By now, anybody who is not living under a rock has read the Trayvon Martin verdict. This is the worst possible outcome, for a variety reasons, but mostly because of the seriously dysfunctional outcome for case law around Stand Your Ground laws. I really don’t understand why the jury couldn’t muster a manslaughter verdict here. It would have placed a reasonable personal limits on an over-reaching law, just like dram shop laws place responsibility on bar owners for continuing to serve people they know are driving.
There is innocent blood on the ground, and it’s George Zimmerman’s bad judgment that put blood on the ground. Right now, we are at a point where SYG essentially says you can instigate a conflict–Zimmerman was expressly told to back off–and then end that conflict with a gun if you find you are on the losing end of the fight you yourself started. It’s a recipe for disaster in cosmopolitan urban areas where people are constantly in close proximity with strangers and where arguments about public space happen routinely, and where, because of cross-class and cross-race fears, those conflicts are likely to feel more serious and more threatening than they are. But they get serious, as we have seen, often, when a gun is involved.
It doesn’t matter what kind of kid Trayvon Martin was, whether he smoked a little pot or gasp! had gotten in trouble in school, or whether he was a straight-A student or all of the above. He was on the street; streets are not your house; even if he were the worst and most rotten kid in the world, the street is not an extension of your living room where you control who has access and who doesn’t. For cities to function, the rules for the street have to be different than the rules governing private property via castle laws.