On Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman


On Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman

I would like to think that all of us (myself especially) would be able to think critically and objectively about world events, but maybe that’s fantasy land. We all have biases and preconceived ideas both about the way things should be and the way things actually are. I learned an important lesson from the whole Kony 2012 campaign—never endorse something that you haven’t critically examined.

Unfortunately, in the case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, many of us have done just that. In many ways it has become the modern day equivalent of the Salem Witch Trials or Spanish Inquisition—we’ll torture the data until we hear what we want to.

Which of us doesn’t see an article headlined, “Armed white man shoots unarmed black teen” and feel righteous anger boil up inside us? If you don’t, something is wrong with you; it’s disgusting to think about.

But should we simply see that headline and then post it on Facebook or Twitter, or should we critically examine it and see if just maybe there’s more to the story?

I’ve thoroughly read the news articles and police reports about this tragedy, read the FAQ about the case, listened to the 911 calls, and tried to piece together on my own all the factors that matter. Suffice it to say, I guess I’m a little confused at the maelstrom of condemnation that has happened to George Zimmerman.

I’ve seen people signing petitions and holding rallies, President Obama commented on the case and has begun stocking hooded sweatshirts following the case, Spike Lee retweeted Zimmerman’s home address, and the Black Panthers have put a $10,000 bounty on George Zimmerman’s kidnapping. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have also jumped on board, which is not shocking considering both of their lengthy law enforcement careers.

Have any of these people actually read the same facts that I have? I don’t have a law degree, but I sure don’t see anything cut and dried so far.

For your convenience, I have assembled the facts (with references) we have, as they have been reported (note that I am not saying they are facts, merely that they are what we have so far, as presented based on the evidence present and police reports):

  • Zimmerman, the Hispanic neighborhood watch captain (NWC for future uses), calls the non-emergency 911 number to report a suspicious individual.
  • The 911 operator asks him “OK, and this guy, is he White, Black, or Hispanic?” Zimmerman responds, “He looks black.”
  • Martin apparently sees Zimmerman, realizes that he is being followed and takes off.
  • Zimmerman apparently exits his vehicle to follow him.
  • The 911 operator tells Zimmerman “We don’t need you to do that (exit the vehicle)” (which is not a legally binding order). Zimmerman replies, “OK.”
  • Zimmerman tells the operator he would like the police to meet him, but to call his cell phone number (probably indicating he would be on the move pursuing Martin).
  • Zimmerman apparently loses sight of Martin and returns to his vehicle.
  • Zimmerman claims he is attacked by Martin while returning to his vehicle.
  • Zimmerman pulls his gun, fatally shooting Martin.
  • Multiple people dial 911 reporting a fight and single gunshot. In one call, prolonged screams (45 seconds worth according to my count) for help, indicating a struggle can be heard until a single gunshot.
  • Zimmerman is reported to have grass stains on his back and wounds both to the front and back of his head.
  • A witness who actually saw the fight said Zimmerman was on his back on the ground screaming for help (as can be heard in one 911 call), while Martin was punching him in the face (also confirmed by a second witness). The police report also says, “While the SFD was attending to Zimmerman, I over heard [sic] him state, “I was yelling for someone to help me, but no one would help me.” “
  • Police arrive at the scene to find Martin face down in the grass and unresponsive and attempt CPR to no avail.
  • Zimmerman is described as fully cooperating with police.

The police, finding no circumstantial evidence, reliable, disagreeing witness accounts, or anything else to disprove Zimmerman’s account, do not make an arrest because they are prohibited from making an arrest without reasonable grounds to do so per Florida law.

It’s not that they didn’t want to arrest him—it is actually against the law based on the evidence they had/have to make an arrest. Of course, given the unbelievable social outcry and cries for Zimmerman’s head on a platter, it would make even more sense that the police not only want to arrest Zimmerman, but actually are actively looking for a reason to arrest him to appease everyone. And yet, they still have not done so because they don’t have sufficient evidence. Ballistically, it’s not difficult to piece together whether someone is shot from point blank range during a struggle or not. There will be powder burns around the wound, blood spatter on both parties, the trajectory of the bullet being at an upward angle instead of a downward angle, etc..

Furthermore, it’s possible the police are still holding back evidence that further proves they had no reason to arrest Zimmerman. If a grand jury meets, this evidence will certainly be presented.

The police aren’t squeaky clean though, as it is reported that they have “fail[ed] to administer a toxicology exam on Zimmerman, not impounding his car, and failing to contact key witnesses — like Martin’s girlfriend.” Clearly, the whole situation straight up sucks. However, so far have you found any reason that this man deserves to be condemned based on the evidence available?

Could it be that the main reason people are so upset has been because of the blatant race-baiting of the media? Examples include:

  • Showing pictures of Martin that are not only not current, but depict him when he was obviously younger and more boyish, while only using Zimmerman’s mugshot from a prior arrest.
  • Calling Zimmerman white, even though he was a Spanish-speaking Hispanic (since changed to “white Hispanic“).
  • Editing together excerpts from the 911 calls and creating a cartoon depiction of Zimmerman murdering Martin while he’s just standing there.

Am I defending Zimmerman? Absolutely not. If he had never exited his vehicle, it’s almost inconceivable that Trayvon Martin would have died that night. Malum in se, what he did was at best foolish, and at worse morally wrong to go out on foot. It was against the rules of his NW program, whose rules I’m sure he signed that he would uphold. It was also against the NW rules for him to be carrying a concealed weapon while on duty as the NWC (but not against the law). Furthermore, Zimmerman could have initiated the fight with Martin, which again, I would say is both morally wrong and against the law. If Zimmerman started the fight and then shot Martin, it would certainly seem like a clear case of murder.

It needs to be said, however, that Malum prohibitum, there is no evidence yet that anything Zimmerman did is against Florida state law or Federal law.

Zimmerman could have absolutely been looking for a fight. He says in his original 911 call that “These a**holes. They always get away.” He also could be a total racist. There is some speculation that in his call he says under his breath, “f***ing c**ns”, but again we don’t know, as it could just be people reading into the call what they want. Zimmerman was also arrested for resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer. He also could have been a wife-beater according to one report.

Zimmerman could also have been getting his face pounded in and been in fear for his life. Have you ever had someone mount you and start doing ground and pound? Interestingly enough, when Zimmerman’s weapon was recovered, the spent shell casing was still in the chamber, and the magazine was full. This type of malfunction only happens when something is obstructing the slide from fully cycling (i.e., there was a hand or a body pressed up against it). Was there a struggle for the weapon? Again, we don’t know.

Of course, Trayvon Martin could also be wildly speculated about regarding his character. We can view him as the smart, talented athlete and good son who had just enjoyed his 17th birthday mere weeks before his life was cut short. Or we could judge him (from a ridiculous website) and say that he was on suspension for smoking weed on campus and possibly a drug dealer, associated with people flashing gang signs, or that he had it out to beat the everliving crap out of the husky guy (whom he could have easily outran) that was following him in order to teach him a lesson.

Again, we don’t know, nor do I think much if any of the character references brought up about either person adds anything to this case. It turns out that Zimmerman was at a bar, and an undercover officer who did not identify himself physically assaulted Zimmerman, who thought he was responding in self defense. Does that make it look a little different? What if one of Martin’s friends had planted weed on him and reported him at school, and that was why Martin was suspended? Again, the situation looks entirely different.

Do you see my point here? I don’t think it’s any secret in this country that racism is alive and well. But so is reverse-discrimination and political correctedness. I don’t think I’m being dramatic by suggesting that if it was someone black who shot an unarmed white kid, it would hardly be reported on the news, and we would all say, “Let’s not rush to judgment because we don’t know all the circumstances.” I’m not the only one who views it this way either. There’s no question subjects of this matter are uncomfortable to talk about because we don’t like the truths they represent about our culture, but that doesn’t mean they’re false.

Why doesn’t George Zimmerman deserve the same? Because his dad was white? Innocent till proven guilty, or if the case is inflammatory enough even the president can pick sides? As was suggested by one person on twitter,“Let me put it this way: how do you do a good jury selection once the President of the United States has spoken against the defendant?”

Again, George Zimmerman may have absolutely been a mall ninja, wannabe cop out to enact a vendetta on anyone who encroached on his neighborhood. He could have initiated contact with Martin and straight up murdered him. The case needs to be investigated, and truth sought out. Or he could have been a non-racist someone who deeply cared about his neighborhood, enough so that he was willing to spend a considerable amount of his free time patrolling it and calling 911 some 47 times since 2004 on everything from neighbors leaving their garage doors open to suspicious vehicles and persons. There were also recent break-ins in the area. We can’t say with certainty either way at this juncture.

Trayvon Martin may have been at a 7/11 getting skittles and a drink, noticed someone suspiciously following him (possibly a pedophile from his perspective), gotten scared, took off through the neighborhood, gotten confused and disoriented, been cornered by Zimmerman, Zimmerman assaults him, the situation escalates to where Martin gets the upperhand on Zimmerman, and Zimmerman, sensing his defeat, shoots him. Again, we don’t know, but the evidence so far does not support the latter parts of that account.

As Christians, we not only don’t have a right to judge non-believers in situations like this, but it is actually sin. I’ve been disappointed at the number of people posting inflammatory articles that are so lopsided and full of half-truths that it’s almost laughable. Have they even bothered to wonder if there’s more to the story, or is it just easier to give in to impulsive emotions than to tame them and try to look deeper?

What I do know is I don’t want most Americans on my jury if I’m ever convicted of a crime.

We’ve been here before.

Remember O. J. Simpson? Casey Anthony? Both may absolutely have been guilty of what they were accused of, but none of us has a right to pass judgment. If we were living in Jesus’ time 2000 years ago in Jewish culture, and a woman caught in adultery were dragged in front of us, we would all be picking up rocks right now about to bash in her brains.

A certain Rabbi I’ve studied about might have had something to say to us about that.

*Full disclosure: I am white. I’m heavily influenced by my beliefs about God. I think justice is as important to God as mercy. I also believe that Christians and violence are not irreconcilable (and am currently working on a blog entry about that as well). I also support gun rights and self defense.