Monday, July 15, 2013

I really need to stop watching OWN...

I'd rather watch Dr. Phil than morning news shows, which are a little too perky for my tastes first thing in the morning.  Oprah Winfrey's OWN shows Dr. Phil reruns, so I often tune in, unless the show is on a topic I'm not interested in.  Unfortunately, OWN has some of the most irritating commercials ever and they show the same ones over and over again.  Also, I find Oprah a bit annoying.

Apparently, a bunch of viewers wrote to the OWN channel, asking Oprah to save their soaps.  So she's been crowing about them on her network, cheering all of the characters who will be on her channel.  I used to be a dedicated Guiding Light viewer, so I know the soaps can be addictive.  But does Oprah have to crow about them?  She sounds ridiculous.

I never watched Oprah's talk show because when it was airing, I was generally too busy.  I never understood why she was so popular.

Moving on...

Yesterday, Bill and I went to the store to pick up a few things.  We decided to get some Chinese food for lunch.  When we went into our favorite restaurant, there were a couple of young black guys in there.  I didn't pay much attention to them.  Bill went to order our usual and two guys sat on the other side of the dining room, waiting for their order.

After they left, Bill said to me that he felt like the two guys were giving us hostile glares.  I asked him to clarify and he said the two guys had looked angry at us.  I hadn't noticed.  I think Bill was feeling sensitive about the whole Trayvon Martin thing, which has so many people upset.  I reminded him that we weren't on the jury and this isn't Florida... and perhaps he's being a little more sensitive than necessary.

It always makes me sad when something like this happens and polarizes Americans.  A lot of people seem to think that Trayvon Martin died simply because he was a black kid wearing a hoodie who "looked suspicious".  Quite a few people have said that had Trayvon been white, he wouldn't have been shot.

I'm not sure I'm totally convinced this situation was racially motivated, though.  I once lived in an apartment community where there was a lot of crime.  I remember when someone broke into my car.  I felt very violated and unsafe.  It had nothing to do with the color of the people living in the community; a lot of the other folks in this community had the same color skin I do.  I had no idea who broke into my car.  I only knew that I was very creeped out about it and wanted to move out of that neighborhood immediately.  Luckily, we were able to do that.

I think if I lived in a neighborhood where there was a lot of criminal activity, I would be suspicious too.  I doubt I would carry a gun, but I would probably be nervous and perhaps even angry.  (In fact, writing this post actually reminded me to check the sex offender registry for the house we plan to apply for this week).

What's more, when I think about potentially violent young men, I don't necessarily fixate on the black ones.  What color was Adam Lanza, the young man who shot up Sandy Hook Elementary School?  What color is Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the young man, who with help from his now deceased older brother, bombed the Boston Marathon?  How about Seung-Hui Cho, the man who killed so many at Virginia Tech back in 2007?  None of these guys had dark skin.  I see no reason why we have to assume that it's just black men who are violent... or even that it's just men.  I think the truth is, anyone can be violent.  And if you live in a neighborhood that is scary because there's been a lot of crime, it's bound to make you nervous about anyone who might be dangerous.

The fact is, recently there have been a lot of violent crimes perpetrated by young men, which has led to a pervasive fear that one can become a victim at any time.  Some people feel the need to arm themselves so they won't be at the mercy of a criminal.  If you've been victimized, you probably want to see that it won't happen again.  That leads to "profiling", which I think almost everyone does to some extent.  We have been taught to look at people and size them up.  It's a survival technique, which can lead to unfair prejudice.  And yet we still do it, because we are interested in self-preservation.  

I'm not saying George Zimmerman was right to do what he did.  I'm saying that I don't believe what he did was entirely racially motivated.  What's really sad about this is that George Zimmerman's acquittal has led to so much anger.  I fear that there will be more violence in the wake of this case.  Zimmerman may find himself a victim of violent crime.  Perhaps he will be murdered.  That would be a shame.  Violence begets violence.

A friend of mine is from Germany, but lives near Fort Bragg because she's married to an American soldier.  The night of the verdict, she made a comment that unnerved me a bit.  She said she was "too white" to go outside in her neighborhood near Fayetteville, North Carolina.  She was afraid there would be violence because people were so pissed off about the acquittal, even though Fayetteville is nowhere near Sanford, Florida.  It never occurred to me to feel unsafe in my town because of this verdict.  If people feel compelled to be violent simply because of an unpopular verdict in another state, we have a serious problem... and it's not just among people who happen to be white and might be "racist".  But my friend and my husband both feel sensitive and even unsafe all the way up here in North Carolina, because a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman.  Go figure.

Anyway, even though George Zimmerman is not in prison right now, I think his life, at least for the immediate future, is probably ruined.  As I wrote before, if he felt endangered the day he killed Trayvon Martin, he is sure to feel much worse now.  People are very pissed off about this verdict and it wouldn't surprise me if there were plans in the making to do serious harm to Zimmerman.  I doubt he'll have an easy time finding employment.  Maybe this will blow over after time passes, but for the time being, life is sure to be very tough for Zimmerman.

One other thing I suspect is that a lot of people who don't actually care about this case are expressing outrage because they don't want to be thought of as racist.  A lot of white people are rightfully ashamed of the actions of our ancestors.  We'd like to convince everybody else that we've evolved.  But the truth of the matter is, a lot of us haven't evolved and are ashamed of that fact.  I would submit, however, that racism isn't just a problem among white people.  I think it affects everyone and we'd probably do well to just admit our biases and work on them.  As for the Zimmerman verdict, it's a done deal.  There is almost surely going to be more litigation lobbed Zimmerman's way in the form of a civil suit.  Stay tuned.  

6 comments:

  1. I agree with everything you've written. I agree that there will be a civil suit, and the outcome may be very different. Who knows?

    One thing I don't understand is the talk of the Feds becoming involved in the form of the Department of Justice investigating as to whether or not Trayvon Martin's civil rights were violated. I know this happened in the Rodney King case, which happened shortly before or after I was born. I didn't understand it in that case and I don't understand it now.

    While I think the verdict reached by the original jury in the Rodney King case was totally wrong (though I did not sit through the hours of testimony and evidence presented), I don't understand how turning a case with an unpopular, controversial, or even outrighly incorrect verdict over to the Feds does not qualify as double jeopardy. No one has been able to explain this to me in a way that makes any sense at all. (In the Trayvon Martin case, it makes even less sense to me, as the FBI already investigated and concluded the actions of George Zimmerman were not racially motivated. If one branch of the federal government has already addressed the matter, why is that not sufficient?)

    So anytime a jury reaches a verdict which is against the wishes of a segment of the population that is prone to express their displeasure through violent means, will the federal government automatically become involved on the basis of "civil rights" in order to appease that segment of the population? How is this not double jeopardy?

    Juries will sometimes reach verdicts that are probably miscarriges of justice. (I'm not convinced that the verdict was a miscarrige of justice in the Zimmerman trial; the state had a weak case and not a great deal of evidence.) Still, the jury that saw and heard the evidence has spoken.

    To avoid the appearance of double jeopardy, why can it not be determined that there is a reason to suspect that civil rights may have been violated before any trial is held? Then if a reasonable suspicion of cicil rights violation is found, the case can be tried in a federal court as opposed to in the local jurisdiction. That way, one trial can be held, and the appearance of double jeopardy can be avoided. I'm suspicious of federal courts in civil rights cases, because the defendant always seems to be found guilty, which leads me to believe the presumption of innocence is nonexistent, but that is perhaps an entirely different matter to be addressed. Civil rights trials appear in a sense to exist to restrain civil unrest from a portion of our population that is prone to resort to violent demonstrations to express disagreement with verdicts.

    What seems to be the case as things presently stand is that when a verdict is reached that angers a segment of the population that is likely to express its displeasure over the verdict in a violent manner, at that point the federal government becomes involved in the matter and the person is retried, this time for civil rights violations. How is this not double jeopardy?

    Furthermore, this seems to encourage uncivil demonstrations, almost akin to buying candy in a grocery store to appease a two-year-old who is throwing a tantrum over having been told "No candy today."

    So why not thoroughly investigate the federal trial process to ensure that all defendants have the presumption of innocence, and then determine before trial whether a case belongs under federal or local jurisdiction?

    P.S. I am aware that the presumptionof innocense isn't always the norm in local juroisdicions either, and that race CAN (but certainly doesn't always) impact a defendant's right to a fair trial.

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  2. I think the Rodney King thing was in 1992. I remember hearing about it, but I was in the middle of college at the time and wasn't really following what was going on.

    As for the whole double jeopardy thing, I'm guessing there must be other charges filed... maybe not for murder, but for hate crimes or something along those lines. Or maybe it's because it's a federal charge as opposed to a state charge.

    I gotta say, I saw the photos of Zimmerman the night he was arrested and it looked like he got the crap kicked out of him. Who did that to him? I suppose I should get off my substantial ass and actually read about the case to answer these questions, since now I'm all of a sudden interested.

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  3. I understand what you're saying about different charges or federal vs. state, but I still believe that who has jurisdiction and what the defendant is to be charged with needs to be decided BEFORE the trial. Otherwise, I don't see how it can't be called double jeopardy. We try the guy for murder. That fails. We try him next fro involuntary manslaughter. We bring him up again on charges of child abuse. That somehow fails. So then we let the feds have a crack at him on fedderal civil rights charges.

    All of that needs to be ironed out before the first trial -- not used to remedy what segments of society, or even society as a whole sees as an insufficient verdict. To do such IS double jeopardy.

    My mom told me it all started as a result of civil right-related garbage that went on in the 60's in the deepsouth. White men were walking after ten minutes of jury deliberations after blatantly killing blacks. Something hears.ad to be done. Probably what needed to be done was to have monitored more closely and acted more quickly in the first place. Corrupt racist judges, prosecuters and public defenders should have been tried in federal court immediately on obstruction of justice charges or other corruption charges and should have been locked them up for years in the general population. Perhaps even jurors should have been charged with perjury for declaring under oath that they could render a fair and just verdict without racial bias who then went into the jury deliberation room and threw out racial epithets right and left in rendering their ten-minute verdicts. Playing one juro against another would have gotten tham all talking, and they woud'v ratted each othr out. or prhaps their klan membership could've been proven. In any event, someting could have been done to stop what was happening in the deep south without instituting a system ofndoubole jeopardy. That's whta is it whether they're willing to call it such or not.

    I was born in '94 , so I just missed the Rodney King thing. Those officers were so guilty it wa ridiculos, but once they were acquitted, that should have been the end of their participation. The price should have been paid by going after the prosecution for prosecutorial misconduct for basically rolling over and playing dead,particularly in jury selection and in allowing the venue that was allowed, possibly sanctions against the judge who ruled that the trial be held in suburbia, and others who didn't do their jobs. It should be considered a criminal act not to make a simple mistake but to repeatedly fail to do your duty for which you've been sworn, which would allow such a miscarriage of justice as happened in the Rodney King trial. The black community would not have been quite as appeased as they were with the civil rights charges, but a modern precedent for double jeopardy would not have been set.

    The prosecution needs to get its act together before a defendant is tried to determine who has jurisdiction and for what charges they will be tried. Perhaps the feds should have the first shot at the defendant if they want to prosecute, and if not, the option should go to the local jurisdiction. Regardlesss, one level of court should not get a crak, lose the cae, and then get to hand the defendant over to another court for the very same crime. It's not that the authorities learned that he shot someone else. They're retrying him for the same crime.That's the definition of double jeopardy, and it's all the result of the swing of the pendulum. Minority rights are trampled. Then, in attempt to correct we must over-correct.


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    1. LOL... you were born in 1994... well THAT doesn't make me feel ancient!!!

      For some reason, your comment ended up being marked as spam, which is why I'm just seeing it now. I thought I saw that you had left a comment when I tracked stat counter, so I'm glad I checked.

      Anyway, check out Lawfrog's response. Apparently, the DOJ isn't jumping in now-- they've been involved from the get-go.

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  4. Just for the record, the DOJ had opened an investigation into Zimmerman last year before the trial. They stepped aside from their investigation for the state criminal trial to proceed. So it's not exactly the case that Zimmerman is just now being considered by the DOJ after the verdict.

    I make no declaration regarding the fairness or not of the DOJ stepping in, just that we need to remember that it's not like they're just coming to the ball field now. They've been there since the start of the game.

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    1. Thanks for that perspective, Lawfrog. I haven't been paying any attention to this case at all, so it's good to get a comment from someone who knows what they're talking about.

      I guess I'll pay more attention now. ;-)

      Hey... in about two weeks, I'll be a Texas resident too!

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