OPINION – It is painful to follow the trial of George Zimmerman, the 29-year-old Sanford, Fla. man on trial for shooting Trayvon Martin, 17, to death.
Certain facts of the case are already established.
- Zimmerman and Martin got into some sort of altercation.
- Zimmerman was armed, Martin was not.
- At some point in the altercation, Zimmerman unholstered his Kel Tec 9mm pistol, pulled the trigger and killed Martin.
There is no alleged here, no dispute that Zimmerman pulled the trigger on Martin. It is a case to determine if it was a criminal act or self-defense.
The cops originally refused to jail Zimmerman, claiming it was in self-defense, that Zimmerman said he suspected Martin was on drugs, that the shooting fell within Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” gun law.
Testimony indicates that Martin did have a very slight, insignificant amount of THC, the active agent in marijuana, in his system when he died. It is debatable if even the trained eye of a police officer or even doctor would be able to determine if somebody with a trace amount of THC in their system was “under the influence,” which, by the way, is a handy way for cops and others to claim they were in further fear for their life. There are mounds of research that indicate, however, that THC does not induce violent, or even aggressive, behavior. Most people who smoke pot go the other way, tending to be very nonaggressive.
There is no evidence as to who initiated the altercation or why, only that somehow, the fight was on and at some point Martin lost his life.
I hope justice prevails and justice, whatever it may be in this case, is served. I don’t pretend to know enough about it from the testimony to decide if Zimmerman was a victim or perpetrator; if Martin’s killing was racially motivated or the result of his bad behavior; if Zimmerman pulling the trigger was justifiable. It’s easy to cry “racist” in a crowded courtroom – as easy as it is to find a shooting righteous in the South.
No, the pain comes from the latest round of testimony as attorneys argue whose voice is crying for help in a bit of recorded tape from a 911 call placed by a woman who summoned the cops when she saw the man and boy engaged in the altercation.
The tape was played repeatedly in court as friends and family members from both sides were asked to identify the pleas for help.
Was it Zimmerman who, one friend said, enrolled in a “grappling and boxing” class at a local gym, but failed miserably because he was “soft” and lacked muscle or fighting skill?
Was it Martin, overpowered by a man 50 pounds heavier and armed with a gun?
An FBI voice recognition expert said the tape is scientifically inconclusive, that the screams were too short, the quality of the recording too poor to determine whose voice is heard, that perhaps, those who knew Zimmerman and Martin their entire lives would be better judges.
Naturally, Martin’s family and friends hear the voice as Martin’s and Zimmerman’s family and friends believe the voice is his.
How incredibly difficult it must be for anybody from either side to listen to these recordings. As a complete outsider, I find it painful to hear a struggle that resulted in the death of a 17-year-old and the man who, whether guilty or not guilty of a crime here, will live with this the remainder of his days.
Courts, interestingly, do not render verdicts of guilt or innocence. A judge or jury will either find a defendant guilty or not guilty. There is, most assuredly, a difference. In fact, in Scotland, a third verdict – not proven – is available to jurists along with guilty or not guilty. It renders, actually, a decision on the prosecutor because it means the jurists pretty well believe the defendant committed the crime, but the prosecutor did not reach the threshold of proving the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
The law, especially as it is constructed today, is a tangled path filled with loopholes and pitfalls. It is not always logical and it is not always correct. The philosopher, who is always more interested in the pursuit of justice than law, will argue that just because something is legal does not make it right and just because something is illegal does not make it wrong.
That’s why justice in the Zimmerman-Martin case will be difficult to discern.
Meanwhile, however, there are family members and friends who were forced, repeatedly, to listen to the desperate plea of a person in distress, a gunshot, then silence as a 17-year-old lay dying.
It had to be maddening.
No bad days!
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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