Not guilty, not surprising

I would like to think that any reasonable person can agree that the fact that Travon Martin was fatally shot in an altercation with George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012 is truly tragic. On Saturday night, George Zimmerman was found to be not guilty.

In the Trayvon Martin case, I believe that so many people had already made up their minds that George Zimmerman was so clearly guilty that the facts didn’t matter. But the facts do matter. I always believed that the jury was going to find Zimmerman to be not guilty. Taking all of the emotion out of the case, when the facts were presented, I thought that getting a jury to unanimously agree that Zimmerman was guilty of 2nd degree murder (or even manslaughter) beyond a reasonable doubt was going to be difficult.

And it should be difficult!

Zimmerman’s team didn’t have to prove he was innocent. The state needed to prove he was guilty. But it always seemed reasonable to doubt whether it could be proven that what Zimmerman did was illegal.

On the night of Trayvon Martin’s death, as Zimmerman called authorities and followed Martin, did Zimmerman handle the situation in the absolute best way possible? Probably not. Could Zimmerman and should Zimmerman have waited for actual law enforcement to arrive? Probably. But without doing those things, as an ordinary citizen, Zimmerman still had the right to be out in his own community of residence, and he had the right to do that without being viciously attacked.

Zimmerman was participating in a neighborhood watch program and there had been a series of robberies which were reportedly perpetrated by an African American teenage male. Trayvon Martin fit that description and Zimmerman was curious. We can say that he shouldn’t have been profiling, but he still had the right to be where he was and to be doing what he was doing. And even if we can agree that police officers shouldn’t racially profile, Zimmerman wasn’t a police officer! He was a suspicious citizen. And as unjustified as some might think he was to be doing what he was doing, that still doesn’t change the fact that he had the right to be outside, in close proximity to Trayvon Martin.

As the situation escalated and a physical altercation between the two men erupted, with Martin on top of Zimmerman, with the risk of bodily harm or death, Zimmerman retaliated in self-defense. Martin was the aggressor. Don’t believe me? Think I’m wrong? In the trial, the state was unable to provide any evidence that contradicted Zimmerman’s account of the event or to show he was the aggressor. Once the assault began, Zimmerman was not in a position to remove himself. It’s not like Martin shoved Zimmerman and Zimmerman shot him. Martin was physically bigger than Zimmerman and had him pinned to the ground as he was fighting him.

And various political demagogues inflamed a nation with this case. Zimmerman may have been found not guilty but he still has a life sentence. He will never be able to lead a normal life. Threats are rampant as people call for justice for Trayvon. Zimerman doesn’t seem like a saint or an especially wonderful person. But he also doesn’t seem like a racist who was looking for trouble. He was a small time vigilante with no real authroty who got himself into a dangerous situation when he was in over his head and he needed to avct. To paraphrase a point made by lawyer and radio show host Mark Levin, it’s not like Zimmerman wasn’t justified in using deadly force up until the moment before he was beaten to death (as if such a thing could even be known). No in the middle of the situation, a decision needed to be made.

The result was unfortunate.

jrb

3 thoughts on “Not guilty, not surprising”

  1. It’s nice to know that I can go to Florida, buy a gun, follow a young black man, accost or initiate an altercation with the young man, and, when things aren’t going my way, I can shoot and kill him in self-defense. Wasn’t Travon Martin standing his ground when followed and accosted by an armed man? Would Travon Martin have been found not guilty if he had manslaughtered George Zimmerman? Since when does the right to be suspicious count for more than the right to continue living by the suspected? If I see George Zimmerman approaching me on the street do I have the right to be suspicious of him and accost him and ask him if he has a gun and what does he think he’s doing and if we begin fighting and I stand my ground and shoot him to death what then? I don’t think George Zimmerman had murder in his heart, but I believe his actions led to an act of manslaughter on his part. Zimmerman’s life may never be the same, but Travon Martin’s life will never be.

  2. Thanks Mike. I really do appreciate the feedback. I think we can definitely agree that it’s a horrible circumstance. I honestly don’t think either man handled the situation in the best way possible. I do disagree that Martin was standing his ground. I think that Martin didn’t like the fact that he was being followed (which I think is reasonable) and decided that he was going to confront Zimmerman. It’s what he said to his girlfriend, even. As far as the idea that Zimmerman was an aggressor or that his actions warranted such a response from Martin, I don’t feel that there was ever any strong evidence to corroborate that. Being out in public and following Martin were not crimes.

    Again, I do appreciate the thoughtful comments. I hope things are going well. How about those Lions.

  3. How ’bout those Lions? I trust that you’re doing well where you are and I hope Mel is safe and well where she is.
    Travon Martin’s death makes me think about how young black people of all colors have been dying in our streets, our wars, and our prisons just because they are black since long before I was born and during my entire life and there seems no end in sight. It makes me think of so many of the things that are wrong with this country.
    Just when gay people finally achieve the civil right to get married, affirmative action ends. Women have the right to serve in the military as long as they shut-up and take their rapings like honorable soldiers, and if they get pregnant from those rapings they can’t get an abortion.
    We are allowing the sound and fury of our punishing outrage when a white person uses the word “nigger” to distract us from the greater injustice of black people losing the right to vote.
    There are tens of thousands of mixed-race Amerasians in the Philippines because for generations our U.S. servicemen dumped their sperm into whatever holes were available and then walked away without taking responsibility for the children born from those sperm dumpings. Yet, one of the worse things you can be in this country is a Deadbeat Dad.
    Poor people work the most dangerous jobs but we provide them no healthcare when they get injured. Doctors and other medical professionals allegedly operate under the concept of “First Do No Harm,” but the health system in this country first does harm by pricing tens of millions of people out before they even seek help.
    We’re supposed to believe that whistleblowing on the U.S. government’s illegal wiretapping of everyone is worse than the illegal wiretapping itself, because the government says they are protecting us from terrorists. When protecting us from terrorists how many acts of rape, torture, murder, oppression, and just plain meanness can we commit before we ask ourselves, “Who is terrorizing whom?”
    What is wrong with this country? There will be more people upset by the words I have used and the manner in which I have used them, than will be upset by the egregious behavior described by my words.

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