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Monday, June 04, 2012

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democommie

Dr. X:

I think that Zimmerman is an idiot and that he probably did kill Trayvon Martin without justification. His character is not something I can speak to. I will say that anybody who has the means to post a bond (for as much as $1.25M+ (asssuming the $135K is liquid and Bonding is 10% in FL as elsewhere) but allows their parents/grandparents to pledge their homes as security is a bit of a douchebag.

What is a bit more troubling is the news item about Zimmerman having a second passport which he did not surrender at the time of his original release from custody.

NMissC

The revelation about the bond hearing doesn't make me more or less likely to believe him.

My inclination is to think that he did lie to the cops, that he made what Martin did sound far worse than the actual facts, trying (almost certainly in a state of semi-panic) to justify what he'd done. His account is partially why I think that. I'm not sure that tells me much about his character-- it's essential human nature to try to shade or even warp the story in an exculpating way under these circumstances (the 911 call tells me more about him, although I'm disposed to really dislike anything that gets near vigilanteism). And my "inclination" is not remotely sufficient to say I'd convict him of manslaughter or murder. For one thing, it is completely possible that he lied to make it sound better but yet he did have a basis to defend himself. More to the point, the evidence to convict him (that negates self-defense, that points toward a conviction) is much thinner than "beyond a reasonable doubt." I'm not sure it reaches "probably"-- saying "in my gut, I think this is what went down" is a bit weaker than "this probably happened." It's an educated guess.

Dr X

@ NMissC

For one thing, it is completely possible that he lied to make it sound better but yet he did have a basis to defend himself

That's an interesting observation.I assume that you've encountered this many times in your work. Apart from the question of Zimmerman's honesty or dishonesty, at least two possible motivations for lying while legally innocent come to mind. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

First, there is the obvious fear of being judged guilty by others, and some concomitant pressure to build a stronger justification of one's actions.

The second possibility is that he was overcompensating for feelings of guilt, whether realistically or unrealistically based. It's about pressure to build an internal case for justification, albeit a magical case, since the lies are at least initially known to be lies by the person who lies. Over time, they could, perhaps, convince themselves the that lies are the truth.

Perhaps all of this is obvious.

Dr. Sardonicus

Perhaps justice will be done in this case. Perhaps not. Our system is imperfect, so we have no concrete way of knowing. Inasmuch as I am not any sort of behaviorial scientist, I cannot offer a professional opinion, one way or another, on Zimmerman's behavior. I can say one thing which ought to be obvious to anyone:

Young men or, rarely, women, who wear hooded sweatshirts and hide their faces in 80-degree weather, or at night, or both, do not instill confidence in those of us who don't. Popular culture and/or peer pressure are lame justifications, at best.

I'm not defending Zimmerman's act. And Martin may not have been looking for trouble. But the guilty finger of fate points both ways. I think so anyway.

NMissC

Dr. X, I can agree with everything you said, although I'm puzzling over the comment about "feelings of guilt."

This seems a hard one to me, and I have had for a few minutes trouble explaining why. I'm going to propose several decision-points:

1) Zimmerman was assaulted sufficiently to be justified in using a gun in self-defense. Crediting him with responding like you or me, I would have to admit he'd still likely feel guilt for shooting and killing a man, and that would effect how he described it. I really have trouble believing this to be the case, though-- I think the facts don't justify him resorting to lethal force.

2) Zimmerman and Martin got in a struggle that was fairly serious. Zimmerman started it, with no basis to do so, but it is unknowable whether it accelerated enough to justify Zimmerman's use of lethal force, which means Zimmerman can't be convicted of using lethal force wrongly. This is where I think things are, although the proof could go wildly differently here. Is the story "Zimmerman picked a fight?" or is it "Martin was pummeling Zimmerman, who responded to defend himself"?

3) Zimmerman acted as a vigilante and gunned Martin down.

In any of these positions, ordinary human reactions would cause Zimmerman to describe what he experienced in a way that supported his own interest, to a degree any objective observer would call distortion. That's what I'm expecting. It's not cynicism, exactly, i don't think.

Someday, you and I could have a very interesting discussion about how your profession and mine deal with client's self-presentation and the issue of truth. I've thought a lot about counseling and the problem of ratifying a client's POV (and have contempt for lawyers so wedded to that POV that they cease to be objective counselors, a problem that is really a serious problem in my profession).

It's a late hour. This discussion has exposed some issues that I've thought about a lot, and we should figure out a way to thrash them out....

Dr X

NMC,

That would be an interesting discussion, though a rather unwieldy one in relation to my field. The question of honesty changes depending upon the work I'm doing--formal evaluation or therapy--and, within each of those areas, there a variety conscious and unconscious motives for lies and half-lies along with the question of what I do with any patient commentary in terms of my regard for veracity.

Funny you bring this up. A couple of days ago, a defense attorney on local news was speaking in front of a courthouse about a client. I can't remember the case at the moment, but I remember that I found it very hard to believe in the innocence of the client. The attorney insisted that his is innocent in a way that sounded like he believed the client, though who knows. It occurred to me then that I've heard attorneys say that they're confident that their client will be exonerated at trial, which sounds less like a statement of the attorney's belief in actual innocence.

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