Tag Archive | "Zimmerman Trial"

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Did Marijuana Use Make Trayvon Martin Violent?

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The instant that Sanford police officials in March, 2012 leaked to the media school records that showed Trayvon Martin had been suspended from school for possessing a trace amount of marijuana, there was little doubt that George Zimmerman’s defense attorneys would jump all over this to prove their point about Martin. The point was, and is the centerpiece of their Zimmerman self-defense claim, that Martin’s marijuana use made him edgy, aggressive, and violent. And since this is supposedly the case, it bolsters two of Zimmerman’s contentions that Martin came under his watch because of his drugged out, suspicious behavior and more importantly that Martin attacked him and he had to resort to deadly force to save himself from mortal harm from a doped out Martin. A toxicological report found a trace amount of marijuana in Martin’s system the night of his slaying.

earl-hutchinsonZimmerman’s attorneys wasted no time in loudly demanding that this be entered as prime evidence of Martin’s alleged aggressiveness. Prosecutors rightly opposed its admission as being irrelevant since Zimmerman could not have known this and even if he had ESP and did know it there is absolutely no evidence that marijuana use predisposes anyone to violent behavior. Judge Debra Nelson initially seemed to agree. Her reversal and decision to allow Martin’s alleged marijuana use into the trial is potentially a huge sop to the defense.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionBut if facts mean anything it shouldn’t be. The few studies that have tried to link marijuana use to violent behavior have managed to prove only two things. One is that there is no firm connection between the drug’s use and individual violence. The other is that whatever violence an individual that tokes up may exhibit is because that individual has a violent or criminal history. In other words, there’s a predisposition to violence that has absolutely nothing to do with their marijuana use.

The White House, relying heavily on a report from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, takes a hard-nosed stance against marijuana liberalization and any slack off in tough federal enforcement of medical marijuana regulation. But it did not make any case that marijuana increases violence. It focused instead on the need for enforcing the law and continued to insist that marijuana represents a health hazard, and a harmful addiction, but violence due to its use, no. Even if there were no studies on marijuana use and violence or White House concern over marijuana use and its alleged harmful effects, the notion that marijuana use spurs violence notion is ludicrous.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2009 and 2010, report found that nearly two-thirds of the nation’s adult population aged 21 to 54 has used marijuana at least once. Common sense would tell us that if even a fraction of the tens of millions of people that have tried marijuana rampage in their homes and in the streets, the jails would be bursting at the seams with those arrested for drugged out marijuana induced violent acts. However, that’s only part of the problem in trying to separate fact from deliberate distortion about marijuana use.

The other part is the public perception of who uses drugs and their effects. Studies and reports have overwhelmingly found that African-American students are far more likely than white students to be suspended or expelled from school for marijuana use and possession. They are far more likely to be arrested and convicted for drug use than whites. This despite countless studies that show that blacks do not use drugs in any greater incidence than whites, and in some cases, even less than whites. This reinforces the deeply ingrained stereotype that not only is the average drug user and pusher a young black male. But that a young black is the cause of most of the drug related violence in the country.

Zimmerman’s defense attorneys, however, aren’t interested in these facts or the corrosive effects of racial stereotypes and drugs. Their defense game plan is to tar Martin as a violent druggie and further muddle the issue for jurors whether Martin’s behavior was the trigger for his killing. This was crudely and insultingly put by one of the attorneys to Martin’s mother on the witness stand when he flatly asked her whether she thought he had any culpability in his death.

The issue then boils down to whether the Zimmerman jurors can separate his defense attorney’s deliberate muddle of the facts and trash of Martin and see that there’s absolutely no credible proof that marijuana use in and of itself induces violent behavior in anyone. There is not a scintilla of evidence that Martin was inherently aggressive and violence prone. The prosecution’s job is to make sure that they see this. Anything short of this could bolster the terrifying thought the defense has worked overtime to implant and that’s that marijuana use made Martin a legitimate target.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new ebook is America on Trial: The Slaying of Trayvon Martin (Amazon).

Posted in Featured, Nation, Opinion, YouthComments (3)


Concerns Over All-Female Jury in Zimmerman Case Are Baseless

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson, New America Media

The speculation has been non-stop over whether an all-female jury is a good or bad thing for accused Trayvon Martin shooter George Zimmerman. There is no consensus on this. But the view of women jurors in major case trials is rife with myths, stereotypes, and preconceptions. Researchers have found that in the decades before and even after the Supreme Court ruling in 1979 that knocked out biased exclusions of jurors based on gender, there’s still the deeply embedded notion that women jurors are different than men in that they are more easily swayed by emotions, more likely to empathize with defendants and less predictable in how they will decide a case, even one that on the surface appears to be a lock for the prosecution.

A series of informal studies and the experiences of defense attorneys in major criminal cases have continued to try to find differences between female and male juries and jurors.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionThey claim that women are more compassionate than men in most criminal cases, but can be ruthless when it comes to sex crimes. Men tend to be harder on defendants. Women are sympathetic to mistreatment. As one seasoned criminal defense attorney noted, “Like black people, they are sensitive to injustice because they have had a lot of it put on them.”

Majority female juries came under much scrutiny and criticism after they voted to acquit O.J. Simpson. The criticism was not just that their decision to acquit Simpson allegedly was a race biased decision but also that as females they were supposedly more sympathetic to the defense. Jurors that spoke on the record following the verdict hotly denied that race, gender or empathy toward celebrity Simpson had anything to do with their decision to acquit him. They were virtually unanimous that the prosecution presented a jumbled, slipshod, and badly tainted case that came nowhere close to meeting the hard legal requirement for conviction of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Most legal experts, when the emotional dust finally settled, agreed that the prosecution badly bungled the case.

Despite the volumes of studies on juror attitudes, none have conclusively found any evidence that women are less capable then men of weighing the evidence, testimony, and arguments of prosecutors and defense attorneys and arriving at an objective decision in a case based on the quality of the evidence for and against a defendant. There is no real evidence that majority female juries have a higher acquittal rate of defendants than majority male jurors.

Zimmerman’s fate, as Simpson’s and countless other defendants that majority women juries have decided, will be determined as always on how vigorous, professional, and pointed the prosecution presents its case against him. And how well prosecutors parry the ploy of defense attorneys to relentlessly try to paint Zimmerman as a victim of Martin while further impugning Martin’s character. If it does its job, Zimmerman will fare no better or worse than he would if he faced an all or majority male jury.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson.

Photo courtesy of indianasnewscenter.com

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