The legal system in the United States is known as an adversary system. In this system, the parties to a controversy develop and present their arguments, gather and submit evidence, call and question witnesses, and, within the confines of certain rules, control the process. The fact finder, usually a judge or jury, is supposed to remain neutral and passive throughout the proceeding.
There is no doubt that this system is imperfect, but it’s the only one we have and it’s arguably the best one in the world.
There is no doubt that the George Zimmerman verdict is a polarizing one. One only has to look at my Facebook Timeline or Twitter feed to see that. I realize that the majority of the blogging world is fairly liberal. As such, it was no surprise to me that my timeline and twitter feed were filled with people upset at George Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict. I understand the outrage. A young man is dead. A mother and father’s hearts are broken. Nothing will bring back Treyvon Martin to his family. That is a tragedy.
Having said that, here are my thoughts on the entire situation. If it matters or not, I live in Central Florida. I know this case has gotten national attention, but that is nothing compared to what it’s like to live in the area in which such a huge trial is taking place. It wasn’t that long ago we were dealing with the Casey Anthony trial. To say we’ve had our fair share of national media attention over murder trials would be an understatement.
I watched this trial in its entirety. There were times during the State’s case that I had to double check to make sure the defense hadn’t started presenting their case yet. It seemed a good number of the State’s witnesses did more to help the defense than they did the state.
First, let’s review the law. Florida Justifiable Use of Force Laws
FL Statute 776.012(1) states the following:
Use of force in defense of person.—A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:
(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony;
FL Statute 776.13 (3) states the following:
(3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place [other than a residence or dwelling] where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
George Zimmerman was not engaged in any unlawful activity. Up until he attacked George Zimmerman, Treyvon was not involved in any unlawful activity either. Yes, the 911 operator told George Zimmerman not to follow Treyvon. However, a 911 dispatcher is not a law enforcement officer, and George Zimmerman did not break the law when he exited his vehicle and decided to follow Treyvon.
When Treyvon noticed George following him, he was on the phone with his friend. If he was afraid or felt threatened by George Zimmerman, he could have hung up an dialed 911 and waited for police to get there. By all evidence and testimony presented, George did not attempt to confront Treyvon. He was simply following him while on the phone with 911. Florida does have stalking laws, but George was not charged with stalking in this case. One has to assume that there was not sufficient evidence in this case to charge him with stalking. Therefore, the mere act of George exiting his car and following Treyvon while he was on the phone with 911 was not considered a crime.
The turning point was when Treyvon chose fight over flight and attacked George. The fact is Treyvon assaulted George causing injuries. At some point during this assault, George felt that he was in danger of imminent death or great bodily harm, and he used his legally registered gun to defend himself. Could he have defended himself without the gun? Maybe. We’ll never know that.
The State of Florida had the burden to prove George’s guilt beyond and to the exclusion of any reasonable doubt. Obviously the jury didn’t think they did that. The jury decided that George Zimmerman did indeed feel he was in danger of imminent death or great bodily harm when he fired his weapon and killed Treyvon. The State failed. Period.
Now to my personal opinion. I realize this may cause some to unfriend, and that’s a choice they can make for themselves. I think the jury got it right. After watching the trial and seeing and hearing everything (and more during the Frye hearings that the jury was not present for) the jury saw and heard, I believe there was an abundance of reasonable doubt. The state couldn’t prove beyond and to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt who was on top during the beating of George. The state couldn’t prove beyond and to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt whose voice it was calling for help on that 911 tape.
What really gets me about this whole thing is the reaction on the Interwebz. I understand being upset at the verdict. What I don’t understand is calling for the death of the jurors or George Zimmerman. Here are some quotes from my twitter feed. I have purposely left out the names. The bullet points after the quote are my commentary.
“I’m sure there’s someone out there who will give up their freedom to right this wrong once Zimmerman’s released. And, I like that #trayvon”
- Yes, two wrongs make a right. I’m sure I read that somewhere.
“All I can hope is that Zimmerman’s fate will be even worse than prison.”
“Every stalker in America with a gun knows they can follow me & if I confront them & we fight they can KILL ME and walk #Justice For Trayvon”
- First, he was never charged with stalking. Second, if you confront someone for whatever reason, and start a fight with them, you need to be prepared for any outcome.
Regardless of what the law says, one thing is true: If George Zimmerman had just stayed in his car, Trayvon Martin would be alive.
- If Trayvon had not started punching George, he might also still be alive.
I fully understand why we mad about the GZ verdict but I wish we had this kind of outrage towards black on black crime.
George Zimmerman gets his gun back. Let that sink in.
- He has not been convicted of any crime. He is legally allowed to own a firearm.
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And there were many tweets about what parents should tell their kids about this verdict. You tell them that even though you may not agree with the verdict, our justice system did what it was supposed to do. Both sides argued their cases, and an impartial jury weighed the evidence and delivered a verdict. You tell them that if they don’t like the laws, work to change them. You tell them that violence doesn’t solve violence. You hug them tighter and you pray (if that’s your thing). You don’t advocate violence in retaliation to a verdict you don’t agree with.
There has been much ado about race in this trial. I”m not so naive as to believe there isn’t still racism in this country. Sadly, there probably always will be.
What really chaps my ass about all this is how many people who identify themselves as liberals and claim to want tolerance are some of the most intolerant people I’ve ever seen. It’s okay for people to disagree with my point of view. It’s okay for people to disagree with your point of view. If you truly want tolerance, you need to practice what you preach.