There are times that blatant and outrageous pandering just go too far.
Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling on the Justice Department to investigate so-called "Stand Your Ground" laws following the fatal shooting of an unarmed Florida teen.
The law, a version of which was enacted in Florida in 2005, allows for individuals to use deadly force -- even outside their home -- if they feel threatened.
Since the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Republican leaders have called the killing a tragedy but argue that the law in question did not actually apply to this case.
Still, Schumer wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday that the laws themselves should be investigated.
"These laws seem to be encouraging vigilantism by allowing individuals to use deadly force as a first resort," Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement.
The Republicans are right -- Schumer is wrong.
Look, it sucks that Martin is dead, ok? Let's get that out right up front.
But this is not as clear as some people would like you to believe.
When the Sanford police department responded to the 911 calls they found Zimmerman with injuries and Martin apparently deceased. This is from the original incident report which is able to be found with 30 seconds worth of effort on The Internet and is an official police public record:
The focus folks is in one place and one place only -- was the use of force justified.
The facts as we currently know them support that Zimmerman was attacked from behind, was flat on his back, was assaulted from the top and not free to escape. That's consistent with both witness reports and physical evidence as noted in the above report. I note that both former Governor Bush and the author of the "Stand Your Ground" law have both said that the Castle Doctrine is inapplicable to this circumstance and they're correct; an altercation in which you are physically prevented from leaving by someone sitting on you after knocking you to the ground removes all consideration of that law from the decision process and the legal evaluation.
That there are contrary witness reports is not surprising; if you've ever looked at reports from a particular "simple" incident such as a traffic accident there are frequently very different things reported by the various witnesses. The job of the investigating agency is to filter this information by both assessing the credibility of the witnesses and the physical evidence. That which is contrary to the physical evidence can't have happened, no matter how many people claim it did. A couple of years ago I was a witness to a horrific traffic accident that was described very differently than what happened by one of the drivers and a couple of other witnesses -- unfortunately for them the physical evidence (skid marks on the roadway and point of impact) were inconsistent with what they claimed they saw, but entirely-consistent with what I saw and reported. The young driver (who they tried to pin the accident on) was in fact not at fault as the other vehicle emerged from between two trucks in a line and entered his lane outside of an intersection leaving him less than a car length to react -- it was literally impossible for him to have avoided the collision as the distance covered by a vehicle during the best-case human reaction time exceeded the distance between the vehicles at the lawful speed for that section of road. I suspect my testimony, which I was happy to provide in written form, saved him from at least a chargeable accident and perhaps a suspended or revoked license.
In this case Zimmerman had a documented physical injury on the back of his head that was bleeding when he was "cuffed and stuffed", along with bleeding from his nose. It was also apparent from physical evidence that he was on his back on wet ground (grass stains and water on the BACK of his shirt.) Reports are that Martin was shot in the front of his body, not in the back, so he was facing the weapon when it discharged.
These are physical facts that to the best of my knowledge are not in controversy.
If Zimmerman was the aggressor how did he get injured on the back of his head with sufficient force to cause bleeding? Further, if he was on top of Martin how did Zimmerman's shirt get grass stains on the back? Such claims are inconsistent with the physical evidence.
The media has refused to present a reasonably-recent picture of Martin. There are multiple ones floating around on the Internet; one I've seen is of highly-questionable provenance and thus I discount it's probative value until and unless it is validated as real. But there's likely a reason that all of the pictures presented thus far are four years or more old and show Martin when he was 13 -- and not now, when he was 17. This sort of blatant "in your face" distortion ought to be ringing everyone's alarm bells at high volume -- that it isn't is very disturbing.
Then we have the call for blatantly unlawful action yesterday from the "New Black Panthers", which literally asked for 5,000 black men to search for and kidnap Zimmerman and issued a reward for anyone who did so. I will remind everyone that kidnapping is a federal and state felony carrying a potential life sentence in prison. If this is not part and parcel of an attempt to incite a race war, would someone please tell me what is?
The new Black Panther Party offered a bounty of $10,000 Saturday for the “capture” of a Florida neighborhood watch captain who killed unarmed teen Trayvon Martin.
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” leader Mikhail Muhammad said after announcing the reward for George Zimmerman at a protest in Sanford, Fla.
Muhammad called on 5,000 black men to mobilize and capture the neighborhood watch volunteer.
“If the government won’t do the job, we’ll do it,” Muhammad said, leading chants that included “freedom or death” and “justice for Trayvon.”
If you, I, or anyone else did this we'd be facing a federal investigation and possible listing as a domestic terrorist organization right here and now. But this organization was caught on camera in the last election threatening voters with violence -- a federal offense -- and yet our current administration refused to investigate or prosecute.
Assuming the above is indeed what happened then the sole remaining question is whether or not Zimmerman had a justifiable fear that he was about to suffer serious physical injury or death. If so under Florida Statutes and any reasonable ethical and moral code his use of defensive force was lawful and proper. Simply put you are never required to submit to your own death by an assailant and those who argue otherwise in a political context must be run out of town on a rail as their statements are an explicit denial of your right to life and therefore constitute advocacy of the overthrow of the Constitution via extralegal means (since there is no lawful means by which an unalienable right can be extinguished!)
If the assault did not rise to that level then his use of defensive force was not lawful and some form of manslaughter or unlawful homicide occurred.
In the general sense a fist fight does not rise to the level of felony assault. However, if you are on the ground after being knocked down and your assailant mounts you and starts pummeling your face or body such that you cannot escape or effectively fend him off there comes a point where that line is indeed crossed and the use of force in defense is both lawful and proper.
If the evidence changes so will my opinion and there is both a DOJ and State Grand Jury investigating the matter. Everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence, including Mr. Zimmerman. At present the physical evidence buttress both his statements and those of witnesses that he was attacked from behind, fell to the ground and was repeatedly struck by Martin who was on top of him. Until physical evidence emerges or a credible claim of events arises that is consistent with the physical evidence and leads to a different conclusion what I see is a witch-hunt being exploited to both attempt to deny a man his due process rights and abrogate the right of every American (and indeed every person) to lawful and proper self-defense.