America’s criminal justice system often appears tilted in favor of the suspected criminal, but legal technicalities written into law are, in theory, to ensure the accused receives a fair hearing. It is obvious the six jurors in the George Zimmerman 2nd degree murder trial likely sought out, and found, legal justification to acquit the confessed killer of African American teen Trayvon Martin regardless he admitted to arming himself, stalking, confronting, and killing Martin in self-defense because feared great bodily harm or death from the unarmed teenager. Doubtless the not-guilty verdict was a victory for Zimmerman and his defense team, and like all triumphs the “win” was accompanied with strong feelings of elation that he quite literally got away with murder. However, Zimmerman’s triumph in court hardly absolves him of stalking and killing an unarmed African American youth from a moral perspective, but he, his legal team, racists, and two very powerful conservative political organizations are undoubtedly celebrating a major victory that portends their crusade to legitimize vigilantism is closer to fruition. Unfortunately for America, the victory was the third in the past month for extremist Republicans that inform America is on the verge of losing its standing as a civilized society.
Like the NRA’s victory in blocking expanded background checks for prospective gun purchasers after 20 children and six adults were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December, Zimmerman’s acquittal is another triumph in the NRA’s drive to unleash armed civilians to mete out frontier justice on innocent Americans guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For Trayvon Martin, being a young African American male in the wrong place (a white neighborhood) at the wrong time (on George Zimmerman’s watch) resulted in a self-appointed vigilante making him pay with his life. It is important to remember that it took over a month for charges to be filed against Zimmerman because Florida is home to the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) original “stand your ground” law. Truth be told, the real trial and victor in the Trayvon Martin killing was not George Zimmerman, but the NRA authored and ALEC legislated the “Castle Doctrine Act” (stand your ground) that has been acquitted and approved as the law of the land giving racially motivated vigilantes legal cover to stalk, confront, and murder people of color they deem being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The reason Zimmerman was not charged with a crime for over a month is because the state attorney for Seminole County, Norm Wolfinger, personally told Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee to release Zimmerman overruling the lead detective who recommended arresting Zimmerman for manslaughter. Doubtless Wolfinger, a Republican, was nervous that a trial and conviction would be an indictment of the Republican-passed stand your ground law ALEC has propagated in dozens of states at the behest of the National Rifle Association that contributed heavily to Florida Republicans to see the “justifiable murder” stand your ground law put on the books and increased justifiable homicide by 300%. It is worth repeating that the NRA brought the stand your ground abomination to ALEC and had as much to lose with a conviction as Zimmerman; subsequently, they, as much as Zimmerman, have been acquitted and doubtless celebrated the victory behind closed doors and likely panted for African American civil unrest to unleash their armed acolytes to stand their ground, stalk, and kill more young African American males.
All in all, it has been as good a month for ALEC as it has for the NRA and Republicans. Three of ALEC’s model legislation templates; African American voter suppression, stand your ground legislation, and anti-abortion measures were successfully defended in the Supreme Court, Texas legislature, and the Zimmerman trial and likely embolden them to move forward with new resolve that they can impose their will on the people unopposed. The greatest danger, though, in the immediate future are not voter suppression and anti-abortion measures raging in Republican states because they can be addressed in the courts and U.S. Congress, but the legal justification for open warfare on African American youth is already firmly established in dozens of states courtesy of ALEC and the NRA who openly tout their intent to establish stand your ground laws in every state in the Union. The so-called “Castle Doctrine” has already accounted for the legalized killings of African Americans in several states and with ALEC, the NRA, and Zimmerman’s acquittal advocates for vigilante justice were just given approval to proceed exactly as the NRA intended for good guys (read white) with guns to stop unarmed bad guys (read Black) from being in places they are not wanted.
George Zimmerman is the poster child for the NRA’s real American “good guy” with a gun who felt his right to stalk, confront, and kill Trayvon Martin was founded in ALEC’s Castle Doctrine when he exercised his right to be in a place he was legally permitted to be and justified to meet force with force, including deadly force “if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” Obviously when Zimmerman grabbed his loaded firearm, stalked and confronted unarmed Trayvon Martin, he was not in fear of his life or preventing a forcible felony, but the persistent NRA propaganda that being armed made him a good guy emboldened him to exercise his NRA and ALEC-given right to use lethal force and still be protected by the law. The verdict on Saturday not only acquitted Zimmerman, the NRA, and ALEC, it gave every George Zimmerman in the country legal justification to use lethal force without fear of prosecution or conviction. Legal observers claimed “stand your ground” laws were not a factor in Zimmerman’s acquittal, but in his, and the jurors’ minds, he was justified in standing his ground despite he pursued Trayvon Martin to “stand his ground.”
The events of the past month are a wake-up call for Americans, a teachable moment, that voter apathy has dire consequences for the people regardless their demographic makeup. ALEC and the NRA are driving Republican extremism that restricts a woman’s right to choose their reproductive health, prevents Americans from exercising their Constitutional right to vote, and jeopardizes young people of color’s lives to be in a place they are legally allowed to be. All of the abominations to freedom are the result of Republicans who swept into power in the 2010 midterm elections, and it is no coincidence that Republican-controlled states are passing identical template legislation provided by the American Legislative Exchange Council whose stand your ground laws were just upheld by a Florida jury and set a precedent for the future.
The justice system failed all Americans with Zimmerman’s acquittal, and sadly it provided the NRA and ALEC with a major victory that will result in more senseless killings Americans have a responsibility to bring to a screeching halt. Republicans are only in power because voter apathy kept them away from the ballot box in 2010, and it is voters who have the ability to strip their power and neuter ALEC and the NRA while they still have a right to vote. The extremists that ALEC, the NRA, and religious Republicans are empowering to seize power in America are in the minority and the majority of the American people are appalled at the state of the nation under extremists’ assault, and they alone have the power to end the reign of terror being unleashed on women, voters, and people of color. History is replete with examples of a small band of extremists in positions of power unleashing terror on an entire population, and America is no more immune to extremism than pre-Nazi Germany was in the early 1930s. Now that the extremist have garnered a trio of victories courtesy of Republicans, ALEC, and the NRA, they will unleash Hell and if voter suppression and anti-choice laws are not motivation to mobilize and stop them, maybe open season on African Americans will tip the scales and return America to the civilized world.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.