esterday, Sanford police put their cards on the table and explained why they haven’t arrested George Zimmerman. To recap, Zimmerman claimed self defense, saying he followed Trayvon Martin; they got in an argument; Trayvon struck him first and wouldn’t stop; so Zimmerman shot him. There are serious reasons to doubt Zimmerman’s account — such as the witnesses who dispute it — but even if its true, it is not a defense for murder.
The same facts framed differently lead me to conclude that Zimmerman should be arrested and prosecuted. Zimmerman pursued Trayvon. Trayvon felt threatened and defended himself (i.e. “stood his ground”), and because Trayvon was successful for a short time in defending himself, Zimmerman shot him dead. Several questions arise here: Who does Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law apply to? Who should feel more threatened — an unarmed teenager chased by a strange adult or an armed adult questioned by a youth who he just chased?
Martin did many of the things Miami-Dade County’s parks department recommends children do when they encounter adult strangers. The police, Zimmerman, and the prosecutor may want to read those.
The tips recommend:
“If a stranger comes toward you, step backwards, turn around and run away.” — Martin initially attempted to escape from Zimmerman’s advances, based on Zimmerman’s own phone call.
“What should you do if a stranger tries to grab you? You can yell for help! You can kick, scratch, or bite! You can run away as fast as you can.” — In other words, Martin should defend himself, and he can do so with physical force.
“Never talk to a stranger.” — Martin refused to answer Zimmerman’s questions. Sure, Martin spoke to Zimmerman, but he wasn’t obligated to answer his questions.
I oppose the “Stand Your Ground”/”Shoot First, Ask Questions Later” law that police believe exculpates Zimmerman. But the police and Zimmerman can’t have it both ways. If they want to apply the law, apply it to the person who rightfully felt threatened. Apply it to the person who was chased. Apply it to the person who was unarmed. Don’t twist it the other way around. And if you remove that absurd law from the conversation, then there’s definitely no defense for getting out of your car, stalking, and then killing an unarmed teen.
Trayvon Martin may not have done the textbook best job at protecting himself from harm. And whether he was a “child” or not may be open to debate since government agencies and websites differ on how somebody age 17 should be categorized. But considering the circumstances — rainy, getting dark, stranger following him with a gun — his actions were reasonable and well within his rights. They certainly didn’t warrant his death.
To summarize Zimmerman’s own defense, Zimmerman initiated a confrontation by chasing a youth, the youth defended himself, and Zimmerman shot him dead. Looks like grounds for an arrest. And if you ask me, it’s grounds for a conviction, too.