Lessons of Zimmerman’s Defense

Trayvon MartinIt is said that the Florida “stand your ground” law is confusing. And I can see why based upon the little that I’ve seen of the George Zimmerman trial. Today, Rachel Jeantel, the girl who was talking on the phone with Trayvon Martin moments before he was killed, was on the stand. The defense were really pushing on the fact that Jeantel couldn’t say who had thrown the first punch. All I could think was, “Really?!” Is that all this comes down to?

By that interpretation of this confusing law, one could use a very simple process to murder any number of people. Go up to a guy in a bar; really get in his face; tell him that his wife or mother is a whore; when he punches you, pull out a gun and shoot him in the face. If this is what this law allows, it is an evil law.

In the months since this incident, I’ve come up with what I think is a pretty reasonable sequence of events. Zimmerman was following Martin. Eventually, Martin noticed and said something like, “Why are you following me?” This quickly escalated from words to pushing to an all out fight. Martin was getting the best of Zimmerman. So Zimmerman pulled his gun and killed Martin.

To me, this means that Zimmerman is culpable. But according to the defense, and apparently even Florida law, the first person to hit the other is in the wrong. That’s outrageous, but hardly surprising. There is a lot of law like that in America, because we don’t dig on ambiguity or complexity. But this strikes me as an egregious example of this.

There are three things that are clear. First, the Florida “stand your ground” law needs to be changed, or even better, repealed. Second, wannabe cops like Goerge Zimmerman should not be allowed to carry guns around. And third, George Zimmerman (based upon justice and not the details of Florida law) should be convicted of manslaughter and given five to ten years in jail. But I suspect if anything, we will see the law stay as it is, nothing will be done to limit fools carrying guns, and Zimmerman will be acquitted.

It is tragic that Trayvon Martin is dead. But I fear we will further disrespect him by providing no justice in this case and no justice in the law generally moving forward.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Lessons of Zimmerman’s Defense

  1. I’m a bit worried about this trial’s coverage. The important thing is that the Florida law is stupid and needs to be overturned. (Hell, every "gun rights" law in this country needs to be overturned, as you have often written.)

    I fear, if Zimmerman is acquitted, that this will become another "black people are just so crazy with how they see things" media obsession, like with the Simpson trial. Black people in America do have a vastly different experience with the legal system than most white people (75% of Black citizens know somebody who’s in jail or on parole, usually for the pettiest of offenses), and that’s a good topic to be discussed. But you know it won’t be, not in any serious manner.

  2. @JMF – The TV coverage I’ve seen has mostly been of the the kind, "If that state can’t prove that Zimmerman started it, the jury has to acquit." There is no discussion [i]at all[/i] of how evil a law this is that it is even up for debate.

    And you are quite right about perceptions. What’s more, the less likely people are to suffer from crime, the more punitive they are. This is because it is easy for them to dehumanize law breakers. It is not only sad, it is dangerous.

  3. Why do you want Zimmerman convicted of manslaughter? From what I hear,Zimmerman was waiting for a chance to take out a dark guy legally.

    Of course, what I’ve heard may be wrong. But it looks like a racist hate crime. There seems little plausibility to Zimmerman’s claims of self-defence. First-degree murder, life, no parole.

    I have not been following the trial. Was the charge reduced to manslaughter?

  4. @RJ – I don’t [i]want[/i] Zimmerman convicted of manslaughter, I just think that’s the least that ought to happen. He’s only charged with second degree murder. There is no evidence that he meant to kill Martin. Zimmerman thought he was hot shit because he carried a gun. He got in a fight. He found out he was not hot shit. He panicked. He killed Martin. It’s clearly not first degree murder. Second degree is the right charge. But the main thing is that the law is wrong.

    You may be right that it was premeditated, but I haven’t seen any evidence to support that. What’s most concerning is that it [i]could[/i] have been premeditated and that’s why this law is evil.

  5. RJ — It certainly was a hate crime. Whether or not tempers flared on either side, Zimmerman wouldn’t have been stalking a creepy white guy. You’re absolutely right calling it out as such.

    I loathe media circuses like this one. The Florida law is horrible and should not be on the books. Black people in our country have never been treated as first-class citizens. Our gun culture is psychopathic. (Hunting animals who would die horribly in the wild from predators if they weren’t shot first is one thing, handguns are another.)

    I worry that this case, however the verdict turns out, is going to have rotten repercussions for race relations in this country and perpetuate our avoidance of the real issues.

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