Tag: miscarriage of justice

A Cynic’s Dream

I must admit that I thought, ok, surely this man will be found guilty of something. Maybe not first-degree murder, but certainly a guy who defies police orders, grabs a gun, leaves the safety of his surroundings, and accosts a total stranger who is minding his own business — ultimately gunning that stranger down — well, he clearly did something wrong.

But not in Florida.


I’m not saying the jurors were morons, or the prosecution botched the case, or the law is messed up. It might be all or none of those things. I’m saying that somewhere along society’s sutures, there is a fundamental flaw that allows things like this to happen.

As for Zimmerman supporters, well, it’s one thing to say that legally the guy should not have been convicted. Perhaps you can make a case.

It’s another to smugly prance around with a sign saying, “Self-defense is a basic human right,” while completely (and shockingly) ignoring the fact that this principle should apply to Trayvon Martin just as much, if not more so, than to the adult packing heat who goes out of his way to provoke confrontation.

It’s worth remembering that Zimmerman’s family intentionally played down his Hispanic roots. That’s ok. I doubt many Latinos were insulted, as few of us really want to be associated with him.

Of course, Zimmerman will get his gun back. And now he’s learned he can use it on whomever he wants (especially unarmed teenagers) without fear of legal consequences. It’s apparently his right as an American.


A Latino Rodney King?

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post (“Is Anyone Surprised?”). I appreciate the insights from Xey, Pprscribe, and Haysoos. Also, thanks to Jeremy for the support and Macon D for the tidbit that, despite his disclaimer, I did not actually know (he gives me too much credit).

But if the right wing’s reaction to the swine-flu outbreak was a depressing example of the disgust that many Americans hold for Latinos, what are we to make of the news out of Pennsylvania?

Last week, a jury in that state acquitted two teenagers of beating a man to death in a street brawl. The case apparently had too many contradictory versions of the truth, with multiple witnesses unable to clarify who did what to whom and why. The bottom line is that the teens were convicted of lesser charges and will more or less go on with their lives.

What has caught the eye of Hispanics and people interested in civil rights is that the town where the crime took place, Shenandoah, has a history of racial tension. The victim, Luis Ramirez, was a Mexican immigrant. The teens, as well as the other kids who earlier pled guilty to lesser charges, were white. They jury was all white.

It is impossible to escape the perception, therefore, that a mob of angry whites can beat a Latino to death right in the street without fear of being punished. Of course, those of us who weren’t at the trail (like me) can’t definitively say that this is a miscarriage of justice. But at the risk of getting all knee-jerky, I have to say that it appears highly suspicious.

Lawyers for the teens admitted that the kids were drunk and got into a fight with Ramirez, who was apparently walking down the street, minding his own business. Prosecutors said that the teens flung racial epithets at Ramirez, then followed up with kicks and punches.

The result was that Ramirez ended up with his brain leaking out of his head, and he died two days later. For no one to be seriously punished over such a crime can only mean one of two things:

  • A Latino man living in an economically depressed small town, where racial issues have flared in the past, inexplicably provoked a group of drunk white males to fight him. They had no choice but to defend themselves by kicking him in the head repeatedly. Or
  • It’s ok to bludgeon an immigrant to death.

The verdict would actually make more sense if the teens had been acquitted of all charges. In that case, the implication is that the boys had nothing to do with the fight or Ramirez’s death. Instead, by convicting them of a lesser charge (simple assault), the jury basically said, “Yeah, you walloped the guy, and he died, but we don’t think you should do time. It’s not like he was anybody important.”

The Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund is pressuring the Department of Justice to file federal charges against the teens. This, as you may recall, was the route that civil-rights groups took after the cops were acquitted in the Rodney King case.

Regardless of how it turns out this time, there is one big difference between the cases. Rodney King is still alive, and Luis Ramirez is not.

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