If you know me, you know I have to express some thoughts regarding the outcome of the Martin/Zimmerman case. You are free to read or not.
I do not know exactly what happened out there on that street. Frankly, nobody does. Mr. Zimmerman says he does, and maybe that is correct. Or maybe it is the facts as he recalls them. Or maybe he's embellishing. Or hoping. Or lying. Doesn't matter. There were some peripheral witnesses and they can't quite agree on the facts either. Truthfully, if there were 100 witnesses, we'd have 100 different accounts of what happened. But, in the end, we don't actually know exactly what happened. We rarely do.
Therefore, I do not take issue with the jury, the verdict or our judicial system as it played out here. With the exception of the prosecution doing a fairly lackluster, if not incompetent job, everybody did exactly what they are supposed to do in this case. The judge was stellar and fair, the jury was responsible and engaged and even the parties on each side have accorded themselves with a fair amount of grace. The verdict is the verdict and it should stand.
However, here's what we do know for certain. Trayvon Martin went out for some groceries and was on his way back to his father's home. He was unarmed. That's all we know about Trayvon on that night. Unarmed, and with no obvious intention to harm anyone.
Here's what we know about George Zimmerman -- he is not a law enforcement officer. But he has the right to carry a deadly weapon. And he took it upon himself to be the official watchdog for a neighborhood. Without training, he profiled a young black man he deemed "suspicious". He called the authorities and was told emphatically TO STAND DOWN. Do not pursue. DO NOT take any action.
George Zimmerman did not listen to that. He took his weapon and he continued to pursue or observe or whatever you want to call it. At that point, he became the threat to an innocent young man. Suddenly, for no reason, a stranger was pursuing Trayvon Martin. ALL the facts confirm that.
Now, whether he stalked or cornered or provoked or attacked Trayvon... we will never know. Whether Trayvon was frightened and so he attacked what he thought to be a threat first .... we will never know. Whether there was a confrontation that escalated into an assault... we will never know. All those answers died with Trayvon.
But here's what we do know --- if George Zimmerman had done as he was ordered to do, no crime and no tragedy would have occurred that night. Trayvon was not apparently out to harm or rob anyone, he was going home. Zimmerman would have been a vigilant neighborhood watchman and Trayvon would have been with his family - no harm done. But Zimmerman did not do as he was ordered.
Emboldened by the gun in his pocket, he exited his vehicle and pursued Martin in some way. And now we have the end result. Would Zimmerman have pursued if he did not have that gun his pocket? Who knows. I believe he would not. He certainly would not have put himself in a situation where there would be confrontation. The gun in his pocket is what caused this death. Without it, this would not have gone down this way.
Florida's Stand Your Ground (and yes, I know that was not cited in this case) is a very double-edged sword. I completely agree that a potential victim, fearing for their life and safety or the life and safety of loved ones, MUST TAKE ACTION to defend themselves. And they cannot be thinking about whether or not that action is radical in the moment. I believe the desire of this law to alleviate that burden for a true victim is a decent desire and I support it.
But this law has not been thought through sufficiently.
With SYG, the victim's actions die with them. So we cannot examine anyones state of mind. In an extreme circumstance, given this current law, I could walk down any Florida street, confront any individual I want, and I could shoot them dead. Without witnesses, I could concoct any story I like as long as the motif is "I was in fear for my life". And who would be there to deny I wasn't in fear for my life? No one. No one knows the build up, no one knows what I was thinking or feeling.
Did Zimmerman have injuries of a struggle? Yes. Listen to the recording of the screams. Assume it was him being beaten. Were the injuries commensurate with the severity of the attack he is claiming? I've been in martial art matches that end with equal injury. But there was no sign of "deadly force" trauma in those matches - nor in this case. So, was Zimmerman being beaten? Possibly. But if you're being straddled and someone is smashing your head against pavement, you get more than cuts. You get concussions; lacerations; swelling; fractures; blackouts. The kinds of injuries he sustained - well, if any of you ever wrestled or have kids that wrestle, you've probably seen these injuries before.
I'm not saying he wasn't being beaten. I'm not saying he wasn't scared to death. But all he had to do was pull out the gun. That usually backs an unarmed man down. Shoot the leg, the arm. There are so many possibilities here that did not have to conclude with deadly force. SYG needs to be revised to share a burden of proof that the aggressor's life or safety was in "practical danger". It can't just be a claim. There must be some evidence, don't ya think? And defending does not automatically mean killing. Authorities can't use deadly force unless confronted with deadly force. So why are we any less responsible?
There is no undoing this tragedy. And I do believe that Zimmerman will pay a heavy price, if not exactly a judicial one. But I believe to my soul that this is a glowing example of what a gun in every pocket will lead to. No gun - Zimmerman stays in the car, no one gets hurt, no crime committed. Gun in pocket, Zimmerman thinks he's a hero.
And to the wonderful people who find it necessary to tell me I live behind gates, walls and security guards - I don't. I live in a lovely little community where there have been a slew of break-ins lately. And to those who think I am just an anti-gun liberal - I am not that, either. I support responsible gun ownership. But that word "responsible" does not get near enough attention and therein lies our crisis. It's the important word. But the people who just vilify me won't have read this far anyway and won't believe or care if they have. They already think they are "responsible". But spewing vitriol and obscenity and hate, whilst having deadly weapons? I'm not sure Webster's would label that "responsible". And having "military", "God-fearing", "conservative" or "patriot" in your profile doesn't alter that one bit.
Again, a young man died and he didn't have to. He was not a predator, he should not have been a victim. To his family and friends - my sympathies. I hope he's in a better place.