The Trayvon Martin shooting case is turning into the world's biggest example of confirmation bias, starting with the shooting itself.

We now know that the shooter, Zimmerman, thought Martin fit the general description of the two men (young, male, African-American) who had been spotted robbing homes in the neighborhood. Martin's hoody served as a partial disguise, which probably made Zimmerman's confirmation bias go through the roof. My best guess is that everything Martin did up to his death, including the fight, contributed to Zimmerman's confirmation bias that he was dealing with a dangerous hardened criminal.

On the flip side, Martin probably made up his mind quickly that Zimmerman was some sort of racist, bully, thug wannabe who was just looking for a fight. After all, what kind of guy gets out of his car and follows you down the street in the dark? The last thing that might occur to you is "Neighborhood Watch."

When the story first broke, and the public had scant information, much of it incorrect, most of us jumped to an initial assumption. People who have had experiences with bullies and racists probably assumed Zimmerman fit the mold. Therefore, he must be prosecuted.

Others, most notably Geraldo Rivera, thought that a 6'3" guy dressing like Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars, with a black hoody, on a dark night, in a crime-riddled neighborhood, set the stage for a tragic misunderstanding.

My question to you is this: If you made up your mind about Zimmerman's guilt when the story first broke, has the flood of new information changed your mind? Or has confirmation bias allowed the new information to harden the opinion you already had?

Have any of you changed your minds about Zimmerman's guilt based on new information?

[Update: I'm no lawyer, so maybe someone can answer this question. Even if you believe Zimmerman's bad judgement alone created the situation that resulted in a much larger guy sitting on his chest and punching his head with no indication it was going to stop anytime soon, isn't it still "self defense" if he shoots the guy pounding his face? That's a real question, not rhetorical. -- Scott]


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May 22, 2012
My initial opinion has not changed: The _System_of_Racism_&_WhiteSupremacy protected the 'White [Hispanic]' from initial arrest. Even now, the system is effectively trying the victim. Marijauna use is not a precursor to violent rage. In no way did GZ have any information relating to TM's alleged misdoings, so in no way does walking down a street in the rain with a hood up to keep rain from running down your neck justify exiting the car, following on foot, and attempting to confront a pedestrian because they lost sight of him.

BTW, No one is mentioning that GZ is on medication for ADHD which 'may cause agitation and/or mood swings'.

If he's protecting himself in a fight he provoked, isn't the death the result of that provocation, and not some 'right to self protect?' I don't see GZ as someone taking a walk to enjoy the night air... he was in 'pursuit' of an individual... and individual who may have had 'confirmation bias' (white guy got out of a car and is following me on foot... he must mean to mess me up, KKK Florida Friendly style)

My opinion has always been that the Sanford DA and Police went out of their way to make this a 'righteous shoot' before the sun came up. This is the institutional racism of the town and region empowered behind a badge and a title. That's where the confirmation bias was most applied. The fact it took 50 days to get to examining what evidence remains from that night is what is wrong here. GZ may or may not have committed murder or instigated a wrongful death, but the Sanford Police and District Attorney miscarried justice to the extreme. No Homicide Detectives sent to the scene? Letting the evidence just wash away in the rain? Unprofessional at best.

We (Yes, I am White and Male and own a gun) white people often feel that confrontation of an aggressor ('Stand your Ground') is a 'right.' Except when the aggressor is white and the stander is Black... Then we expect the Black to either back down in deference to us, or any sign of 'active defense' is considered 'Uppity' and subject to our need to control 'the black rage'. So the confirmation bias is 'tall black man in hoodie' attacked 'law biding citizen,' therefore 'he had it coming.' All the other facts all of a sudden fall out of the picture, and we need to support our belief with facts that are not in evidence.

When in fact there was no intent by Treyvon to confront GZ until the latter began 'hot pursuit.' This is Florida, and when a White Man starts chasing after a Black man for no reason, the 'confirmation bias' for the Black man is you're in physical trouble (up to the point of a lynching).

Did Trevyon had the right to use Deadly force, and did GZ have the right to defend using deadly force? Unknown on the first, and well, we'll find out... I have to trust a jury on that. It's my patriotic duty.

But the bottom line is less about GZ's guilt and more about the system that tried it's darndest to keep a white guy out of jail for the 'unfortunate' death of a black youth.

My only change of opinion is that GZ was a smart racist. Nope, he's not that. A lot of smart racists around him... but he's just a victim of his overactive imagination while play cops and robbers.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
May 22, 2012
I administrate a technical forum.
I have seen many where many time when something like this comes out there is an immediate jumping on the band wagon effect and then a counter effect.

for me personally I havent changed my mind at all, I am still waiting for the trial so I can get all the facts.
At first they didnt bring charges, then a special prosecutor did.
They avoided the grand jury even though I believe in Florida only a grand jury can bring those charges.
There were too many contradictory facts even at the very beginning.
I have been in law enforcement for 14 years and if anything it taught me to try and keep an open mind.

I am not surprised that it took this long after the prosecutor released the information for the media to say anything.
They were all over it when the twin Reverends Al and Jesse were stirring the racism pot, they buried the contract hit placed by the New Black Panther Party and now they kind of are just letting information that is showing Zimmerman in a good light out in dribs and drabs.

May 22, 2012
Lets take another angle on this. Suppose everything Zimmerman says is true. That he was following Martin and was attacked from behind, Martin tried to grab the gun and Zimmerman shot Martin. This would qualify as Self-defense in most courts I'm sure.

What if things had turned out some other way? What if Martin had managed to get the gun and instead of Martin being shot, Zimmerman was. Did Martin act in self defense? I'm sure his story would go something like this:

"I was minding my own business when I saw this creep following me. So I tried to hide. I saw him pull a gun out of his pocket. I figured if I could get the gun away from him I'd be safe, so I jumped up behind him and hit him. We struggled for the gun and it just went off."

That would also be backed up by the 'evidence' and would be equally 'self-defense' worthy. It wouldn't make anyone feel any better though.

All things being equal, this is really just a case of bad luck. But I don't like feeling like I might get shot due to bad luck.

+2 Rank Up Rank Down
May 22, 2012
If you read the call transcript, you will see several things:

1) dispatcher asked GZ "Which way is he running". Most people would take that as a request to keep the suspect in sight.

2) dispatcher said: "We don't need you to (follow the suspect)". GZ responded "ok". In other words, he agreed to stop following as soon as dispatcher made the suggestion.

3) GZ seemed scared of the suspect. He says "he's coming to check me out ... How long until you get an officer over here". Does not seem like he wants to confront the suspect.

May 22, 2012
"Even if you believe Zimmerman's bad judgement alone created the situation that resulted in a much larger guy sitting on his chest and punching his head with no indication it was going to stop anytime soon, isn't it still "self defense" if he shoots the guy pounding his face? "

I don't know if there's a "one size fits all" answer to that questions...

consider a hypothetical where a well-dressed armed citizen w/a concealed carry permit is walking through a known "bad" part of a major city. they don't expect to get mugged, aren't seeking/pursuing any contact w/anyone else, are well within their rights to walk down a public street (just walking to their building from subway station) but someone attempts to rob them & gets shot/killed by person "X". now it could be argued that they should have known better than to walk through <area/city> by themselves at night wearing a Hickey Freeman & Rolex but I (at least speaking for myself) would never vote to convict this person.

now modify it slightly: let's say citizen "X" lives in the area & is fed up w/the crime (a la Zimmerman) so decides to wear a kevlar vest under their Burberry trench coat & instead of just going to/from work/store/etc they decide to just walk around outside until someone holds them up. mugger shoots 1st so there's no question about credible threat to life (vest stops 1st round but next one will be in head) so "X" shoots/kills assailant. unquestionably self-defense in a tactical sense but there was clear intent to seek/create the !$%*!$%*!$%*! - should THAT be legal? I don't think so (other's can disagree).

now I'm NOT saying where on the spectrum the Zimmerman/Martin case falls but my point is that like a lot of controversial issues self-defense is a spectrum and that judgement calls have to be made on a case by case basis so I guess my answer to your original question is that a categorical yes or no is not even a valid answer...
May 22, 2012
I've long stop watching/caring. I don't really understand why it is (inter)national news. Even if the guy WAS racist, the nation as a whole should not care. One ChoiceOf(idiot, victim acting in self defense)'s story doesn't mean anything on the national scale. Is racism still in existence? Definitely. Is it still a major issue? Probably. Should we nationally crucify a POSSIBLE offender? Absolutely not until there is clear, irrefutable proof. If you don't trust the justice department in your country to do what is right, there are bigger fish to fry than racism.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
May 22, 2012
My post was bounced, presumably for a lack of tact, so let me apologize and try again.

I quickly recognized the PR machine rolling into action for the Martin shooting, just as it did for the Tawana Brawley incident, and the Duke Lacrosse Team incident, and the Imus "ho" incident. The people who do these campaigns are very skilled (did you see the People Magazine cover?), but they do leave a scent.

I sat back and waited for the evidence to come along, to prove that what people were made to think had happened wasn't really what happened. And along it came, in clockwork fashion.

To me the issue of highly competent mind controllers is much more interesting than a random shooting, which happens pretty routinely.

[I didn't bounce your earlier post. Not sure what happened there. -- Scott]
May 22, 2012
Cube Dweller, you're showing the same information rot that is endemic to this case. "agressively chase down", where does this come from? The word "agressively" is nothing but inflammatory, since it speaks not just to the manner in which Zimmerman acted, but also to his state of mind, which would be completely unknowable to us even if we had perfect information on the physical facts of the case -- which we don't.

It really does sound like you've made up your mind and are altering the facts in your head to fit, including facts about things you cannot possibly be sure of.

I'm not even saying you are WRONG. Your description of the events may be 100% accurate, but the accuracy of your opinion isn't really the point here. It sounds like there is no data that could come out that would change your mind, and frankly that's pretty scary.

(For what it's worth, my personal opinion at this moment is that Zimmerman is guilty of negligent homicide even though he probably was engaging in self-defense, because he provoked the situation.)

[I expect Zimmerman's version won't sound as if he was provocative. -- Scott]
May 22, 2012
Haven't changed my mind. From day one my thoughts are that any person who pursues and kills another because he 'thinks' he's someone else should be in jail. Stand your ground only works for me if you are defending your position against an active aggressor, not chasing someone down like you're in a Charles Bronson movie.

[Fascinating answer. Have you actually been following the breaking news on this topic? -- Scott]

If you mean photos of Zimmerman's injuries, sure, so what. If you aggressively chase someone down like he did, don't expect a welcome mat. Fact is if Zimmerman had just held back and observed Martin first, to see if he was getting into any criminal activity, instead of hunting him down, an unneccessary killing could have been avoided.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
May 22, 2012
The quick, initial media coverage of the Treyvon incident had "PR Campaign" written all over it, just like the Brawley campaign or the Duke alleged rape campaign or the Imus "Hoes" campaign did. There are very skillful people doing these things, but they do leave their scent. I was ready to see a long series of disclosures justifying Mr. Zimmerman's action, and along they came, right on schedule.

As for justified, hell yes. If you can't shoot a guy who is sitting on you and punching your face to a pulp, it's time to shoot yourself.
May 22, 2012
my position has certainly softened as the case has evolved - I initially bit hook, line & sinker that Zimmerman was a racist vigilante who'd murdered an innocent kid but as more & more info has come out it's becoming incredibly clear that (as many others have stated) the "mainstream media" intentionally distorted this story. maybe their motives were political, maybe they were financial ("misunderstanding between pot-smoking teen & neighborhood watchman ends in tragedy" wouldn't have generated the ratings/sold the copies that "cross-burning racist wannabe cop murders innocent child" did). I still think some manslaughter/negligent homicide-ish charge is warranted b/c at the end of the day Zimmerman knew (or should have known) he was needlessly creating a risky situation (what did he think would have happened if Martin HAD been the criminal he suspected?) & someone ended up dead as a result of his stupidity...

finally, I don't know if there is an appropriate statute but somebody at NBC (think is was them) should face some kind of criminal sanction for editing the 911 call as that was the sociological equivalent to yelling "FIRE!" in the theatre & unquestionably innocent people have been assaulted to "avenge Trevon!". they KNEW what they were doing, what the reaction would be & should not be allowed to get away w/a "mei culpa" on it...
0 Rank Up Rank Down
May 22, 2012

Circ*umstantial evidence

*Gut feeling, not guy feeling
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
May 22, 2012
When I initially heard about it, my gut told me the media was fabricating things, because all the reporting focused on Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. The media has a bias against law-abiding citizens acting in self-defense. As far as I'm concerned, "duty to retreat" states might as well be "duty to die" or "duty to be permanently disabled/disfigured" states. Sure, sometimes you can run, but if your attacker pursues you, you could easily become tired (winded), hurt (e.g., pull a hamstring), or in too much pain to continue fleeing (arthritis, fibromyalgia) -- all making you more likely to be hurt/killed -- just for some simple examples.

Even my girlfriend, an attorney, had to admit that in criminal law the standard is "proof beyond a reasonable doubt." ALL of the actual, demonstrable evidence shows Zimmerman suffered about 99% of the injuries in the fight between him and Treyvon Martin; anything that supposedly implicates him is at BEST !$%*!$%*!$%*!$% not direct/forensic, evidence.

Here's my take on it: Zimmerman, overzealous neighborhood watchman with a bad temper (but wouldn't you have a bad temper if your neighborhood was constantly being vandalized and robbed)? calls 911 -- if he were inclined to kill someone, I doubt he'd have done that. The operator did not tell him to stop, just that he "did not need to," and that's not the lawful order of a police order, anyway. Waiting for the cops would be useless if what, from Zimmerman's perspective, was possibly the guy responsible for crime in his neighborhood (because he doesn't yet know what he's dealing with) gets away yet again.

After this, I cannot get a straight answer about what followed out of any source. There was some sort of confrontation. My guy feeling is Trayvon saw the guy, circled around, and decided to "teach whitey a lesson," since the teen was a bulky football player and Zimmerman was a fat, dumpy, out-of-shape, white-looking guy (even if he was Hispanic). So Treyvon proceeds to beat the crap out of a guy, but, oops! He picked on a guy with a gun, and got shot for being the violent, arrogant little punk that he is -- Treyvon WAS armed with a deadly weapon, not just Skittles. His weapon was his fists. Most people don't realize how much damage a freaking football player can do (or hell, even a regular-sized person trained in martial arts).

My conclusion is that Zimmerman probably confronted the kid, without his weapon drawn (Treyvon never would have attacked George Z if the weapon had been drawn from any reasonable distance), but was a huge a-hole about the whole thing, to which Martin said "I don't have to take any crap from this white guy," who he probably thought was some crazy racist, and initiated the fight that led to his death. And with that attitude, Treyvon is an obnoxious little punk who got what was coming to him, because he was stupid enough to attack someone who could fight back with deadly force.

None of this makes Zimmeran a good guy. He's an a-hole too. But even an a-hole has the right to self-defense when someone is beating his head into the ground.

The one issue I want answered is, why in the hell was Zimmerman, on medications with a 10% chance of destabilizing someone, still walking around with a loaded firearm? Had that been cleared/vetted?

Then again, if Zimmerman were not armed, a punk thug teen would have beaten a white guy to death and the media would NEVER have reported it, just like they didn't report the black gang who beat up a while, middle-aged couple just for fun in South Akron, Ohio?
-4 Rank Up Rank Down
May 22, 2012
[I don't think ignoring the authorities and "confronting" Martin is such an obvious error in judgement, given that the authorities had been largely useless in stopping crime in his neighborhood. In that situation, you either live in continuous fear or you ratchet up your own risk to deal with it. Zimmerman took a calculated risk that ended tragically, but it wasn't, in my opinion, irresponsible. His other option was staying home and waiting for robbers to someday crawl in his window while his wife was sleeping. -- Scott]

Scott, your take on "his other option" is less than astute and borderline paranoid. His other option was to wait for the officer and then check the Gateway community door to door. Or anything else to avoid immediate confrontation (because he was armed).

Or let's say his other option was to draw the gun but not fire when he was on the ground being pummelled. I mean, if you have a gun, that gives you great power of deterrence only by showing it to the attacker (same as martial arts or a knife, only quicker and deadlier).

Or why not fire a gun through Trayvon's leg or something? Or try to explain why he was following him?

There are a lot of other options he had. But he chose to shoot Trayvon point blank in the chest. I don't believe anymore that he premeditated murder, but it's still manslaughter at the least and he should not walk away scot-free.

Yes, I know you don't think clearly when you're on the ground and the other guy beats the !$%* out of you, but in my mind that's not an excuse if you have a concealed weapon.

May 22, 2012
If anyone can make any sense of the US media's take on things they are doing better than I am. My only takeaway so far is that if I was in America and got in a fight, the best way to get away with it is to ensure I kill my opponent (I've never been in a fight in my life but it seems a bit more likely over the pond).
May 22, 2012
I remember assuming it was a racist white on black killing, and that it had probably been a middle aged white guy shooting a black teen in broad daylight. This was all the initial impression I got from a brief report on the failure of the police to arrest or charge the killer. I'd missed the case until that fuss was being kicked up.

Once I looked at a report of the actual incident (from the same site) my impression changed. The main factor was the quote from witnesses describing the way Martin had been on top of Zimmerman. That suggested the incident was far more complicated than the media narrative and my position shifted to reserve judgement.

Since I like passing judgement (I'm INTJ) I quickly went and read several more articles and concluded that a tragic accident had occurred where two men assumed the other was more dangerous than they really were and both had probably made mistakes in the way they handled the situation. Crucially though I couldn't be sure who started the fight that led to Zimmerman shooting Martin in self defence because we only had Zimmerman's word to go on.

So far the evidence that has been leaking out has made me more sure of my theory, and I'm now inclined to believe Zimmerman's evidence. Perhaps that's just confirmation bias at work, after all a lot of what's come out is that the media distorted the evidence in such a way that it looks like a hatchet job, and that really requires him to be innocent.
May 22, 2012
Two people got into a fight. One of them got killed.

"Second degree murder is a murder that is not premeditated or planned in advance."
"A bar fight that results in death would ordinarily constitute second degree murder."
Quotes from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_(United_States_law)#Degrees_of_murder_in_the_United_States

I think that Angela Corey has brought the perfect charge against Zimmerman.

Whether he is guilty or not, the jury will decide.
May 22, 2012
Thugwalk, anyone?
May 22, 2012
Yes, it is self-defense.
May 21, 2012
What I find interesting about this case is that it has called into question one of the primary "benefits" people tout about the Internet, namely, that because it is open and free, you can't effectively censor opposing views. "The truth will out" and all that jazz.

What I've seen in conversation forums is almost exactly the opposite: people becoming more and more entrenched in their beliefs regardless of what facts come out, mostly because there is someone with the OPPOSITE belief calling them an idiot, or a racist, or whatever. Every news article concerning the case is met with a flurry of posts, most of which are only tangentially related to the news article itself, instead being personal attacks on the other side or restatements of positions expoused before. People on both sides stating, "Whatever you believe, here are the FACTS" followed by things which are clearly not. The open flow of information is widening, not lessening, the gulf.

Particularly annoying is MSNBC's chat, which allows "the community" to collapse posts they don't like. It is supposedly to allow people to vote down on posts that have no value or are deliberately inflammatory. Look at any article on this case, though, and you'll see a long, long list of collapsed posts on both sides of the argument, because people are using the complaint buttons to collapse comments, not because they are particularly objectionable, but because they simply don't agree with them. In some articles virtually every user comment was collapsed.

I hate to say this, but maybe there needs to an intelligence/maturity test before people are allowed to use the Internet, so there would at least be some chance of them contributing meaningful content, rather than noise.
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