On Thursday, CNN investigated the odd case of a South Carolina man and his wife who decided it was their mission to hunt down and kill registered sex offenders. This clear example of calculated and deranged murder somehow inspired a panel guest to say that this case is an indicator that a “new world” characterized by “vigilante justice” – like that she accused George Zimmerman of pursuing when he shot Trayvon Martin – is upon us. This opinion is a dramatic misreading of the verdict in the Zimmerman trial, an example of selective outrage, and a sample of the irresponsible commentary that has become so lamentably common in the wake of that trial’s outcome.
Described as a story that could have been taken out of the pages of a script from the Showtime drama Dexter, CNN anchor Pam Brown revealed that a South Carolina man and his wife were recently arrested after confessing to killing two sex offenders. Police said that the incarcerated couple planned to kill more sex offenders and arrested them “just in time.”
When radio host Mo Ivory was asked for her thoughts on this story, she initially said that this was a clear case of first degree, premeditated murder. However, Ivory then identified a strain of vigilantism in this story that she said is the direct result of the not guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman.
“This is not Zimmerman vigilante justice in our new world,” Ivory said. “We cannot think that we can just decide now that we are the police and we will take care of anybody that we think is even suspected of doing something or actually did something.”
“So, it’s problematic that we are starting to see this kind of behavior going on in our country and, you know, that people think it’s okay,” Ivory concluded.
Ivory was displaying yet another illogical reaction to the Florida jury’s verdict. That panel of Zimmerman’s peers would have convicted him if he were pursuing a form of “vigilante justice” against Martin. Ivory conflates premeditated murder with arguably justified self-defense here simply because she does not agree with the jury’s verdict.
This is irresponsible commentary to be making on a cable news network, but it is not a surprise. Ivory was last seen on CNN decrying how, in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict, “everything is about the lines of racism in America.”
It is unlikely that Ivory would see a miscarriage of justice in the 2009 acquittal of Rochester, New York’s Roderick Scott, an African-American man who was charged with manslaughter after he shot and killed a 17-year-old white teenager who threatened to kill him. The aggrieved parents also railed against what they saw as the unfortunate message the jury was sending to America – in effect, legalizing vigilante justice — but this was an emotional argument. The jury did nothing but acknowledge the possibility that Scott feared for his life at the time he pulled the trigger.
Nor is it likely that Ivory would see evidence of that America is transforming into a post-Zimmerman dystopia in the story of a Texas woman who shot and killed a man she said was trying to attack her. Flanked by supportive community activists on Tuesday, the 23-year-old female assault victim insisted that she only acted in self-defense; her claim clearly supported by surveillance video footage at the gas station where the assault took place. This case has inspired little in the way of outrage, but the gender of the victim and the intra-racial nature of the violence – both victim and assailant were black – surely has something to do with the muted reaction.
These are only two of the countless examples of justified self-defense that occur every day in America. Ivory’s selective outrage suggests that she is not as concerned with “vigilante justice” as she claims to be.
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