I haven't written on the subject of shootings (justified or otherwise) in quite some time. Well, that's not quite true. I've written plenty on the subject in other places over the last few years, a smidgen of which is reproduced here. But I haven't posted much of what I've written on the subject on this blog since I last wrote about the Joe Horn case in Houston several years back.
While the Zimmerman case was being argued in the court of public opinion and later in actual court (to little effect) I wrote extensively on Dan Carlin's bulletin board system about the problems with Stalking and Shooting, the categorical description of the behavior that Zimmerman engaged in.
Zimmerman made a affirmative SYG case, so SYG has everything to do with it. The problem with Trayvon Martin, the problem with Marissa Alexander, is that both of them have black skin. Consequently they are looked down on, even by people who have the same color skin. This fact is borne out by statistics. So Trayvon is threatening simply because of the color of his skin; it certainly wasn't the presence of a sidewalk, 20 feet from where he was fatally shot. Marissa was assigned a duty to retreat because she had the double curse of being female and being black. Women are routinely jailed for daring to defend themselves.
The problem with SYG is specifically this; we SHOULD have the duty to retreat in public places. Zimmerman had no business profiling and stalking that teenager. No one should expect to get a "get out of jail free" card simply because they claim self-defense. EVERYONE (including cops) should be subject to trial when someone dies at their hands. Had Zimmerman not been emboldened by what they lyingly said he was unfamiliar with, he would have stayed in his car, and Trayvon would have been alive today.
How we get to the point where we legally 'have to' allow women to defend themselves, is a separate discussion. Clearly special laws are required, since general laws yield outcomes like Marissa's. Special laws giving women permission to shoot abusive men. Yeah, that'll happen.Being the briefest of brief rehashes of content posted to a 42 page thread, and that typed up and added as a comment to an article on Reason Magazine's site concerning the attacks on Stand Your Ground Laws that occurred after those laws were so horribly and hypocritically applied in Florida and elsewhere.
But this latest slew of problems isn't about SYG as a perversion of an offensive action into a defensive one. It isn't even necessarily about guns, since one of the deaths in question involved a choke hold, not gunfire. It is about police using their unique relationship with their local prosecutor's office to make unjustified homicides look like justified ones, allowing the offending police officers to claim vindication in the courts, when no court trials have occurred.
This was all brought back to mind when I wrote and posted yesterday's entry on calling torture torture and not some other nicer sounding phrase. I wrote the line Police officers are filmed strangling and shooting unarmed men, and remain unprosecuted and wondered if I'd ever get around to writing that piece. This is that piece.
Much like the torture post, this post remained unwritten because the solution to me was so obvious, and has even been related by talking heads on various news outlets. The prosecutor's office in nearly every county and city in the US works closely with the police, or as Jon Stewart observed at about 7:50 in this clip;
Yes, it's Law & Order, and a serious (but humorous) oversimplification, but still it has to be observed that police departments have internal investigations departments (and all of them should have) there really need to be special prosecutors appointed specifically to prosecute cases against police officers. There should be citizen oversight everywhere there is a significant police department, too.
Prosecutors work too closely with the police to be able to effectively prosecute cases against them, all of their protestations to the contrary. It is a breach of trust to even allow them to bring cases against police that they work with. The real surprise to me is that it has taken this long for this conflict of interest to be brought to the public's attention.
This has been true for awhile now, as many people more versed in the subject than I am have pointed out, over and over again. I'll just point to Radley Balko as one shining example. Time and again he has documented how police excesses go unchecked, and how most people turn a blind eye to the real costs, because it is too painful to witness.
Well, if torture hadn't come along to interrupt the outrage, we'd still be talking about this mess. We will probably be talking about it again after the New Year's passes, because it isn't going away anytime soon unless we do something to fix this broken system of ours.
You might well say, what do these police cases have to do with Joe Horn, or Zimmerman or that other case? If you really have to ask that question, the answer of skin color probably isn't going to sit well with you. But it is true all the same. In all these cases, the public dialog has gone out of it's way to give latitude to the aggressor. The dialog in Joe Horn's case was largely supportive of his actions; and I still think he was legally justified to take the actions he took, even if I would have listened to the operator's advice myself and let the cops handle it (because they were there and witnessed the shooting) still, his victims were black, making them easy targets to dismiss.
It's not the race of the shooter that is in question, because the statistics show even black cops distrust black faces. It is the race (skin color) of the victim that allows their deaths to be easily dismissed.
Outside of the black communities who are protesting and outraged over the dismissal of charges against the police, the attitude still remains largely dismissive of the victims rights, of the needs of survivors and family members to see justice done, to have their day in court. FOX (as Jon Stewart and others point out) seems willing to lead this parade of monkeys consistently seeing no evil, hearing no evil, but managing to sound pretty evil all the same.