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james rytting

Your right, I did go beyond the evidence and speculated, and I prefer an acquittal under these types of circumstances given the evidence, although my sentiments are likely influenced by my belief that the consequences of conviction, for anyone, are systematically inhumane, because of the length and conditions of incarceration in the U.S. Nonetheless, I think what Zimmerman did was unjustifiable.

Zimmerman shot an unarmed kid during or after a fisticuff. There's no evidence the kid was going after Z's gun, not even evidence leaked to the media. The conclusion seems pretty clear: during the struggle or afterwards, Z decided to pull his gun and then shot the kid for slugging him. That's it; that's premeditation, just like deciding to go for a knife and then stabbing someone during a fisticuff (which among amateurs involves several aimless swings followed by equally clumsy wrasslin, having seen and been in a few of these tussles as a kid). As for having black relatives and friends, that is not a prophylactic to prejudices and misconceptions, a point easily proven, by analogy, to the persistence of misogyny.


James, you're engaging in a lot of mind-reading here. You confidently assert that Zimmerman harassed Martin 'because of his race' that his conduct was 'premeditated', and, by implication, that he thinks of all black people as 'animals'. Simply asserting these things doesn't prove them, not by a long shot. Don't you think that if there had been solid, convincing evidence that Zimmerman harbored racist beliefs, the prosecution wouldn't have trumpeted it everywhere?

Zimmerman had black relatives and took a black woman to his high-school prom. I certainly don't know whether that proves he's not a racist; I am not privy to his inmost thoughts, and neither are you.

As for the premeditated part, how can you square that with the fact that he called for the police and knew they would soon arrive before following Martin? It's the odd premeditated murderer who calls the police to the scene of the crime before he acts, and then waits there for them to arrive.

The injuries to Zimmerman were, of course, superficial. But you know as well as I that self-defense is a hugely fact-based legal determination, which means the mere fact that Martin was smaller than Zimmerman is not dispositive, nor is the fact that his wounds turned out to be superficial. The jury determined that, at the moment he fired, he had a reasonable fear of injury. That seems like a conclusion well within the range of reasonable outcomes. Even if all the jurors were females, a fact which is relevant...how? Is it because women are less capable of evaluating evidence than men, because they're less likely to have been involved in fist-fights?

James rytting

Zimmerman harassed a kid, smaller than he was, because of his race. He was getting the worst of a fist fight so he shot the kid. His life was not in danger, nor was he in danger of serious bodily injury, I. E. the type that might justify killing. I'd like to think only someone who has never been in a fisticuff would hype the bumps on the noggin Zimmerman suffered into mortal danger, which is likely why the defense was thrilled to have an all woman jury. However, it's not just that, but the belief that black people are terrifyingly dangerous animals particularly when aroused that explains why zimmermans premeditated conduct is not seen as an obvious, homicidal overreaction.


The description of the german "Notwehr"-Law is not entirely correct. In fact the response to the threat has NOT to be proportional under german law. Only if there are several different means which could end the attack with certainty, you have to pick the mildest out of those. If there is reasonable doubt you can properly defend yourself with your bare hands, you may defend yourself with a knife without taking some punches before. However, if circumstances allow, you are obliged to warn the attacker before using (possibly) deadly force.

If there are no other means to defend yourself, you may even use deadly force to protect your private property even if there is not threat of you being injured. This right is only restricted in the most extreme cases under the concept of "Gebotenheit". A classic example for this is the man in a wheelchair, shooting cherry-thiefs out of his tree. As a exception to the general rule, that man would not act justified under "Notwehr" because the threat to his property is too marginal.

With regard to the Zimmermann case, I concur with you.


Am a bit surprised at the confidence with which you state that a German court would have acquitted Zimmerman as well. Cases of self-defense are notorious for the widely varying assessments of similar situations by the courts. Take the case of Sven G., for example: http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/justiz/streitfall-notwehr-ich-habe-noch-nie-so-viel-angst-gehabt-a-659320.html

"Attempted manslaughter": Three years and nine months for stabbing his assailant in the neck (on appeal, reduced to three years and three months). The guy was in fear of his life after the assailant had just knocked down one of his friends, yet the court said he acted in excess of reasonable self-defense.

Zimmermann's acquittal, too, was not a slam-dunk. We have heard from jurors that initially three of them voted to acquit, two to convict of manslaughter, and the sixth wanted him put away for 2nd-degree murder (!).

And there are other cases, both in the U.S. and in Germany, that exhibit a confusing inconsistency. I don't think any advice can be given except to stay out of trouble and if you're unlucky enough to have to defend yourself with deadly force, lawyer up ASAP... and pray. There is no telling how the legal system will dispose of you afterward.


A very long time ago, I read about a Munich jeweler whose home was invaded by two thieves, one of whom the jeweler shot and killed while the thief was searching the house for booty. The jeweler was cleared of all charges.


I just want to add: it was *possible* that nobody would have died. See this case for a counter-example http://www.elpasotimes.com/tablehome/ci_21843760/teen-accused-el-paso-officers-fatal-beating-indicted

One astounding thing about the case was how many people believe violence to be an acceptable social response, as long as the perpetrator is unarmed.


Though I'm a German in Germany, I have read more of the American coverage. In fairness to the German media, isn't it true that the case would probably never have made it to court (because the state "had no case") if it hadn't been for the very biased campaign in the U.S. media?

I'm saying this because I had the impression that the coverage in Spiegel online was based largely on reading NYT et al.


I was really really amused by the Candide reference. Thank you for that bright spot in my day. That is all.

Stefan Tilkov

Based on what I have read, here and elsewhere, I largely agree with your view. One aspect that strongly influences most Germans' take on the whole thing is the entirely unacceptable idea that someone might just walk around with a licensed, concealed gun. As it was legal under US law, this doesn't, of course, change anything from a legal perspective. But my guess that in the minds of most Germans, the two issues - this particular case and the more general, rather idea of letting people run around with guns - get conflated and contribute to the negative side of things.

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