What a lawyer says: THE RACE CARD?
To recap the controversy in yesterday's blog post and comments, readers are on both sides of the Assistant Public Defender's opening statement, and description of two men who shot the defendant after he tried to run them over with his pick-up truck:
“two young hip hop punks.”
The race card? We think not. To us, that describes, as a good trial strives to do, an attitude, perhaps a sense of lawlessness or dangerous associated with unruly teenagers or young men. To us, race has little to do with that. Is it a stereotype? Sure. Just like in the 1960's or 1970's one could have described someone as a "drugged out, long haired hippy" (notwithstanding the fact that many of those hippies are now hedge fund managers with mansions in Connecticut). In the 1950's one could have used the description "leather jacketed greaser".
The point is that the PD was trying to convey to the jury that his client had a sense of fear based on what he was seeing and the attitude the complaining witnesses were conveying.
Should people act on how others look? Of course not. The essence of any "ism" (sexism, racism, etc) is making judgments on appearances. But the fact is that not only are we humans with eyes, but the self defense jury instruction ALLOWS for the lawful decisions to use force based on appearances (and not actual danger). Florida criminal trial lawyers know that in Florida, the danger must not have been real, but must only have appeared to have been real to the individual who claims to have acted in self defense.
Thus, Florida law allows for a defense based on evidence of how someone felt about another based on how they looked and acted. And in that regard the phrase "young hip hop punks" is lawful and proper in an opening statement. Race inevitably rears its head when the witnesses and defendant are of different races. But that doesn't mean the lawyer "played the race card".
Enjoy a beautiful South Florida spring weekend.