Thoughts on the Zimmerman Trial as the Jury Deliberates

I have been watching this trial all too closely. I don’t know why. It is the first trial I have paid attention to since OJ. (If you don’t count that traffic ticket for running a red light I showed up in court for in 1998. I got half off my fine. I didn’t appeal.)

Several elements have intrigued me. There’s the way all the regular people out there react. There’s the heat around the perceived race issue. There’s the evidence that most people are incredibly confused or ignorant of the basics of our justice system. And there’s the way the media has been so horrible and irresponsible in their handling of it.

I’m most interested in the combination of incompetence, politicking, and back room maneuvering the State Attorney’s office and the Florida government have engaged in. But that’s a lot of stuff. Let’s look at a few random examples of how they’ve handled the prosecution of George Zimmerman at trial.

Need not have been actual

The jury instructions say the danger against Zimmerman need not have been actual to determine self-defense. I don’t think the crime need have been actual either for the State to take it to court. They just have to put together a story and poke holes in the defense’s case. (Wait…that’s not how it’s supposed to work, but I’ll get to that later.) At the heart of this story is a criminal mastermind named George Zimmerman. Completer of at least one or two community college courses about law.

If Zimmerman was a legal mastermind, a criminal law expert savvy with the best tactics for protecting himself from conviction, he would have declined to speak to police until he had a lawyer present. No defense attorney on earth would advise him to tell it all, beginning to end, and hope that it matched any and all available witness statements. As it turned out, his statement did.

The prosecution suggested that he, while being beaten and battered, was able to hear windows and doors opening. I don’t believe that – I don’t think you are aware of much in a situation like that. Tunnel vision and all. But the prosecution wanted to plant that thought in the mind of the jurors. (Planting thoughts and doubts about the defense’s narrative was their primary strategy.)

In any case, Zimmerman either thought there would be witnesses, knew there would be witnesses, or hoped there would be witnesses. Or maybe he hoped there wouldn’t be. He talked to the police. He began cooperating immediately. I assure you if he learned anything about the law, he learned that you do not speak to the police without your lawyer present if there is any chance you might be a suspect of something. But he talked to the police immediately and gave his account to anyone there to listen – the the consternation of every defense lawyer out there.

Speaking of legal masterminds….

When the prosecution had the chance to lay it all out on the table – to make their case that would eliminate all reasonable doubt, they used their precious minutes to say things like:

“If you don’t like the lack of evidence, blame the defendant…”

“If Martin was punching him, wouldn’t his bracelet have fallen off?”

“If Zimmerman was really the one screaming for help wouldn’t his voice have sounded horse in the recorded interview?”

In fact, I lost count of how many times the prosecution used the word “if.” I think it may have began every sentence they spoke during closing arguments except for the ones accusing Zimmerman of being a liar.

I was amazed that he spent so much time, especially after Defense Council Mark O’Mara had done a thorough job of warning against connecting the dots, making assumptions, or using everyday feelings in deciding the case, that Prosecutor John Guy would insist that jurors “use their hearts.” How does a prosecutor suggest a jury let their heart guide them?

The defense asked the jurors to let the law and the evidence guide them. As the saying goes:

If the law is on your side, pound the law.
If the facts are on your side, pound the facts.
If neither are on your side, pound the table.

To me, the doozie if there ever was one, happened when John Guy actually said “if you don’t like the lack of evidence blame the defendant.” By this logic, the state can throw anyone and everyone in jail. All they have to do is accuse someone whom they have no evidence to convict. Apparently a jury is supposed to decide that the less evidence the state can produce, that the fewer hard facts the prosecution can point to, the guiltier the defendant is of hiding it and therefor of committing the crime.

This guy was is a member of the Bar. He was sworn by his government to uphold the Constitution.

They pointed to things that are not illegal in any way to support their nonexistent case. They slew the tripe about him following, not staying in his car, and continued to rehash the metaphysical determinism argument that if only he had stayed in his car, none of this would have happened. Walking down the sidewalk, talking to a 911 dispatcher set in motion a deadly series of events that could go no other way.

To be fair, they didn’t blame him for leaving his house to shop at Target. But by legal standards, as I understand them, both activities are equally legal and fall equally short of being a legal provocation of violence by Martin.

My imagination works too

I can imagine very plausible ways this altercation may have went down. Maybe Zimmerman did wonder around behind the town houses until he came upon Martin. Maybe Zimmerman pulled his gun right away as he confronted Martin. This might have scared the daylights out of Martin such that he felt cornered and believed he had no other option but to struggle for the gun. Maybe he’d tried grabbing Martin by the scruff of the neck to effect a citizen’s arrest and Martin rightly fought back. Maybe he grabbed him by the balls and it actually was Martin screaming.

I can think of endless ways the undocumented events may have transpired during the missing four minutes of recordings that leave Zimmerman culpable.

The thing is, I can think of one way–also very plausible and consistent with all the evidence and testimony–and even with only the evidence and testimony apart from George Zimmerman’s accounts, where Zimmerman justifiably fired his weapon at Martin. Having that one possibility in the back of my mind is more than enough. If I were all six members of the jury on Friday, we would have beat traffic on the way home.

Upside down and backwards

O’Mara was right. This has definitely been a bizarre (I’d describe it as backwards) case. Rather than presumed innocent, the defendant has been popularly presumed guilty. The defense laid out an internally consistent narrative, supported by both their witnesses and the witness the state called. And the State yelled and hollered and spent two weeks trying to poke holes in it.

The Jury

As I write this, the jury is deliberating. They aren’t like me. (Probably a good thing.) They’ve been at it a day now.

The jury are fact-finders, not fact makers as the John Guy requested. They are to follow instructions on how to apply those facts, the ones that already exist–that they find within the evidence, to the law. The jurors can decide how much weight they give each witness and piece of evidence, but the aren’t allowed to decide whether they apply the law by following the jury instructions.

If they follow the law, they’ll acquit.

I’m not a Zimmerman backer

I don’t believe George Zimmerman killed Martin in self-defense. I believe it is possible. I suspect Zimmerman may have had ill-will and hatred toward Mr. Martin that night in that he channeled his frustrations over crimes by others toward the figure he saw wandering through his neighborhood. But I’m not certain of it. And I don’t think anyone in their right mind and free of bias or agenda can be any more certain than I am. This is why I hope Zimmerman is acquitted.

George Zimmerman is not a martyr or a hero–not in my eyes anyway. My interest in this trial, or you could say, the “skin I have in the game,” is with seeing how the law is applied. This case was dropped and no charges were filed initially for lack of evidence, then 30,000 protesters showed up in Seminole County Florida and demanded and arrest and a trial. So the prosecutor, chief of police, investigator, and their findings were pushed aside and Zimmerman was arrested and put on trial. Here we are.

I would like to think that no matter how loud the protesters, pontificators, and pundits, that due process and the rule of law can be followed. I’ll take my chances with the George Zimmermans of the world who carry guns to Target. I don’t want to take chances with a criminal justice system that is operated according to public opinion polls.

Save money on airfare with planning and booking at optimal times

With a little planning you can save on airfare. A study of over 500 million airfares showed that, in general, booking a domestic flight 49 days ahead of time is optimal for saving money.

Fortunately you don’t have to get OCD about it, the average price doesn’t rise dramatically until about two weeks before the flight.

Booking too far in advance will cost you extra too.

Flying on Tuesday or Wednesday will save you money – but it doesn’t matter when you book the flight.

I said “in general” because there are exceptions. With busy travel times like holidays you need to book farther out – the article says 96 days prior was optimal for Thanksgiving 2012.

With international flights, being spontaneous might get you the best deal.

Source: When Is the Optimal Time to Book a Flight? – Yahoo! Finance.

When is graffiti not a crime? – Quora

A question this dumb shouldn’t need an answer this long, but there are a few thought provoking aspects to the issue.

 
via:
 
Read Quote of Eric Lauritzen’s answer to Graffiti: When is graffiti not a crime? on Quora

Empty 5-hour energy shot bottles great for liquids to go

I am not a big fan of energy drinks but I am going to be on the lookout for discarded bottles. This is a fantastic idea.

Via Redditor rod81

LPT: Rinse out an empty 5-hour energy shot bottle or two. and use these to take olive oil or hot sauce for your packed lunch. Small, crush-resistant, reusable, doesn’t leak, lid never comes off. : LifeProTips.

The government is the size of 1776 entire population

Here’s an interesting little factoid.

…the number of federal employees today is nearly equal to the entire population of the nation in 1776.

According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the current civilian federal workforce, excluding postal service employees, was 2.15 million in 2011. The Census Bureau estimates that in 1776, the entire population of the United States was just a bit higher, at about 2.5 million.

via Obama Government Equal to Population in 1776 | The Blog on Obama: White House Dossier.

The end of DVD rentals

Blockbuster Closing

This is my neighborhood Blockbuster. Or was. My DVD renting slowed down dramatically over the last several years. I think I may have rented one or two movies at most all year. And that was when the store pictured above was a five-minute walk from home.

For convenience and frugality I much prefer the all-you-can-eat streaming like you get from Netflix or Amazon. Were it not for a family stuck in their old ways I wouldn’t even bother with cable television at all.

Another thing I realized is that I have done a 180 on my view of physical media like DVDs and paper books. I was a first-generatin Kindle owner and the whole idea of not having the physical book seemed awkward. The same goes for music – at first I felt like I was getting ripped off when I bought music downloads. These days I kind of like it. I have a closet full of DVDs and CDs I hate for taking up space and yet I can’t bare to throw them away.

The market caught up with me (or was it the other way around?). When that Blockbuster closed it I’m pretty sure it was cheaper to rent a DVD there than it was to rent it digitally. There are those who scream about eBook versions costing more than their paperback counterparts.

Guess what – convenience is a commodity and today the people who appreciate the convenience of digital possession of intellectual property apparently outnumber those who’d pay more to adopt a couple pounds of paper or plastic along with their songs, story, or video.

I just thought of another shift. Not so long ago I felt it was “safer” to have a “hard copy” of important information rather than a file on a computer. How dumb is that? With backups, cloud computing, and the low cost of storage I can keep that important information much safer that I could some paper. And I can sit at my computer and search for it by keyword rather that work up a sweat digging through drawers and cabinets trying to remember which “safe place” I put that.

The times they are a changin’ as Bob says.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser – thumbs up!

Mac wireless keyboard cleaning with Magic EraserI love it when I find a great product. I had heard the hype about these eraser sponges and didn’t pay much attention. I finally decided to give it a try after seeing a how-to video on cleaning Mac wireless keyboards.

I switched my Mac’s wireless keyboard to my iPad so I could use it in public, but to be honest, that keyboard was so filthy I didn’t want to be seen with it in public. Hence the motivation to research a safe way to clean it.

I shit you not. Cleaning this thing with a Magic Eraser took me no more than 5 minutes including time to snap a picture when I was halfway done. The right side is cleaned, the left is not.

 

 

Here is another pic of the finished project:

Clean wireless keyboard using magic eraser

In the second picture the first picture appears below on my iPad. Matrix-like huh?

Of course, priority two was finding out how the thing works. A little digging and I found this article on Melamine Foam on Wikipedia.

By the way, no affiliation whatsoever. Just a happy customer. You can find this product and others like it pretty much anywhere.

F*** you Keruig, Mr. Coffee is back

Keruig retired and Mr Coffee is back on the jobI bought the Keruig about a year ago. After about eleven months and two weeks of buyer’s remorse and stubbornly trying to get my money’s worth out of it, I’m done with it. Here’s why: [Read more…]

I love Pinboard for bookmarking

Pinboard is a web bookmarking service somewhat similar to del.icio.us but Pinboard is clean and virtually free of spam. The reason it is spam free is because you pay once to use it. I think I paid around a buck to get started – if I recall correctly, they have a system where the cost is based on how many users are using it. One of the main reasons they charge a fee is it keeps spammers away.

Spam-free

Other similar bookmarking services get spammy – wannabe SEO hacks think they can build traffic by bookmarking useless stuff over and over with multiple free accounts. Fail. All it does is clutter things up.

Ironically, I don’t often use Pinboard’s recent or popular pages to see what others are bookmarking, but when I have I always find cool stuff. Note to self: Use Pinboard’s popular page next time I’m bored.

Pinboard exampleThe thing I really like about Pinboard is how clean, straightforward, and directly useful everything is. Recently I’ve begun taking advantage of using the RSS feeds – and there’s an RSS feed for just about everything – to view and track my bookmarks.

This is not to say there is anything wrong with the layout at their web site which is easily viewed from any device anywhere and all that jazz. But I like options.

Example of Pinboard feed in NetNewsWire

Pinboard feed on the NetNewsWire RSS feed reader

Seeing the useful links on a feed reader is simply another great way to view them with some distinct advantages – the main one being everything is closer together and easier to scan.

I keep three feeds on my reader – the regular one with all my bookmarks, my “unread” bookmarks, and the “populars on Pinboard” feed.

For reading web sites later

The unread is for reading those links I’ve saved to read later. Have you ever been poking around some corner of the Web and noticed a link to something that looked interesting but you didn’t want to interrupt your flow (or you did interrupt your flow and wish you wouldn’t have later)? That’s what the save for later option is for.

And the popular on Pinboard thing is just what it sounds like – these are the links a lot of people are bookmarking, and that means a lot of people like them, and the thing all of these people have in common is they paid to use Pinboard and aren’t bookmarking things for any reason other than they found something cool or useful.

Tagging

Through trial and error I’ve learned that excessive tagging doesn’t work for me. I usually try to use only one tag. No more than two if I can avoid it. Some people may like using a bunch. My theory is that my tags (already over 150 in the two years I’ve been on Pinboard despite how conservative with them) are easier to look through for future reference the fewer I have.

Suppose I find a great Photoshop tutorial I want to go back to later. That gets one tag. Photoshop. Tagging it with both photoshop and tutorial would be overkill –  that just means a lot of useless tags – I view tutorials about all kinds of things. When I am looking for that Photoshop tutorial a year later, and I look at the tutorial tag, the Photoshop one will be mixed around all sorts of other tutorials. Well… they would be if I tagged that way.

Explore and use Pinboard your way

Your mileage may vary. Experiment and use it the way you like. That is the important thing with getting the most out of services like this – taking the time to explore what it has to offer and practicing using them until it becomes a useful habit.

Macs are just for artsy stuff

Macs are just for artsy stuff - like landing on Mars

Remember, Macs can’t do real work, they’re only for useless artsy stuff like landing on Mars.

via Twitter