and shoot this guy or I’m going to die,” and it appeared as quickly as the beating Martin was giving him.

The “guilty act” was obviously pulling his gun and shooting Martin and there is obviously a concurrence of the two, however even with these three elements present, this does not constitute a crime. You can have the three present in any activity: you are hungry, you eat dinner. Mens rea: wanting food. Actus reus: eating. And the concurrence of the two: one caused the other.

Now let’s talk malice. Used legally, it does not mean hatred, but specific intent to cause harm. Murder requires not only the three criteria we’ve been over, but malice in addition. Similar to the mens rea requirement, the perpetrator had to specifically intend to kill someone, not just hurt him, scare him, or anything of that sort, and it has to have been considered beforehand and not be a “heat of passion” instance. The way malice plays out in determining if a murder has been committed is like so:

X is angry at J and wants to kill him. Rather than being a spur of the moment act, X spends some time thinking about it, whether ten minutes or ten days or more. X decides that the only way to solve this problem is to kill J. X gets his weapon of choice, seeks out J, and kills him. This is murder. The “guilty mind” is his intent to kill J; the “guilty act” is the actual deed; the concurrence of the two—the intent led to the deed; and overlapping with the guilty mind is the malice, wherein X decided in advance he was going to kill J.

Here’s another twist. Absent malice, you can’t have murder, but you can have manslaughter, a lesser criminal homicide. In this example, X and J are arguing and X gets angry, pulls a knife, and stabs J. J is now dead. You have the three elements—mind, act, and concurrence—but not malice, since X didn’t plan to kill J. J is dead because of X’s act, but it was in the heat of the moment rather than planned, and because of that one critical difference, X dodges a murder charge.

Twist number two goes like this: X goes to kill J (who just can’t seem to catch a break) and finds J at home. X goes to shoot J and misses but kills Q instead. While Captain Picard is doubtless relieved, X is now looking at a manslaughter charge for killing Q as well as attempted murder against J. While we have the mens rea/malice requirements, the actus reus resulted in the death of someone other than the intended victim, which changes the entire equation.

While Zimmerman did confront Martin, he didn’t do so with the intent to cause harm or death. Like I said, he wanted to wave his power and position in Martin’s face. I also posted another entry on this topic elsewhere if you’re of a mind to find out my feelings on Zimmerman, which are not all that favorable. On the other hand, Martin assaulted Zimmerman with the intent of causing him bodily harm. Actus reus, mens rea, and concurrence, and had charges been brought against him, he’d have been guilty of assault or assault and battery, however Florida’s statutes would have read.

Now, perhaps, you begin to see why the Zimmerman verdict was not only correct, but was essentially the only one the jury could reach with the restrictions placed on them. The DA in the Zimmerman case lost because she set the bar far too high and the evidence couldn’t be stacked high enough to reach it. I don’t often call her the DA; she’s more of a prostituting attorney rather than a prosecuting one. She sold out justice to the screaming mobs to curry favor with them and gain political points and now, because of her ineptitude and incompetence, Zimmerman’s free.

You’re going to hear plenty of whining from all sorts of ignorant people about how Martin was going to use the Skittles and iced tea to make some kind of street drug by mixing them with cough syrup, or that he’d been suspended for this or that, or that he smoked weed. Guess what? That doesn’t make a damn bit of difference. The question of the trial was this: did Zimmerman commit murder when he shot Trayvon Martin? The jury never was or could have been asked to deliver a verdict on confection possession.

So Martin had Skittles in his pockets. He had an Arizona iced tea, too. Possession of candy and tea is not a capital offense, much less criminal, nor is it an indicator of criminal behavior or intent. I’ve bought Skittles, and I’ve seen estimates that 150 million individual Skittles are sold yearly. Skittle consumption would seem to indicate a nation of criminals, wouldn’t it? Or perhaps they merely lead to an increased recidivism rate. Bottom line: what Martin did before or intended to do later and what he had bought at the convenience store—and even what he wanted to do with those items—is absolutely irrelevant.

Let us also take a stab at the “stand your ground” laws. They are irrelevant here, too. Zimmerman, once assaulted, had no chance to retreat. Further, nobody at any time has any “duty” or “obligation” to retreat from an attack. Rather, the other guy has a duty and obligation to behave himself and not attack someone. SYG had no bearing here, which was one of the reasons the attorneys didn’t bring it out. Another would be they may be saving that defense for any potential civil trials, but in the end, “stand your ground” gave way to Zimmerman’s right to defend himself, which is a human right as inviolable as any.

I’m going to point out that as far as the confrontation and its outcome, Martin is far from blameless despite Zimmerman bearing the lion’s share of culpability. Martin should have called 911 on his own or gotten his dad involved, but being a thuggish little punk and a 17-year-old boy, he thought he’d thump Zimmerman a few times and teach him a lesson. That placed Zimmerman in fear of his life and Martin paid for the mistake with his own. However, none of that would have happened had Zimmerman kept his fat ass in the driver’s seat and kept to himself, so the ultimate responsibility for that night falls on his feeble shoulders.

The responsibility for the “not guilty” verdict, however, is entirely on Florida Governor Rick Scott and his “special prosecutor,” Florida State Attorney Angela Corey. The system worked. The players did not.


This Ought to Piss Someone Off Pretty Badly.

It’s been five minutes so I feel the need to make somebody angry again.  Here I go.

It’s been a year and change since George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin had their fateful confrontation, and it’s been a hell of a ride since then.  The New Black Panther Party (not to be mistaken for a BET take on “Cougar Town”) offered a bounty on Zimmerman’s head, Obama claiming if he had a son he’d look like Trayvon, bonds posted and revoked for fraudulent statements…well, if New Orleans, a “chocolate city,” ever needs some nuts to go with that, Florida might be willing to spare a few!

 The legal battle’s still ongoing, with the most recent developments being Zimmerman not using the “stand your ground” defense, hissing and pissing by attorneys on both sides, and the occasional sound bite on TV.  I’m going to eschew any in-depth legal analysis and I’m not going to comment on the court proceedings.  I’m going to place what little faith I have left in the judicial system on the judge and jury and hope they find the correct solution to all this and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that, if Zimmerman’s found not guilty, the world can behave itself and abstain from any rioting.

 No, what I’m going to do here is take a look at the night in question and offer my two cents at the end.  We all know the basics: neighborhood watch security guy sees unfamiliar kid, calls 911, follows and confronts kid, fight ensues, kid dies.  There’s a lot of blame being cast about and some of it’s even justified.  Some fault Zimmerman, some fault Martin.  My take is about 70% Zimmerman’s fault, 30% Martin’s.  You could probably make the argument for a 60/40 split, but I still contend the majority of the blame is on Zimmerman.  Here’s why.

 First, he was a “neighborhood watch captain.”  That’s not a real law enforcement position.  He was a security guard, a private citizen who walked around a housing community.  While he was a security guard and authorized to speak in a limited manner on behalf of the community that had retained him, he was still a civilian.  No badge, no oath of office, nothing.

 Second, he apparently had a “cozy” working relationship with the local police, or so says Huffington Post.  There were even accusations that he wanted to be a cop some day and was styling himself as a pseudo-police officer with his position.

 Third, he called 911 to deal with Martin without having contacted him first or observing Martin doing anything other than walking back and forth.

 Finally, when he was told he didn’t need to continue to pursue or interact with Martin, he chose to do so anyway.  And there’s the kicker.

 For Martin, up until he was confronted, he wasn’t doing anything more harmful than apparently talking on his cell phone.  He was apparently in his dad’s neighborhood and wanted to talk to his girlfriend.  When Zimmerman confronted him—and I use “confronted” purposefully, rather than “spoke to” or “questioned”—something happened to anger Martin sufficiently that he laid hands on Zimmerman.  There’s no question that Zimmerman was attacked; mugshots and released photos show he’d been knocked around.  Calm down, though, because I’ll tie this up in a moment or three.  Now after having attacked Zimmerman, Martin was shot, apparently because Zimmerman felt threatened and feared for his life, or so Zimmerman claims.

 What went wrong?  A couple of things, and I’ll go with a sequential list as much as I can.  The first thing that went wrong was Zimmerman lost sight of who he was and what his function as a “neighborhood watchman” entailed.  A security guard, or any civilian acting in a similar capacity, has very, very limited powers and authority.  If a security guard arrests you, it’s only a citizen’s arrest.  It’s legal and binding, but he can only execute it under very narrow circumstances.  As a representative of his employer, he can ask you who you are and what your business is.  You don’t have to answer, though.  He can even ask you to leave the premises, but if you resist, generally he can’t lay hands on you to physically remove you.  (I worked as one in college many moons ago and even trained a few, so I do know a bit about what I’m saying.)  A bouncer could physically remove you from a bar, possibly, but it’s doubtful a neighborhood watchman could run you out of an entire neighborhood without cause.

 The second thing was that Zimmerman called 911 to have cops come deal with Martin.  Right there he should have just sat back and kept tabs on Martin.  Real cops were on the way to handle it; they’d just be delayed.  Following that, Zimmerman chose to leave his vehicle and confront Martin.  Now this is a “two-for-one” failure.  When you call 911, you’ve admitted the situation is beyond your control and that you need the cops to help you.  This does not give you carte blanche to dual-wield your .50AE Desert Eagles, holler “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfuckers!” and charge into battle so that you can stand tall amid the carnage when the police arrive.  What you do is back off and wait for the cops.  Withdraw from the situation if you can and defend yourself if you must.  That’s it.

 The second part of his failure was after the 911 dispatcher flatly tells him the police do not need him to continue to pursue Martin, but he did more than just pursue.  He got out of his vehicle and approached Martin, instigating the ultimately fatal confrontation.  I have no idea why he did this.  Maybe he was emboldened by the knowledge that the cops would arrive and wanted to play hero.  Maybe he was just tired of sitting in his car.  All I do know is that he did it.

 The third problem I can only assume had occurred based on what followed.  In this, something was said or was said in such a way as to indicate Martin was being pursued, profiled, singled out, or otherwise messed with.  There’s only one person alive who knows for certain and while he may tell the truth in court, you can almost certainly assume some kind of bias.

 Fourth, after the confrontation, Martin was evidently angered by whatever Zimmerman had said and what he had done or was doing.  Rather than taking the smart way out and calling the cops from his father’s home, Martin took matters into his own hands and got physical with Zimmerman.  Maybe Zimmerman laid hands on Martin first, but I doubt it.  Call it a hunch, but he doesn’t strike me as a physical bully.  More on that later.  In the middle of the dustup, Martin gets shot.

 You may be asking yourself now why I’ve listed so many things wrong on Zimmerman’s account than on Martin’s.  It’s simple: he did more wrong than Martin.  While it’s not illegal to call 911 then play cop yourself, it’s highly inadvisable and unwise.  Like I said, you called for the cops to handle it, so there’s obviously something going on you can’t handle.  You should step back and let them handle it.  Further, when the cops tell you that you don’t need to do something, listen to them.  He was still on the phone with them giving them useless updates, and since he had implicitly yielded control to the cops by calling them in, they were calling the shots.  But no.  Rentacop has to play Robocop, either to bust a suspicious character on his own and snuggle up to the cops or to look good to the community that hired him on.  Third, remember your place.  If you’re a security guard, you’re just a security guard.  You’re not a one-man incarnation of the 75th Ranger Regiment, SEAL Team 6, and the Boy Scouts.  Know your job.  Know your rights, responsibilities, and limitations and stick to them.  Finally, shooting someone in self-defense, at least in my book, isn’t justifiable if you started the fight.  If your mouth writes a check your ass can’t cash, that’s your problem.  You can’t “stand your ground” by getting in someone’s face and provoking them, but maybe Florida law disagrees with me.

 The final part I listed, where I fault Martin for following Zimmerman and escalating the confrontation, isn’t necessarily a criminal offense, although battery certainly is.  Remember, Martin was 17.  In most teenagers’ eyes, “seventeen” is synonymous with “bulletproof” and “immortal.”  Yes, a lot of his posts on Facebook have him showing off his little gangsta grill and are full of boasts about how tough he is and so on and so forth.  So what?  Maybe he was a punk.  Maybe he wasn’t.  Grills, trash talk, and punkishness aren’t crimes and are certainly not capital offenses.  What Martin’s big failing here was being a teenager and full of his own sense of self, maybe with a too-hefty dose of hot-headedness.  Most clear-headed individuals in his place would have gone to Dad’s house and called the cops themselves, or complained to Dad to let him handle it.  But teenagers are rarely clear-headed, especially if they’re pushed.

 No, Martin does not get a free pass for assaulting Zimmerman.  What he did was wrong, but when you were 17, did you always let logic rule the day?  Were you always rational and analytical.  Hell, no.  Neither was I.  It comes with the territory.  Still, Martin was old enough to know better.  Besides, if he was as much a thug as everyone claims, wouldn’t you think he’d know enough to think twice about jumping some crazy little mother who just jumps up and gets in his face in the middle of the night?  Common sense would tell you the crazy one’s armed or flat-out legitimately nuts.  But now we’re back to square one.  Teenagers with common sense?  Hm.  That’s kind of an oxy-something, I think…

 This is why I make the 70/30 split in assigning Zimmerman the lion’s share of the blame.  He did not pay attention to his situation, he was not aware of or was willfully ignoring the strictures of his position and duties, he disregarded the police, and he initiated the conflict.  Martin responded very foolishly and unknowingly contributed to his own shooting.

 Earlier I said I’d speak more about why I don’t think Zimmerman was a physical bully and likely didn’t swing first.  I’ve met people with similar mindsets (Rentacops wanting to be Robocops) where the line between good guy and asshole is the addition of a badge.  Power corrupts, and false power is no exception.  With his actions, he strikes me as the type who would hide either behind a real cop’s badge or use the limited authority of his own coupled with the public’s seeming ignorance of security guards’ duties and powers to intimidate or bluff people who trespassed on his turf.  Witness the chain of events: he doesn’t confront Martin right off.  He calls 911, an emergency number for a non-emergency situation.  A black kid walking around talking on his cell phone is hardly life-threatening.  There was no need for that, but he wants the cops there ASAP.  After playing recon ranger and giving his little tactical updates to the dispatcher—a time in which Martin does nothing but continue to walk around—he decides to saddle up and confront Martin.  By then, he knows the cops are closer to arriving, so maybe that boosted the testosterone levels a bit.

 How would I have handled it?  The same way I’ve handled similar situations before.  Introduce yourself, making yourself plainly visible well in advance.  “Hi, I’m so-and-so.  I’m the security guard around here.  I don’t recall having seen you here before.  Are you new here?  Oh, okay.  Just checking.”  Exchange minimal pleasantries and go on your way.  That way you establish your presence and the new guy in town knows he’s being watched (if he’s a bad guy) or he knows he won’t have any more harassment from you if he’s a good guy.  I’ve only called the cops if the situation warranted it and if the other guy wanted to push it.  If they wouldn’t listen to me, I’d find someone they would listen to.  Nothing is worth escalating a situation over.

 That’s just my two cents’ worth.  For all we know, the case may come out in any one of different ways.  Zimmerman could be acquitted, he could be convicted on second degree murder, or he could be convicted on any one of a number of lesser included charges.  I might be proven wrong on everything I said here or I may be proven right.  Still, I’m convinced that had Zimmerman acted appropriately from the start, this whole affair wouldn’t have snowballed from some wanna-be strutting up and down the street to some kid being killed for nothing.