Moving On From George Zimmerman

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Minus the unfortunate sports metaphor, I think Jesse Jackson has it right:
"Let's not forget that Mr. Zimmerman represents a first down, not a touchdown -- the beginning of a process. But far beyond him, the victory is not in how long he stays in jail; the victory is in repealing these draconian, Stand Your Ground, self-defense, vigilante laws," Jackson told reporters along with others attending a church conference. "These laws incentivize vigilantism, take-the-law-into-your-own hands, kill or be killed. That's beneath the civility of a great nation."

If you have a moment it's worth taking a listen to the Joe Horn 911 tape in Texas. Horn spotted two burglars breaking into a neighbors house and called 911. The operator tells horn the police are on their way. Horn then explains that the law has changed (which it had) and that he was fully empowered to go out and kill the burglars. He then did exactly that. 

It's worth noting that, as in the Trayvon Martin, case the law's authors argued it had been mis-applied:
In his 911 call, Horn cited a newly enacted Texas law, the "castle doctrine," which authorizes the use of deadly force during a home invasion. 

But Sen. Jeff Wentworth, who wrote the law, said it did not apply to Horn's case. "It was not an issue in this case other than him saying incorrectly that he understood it to mean he could protect his neighbor's property," said Wentworth, R-San Antonio. 

 He said the castle doctrine simply didn't apply because, although the burglars were running across Horn's lawn, Horn's home wasn't under siege -- his neighbor's home was. 

"It comes from the saying 'A man's home is his castle,' " Wentworth said. "But this wasn't his castle."
In the Horn case, the prosecutors had a barrier in two deeply unsympathetic victims. The men actually were burglars. One of them was on parole for a drug conviction. They really had come to the neighborhood intent on doing harm.

But laws aren't written simply for those who elicit our sympathy. We don't allow street executions for good reasons. Moreover, the same thinking that allows two burglars to be gunned down in the street, is the same thinking that gave us the end of Trayvon Martin.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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