Before the special prosecutor's announcement this afternoon in the Martin-Zimmerman case comes out, let me reiterate what has been my position from the beginning:
- Sad, messed up incidents like this happen all the time in a huge country like this. For example, I spent a lot of time in 2010 playing amateur snoop in a local incident where a bunch of law enforcement agents in plain clothes "debriefing" out behind a bar started a brawl in the parking lot and would up killing an 18-year-old violist who was either trying to kill them with his car (the shooters' story), rescue the man the out-of-uniform cops had attacked, flee, or something else.
- It's a good thing for citizens to take an interest in unresolved shootings, such as this one in Florida or the one in my neighborhood, to prevent abuses. By the standards of my local shooting, where even the names of the shooters were not released for months, the Martin-Zimmerman case is practically a model of respectable police work. The big difference is that Zimmerman was not a real cop, so the cops were relatively even-handed. The decision not to arrest him came down not from the cops but from high up.
- As far as I can tell, the facts are about equally ambiguous in the Florida case as in my local case. To get a better understanding of either case, I'd need a picture of exactly where each individual was at each moment. That's not impossible to put together, but I haven't done it. Hopefully, the special prosecutor in Florida has done that, although, obviously, the political pressures on her are immense. (Here's the Wagist website, which seems to have tried harder than any other media source to bring out the facts of the case.)
- Nor have I made a study of the applicable law. I'd like to know what actually happened first.
- The initial decision not to arrest Zimmerman seems reasonable. Didn't we learn a lesson from the Dominique Strauss-Kahn fiasco? This case seems more like the Conrad Murray case, in which the doctor who gave Michael Jackson his fatal injection was not arrested for many months as the prosecutors took the time to figure out what they were doing. Presumably, Zimmerman was judged not to be a flight risk, since nobody assumed at the time that the national media would try to rouse up a lynch mob against him. In my local shooting, in contrast, the law enforcement agencies investigated themselves, engaged in what sounds like witness intimidation, and, finally, after about a year, released a report completely exonerating themselves. Only at that point did the mother of the dead violist file a large civil suit (a course of action which my wife and I advised her to pursue when we accidentally met her in the parking lot 168 hours after her son's death). I look forward to someday learning the resolution of that case, but I don't have much of an opinion on what it should be. I'm just glad it wasn't completely swept under the rug. (Let me point out that I doubt if there was ever the slightest possibility that either shooter would be arrested in the local case. The only plausible outcomes other than the whole event disappearing down the memory hole would be some kind of discipline or reassignment to a desk job for the law enforcement agents and some kind of civil suit payout.)
Zimmerman, himself, seem like a Paul Blart, Mall Cop type, one of these pro-social pro-authoritarian youngish people I've noticed a lot of in this century. He seems way too trusting of the fairness of American institutions to wage an effective legal-political-media campaign for himself. Wagist has an account of how Zimmerman has done a terrible job of lawyering up, apparently trusting too much for his own good in the criminal justice system that he has always wanted to be part of, but never managed to join.
Of course, that raises the question of just how much good lawyering up would have done Zimmerman in the media-political battle. For the Martin parents, there was an obvious, socially acceptable game plan: hire a black civil suit attorney who is friends with Al Sharpton, which will bring Jesse Jackson sniffing around, and then, hopefully, bring in Eric Holder, and if you roll the dice right, the big chalupa of black spokesmen, Barack Obama. All the while, the prestige press will act exactly like in Bonfire of the Vanities, to play your son up as Henry Lamb. But if you are somebody with a German, possibly Jewish, surname whose mom was from Latin America, who, exactly, is going to be your ethnic champion? Right: Geraldo Rivera! Fat lot of good that does you ...
The big story, here, of course is not what, precisely, happened that sad night in Florida, but what it teaches us about the media and the media-indoctrinated public in the 21st Century. In contrast, nobody in the press took more than a grudging interest in the local shooting of the violist. One reason is that the victim was white, so identity politics narratives couldn't be brought into play. In contrast, the Florida case was played along the lines of 1987's Bonfire of the Vanities. (I wonder what Tom Wolfe thinks? Does it annoy him that nobody ever learns from his famous book? I suspect, though, it mostly warms the cockles of his quintuple-bypassed heart that his novel remains such an excellent guide 21st Century race hysteria).
In Florida, the press's behavior has been both stupid and shameful even by the standards of a Tom Wolfe novel. Let me point out something that hasn't been brought up much. There has been very little interviewing of pro-Zimmerman witnesses by the press. You mostly hear their accounts through leaks from the investigation. Why are they clinging to anonymity? Because most of them are terrified of being murdered by some media-inspired hothead from Team Trayvon. Now, obviously, that makes it hard for the press to interview them. But, shouldn't the media tell us that?