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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Zimmerman verdict response

I have purposely stayed away from this subject until now. I saw an article/post that was referenced on Facebook that made me so mad and upset that I had to address it. What I am talking about is what has become the most important event to happen since OJ and/or Rodney King - the Zimmerman trial and result.


First a bit of background: our system of justice has a feature that is was not widespread around the world until fairly recently, and is not in a majority of countries now - the presumption of innocence. One can be charged with a crime and the authorities can have eye witnesses, photographic evidence, and even a confession. But, until the accused pleads guilty in court or is found guilty, they are referred to as the "alleged" perpetrator. The authorities/court is required to prove the person committed the crime. The problem with all the media attention these high profile cases get now is that the assumption of innocence is either solidified or destroyed by the time the trial starts (sometimes before as in the George Zimmerman case). The media and the talking heads all "try" the case based on public opinion, political correctness, and or what will get the most viewers or readers. Then, if the result is different than public opinion called for the talking heads and advocacy groups protest or call for a different result. The US Constitution (5th amendment) was not drafted to prevent people from having to testify (the modern usage) as much as to prevent "double jeopardy". The legal perspective of this phrase is as follows:

Five policy considerations underpin the double jeopardy doctrine: (1) preventing the government from employing its superior resources to wear down and erroneously convict innocent persons; (2) protecting individuals from the financial, emotional, and social consequences of successive prosecutions; (3) preserving the finality and integrity of criminal proceedings, which would be compromised were the state allowed to arbitrarily ignore unsatisfactory outcomes; (4) restricting prosecutorial discretion over the charging process; and (5) eliminating judicial discretion to impose cumulative punishments that the legislature has not authorized.

The civil prosecutions, hate crime prosecutions, etc. that have become more and more mainstream, in my non-lawyer opinion, go totally against the 5th amendment and the double jeopardy clause. But this sidebar has gone on too long.


The post that I read (I cannot find the link to it now - I will add it later if I find it again) mirrors many other Facebook posts, blog posts, etc. since the verdict was rendered. Basically it said poor little kid Trayvon was out for a walk after picking up milk and cookies for his grandmother and sick infants and was attacked by racist crazy man George Zimmerman. I usually do not follow crime trials and news stories about them. Someone asked me the other day about Casey (Kasey?) Anthony - I have no idea who that is) This one polarized the nation so much that I thought I would read up on it.

Here are some facts I've found:
1) Trayvon does not live in Sanford, Fla. He was there because he had been expelled from school (for the third time) this time for a drug offense. He was staying with his father's girlfriend while he waited out his suspension.

2) Trayvon's Twitter handle was "NO_LIMIT_NIGGA" (don't go all postal on me - an actual quote) He repeatedly had posted "gangsta" lifestyle type posts - what appeared to be his hand holding a gun, drug related posts and photos, etc.

There is more. If you are of a mind to you can research it like I did. Bottom line - Trayvon was not the sweet innocent teen that the media portrayed him as.

One of the arguments that is being trumpeted about is the fact that Zimmerman was "ordered to stand down" by the police or police dispatcher. If you read the transcript of the call or listen to the tape (I have), he was not ordered to "stand down". The actual line went like this: ...Zimmerman:"I'm following him"  Dispatcher:"We don't need you to do that". Not exactly a cease and desist order. The other fact is that the dispatcher has no police powers to order someone to "stand down". Zimmerman was within his rights to continue on.

Why was Zimmerman there and what was he doing, is another question that is being repeated. He had been elected by the community watch group to be the captain. He was on watch and patrolling the neighborhood. There had been some robberies in the neighborhood recently and the neighborhood watch system had been set up and intensified. Zimmerman saw Martin and went to see what he was doing. Zimmerman called the police non-emergency number and reported it. He (paraphrasing here) said there have been robberies lately and the suspects have gotten away so I am watching him (Martin).

If you listen to the only eye witness that saw anything while the altercation was happening he said that Martin was sitting on top of Zimmerman attacking him "MMA-style". That matches what Zimmerman told the police. Both at the scene and later. In fact, the police decided not to press charges after interviewing Zimmerman and the witnesses because it was obviously self-defense.
Zimmerman said he had lost Martin and was heading back to his vehicle. Martin jumped him and punched him in the face, knocked him down, and then got on him and started beating him. The injuries to Zimmerman were also consistent with this. The "stand your ground" law has been skewered as causing this death. My personal opinion is that the self-defense argument would have won the day regardless of this law. One always has the option of self-defense if they feel their life is threatened. Being sat upon and beaten "MMA-style" would make someone feel that way.

Was Zimmerman in the right? Legally, yes. That has been confirmed by a jury. Was he wrong to do what he did? Probably from a moral and sensible standpoint. Should he have been doing what he was doing? Looking back - of course not. But he was doing his duty as watch captain in a neighborhood that had had some crimes lately. He saw someone he did not know "sneaking" around the neighborhood and went to see what was going on. The real question is - what was Martin doing and why was he there? Unfortunately for him and his family as well as true closure for this event - that will never be known. It is very sad when any young person loses their life, even if their own actions contribute to the loss.