According to a Florida jury, George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin in self defense. Needless to say, this verdict has caused an uproar, with the emotional responses running the gamut from calm protest to violence.
I’ve waited a few days before outlining my own opinions, only to bring some calm and reason to my own mind. Something very wrong has happened here, and the wrong started before the actual killing.
Very simply put, this whole matter would have been avoided if George Zimmerman took his role in his neighborhood watch as just that – to WATCH. Instead, he was armed, he took action after being told not to, and in doing so, Trayvon Martin was the one who was dead for doing nothing except walking wearing a hoodie.
Zimmerman was also not arrested quickly for the shooting until several weeks after it happened. The police investigation into the shooting took far too long before Zimmerman was arrested.
The prosecution had to prove that Zimmerman did not kill Trayvon in self defense, which the jury felt it did not do. The prosecution also allowed for a lesser charge of manslaughter to be considered after the case was already in progress, a sign that they didn’t think they could win their own case of murder. Had they gone forward first with a manslaughter charge, they may have a had a better chance in getting their desired verdict. There is also talk that the Feds will research pressing charges against Zimmerman for a hate crime, but the general consensus of the media pundits is there is simply not enough evidence for the Feds to sustain those charges. It’s possible that a civil suit against Zimmerman would be the best recourse to get justice for Trayvon.
Compounding the emotional response, the media has did a good job in fanning the flames. NBC News faces a lawsuit from Zimmerman for editing Zimmerman’s 911 call where they made it sound as if Zimmerman was commenting on Trayvon's race, when in reality he was simply answering the dispatcher's question. In delivering the details about this case over the last several months even before the trial, it’s as if the media is trying the case themselves and polarizing viewers before the trial even started. While I know that cases like this could mean bigger ratings for the news media, it seems like the media has forgotten that a person is innocent until proven guilty.
Needless to say, things need to change to avoid situations like this in the future.
First and foremost, those working neighborhood watch programs should do only that – WATCH, and then report to law enforcement. Law enforcement should decide which situations should require their involvement. Neighborhood watch people should not be armed with guns. If they are going to protect their neighborhood, they need to watch everyone and not judge people on their color or their clothing. Neighborhood watch programs across the country need to take a very hard look at how they operate and what kinds of people they use as watchers. These programs should be as simple as watch, observe patterns, and report to the authorities.
All laws that allow killing in self defense such as “Stand Your Ground” need further scrutiny to tighten those situations where it is justifiable. If you are in your own home and an intruder enters and you feel your life is in danger, that seems to be a clear situation where self defense would be in order. But, things get murky when a person uses self defense in a situation in which they put themselves.
The only thing neighborhood watch people should be armed with is a good set of eyes, a good camera, and good sense. In fact, maybe we need to take the people out of that equation – just install video cameras in the neighborhoods to record activity. Video cameras can’t have their lives put in danger and they can’t be armed with a gun.
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