For the last few months the national news has been fixated on the trial of 29-year-old George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain from Sanford, FL who was accused of shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin who was walking home after purchasing skittles and fruit juice from a 7-Eleven convenience store.
Zimmerman supporters say that the gated community where Zimmerman resided was on edge due to recent break-in’s and that is why a neighborhood watch was needed. They claim Zimmerman was acting in self-defense when he pulled the trigger of his gun and shot Trayvon Martin in the chest. They point to scratches found on the back of Zimmerman’s head and a photograph of a bloody nose that Zimmerman got during his altercation with the 17-year-old from Miami, in town visiting his father, as evidence supporting his claims of self-defense.
On the other side, we have people who claim that George Zimmerman was a gun-toting, cop wannabe, acting out his law and order fantasies and that he unfairly profiled Trayvon Martin that night, calling 911 on him and pursuing him despite the 911 dispatcher telling him not to. In the 911 call Zimmerman is heard saying “these fucking punks, these assholes always get away.” Trayvon supporters also claim that Zimmerman targeted the teenager simply because he was “walking while black” and wearing a hoodie.
The case attracted national attention, after a movement on social media signed and circulated e-petitions calling for the arrest of Zimmerman. High-profile media figures such as Rev. Al Sharpton got involved and many chose to have rallies wearing hoodies in honor of Trayvon in cities across the USA.
The Florida Governor chose to take the case away from the local prosecutor, and assigned a special prosecutor, Angela Corey, a state attorney known for being tough on crime. Corey decided to bypass a grand jury, and elected to charge Zimmerman with second degree murder.
The trial ended with a not guilty verdict. Supporters of George Zimmerman praised the verdict, while others took the streets over the weekend to show their disappointment in the verdict. Trayvon supporters have called for the federal government to get involved and prosecute Zimmerman for violating Trayvon’s civil rights.
Meanwhile, Zimmerman supporters have set their sights on state attorney Angela Corey who fired an information technology director who complained that the prosecution was not turning over evidence to the defense. Some have called for the bar to investigate the way Corey handled this case.
This has been an explosive and polarizing case concerning gun rights and race. People who do not normally follow trials have started popping up to give uninformed rants about the case, and as usual the uninformed Monday morning quarterbacking is in full swing on the talk shows.
There were no credible eye witnesses who could testify on who started the fight. It was a rainy, dark night. Dr. Vincent Di Maio, the forensic expert who testified for the defense and is considered one of the top experts regarding gun shot wounds, told the jury that Trayvon Martin was on top of Zimmerman when he was shot.
The jury also heard conflicting stories on who was screaming for help on the 911 call a neighbor made. Trayvon’s parents and brother both said it was Trayvon. Family and friends of George Zimmerman testified that it was George.
Vincent Di Maio testified that George had a broken nose and that blood backed up in his nose would have made it hard for him to talk, the prosecution used that against George, claiming that proved Trayvon was the one screaming. However, the defense argued that the person winning the fight, the person on top, would not be screaming, and that common sense proved Zimmerman was the one yelling for help.
The prosecution has the burden of proof in every case. If the jury is not clear on what happened that night, and there are pieces to the puzzle that cut both ways, they had no choice but to vote not guilty.
We need to remember that this jury voted NOT GUILTY, they did not vote INNOCENT. Their verdict simply means that the state did not present a strong enough case to convict the defendant.
Not matter how much we may dislike a man who was armed and following an unarmed teenager in the rain at night, we cannot lower the burden of proof for one defendant because we may find his actions morally reprehensible.
We may not like it when an adult armed with a gun profiles a teenager, but we have the second amendment which allows for people to legally arm themselves. We may not like profiling, but we do not live in a country that has “thought” police. The prosecution had to prove more than just profiling and the fact Zimmerman was armed.
At the end of the day, Zimmerman has blood on his hands, his actions landed him in the situation he is in, and a teenager was shot and killed right before he became an adult. A life was lost too soon, and it is a sad case. I for one, do not feel sympathy for Zimmerman, but I do understand why the jury reached the verdict they did.
Looking at the positive, we may have more regulations on neighborhood watch, where these volunteers are taught not to arm themselves and never confront anyone, no matter how suspicious they may look.
Changes in self-defense and stand your ground law could happen. Many prosecutors around the country complain that these laws unfairly benefit the defendant and make it next to impossible for prosecutors to get a conviction. Many claim the law creates a wild west atmosphere.
There are many lessons to be learned from this case, let’s hope positive change occurs instead of the toxic name calling and divisiveness that is prevalent from “keyboard warriors” on social media.