The George Zimmerman trial and The Philadelphia Inquirer

Were we to ask Robert J Hall, the Publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer, or William K Marlmow, the Editor, or Harold Jackson, the Editorial Page Editor, about the journalistic integrity and accuracy of their fine and historic newspaper, they would all tell us that they strive diligently to get all of the facts right. If seems, however, that the facts sometimes take a back seat to their political agenda when those two things do not agree. Today’s lead editorial:1

Zimmerman’s acquittal shouldn’t lead to riches

George Zimmerman smiles after the jury delivered a not-guilty verdict in the slaying of Trayvon Martin.

Posted: Monday, July 15, 2013, 1:07 AM

It would be a shame if the unnecessary death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin produced more paydays for the man who fatally shot the unarmed black teenager in the heart during a scuffle. But George Zimmerman, the Sanford, Fla., neighborhood watch captain who has already received hundreds of thousands of dollars from gun-rights advocates and other supporters, is likely to be offered millions through lucrative book and movie deals.

I suppose that we will see if Mr Zimmerman is actually able to profit from the experience through which he has been; I have said previously that I doubt that to be the case, and that I believe that his life is forever ruined, with Mr Zimmerman being effectively unemployable. I see no reason that a man who has been tried in a court of law and found not guilty by a jury of his peers and fellow citizens should not be allowed to make a living any legal way that he can, but I can understand that that is the Inquirer’s opinion. But a couple paragraphs further down is where I have a real problem:

That a verdict was returned at night almost seemed by design to reduce the possibility of sparking protests that might turn violent. But heated arguments stemming from Martin’s death at the hands of the white Hispanic defendant 17 months ago will likely continue for a long time. People remain bitterly divided not only by race, but their attitudes toward Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law. The eight-year-old law, which has been mimicked in more than 20 other states, is an abomination. It extends the so-called Castle Doctrine – which gives a person the legal right to use deadly force in his home – to anywhere, anytime. Zimmerman’s lawyers contended that Florida’s law, which does not require a person to use deadly force only as a last resort, gave their client the right to shoot Martin. They presented testimony suggesting that Zimmerman, though he outweighed Martin, was unable to protect himself otherwise in their fight. Given that the law was such a huge hurdle to overcome, the decision to charge Zimmerman with second-degree murder is being criticized by other legal experts. Indeed, the prosecutors all but admitted failure to prove that charge when late in the trial they succeeded in getting the judge to instruct the all-female jury – five white women and one Hispanic – that they could also consider convicting Zimmerman of the lesser charge of manslaughter. But in the end, Stand Your Ground prevailed.

No, no, no, no, no! Possibly because Judge Debra Nelson had rejected a “stand your ground” defense in a prior case, Mr Zimmerman and his attorneys did not use the “stand your ground” laws as part of their defense:

But not in this case, which is testing Mr. Zimmerman’s claims of self-defense and spotlighting Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. That law has not been invoked in this case, but was cited by the Sanford police as the reason officers did not initially arrest Mr. Zimmerman.

Emphasis mine.

I suppose that we ought not to be surprised that the media, much of whom abhor the stand your ground laws, would try to use this case to attack those laws, but at least The New York Times article noted that Mr Zimmerman did not try to use that law.

You will have to follow the link back to the Inquirer original to read the rest,2 but, if you do, you will find an editorial that was either deliberately misleading or written by an editor who failed to familiarize himself with the facts. If that editorial happened to be your only source of information about the trial, you would almost certainly believe that Mr Zimmerman and his attorneys used “stand your ground” as their defense.

The Inquirer has every right to oppose the various “stand your ground” laws editorially. But for a major metropolitan daily, one which prides itself on its history and reputation, to either deliberately or negligently use a case in which the “stand your ground” law was never invoked as a means to attack those laws is journalistically unethical.
__________________________

  1. The Philadelphia Inquirer, Monday, 15 July 2013, p. A-10
  2. Inquirer articles are sometimes deleted after a given amount of time, which is why I provided the citation to the print edition in the previous footnote.

24 Comments

  1. But for a major metropolitan daily, one which prides itself on its history and reputation, to either deliberately or negligently use a case in which the “stand your ground” law was never invoked as a means to attack those laws is journalistically unethical.

    And you’re actually SURPRISED by this? What was that line from Casablanca – “I’m shocked, SHOCKED!, to find gambling in my club!”

  2. Well, it’s possible that I have, on occasion, feigned shock and surprise to make a point, but I will neither confirm nor deny that I have done so in this case. :)

  3. Was the editorial signed? I’d like to know the name of the liar who wrote the piece, so as to pin a face, and thus moral responsibility, directly on him or her.

    But in many cases, even when the misdeed reaches the point of a public scandal, as in the instance of NBC News maliciously editing out text from the Zimmerman to police dispatcher transcript in order to make it appear Zimmerman was racially profiling Trayvon Martin, they simply close ranks and protect their own.

    Liberals will get on twitter and threaten Zimmerman’s life and his family, and celebrity lefties will publish his home address, but you cannot even get a clear cut answer from NBC as to exactly who by name, was the precise person who edited the police dispatch transcript in order to make it seem as though Zimmerman was asserting that Martin should be checked out because he “looks black”.

    This pattern of malevolent and politically motivated deception is par for the course for lefties, of course. No belief in an objective reality, then no belief in objective truth. No belief in an objective truth, no concomitant moral obligation to report it.

    Nothing remains to their “moral formation” but their plan for that barely sublimated war on other members of the species which they incessantly wage: their war upon the productive, the self-directing, and the self-governing capable. All this is done in the name of nothing more than their personal desire to gain enough coercive political power over all the life world so as to ensure it is shaped to suit their their peculiar notions of comfort, and to meet their neurotic expectations.

    Can they possibly be the same moral species?

  4. More to the point of the editorial, the editors — Mr Jackson, I would guess, but do not know — held that it was the Florida “stand your ground” law which emboldened Mr Zimmerman to stand his ground when Mr Martin approached him, yet seem to have missed the fact that, after Mr Martin noticed Mr Zimmerman following him, did not flee, or even stand his ground, but turned and approached Mr Zimmerman. No fault, however, must attach to Saint Trayvon for attacking approaching the wicked George Zimmerman.

  5. DNW wrote:

    Was the editorial signed? I’d like to know the name of the liar who wrote the piece, so as to pin a face, and thus moral responsibility, directly on him or her.

    Harold Jackson is the editorial page editor, and is the man directly responsible for the piece. He may or may not have been the author.

  6. Breitbart gives a great synopsis of how the Leftist Press pushed an agenda:

    Guilty Until Proven Innocent: How the Press Prosecuted Zimmerman While Stoking Racial Tensions

    As we await the verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman, the Florida man who claims to have shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin in self-defense, this seems the perfect time to reflect on the media’s cynical and dishonest role in turning a local crime into a national obsession.

    As you will see below, by hook and crook, the mainstream media did everything in its still-potent power to not only push for the prosecution of Mr. Zimmerman (the police originally chose not to charge him) but also to gin up racial tensions where none needed to exist.

    It all started with the anchor of a major television network (Al Sharpton) inserting himself in the story to spread division and hate; it continued straight through to the closing days of the trial when another major news network, desperate to keep a fabricated racial narrative alive, propagated the portrayal of Zimmerman as part of a racial group that doesn’t exist — the “white Hispanic.”

    In-between, there has been an astonishing amount of malicious fraud and lies, all in an effort to serve a president, stir racial hatred, and influence the justice system.

    February 26, 2012 – George Zimmerman Shoots and Kills Trayvon Martin
    Zimmerman claims self-defense. After an investigation, the police agree and decide not to press charges.

    This is a good recap of how the Lib Press Persecuted Zimmerman: Any blood from this is on their hands

    http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2013/07/13/Media-Zimmerman-Coverage-Rap-Sheet

    And since BO and the Press didn’t get their pound of flesh in this trial, the Feds are going to find a way to press civil rights charges.

  7. I’m sick of this case already, and am moving on to other things. Just because the media wants to pick this racial scab endlessly does not mean I am required to play along.

  8. Look at the “CBS This Morning” computer animation capture I posed up on John’s site. It shows the pretend Zimmerman just at the point of firing a bullet at (muzzle flash included) the short panted child Trayvon.

    Presented as a Reuters story, it was up on Yahoo on March 7th 2012. I think I ran across it (without checking the date stamp on the original image save) some weeks later.

    When “CBS This Morning” broadcast the computer image of Zimmerman gunning down the child Trayvon at a distance, it would have had to have been one would think, the day of, or previous to, the Yahoo re-presentation.

    If Zimmerman’s lawyers are going to sue NBC for malicious and reckless libel for editing the police call transcript, they ought to go after CBS for that broadcast animation as well.

    They should subpoena CBS This Morning directly for the video file and all editorial decisions regarding it.

    You can forget about chasing them through intervening layers of other news and internet content providers.

  9. “I’m sick of this case already, and am moving on to other things. Just because the media wants to pick this racial scab endlessly does not mean I am required to play along.”

    The case will fade. The media’s addiction to deliberate malpractice, and the social effects of that malpractice, will unfortunately remain for us to deal with whether we want to or not.

  10. In 513 Days Between Trayvon Shooting and Zimmerman Verdict, 11,106 Blacks Murdered by OTHER BLACKS

    To be exact, the shameful truth is that 93% of African-American murders are committed by other African-Americans. That is breathtakingly awful when you consider how incensed the African-American community is about the Trayvon tragedy, no matter what you believe about Zimmerman’s guilt.

    Let’s do the gruesome math, not out of morbidity, but because it manifests the incredible self-centered insanity of people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

    More:

    http://www.ijreview.com/2013/07/65527-in-513-days-between-trayvon-shooting-and-zimmerman-verdict-11106-blacks-murdered-by-other-blacks/

  11. Pingback: LIVE AT FIVE: 07.16.13 : The Other McCain

  12. The case will fade. The media’s addiction to deliberate malpractice, and the social effects of that malpractice, will unfortunately remain for us to deal with whether we want to or not.

    This will last only as long as the public puts up with it. Already the left wing media is taking its hits. The New York Times has been bleeding readers for years and has basically been replaced by The Wall Street Journal as the country’s newspaper of record. And CNN and MSNBC have only a fraction of the ratings as FOX News. The public is clearly voting with its feet, or remotes, or whatever.

  13. I posted the following at Patterico’s site, but I started composing it while reading the comments here. So, it’s now cross posted.

    Anyone else get the hunch that such widespread ignorance of the facts isn’t happening by accident? That it takes a well directed and concerted effort to be so consistently “wrong” for such a long time. It makes me wonder if the old Journolistas cabal isn’t back in business.

    Considering how quickly MSM twisted or manufactured evidence to portray George Zimmerman as a racist, and how long MSM’s professional fact checkers have had to get the most basic details right, that somehow, someway, apparently inexplicably, the same smear job is still being applied, vigorously and near universally, and with the same lies, omissions, and distortions.

    It seems as if an almost impenetrable blanket of willful ignorance keeps the racist narrative from exploding in the face of it’s deceitful manufacturers, pushers and perpetrators.

    Comment by ropelight (e74c7d) — 7/16/2013 @ 9:12 am

  14. It seems as if an almost impenetrable blanket of willful ignorance keeps the racist narrative from exploding in the face of it’s deceitful manufacturers, pushers and perpetrators.

    I wouldn’t call it Ignorance. I’d call it what it is - Malice. The race baiters and left wingers aren’t ignorant. They know exactly what they’re doing. By stirring up rage and hatred in their followers, they get more political influence and power for themselves, which is and has been their primary goal.

  15. Rebus asked:

    Question: Is there a distinction between the concepts of *stand your ground* and *self defense*?

    Very much so. Stand your ground laws detail when a person has a legal duty to try to retreat from a hostile situation; JRM detailed those states with duty to retreat requirements in a comment on Patterico, which he got from Mother Jones, but did not link. Self-defense, on the other hand, states that you may defend yourself from an attack, without regard to whether you were able to retreat or not.

    In the Zimmerman-Martin case, Mr Martin could have retreated when he saw Mr Zimmerman following him, but instead chose to turn and accost Mr Zimmerman; Mr Zimmerman, upon seeing Mr Martin turn and approach him, could have chosen to retreat at that point, but did not. Neither man, both with an opportunity to retreat (at different times), chose to do so. Neither was engaging in self-defense at the time, because there had been no assault up to then.

    After the fight began — Mr Zimmerman claimed that Mr Martin swung first, and, according to Juror B37, the jury believed that was the case — and Mr Zimmerman and Mr Martin were struggling on the ground, stand your ground became meaningless; Mr Zimmerman, with Mr Martin on top of him, no longer had the ability to retreat, but by fighting back, was engaged in self-defense.

  16. Dana, reread my question. It deals with stand your ground, not stand your ground law. I think there is not a significant distinction. The problem arises from stand your ground laws in some states, like FL, which give license for exactly what occurred in Sanford, the result of which legally exonerated Zimmerman in his killing of Trayvon.

    Zimmerman understood FL stand your ground law very well, which together with carrying a concealed loaded a unlocked gun provided him the security he needed to aggressively pursue Trayvon, because he looked suspicious, a black man wearing a hoodie. What else was Trayvon doing which could have been interpreted as being suspicious? Nothing!

  17. Rebus wrote:

    Dana, reread my question. It deals with stand your ground, not stand your ground law. I think there is not a significant distinction. The problem arises from stand your ground laws in some states, like FL, which give license for exactly what occurred in Sanford, the result of which legally exonerated Zimmerman in his killing of Trayvon.

    I’m uncertain how you can take the distinction, to say that your question “deals with stand your ground, not stand your ground law,” and then say that “The problem arises from stand your ground laws.”

    Regardless of whether you are talking about the laws or the concept, it remains true that Mr Martin could also have retreated, but instead chose to do more than “stand his ground,” but move to Mr Zimmerman, to close the distance, and to begin a close up confrontation. Why would it somehow have been more Mr Zimmerman’s duty to retreat, were there no “stand your ground” law, than it would have been Mr Martin’s?

    What was Mr Martin doing which could have been interpreted as being suspicious? According to the initial call Mr Zimmerman placed to the police, it looked to him like Mr Martin was casing the place, and noted that the area had experienced a string of break-ins. It is possible that he guessed Mr Martin’s intentions incorrectly, but his action, to call the police, was perfectly legal and logical.

    Zimmerman understood FL stand your ground law very well, which together with carrying a concealed loaded a unlocked gun provided him the security he needed to aggressively pursue Trayvon, because he looked suspicious, a black man wearing a hoodie. What else was Trayvon doing which could have been interpreted as being suspicious? Nothing!

    How interesting it is that you place all of the fault on Mr Zimmerman, for believing that he was reasonably secure because he was armed, and none of Mr Martin, who chose to close the distance, confront Mr Zimmerman, and then physically assaulted him. Note that the Juror B37 who has discussed the case said that she believed it was Mr Martin who started the physical confrontation.

  18. Zimmerman understood FL stand your ground law very well, which together with carrying a concealed loaded a unlocked gun provided him the security he needed to aggressively pursue Trayvon, because he looked suspicious, a black man wearing a hoodie.

    The trial is over, dip-shit, and 6 jurors, who had access to FAR more information than you do, decided Zimmerman did nothing wrong, or at least nothing that constituted a crime. Them’s the facts, Perry. Deal with it and move on.

  19. What else was Trayvon doing which could have been interpreted as being suspicious?

    You mean, other than beating Zimmerman’s face to a pulp?

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