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 21, 2012
I've pretty much given up on the "news-tainment" industry reporting any stories in a neutral and fair manner.

Unfortunately, now "reporting" is slanted to mass production and maximizing ratings, views, etc than real in depth analysis of the stories. And it doesn't help that the "news-tainment" reporters, along with their editors, are often pretty shallow in learning and life experiences.

Basically, the news-tainment industry doesn't want to see a dog-bites-man story nor even a man-bites-dog story, but want's to write a story about "a Republican gay man who was subdued by the undocumented worker wait-staff after biting Paris Hilton's dog named "Stalin" during a Democratic Party charity event being held to raise money to save handicapped whales."
May 21, 2012
Nice try, jury pool scout.
May 21, 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]
+22 Rank Up Rank Down
May 21, 2012
My first impression, after about a day of news reports, was that this was the Duke Lacrosse case, part 2. As it turns out, my first impression appears to have been correct. Looking at the NBC doctoring of the 911 tape to whip up racial furor, and looking at the information that is coming out from discovery (the injuries to Zimmerman, the injured knuckles on Martin, the distance of the gun shot, the presence of drugs in Martin's system), and seeing the usual suspects (Al Sharpton) jump all over this, it is pretty apparent that this is Duke Lacrosse all over again.

About the only good thing to come out of this is that by charging Zimmerman, the facts have been unconcealed by law.
May 21, 2012
I'm with DuggleBogey, I didn't know if he's guilty or not but it didn't smell good to me that he was not even arrested for killing a person (doesn't matter the color and !$%*!$%*!$%*!$ I've heard of cases when people defended in their house against an intruder and they were still got arrested. Also, it didn't look like they collected forensic evidence in a serious manner.

I think that seeing Zimmerman's scars made me give more credit to the self-defense claim (although it's a hard thing to claim self-defense when you are armed and stalk the attacker)

The rest of the things that media pushes "young men coming home", Zimmerman calling describing him as African American are crap and irrelevant.
May 21, 2012
My initial reaction was not to trust the "if it bleeds, it leads" media. And yes, everything that has come out since has simply confirmed that skepticism.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
May 21, 2012
I initially heard of the shooting from a co-worker who said that he heard that Zimmerman chased down Martin, knocked him down, and shot him while he was lying on the ground. Based on that, I initially thought that Zimmerman was guilty.

Then I started reading about it myself, and it started to look much more ambiguous. As far as I know, it still isn't clear exactly how far Zimmerman followed Martin, exactly what each of them said and did at the time, or exactly what Martin was doing at the time.

For now, my opinion is that both of them were seriously stupid, but that Zimmerman is probably technically not guilty. Zimmerman really shouldn't have gotten out of the car to follow Martin - if Martin actually was the armed criminal Zimmerman apparently thought he was, Zimmerman could have had a much worse day. If he had waited for the police to come, Martin probably wouldn't have fought the police and wouldn't have been killed. Based on the reported damage to Zimmerman, it sure looks like Martin had some sort of chip on his shoulder himself and was looking for a fight. He seems to have gone way overboard attacking a lone white guy who may have been behaving in an aggressive manner. If he had kept his cool, he wouldn't have been shot.
+27 Rank Up Rank Down
May 21, 2012
The reality is that people judge a book by it's cover. People have covers too, and intentionally 'self-brand' to conform to the image they want to portray.

If someone dresses like a bad-ass gangster, it's hard for me to feel bad that someone will make an assumption that they are a bad-ass gangster. The way you present yourself to society *will* impact how society treats you. To expect anything else is ridiculous.

Now I'm not going to jump so far as to say that people who dress like thugs should be shot. But I will say that I don't feel sorry for people who die from a sky-diving accident. They don't deserve to die, but they sign up for the risks. Dressing like a thug comes with risks too. (If you don't like that reality, don't jump out of a plane or dress like a gangster.)

I'm sure my reaction to this case follows the same pattern many of us follow: We make up our minds first, and then search high and low for examples of just how right we are. There are so many random 'events' in the world for us to draw on, eventually we'll gather enough evidence to prove just how right we are.

I know I'm right about this too. I'll find a way to ignore the negative comments, justifying that the people who don't agree with me are idiots (obviously). The people that agree with me are genius (like me... obviously). Isn't living in a self delusional world delicious?
May 21, 2012
Yes, my initial opinion on the matter has changed based on the new information presented recently. Keep in mind, however, I never totally committed to any opinion on his guilt or innocence since I didn't want to form an opinion until his trial. Consequentially, I am still on the fence, just leaning more to the other side now.
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
May 21, 2012
I'm now leaning more toward Zimmerman being innocent here. However, I also agree that justice has to be seen to be done, and now it is being seen to be done.
The crime itself was never the story.
It was the fact that someone could get off so cleanly even in a case such as murder.
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
May 21, 2012
Yes. Originally sounded like Zimmerman was guilty, but after a week or so of hearing other information, my opinion is that I don't have enough information to make such a judgement, in either direction.
+14 Rank Up Rank Down
May 21, 2012
I initially thought that it was a tragic misunderstanding and that Zimmerman was an over-zealous cop wannabe.

Now, I believe Trayvon was a thug, known to have dealt drugs, known to vandalize property, suspected of robbery at his high school (in possession of a lot of women's jewelry when busted for vandalism), was stoned at the time of the incident, attacked Zim brutally (just as he'd attacked a bus driver a couple weeks before), and is basically the poster child for stand-your-ground advocates.

And I think Zim is a guy with a rough patch in his past who has tried hard to get his life sorted out, and tries to be an asset to his community.
May 21, 2012
My decision point is this:

He got out of the car, and approached the person. To me that's it, end of story. he initiated a confrontation, got over his head, and killed someone. That isn't standing your ground.

If the kid had charged the car, ripped him out the window and started beating him I'd have a different view. But the guy was in a car, on the phone with police, and decided (after supposedly being told not to) get out and confront the kid.

So my opinion hasn't changed.
May 21, 2012
My initial assumption was that Z was, and remains, guilty. Florida's stand-your-ground law does not give you the right to chase someone down, after the police tell you not to, initiate a confrontation, and then claim self defense.
May 21, 2012
It is not a question of Zimmerman's guilt or innocence, it whether there is a case for him to answer. Surely for there not to be a court hearing, it has to be completely obvious to everyone that he is not guilty. If someone kills an intruder for example, that would probably be sufficient. To kill a guy on the street who you have deliberately followed and engaged with means it's not unreasonable for people to think you might be to blame.

The fact that so many people, whether through confirmation bias or not, hold opposite opinions, means a court should decide. If the judge throws out the case at the start for lack of evidence, so be it.
May 21, 2012
My view of Zimmerman hasn't changed. I never jumped to any conclusions about his guilt. Let's just get on to a trial where all the evidence can be presented and a jury can make a determination.
May 21, 2012
The problem with the Trayvon Martin case was never that George Zimmerman wasn't punished for committing a crime.

The problem is he wasn't even ARRESTED for committing a crime.

Yes, he claimed self defense, but that's an affirmative defense for killing someone, that is supposed to be used in a trial. Not to keep from being arrested. It is not the police department's job to decide if a criminal defense is valid, that's a jury's job.

Now that the right thing has been done and George Zimmerman has been arrested and charged, the justice system can do it's thing, however flawed that may be.
May 21, 2012
My philosophy and psychology studies give me a bit of a buffer, though I know I'm still susceptible to all of the various biases. I tried to stay objective at the start, though leaned toward Martin's side. Zimmerman did follow and confront Martin, which should take away hos ability to use the Stand Your Ground law, opening him up to prosecution, even with new evidence.
May 21, 2012
In this particular case, there is no doubt that Zimmerman pulled the trigger and killed Martin. The difficult part here is determining his guilt lies with identifying his intentions, motive, and whether or not he was the instigator of the physical altercation.

I don't envy anybody tasked with that task. But I've always thought from the beginning that the case deserved to be in front of a court to sort through all of the facts.
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