Jul 5, 2013

After nearly two weeks of testimony, the State of Florida has rested its case in the second degree murder trial of George Zimmerman (GZ), the man who claims to have killed unarmed 17-year old Trayvon Martin (TM) in self-defense last year. Many people have already formed a solid opinion about GZ's innocence or guilt.  Undoubtedly they are viewing the case through the lens of that opinion.  Personally, I want a conviction minimally of manslaughter.  From the moment the state charged him, I thought second-degree murder was a stretch.   Having no legal expertise whatsoever, however, I must defer to the state prosecutors.  Somehow they deemed the murder charge appropriate. 

Yes, manslaughter at a minimum is what I want.  I stated in a previous post that I do not believe GZ followed TM with the intent to kill him.  What I do have a problem with is the notion that GZ can create a hostile situation inducing fear by following the young man for a reason unknown to TM. GZ knew why he was following the young man, but TM did not know why.  They were total strangers.  Who wouldn't be afraid?  A fist fight ensues.  GZ shoots, kills the unarmed teenager and gets to plead self-defense?  I do not think so and it disturbs me greatly at how anyone can objectively look at this case and think it is ok.  Being level-headed and objective is a strength of mine.  Looking at the basics of this case, GZ's self-defense claim is not sufficient. 

Yes this was my thinking before the trial started and I hold to it.  As we all know TM was walking minding his own business returning from the store with something to drink and Skittles for his soon-to-be younger stepbrother.  GZ's suspicion of TM was unfounded.  I find it ironic that the GZ is to be presumed innocent when he presumed TM's guilt from the very beginning and held to it, referring to TM as a suspect in his interviews with police.  In his infamous interview with Sean Hannity, he says the events that night were "God's plan."  While he may later argue those comments were a poor choice of words, his lack of remorse was beyond apparent.  Can I say he had a depraved mind?  No but I think he deluded himself into thinking he was more capable and had more authority than he actually had.  There's something about being armed that emboldens a person like that.  So if a person is big and bad enough to believe something is true, that person gets to follow through with it even to the detriment of another?

A common refrain that I heard from defenders of GZ is that is not illegal to follow someone.  It may not be illegal but it is highly problematic.  Person A follows person B for whatever reason.  Person B becomes uncomfortable/fearful because person B is doing nothing wrong.  A comes upon B.  A feels justified in his/her stance and B feels likewise.  Who has a duty to retreat?  Who is well within their right to protect themselves? The societal implications of this case are scary.  Parameters and boundaries must be clearly established. Perception is not reality.  Perception can be proven true or false.  In this case, GZ's perception of TM was false.  Quite frankly if there were evidence that TM was planning to commit a crime, he still did not deserve to be shot and killed in the manner that occurred that night.

Since hearing of the heroism that occurred on Flight 93 that went down in Pennsylvania on 9/11, I believe that many Americans are on heightened alert for potential crime and feel that they have a duty to intervene should the situation compel such action.  This is an understandable mentality considering all that occurred on 9/11.  Bystanders can assist law enforcement tremendously.  However, law enforcement does not want untrained individuals to go into harm's way.  Therefore, limitations to their involvement is strongly advised.  The gist of that admonishment is "if you see something; say something."  There is no indication for untrained and unauthorized individuals to do anything more.  Vigilante behavior is risky and ill-advised.  Law enforcement is inherently dangerous and personnel are trained in the best practices to keep themselves as safe as possible.  Those outside of law enforcement do not have such training and could find themselves in precarious circumstances.  The probability of injury or loss of life increases.  Law enforcement does not need the additional complication of a "wannabe hero" in the mix.

An acquittal in the case against GZ, in my opinion, is a nod to vigilante behavior.   An acceptance of vigilante behavior combined with a proud gun culture, to me, is a recipe for disaster.  Add to that laws that allow for the use of deadly force.  Add to that the suspicion that tends to follow men of color in this country.  The end result is frightening. On top of all of that GZ has yet to show any level of remorse.  An acquittal in this case allows for targeted conflicts with no regard for the worst-possible outcome.  We cannot have people acting on their own feelings/suspicions cavalierly. 

The racial implications of this case are too lengthy to describe.  Plus I do not think I am the best one to articulate those implications.  One point that I would like to highlight is the fact that GZ is latino.  I think there is this assumption that there is camaraderie between blacks and latinos such that neither group would discriminate against the other.  That is not the case.  Both groups often are on the same side of certain debates because of the shared experience of disdain from some of the majority in this country.  But make no mistake about it, there is more hostility between the two races than meets the eye.  Even if there was no racial hatred or bias on the part of GZ, an acquittal is yet another example that there is little empathy for a black victim in the United States of America and such sentiment can be no longer.


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