I haven’t weighed in yet on the biggest trial of the year because I wanted to get my response together.
I believe the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial was the legally correct one.
The prosecution lost that case; it had no story stitched together based upon neither evidence nor witnesses who were credible nor experts who didn’t end up biting the prosecution backside (and some witnesses actually ending up helping the defense). None of its case was “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
I became a trial junkie on this case. When it was first presented in the media, the narrative presented was: “Neighborhood watch captain shoots and kills unarmed teenager.” My first thought was, “That’s terrible.” – and I put it out of my mind.
You see, the evening news is glutted with horrific stories – babies being left to roast in parked cars; children falling out of 4th floor windows; women being held hostages, beaten and raped; old men being kept prisoners for their government aid checks. And, yes, gang violence, drugs, guns, murders, guns and more guns.
And the horror, the horrors, suffered by billions of persons in the rest of the world cannot be comprehended, nor can it be spoken of.
But when this trial resurfaced, I became fascinated by it. My husband would say “obsessed” – but, we quibble. Always.
The best and most fair summary online of all evidence presented at trial is at Wikipedia. This crowd-sourced site is more reliable than anything you’ll find on personal blogs because every statement submitted has to be documented. Also pro-con forces call out errors and balance each other.
So go here and read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Trayvon_Martin
Here’s one excerpt that might explain “why” Zimmerman stopped that night when he was on his way to get his lunches for the week:
“From January 1, 2011 through February 26, 2012, police were called to The Retreat at Twin Lakes 402 times. During the 6 months preceding the February 26 shooting, Zimmerman called the non-emergency police line seven times. On five of those calls, Zimmerman reported suspicious looking men in the area, but never offered the men’s race without first being asked by the dispatcher. Crimes committed at The Retreat in the year prior to Martin’s death included eight burglaries, nine thefts, and one shooting. Twin Lakes residents said there were dozens of reports of attempted break-ins, which had created an atmosphere of fear in their neighborhood.
“In September 2011, the Twin Lakes residents held an organizational meeting to create a neighborhood watch program. Zimmerman was selected by neighbors as the program’s coordinator, according to Wendy Dorival, Neighborhood Watch organizer for the Sanford Police Department.
“Three weeks prior to the shooting, on February 2, 2012, Zimmerman called police to report a young man peering into the windows of an empty Twin Lakes home. Zimmerman was told a police car was on the way and he waited for their arrival. By the time police arrived, the suspect had fled. On February 6, workers witnessed two young black men lingering in the yard of a Twin Lakes resident around the same time her home was burgled. A new laptop and some gold jewelry were stolen. The next day police discovered the stolen laptop in the backpack of a young black man, which led to his arrest. Zimmerman identified this young man as the same person he had spotted peering into windows on February 2.”
On the night Martin would die, here’s the transcript of Zimmerman’s original call to the Sanford Police.
He does not say, “There’s a young black punk wearing a hoodie that doesn’t belong in my neighborhood.” Instead, the operator asks for a description: “Is he white, black or Hispanic?” Zimmerman answers, “He looks black.”
It was dark out and raining. Frankly, I think each guy was startled and/or scared of the other guy.
We know that Martin approached Zimmerman who was in his truck because there’s audio of the dinging of an alarm when Zimmerman opens his truck door. That’s also what he reports to the 411 dispatcher. We’ll never know why Martin walked around Zimmerman’s truck. Maybe Zimmerman flashed his flashlight in Martin’s face – an aggressive enough move, certainly.
We’ll never know who said what to whom. MARTIN: “What are you looking at?” is just as likely as ZIMMERMAN saying: “What are you up to?” In his walk-through the following day with police (which he consistently stuck to and his neighbors’ descriptions on 911 seem to back up the vast majority of the time), Zimmerman says Martin was wandering slowly through the rain, sort of looking into the windows of houses. It’s just as possible Martin was looking for his father’s place in this huge development of hundreds of identical-looking homes.
Then, Zimmerman says, Martin disappeared. “He’s running.”
I believe that’s when Zimmerman gets so frustrated with “these assholes” and “fucking [unintelligible].” Read the 411 non-emergency transcript again. I do not believe “these assholes always get away” refers to any race; it applies to the burglars who have been breaking and entering in his neighborhood and threatening the sanctuaries of families’ homes.
The telephone responder does say: “Are you following him? (Yes) OK we don’t need you to do that. (OK)” But later on the same responder is trying to get an address out of Zimmerman that Zimmerman can’t find.
Another point about this call to police is that Zimmerman identifies himself by name, address and phone. He also, and this is important, takes great care to try to ensure the responding officers will find him. He even wants them to call him so he can escort their car into the correct area of the development. Would someone will evil intent do that?
Again, we don’t know who threw the first punch. Zimmerman ended up with documented head injuries consistent with his skull being pounded on concrete; he also had a dislocated and bloodied nose.
Martin ended up dead.
Of course there is no comparison to be made there.
A 17-year-old walking home from a store with Skittles and Arizona Tea should not have died that night. And Zimmerman should not have shot him that night.
But, and here’s my opinion, I believe it is George Zimmerman’s voice one hears repeatedly screaming for help on the 911 calls (neighbors’ recordings). I believe him when he says Martin ended up on top of him and was hitting him, pounding Zimmerman’s head.
The tragedy would strike soon when Martin began putting his hand over Zimmerman’s nose and mouth. He was in pain. He couldn’t breathe. And then – then he THOUGHT he felt Martin’s hand reaching toward his gun. Zimmerman took it out of his holster.
Zimmerman says (and a neighbor confirms he said) that he did not even realize Martin was dead.
One other point: Zimmerman did not have a rap sheet a mile long. According to msnbc.com:
“Court documents obtained by msnbc.com on Tuesday evening show that George Zimmerman, who fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, went to court in 2005 and 2006 for accusations of domestic violence, tussling with a police officer and speeding.
The three incidents took place in Orange County, Fla.
In 2005, Zimmerman, then 20, was arrested and charged with “resisting officer with violence” and “battery of law enforcement officer,” both which are third-degree felonies. The charge was reduced to “resisting officer without violence” and then waived when he entered an alcohol education program. Contemporaneous accounts indicate he shoved an officer who was questioning a friend for alleged underage drinking at an Orange County bar.
In August 2005, Zimmerman’s ex-fiancee, Veronica Zuazo, filed a civil motion for a restraining order alleging domestic violence. Zimmerman counterfiled for a restraining order against Zuazo. The competing claims were resolved with both restraining orders being granted.”
Sounds to me that Zimmerman was a stupid 20-year-old who got caught drinking and probably driving, resisted arrest and shoved a different officer at a bar during another act of stupidity. The domestic violence case sounds to me as if its two immature (probably drinking) 20-year-olds who should have had restraining orders granted against them.
But that’s the extent of Zimmerman’s rap sheet. It begins and ends in 2005. No domestic disturbances have been filed by his wife or neighbors.
Zimmerman will have to live with the knowledge that he took the life of someone who’ll never be able even to reach 20 years old. That’s no victory. Nor could a “guilty” verdict have given the Martin family any lasting comfort. They will never see their son again and that’s an unimaginable for any parent.
So, do I think you can draw a direct line from the NRA’s relentless campaign to arm Americans to the shooting of Trayvon Martin? Yes. But let’s also include many other factors: Conceal and Carry Laws, Stand Your Ground Laws (which, by the way, always have been the way of the Wild, Wild West), crime, longstanding racial suspicions, Americans’ alienation from selves and neighbors, media hype, political opportunism, fear, the effects of divorce, of dreams unrealized, and the pressure we put on young boys so they end up believing they must grow up and fight – to the death, if necessary – to be like real men.
It’s an American tragedy.