In a not so surprising verdict, George Zimmerman was found innocent on Saturday afternoon of the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.
This was not a surprising verdict on many levels. The media hyped the divide in race and racial profiling. The prosecution pounded their fists on the podium as they argued their case against George Zimmerman. The prosecution argued that Zimmerman racially profiled Trayvon Martin and hunted him down to kill him. The state came to the table with a very weak case on the charges brought- 2nd degree murder and manslaughter. Zimmerman came to the table with a very strong argument that he shot Martin in self defense.
Remember, the state’s burden to prove was “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Was it beyond a reasonable doubt that the story was not as Zimmerman told it? I don’t think do. This is merely a case where no one really knows what happened. And that in itself is reasonable doubt that would prevent conviction.
Also, remember that once self defense is alleged, it is the State’s burden to prove the ABSENCE of self defense. The State simply failed to disprove self defense.
- Second degree murder is defined in Florida Statutes Section 782.04(2) as: “The unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual, is murder in the second degree and constitutes a felony of the first degree”
- Manslaughter is defined in Florida Statutes Section 782.07(1) as: “The killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification according to the provisions of chapter 776 and in cases in which such killing shall not be excusable homicide or murder, according to the provisions of this chapter, is manslaughter, a felony of the second degree”
- The allusive self-defense statute, 776.012: “A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if: (1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony
Read: the full jury instructions including the law and directing the jury how to weight the evidence.
Unfortunately, the prosecution could prove none of this. It was clear from the start that the prosecution intended on appealing to emotion rather than the facts of the case as it had a weak case and a high burden to prove. The prosecution seemed intent on stirring stir up the courtroom and jury by appealing to the all-women jury to think of Martin as their own son, and how this innocent African American boy had been racially profiled by a “wannabe” police officer who stalked and shot him.
But the facts simply did not support this portrayal. The defense made an incredibly persuasive argument that merely following another person is not illegal; and it is not by any Florida law, criminal or otherwise. Was Zimmerman following Martin? Maybe. Did Zimmerman follow Martin because he was a “suspicious black kid in a predominantly white neighborhood?” Maybe. But Martin could have kept walking, or simply gone home. The evidence highly suggests that instead Martin decided to confront Zimmerman. Martin made a choice that ultimately could have prevented his death.
The fact that Martin may have been allegedly racially profiled only leads up to this choice, but did not force Martin to act.
The facts showed that, at least at some point, there was some kind of physical altercation between the two and that Martin was bashing Zimmerman’s head into the concrete. The ONLY eye witness, a neighbor, said that he though he saw Martin on top of Zimmerman pounding him with his fists. There were NO other witnesses, so this is the only story we have to go on, and it must be accepted if there is no other evidence.
As soon as Zimmerman feared for his life, or the threat of great bodily harm (such as bashing one’s head into concrete would constitute), he was entitled to use deadly force against Martin. Period. Florida law, unlike other states, allows for the unequal use of force in self defense; including deadly force as was used here.
This is not a case of white vs. black or race, despite what the media has made it sound. It would be the exact same result if this was a trial of a white man killed, Hispanic, or otherwise. Race simply does matter. As the law is written ANYONE would have been fund equally innocent under these sets of facts. Period.
This case was not about race, but about the letter of the law. Even if Zimmerman profiled Martin, this profiling did not directly relate to Zimmerman shooting Martin. Martin’s choice to confront Zimmerman and use force against Zimmerman led to his death.
Its disappointing that President Obama made a comment before the trial that Trayvon “looked like what his son would look like.” Wholly inappropriate. Its disappointing that the NAACP has just asked the Department of Justice to file civil rights charges against Zimmerman; a further waste of taxpayer money. The death was NOT directly related to race, even if profiling was involved. It was directly related on this 17 year old boy’s own reaction that cause his untimely death.
The jury made the correct verdict by the facts and what was argued or not argued in the courtroom. The killing was because one aggressive man started a fight instead of walking away and was bashing another man’s head into the concrete, and the second man defended himself and shot the first. No need to mention race, the facts are the facts. It sounds like the public’s gripe is with the “Stand Your Ground” law itself and the way it is written, because all Zimmerman did was fall into this set of facts that this law protects. It could have been anyone who shot Martin- Hispanic, Arab, African American, Asian or otherwise.
People want to compare this to the case earlier this year in Jacksonville where an African American woman fired a warning shot into the air, and got 20 years in prison. The judge disallowed the “stand your ground” defense. The argument is now that a black woman tries it she gets jail but a white man uses it and he gets off. NO. Read the facts of the woman’s case. Yes she had a restraining order against her violent ex husband. She went back to their house to get clothes thinking he was not home but he was. She went back outside to get the gun, came in and fired the warning shots. WENT BACK OUTSIDE AND GOT THE GUN. Huge difference in facts from this case. She could have easily run or driven away. But she chose to get the gun and go back into the house voluntarily. This was not self defense at this point or stand your ground.
I ask one last interesting question that no one seems to want to ask- where were these rights groups, advocates, and protesters when 20 black men where killed in Chicago in black on black gang violence over the July 4th holiday, or the dozens killed in major cities every day by “black on black” violence? Nowhere to be found. It is unfortunate that it seems to be an issue and a call for justice when one race kills another race.