Charles Blow outlines the case: We wouldn’t want to be on the Zimmerman jury.
That jury faces a hard decision about events which were poorly observed. The jurors know that considerable feeling surrounds the case.
As part of that considerable feeling, many frameworks are being offered which may or may not make sense. We were struck by some of Charles Blow’s frameworks in this morning’s New York Times column.
We thought quite a few of those frameworks made sense and were quite fair. Sometimes, we thought they maybe didn’t and weren’t.
This is one of Blow’s frameworks. To us, this seems a bit odd:
BLOW (6/29/13): There has been testimony establishing that there was some sort of verbal interaction between Zimmerman and Martin before a physical one. Who struck the first blow and why? If Martin struck the first blow, as the defense contends, could that be considered an act of self-defense?We think that framework is somewhat strange. In that passage, Blow imagines a scenario in which Martin strikes the first blow, then starts getting the best of Zimmerman—and that this has all been done as part of Martin’s right to self-defense!
Regardless of who struck the first blow, some testimony suggests that Martin was getting the best of Zimmerman. In that scenario, could the right to self-defense switch personage?
That framework strikes us as odd. In what way is a person who strikes the first blow acting in self-defense? There may be an answer to that question, but Blow rushes right past the oddness in that framework.
As he continues, Blow tilts the scales back the other way. To his vast credit, he starts being fair to the party he doesn't favor:
BLOW: Regardless of who struck the first blow, some testimony suggests that Martin was getting the best of Zimmerman. In that scenario, could the right to self-defense switch personage? Florida law seems to suggest it can. The law states that the use of force is not justified when a person “initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant.”As he quotes Florida law, Blow offers the following framework:
Even if Zimmerman initially provoked the use of force against himself (perhaps by striking the first blow), he may still have been entitled to the later use of grievous force.
This second framework, in which Blow quotes Florida law, tilts things more strongly in Zimmerman’s direction than we have heard from TV pundits this week. As he continues, Blow is once again quite fair to Zimmerman, the party he doesn’t favor:
BLOW (continuing directly): Even assuming that Martin was winning a physical fight with Zimmerman, did Zimmerman “reasonably” believe that he was in “imminent danger of death or great bodily harm”? Zimmerman was injured, but how do you evaluate the degree of those injuries? Independent assessments may or may not deem Zimmerman’s injuries severe, but did Zimmerman, in the middle of the fight, believe them to be? Had Zimmerman “exhausted every reasonable means to escape”?Cable pundits have often complained that Zimmerman didn’t sustain “great bodily harm.” But, as Blow comprehends in this passage, the law doesn’t require a person to sustain such harm. The person just has to have a reasonable belief that he is in danger of doing so.
For better or worse, a person doesn’t have to wait until he’s been grievously injured. Or so Blow says in that framework, once again being quite fair to the party he doesn’t much favor.
Blow’s fairness is impressive. Last year, he often played a different role. He played a key role in the very bad conduct displayed on MSNBC in the first few months after Trayvon Martin’s death.
In a truly horrendous display, Al Sharpton and Lawrence O’Donnell invented a lot of phony facts and bogus understandings. When it came to irresponsible conduct, Ed Schultz wasn’t far behind.
This was a terrible, months-long performance by this “liberal” cable channel. Blow often served as the guest who helped promote the fake facts and bogus understandings.
This morning, Blow is largely behaving the way a journalist should. As he lists basic questions about the case, he even advances a possibility which has been obscured wherever our own liberal tribe’s distortions have been sold:
BLOW: The case, it seems to me, spins on some crucial questions, some of which we may never completely know the answers to.In our view, Blow takes a few liberties in this passage. “So far, there has been no testimony that Martin was doing anything other than walking slowly and talking on a phone to a girl?”
What was it about Martin in particular that Zimmerman found “suspicious” in the first place? So far, there has been no testimony that Martin was doing anything other than walking slowly and talking on a phone to a girl, as teenage boys are wont to do. Did Zimmerman consider every person walking thusly in the neighborhood to be suspicious? If not, what made Martin different? Was some sort of bias at play, whether an explicit one or an implicit one?
Why did Zimmerman leave his car, armed with his gun, and follow Martin? When the dispatcher realized that Zimmerman was in pursuit and told him, “We don’t need you to do that,” did Zimmerman stop?
So far, there has been no testimony from the defense at all!
It may be there will never be any testimony of the type described. It’s entirely possible that Martin didn’t doing anything that night, in any way, which should have been regarded as “suspicious.” But Blow had his thumb on the scale a wee bit in that passage, which makes it all the more impressive when he finally imagines the liberally unimaginable:
When the dispatcher told Zimmerman, “We don’t need you to do that,” did Zimmerman stop following Martin (and start walking back to his truck)?
Did Zimmerman stop following Martin? That has always been Zimmerman’s story, and some of the evidence seems to support it. Despite this, many liberals seem to think that this question was answered long ago in a way which condemns Zimmerman.
These liberals have been propagandized, in the ways we used to deride when they were performed on the right. In this column, Blow acknowledges the possibility that Zimmerman had stopped following Martin before the confrontation.
He doesn't shout it to the skies. But Blow acknowledges the fact that this basic question still has not been settled. Given Blow’s performance last year, that is a large concession and a massive improvement.
Some major journalists behaved very badly in the aftermath of Martin’s death. A lot of liberals allowed themselves to cast in the role of prejudgers.
In our view, Blow played a disappointing role on cable last year. We don’t think his whole column makes sense today, but it’s a massive improvement over last year. We salute him for his effort.
We’ll offer two bromides as we close:
By definition, progressives can’t invent fake facts, thereby misleading average people. And by definition, progressives have to be fair.
Last year, MSNBC failed those basic tests badly. This morning, columnist Blow is back on a truer course.
Let the testimony continue. We’d still like to know what happened.