Trayvon Martin and ignorance

I’ve read too many articles on the subject of this 17-year-old who was shot following an altercation with a neighborhood watch captain. Most articles I have read are bogged down with irrelevant details which seem calculated to sway your opinion or feelings on the matter. That is why I favor this simple graphic, which includes a map and a timeline with just the bare facts.

Irrelevant, but frequently mentioned
* Martin was walking home with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea
* Zimmerman had a charge of resisting arrest on his record which was later expunged
* Quotes of Martin’s mother asserting her certainty that the 911 tapes recorded her son screaming for help

Relevant, but mostly ignored
* Zimmerman was found at the scene with blood on his face and the back of his head and with grass stains on his back
* No eyewitnesses have come forth to give details on the actual shooting
* There is no way to be certain which of the two was screaming for help

Unanswered Questions
Now, there are protests around the country and celebrities taking to twitter. There’s even an online petition to prosecute Zimmerman. I think certain questions should have been asked and answered prior to all these allegations of racism, case mishandling and injustice:

  1. Is there enough evidence to successfully prosecute Zimmerman of any charge?
  2. What are the case precedents in the state of Florida concerning self-defense?

Both questions can only be answered by people with sufficient legal experience in prosecuting self-defense cases in Florida. So far, I have not seen a single legal expert step forward and contend based on the publicly available information that there is sufficient evidence for a successful trial. I have found only one statement from a legal analyst, and he claims that the determining factor in such a case is answering the question “who was the aggressor at the moment of the shooting?” Since there seem to be no eye-witnesses besides Zimmerman, who claims self-defense, it seems clear that no good case can be made on the basis of evidence and existing law.

I contend that none of the people who are protesting or signing the petition actually want the legal system to work the way that they are trying to make it work. If the police conclude after an investigation that they do not have sufficient evidence to make an arrest, do all these people think that the court of public opinion should be able to overrule this finding? Should people who have only facts filtered down to them through the media be able to decide which cases go to court, despite having no legal knowledge? If the district attorney decides there’s no case but is somehow pressured into prosecuting anyway, won’t it just be an inefficient use of tax dollars? It would be an injustice towards Zimmerman if he were found guilty of a crime simply because so many people believe he committed one, and not because the actual evidence bears out his conviction.

I’m not claiming to have any of the necessary facts or expertise to say whether or not Zimmerman is guilty of a crime. I only wish that everyone else in my position of ignorance would step back and defer to the experts instead of parading their ignorance around in a self-righteous fervor.

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4 thoughts on “Trayvon Martin and ignorance

  1. You missed something important in your “relevant” list:
    The fact that Zimmerman was clearly told to “stand down” by the 911 dispatcher, but instead chose to disregard that instruction and continued to follow and confront Martin.

    By stalking and then confronting Martin when he had no legal authority to do so, Zimmerman was clearly the aggressor. In my very humble opinion, he should not then be able to claim “self-defense” if the person he accosted attempted to defend him or her self against a confrontation by a stranger.

    Zimmerman had no right or authority to confront him, and Martin had no obligation to explain to Zimmerman, who is in no way, shape or form a Law Enforcement Officer, who he was or why he was walking down a public street.

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  2. I think this is missing the point a bit. People aren’t outraged because they are all lawyers and they have solid evidence that Zimmerman was in violation of Florida state law. People are outraged because they believe, based on the many facts available, that Martin’s death was unjust. Millions of people are appealing to their internal sense of justice, which is an understandable and reasonable reaction.

    You are correct in your position that people are uninformed about the legal details of the stand your ground law but that is largely irrelevant to the injustice that has taken place. Laws are designed to best reflect a societies idea of injustice, not the other way around.

    With this in mind the public anger over the situation is not irrational or unwarranted. If he is indeed innocent in the eyes of Florida then this public pressure will fall on the state legislature to correct this law.

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    1. Here’s the trouble with outrage: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/os-trayvon-martin-new-black-panthers-protest-20120324,0,1231157.story

      It’s the desire to fight perceived injustice with further injustice. “An eye for an eye” — a direct quote from one of the organizers who just put a bounty on Zimmerman. If the law does not fit with some internal sense of justice, I agree that action should be taken to change the law. However, there is no sense in participating in what amounts to a lynch mob against a man who has shown us that what we really disagree with is the law.

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