Justice

Man, it has been a while. I get a lot of great ideas and file them away, but I’m in the process of cutting a new record with River Kings so it gets hard to juggle a full time job, a second career in the music biz and  also run a rant. I mean blog.

This summers shiny nickel trial is over and for weeks we had 24 hour coverage of a case that was already resolved within the first days of the investigation. Let’s not forget, the local State’s attorney who reviewed the initial investigation found George Zimmerman acted in accordance with the self defense laws of Florida, which seems lost in the translation of the not guilty verdict.  George Zimmerman never offered any other defense and the not guilty verdict was justification that he acted in accordance with the law. As you should know by now, I’m a big fan of facts and this is a fact. Understanding a fact and agreeing with a fact are 2 completely different things. So take the time to read through the whole blog.

Listening to the overnight and early am talking heads, I’m amazed at the attitudes and apparent dismissal of education that so called legal experts have. Justice in the United States equals due process. The airwaves, Twitterverse and Facebook seem to be carrying the message that George Zimmerman is guilty and justice was not served in this case. Well, George Zimmerman is innocent and has been innocent since the beginning of this case. Although his defense attorneys make the claim they proved his innocence, that’s simply not the case. The burden of proof is on the State and they failed to make a case. The same Constitution that protects you and me protects George Zimmerman. The Constitution protects each citizens right to a fair trial and judgment by their peers. It also protects the presumption of innocence. Allowing the evidence to be heard and the jury to make a decision based on the facts presented in the proper forum are the tenants of justice in the US. It is certainly not punishment. In this case, as in all cases that go to trial, the system worked. There was never any dispute as to what happened that tragic night. 2 private citizens interacted and 1 ended up dead on the ground with a gunshot wound in his chest. The facts presented in the case centered around a number of elements, including hate. The Florida Murder 2 definition requires proof that the perpetrator demonstrates a “depraved mind”. One of the elements of depraved mind under Florida law is that the act was motivated by “ill will, hatred, spite or evil intent”. Despite the calls and assurances from the left, the FBI and Justice Department have already conducted investigations into this matter. They have determined there was no violation of anyone’s civil rights or malicious racially motivated act by Zimmerman. The State of Florida could not prove any racially motivated ill will as demonstrated by the verdict. No matter your thoughts on racial profiling or gun control, this case was properly presented in the appropriate setting. That is justice in America. Not punishing someone for doing something you think is offensive or wrong or you disagree with. If that was the case 95% of America would be bruised, beaten or locked up. It’s putting facts and evidence forward in a courtroom for a jury of your peers to evaluate and pass judgement on guilt or innocence as related to the law. End analysis and begin editorial 🙂

Make no mistake, what happened that night in Sanford, Florida was a tragedy. What’s lost in this case is the lives of the 2 people most affected by the events. Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old kid who was unknown to 99.9% of the people who are making him a martyr is dead. A family was destroyed in the process. As a former police investigator with over 50 murder investigations/prosecutions I am here to tell you that no verdict will change that or change the way his family feels about the loss. George Zimmerman still has to live with the fact he took another persons life. Only he can truly determine if he was justified in his actions and deal with the internal consequences that come along with with those choices. Taking a human life is mentally and physically tolling, whether it’s justified or not. It affects who you are as a person and how you view the world and the people who live in it. I find it especially perplexing when men of God make it their mission to act as punisher for someone else’s actions, especially since they preach all men are answerable to God and God alone.

What really makes the event so tragic is that is has served to strengthen the divide in this country. Issues of gun control and racial profiling are again center stage in a death case. Is racial profiling by a private citizen illegal in this country? No its not. Racial profiling is defined as the use of race as a deciding factor by POLICE in an investigation or interaction with a citizen. Was Trayvon Martin the victim of a man who acted improperly by violating the rules of his Neighborhood Watch organization and the orders of police officials who told him to observe and report only? You bet he did. Did he exacerbate a situation by carrying a firearm on his person that night? Yes he did. Just because he has the right to do so doesn’t change the fact that the presence of a firearm changed the totality of the circumstances. I’m not here to argue his right to bear arms. I am going to tackle the issue of his ability to do so. I have written how I feel about the lack of responsibility amongst gun owners in America. George Zimmerman and the death of Trayvon Martin is a picture perfect case of why responsible gun control is necessary. George Zimmerman was not required to show any proficiency with his pistol or the laws governing self defense. In fact, he made statements to law enforcement that he was ignorant of the Stand Your Ground Law. It boggles my mind that in this day and age, we can allow people to just walk the streets carrying a firearm WITHOUT ANY TRAINING WHATSOEVER! Use of force experts testified that George Zimmerman did not follow the generally accepted legal standards of force elevation. I was required throughout my career to take continuous training on use of force and firearms, including concealed carry. I know that there are several alternatives available between getting punched in the face and shooting someone. I am trained to respond appropriately to this level of violence, both mentally and physically. And to have a rare Dalton moment, I have more experience in violence while armed with a firearm than I care to admit lest my wife or child read this. As a private citizen exercising his right to bear arms and defend himself, George Zimmerman did not and was not required to do so. Is it possible that his lack of understanding and use of the weapon and laws led to this situation? You bet. Was Trayvon Martin’s race an issue in this case? Yes, but not in the sense of profiling or even a negative way. The facts revealed that a person matching Trayvon Martin’s description was a suspect in area burglaries. If a police officer stopped him for this reason it would have been a justified interaction. It probably would not have ended with Martin dead on the ground either. Hence the regulations of Neighborhood Watch, which generally state to observe and report. If George Zimmerman wasn’t armed would he have engaged Martin? Who knows, but my gut says no. People in these situations who lack training mistakenly believe a firearm gives them an advantage.

But to turn Martin into a civil rights martyr is irresponsible in my opinion. He’s not Medgar Evers or Emmett Till. I don’t think being black was the cause of the incident, other than being related matching a burglary suspect. I don’t believe George Zimmerman is a racist who went into this situation solely because a black kid was walking through his neighborhood. In fact, the FBI investigation (again, despite what Reverends Al and Jesse would have you believe the Feds have already conducted an investigation) found just the opposite. George Zimmerman was a man who mentored and tutored disadvantaged children of all races. He was a partner in a small business with a black person. In the over 50 interviews conducted by the FBI they did not find a single person who could verify that George Zimmerman had ill feelings towards black people and could not find a single piece of evidence to show he was racially motivated in his actions. He had a long history of being associated with neighborhood watch and making similar calls of suspicious activity to police. Yet we are bombarded with people burning up the airwaves with promises of justice and investigations into civil rights violations, calling for violence against him and making him out to be a racist. This case was Hollywood scripted to expose the clear racial divide and level of distrust that still exists in this country. It also exposes the clear weaknesses in our gun laws (Hint: it isn’t background checks). At the end of the day it’s important that institutions and individuals come together to address these issues. Unfortunately, cases like this provide such divisional fodder for the media outlets to push their agenda’s, the important issues get overshadowed by the rhetoric and grandstanding. More so, it detracts from the greater picture of gun violence and inequality of America.

Next up: Edward Snowden: Hero or Traitor? (Maybe, it might be 4 months before I get around to doing this again and Snowden may be shiny nickeled from my memory 😉

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One comment

  1. Kevin Lee · · Reply

    Salient and well measured response, Tony. But that’s kind of what I would expect from you.

    I would have to add that what I’ve heard about Zimmerman’s track record reflects a kind of hyper-vigilance that seems common among LEO “wannabes,” precisely the kind of folks screening should weed out of the pool for duty. Perhaps I’m wrong on that count but considering the folks I’ve come across in my life who fit that description — and now I’m the one that’s profiling — it doesn’t strike me as aberrant.

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