As Zimmerman’s trial closed Friday, his defense lawyer declared in summation that the unarmed Martin was to blame .
“We know he had the opportunity to go home, and he didn’t do that,” Mark O’Mara said, brazenly turning the world on its head . “The person who decided to make the night violent was the guy who didn’t go home when he had the chance.”…
Prosecutors poked holes in this story — noting, for example, that Zimmerman’s modest head wounds were hardly consistent with the violent struggle he described. But, since no one else alive witnessed the fight, the only word anyone has is the killer’s. Plus his lawyer’s blame-the-victim contention that everything went wrong because Martin didn’t just walk home.
After Zimmerman groundlessly presumed the worst about a teenager who was doing nothing wrong. After Zimmerman took it upon himself to play cop after the real cops had told him to stand down. After Zimmerman brought a gun to a confrontation that could easily escalate into a fatality.
Whatever the jury’s verdict, Zimmerman started it that night — and finished it with a bullet.
I, for one, would not convict George Zimmerman of second-degree murder. I might find him guilty of manslaughter, but even that would be a stretch based on the evidence presented to that Sanford, Fla. jury.
Still, contrary to what George Zimmerman’s lead attorney asserts, “not guilty” — should that be the jury’s verdict — is not the same as “absolute innocence” in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the teenager he mistakenly assumed to be a menace to society, or, at least, to the residents of a Florida community where he volunteered in a neighborhood patrol…
Zimmerman was wrong in his assumptions, wrong in his attitude, wrong in ignoring the advice of the police dispatcher to stay put and wait for the police to come, wrong in confronting Trayvon, wrong in shooting him, wrong in lying about what transpired. That said, however, he may not be guilty of murder. Under Florida law, a reasonable jury relying on its common sense can reasonably find that, as he tussled with Trayvon, he feared for his life and shot in self defense. That he resorted to deadly force because he actually believed he faced “death or great bodily harm.” That he acted as “a reasonably prudent and cautious person” would have done in those circumstances.
In the view from my armchair couch potato juror’s seat, prosecutors did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman, as wrong as he was in what he did that rainy February night, committed murder.
Just when I thought the George Zimmerman “trial” couldn’t sink any lower, the prosecutorial limbo dancers of the State of Florida magnificently lowered their own bar in the final moments of their cable-news celebrity. In real justice systems, the state decides what crime has been committed and charges somebody with it. In the Zimmerman trial, the state’s “theory of the case” is that it has no theory of the case: might be murder, might be manslaughter, might be aggravated assault, might be a zillion other things, but it’s something. If you’re a juror, feel free to convict George Zimmerman of whatever floats your boat.
Nailing a guy on something, anything, is a time-honored American tradition: If you can’t get Al Capone on the Valentine’s Day massacre, get him on his taxes. Americans seem to have a sneaky admiration for this sort of thing, notwithstanding that, as we now know, the government is happy to get lots of other people on their taxes, too. Ever since the president of the United States (a man so cautious and deferential to legal niceties that he can’t tell you whether the Egyptian army removing the elected head of state counts as a military coup until his advisers have finished looking into the matter) breezily declared that if he had a son he’d look like Trayvon, ever since the U.S. Department of so-called Justice dispatched something called its “Community Relations Services” to Florida to help organize anti-Zimmerman rallies at taxpayer expense, ever since the politically savvy governor appointed a “special prosecutor” and the deplorably unsavvy Sanford Police Chief was eased out, the full panoply of state power has been deployed to nail Zimmerman on anything.
How difficult can that be in a country in which an Hispanic Obama voter can be instantly transformed into the poster boy for white racism? Who ya gonna believe — Al Sharpton or your lying eyes? As closing arguments began on Thursday, the prosecutors asked the judge to drop the aggravated-assault charge and instruct the jury on felony murder committed in the course of child abuse. Felony murder is a murder that occurs during a felony, and, according to the prosecution’s theory du jour, the felony George Zimmerman was engaged in that night was “child abuse,” on the grounds that Trayvon Martin, when he began beating up Zimmerman, was 17 years old. This will come as news to most casual observers of the case, who’ve only seen young Trayvon in that beatific photo of him as a twelve-year-old…
We have been warned that in the event of an acquittal there could be riots. My own feeling is that the Allegedly Reverend Al Sharpton, now somewhat emaciated and underbouffed from his Tawana Brawley heyday, is not the Tahrir Square–scale race-baiting huckster he once was. But if Floridians are of a mind to let off a little steam, they might usefully burn down the Sanford courthouse and salt the earth. The justice system revealed by this squalid trial is worth rioting over.