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I served in the US Navy from 2002-08; four of those years were as a Nuclear Propulsion Operator aboard an aircraft carrier. I engage in political activism in various Democratic circles when I am able to. I have a cat, and I am an uncle.

All opinions that I express are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization that I represent.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN TRIAL VERDICT




On Saturday Night, a jury of 6 women in Sanford, FL found George Zimmerman not guilty in the second-degree murder of 17-year old Trayvon Martin.



The verdict has sparked outrage from my political connections and across twitter. I needed few days to process my thoughts about this case and sift through the commentary/opinions to get the facts in order to formulate my own opinion about this.

In all honesty I have not been following this case that closely because of the issues surrounding Texas politics.

Though from what I have been hearing and reading about the case, this was mishandled from the start. The prosecution did a poor job in presenting its case, and they got a little star struck given the attention that this case garnered nationally. The trial was aired every day on cable news and I refused to watch it. I have never been a fan of "trial-by-media." I remember the O.J. Simpson trial and how that devolved into a media circus over the course of the trial. The job of the prosecution is not to convince the people at home watching the case. Their job was to convince the jury and they failed to do that.

The defense claimed that it was Trayvon Martin who attacked George Zimmerman.

First, Martin was 17 and Zimmerman is 29. Zimmerman was the adult and should have had the better judgment to not pursue Trayvon Martin. Enough said.

Second, there is the 911 call that Zimmerman made before the chaos that ensued. On the
audio to the Sanford Police Department, the dispatcher tells Zimmerman not to pursue Martin. Zimmerman clearly disobeyed those orders and at that point went from observer to pursuer.

Sadly, our justice system is set up so that everyone is entitled to defend themselves in a court of law. It just doesn't say HOW that defense strategy is formulated. I've had a couple of people tell me I should go to law school. This is one of the reasons why I could not be a lawyer. The defense went with the strategy of slandering the victim's character. Did Martin post some questionable things on social media as some were claiming during the course of the trial? Perhaps, but that is not the whole story.

Show of hands... who among us exhibited questionable behavior as teenagers? My mom is probably reading this... Senior year, I once snuck out of the house late at night to walk around the neighborhood. I cut school and I was late to classes. Still graduated high school with above a 3.25 GPA.

On the night of his murder, Martin was watching the NBA All-Star Game because he enjoyed sports. He was described as an A-B student who enjoyed fixing things and dreamed of a career in the aviation field. Martin enjoyed math.

I might have to resort to shaming a victim who is unable to defend him/herself, like Trayvon Martin, in order to get my client an acquittal. There is no honor in that.

The YouTube Channel LiberalViewer presented the possible reasons why the jury found George Zimmerman not guilty.


One thing that stood out was from the jury instructions as the video pointed out (text is on the bottom of Page 12, top Page 13):

If in your consideration of the issue of self-defense you have a reasonable doubt on the question of whether George Zimmerman was justified in the use of deadly force, you should find George Zimmerman not guilty

However, if from the evidence you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman was not justified in the use of deadly force, you should find him guilty if all the elements of the charge have been proved.

George Zimmerman was not justified in using deadly force. It turns out that the only items on Trayvon Martin's person was a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles. The defense made their case that Zimmerman was defending himself, but what about the victim? Didn't he have a right to protect himself when he felt threatened by Zimmerman pursuing him? This has also brought Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" legislation into the spotlight. Though this wasn't invoked in the case, it turns out the jury was considering it during deliberations.

It is one thing to defend yourself; it is a totally different topic when you go looking for trouble. Zimmerman fell into the latter category the moment he disregarded the 911 operator's instructions to not pursue.

Oh, and it would be wrong to not mention this case. Marrisa Alexander, a Florida woman, fired warning shots into the wall because her husband had a history of domestic abuse towards her. No one was killed. Under the "Stand Your Ground" statute, you would think that she was justified in defending herself. However the judge rejected that defense. She was put on trial, and within 20 minutes the jury returned a guilty verdict. Because she was charged under Florida's "10-20-life" law, Alexander received 20 years in prison for discharging a firearm during a crime regardless of the circumstances. There are some efforts to try to get her an appeal or even a new trial.

In the end, this case ripped open old wounds about race relations in this country and pardon the cliché, poured gasoline on an always simmering fire that has reignited into a full on five-alarm blaze. A black mother I know on Facebook is hugging her two sons a lot more tightly these days. Here is Ms. Monica Robert's reaction to the verdict. As the jury went into deliberations, Ms. Robert's offered her thoughts on the outcomes and at the time was not feeling very confident about the verdict. Sadly, she was correct.

If you think the black community is overreacting, shut up.

No, seriously, shut up.

They have every right to be mad given how our country treated blacks for over almost 400 years. The American Revolution was fought for our nation's independence, but if you are a person of color or a woman or both, you might see things just a TAD differently. Blacks were classified as three-fifths of a person when the Constitution was first written in 1787. The Civil War gave us the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, but what followed was a period of policies that were based around disenfranchisement and blatant racism by any time period's standards that lasted for nearly a century. We call those policies by this name: Jim Crow. The Civil Rights legislation that overturned Jim Crow has been in place for almost 50 years. However, the recent Supreme Court decision Shelby County, AL v. Holder (2013) struck down disemboweled gutted and eviscerated one of the key legislative policies of that era: the Voting Rights Act of 1965, specifically Section 4.

Chief Justice John Roberts in his opinion stated that, "Our country has changed."

True statement.

HOWEVER.... COMMA...

It hasn't always been for the best and we still have a lot to work at.

New York's WBAI 99.5 FM's Jay Smooth took to twitter with this observation:



The result of this case might cause everyone to look at people who carry firearms a little bit different now. Unless that person is carrying the badge of a legitimate law enforcement agency, how am I to know that person isn't itching to use their firearm just to satisfy some twisted paranoid fantasy that is derived from their irrational fear that everyone is out to get them.

A sad bit of irony is that Zimmerman's brother, Robert Jr., is fearful that a vigilante will come after George Zimmerman in the same way that George did to Trayvon Martin. People are angry over this verdict. I've seen people tweet Zimmerman's address and that is wrong. I condemn anyone who engages in that behavior. If you want to get justice for Trayvon Martin: do it by dumping the controversial "Stand Your Ground" law.

The media's analysis asking who won the case... well, I hate to be the bringer of bad news, but there wasn't a winner in this case. Only losers.

Despite that key piece of evidence and the jury instructions, this was a severe miscarriage of justice. The media has also been running the "Race Riot" meme which to no surprise is nothing more than the typical fear mongering coming from the conservative-Fox News media industrial-complex and has no basis in any reality. As the Time article I linked to stated, again people are angry, but it appears that people are expressing their anger in constructive ways. In the opening to her show last night, Rachel Maddow reported that 100 protestors filled the office of Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) and called on him to push for a special legislative session to tackling this issue.

Most importantly, a family had to bury a child.


Yes, the legal system has spoken and delivered a not guilty verdict. Though that doesn't mean he was innocent. It is a sad state of affairs when the victim in a murder trial is found guilty of his own death. There is really nothing more to do but close with the final two paragraphs from this blog entry:

George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. He doesn’t deny this. George Zimmerman committed homicide against Trayvon Martin. He doesn’t deny this. As of tonight, according to the laws of Florida, and ultimately according to the tenets on which our justice system allegedly perches, George Zimmerman did not murder Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman has to live with the fact that he shot and killed an unarmed teenager. George Zimmerman for the rest of his life has to go to bed every night with the knowledge that he pulled a trigger and killed someone who he falsely suspected was up to no good. Zimmerman was just plain wrong, at every turn. He was wrong to presume Martin was a suspect because he was young and black. He was wrong to get out of the car and pursue Trayvon. He was wrong to instigate a fight he couldn’t win, and he was wrong to kill Trayvon.

Maybe I’m wrong though. Maybe Zimmerman’s accounting of the events is the accurate one. Then again, thanks to George Zimmerman, we’ll always only have a one sided story, because the other side can’t take the witness stand from the grave. In the end, all that’s going matter is that one more mother lost another child to the barrel of a gun. All that’s going to matter is that a young man was killed and the man who admitted to killing him is a free man, and that somehow that means the system actually worked the way it’s designed to.

If that’s not tragedy enough for you, seek help. Immediately.


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