Monday, July 15, 2013

Zimmerman – My Two Cents Worth

First let me say that, in my humble opinion, the jury in the Zimmerman Trial got it exactly right. Zimmerman was simply not guilty of either 2nd Degree Murder or of Manslaughter. The claim of self defense under Florida law makes the use of deadly force justifiable if the person thinks they are in fear of their life or of great bodily harm. The prosecution was unable to produce evidence to refute that claim by Zimmerman beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s really just that simply.

Having said that, I am not happy with the outcome of this tragedy. A young man is dead and he should not be. It is the result of mistakes made by both men. Martin paid with his life and there should have been some way to hold Zimmerman responsible for his part.

Zimmerman was acting as a neighborhood watch, trying to protect homes from repeated burglaries. That, by itself, is a good thing. However, when he notified police of what he thought was suspicious behavior, his job was done. Once he accomplished that he should have backed off and let the police determine if there was any basis for his suspicions and take whatever action was appropriate. 

Martin may have looked suspicious to Zimmerman, but there was no evidence whatsoever that Martin had actually committed any crime or done anything that he did not have a perfect right to do. By following and watching Martin, Zimmerman created the situation and set up the confrontation. It aggravated and scared Martin. Being followed at night by a stranger who is first in a car and then on foot, would aggravate and scare anyone.

Martin’s mistake was confronting Zimmerman. He should have either just gone home, or have called police to report Zimmerman. If he had done that, he’d be alive today. Unfortunately, he chose to confront his perceived stalker. That was a mistake but it was something that many of us might have done under the circumstances.

If Zimmerman had been wearing a uniform or something which identified him as a member of the neighborhood watch, Martin might have acted very differently. If Martin had known Zimmerman was armed with a gun, he certainly would have acted differently. 

People, even those acting as “neighborhood watch”, should not be confronting other people. Reporting suspicious activity is fine, it’s a good thing. But following people, especially potential criminals, and putting themselves in a possible confrontation, is wrong. They are not trained for that and it should be left to the professionals, the police. Being armed just makes things worse. It increases the likelihood that someone is going to get seriously injured or killed, as tragically happened here.

Zimmerman was technically within the law so he will not be held legally responsible. That’s not right. That law should require that people acting in the role of a neighborhood watch have a visible means of identity. People should never have a concealed carry permit for a firearm until they successfully complete training (which includes how to avoid or defuse confrontationally situations).

Zimmerman was wrong. His actions provoked and aggravated the situation. Martin was wrong. He should have walked away instead of confronting someone in the dark –someone who turned out to be armed. The law was wrong. It should have required Zimmerman to act differently and provided a fair way to hold Zimmerman responsible for acting as he did. It is a tragedy where one person is dead and the other’s life will never be the same. It could have been avoided. It should have been avoided.

There are lessons here for all of us. Unfortunately, I doubt of many of us will learn from them.
As for the racial aspect too this tragedy, well,  I'm not going to comment about it except to say this:  In the year and a half since Martin's death just over 11,000 African-Americans have been murdered -by other African-Americans!  If the Black community, led by people such as Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson, want to demonstrate to help bring about change -that is the better cause to spend their time trying to address.

Live Long and Prosper....

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