The Dead Black Boy Business
Without civil immunity, the unscrupulous would cash in on $1 million payouts
Wes Denham is the co-author of "Arrest-Proof Yourself" and author of "Arrested, What to Do When Your Loved One's in Jail." He is currently at work on “The Crime Wasn’t Murder: The Death of Trayvon Martin and the Prosecution of George Zimmerman.” You can reach him at wesdenham.com.
The most horrific consequence of the shooting of Trayvon Martin was that it set the floor price for dead black boys at $1 million. That's the amount paid by the insurers of The Retreat at Twin Lakes Townhomes on a lawsuit threatened by Benjamin Crump and Daryl Parks on behalf of Trayvon's divorced parents.
The essence of the action was the assertion that George Zimmerman, coordinator of the condos' Neighborhood Watch and Trayvon's shooter, was an agent of the townhome, which was therefore liable to pay for Trayvon's death. In actuality, cops, not condos, direct Neighborhood Watch programs, absolutely and minutely. Unfortunately for the litigious, the boys and girls in blue have a liability cap of $200,000, with no interest or punitive damages, granted by the Florida Legislature. To a big law firm, that's chump change.
Besides, cities, states and the police are notoriously difficult to sue. In the Trayvon matter, no civil trial was necessary. With the media howling race killing, the insurance company rolled over like a spanked puppy and spit up the policy limit.
Had the condominium and its insurers held out for 18 months, which is easy to do in court, they would have had to pay absolutely zero because George Zimmerman was acquitted by a jury of his peers. After an acquittal in a self-defense shooting, all parties gain de facto immunity from civil lawsuits from Florida's "stand your ground" law.
After Trayvon's death and long before Zimmerman's trial, Crump and Parks, who are personal injury lawyers — not "family attorneys," as was endlessly parroted by the press — motored to the Capitol and appeared before the microphones. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton parachuted in from Chicago and New York and helped orchestrate a media-amplified howl for repeal of "stand your ground." The talk was about Trayvon, but the lobbying was about getting rid of civil immunity.
That went nowhere, of course. To a conservative Legislature and an even more conservative governor, the Rev. Jesse, Big Al and the plaintiffs' bar are about as popular as scabies.
Civil immunity is important. Every year, several citizens in Jacksonville are granted "stand your ground" immunity in obvious cases of self-defense. Usually, these are carjackings and home invasions, where the bad guys are armed strangers and the drivers and homeowners shoot first or best.
I live in a neighborhood where black boys get dead for free. How many more would take a dirt nap if they were suddenly worth $1 million each — a common liability limit for homes, condos, apartments and small stores?
If civil immunity goes bye-bye at the next legislative session, I foresee unintended consequences, all of them evil. How long will it be before scumbag parents, who already sell their babies for meth, encourage inconvenient teenaged sons to knock off neighborhood stores where the owners manning the registers are armed to the teeth? Once they blast the kid, Mummy and Da-da can sue, then retire.
The gangs will get into the dead boy business, of course. Mid-level dope dealers and car thieves make about six figures a year, but for this they'd have to work hard and take risks. It would be so much easier to make buddy-buddy with some street jit, ply the twerp with enough dope to prevent thinking, then hand him a pistol and point him toward a well-insured condo, apartment building or store where a confederate is waiting to gun him. When the family and the attorneys collect, the bad guys will be at the door for their "commission."
Would attorneys get into the murder-for-hire business? They might. Every year, famous plaintiffs' attorneys receive long prison sentences for suborning witnesses, paying phony "lead" defendants to start class actions and bribing judges.
In Florida, where there are more attorneys than paying clients, the temptation will be there, possibly for successful attorneys, but even more for the unsuccessful. All over town, there are guys starving in law offices that used to be broom closets. (I've opposed several, successfully, in county and circuit courts.)
All day and all night, these schnooks watch TV and see the big boys, such as Farah & Farah and Morgan & Morgan, at work and living large off the juicy tenderloin of insurance. They, too, want swank offices, fabulous suits and flossy wives who purr like luxury car engines.
The attorneys' cut of $1 million is $400,000 in large, delicious bills. More than a few might cross some lines for that kind of coin. In a town where for $5,000 you can bump off an annoying husband or wife, how much would it cost to give a black boy a gun and send him to the slaughter?
The irony is, the 900-pound gorilla in the room after Trayvon Martin's shooting wasn't race; it was money. While immunity statutes keep citizens who defend themselves from the poor house, they also keep black boys from being worth more dead than alive.
It's cruel and cynical to say so, but that's how crook-a-nomics works,
In Crime City.