Friday, July 19, 2013

Fear of profiling could explain Trayvon's behavior, but Florida law "protected" Zimmerman

There is a lot of disconnect in the media debate over the verdict on the tragic George Zimmerman shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL in February 2012.

Many commentators note that most “upper middle class white people” have no personal concept of what it is like to be profiled by police or perhaps by “volunteers” or vigilantes in some areas of the country, especially inner cities and some areas in the South.

Their point seems to be that Trayvon could have “counterattacked” believing he was being pursued, almost as an analogy to the game of chess (and I find no pun here in the names of the opponents in a chess game).

In most states, in someone like Zimmerman acted inappropriately and initiated a confrontation and a death results, he probably would be convicted of manslaughter.  But apparently not in Florida, where self-defense in a “stand your grand” environment seems like an absolute, affirmative defense even in a
“last moment” situation.

As a practical matter, there is a risk for any private citizen carrying a firearm.  If he or she initiates a confrontation resulting in someone else being shot, he or she could be guilty of a crime in most states.  That’s an argument for remaining unarmed when transiting in most public spaces.  But that may not work for some people who must walk in isolated areas where they are more vulnerable to crime.  There are two sides to this issue.
The jury does seem to have followed Florida law in acquitting Zimmerman, even of manslaughter.  The Florida legislature needs to revisit its self-defense rules.  The law might work differently to this case in the civil suit area, if Zimmerman’s behavior is seen as reckless and contributing to a wrongful death.  It probably won’t get far as a criminal federal civil rights case.
In my own life, I feel I have been profiled more as a "sissy", based on stereotypes.  

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