"I talked to old Lem and old Lem said . . . They got the judges . . . the lawyers . . . the jury rolls. They got the law. They don't come by ones. They got the sheriffs . . . the deputies. They don't come by twos. They got the shotguns . . . got the rope. We git the justice. In the end. And they come by tens." - From the poem, "Old Lem," by Sterling A. Brown
The jury has rendered its verdict. George Zimmerman was found by a jury of his peers to be "not guilty" of second degree murder.
We do not know how the jury came to its conclusion or why. What we do know is this: The "USAonWatch" manual that describes the code of conduct for neighborhood watch programs states: "It should be emphasized to members that they do not possess police powers and they shall not carry weapons or pursue vehicles . . . Members should never confront suspicious persons who could be armed and dangerous." George Zimmerman ignored that code of conduct.
We also know that on that rainy February 26th evening, when Zimmerman called the Sanford County Police and told the dispatcher that a suspicious teenager was wandering through the neighborhood, "F---ing punks . . . These a--holes, they always get away," he was directed not to follow Trayvon Martin. He was told to disengage. Zimmerman ignored that directive.
We know that an armed 28-year-old George Zimmerman followed an unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman initiated contact with Trayvon; an encounter ensued, and Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon. Zimmerman initiated contact, shot and killed an unarmed teenager, and claimed self-defense?
Section 776.013 of the Florida Criminal Code, Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm states, "A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony." The clear intent of this law is to protect law-abiding citizens and allow them to use deadly force when they are approached and feel threatened by another person. You can not initiate the encounter and later claim self-defense or "stand-your-ground."
Trayvon Martin was not engaged in an unlawful activity (he was walking home from the store), and he was approached at night by a strange man in a place where he had every right to be. Based upon these facts, Trayvon had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force. If Zimmerman had followed the age-old adage, "Don't start nothin'; won't be nothin' " Trayvon Martin would be alive today. The only reason Zimmerman felt "empowered" to engage Trayvon was because Zimmerman knew he possessed the "equalizer" - he was armed.
The State of Florida correctly charged George Zimmerman with second degree murder. Second degree murder is defined as, "the unlawful taking of human life with malice but without the other aggravating elements of first degree murder; i.e. without deliberation or premeditation." Black's Law Dictionary 5th edition. Had the prosecution stuck to these basic elements and not allowed itself to be sucked into the confusing morass of who was screaming for help etc., I believe that Zimmerman would be back in jail awaiting sentencing not at home with his family celebrating the verdict.
Was George Zimmerman acquitted based upon race? I do not know the answer to that question. I was not in the jury room and have not had the opportunity to talk with any of the jurors. I do know that according to "Discriminatory Acquittal": "Modem statistics show continuing disparities in convictions and sentencing based upon the race of the victim . . . Discriminatory acquittals constitute a massive and effectively ungoverned constitutional problem rarely mentioned by scholars and never addressed by courts."
When all of this is said and done, I can only imagine that the parents of Trayvon Martin mourn for him like Emmett Till's mother mourned for the tragic murder of her son. America is still America to me.
I close with the following:
HIS spirit is smoke ascended to high heaven.
His father, by the cruelest way of pain,
Had bidden him to his bosom once again;
The awful sin remained still unforgiven.
All night a bright and solitary star
(Perchance the one that ever guided him,
Yet gave him up at last to Fate's wild whim)
Hugh pitifully o'er the swinging char.
Day dawned, and soon the mixed crowds came to view
The ghastly body swaying in the sun:
The women thronged to look, but never a one
Showed sorrow in her eyes of steely blue;
And little lads, lynchers that were to be,
Danced round the dreadful thing in fiendish glee.
"THE LYNCHING" – Claude McKay