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Because most of you are familiar with this national spectacle, I won't rehash all the details of the Florida case for the umpteenth time. Here's a quick rundown of the facts as best I know them for those of you who have been living in another country for the past 17 months:
George Zimmerman, a biracial guy (part Hispanic, part white), was part of a neighborhood watch group. There had been several break-ins in the area. Zimmerman saw 17-year old Trayvon Martin, a black youth, walking between houses in the gated community, and, according to Zimmerman, looking around and acting suspiciously. Zimmerman called 911. Zimmerman told the 911 dispatcher he was going to follow Martin. The 911 dispatcher told Zimmerman "we don't need you to do that". Zimmerman apparently followed Martin anyway. Zimmerman was lawfully carrying a concealed firearm. Martin was unarmed. There is some question about exactly how the confrontation took place, but a confrontation occurred. Martin asked Zimmerman why Zimmerman was following him. Zimmerman asked Martin what he was doing there. A fight ensued. Witnesses stated that Martin was straddled on top of Zimmerman, beating him. Witnesses heard cries for help. Most witnesses said the cries came from Zimmerman. Others, mostly Martin's family members, said the cries for help came from Martin. At some point in the struggle, Zimmerman pulled his gun and shot Martin point blank in the chest, killing him. Zimmerman claims self-defense, saying he feared for his life. He had a broken nose and cuts on the back of his head to support his claim.
Is Zimmerman guilty of murder, or is his self-defense claim valid ?
The first question to answer is, who started the actual fight ? It doesn't really matter who followed who, or who thought what. Maybe the whole thing was a big tragic misunderstanding to begin with, but that doesn't really matter either. What matters first is who committed the initial assault, because that is the initial crime. We don't have any eyewitnesses who can answer that question, so we have to look at what evidence we do have. Zimmerman said Martin sucker punched him, breaking his nose, and then got on top of him, beating him and pounding his head into the ground. The physical evidence (Zimmerman's broken nose and head wounds), along with witnesses who saw Martin on top being the aggressor after the fight began seem to back up Zimmerman's claim.
The second question to answer is, was Zimmerman in sufficient physical danger to use a self-defense justification for shooting Martin ? For a self-defense justification, we use a "reasonable person" standard, which means, would a reasonable person fear for his/her life in such a situation ? That's harder to answer, but the cries for help offer us a clue. Does it make sense that Martin was the one crying for help, when, by witness accounts, Martin was on top of Zimmerman and beating on him ? It doesn't make much sense to me. Usually, the person crying for help is the one who needs help. In this case, that appears to be Zimmerman.
The problem in this case is, we DON'T know for sure exactly how things occurred. If, for example, Zimmerman attacked Martin initially, then what I wrote previously goes out the window. Then Zimmerman is the aggressor, and he should be found guilty of at least manslaughter. However, there is no evidence to support that scenario. We can only go by the evidence that exists, and that points to Zimmerman being acquitted. Barring some last minute explosive new evidence, he can't be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, in my opinion.
Given the political firestorm that surrounds this case, I won't be surprised by anything the jury finds, though it will be a sad day if justice runs second to politics and perceived racial optics. The jury is under tremendous pressure. The case has been compromised by all the hype and prejudicial statements made about it. Even President Obama weighed in half-cocked on the side of Trayvon Martin. It doesn't get more political than that.
I've heard many talking heads on television who side with Martin saying things like, "we'll see if the justice system works", which simply means they want Zimmerman to be found guilty regardless of the facts of the case. Shame on them. That isn't justice. That's blood vengeance. Hopefully, we are better than that.