Neither justice nor the truth were served when George Zimmerman was found not guilty of killing seventeen year old Trayvon Martin. In fact, this was the latest example of a travesty of justice and a bastardization of the truth.
One of the last things the prosecution said in closing arguments was this is not about race. It’s about right and wrong. In an ideal world, that would be true. However, we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a country in which self-defense and the nuclear version known as “stand your ground” are legal concepts that only apply to certain people. In reality, Zimmerman’s acquittal was an inevitability if one looks at the case law.
A self-defense defense ultimately depends on who you are, if you look at previous stand your ground cases in Florida.
It didn’t apply in the case of a black woman in Florida who shot in the air, when her husband threatened her life. Marissa Alexander self-defense defense was rejected because after retreating, she returned to get her keys. The decision to get her keys earned Alexander 20 years in prison. It did apply to the Greystone Garcia, also in Florida, who chased and stabbed a guy to death over a car radio. The reasoning? The car radio was a deadly weapon. It applied to the white man in Texas who killed a woman because she refused to have sex with him. He shot her whe she was running away.
According to the six mostly white women on Zimmerman’s jury, self-defense applied to Zimmerman but not to Trayvon Martin. In the end, that’s what they were really saying when they returned a verdict of not guilty. According to this jury, Zimmerman was defending himself when he left the safety of his SUV to stalk and eventually kill an unarmed seventeen-year-old boy because he was black and wearing a hoodie in the rain. Zimmerman’s false assumption that since Trayvon was black he “didn’t belong” in that neighborhood was accepted as a reasonable basis for Zimmerman to believe that he was in danger. They accepted the defense’s claim that when a child is stalked by a stranger, it makes sense to take that stalker home with them. They accepted when Zimmerman told Sean Hannity, that when he killed Trayvon Martin, it was God’s plan.
In reality, they conformed to other juries who concluded that certain people have a right to defend themselves and other people don’t. Apparently if you belong to the cateogires of people for whom self-defense doesn’t apply, sidewalks, clock radios and refusing to have sex provide a basis for a reasonable person with a gun or a knife to believe that they are in danger.
Granted, the prosecution did a pathetic job in the Zimmerman case. They didn’t offer a theory of the case, but then if they did it would mean acknowledging that everything in this case was about race. Race played a role in Zimmerman’s assumptions about Trayvon Martin and it played a role in his decision to leave the safety of his SUV to stalk and kill an unarmed kid who was doing nothing wrong. Zimmerman made it clear he wasn’t going to let this effing a@#hole get away with walking down a street. Not on his watch.
The prosecution did nothing when the defense argued that Zimmerman was justified in racial profiling Trayvon Martin, and based on that racial profiling had a reasonable basis to believe that he, Zimmerman was in danger. When Mark O Mara presented a picture of Trayvon Martin as a menacing black boy, they didn’t even counter with the most recent pictures of Trayvon with his Mom or a picture of him riding a horse.
They accepted the defense’s animation laced with racial innuendo of what occurred that night, instead of presenting their theory based on the facts.
In many respects, the defense prosecuted Trayvon Martin, more than they actually defended George Zimmerman. While the prosecution limited its case to poking holes in Zimmerman’s story.
The prosecution appealed to emotions in its closing, but its presentation of the facts on which those emotions were based was to put it mildly weak. Conversely, Mark O’Mara delivered what appeared to be a cool and factually driven closing, yet in reality, they were playing on fears about black boys in hoodies. They dismissed many substantive lies by Zimmerman as something that happens when you tell the same story repeatedly. While this reasoning applies to minor details that is not what occurred in this case. Zimmerman claimed he followed Traven because Zimmerman did not know which of the three streets he was on in the neighborhood he lived in for several years and patrolled. Then there’s the problem with Zimmerman’s claim that amounted to suggesting that Traven Martin had three hands – one to cover Zimmerman’s mouth, another to pinch Zimmerman’s nose and the third one went right for Zimmerman’s concealed weapon that was in a holster on his back. What’s really amazing is that somehow Trayvon reached for and could see a black gun in a black holster in the dark and while Zimmerman was on the ground, meaning the holster was directly making contact with the concrete.
None of this rings true, unless you want to believe this was the story about a good white man with a gun defending himself from a young black thug.
See if a black boy calls his stalker a cracker, that’s evidence of his hatred. But when the stalker refers to a black boy as an effing a-hole, a suspect, someone who is obviously up to no good being on a public street and not walking fast enough or walking too fast or running, that was just talk.
Mark O’Mara may hope that people will put their emotions aside and “understand” that when George Zimmerman stalked and killed Trayvon Martin, it was Martin’s fault. Or as Zimmerman once said, it was “God’s plan.
I understand that a seventeen year old boy who was within his rights to go to the store – even while wearing a hoodie in the rain. He was within his rights to walk home with a can of ice tea and skittles. I also understand that there is nothing coming close to self-defense when someone leaves their zone of safety with a weapon to stalk an unarmed child. There is something drastically wrong when someone ignores instructions to stay in his car, stalks and kills an unarmed child, claims it was self-defense and gets away with it.
I also understand that this case illustrates the problems that come with a jury of six, mostly white people of one gender, which hardly constitutes a jury of one’s peers in America.
One thing I understand more than anything else, this case was about race. The defense knew it, even if the prosecution tried to deny it. The defense played on race when it presented a white woman who was scared because of the black man who broke into her house, and how that justified Zimmerman’s racial profiling of Trayvon Martin. They played on race when they showed a picture of a shirtless Trayvon Martin as the Trayvon Martin George Zimmerman saw that night. They played on race when they claimed that instead of going home an unarmed Trayvon Martin waited in bushes that apparently didn’t exist, with the intent of using concrete as a weapon to cause harm to George Zimmerman.
I also understand the optics of presenting several well-educated and articulate white witnesses claiming it was George Zimmerman crying for help in the 911 call to counter the testimony of a young black woman for whom English was her third language, and hey, she can’t read cursive.
We may have to accept the jury’s verdict in this case. We aren’t compelled to close our eyes and pretend that the truth and justice were served. We aren’t compelled to accept a system in which a white man stalking a black boy is self-defense, and the black boy is compelled to invite the creepy stalker with a gun home. We certainly are not compelled to accept that this killing of an innocent child was God’s plan.
Anyone who recognizes that blatant injustice in this case will and should be angry. However, that anger should be channeled to keep fighting for a system in which it would not be necessary to argue that if Traven Martin was armed and stalking George Zimmerman; would your verdict be any different?
It’s also worth noting that the legal challenges are not over. Unlike in this case, Zimmerman can be compelled to testify in a civil action. Moreover, the Department of Justice can and should prosecute Zimmerman on hate crime charges.
Image from All things wildly considered
Ms. Woodbury has a graduate degree in political science, with a minor in law. She is a qualified expert on political theory with a specific interest in the nexus between political theories and models and human rights.
Based on her interest in human rights and the threats that authoritarian regimes are to them, Ms. Woodbury’s masters thesis examined the influence of politics on the enforcement of international criminal law was cited in several academic studies.
Published work includes case summaries for the War Crimes Research Office.
She has an extensive background doing legal research in international and domestic law.
Ms. Woodbury’s work for politicusUSA includes articles on voting rights, the right to asylum and other civil/human rights.