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The Trayvon Martin case

June 27, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
I'd really like to know why the prosecution decided to charge George Zimmerman with second degree murder in the death of 17-year-old teenager Trayvon Martin in February 2012. At the very most, Zimmerman, 29, might be guilty of manslaughter. Based on what I know of the case, I don't think he should have been charged at all.

Zimmerman, a volunteer Neighborhood Watch captain, stands accused of profiling and following Martin, who was black, as suspicious and starting a confrontation that ended with the fatal shooting of Martin. Martin had gone to the neighborhood store to buy some Skittles. Zimmerman, who is half Hispanic and half white, claims he killed Martin in self defense after Martin jumped him and banged his head into the pavement.

The trial is ongoing in Sanford, Fla. According to ABC News online, this week jurors heard the testimony of Rachel Jeantel, a friend of Martin's who talked with Martin on his cell phone just before the confrontation began. Jeantel testified that Martin told her a "creepy ass cracker" was following him. She told him to run and he said he was close to home. She said she heard Martin ask someone, "What are you following me for?" and then a "hard-breathing man" say "What (are) you doing around here?" She said the last thing she heard was Martin saying "Get off, get off." Jeantel couldn't say who threw the first punch. Other witnesses who testified didn't appear to have seen who started the fight either.

There was earlier testimony about the call that Zimmerman had made to the police complaining about Martin. Zimmerman claimed that the teenager acted suspicious because he was "loitering in the rain." During the call, he grumbled to himself about the "f--- punk" and said "these a----- always get away." The dispatcher told Zimmerman the police did not need him to follow Martin. The dispatcher testified this week that Zimmerman didn't sound overly angry or aggressive in the phone call.

Martin's autopsy indicates that the 5 feet 11 inch, 155 pound teenager was shot in the chest at intermediate range and had one small abrasion on his left ring finger. The defense released pictures taken of Zimmerman following the confrontation that show a bloodied head and facial injuries.

None of that can tell the jurors for sure who started the fight. Still, Zimmerman had a legal, concealed carry permit, was under no legal obligation to follow the dispatcher's instruction not to follow Zimmerman, and was legally permitted to defend himself with deadly force if he felt his life was endangered. If the confrontation had ended the other way around, with Zimmerman dead, Martin would likely also have been able to claim self defense. This sounds to me like a tragic set of circumstances that didn't have to happen, but certainly not second degree murder or even manslaughter.

How closely have you been following the Martin case? What do you think the verdict should be?


Article Comments



Jun-29-13 12:49 AM

I doubt it. If he does end up being killed, It would say something pretty sad about the state of our society Under the strictest reading of the Florida statute, this guy should not have been charged.


Jun-28-13 8:45 PM

No difference. I still don't think he should have been charged and neither did the original prosecutor on the case. It was a fairly clear cut case of self defense. It would also have been self defense if Martin had killed Zimmerman. Mutual combat, ended in death because one of the men was legally carrying a gun. The only thing that matters legally is Zimmerman's state of mind and what was happening in the seconds before he pulled the trigger.

Now that he's on trial, I am still not hearing anything that suggests he should be convicted. It doesn't Zimmerman him a good or a wise man or mean that Martin did anything wrong if he tackled a man who was following him before Zimmerman had a chance to tackle him. It just means Zimmerman's life was threatened and he pulled the trigger in self defense.


Jun-28-13 3:18 PM

They just had another neighbor testify that he saw Martin on top of Zimmerman and Martin was making "downward motions" with his hands. He thought Zimmerman was the one calling for help. Earlier, yet another witness said she thought Zimmerman was the one on top. If they were rolling around, I suppose it's possible both were on top at different times. It's going to come down to who the jury believes is credible, but I haven't heard any testimony that would make me feel comfortable finding Zimmerman guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.


Jun-28-13 2:36 PM

I'd probably find "not guilty" too. The evidence to convict just isn't there.


Jun-28-13 10:10 AM

Specifically, the relevant Florida statute says that a person is justified in use of deadly force and has no duty to retreat if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent imminent commission of a forcible felony. Under such circumstance, the statute says that the person is considered justified in use of deadly force and is immune from prosecution and civil action, unless he used force against a law enforcement officer performing his duties.

Sadly, I think that statute applied to both Zimmerman and Martin on the night in question. Both feared for their safety. Zimmerman had a gun (and a legal carry permit.)


Jun-28-13 9:13 AM

-- Continued --

But, again, Zimmerman's character leading up to the shooting doesn't really matter here, any more than Martin's character matters. Zimmerman is claiming self defense; under Florida law, all he needed to pull the trigger was a reasonable belief that his life was being threatened.

In a civil trial, it might be a different story.


Jun-28-13 9:10 AM

At this point, based on what I know of the case, I'd probably find him not guilty of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, too. Granted, that could change if there is something in the forensic evidence that hasn't been released up to this point. That could tell the jurors something about where each man was standing, what position the boy was in when he was shot, exactly what Zimmerman's injuries were, etc.

But my reading of the Florida law is that the circumstances leading up to it didn't really matter; what matters is Zimmerman's state of mind at the moment he pulled the trigger. If Martin was on top of him at that point, banging his head into the pavement, Zimmerman would have had reason to fear for his life and pull the trigger.

I don't think Zimmerman is an admirable man, by any means. He created the chain of circumstances that led to this tragedy and apparently had a history of making calls to the police about "suspicious" looking black young men in the neighborhood


Jun-28-13 8:14 AM

Initially, the local prosecutor did decline to press charges, as it looked like self defense. I don't think there's much doubt that Zimmerman is morally culpable, but not legally. They over charged the case when the jury might have been more likely to consider manslaughter or reckless endangerment.


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