February 20, 2014

"41% now believe 'stand your ground' laws improve public safety, up seven points from 34% in July."

"Thirty-four percent (34%) think such laws undermine public safety, unchanged from the earlier survey. Eleven percent (11%) say the laws have no real impact on public safety, while 15% are not sure."

The July poll was right after the George Zimmerman verdict.

64 comments:

Matthew Sablan said...

I'm actually on the fence about SYG. In most cases I've read about SYG, plain-old self defense claims seemed just as valid to my non-lawyer eyes. Is SYG just a law to help prevent over-prosecution [by giving legitimate self-defense claims a safety valve before going to trial?]

Oso Negro said...

SYG laws need expansion to cover citizen interaction with the police. An American citizen facing a police officer should not have fewer rights or less consideration than an Afghani facing a U.S. Marine.

Revenant said...

Matthew,

All that SYG laws do is repeal the "duty to retreat" law that was added to many legal codes during the 20th century. Under those laws, if somebody attacked you, pointed a gun at you, etc, you had a duty to make a run for it if that was at all feasible. So, for example, a woman being chased by a rapist wasn't allowed to shoot him until he caught her.

Contrary to popular mythology, it does not give broad powers to shoot anyone who worries you, to attack someone and then kill him if he fights back, etc. The right to "stand your ground" exists in most states these days and has been for years -- centuries, in some cases. Why people harp on Florida is a bit of a mystery.

The public opinion figures are particularly amazing given how regularly the news media misrepresents "stand your ground" laws. For example, both the Zimmerman verdict and the Dunn non-verdict have been blamed on "stand your ground" laws, whereas in reality both defenses were based entirely on traditional self-defense law -- in both cases, the defendants argued that retreat was impossible.

Unknown said...

Confusing. Michael Dunn did not use SYG as a defense. Had he, and had it been successful, he would have been not guilty on all counts.

He was acquitted of 1st degree murder, period. there were other charges, of which he was found guilty.

Matthew Sablan said...

"So, for example, a woman being chased by a rapist wasn't allowed to shoot him until he caught her."

-- I always thought it worked like this: You have a duty to retreat, provided doing so doesn't put you in danger. So, if the choice is "shoot the man running at me, who is currently 60+ yards away" or "close and lock my car door and drive away", you have to choose B. But, once you are IN jeopardy, you don't have to try and talk the axe murderer down.

Unknown said...

There seems to be a drive to equate any and all death by firearm as somehow related to Stand Your Ground. Needs to stop.


SYG is not automatically part of a defense any time someone who shoots a person is acquitted. If you shoot a person who is exposing him/herself to you, if you are acquitted it's not related to SYG.

Revenant said...

The problem that law caused, Matthew, is that the only way to prove you couldn't have retreated was to fail to escape.

Which means that in any case where you decided you couldn't safely escape and shot your would-be killer, you were subject to a DA second-guessing you. If you thought the guy running at you would reach you before you could get in your car and the DA, from the comfort of his office, thinks otherwise, now you're facing homicide charges even if the DA agrees the guy was going to kill you.

The "stand your ground" law eliminates that crap. It changes the law back to the English common law standard: if someone attempts to use deadly force against you, you may respond in kind.

The Cracker Emcee said...

Which means 59% have no idea what SYG laws are actually about. Or they're playing bullshit political games with people's lives.

Tank said...

@unknown

Dunn was not acquitted.

Matthew Sablan said...

Ah, OK. So it is just a safety valve because we can't trust lawyers. Doesn't make it a bad law, but it seems like it would be nice to find a better way to do it.

Jason said...

At least half of the journalist and commentators yapping about SYG are bone-fucking ignorant about what it is. A few of these people need to be publicly humiliated on national TV or lose their jobs for incompetence before the word will get out to other journos and commentators to do their homework before yapping on TV.

Mark Jones said...

I see that Revenant answered Matthew already. Yeah, SYG just mandates that the argument "but you could have run away instead!" can't be used against you. Either it was self-defense (you had a reasonable fear of death or serious injury) or it wasn't; that you chose to stand rather than run is irrelevant.

The media wrongly (and at least in part, intentionally, in my opinion) blames the Zimmerman and Dunn shootings on SYG when neither case involved it. And while I think Zimmerman was justified in shooting Martin based on what I've seen/read/heard about the case, if I had been on the Dunn jury I'd have convicted him too (again, based on what little I know of the details).

Fen said...

The July poll was right after the George Zimmerman verdict.

Which is interesting because the Zimmerman trial had nothing to do with SYG.

Fen said...

At least half of the journalist and commentators yapping about SYG are bone-fucking ignorant about what it is.

These are the same bozos that confuse a sling keeper with a grenade launcher mount.

Remember the kids you went to college with that majored in journalism? About their only usefulness as information brokers was where to score some weed.

Hasn't changed much since.

SJ said...

It would be amazing if, every time a person felt themselves threatened, a judge and jury would materialize out of thin air and decide whether or not lethal force were justified.

Sadly, that is not the case.

Generally, if I am in a situation where violence appears imminent, I would like the chance to survive the attack and then explain the results to Police. Without fear of punishment.

SYG laws give me better legal ground to do that on.

The practical side of surviving violent encounters is more a question of tools/training than of law. Though law does shape what tools are available...

Lucien said...

About that Michael Dunn case:

1) Was the hung jury on the murder charge the result of over-charging by the prosecutor, or could the jury have returned a second degree murder, or manslaughter conviction as a lesser included offense?
2) On retrial, will the attempted murder convictions have any issue-preclusive effect on Dunn's defense?
3) Why are some folks (e.g., The Daily Show)acting as if Dunn was actually acquitted of something doing to racial considerations?

Doc Holliday's Hat said...

That is an excellent example of media bias at work. If you took out the bogeyman words and asked "if you are attacked should you have to make an effort to retreat before defending yourself" I'm fairly certain that you'd have a strong majority saying no. Not that some people wouldn't attempt retreat first, just that they'd find it odd that in what seems like a life or death situation, you must be calm enough to weigh your chances of retreat vs. action.

I also find it amusing that the people pushing for a retreat first standard for adults are of the same ilk who pursue anti-bullying laws...wait actually I'm not. It may seem like they're telling you to stand up to bullies as a child and run away from them as an adult, but both actually say: "you can't handle this on your own, minion. Let your local neighborhood authority figure deal out proper justice!"

Bruce Hayden said...

All that SYG laws do is repeal the "duty to retreat" law that was added to many legal codes during the 20th century.

Which is interesting because the Zimmerman trial had nothing to do with SYG.


To clarify, if anyone here doesn't get it. SYG involves the duty to retreat, and Zimmerman could not retreat at the time he used deadly force, because Martin was sitting on top of him. This was substantiated by the difference in the bullet holes in his hoody (powder burns) and chest (much less) and how they lined up - the only plausible explanation was that Martin was leaning over Zimmerman at the time the shot was fired. Since Zimmerman could not physically retreat at the time he shot Martin, SYG could not be applicable.

JRoberts said...

The polls don't matter.

Obama and Holder will still make an effort to undermine the Second Amendment - even if it requires an Executive Order.

After all, it's for the children - like Trayvon.

John Cunningham said...

the lefty press keeps bleating about SYG because it screens their real purpose--to disarm white people and ease the work of black criminals.

Bruce Hayden said...

1) Was the hung jury on the murder charge the result of over-charging by the prosecutor, or could the jury have returned a second degree murder, or manslaughter conviction as a lesser included offense?

The way things appear to work in Florida is that when the DA charges someone with a crime, they don't need to separately charge the lesser included charges. So, the Zimmerman jury got 2nd degree murder and manslaughter charges, and the Dunn jury got 1st degree, 2nd degree, and manslaughter charges. The manslaughter charge itself would have been fairly straight forward, absent self-defense - the victim merely needed to die as a result of the actions of the defendant.

Prosecutors routinely overcharge, and Angela Corey, the DA in both these cases, has a reputation for doing so. I understand the justification for the Florida jury instructions, in regards to lesser included charges, but I would suggest that that policy lends itself to the sort of over-charging we saw in the Zimmerman (but maybe not Dunn) case - there was never a high likelyhood of proving 2nd degree murder there, given no real evidence of racial hatred on the part of Zimmerman (required for the 2nd degree murder "depraved mind" requirement). No problem though for Corey - she could charge 2nd degree to appease the Black community, and then hope for manslaughter if Zimmerman couldn't make a decent self-defense claim.

2) On retrial, will the attempted murder convictions have any issue-preclusive effect on Dunn's defense?

Most likely not.

3) Why are some folks (e.g., The Daily Show)acting as if Dunn was actually acquitted of something doing to racial considerations?

Either they are idiots, or are playing to their ignorant base.

Unknown said...

Tank: haven't perused to see if someone else corrected or not, but HuffPo headline is acquitted murder in the 1st, although article says mistrial. Convicted on other, related charges.

JPS said...

Lucien,

About that Michael Dunn case:

"3) Why are some folks (e.g., The Daily Show) acting as if Dunn was actually acquitted of something doing to racial considerations?"

I can kind of see this one. Of course Dunn wasn't acquitted of murdering Davis, but the jury deadlocked and he wasn't convicted. Standard disclaimers aside, the killing of Davis sounds to me like straight-up murder.

Rumor has it that most jurors thought so, a few bought Dunn's self-defense argument. I am not a lawyer, but the standard for self-defense is the Reasonable Man standard: Would a reasonable man, in Dunn's shoes, have believed his life was in imminent danger?

Well, Dunn claims after the fact that he thought he saw a weapon - never found. Suppose what he actually saw and heard were several young black men, pissed off that he asked or told them to turn down their music, cussing at him and talking shit.

Did race enter into Dunn's perception (if we even believe he perceived it - I don't) that his life was in danger? Does it enter into the judgment of a juror or three that, in Dunn's shoes, they'd have been in fear for their lives? Damned if I know, but I wouldn't be surprised if it did.

John Constantius said...

John Cunningham said: the lefty press keeps bleating about SYG because it screens their real purpose--to disarm white people and ease the work of black criminals.

Moby.

Bruce Hayden said...

Confusing. Michael Dunn did not use SYG as a defense. Had he, and had it been successful, he would have been not guilty on all counts.

He was acquitted of 1st degree murder, period. there were other charges, of which he was found guilty.


Think of it this way - there was one actual physical victim, and three more potential victims. Dunn was convicted of attempting to kill the three potential victims by shooting into the vehicle. This evidenced depraved heart/depraved mind, which one of the ways to get from manslaughter to 2nd degree murder. In the case of the deceased victim though, he was charged with 1st degree murder, with the lesser included offenses of 2nd degree and manslaughter also given the jury. This is where the jury hung - apparently 9-3 in favor of at least 2nd degree murder. The three standouts apparently did not believe that the prosecution had been able to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. Not that the shooting had not been in self-defense, but rather, just that the prosecution had not disproven it at that level. The hung jury, and mistrial, means that Dunn can be retried on the 1st degree/2nd degree/manslaughter charge. He cannot be retried for the attempted 2nd degree murders, unless the appeals court reverses (which would be possible, but unlikely given that he has no more money).

Why though, with the same facts, could the jury find attempted 2nd degree for the surviving victims, but not 2nd degree for the decedent? My understanding is that it probably revolves around the spacing of the shots (something like 4-3-3), and whether the latter shots were truly made in self-defense. While the latter shots were most likely not self-defense, some of the first burst might have been, and they might have been (and probably were) the shots that killed the decedent. The DA could have charged attempted 1st degree/2nd degree/manslaughter of all four, instead of just three of the four, but since it was a single incident, the sentences will most likely be served concurrently, and not consecutively.

JPS said...

Bruce Hayden:

Good point about the prosecution's burden to disprove, beyond reasonable doubt, Dunn's self-defense claim. It bothers me that Dunn wasn't convicted on the key count, but that doesn't mean those three holdout jurors were actually convinced of his self-defense argument.

Bruce Hayden said...

Why though, with the same facts, could the jury find attempted 2nd degree for the surviving victims, but not 2nd degree for the decedent? My understanding is that it probably revolves around the spacing of the shots (something like 4-3-3), and whether the earlier shots were truly made in self-defense.

Got that backwards. In order to get attempted 2nd degree murder, the prosecution merely had to show that at least one of the shots made into the vehicle was not made in self-defense. On the flip side, on the actual murder charges, they had to show that the kill shot was not in self-defense.

Bruce Hayden said...

Rumor has it that most jurors thought so, a few bought Dunn's self-defense argument. I am not a lawyer, but the standard for self-defense is the Reasonable Man standard: Would a reasonable man, in Dunn's shoes, have believed his life was in imminent danger?

First, the question isn't whether the jury bought the self-defense, but rather, were they sufficiently convinced that it wasn't self-defense. And three weren't. They might have disbelieved self-defense, but believed that the state had not disproved it beyond a reasonable doubt. (Which means that in Ohio, the holdout on burden of proof, Dunn would have been convicted, and there wouldn't have been a hung jury). Think of it this way - let us assume that beyond a reasonable doubt means 90% certainty. All the hung jury means is that at least one juror (3 of 12 here) believed that the state had not reached the 90% threshold. They may have gotten to the 89% threshold, but BRD requires (hypothetically) 90% (except for Ohio, that requires >= 50%, with ties going to the state).

As to the standard, I think that you have the right general idea, but it is a bit more complicated than that. My understanding is that it has to be a reasonable belief of a reasonable person, but may also be such a belief of great bodily injury, and not just a reasonable fear of death. But, it also has to be from the point of view of the defendant. It is most irrelevant that no gun was found in the victims' car - what was important was whether or not Dunn thought he saw one being pointed at him.

Bruce Hayden said...

Here are some other things about SYG that make it confusing. First, the standard self-defense jury instructions include an instruction on SYG. They are standard instructions, so are given automatically, along with the other standard self-defense jury instructions, once the defense has introduced at least some evidence of self-defense. In this case, apparently Dunn was forced to testify, because absent his testimony (most defendants don't testify at their own trials, because they can be cross-examined if they do), the jury was unlikely to get any self-defense instructions, and that meant almost automatic conviction of at least manslaughter.

Secondly though, and esp. in the Zimmerman case, at the same time that Florida effectively repealed the retreat doctrine with SYG, it also adopted a law that gives defendants, and potential defendants, civil and criminal immunity if they prove self-defense (by a preponderance (>50%) of the evidence). The only things that this section of Florida law has in common with the actual SYD law is that they were enacted at the same time, and both involve self-defense. Yet, a lot of commentors took to calling the immunity provision "SYD" in the Zimmerman case.

Revenant said...

Ah, OK. So it is just a safety valve because we can't trust lawyers. Doesn't make it a bad law, but it seems like it would be nice to find a better way to do it.

It is partly that you can't trust attorneys to do the right thing, but it is mainly that it puts an undue burden on the victim. It asks you to take on additional risk -- e.g., the risk that you're *wrong* about being able to escape -- in order to avoid doing harm to the person who is attempting to kill, rape, or otherwise severely injure you.

bbkingfish said...

"Confusing. Michael Dunn did not use SYG as a defense. Had he, and had it been successful, he would have been not guilty on all counts."

I think his attorneys did not use SYG because they thought it absurd on its surface to argue that shooting at a car that was speeding away was a defensive gesture.

Revenant said...

Why though, with the same facts, could the jury find attempted 2nd degree for the surviving victims, but not 2nd degree for the decedent?

The finding of attempted second degree murder seems easy to understand whether or not Dunn fired on the dead kid in self-defense. The other kids were fleeing in a car at the time and so obviously posed no threat to Dunn. So far as I know he didn't even try to claim that they were armed.

Even if the dead kid had had a weapon (which seems implausible), that wouldn't have given Dunn a license to shoot any and all bystanders as well!

Revenant said...

Confusing. Michael Dunn did not use SYG as a defense. Had he, and had it been successful, he would have been not guilty on all counts.

The statement "had the _____ defense been successful, he would have been not guilty" is a tautology.

However, if you're trying to say that had he used SYG to defend against the 1st degree murder charge he would automatically have been not guilty on the remaining charges you are quite mistaken. Each homicide or attempted homicide charge requires a separate defense. To use SYG as a defense against the attempted murder charges, he would have had to argue that the kids in the car were trying to kill or seriously harm him.

He was acquitted of 1st degree murder, period. there were other charges, of which he was found guilty.

He was NOT acquitted of 1st degree murder. There was a hung jury; he is being retried on that charge.

If the prosecution is smart, it will focus on a second-degree charge. It does not look as if most of the jurors thought a first-degree charge had been proven.

Revenant said...

Well, Dunn claims after the fact that he thought he saw a weapon - never found. Suppose what he actually saw and heard were several young black men, pissed off that he asked or told them to turn down their music, cussing at him and talking shit.

The question isn't whether it is reasonable to believe Dunn is lying, but whether it is reasonable to believe he's telling the truth.

Now, personally, I think the fact that he didn't even bother calling the cops after exchanging gunfire with someone who (according to him) had tried to kill him is impossible to swallow. Someone tries to shoot you, so you kill him, go home and order a pizza? The hell?

My limited experience serving on juries is that some jurors have a really hard time understanding that "reasonable doubt of guilt" does not mean "is it at all possible that the defendant's story is true". I think that, combined with the half-assed cross-examination of Dunn, is why there was a hung jury.

sane_voter said...

Ever since Scott Rasmussen left Rasmussen reports last August, they have totally gone off the rails. Since then, they are consistently polling Obama approval 6-10% higher than everyone else. Given that, I 'd guess the current SYG law approval is probably closer to 50% with an accurate D/R/I mix, and a much larger positive move since July.

Cliff said...

SYG does not need to be argued. It's part of the relevant law and was given in the jury instructions to both the Dunn and Zimmerman juries. To say SYG did not play a part in either trial is incorrect.

rcocean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rcocean said...

Love SYG. It puts the burden on the state instead of having a person PROVE he didn't have a means of reasonable retreat.

Haven't read the other comments, too much hot air, and "one hand, but on the other hand".

Judas Priest.

Jupiter said...

"Now, personally, I think the fact that he didn't even bother calling the cops after exchanging gunfire with someone who (according to him) had tried to kill him is impossible to swallow. Someone tries to shoot you, so you kill him, go home and order a pizza? The hell?'

If someone tries to shoot you, and you kill him, you do not have a legal obligation to notify anyone, as far as I know. If someone litters, and you pick it up, why call the sanitation department?

Jupiter said...

I do have to agree with Crack, that it is kind of hard to see how SYG really contributes much to public safety. Unless you want to argue that people will be more likely to carry guns, or use them, because of SYG. I think that most people who decide to carry a gun have already climbed a very steep hill in their minds, and SYG is pretty much a pebble down near the bottom.

Of course, robbers and rapists are part of the public too, a fairly large part in many places, so I suppose you could argue that any form of legal carry is bad for public safety. I expect that's what Crack has in mind.

Revenant said...

SYG does not need to be argued. It's part of the relevant law and was given in the jury instructions to both the Dunn and Zimmerman juries. To say SYG did not play a part in either trial is incorrect.

Saying SYG played a part in the trial is like saying the word "the" played a part in the trial.

It is undeniable that the jury heard it during the trial, but there is no basis for believing it influenced the outcome. Dunn never claimed, in any way, shape, or form, that he was "standing his ground". He claimed he *couldn't* retreat.

ironrailsironweights said...

At first I thought it odd that the blogosphere's been largely silent about the Michael Dunn case. Silence that is especially odd considering its obsession with George Zimmerman.

Then a possible explanation dawned on me. The Zimmerman case tied in perfectly with the Blogosphere's Quasi-Homoerotic Black Male Physical Superiority Fetish, in which blogospherians prattle on endlessly about the magnificent strength, athleticism, and street fighting skills of black males. As Dunn claimed he saw a weapon, physical superiority wasn't an issue in his case.

Peter

Cliff said...

Revenent you are wrong. Dunn claimed he was scared for his life. He did not claim he couldn't retreat. As to the other point, we agree then it seems, that SYG and the word "the" both played a part in the trial.

Revenant said...

Revenent you are wrong. Dunn claimed he was scared for his life. He did not claim he couldn't retreat.

You're just pulling stuff out of your ass at this point.

Dunn claimed that Davis was raising a shotgun and announcing that he would shoot Dunn. People cannot outrun bullets.

If Dunn's testimony was truthful, his shooting of Davis would have been legal in any state in America, at any time in American history. If his testimony is false then the shooting isn't self-defense anywhere in America. Either way, "stand your ground" is utterly fuckin' irrelevant. :)

Revenant said...

At first I thought it odd that the blogosphere's been largely silent about the Michael Dunn case. Silence that is especially odd considering its obsession with George Zimmerman.

There's nothing particularly odd about it. In the Zimmerman case a pack of racist lunatics were trying to lynch an obviously innocent man. That provoked an outraged response from quite a few of us.

In the Dunn case, the evidence has always pointed to Dunn's guilt. So the fact that the same people are screaming for *his* conviction isn't terribly interesting.

Bruce Hayden said...

Of course, robbers and rapists are part of the public too, a fairly large part in many places, so I suppose you could argue that any form of legal carry is bad for public safety. I expect that's what Crack has in mind.

Not sure if I understand this - it seems to be self-contradictory. Robbers, rapists, and other criminals are, by definition, not law abiding, and in real life, illegally carry guns, often illegal ones. So, what you are talking about is for law abiding citizens legally carrying firearms somehow being bad for public safety. But, that ignores that there are a large number of defensive firearm uses each year, often not requiring the discharge of such. And, that there seems to be an clear inverse correlation relationship between crime rates and the legalization of concealed carry in this country. While correlation is not causation, it clearly debunks your opposite hypothesis.

Moreover, what is public safety in the first place? What many believe is important is private safety. Putting the safety of the public ahead of the safety of the individual is extolling communitarianism over individualism. Luckily, the Heller case made clear that the 2nd Amdt. protects an individual right, not a community rights.

stlcdr said...

Luckily, the overwhelming majority, will never even come close to putting such laws to the test.

But it isn't about percentages, though. It's a binary situation. You either will be put into a position to defend yourself, or you won't.

It's a shame stand your ground laws have to exist. I have had to run in fear of my life, before (in the UK), and it is truly a terrifying experience.

Because the odds of such a scenario being experienced really are very small, we can ignore the ramifications of the fear it generates - to live in fear is a horrible thing - so our mind discards such notions.

When presented with laws such as Stand Your Ground, because the mind has discarded the necessity of such a scenario in which it would apply, we also tend to diminish the necessity of such a law.

If a biker gang invades Chucky Cheeze, then do the patrons have a duty to leave such a place? A yahoo on a cellphone in a movie theatre - if you don't like it, you must leave the theatre, not them. Honestly, these are pedantic similes, but the world is full of bad things, and we have our own, personal, duty to protect ourselves from the bad things.

AReasonableMan said...

Revenant said...
There's nothing particularly odd about it. In the Zimmerman case a pack of racist lunatics were trying to lynch an obviously innocent man. That provoked an outraged response from quite a few of us.


Or, alternatively, two obviously guilty men, one is charged appropriately and the other is not charged, provoking a strong response.

Fen said...

Zimmerman wasn't guilty of anything.

And I'm certain you know this b/c you were muppet-flailing about it over at Legal Insurrection during their expert analysis of the live trial.

In fact, I can still smell the smoke from you getting burned.

So why are you pulling the same BS here? You're the guy who gets walked through why 2+2=4, but as soon as the adults leave the room you go back to claiming it equals 5...

AReasonableMan said...

Fen said...
Zimmerman wasn't guilty of anything.

And I'm certain you know this b/c you were muppet-flailing about it over at Legal Insurrection during their expert analysis of the live trial.


So you establish yourself as a moron in your first and second sentences. I do not post over at Legal Insurrection.

The only people who got burned where the fools protesting Zimmerman's good character. He has been exposed in the months following his trial as a loose cannon with serious mental issues, an unreliable witness who has issues with authority figures, guns and women. If you want to defend a fuck-up like this, knock yourself out.

AReasonableMan said...
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Revenant said...

Or, alternatively, two obviously guilty men

Strange that an entire jury would miss seeing something obvious. ;)

Birkel said...

Why does "good character" matter? If an absolute crook without any redeeming characteristics whatsoever gets charged with a crime he didn't commit by a DA intent on ignoring evidence, I would defend that man from criminal prosecution as well.

George Zimmerman may be a horrible human being but I don't care. I care that he was charged for a crime without sufficient evidence of guilt.

I care because I might one day be charged for a crime I didn't commit. And if the laws don't protect one of us, they don't protect any of us. (Thanks, ACLU!)

Shanna said...

I care because I might one day be charged for a crime I didn't commit. And if the laws don't protect one of us, they don't protect any of us.

Exactly.

AReasonableMan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AReasonableMan said...

Birkel said...
Why does "good character" matter?


The trial revolved around statements made by Zimmerman that now look to be even more unlikely than they seemed at the time.

AReasonableMan said...

Revenant said...
Strange that an entire jury would miss seeing something obvious. ;)


Tell it to the O.J. jury.

I do appreciate the smiley face and now sincerely regret my 'grumpy' comment.

Revenant said...

Tell it to the O.J. jury.

OJ's guilt wasn't obvious, either. The evidence was a combination of circumstantial evidence and DNA. If you didn't trust that evidence, reasonable doubt as to his guilt was necessary.

EMD said...

George Zimmerman may be a horrible human being but I don't care. I care that he was charged for a crime without sufficient evidence of guilt.


See also, 12 Angry Men

Bruce Hayden said...

The trial revolved around statements made by Zimmerman that now look to be even more unlikely than they seemed at the time.

Huh? What evidence has come out after the Zimmerman trial that would seem to convict him? Or, are you talking character evidence?

I would be esp. interested in any evidence that you might have that would discredit the expert testimony that Martin was on top of and leaning over Zimmerman when he was shot. That pretty much discredits the only real evidence that Martin was not the aggressor - namely that Martin's parents recognized his voice calling out for help.

Bruce Hayden said...

OJ's guilt wasn't obvious, either. The evidence was a combination of circumstantial evidence and DNA. If you didn't trust that evidence, reasonable doubt as to his guilt was necessary.

I watched the OJ trial fairly closely, and I still question his guilt. I have a distinct memory of my Crim Law class in LS, where the prof, one of the best known criminal defense attorneys in town, and whom I have seen numerous times on TV as a talking head since then, told us that in his experience, there were essentially two types of murders: premeditated and heat of passion. The bloody ones were the ones in the heat of passion. The premeditated ones were most often almost surgical. The murders that OJ was tried for required an awful lot of planning and fairly close timing, but had the bloodiness of a crime of passion or immediacy. It would just have been crazy to have spent all that time and effort planning the murder, do it with a knife, and then get caught because of all the blood.

I became quite suspicious when four detectives allegedly went to OJ's place to tell him of the murder, didn't find him there, and then Mark Furhman went over the wall, apparently to check on him, and ultimately those four detectives found a lot of the incriminating evidence. I think that it was a fairly blatant 4th Amdt. violation, and all that evidence should have been suppressed. With four detectives, there shouldn't have been any exigent circumstances preventing them from getting a warrant first, leaving 2 or 3 to secure the house. And, later we found fairly lax forensic procedures.

I did read a book a year or two later by three of the (black) jurors, and they said that they thought that OJ might possibly have been guilty, but that the prosecution had been so weak, that they had more than reasonable doubts. And, remember, the defense team were second stringers - a woman picked for sympathy for the victim and a Black picked to counter OJ. (Confirmed to me on a plane flight several years later by a good friend of the DA - apparently, once the Black leaders forced him to move the trial downtown, he knew the case was probably lost, and figured that the race and sex angle was the only chance he had).

And, then he got himself convicted of essentially armed robbery in a Las Vegas casino - one of the places in the country with the tightest video surveillance. That showed to me that he probably didn't have the brains to successfully pull off those murders.

Bruce Hayden said...

A bit more on character evidence in regards to the Zimmerman case. George Z might have been involved in some activities during and esp after his trial that might bear on his character. But, for the most part, they would be inadmissible. And, even if they evidenced dishonesty, they still would likely be (or have been) inadmissible. Why? Because unless the evidence is being used to show something like propensity for fraud, evidence of untruthfullness is typically only admissible to impeach a witness - but Zimmerman could not be impeached, because he never testified. He didn't need to, because his reenactment video was sufficient to get the question of self-defense to the jury, and the state barely introduced enough evidence to get the charges to the jury in the first place. Otherwise, evidence of dishonesty is essentially irrelevant to the case, since it was concerned murder/manslaughter.

BUT, the court refused to allow much of the character evidence concerning Martin, as displayed electronically - text messages and facebook/myspace. Since there is a good argument that they showed a propensity to violence and to attack innocent people without provocation (e.g. his attack on a bus driver), interest in MMA, his showing illegal possession of a firearm, drug use, esp about his using "Lean" (two of which components were in his possession at the time of his death). Defense properly objected, and there is a definite chance that the appeals court would have reversed and remanded on just that alone, if Zimmerman had been convicted, and not acquitted.

Bruce Hayden said...

Sorry to add just a bit more. One of the big differences between the Zimmerman and Dunn cases was that there was plenty of evidence showing at least a possibility of self-defense on the part of Zimmerman. As I noted, absent anything else, his reenactment video, played by the prosecution was sufficient. That means that if the defense never put on a case, the jury would have gotten self-defense instructions (including the irrelevant SYD instruction). But, in the Dunn case, no evidence of self-defense was introduced by the prosecution, or even probably the defense, until they got down to the last day of presenting their case, and their last two witnesses. Thus, Dunn himself was forced to testify on his own behalf (as Zimmerman was not) in order to get the self-defense instructions to the jury. And, absent self-defense, I think that it was probably slam-dunk that he have been found guilty of at least manslaughter, and as things worked out, probably 2nd Degree Murder (given his three convictions for attempted 2nd Degree Murder).

Kirk Parker said...

"Is SYG just a law to help prevent over-prosecution"

Yes. And in some jurisdictions, very much needed.

But in addition, it's a rejection of the Thug's Veto. (Jupiter, this is an answer to your question too.)