I have been making a concerted effort in 2013 to be less reactionary and thus far I feel as though I have been mostly successful. It is primarily for that reason that I have not weighed in on the George Zimmerman murder trial in the shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. However, now that a verdict has been handed down and all the nutjobs on both sides (okay…most of them are on one particular side) have spouted their venom the time has come for me to offer a sensible, thoughtful, reasonably intelligent commentary on the matter.
We must establish first a premise that I think most rational people can agree with…that there are no winners in all of this. A 17 year old kid is dead. The life of the 28 year old man who pulled the trigger has been irrevocably altered. It is an undeniable tragedy all the way around.
I do not normally follow such stories and this case is no exception. Life is hard and it is short. I prefer to grab happiness wherever I can (within acceptable legal & moral limits of course), so I tend to lean toward more…pleasurable…amusement than a sensationalistic criminal trial that has become a political football. I had enough of all that during the infamous OJ Simpson situation in the mid-1990’s. Soap operas, baseball games, & pro wrestling may not be the most enriching way to be entertained, but I find that it beats the heck out of wallowing in the real life misery of others. However, this particular case was difficult to completely escape.
Though I toyed with the idea of attending law school in my younger years I never followed thru so I am not a legal expert. However, from what I do know about the law and about this case it seems like the jury came to the correct conclusion. Zimmerman acted in self-defense. But you & I both know that there are few things in life that are cut & dried, slam dunk, or…dare I say…black & white. One’s opinion about this situation likely comes down to what you believe about the two parties involved.
The prosecution tried to paint Martin as an innocent young boy who was just trying to take his Skittles and go home. They attempted to portray Zimmerman as a dirty racist cop wannabe who racially profiled the young lad, picked a fight with him, and didn’t hesitate to murder him in cold blood.
The defense wanted the jury to believe that Martin was a young thug who was up to no good and viciously attacked Zimmerman, a solid citizen who was trying to serve his community by being a part of the neighborhood watch program and who had to shoot the punk to save his own life.
As usual I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. There is ample evidence to suggest that Trayvon Martin was far from an innocent child. Like so many modern youths it appears that Martin was a young man who tried hard to be cool by being “gangsta”. There are photographs of him smoking marijuana and brandishing weapons. He had been suspended from school multiple times, although it was for things like truancy and graffiti…nothing violent. Does any of that mean that he deserved to die?? Of course not. However, it is a valuable lesson on the power of perception and the importance of presenting oneself in a respectable way. The jury obviously believed that Martin was…to some degree…what my grandparents might call a hoodlum or a hooligan.
I do not believe that George Zimmerman was looking for a fight or simply went after Martin because he was black. However, I do think that Zimmerman was…overzealous. I’ve never been involved in a neighborhood watch program and know nothing about them, but I find it difficult to fathom that carrying a gun is normal protocol. Obviously the 2nd Amendment guarantees one the freedom to own a gun (for now) and after clearing certain hurdles and fulfilling legal requirements one can carry a firearm, but I am guessing that the typical neighborhood watch procedure is to notify law enforcement when you spot trouble and not try to handle the situation on your own. Zimmerman did call the cops, but he also followed Martin, which was a huge mistake.
We know that there was a fight. Either Zimmerman decided to not wait for the police and went after Martin, or Martin spotted Zimmerman trailing him and initiated the confrontation. I believe it was the latter and so did the jury. The question then becomes this…if you get into a fight and someone is on top of you bashing your head against the concrete what would you do?? It is fairly obvious to me that the survival instinct would kick in and most people would do whatever is necessary to save their own skin. George Zimmerman happened to have a gun. He used it. He didn’t take a second to try to shoot the kid’s foot or analyze that his attacker was black…he just reacted.
So while it is true that it is a situation that George Zimmerman probably should have never found himself in in the first place, it is equally true that once in over his head he reacted like most anyone probably would react. The more interesting question to me is why Trayvon Martin reacted the way he did and whether or not it was the right way to act. I don’t know the right answer to that. I can understand being scared, angry, or both if you discover that someone is following you. But it seems to me that a wise course of action is to simply stop, turn around, and ask your follower what his problem is and why he is following you. Maybe I am naïve. I have never been in a fistfight and would seek to do anything I could to avoid one. There are some folks though that throw down first and ask questions later. My perception is that that is what occurred here, and sadly it cost Trayvon Martin his life.
After it was all said & done and in the hands of a jury there arose another interesting dilemma. The jury was presented with three options. Either George Zimmerman was not guilty, guilty of murder, or guilty of manslaughter. There was enough reasonable doubt…about a lot of things…that no jury was going to send Zimmerman to prison for life for defending himself. However, the fact is that a young man was dead. He was shot and George Zimmerman pulled the trigger. That fact alone…regardless of the circumstances…lends itself to the idea that some kind of price needs to be paid. The problem?? In the state of Florida a conviction for manslaughter carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years. That too seemed like far too harsh of a punishment in this particular circumstance. I sincerely believe that if the prosecutor would have went for a charge of aggravated assault, which carries a minimum sentence of 3 years, that George Zimmerman may very well have been convicted. However, left with only the two harsher options the jury found the defendant not guilty.
The question then becomes why did the prosecutor roll the dice on a long shot murder charge instead of playing the safer odds and securing a conviction on a much lesser charge. Was it arrogance?? Stupidity?? Political pressure?? My guess is a combination of all those and more.
And now the trial is over and the reaction has been predictable. Conservatives, who in my experience try to be color blind, examine the facts, and have tremendous respect for the rule of law see the logic & wisdom in the decision but understand why supporters of the Martin family may feel cheated out of some measure of justice. Liberals, who tend to be ruled by their emotions and are generally the true racists in America, are outraged, ready to protest, and are calling for the death of George Zimmerman.
As I said, there are no winners here. Trayvon Martin is dead. His family will deal with the pain of that loss for the rest of their lives. George Zimmerman may not be going to an actual prison, but he’ll never be truly free for the rest of his life and must deal with the fact that…regardless of the circumstances…he killed a person. And as far as anyone else’s feelings or opinions…who cares?? Now let me get back to my ESPN and pro wrestling.
- George Zimmerman Had a Gun (elevenmileswestofthegwb.wordpress.com)
- George Zimmerman Acquitted In Trayvon Martin Murder Trial (unilaglss.wordpress.com)
- Beyoncé Honors Trayvon Martin After George Zimmerman Not Guilty Verdict! Watch HERE! (perezhilton.com)
- America erupts as Trayvon Martin killer George Zimmerman is cleared of murder (independent.co.uk)
- Trayvon Martin Riots: Angry Crowds Assemble as George Zimmerman Is Acquitted [AP] (news.softpedia.com)
- Zimmerman not guilty in Trayvon Martin death (utsandiego.com)
- Rallies against Zimmerman verdict being held in US (miamiherald.com)
- George Zimmerman trial: Zimmerman, Martin families react on Twitter (wjla.com)
- Dozens Rally At State Capitol To Protest Trayvon Martin Murder Trial Verdict (arkansasmatters.com)
- Geraldo: If jury were in Zimmerman’s shoes, they’d kill Trayvon Martin (thegrio.com)