Monday, July 15, 2013

“Not Guilty” Where the Zimmerman Verdict Should Lead Us

According to his statements to police, Zimmerman felt that his life was in danger when the confrontation between himself and Trayvon Martin became physical. I’ll give Zimmerman the benefit of believing that Trayvon attacked him. After all, only two people really know what happened that night and one of them is dead. With no other witnesses I believe we have to consider Zimmerman’s account which, as the law is currently written in Florida and without enough physical evidence to say otherwise, leads me to agree that he could not be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. While race plays a major role in how we perceive the events of that night, let us take a step back and forget about skin color for a moment looking instead at what happened between two Americans, each trying to act in a way that he thought right.

Two Americans met on the night of February 26, 2012. The first acted in defense of himself and his neighbors, knowing that homes in his neighborhood had been robbed in the past. Not knowing if the person in the hoodie might be looking for a home to break into, this American calls the police. He then gets out of his car and follows the stranger. The second American, on his way home from the local convenience store, noticed someone following him. Based on statements and the testimony of the person with whom he was speaking over the phone, he became afraid thinking the one following him might mean him harm.

At some point that night both of these Americans felt threatened. Trayvon is not around to describe the level of threat he felt nor can he explain why he fought with Zimmerman. Zimmerman survived the scuffle and is able to speak of how he thought he was in danger of losing his life. Bottom line both Americans could have claimed they were within their rights to defend themselves. One of these Americans brought his fists (and a bag of candy) to a gunfight. He lost. These events along with the subsequent verdict should lead us into a discussion over whether or not we want a country where an unarmed American could be shot to death because he, out of fear, confronts someone who was following him.

It is difficult to have this discussion without involving race. My own skin color, as well as my past experiences, causes me to feel uncomfortable with the outcome. But it seems to me that even without consideration of race we all should be uncomfortable when the law allows an armed person to set into motion a series of events which results in the shooting of an unarmed person. There should be limits to what is allowed in states with stand-your-ground laws. The Zimmerman verdict should lead us into a discussion of where the line should be drawn.

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