It was depressing, if not surprising, to see the UK’s twitchforking mob out for the blood of George Zimmerman, rightly acquitted under the law in his trial in Florida. The comments and questions made showed that tweeters had not bothered to follow any developments in the trial, and pretty much did not care if George Zimmerman was guilty or not; they just wanted to see him spend the rest of his life in jail.
No part of the media, or of politics here, has covered itself in glory, treating the trial of this young Hispanic man as entertainment, as a glorified episode of “Law and Order”, or as a political sport, where the right lines up behind the Hispanic and the left lines up behind the innocent African-American victim. I have seen today death threats against Zimmerman, his brother, and the six female jurors who deliberated over this agonising case for sixteen hours and who requested instructions for the legal case for manslaughter from the judge. I’ve seen tweets saying Hispanics are all celebrating by “mowing their lawns”. I’ve seen tweets claiming the mixed-parentage Zimmerman was white Hispanic, when the same people would never described President Obama as white anything, despite his white mother.
It is all very depressing, and we should do better. If George Zimmerman had not had a gun, the worst that would have happened here is a fist-fight. If Florida had not had a Stand Your Ground law, possibly manslaughter charges could have been proven.
But for those morons who, without knowledge of the facts, are out tweeting that a young man should go to jail for a crime he has been cleared of, here is just a sample of the facts that emerged during the trial.
No reasonable person, in my view, could possibly have found beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman either murdered Trayvon Martin or committed manslaughter against him under Florida law.
The prosecution’s case was embarrassingly weak. In reality, it should never have been brought – they knew the reasonable doubt standard. There were more holes than a Swiss cheese in this case, and it would have been a double tragedy to add to the senseless, needless death of the totally innocent Trayvon Martin – unarmed and defending himself – with a young Hispanic man jailed for perhaps twenty years of his life. That is just vengeance at best and simple race-baiting at worst.
Just a few of the “reasonable doubt” pillars established by the defence:
1. The forensic pathologist who corroborated Zimmerman’s account of self-defence after he was attacked by stating the gunshot was fired from beneath the victim.
2. The fact that Trayvon Martin’s own father did not identify the screams on the audio recording as coming from Trayvon; George Zimmerman’s father was consistent that they were his son’s, Zimmerman’s, screams. On the stand, Mr. Martin’s father said they were indeed his son’s screams but that did not jibe with his initial police account.
3. The fact that a key prosecution witness, Trayvon Martin’s girlfriend, changed her story time and again on the stand. She could give no coherent account of what Trayvon had said to her when he called her while he was being followed. She stated she had written a letter at that time to Trayvon’s mother describing events. In court, when asked by the defense to read out the supposedly contemporaneous letter, she had to say “I can’t read cursive” and then to admit she had not even written the letter at all.
4. George Zimmerman, fat and doughy, fancied himself as a neighbourhood watch guy and had been doin it for quite some time. He is Hispanic, and the judge ruled that the prosecution could not say he “racially profiled” Trayvon Martin when he followed him; only that he “profiled” him. In Zimmerman’s stupid and puffed-up mind, Martin’s demeanour indicated he was up to no good.
5. There was clearly a fight between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman in which Zimmerman claimed he shot Matin in self-defence. There was no evidence to disprove this claim and much to support it (see points 1 and 2). Zimmerman was bleeding from the head. Furthermore Florida has a “stand your ground” law that gives protections from prosecution to those who think they are being attacked.
Now because most people on Twitter (and other political internet forums) can see only in black and white, me vs you, Dem vs Rep, they interpret pointing all this out as either an attack on the character of Trayvon Martin, or his grieving family, or a defence of Zimmerman’s actions in following Martin when a 911 despatcher had told him not to.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Trayvon Martin was the innocent victim of a tragic shooting. George Zimmerman should never have followed him. George Zimmerman should have obeyed the 911 despatcher. George Zimmerman should never have had a gun, and there should be gun control in America. Without that gun, the worst that would have happened was a fist fight. And please don’t point out to me Zimmerman had a legal permit. My argument is that gun distribution should be limited to the military and the police (“as part of a well formed militia”, the words written out of the modern interpretation of the second amendment). Trayvon Martin, once he realised he was being followed, had EVERY RIGHT to attack George Zimmerman in HIS OWN self-defence.
None of that changes the trial and the law. When Trayvon fought Zimmerman, even though he had the right to do so, and I would have done exactly the same in Trayvon’s place, if Zimmerman believed himself to be in danger then he had the right to shoot in self-defence. Do I agree with that, no of course not. But there was ample evidence to support that story; the forensic pathologist; the blood and wounds on Zimmerman; the screaming not initially described as Trayvon’s by his own father; and the history of Zimmerman as a wannabe do-gooder neighbourhood guy who saw himself as a protector.
Reasonable doubt was added to by the prosecution’s key witness imploding on the stand. Changed stories – the girlfriend’s letter and testimony in her witness statement vs the stand, the father’s re: the taped voice – that equals reasonable doubt. The wounds, the pathologist saying the shot was from below – reasonable doubt.
The judge appeared sympathetic to the prosecution. Despite reversing an earlier ruling on drug use based on a doctor saying it might have affected Trayon’s demeanour and allowing it to be examined as evidence, she mostly sided with the prosecution. As it became clear that second degree murder was a giant overreach, she (a former prosecutor) allowed charges of manslaughter to be added in at the last moment. Once, when the defence attorney was actually making an argument before her, without a word she got up and walked out on him and out of the courtroom (it was ten PM). Additionally, she excluded texts found on Martin’s phone referring to fights. She gave the prosecution a fair shake.
Given all of this the six female jurors faithfully discharged their duty. They deliberated for sixteen hours straight. They sent to the judge to ask her to instruct them on the standard of proof for manslaughter. Her answer: “Zimmerman cannot be guilty of manslaughter by committing a merely negligent act or if the killing was either justifiable or excusable homicide.”
Before the verdict, there was this:
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin’s family, said the parents are emotional but doing as well as expected as they await a verdict.
“(Jurors) staying out longer and considering the evidence and testimony is a good thing for us arriving at a just verdict,” Crump said.
It therefore seems that to tarnish the good names and character of these six women as racists is utterly wrong. In the question of both manslaughter and murder two they followed the law. The prosecution did not come close to proof beyond a reasonable doubt and they had no real evidence to contradict Zimmerman’s account of events.
A later blog will look at the breathtaking abuse of government and media power against a criminal defendant not yet convicted, and now as we know acquitted, which ought to shock any decent person whether right or left.
A young, unarmed black teenager is dead because of hateful gun proliferation, a “Stand Your Ground” law that encourages vigilanteism, and a “neighbourhood watch” guy who was too prideful to listen to a 911 despatcher who rightly told him to stay away. But wrongly following someone is not the same as murdering them or committing manslaughter. Zimmerman states he thought Trayvon was acting suspiciously, Trayvon attacked him, he feared for his life and he shot him. It was for the prosecution to prove otherwise and they did not. And the racial politics around this tragedy is simply disgusting. Without gun control, there will be more dead teenagers, children, and other innocents in America with each passing month.
photo by Fibonacci Blue