I’ve listed to the recordings and read the articles (if you’re pressed for time, the Miami Herald has an excellent wrapup of everything, 911 recordings and all). Let’s get a few things out of the way, simply because the most damning fact about the situation has nothing to do with tem:
- This isn’t a race case. The neighborhood in which it happened is mixed and so is Zimmerman (look at the pictures, folks)
- The histories of Zimmerman and Martin are irrelevant, since neither was doing anything illegal at the start of the situation when Zimmeran first spotted Martin
Here’s why Zimmerman should be charged: he initiated the confrontation between himself and Martin by chasing an innocent person. By his own account, Zimmerman said Martin did 3 things before the chase: walking around, looking about, looking at Zimmerman and having his hand in his waistband, and then coming to check Zimmerman out. None of these activities are illegal.
It’s obvious from what follows that Zimmerman became the pursuer – the aggressor – which ended in him shooting Trayvon. In my opinion, that rules out self defense. I don’t think it’s premediated either, but it is murder.
It’s understandable that the Sanford PD are hesitant to charge him though. He a community security volunteer. Also because he was a watch captain they – not including the dispatcher, who sounds unfamiliar with him – may have made him feel that his actions were in fact the proper way to deal with an unfamiliar person. The PD’re therefore probably afraid of damaging their relationship with the neighborhood watch by charging George.
There’s a way out for them, though: allow federal investigators to take the case. If they vindicate Zimmerman, then all’s well. If they charge him, the PD can claim it’s not their fault. While this has nothing to do with justice for Trayvon, ignoring the politics of any particular situation severly limits your ability to understand it.
- Section (possible incorrect terminology) 776.041 of the law has this fantastic gem (emphasis mine):
Use of force by aggressor.—The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:
(2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless:
(a) Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or
(b) In good faith, the person withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force. As I argued above, Zimmerman provoked the use of force against himself by chasing an innocent person, which satisfies (2). The fact that he was fast enough to catch up to Martin means that he was also physically capable of disengaging and reasonably escaping danger as (2)(a) says. He did NOT attempt to escape. It’s also very arguable that the unarmed Martin could not have presented a “force so great” at all. I also read stories of several cases in which people have either avoided arrest or been acquitted based on the law. In none of those cases was the acquitted person the aggressor. If Zimmerman is not arrested, it sends a scary message that it’s legal to kill someone as long by starting and then escalating an altercation with them, which clearly is NOT provided for under the law.
- The law states that the person using deadly force must legally have a “right to be” where he currently is. Zimmerman was neither on his own property nor public property during the altercation. Both were in Mary Cutcher’s backyard, which erases his coverage under the “right to be” provision of the law.
My research above leads me to believe that those who think Zimmerman can be easily acquitted based on the law either haven’t read the law itself for themselves or are so rabidly against private gun ownership that they’re willing to omit facts so as to demonize the concept.
Also, as I suggested above, the Sanford PD have already turned the case over to the DOJ and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. As a matter of fact, the Orlando Sentinel says some Orlando area PDs simply hand self-defense shooting cases over to the state by default.
I’m not sure if the DOJ or Florida authorities will see things the way I have, but I sure hope they do. Even if that happens, the case will likely go to trial by jury, and might take years. Let’s hope justice gets served.