The Trayvon Martin has case captured the attention of a nation. It has engendered strong opinions on everything from race relations to gun control to legal theories of self-defense. With the acquittal of George Zimmerman on all counts, the country is divided and on edge, with protests and matches planned in support of Martin.
The one unassailable truth is that this case is a tragedy. But it’s a tragedy that is very complex and it is those complexities that the jury had to wrestle with.
The facts that are indisputable are these:
- Martin was walking back to his father’s house after going out to buy a drink and skittles. He was wearing a sweatshirt with a hood over his head.
- Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer spotted him and began following him.
- Zimmerman called 911 to alert them of what he deemed suspicious behavior and was told not to pursue Martin.
- Zimmerman, however, did pursue Martin as can be heard on the 911 tape.
- At some point thereafter, Zimmerman and Martin came face to face and a fight ensued.
- During that fight, Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.
Those are the facts that we know. That set of indisputable facts, however, leaves large gaps in what actually happened that tragic night in February 2012. The most important dispute in the case was whether Zimmerman shot Martin in self-defense. With that, comes a number of questions to which there were no clear answers.
Did Zimmerman confront Martin and start the fight? Or did Martin attack Zimmerman as he was walking back to his car after losing Martin between the residential buildings? While Zimmerman’s account sounds too convenient, there were no witnesses to the start of the fight so there are no clear answers.
Was Martin on top of Zimmerman pummeling his head into the ground? Or was it Zimmerman on top? Two different witnesses testified to both of those scenarios.
Did Zimmerman suffer enough bodily injury to support his claim that he was being beaten so bad that he had to defend himself with his gun? Zimmerman did suffer a broken nose, lacerations to the back of his head, and photos show him bloodied and beaten right after the fight. But medical experts for the prosecution at trial said his injuries were relatively minor.
These are the facts that the jury had to wrestle with to decide the pivotal question of whether Zimmerman acted in self-defense. And in doing so, they had to determine whether the prosecution proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Zimmerman did not act in self defense. The facts discussed above are just a sampling of the conflicting evidence in this case. There were no clear answers to those questions. It almost makes you wish that Zimmerman could be charged with stupidity, because that’s just what he was: stupid. Had he not chased after Martin in the first place, Martin would still be alive today. But unfortunately stupidity is not a crime – the jails would be too overcrowded (with myself in there as well).
We are a nation of laws and in this great country, all crimes must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. A young man is dead, the country simmers with anger, and grieving parents still mourn the loss of their child. There are only victims and losers in this case – no winners. But with the eyes of the nation upon them, this jury stuck to the facts and found that the prosecution had not met its burden. They deliberated for 16 long hours. Another jury may have come to a different result. But this much is clear: the jury deserves to be commended. Let the politicians and the media talking heads searching for the most salacious headlines chirp about the effects of the verdict that have nothing to do with the case itself.
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