Zimmerman verdict: No surprises - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Zimmerman verdict: No surprises

screen-shot-Zimmerman-Hannity

On the FoxNews program Hannity with Sean Hannity, George Zimmerman said it was “God’s will” that he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. Screen Grab for Hannity.

If you are a viewer of the news networks, or FoxNews, then you know what’s been going on for the past few weeks. Regular programming has been over-taken by the Trayvon Martin trial. Actually, it’s the trial of George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin.

Trayvon Martin (Wikipedia Commons)

Trayvon Martin (Wikipedia Commons)

There’s absolutely no question Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin — Zimmerman admits he did it. The question is: did Zimmerman have the right to stand his ground? Actually, that wasn’t the question during the trial, even though that’s the law Zimmerman cited when first confronted by the police. In fact, the police chief at the time let Zimmerman walk, based on the Stand Your Ground law of Florida.

But then the family of the victim, Trayvon Martin, pressed for an investigation and got it — 42 days later. Two days after that George Zimmerman was charged with Second Degree Murder and taken into custody. He made bail and a month ago the trial started with a well-publicized jury selection.

All the legal scholars came out of the woodwork … well, not scholars per se, but experts. On television we had former and current defense lawyers and prosecutors.

On Facebook there were people like me, watching everything unfold on TV and then regurgitating what was said by the experts, with our own peculiar little twists.

“Zimmerman is guilty,” from one side of the dial. “It’s a public lynching of Zimmerman,” from the other side of the dial.

This is all we really know: on the night of February 26, 2012, George Zimmerman saw a Black kid walking through his gated community and decided, from his profiling, this about Trayvon Martin: “This guy look like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something.”

Then Zimmerman followed Martin, and an altercation ensued that ended with Trayvon Martin dead on the pavement.

There are other details, like why Trayvon Martin was out walking in the rain on a Sunday Night. He went to a convenience store to get candy and a soft drink. He was talking on his phone to a friend when Zimmerman started stalking him.

There are recordings from the calls Zimmerman made to the police the prove Zimmerman ignored directives to stop following Martin and not to get out of his SUV.  At one point in the recordings Zimmerman said, “These assholes, they always get away.”

No kidding. They shouldn’t get away with going to a convenience store and buying Skittlse and Arizona Iced Tea. This is a slam-dunk case.

So, what other news did the Zimmerman trial push off the news channels (CNN and MSNBC) and FoxNews?

Let’s examine some of what was set aside for the Zimmerman trial. There was the pissing match between Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid. Like that’s really news anyway, although they ratcheted up the oral arguments this past week.

Not oral arguments, I’m getting the news confused here. There were oral arguments in the Zimmerman trial. McConnell and Reid continued their war of words, being sure to refer to each other as friends. According to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, his friend Harry Reid is the worst Majority Leader in the history of the Union!

A campaign button from 2012. Self explanatory. (Facebook meme)

A campaign button from 2012. Self explanatory.
(Facebook meme)

Now C’mon Mitch! In the entire history of the U.S. Senate? Can that really be verified? When I say George W. Bush is the worst president, it isn’t of all time (although it could be true); he’s the worst president in my lifetime. Because, honestly, I don’t have any direct knowledge of the presidents prior to Dwight D. Eisenhower. Kennedy actually. I don’t really remember the days of Ike.

So Senator McConnell, let’s not get too hyperbolic. Leave that to those of us in the blogosphere. We are far more entertaining with our melodrama.

The war of words between McConnell and Reid was over the Democrats’ threat to change the filibuster rules to force a vote on all of President Obama’s appointments. The GOP has filibustered more than 200 times since Barack Obama took the oath of office in January 2009 and the Democrats, well the country in general, is tired of the GOP obstructionism. Spoiler alert: Reid and the Democrats caved — once again.

Then in Texas it was determined, by the GOP-run state government, that tampons were too dangerous to be allowed into the capital building. And if you’re diabetic, forget it. Just stay the hell out! Protestors had to surrender their tampons, maxi-pads and diabetic supplies before entering the Texas capital building. It’s not really clear why, other than the Texas GOP thinks those items are dangerous?

° My women friends; should I be worried about you and your tampons and maxi-pads? Just asking.

This is the funny part: if you have a Concealed Handgun License then by all means, “Use that short, no-wait line over there. Don’t worry, you can bring your gun into the legislative chambers!”

A pointed meme found on Facebook

A pointed meme found on Facebook

So, in the Texas capital building, you can bring a firearm, but not tampons, maxi-pads or diabetic supplies. That could possibly qualify Texas as the worst state in the Union.

If not for Florida.

Which basically says that if you’re a White person and see someone, oh let’s say a Black kid, walking through your neighborhood, you can strap on your handgun, jump in your SUV and then stalk that person. If he objects to being followed and vigorously tries to stand his ground and protect himself, then by all means shoot the fucker. Just be sure to claim self-defense.

That makes Florida the worst state in America. At least John Oliver of the Daily Show thinks so and who can really disagree? So far the Texas policy of declaring tampons to be more dangerous than firearms hasn’t resulted in any deaths — yet.  In Florida a 17-year old Black kid who was minding his own business, walking to his father’s home with some candy and a soft drink is dead.

Elsewhere in Florida, Jacksonville actually, a jury decided a woman, a Black woman, did not have the right to protect herself from an abusive husband and gave Marissa Alexander 20 years for discharging her firearm into a wall as a warning to her advancing husband.

Protesters denouncing the verdict in the Zimmerman Trial. (Photo by Bill Hughes for the Baltimore Post-Examiner)

Protesters denouncing the verdict in the Zimmerman Trial.
(Bill Hughes )

Here’s the tricky question and maybe both of these apply in this case, sort of like a double whammy. Has Florida decided women in general do not have a right to protect themselves from abusive husbands/boyfriends, or is it Black people are not allowed to stand their ground and can be shot if they do — as long as the killer is White?

Seriously, which unwritten rule applies? Maybe both. But then that raises a question: what if you’re a White woman and you do what Marissa Alexander did? What is the likelihood of beating the rap? It’s pretty low. Women get charged with assault and murder for protecting themselves from their abusive family members or boyfriends all the time. It’s very common.

If a White woman is protecting herself from a spouse/boyfriend that is not White … what a dilemma for the prosecutor.  “Oh what the hell, throw the book at the bitch. She shoulda stuck with her own kind in the first place.”

Which sort of brings us back to George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. After a month-long trial it took the six-woman jury about 15 hours to find Zimmerman innocent of all charges. Did anyone actually doubt that would be the outcome?

From the moment Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder in April of 2012 people said he was being over-charged and that it would be nearly impossible to convict Zimmerman of that charge.

Trayvon Martin demonstration. (Photo by Bill Hughes)

Trayvon Martin demonstration in Baltiomore.
(Bill Hughes)

The woman given the task of investigating and then pressing charges against Zimmerman, Angela Corey, was the same attorney that prosecuted Marissa Alexander. But then she passed the actual trial work off to the prosecutors in Seminole County, Florida: Bernie de la Rionda and John Guy.

My first reaction is to second-guess the strategy used by de la Rionda and Guy. What seems like obvious follow up questions to observers were never asked; parts of Zimmerman’s own account were never challenged, like: if Trayvon Martin saw Zimmerman’s gun and reached for it with his right hand, how did that happen?

According to Zimmerman he was on his back and his gun was holstered in the waistband of his pants on the right side of his backside. In the dark, in the rain, with the gun hidden from view, how could Martin have seen it, let alone reach for it with his right hand, if he was on top of Zimmerman?

But we’ll never know because the prosecutors never pursued that apparent contradiction.

But it does no good to question the work of the prosecutors, the trial is over. My next instinctual reaction would be to accuse the prosecutors of not aggressively pursuing a conviction. Both de la Rionda and Guy basically asked the jurors to connect the dots, asking questions for the jury to answer when they deliberated for a verdict.

Defense attorney Mark O’Mara pointed out in his closing argument that it wasn’t up to the jury to connect the dots, it was up to the prosecutors and if the two state attorneys didn’t do it in the courtroom then the jury ought to acquit George Zimmerman. So they did. It was a brilliant closing argument from O’Mara.

Analysts on MSNBC and CNN questioned what the prosecutors were doing, right from the start of jury selection, right through the trial. Analysts that (for the most part) spent time in courtrooms as either defense attorneys or prosecutors — or both in some cases.

Defense attorney Mark O’Mara proved to be the right choice defending Zimmerman. (screen shot from local news)

Defense attorney Mark O’Mara proved to be the right choice defending Zimmerman.
(screen shot from local news)

After the verdict was read Angela Corey and Bernie de la Rionda held a press conference. Corey smiled as she thanked the jury for taking part in the trial. Justice was done.

Defense attorney Mark O’Mara got in front of the cameras and thanked the jury as well. But he also admonished the president for not directly acknowledging the pain and suffering of the Zimmerman Family and when prompted by reporters, O’Mara even made the claim that if the race of the two people involved had been reversed, Zimmerman being Black and Martin being White, “… he never would have been charged with a crime.”

What?

Sixteen percent of African-American men are prosecuted and sent to prison which is double the rate of white men being charged with crimes and going to prison.

In fact, the lead investigator in the case, officer Chris Serino, even said under oath he believed Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense and Zimmerman at first walked away from the shooting without charges.

Had the Martin Family and their supporters not pushed for an investigation, Zimmerman would have never been charged with any crimes. Maybe O’Mara was just grandstanding to enhance his gig as a local go-to expert for a local TV affiliate because statistics certainly don’t bear out his claim.

Things are relatively calm since the verdict was read, although White Supremacist sites and conservative bloggers are reporting revenge attacks on Hispanics and Whites. So far no major news organizations are reporting any such attacks, but there was some violence in Los Angeles and Oakland, CA after the verdict was read. And of course those claims of retaliation beatings are making the rounds on Facebook.

The words of prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda were turned into a Facebook meme.

The words of prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda were turned into a Facebook meme.

Still, it isn’t a surprise to anyone Zimmerman was acquitted. One juror, speaking to Anderson Cooper of CNN, thought Zimmerman really did fear for his life and that he was guilty of “bad judgment.” Even though she admitted Zimmerman was the aggressive party in the altercation.

She said, “I think George Zimmerman is a man whose heart was in the right place, but just got displaced by the vandalism in the neighborhoods, and wanting to catch these people so badly that he went above and beyond what he really should have done.”

And yet she found Zimmerman innocent.

Makes you wonder: didn’t Trayvon Martin have a right to defend himself against someone who was aggressively stalking him? Apparently not.

 


About the author

Tim Forkes

Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative college newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment issues, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the business of government and business was so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that reality. Contact the author.
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