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Love writes: "The shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, has exposed the issue of official misconduct, as police have failed to arrest, and prosecutors have refused to indict, George Zimmerman, Martin's self-professed killer."

Trayvon Martin, 17, was fatally shot by George Zimmerman. (photo: ABC News)
Trayvon Martin, 17, was fatally shot by George Zimmerman. (photo: ABC News)

Trayvon Martin and the American Lynch-Mob Mentality

By David A. Love, Guardian UK

08 April 12


Prosecutorial misconduct, police corruption and 'stand your ground' laws are part of the lingering lynch-mob mentality.

he shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, has exposed the issue of official misconduct, as police have failed to arrest, and prosecutors have refused to indict, George Zimmerman, Martin's self-professed killer. Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch volunteer, claimed Martin looked suspicious and that he shot him in self-defence. Although a federal investigation is under way, Martin's parents have asked the US department of justice to investigate possible meddling by the state's attorney's office with investigations by Sanford police the night of the killing. Martin's family believe that state attorney Norm Wolfinger and Sanford police chief Bill Lee overruled the recommendation of the chief homicide investigator that Zimmerman be arrested and charged with manslaughter. Further, the "stand your ground" law implicated in this case enables vigilantes who wish to perform private, extrajudicial executions and become a legalised lynch mob. The law breaks with centuries of legal tradition by allowing a person to "stand one's ground" and use deadly force wherever he or she feels threatened, without a duty to retreat.

First enacted in Florida and now adopted by at least 21 states, the law is promoted by the powerful National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council, or Alec. Alec is a Koch brothers-funded organisation of rightwing legislators throughout the country, responsible for anti-union, voter suppression and forced transvaginal ultrasound legislation in various states. Alec is supported by corporations such as ExxonMobil, Wal-mart, AT&T, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, UPS and until recently, Coca-Cola.

As the "stand your ground" law enables vigilantes and lynch mobs who operate outside the justice system, the system also provides cover to insiders, including renegade prosecutors who stand in the way of justice. With broad discretion but little accountability, prosecutors at their worst become vigilantes.

According to the Veritas Institute and the Innocence Project, Texas prosecutors are not disciplined for their misconduct. Between 2004 and 2008, prosecutors committed error in 91 cases. Yet in 72 of those cases, the convictions were upheld on the grounds of harmless error, while 19 cases were reversed due to harmful error. Only one prosecutor was disciplined by the Texas Bar Association between 2004 and 2011, for a case before 2004.

A similar Veritas Institute study of California found that between 1997 and 2009, state prosecutors engaged in misconduct in criminal trials 707 times, ranging from withholding evidence to intimidating witnesses. Sixty-seven prosecutors committed gross misconduct, including a deputy district attorney who withheld evidence that kept an innocent man behind bars for a murder he didn't commit. Only six California prosecutors were ever disciplined.

Last year, the Texas county and district attorney association (TCDAA) honoured Navarro County district attorney Lowell Thompson. His achievement was preventing a court of inquiry into the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. Willingham, very likely an innocent man, was executed in 2004 for an arson death that killed his three young children, despite evidence that the fire was accidental.

Michael Morton spent 25 years of a life sentence for the murder of his wife until last year, when DNA evidence proved his innocence. Morton's lawyers learned that Ken Anderson, the Williamson County, Texas prosecutor, did not disclose evidence in 1987 that would have cleared him. A court of inquiry later this year will determine if Anderson, who is now a judge, engaged in misconduct.

John Thompson spent 14 years on Louisiana's death row because evidence proving his innocence was hidden away in the Orleans Parish district attorney's office all of those years. A jury awarded Thompson $14 million - $1 million for each year he was wrongfully imprisoned due to prosecutorial misconduct. However, the conservative US supreme court found the prosecutor was not liable, and overturned the award.

And in Missouri, Reggie Clemons, who is black, sits on death row for the 1991 murder of two young white women, and the rape of one of them. There was no evidence linking Clemons to the crime, and the case has been marred by accounts of police torture, false testimony and incompetent defence counsel. In addition, the prosecutor, assistant circuit attorney Nels Moss, intimidated witnesses and unlawfully excluded black prospective jurors. Moss was held in criminal contempt and fined for his misconduct in the case, and two federal courts characterised his actions as "abusive and boorish". Moreover, a rape kit and lab reports from one of the victims was concealed in police headquarters for years and never introduced at trial.

Prosecutorial misconduct, foot-dragging and corruption by local police, and toxic "stand your ground" laws are part of an epidemic of a vigilante spirit within the US justice system. Whether a lynch mob acts from within or without the courts, the outcome is equally disturbing. And when individuals are allowed to take matters into their own hands - determining the outcome of their own choosing in a case, unaccountable and with impunity - that vigilante spirit, in turn, betrays the justice system's association with lynching. US courts became window dressing for a racist mob mentality, and the death penalty a "legal replacement" for the lynchings of a bygone era. your social media marketing partner


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-9 # jky1291 2012-04-08 10:33
But, I have been heartened to see that the family of Trayvon Martin has finally recognized and been sensitive to the lynch mob mentality of the public demonstrations for "justice" against George Zimmerman in the absence of evidence that could justify a viable criminal charge until the investigations have had sufficient opportunity to arrive at a plausible conclusion.

And, I will observe that all those hypocritically participating in the very actions against which they were demonstrating will react very negatively to being made aware of it.
+4 # dascher 2012-04-08 11:38
It is difficult for most people outside of the state of Florida, let alone in the rest of the world, to comprehend how there is no basis for a criminal charge against him, even allowing that Zimmerman's unlikely account of his actions is completely true.

It is as if a man walked into a convenience store with a gun, demanded the clerk give him the money in the till, and then when the clerk threatened to call the cops, the man shot the clerk - 'in self defense". Most rational people would have some difficulty accepting the logic and morality involved in the police simply releasing the shooter.

Must be that mob mentality thing.
+6 # Texas Aggie 2012-04-08 12:00

Why do I suspect that if it turns out that Trayvon was the one acting in self defense you won't be at all satisfied?
+7 # grouchy 2012-04-08 10:35
I await the white clad cross burners to crawl out from their holes and start burning their crosses again. Now, that would truly put minorities back in their places as was the case in our historical past. What is going on here is a more subtle return to that tradition. I do hope it fails!
+10 # dick 2012-04-08 10:40
Trayvon did not die in vain. Among other things, he may yet expose corrupt & politically ambitious Prosecuting Attorneys, an ominously powerful, under monitored, under disciplined Criminal Class. Prosecutors who conspire to frame & railroad innocents are not punished because Framing-&-Railr oading is THEIR JOB. Convictions! Convictions! Convictions! They are rewarded for illegally Selective "Justice." This is a LONG running national pandemic, a national shame, destroying the lives of innocents, leaving dangerous criminals free. EVERY community should have review boards monitoring P.A.s.
+6 # athenalong 2012-04-08 11:21
The United States has a lonnnng (AND CONTINUING, AS EVIDENCED) history of injustice towards people of color and those without money/monetary influence.

It amazes me that the very consistently circuitous nature of this and other phenomenons of injustice always end up to be this new kind of 'shocking' news.

We know, have known, and live with this and other 'gems of reality' every day.
+6 # KrazyFromPolitics 2012-04-08 11:52
Further supports my suspicion of just how broken and corrupt our legal system has become.
+6 # Youtube-GlobalPrison 2012-04-08 13:03
So sad that this is the underlying judicial 'system' in America that leaves evidence in a draw at the 'discretion' of a few biased people. One of America's most popular talk-show host based in Austin, Texas is the most anti-Obama shows in the country- if not the most extreme. What's it called? Infowars.

They broadcast hate against Obama, calling Obama's support of Trayvon Martin as racism and an attack on white people. It promotes hate and anger against Government and law, promotes guns and support for the National Rifle Association of which Alex Jones is a member. I try to have online discussions with Alex Jones fans on the black and gun issue, and what do I get? Insults, threats, abuse, profanity and evil attitude.

That's what the U.S is facing, a collective movement disguised as 'freedom of speech' but which causes people to rally on the anti-black agenda. I bet no Muslim broadcaster could do the same as Infowars in America- it would be called terrorist. But American media is fiercely protected by the right/far-right , and they get away with it. That says it all...
+5 # Salus Populi 2012-04-08 15:57
Why wouldn't they protect it? American media is by and large OWNED by the right/far reicht, and the once-centrist mainscream has long since capitulated and merely runs paler versions of what their brethren in treason run.
0 # Nel 2012-04-08 15:30
This case is too outrageous to be ordinary police/justice misconduct. Little or nothing is talked/written questioning the perpetrator's name ethnicity and/or his father's, however questionable it's at it's face value. That seems to suggest that we are deathly afraid to touch that issue.
+6 # rhgreen 2012-04-08 18:31
Yup, this article tells it pretty much the way it is. It's not just Zimmerman or Sanford or Florida or the gun laws or the "Stand Your Ground" laws per se. It's something rotten and endemic in the American judicial & political system, that works things around by whatever means necessary to: "white guy kills black guy, white guy felt threatened, white guy walks". The real crime? Being born black. And for too many Americans, the political unforgivable is: Being elected President while black. I just hope enough Americans realize it and save us from shame before the world in November.
+2 # sunapeen 2012-04-08 19:03
I think it is truly telling when a reporter from the Guardian gets it.

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