Why Zimmerman Walked
Photo credit: Reuters
There’s no disputing the fact that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. That’s probably the only fact proven by this case. I am grieving this morning, like so many Americans and people across the globe, because the prosecution bungled the case. I don’t believe that Zimmerman was acquitted because of white (or half-white, as the case may be) privilege, although his race likely contributed to aspects of this trial that worked both for and against him. A white man in the neighborhood watch shooting a black teenager dead in supposed self-defense is not uncommon and I’m honestly not surprised that Zimmerman was not arrested that night. The cops at the crime scene likely looked like he does and thought like he does; I’m sure they had the same belief as Zimmerman that Trayvon Martin was guilty just for looking like a criminal (read: young, black male). Profiling is an integral part of police work and I’ve been uneasy with the flat denial in the media of the racial aspect of this case. I think the media shied away from the term “racist” because in the specific arena of a trial, to suggest racism would be to suggest that George Zimmerman was some hyped-up skinhead who pursued and executed Trayvon Martin based on the color of his skin.
Honestly, he did. He may not have killed Trayvon Martin just because the boy was black, but Zimmerman certainly suspected him and followed him because he was a young black man in predominantly white neighborhood. He “fit the bill” of a criminal based on the other “thugs” Zimmerman had seen in the area.
I believe the prosecution overcharged Zimmerman, like most analysts on the news are saying. Murder 2 was a stretch, not because Zimmerman is not guilty of Murder 2, but because the evidence for that crime is almost entirely circumstantial in this case. As I watched the case wind down, I put my money on a ruling of manslaughter. If the prosecution had pursued a manslaughter charge, they could have PROVED that charge and Zimmerman would be eating prison food for dinner tonight. In my opinion, the frenzy and high levels of emotion that are inherently swirling around this case, exacerbated by the delay in the arrest of George Zimmerman, prompted the prosecution to brazenly declare a Murder 2 charge without considering all of the evidence. Because the truth in a courtroom is not what happened, it’s what can be proven.
Why would the prosecution aim for murder and ignore manslaughter? In this case, manslaughter carries up to 30 years in prison, and the actual time served would likely be close to what Zimmerman would have served for Murder 2 (because he would never have received life in prison without parole unless he was being made an example of). In my opinion, the media frenzy and the indignation swooping around this case caused the prosecution to overreach with their charge. The evidence in this case proves manslaughter with a deadly weapon, not murder with a depraved mind. What was really in Zimmerman’s heart that night will probably always be a mystery.
Zimmerman is stone-cold guilty of Manslaughter by Culpable Negligence with a gun, which is a first degree felony. In my opinion, he is guilty of Voluntary Manslaughter and most likely Murder 2, but we’re talking about what can be proven, what should have been argued and what allowed Zimmerman to walk. The prosecution was chasing after a Murder 2 charge because the trial was nationally watched and scrutinized, and was being ported directly and unfiltered into the homes of Americans day in and day out. Prosecution had to make it good TV, right? Television aside, I think the circumstances that actually occurred easily fit a Murder 2 charge. But again, it’s not what’s TRUE, but what can be proven that matters in a court of law.
Involuntary Manslaughter with a gun could have been easily proven using the evidence provided in the case. George Zimmerman had taken classes in criminal justice and the law. He was very well educated about police procedures and things like the Stand Your Ground law. Who knows whether he’s a “wannabe cop,” but there is clear evidence that he was educated in law enforcement. Multiple professors testified that he was a student who excelled while enrolled in criminal justice classes. He was also the head of the Neighborhood Watch, which means he was informed of the basic tenet of the Neighborhood Watch, which is to see something suspicious and report it. NOT to follow the suspect, NOT to make a citizen’s arrest.
On top of the evidence that George Zimmerman knew how to react in this situation and chose to do the wrong thing, there’s the phone call with the non-emergency line (here’s the transcript) where he reports that Trayvon is in the neighborhood. Dispatch tells him on the tape not to follow Trayvon or try to detain him, to just stay in his car and wait for the police.
It is indisputable that Zimmerman was instructed by law enforcement to leave Trayvon Martin alone and let the police handle the situation.
But George Zimmerman took the law into his own hands. He made the fatal mistake to get out of his car. Maybe it was an intentional act, maybe he wanted to shoot Trayvon dead, maybe he’s a murdering racist, but there’s just no proof. Nothing to hand a jury that shows his intent.
This case hinged around several provable stages- what George Zimmerman knew, what he was told to do, and what he chose to do instead. His choice to get out of the car was CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE, by the definition of the term (which is: failure to act with the prudence that a reasonable person would exercise under the same circumstances). His possession and use of a firearm classifies the crime as a first degree felony, which is punishable by 30 years in prison and, with special stipulation, even life.
If the prosecution had even just used their closing statement to explain to the jury exactly how and why George Zimmerman was guilty of manslaughter, based on the evidence provided in court, the jury would have most likely found Zimmerman guilty of manslaughter, leaving sentencing in the hands of the judge. And I don’t think Debra Nelson would have let him off easy, at all.
As horrible and unfair and wrong as the crime, case and verdict have been, I think most of us can agree that a manslaughter charge and a stint in prison would have been far favorable to George Zimmerman walking free and clear. What’s more, manslaughter was provable to the jury, BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT. The jury asked to know more about manslaughter and was not given any further information. The prosecution went all-or-nothing with the Murder 2 case, and manslaughter- the charge that the evidence supports- was swept under the rug.
George Zimmerman will certainly pay for killing Trayvon Martin, whether in prison or outside. The world is a prison to him now. His supporters are few and far between, and his name is infamous. He’ll never have a normal life, and he’ll probably fear death every day until it finally comes to collect him. Maybe he’ll be charged in a civil trial, or dogged with lawsuits like Casey Anthony. All we can do today, in the aftermath, is speculate. And really, that’s what this case has been about from the beginning, and that’s why the prosecution lost.
(Note: I’m not a legal professional (obviously); the opinions asserted above are just that, opinions. When my opinions are based in fact, I have linked to sites supporting my claims.)