I have been consumed by testimony and legal maneuvering that occured, and continues to occur, in the trial of George Zimmerman for the death of Trayvon Martin in Seminole County, Florida. First reactions are often the most accurate and when the event first occured, the Sheriff declined to charge a crime in the matter, indicating that he believed Zimmerman’s actions were defensible as self defense. This was based on the evidence that Zimmerman had been badly beaten up by Martin and had bleeding wounds on his head and face and a broken nose. These are signs of a violent attack. The case then turned bizarre. If both parties were the same race or one white and the other hispanic, nothing more would have been heard of this terrible event, but Trayvon Martin is black, hence the matter was turned into a black/white matter. The problem was that Zimmerman is Hispanic so the media started to describe him as a “white Hispanic.” The ethnic distinctions then made, the media and government took over.
The government that took over was the Department of Justice that started putting pressure on the Sheriff to charge the case as murder. The Sheriff resigned but his replacement relented and did charge the case as murder, and forty some days after the event, Zimmerman was arrested and a trial scheduled.
Aside from the lamentable death of the young man, the biggest harm this case is doing to America is the stoking of racial animus when we are really trying to rid ourselves of this legacy. Simply stated, this case is described as a white, albeit Hispanic man, killing a black man and punishment was demanded.
The trial has developed many angles, including the ludicrous claim that Martin was such a good guy that he didn’t even steal the Skittles he had with him. The Judge did not allow contrary evidence. The single issue, however, and cases often come down to a singe issue, is whether Martin had a reasonable belief that he was in danger of death or great bodily harm. This would mean he had a defense to second degree murder, or manslaughter, a recently introduced charge that the Judge allowed the prosecution to introduce after it had realized it had over-charged the case. The evidence shows his wounds, and eye witness testimony said that Martin was on top of the supine Zimmerman, beating him with a flury of blows to his face and, as the evidence shows, slamming his head into the concrete pavement which resulted in lacerations in the back of the head. As we have learned from the concussion studies in football, it is the blow to the head that causes the damage not the superficial marks left by the blow.
The case is in its final day of trial with the Defense making its closing argument at this time. The Judge will then give the jury instructions as to the legal standards they will use in deciding the case. The standards require that the findings be beyond reasonable doubt. If there is doubt, therefore, they must acquit. We all remember Johnny Cochrane in the OJ Simpson case saying, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” The decision will turn on whether there is this reasonable doubt as determined by the the six member jury.
Juries are and have been since Anglo-Saxon days the final judge of the facts in a case. It is my hope that this jury, like countless juries before them, make the right call. I have heard some of the evidence, but not all of it, and have not heard the closing arguments, nor have I been present to hear testimony and judge credibillty of witnesses, one of a juries primary functions and one they do very well. I defer to the juries’ superior knowledge of the facts and will support the verdict as properly decided.
At sometime soon, a verdict will be given and I pray that once the jury has spoken, America accepts the verdict whichever way it goes. It is the way we settle cases in a civilized country and we need to heal the animus this case has engendered.