George Zimmerman isn’t the first person that the courts have allowed to get away with murder. But he is one of the few to be acquitted after admitting to intentionally shooting an unarmed person. Zimmerman can thank Florida’s ill-conceived “Stand Your Ground” law for that, along with an inept prosecution and seemingly naive jurors.
The “Stand Your Ground” law was created as “model” legislation by the NRA (National Rifle Association) and ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) then introduced to state legislatures throughout the country. Designed to protect rootin’ tootin’, gun totin’, cowboy wannabes from prosecution, the law removes any obligation for gun owners to back away from a confrontation. If a pistol packin’ nitwit fears that his or her life is endangered or fears great bodily harm (an arbitrary standard as demonstrated by the Zimmerman trial) it appears that it is now legal to blast away.
Without this law, Zimmerman would have been forced to demonstrate that he tried to avoid a lethal confrontation. Without this law, the jury would have been obligated to convict Zimmerman of manslaughter. In other words, the fact that Zimmerman stalked his victim against the advice of a police dispatcher would have been reason enough to find him guilty.
The ensuing comments of juror B37 also demonstrate a lack of understanding of violent confrontations by the all female jury. The jurors apparently do not understand the difference between a fistfight and a life-endangering situation. Zimmerman’s wounds (and I use the term loosely) were consistent with the effects of a single punch. In no way do they meet the criteria of life-threatening or great bodily harm. Almost everyone who has ever been in a schoolyard fight has suffered worse.
There was no evidence that Zimmerman’s head had been repeatedly slammed onto concrete as he claimed. And that was just one of the flaws in Zimmerman’s story exposed during the trial.
The worst was Zimmerman’s claim that, when Martin was on top of him, Martin reached for Zimmerman’s gun. If the situation was as Zimmerman claimed, Martin could not have seen the gun behind Zimmerman’s right hip, let alone reached for it. Moreover, in the situation described, it would have been impossible for Zimmerman to have reached for it. Martin’s lower leg would have blocked access to it. (Having taught martial arts, including ground fighting, I have been in a similar position many times.)
The prosecution failed to clearly demonstrate this critical point. Had they done so, the jury might have reached a very different verdict.
Even more troubling than the outcome of the trial are the inconsistencies of our justice system and the perverse voyeurism of our media. As Zimmerman was getting away with murder, a Florida woman was sentenced to 20 years in prison for merely firing a warning shot to keep her estranged husband from attacking her. No one was shot. No one was hurt. The clear message is that, if you’re going to fire your gun during a confrontation, you better make sure the shot is fatal. And since the woman is black, the two incidents demonstrate the duality of our justice system.
Such inconsistency, especially the appearance of racism, deserves a serious public discussion…one free of the sensationalism demonstrated by media coverage of the “trial du jour.” Unfortunately, in search of ratings, our media would rather treat our judicial system as a series of reality shows.