Monday, July 15, 2013

Thoughts on the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman Ruling...

If you're of the mind that George Zimmerman should've been found guilty of, well something this weekend, you're not alone. A jury of adults sat through the five week trial, listened to all the evidence, and in the end decided he was not guilty of the charges the State of Florida had claimed he was.

As the verdict was announced Saturday evening, social media exploded with strong words from all directions. The Martin sympathizers felt George Zimmerman had gotten away with the murder of a young African American boy who had broke no laws and hadn't initiated the conflict that night. The Zimmerman camp let out a huge sigh of relief as the burden of proof, which apparently hadn't been met according to the jury, largely explained Mr. Zimmerman being cleared of all charges.

I too, chimed in with this on facebook:

It boggles my mind how after being told to not pursue Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman ignored those instructions and went after him anyway. Something transpired...and TM was shot...and died. 

I know there's likely Civil actions coming up, for which GZ WILL probably pay a pretty penny, but I'm feeling something failed in this process.

Let me be clear. I do not want any man convicted of a crime he hasn't been found guilty of in a Court of Law. I reject the mob mentality that seems to be forgetting that we have due process in this Country. The case, to me at least, seemed to be a difficult one for the State to prove from the start. Reasonable doubt wasn't all that hard to achieve for the defense.

I do think the prosecution seemed to over-reach with its charges of 2nd degree murder and manslaughter, especially given the lack of evidence they had. Some legal experts have suggested that with no eyewitness, no video recording, etc., a lessor charge such as stalking might've been more in order. I won't presume to know why the State of Florida went the route they did. Was there a pressure, direct or otherwise, to pursue the more severe charges against Zimmerman to appease some racial concerns? I don't know...A 17 yr. old kid gets gunned down by someone older and with a different skin color. Perhaps its a fine line. What's the right level of charges? Was it thought they'd aim high and give themselves room to negotiate a plea deal downward? Who knows?

On some level, I feel in my heart that if Mr. Zimmerman had made different choices that night, Trayvon Martin would still be alive. It must also be said that perhaps those words can apply to Mr. Martin as well. I am able to construct a possible chain of events where Martin feared for his safety and decided he needed to fight Zimmerman then and there. Once he started to get the best of the older man, Zimmerman pulls out his gun and shoots Martin to save himself. If Martin had kept walking or done something other than "allegedly" respond at some point in a physical way, might he be alive? Perhaps.

After giving this a lot of thought over the weekend and reading a wide range of opinions on the shooting and verdict, my bottom line is this.

The adult should have showed more restraint, especially after the instructions from the 911 operator. Martin never sought him out to set things in motion. Zimmerman, under the guise of a neighborhood watchman role, saw him walking and then took the steps he did. If I'm asked to excuse an adult for poor restraint and bad judgement, the 17 year boy also gets at least the same courtesy.

Race was clearly a part of this trial but I'm not sure exactly how. Did Zimmerman shoot Martin because he was Black? Maybe, but I can't say for sure. Did the prosecution aim too high so not to appear uncaring to the Black community? Maybe, but I can't say for sure.

There's plenty of outrageous voices from both sides saying some outrageous things since the verdict was announced. On some level, perhaps we wanted it to really be all about race for some reason. Americans have a real appetite for these sort of stories. We'll tune in every night to watch the latest television shows that promise us "up to date information and analysis." If we didn't tune in, and support it - it wouldn't be shown. Period.

I don't even think this is a particularly critical case in terms of gun violence. Bottom line, one person died in this shooting. There have been thousands of other shootings in the country since this one, and we don't know names, places, etc. Again, I think the racial component...however a big reason why this case came to the forefront.

I'm ok with the jury finding George Zimmerman innocent based on the evidence. I also would've been ok if they'd found him guilty, based on the evidence. As I've said, I think he made several poor choices that evening. If his actions don't meet a criminal threshold, fine...I hope the Martin family pursues their civil prosecution rights and enjoy a different outcome.

A final word on the United States Justice Department filing any hate crimes against Zimmerman. Tread carefully, don't over-reach. If the facts, not suspicions, but the facts justify it, then proceed. To file charges and then fail in securing a guilty verdict would be damaging to overall best interests of the country. A lot of people are going to wonder why the Government would go after someone a Court just ruled was innocent. You better have a helluva strong case and you better present it convincingly. Some will say that perhaps like the prosecution, these charges, should they actually be pursued, might be an example of over-reach.

Please get it right and for the right reasons.

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