Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Justice for All (including Trayvon Martin)

I've been following the story of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin for over a year on Stately McDaniel Manor. Mike McDaniel has been quite diligent in covering the case. Lawyers William Jacobson and Andrew Branca presented live coverage of the trial with legal analysis. While they take a pro-defense slant, they present factual arguments for their case. I followed this case in more detail than I have any other trial, because I have a teenage nephew who is multiracial and identifies as black, and I am interested in issues of self-defense. My heart goes out to the victim's family - I can only imagine the pain they feel. If George Zimmerman had committed murder or in any way acted unlawfully, he should have been punished.
With that in mind, I found myself growing more convinced that George Zimmerman acted fully within the bounds of the law, and was in fact a decent guy facing a nightmare situation. I would feel safer with George Zimmerman meeting my nephew in a dark alley than a randomly selected American. This is based on the evidence I have read, not on a pre-conceived notion. I first thought Zimmerman was a cocky guy with a twitchy trigger finger, but I changed my mind. Read on to see why.
Based on the evidence, there is no reason to believe Zimmerman made the first unlawful act. He was walking in a place where he had every legal right to be. I walk down sidewalks behind people and with people behind me all the time. If Martin felt threatened, he could have headed home or called the police. I know some people have difficulty working with the police, but at the least being at home would have Martin the home-ground advantage if he felt threatened. If he wanted to confront Zimmerman and get him to back off, he could have aggressively told Zimmerman to get lost and even insulted him. That's a legal response to being followed.
Instead, according to both the evidence and his friend Rachel Jeantel, Martin threw the first punch, and started beating on Zimmerman. It's the kind of bad judgement that is all too common among teenagers - I was certainly not immune to that when I was 17. Unfortunately, Martin chose an act that would have given him a stay in jail if police had ended the fight instead Zimmerman's gun. Not only that, but he continued the beating after Zimmerman was clearly defeated. Martin had practiced street fighting before this, and some of his friends were trying to get him to stop before he got into worse trouble. If he had let Zimmerman tap out, he would have probably done jail time, but would probably been out on the streets by now.
Zimmerman cooperated with the police fully, and the initial investigators thought there was not enough evidence to charge him. That was not the only investigation to exonerate Zimmerman - the FBI found no evidence of racism in Zimmerman's actions. He tutored black children, called police to report an 7-year old black kid wandering around without any adult looking after him, opened an insurance business with a black partner, was himself part African American in origin, and even led an effort to get justice for a homeless black man beaten up by a white kid when the police were refusing to act. If George Zimmerman is racist, every white person is racist.
Our legal system is designed to equally apply the law to all people. Justice is for all people, regardless of how they are viewed by the media. Before you judge George Zimmerman, do what the 6 women of the jury did, and carefully consider the evidence before delivering your verdict.
As an aside, there's something I’ve seen a lot from more “establishment”-type conservatives – Zimmerman was found not guilty according to the law, but he was a moron with a hero complex or whatever, and is certainly a person to despise.
That response really gets under my skin. We hear all about Kitty Genovese and people taking action on their own in an emergency. In Chicago, one of the key determinants of how dangerous a neighborhood actually is happens to be the community’s role in addressing crime. People are encouraged to take responsibility and take action.
But the problem with untrained responders is that they will make mistakes. That’s why we have Good Samaritan laws. If you place people at risk for getting out their car and helping, they will drive on by, and not risk it. You can’t have it both ways, unless everyone is given the training to be a first responder.
George Zimmerman actually gives a damn about people, unlike the people pushing the “not guilty but stupid” claim, who would rather see everyone take the safe course and avoid any heroics. It is utterly craven politically-driven cowardice.

1 comment:

OmegaPaladin said...

Update:

Bob Owens at PJ Media makes a similar argument on how Zimmerman was the kind of person we need in civil society. I'd be happy to live next to him.