For anyone who may have just returned from Antarctica, a 17 year old by the name of Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by 28 year old George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman claimed the shooting was self-defense. Police apparently accepted this at face value based on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Thanks to a media savvy family attorney, this case has exploded with nationwide exposure. There are many people with various agendas involved at this point. We have politicians, media, anti-gun people, pro-gun people, activists, Zimmerman supporters and Martin supporters all vying to get all the mileage they can out of this. The ratings race has cost one NBC producer his job for creative editing of the 911 recording to make Zimmerman sound racist.

I’ve watched as both parties have been demonized by “the other side”. Both have been on trial by the public and the prejudices that have been exposed are not pretty. Stand Your Ground laws and gun ownership itself have been hotly debated. I would like to offer my insight on this situation. First, on the incident and second on the gun issue.

What happened that February night may never be fully know. The distortions, exaggerations and outright lies have so muddied the waters, that if Zimmerman is charged, his chance at a fair trial is slim. I believe that the most basic problem in this case lies with the failure of the Sanford Police to conduct a thorough investigation and to communicate with the family of Trayvon Martin on it’s progress. I’ve seen multiple posts online citing crimes against whites by blacks followed by “where’s the outrage?”. The outrage in the Martin case is as much over the fact that police did not treat his killing as a crime as it was over the killing itself.

Evidence that has been released such as 911 recordings and video of Zimmerman after the shooting seem to cast doubt on what is known of his version of events. Supposed witness statements are conflicting. The fact that the media is running down anyone who will make a comment on air is adding to the problem. Statements made by Zimmerman’s family don’t even match what is in the police reports about Zimmerman’s own account.

A grand jury is scheduled to convene this week. A special prosecutor has been appointed. A DOJ team in investigating whether civil rights violations occurred. It is time for everyone to let these people do their jobs. Speculation needs to stop. It is well known now that the photos of both parties originally released are out of date. A better photo of Zimmerman is now circulating. Photos of Trayvon that are circulating have not been authenticated. There is great discrepency in descriptions of the two young men’s height, weight, build. All of this information is available to investigators and will be to the grand jury. They will see an important piece of evidence not yet released, the autopsy report. They will also have available the reports on the treatment Zimmerman received for EMT’s at the scene which will detail his injuries. The wild speculation should stop until these details are known. Whether Mr. Zimmerman acted in self-defense or not, he is entitled to a grand jury determination of probable cause and if that exists, a fair trial with representation. If either Zimmerman or the authorities violated Trayvon’s civil rights, that needs to be exposed after reviewing evidence the public doesn’t have.
I will offer more detail on the issue of Stand Your Ground laws overall in another post. The point I would like to make here is that, depending upon which point of view you approach from, either of the parties may have acted within the law. If you believe Zimmerman’s story, he was attacked as he walked away and defended himself. If he were the agressor, which some circumstances imply, then it should no longer be covered under the statute.

What I haven’t seen anyone mention is Trayvon’s rights under this same statute. You see, despite what the anti-gun lobby would have you believe, the Stand Your Ground law applies to everyone not just gun owners. The law gives a person who fears they are in danger of great bodily harm or death to confront the other party with force including lethal force.

Since Trayvon was being followed by someone he didn’t know, he did the smart thing and quickened his pace until he was running. The unknown person following him also started running, chasing him down the darkened street. At what point does Trayvon begin to be in fear of bodily harm or death? If Trayvon confronted the man following him, even hitting him as Zimmerman claimed, wasn’t he within HIS right to do so under the law?

Other accounts have Zimmerman confronting Martin in a hostile and agressive manner. If this is true then, certainly Martin was within his rights to defend himself with force. If Zimmerman’s account is true, at what point does a stalker become a victim? How far can one man chase another before the one being pursued can decide to stop running and confront the threat? These are questions jurors will need to consider.

As for reports that Trayvon Martin was a thug, a gang member, etc – there is no evidence of that. No arrest record. No discipline for any kind of violence at school. If he had tattoos, his clothing hid them, so they weren’t a factor in Zimmerman’s threat assessment. All acounts indicate he was dressed in normal teen apparel. He was alone. He had no weapons on him. Not even a knife, something all thugs seem to have. However, even if all that horrible stuff is true, IT IS IRRELEVANT. At the time of the incident, Martin wasn’t hanging out with a gang. He was alone. He was not doing anything criminal. He was just a lone teenager walking down the street, talking on the phone. Regardless of any prior history, these are not actions that warranted being followed or chased. If Zimmerman was so fearful, he could have stayed in his vehicle watching from a safe distance until police arrived. I tend to believe that a man who gets out of his SUV and chases someone down the street is not afraid and not blameless for whatever happens next. But, I’m not privy to all the information. I reserve judgement until all the facts are known.