I’m going to make a slight departure from the normal posts that I do, which are ostensibly comical and touch on a very serious topic. And this topic is the mysterious and controversial death of Trayvon Martin. There are countless online news articles about this subject at this point, almost exactly a month after the incident took place, that you can find out more detailed information on your own if you wish. But I will try to give a brief synopsis of what supposedly took place in the next paragraph. In the last couple of weeks, there has been increased national (and international) attention being paid to this story and with good reason as tensions in the Sanford, FL area where the incident occurred have heightened. Indeed, in checking my computer’s history, I can see that the earliest that I became aware of the incident was on March 9. But I will dispense with my introduction now and move on to my discussion.
The details of this story that as far as I know are not in dispute, follow. On February 26, seventeen-year old Trayvon Martin was staying with his father at the home of his father’s fiancé or girlfriend in a gated community in Sanford, FL. It seems clear from the reports available that Trayvon Martin’s younger brother was also present in the home at the time. At halftime of that evening’s NBA All-Star game, reports suggest that Trayvon Martin left the home to walk to a nearby 7-Eleven to pick up a few items. During Martin’s walk back, after entering the community, he was observed by twenty-eight-year old George Zimmerman from within Zimmerman’s vehicle. Reports have suggested that Zimmerman was the captain of the community’s neighborhood watch, but the reports seem to be unclear as to whether or not this was an official position. Upon seeing Martin walking within the community, Zimmerman called a police line. Different reports that I have read differ as to whether this call was a 911 call or a non-emergency police line. I will leave it to you to search for the recordings of the phone calls if you desire. At some point after seeing Martin and reporting to the police, Zimmerman exits the vehicle and at some time later, a confrontation occurs between Martin and Zimmerman. The end result of the confrontation was that Martin lay dead with a single gunshot wound to the chest while Zimmerman reportedly had a broken nose and an injury to the back of his head. Various neighbors called 911 as they heard the noise from the encounter in the background, and I invite you to search for the recordings of these calls as well, if you wish. A short time later, the police arrived, and the end result of that evening’s events was that Zimmerman was reportedly taken to the police station for questioning, buy ultimately released.
And now I’ll expand on a few of the details. It seems impossible to me to believe that I am the first source from which you are learning the details of the story, but in case I am, I will inform you that Martin was African-American while Zimmerman has been described as White-Hispanic. In a perfect world this would be irrelevant, and this is part of the reason that I chose to omit this information in the synopsis above, but anyone who believes that this is a perfect world is foolish and/or naïve. I am going to leave to you to decide for yourself whether there was a racial bias motivation behind Zimmerman exiting his vehicle and allegedly pursuing Martin based on the phone calls to the police and character accounts by friends/acquaintances of Zimmerman (which again you can search for and the information is readily available online), but I think it is important to mention the races of the parties involved for a reason that I will come back to shortly. But in addition to the added details that I just gave, in 2005 a so-called ‘Stand Your Ground’ law was passed in Florida that says, and I am certainly paraphrasing because I do not have the law in front of me, if a person is in a location in which he or she is legally able to be, and s/he reasonably believes that there is a person who is going to commit severe bodily harm to another or some other felony, then the person witnessing this or about to (in their mind) be harmed does not have a duty to retreat, but can meet this perceived threat with deadly force. And apparently, from what I’ve read or heard in a couple of instances over the last couple of weeks, this law supposedly if claimed by a person (if they claim they shot someone in self-defense) provides immunity from standard arrest. (I admit that I’m not 100% certain about this last part, but I’m almost positive that I heard this as part of the explanation for why Zimmerman wasn’t arrested. I think it was perhaps during the panel discussion on this week’s ABC’s This Week.)
And now I’m going to move on from just providing the facts or facts as I’ve heard them in this case to providing my opinion. The person who bears the most responsibility for this tragedy occurring is George Zimmerman. I don’t care what explanation, excuse, or spin anyone gives you, but the simple fact is that if Zimmerman had listened to the police dispatcher who was on the phone with him who told him that the police did not need him to follow Martin, this tragedy almost certainly would not have occurred. To me, any person looking at this incident objectively would come to the same conclusion. And I’m torn as to where the second greatest responsibility lies, but let me absolutely assure you, in my mind, regardless of Martin’s actions, it does not belong with Trayvon Martin. The second greatest responsibility lies with either the Florida legislature and the person who was governor at that time who signed into law this foolish so-called ‘Stand Your Ground’ law or the Sanford police department. This seems obvious to me based on the reports that I’ve read. It seems incredibly obvious to me based on reports that I have read that the investigation into the incident that the Sanford police conducted was sub-standard at best. I have seen reports that Martin was tested for drugs and alcohol after he had died, but Zimmerman, the man who by all accounts was the one who shot and killed Martin was not. I have heard from at least one report that I have seen over the last two and a half weeks that it is generally standard procedure after such a shooting to test the shooter for drugs and alcohol in his/her system. But as I said shortly ago Zimmerman was reportedly not tested. Now there is a chance that Zimmerman was on neither drugs nor alcohol on that evening, but the problem is that, if the reports that I’ve seen are correct, we will never be able to determine this. If according to this absurd so-called ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, the Sanford police were not allowed to test Zimmerman if he claimed self-defense, then the responsibility rests with the Florida state legislature and the then governor for this atrocious law. If, however, despite the claims of self-defense, the Sanford police were able to perform drug and alcohol tests on Zimmerman, but elected not to do so, then they are fully responsible for this shoddy investigation and borderline obstruction of justice. It seems patently absurd to me that, again if the reports that I have heard are correct, that after such an altercation and shooting, they would test the person who has been shot, but not the shooter for drugs and alcohol.
So now, just over a month has passed since this incident took place. What infuriates me more than anything is that this guy, George Zimmerman, had absolutely no legal authority to confront Trayvon Martin, but since he did not heed the instructions of the police dispatcher with whom he was speaking, a seventeen-year old child is now needlessly dead. I have heard reports that according to friends, Zimmerman has been crying and inconsolable at times over the last month. I wholeheartedly believe this, and I have sympathy for him. I cannot imagine what it would feel like if I was responsible for taking someone else’s life, nor do I ever want to know that feeling. I get this feeling that this will haunt Zimmerman for the rest of his life, and I cannot imagine the strength that it will take to endure that heavy load. I don’t wish such emotional stress on anyone. On April 10, I believe that the Florida State Attorney’s office will be convening a grand jury to decide whether charges will be brought in this case. Additionally, based on some of the information heard on taped police calls from Zimmerman, the United States Justice Department is looking into whether or not federal charges can be brought against Zimmerman for violating Martin’s civil rights. Only time will tell what becomes of this case, but I will certainly be paying attention.
Addendum: I left this out before, but one of the things that infuriates me the most about this case is that it seems completely unfathomable to me that if Trayvon Martin, being African-American, was the shooter that he would have been given the benefit of the doubt by the Sanford police and now, a month later, would have spent exactly zero days behind bars. I estimate that probability to be zero. The other thing that I wanted to mention is that the New Black Panther Party has apparently offered a reward for the citizen’s arrest of George Zimmerman. I believe that it started at $10,000, but last I heard, the reward was up to $23,000, and they hope that eventually the reward gets up to $1,000,000. This sort of involvement by the New Black Panther Party is precisely what is not needed in this situation. They are helping the situation in no way, shape, or form.