Rumor, conjecture, race, debate over the appropriateness of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” (SYG), and the debate over concealed carry among other discussions in the media and social media have taken on lives of their own in fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. Protests have sprung up around the country demanding “justice” for the “murder”* of Martin allegedly committed by George Zimmerman who claims that he fired the fatal shot(s) in self defense. Others wonder why this story, because of the racial aspects, receive so much national media attention while cases involving white victims with black suspects do not, implying a politically correct double standard.** To inflame the debate even more, leading presidential candidates have weighed in thus (perhaps) turning this case, not only into a black vs. white issue, but also red vs. blue (or Right vs. Left if you prefer).
These all may be relevant issues for another debate, but should not determine the level of “justice” that will hopefully be determined in a court of law rather than the court of public opinion. Unfortunately, it seems that most people have taken sides without knowing all of the relevant facts of the case. Personally, I haven’t “taken sides” because there is plenty of conflicting accounts of what happened that fateful night and I don’t trust everything that is being reported***.
The real question in the case is, did George Zimmerman truly act in self defense and stand his ground as he claimed? This depends entirely on what actually happened; the factual details in this case (known and unknown) is all that really matter. Neal Boortz wrote perhaps the most balanced piece I have read so far on this case. Here he outlines three possible scenarios of the night in question.
As for the SYG law and the Trayvon Martin case, I haven’t seen anyone else bring this up, but both Trayvon and Zimmerman had the SYG law on their side under the three possible operating scenarios here:
1. George Zimmerman. If Zimmerman was attacked by Trayvon, as he claims, he had the legal authority to use deadly force to repel the attack. BUT .. and this is a big but here .. if he was pursuing Trayvon, as he said he was, the SYG law would not protect him from prosecution. Zimmerman wasn’t standing his ground. He was in pursuit. I see no reason for repeal of SYG here because the law will not stand as a defense for what Zimmerman did. By the way …. I heard Juan Williams on Fox News Channel say – not once, but several times — that George Zimmerman had been told by the police to stop his pursuit of Trayvon. First of all, there is no evidence that the 911 dispatcher Zimmerman was talking to was was a police officer. Secondly, the dispatcher didn’t say “Don’t do that.” The dispatcher said “You don’t need to be doing that.” Telling someone that they don’t need to be doing something is quite different from telling someone NOT to do something. Williams should understand this.
2. Trayvon Martin: How would the SYG law stand to protect Trayvon? If Trayvon had noticed he was being followed, and if he elected to flee his pursuer he would have every right to do so. He would also have every right to turn and to confront his pursuer. That would be “standing your ground.” So the rumored testimony of this eyewitness who said he saw Zimmerman on the ground with Trayvon pummeling him does not necessarily implicate Trayvon. If he was standing his ground he was acting within the law.
3. Now here’s where it could get complicated. What if Zimmerman had ceased his pursuit of Trayvon and retreated to his car. What if Trayvon then pursued Zimmerman to his car and attacked him. Trayvon would then lose his protection under SYG, just as Zimmerman did when he initiated a pursuit. But if Zimmerman than became the pursued instead of the pursuer, does he then have the SYG law to rely on? That’s an interesting question, and one that I think would have to be put in front of a jury.
Obviously, the number of scenarios of what might have really happened cannot be limited to these three but I think these can serve as a useful starting point for a productive debate.
Can we all agree that if Zimmerman pursued (which by nearly all counts and by the 911 call seems to be the case at least initially) and confronted Martin, Zimmerman was not acting in self defense?
Can we also agree that IF Zimmerman was following Martin and gave reason for Martin to believe Zimmerman was meaning him harm that Martin also had every right to stand his ground and use lethal force if he believed it necessary to defend himself? Would those of you who wholeheartedly believe that Zimmerman was acting in self defense when he fired the shot(s) be defending Martin had HE shot and killed Zimmerman because Martin was in fear for his life?
The third scenario is the most difficult quandary of all but could a reasonable person conclude that maybe they were both in the wrong? Could Zimmerman’s wrongful pursuit be “canceled out” by Martin’s pursuit and attack if Zimmerman was returning to his vehicle? In the event that they both contributed to Martin’s death, what would be the appropriate verdict? In my lay opinion, convicting Zimmerman of murder would be inappropriate here; a good case could be made that he could be guilty of manslaughter though.
With all the conflicting reports in the media, it seems to me that this is hardly a cut and dry case of murder or standing one’s ground. People on all sides of this issue should resist making this about every civil rights sin ever committed by members of various races. This case is about two individuals, George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. Not Al Sharpton, nor the New Black Panthers, nor bigoted white people racially profiling.
For those of you who are marching for “justice” for Martin, is this truly what you want or do you want revenge? Are you willing to accept the possibility that after a jury (be it grand jury or a jury deciding if Zimmerman is guilty of murder or a lesser charge) hears the evidence that they might determine that there isn’t enough evidence to prove Martin guilty of murder? Like it or not, in our system the accused is supposed to be considered innocent until proven guilty. This means that sometimes people actually do get away with murder. If the state fails to prove Zimmerman is guilty, don’t blame the jury, blame the state for failing to prove his guilt.
For those of you who are certain that Zimmerman was in the right, I pose the same above question to you. Additionally, are you willing to modify your views if the facts turn out to be opposite of your initial thoughts on the case?
It’s high time for everyone to take a deep breath and let the process work and let the chips fall where they may. Justice is more important than your damned political agenda.
» Read more