Thoughts regarding the controversy…
I’ve been mostly silent on this blog regarding the Martin/Zimmerman case although I have strong feelings. My feelings have recently become more
SUMMARY: Block Watch activist sees a young black man, Trayvon Martin in his neighborhood. Contacts police who tell him not to confront the individual. Shortly afterwards an altercation occurs between a couple houses, shots are fired, and the 17 year old is left dead.
George Zimmerman claims he was on the ground being pummeled and that it was self-defense. This case has caused a lot of controversy, with some supporting Zimmerman’s self-defense claims, and others not. Accusations have been made of throwing Zimmerman under the bus. And many have questioned whether race was involved.
The big issue with this case is with one party dead, there is little evidence to disprove Zimmerman’s self-defense case.
Where do I stand?
Perhaps surprisingly, I am finding myself more on the side of conviction of Zimmerman. Were I a jurist, I am not sure that I would convict on a murder charge; I would likely convict on a manslaughter charge.
I often look to “first cause” when decided a judgment. Who made the first wrong action. It’s why if a burgler gets shot in the back as they flee, I have little sympathy of convicting the victim even if they may have exceeded the arbitrary lines that we establish for self-defense.
A while back there was a case of a convenience store which had been repeatedly robbed. One of the empoyees shot the robber, and was accused of retrieving another firearm and returning and firing again. Killing the invader. Even in that case, I am unsympathetic, in that had the man NOT chosen to rob the convenience store than he’d be alive today. He sought to harm another human being and died in the process. The first wrong move was on his part. And force equal to the threat he made was used. Expecting an average citizen to remain fully under control under such circumstances is to me a hope, but one that we cannot fully expect when their life have been threatened.
But in this case, something different occurred. George Zimmerman took action that I would label as the aggressor. By Zimmerman’s own account with the police Martin was not actively engaged in any criminal activity (merely walking around a neighborhood is not a crime, the only criteria for alert that Zimmerman had was the fact that Martin was young, black and unknown – that’s NOT A CRIME).
At some point a pursuit ensued, not necessarily a fast pursuit, but one in which Martin detoured from the sidewalk through a number of houses. Martin and Zimmerman at some point found themselves in direct confrontation. We have to look at the actions of both Martin and Zimmerman.
Did Zimmerman have the right to observe Martin? Yes
Did Zimmerman have the right to inquire who Martin was? Yes, though Martin was not obligated in any way to answer Zimmerman.
Did Zimmerman have the right to pursue Martin and confront him? Personally, I do not think so.
Martin tresspassed a neighbors yard when trying to avoid Zimmerman, isn’t that a crime? If so, than Zimmerman is equally guilty of tresspassing in pursuit.
Martin was beating up Zimmerman, doesn’t that justify self-defense? Not when you’ve instigated and created the situation. If Martin was walking away, and endeavoring to flee from Zimmerman, than it was Martin who was using self-defense.
Then we have the question, is self-defense against self-defense justifiable? I do not believe so. If a man breaks into my house, and I start beating him up with a baseball bat, can he shoot me in self-defense?
That’s how I view this case at this point. Now perhaps Zimmerman instigated an altercation using racial epitaphs or some other speech until Martin punched Zimmerman. But once again, I go back to the point that if Zimmerman was not pursuing Martin than no such altercation could arise.
Until recently, there was a lot of question as to whether Zimmerman’s self-defense plea would stand or not. The biggest item in Zimmerman’s favor was that there was no witness to provide any testimony that counters Zimmerman’s version of events.
That may change…
Today, Yahoo News had an article about a teenage girl who apparently was on the phone with Martin while the events transpired.
“He said this man was watching him, so he put his hoodie on. He said he lost the man… I asked Trayvon to run, and he said he was going to walk fast. I told him to run but he said he was not going to run…. Eventually he would run, said the girl, thinking that he’d managed to escape. But suddenly the strange man was back, cornering Martin.”
If Martin was indeed trying to flee, and Zimmerman in fact cornered Martin; I would think such an account would be quite damning to Zimmerman’s case.
The case becomes one of Illegal detention. Results in detainee trying to flee. Then being shot by illegal detainer. That makes Zimmerman actively engaged in criminal behavior when he shot and killed Martin. The saddest part of this case is that will become racially charged and a witch hunt. Where Martin white this would likely be a non-story; a footnote in the news.
Did Zimmerman commit murder? Was his deed premeditated? No, I don’t believe so. Was he negligent & reckless – I believe he clearly was. His last defense of acting in accordance with an organized watch system may also be in jeopardy as the statement below from the director of the National Neighborhood Watch program:
“there are about 22,000 registered watch groups nationwide, and Zimmerman was not part of a registered group”
Remember, had Martin actively been engaged in a criminal deed. If Zimmerman saw Martin breaking into a house, smashing a car window, or engaged in a criminal act. Then there would be a good case to be made for citizen intervention. But that did not happen here, by Zimmerman’s own admission. The first, and multiple wrong actions, were taken by Zimmerman.
LESSONS TO BE LEARNED
When one becomes a gun owner, especially when one begins to carry on their persons. The individual must always remember that they are obligated to take the high road.
- First, NEVER, put yourself in situations where a confrontation can arise needlessly. (ie: walking through the worst part of town with a tons of gold jewelry and a pistol on your hip is just asking for trouble; either you’re going to be robbed or have to shoot someone – don’t put yourself in that situation).
- Second, it’s never fun taking the life of another human being. It’s messy, morally gut wrenching, emotionally scarring and usually financially bankrupting.
- Third, it is a good idea to have an alternative to the use of lethal force. Jack Spirko over at the Survival Podcast strongly advocates carrying pepper spray if you carry. You may need to protect yourself from a wayfaring aggressive dog. Life will be simpler if you can just pepper spray it rather than having to inform your neighbor that you just shot their best friend.
Had Zimmerman followed these guidelines, he might not be in the mess he is in today. And an apparently innocent young man might still be alive. And this tragegy, for all sides, would have been avoided.
UPDATE: I loved this quote by a poster in the article comments name Marvin, repeating the words his combat instructor told him regarding egos and guns:
“From now on, when dealing with crazy / possibly violent people, you will lose every argument. You are always wrong. You are sorry for impinging on their day. You will apologize and apologize again. You will back the F down. You will put your tail between your legs. You will let them talk about your ladyfriend. You will let them call your mother and your dad names. You have no ego.
You do all this because if you are the one to start a fight, by default that fight now has a gun in it, and if you start losing, you’re going to pull it and kill him. And even if you don’t go to jail because you could convince the jury that it was self-defense, you’re going to have to live with the fact that you could have saved someone’s life and yet you let your ego kill someone.”