Mike Kueber's Blog

July 20, 2013

President Obama speaks out on the Zimmerman verdict

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 1:41 am
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Earlier today President Obama finally provided America with his reaction to the Zimmerman verdict.  According to an article in the NY Times, he said that, “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”  I doubt that Obama was that angry and violent.

The most interesting comment in the article was Obama’s lament that young African-American males are treated as suspicious by the American public, and he listed the following examples:

  • “… being followed while shopping in a department store, hearing the click of car doors locking as they cross a street, or watching as women clutch their purses nervously when they step onto an elevator.”

My question is how do we address this concern.  Are department stores supposed to look the other way or drivers and women supposed to ignore their concerns?  Or should we recognize these are natural symptoms to a culture where young African-American males inordinately commit in crime.  Some may call this a chicken-egg conundrum; I suggest that President Obama is treating the symptom instead of the cure.

May 18, 2012

The (un)biased media

Filed under: Media — Mike Kueber @ 3:16 am
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A recent article in the Washington Post regarding developments in the Martin-Zimmerman matter provides a good example of why the media has lost all credibility with most Americans.  The Post, like most other media outlets, initially rushed to judgment against George Zimmerman based on virtually no evidence other than an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, being shot by a resident on neighborhood patrol.  Instead of accepting a police investigation that cleared Zimmerman, the media manufactured a perception that the resident was a racist vigilante and the police were after-the-fact accomplices. 

Because of the media uproar, a special investigation was ordered and a special prosecutor eventually decided that there was sufficient evidence to charge Zimmerman with Second Degree Murder.  When I blogged about whether that charge was appropriate, I suggested that we should give the prosecutor the benefit of a doubt, even though many conservatives suggested that the charge was prompted by pressure to avoid rioting in the streets.   

Although it remains possible that the special prosecutor took her action based on the evidence instead of the political pressure, the recent article in the Post reveals that there is significant evidence that supports Zimmerman’s argument of self-defense and contradicts the media suggestion that Zimmerman stalked and killed a defenseless Martin.  According to the article, Martin had an abrasion on a finger, blood under his fingernails, and Zimmerman’s blood on his sweatshirt.  Gun residue on Martin’s sweatshirt indicate the shot was at close range.  And Martin’s father told police that the person heard asking for help on a 911 call was Zimmerman, not Martin. 

Inexplicably, the article fails to report that a medical report obtained by the NY Times that revealed Zimmerman received a broken nose, two black eyes, and a wound to the back of his head from the incident.  It does, however, mention that marijuana was found in Martin’s system when he was killed.  I’m not sure how that made its way into the article, but the Zimmerman injuries did not. 

I am probably more sensitive to media bias because it generally slants in the direction of liberal causes.  But bias in any direction does damage to an institution that is important to the American way of life.  As Thomas Jefferson said:

  • [W]ere it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.

But to remain a viable force for good in America, the media need to maintain their credibility.  It has not done that in the Zimmerman-Martin matter, and the result is more cynical Americans.


p.s., a similar article was published by USA Today.  It included the following additional exculpatory information, but an inflammatory headline – “Police Report: Trayvon Martin’s shooting was avoidable”:

Another witness interviewed on the night of the shooting described hearing a commotion and going out to investigate, the same report said:

“He witnessed a black male, wearing a dark colored ‘hoodie’ on top of a white or Hispanic male who was yelling for help. He elaborated by stating the black male was mounted on the white or Hispanic male and throwing punches ‘MMA (mixed martial arts) style.’ He stated he yelled out to the two individuals that he was going to call the police. He then heard a ‘pop.’ He stated that after hearing the ‘pop,’ he observed the person he had previously observed on top of the other person (the black male wearing the ‘hoodie’) laid out on the grass.”

Serino’s report described his review of the 911 calls: “In the background I could clearly hear a male’s voice yelling either ‘Help’ or ‘Help Me,’ fourteen (14) times in an approximately 38 second time span. This voice was determined to be that of George Zimmerman, who was apparently yelling for help as he was being battered by Trayvon Martin.”

April 12, 2012

George Zimmerman is finally arrested

Filed under: Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 8:13 pm
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I have no objection to George Zimmerman finally being arrested in connection with the killing of Trayvon Martin.  America’s system of justice provides for people to be arrested when there is probable cause that the person committed the crime.  Because I don’t know the facts, I can’t say whether the arrest was justified or unjustified. 

According to an article in ezinearticles.com, probable cause in Florida means “that the facts and circumstances must indicate more likely than not that a crime was committed by the person who is being arrested.”  This standard is much less than “beyond reasonable doubt” required for a criminal conviction and appears similar to the standard required in non-criminal cases – i.e., a preponderance of the evidence.  Please recall that O.J. was found not guilty of murder under the criminal standard of “beyond reasonable doubt,” but was found liable for wrongful death under the civil standard of “a “preponderance of the evidence.” 

I also have no objection to the Zimmerman/Martin matter being reviewed by a special prosecutor after the local officials concluded there was no probable cause that Zimmerman committed a crime.  The U.S. constitution prohibits double jeopardy, but American courts do not consider jeopardy to attach during a preliminary investigation. 

I am concerned, however, despite the special prosecutor’s assertions to the contrary, that Zimmerman’s arrest was prompted by the outcry in the media.  And I suspect that some of this outcry was based on a misunderstanding of the law.  Because most of us don’t know the critical facts of the case, we are not in a position to know whether an arrest was appropriate. 

My favorite talk-show guy, Don Imus, has been howling for weeks that Zimmerman should be arrested and then there should be an investigation to determine if he is guilty.  That is wrong.  Zimmerman should not be arrested unless there was probable cause that he was guilty of a crime.  You don’t arrest and then investigate.  Instead you investigate and then arrest if you find probable cause that Zimmerman committed a crime.  And finally, after the arrest, you are required to prove beyond reasonable doubt to a jury that Zimmerman committed the crime.

Thus, we will not know until all the facts come out whether Zimmerman’s arrest was justified.  Until then, we need to give the prosecutor the benefit of a doubt, something that most of the media refused to give to the initial investigation by the police and local prosecutor.  Instead of asking for a special investigation, they asked for an arrest.  That is not the “presumed innocent” that is fundamental to the American way.