Monday, July 1, 2013

What Exactly is George Zimmerman Guilty of?

by Pat Brown

The trial of George Zimmerman is about half-way though and the six woman jury is gong to have to decide what George is guilty of and if what he is guilty of deserves any time in prison. It is an odd case in that there is no disputing the man on trial killed someone, but there are two questions which make the final verdict a tough one; did George shoot Trayvon Martin in self-defense and how responsible was George for instigating the incident in question?

Both of these questions revolve around the definition of self-defense and one's right to resort to lethal force. Basically it comes down to this: you have the right to defend yourself from injury if you are being attacked (the key words here are "being attacked" and not that your opponent is fighting back after you attacked him nor are the two of you brawling with equal participation) and you have the right to  resort to lethal force if you are in immediate danger of extreme injury or death (and you can't shoot someone because you start losing a fight; you must have conceded and your opponent must be continuing to beat you up). I think anyone listens to this 911 call would easily conclude that George Zimmerman was screaming in terror and felt he was about to be killed.

Let me pause for a minute and discuss whether that is Trayvon or George screaming "Help me!" in the 911 call. Even if we ignore George's statement about how Trayvon punched him in the nose, knocked him down to the pavement, mounted him and started doing an MMA "ground and pound," the scenario one hears in the background of the 911 call has someone repeatedly screaming for help which would be the guy who is losing the fight. George Zimmerman clearly was not winning the battle since Trayvon had no injuries other than the bullet wound. A person who is punching the daylights out of someone or smashing their head into the pavement is not going to be screaming "Help me!" at the same time. Only someone needing a referee to stop the fight is going to be screaming for someone to save him and that someone would be George Zimmerman.

So, George passes the first test of rightful self-defense; he really was on the receiving end of a brutal assault and he thought he was going to die. It is interesting to note that one hears a bunch of screams in the tape so it is clear that George didn't get punched once and then blow away his opponent. This meant Trayvon had ample time to stop beating up George. George's screams also show that Trayvon knew George was terrified and he was not fighting back and, therefore, continuing to attack George is nothing but straight-up assault.

However, one thing that has always troubled me; George Zimmerman's cop-wanna-be attitude and some of his behaviors while in jail and in court. George has issues and one of them is taking on the role of a cop, an armed cop, while patrolling the neighborhood. Clearly, the dude can't fight for shit and following tougher, younger, possibly violent men when you are a wuss and come off like a wuss can only invite trouble. The Guardian Angels patrol neighborhoods, too, but these are usually tough young men and women who don't carry firearms. When they approach someone they think might be dangerous, they do it with the full realization they are putting their life on the line and may have to protect themselves with their fists. If a fight ensues, likely both will walk away, albeit with some damage. And, if you aren't going to carry a gun, you better go out on a group patrol or be a pretty big, tough dude.

George Zimmerman, on the other hand, brought a gun because he felt unsafe, probably because he knew he would lose if he ended up in a fight with anyone. Since George obviously hasn't spent much time in a gym, he quickly did end up on not being able to defend himself with his fists after Trayvon hit him, leaving his only resort to pull his weapon and shoot. Of course, Trayvon clearly went on far too long fighting a man who was no match for him and you do take your chances that the man down is going to pull out the only weapon that will work for this case... a gun.  George says that he only pulled the gun when he realized Trevon was going for it, which actually gives George even more right to pull the weapon and fire. Considering how long the screaming went on, I would have to give George credit for holding off for as long as he did (assuming the reason wasn't that he simply couldn't get to the gun).

So, I conclude that George Zimmerman legally shot Trayvon Martin at the moment he pulled the trigger, but, I still feel like he deserves some penalty for instigating the confrontation, only because anyone carrying a weapon (except the police) should avoid trouble. George, carrying a gun on patrol bothers me because Trayvon might not have retaliated for having his presence be questioned if it had been a police officer. Doing so while armed and without a badge raises the level of risk for both parties. However, manslaughter does not really work in this case and the sentence would likely be way too high.

It is a difficult case for six untrained jurors to decide (and most of you folks know I dislike the jury system). I don't know if I could fault them for going any direction with their verdict because there the beginning of the exact confrontation is unknown although evidence seems to indicate Trayvon circled around and then sucker punched Zimmerman which would mean at that point Trayvon was the aggressor and the attacker. I wish them the best in trying to come up with a satisfactory conclusion and I hope the public will not burst out in anger regardless of which way these jurors go. Sometimes the law cannot so clearly address a complicated scenario in which both parties deserves some of the blame for the outcome, although Trayvon Martin actually is responsible for the criminal action.