George Zimmerman's Collaborators

Particularly after Charles Blow devoted his column last week to the subject, the so-far unprosecuted shooting of Trayvon Martin has deservedly gotten a lot of attention. For good reason, much of this attention has focused on Florida's odious 2005 revisions to its law of self-defense. It was entirely predictable that changes to the law eliminating the duty to retreat and permitting the use of deadly force if an individual "reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony" would lead to situations such as the Martin shooting. That is, it was predictable that it would lead to a case in which someone would be getting off scot-free for shooting an unarmed teenager whose only crime appears to be "walking while being African-American in a white suburban neighborhood." 

Still, it is important to note that this is not quite a case where a bad statute has compelled a tragically unjust result. To be sure, the Florida self-defense law is terrible. But, nonetheless, the language of the law requires that a perceived threat be "reasonable." To put it mildly, it is far from self-evident that Zimmerman's perception of threat of "death or great bodily harm" was reasonable. Given that 1) Martin was armed only with Skittles, 2) Zimmerman outweighed Martin by about 100 pounds, 3) when Zimmerman encountered Martin the former was in an SUV while the latter was on foot, 4) that Martin was not engaged in any criminal activity when Zimmerman stopped to accost him, and 5) the police specifically told Zimmerman not to engage with Martin, it seems clear that Zimmerman's alleged fear for his life was presumptively unreasonable. Certainly, the police have the discretion to charge him under the language of the statute unless they know something they aren't revealing. Some, but not all Florida judges have held that the statute grants immunity to killers like Zimmerman. 

If Zimmerman gets away with killing Martin, it's not just the statute that bears responsibility. It's how Florida's policemen, prosecutors, judges, and juries have constructed its ambiguous language. Many actors will have shared in creating the injustice should the killer of Trayvon Martin go unpunished. And unfortunately, the support that this irrational construction of the statute seems to have will make it more difficult to change the law, no matter how unworkable it proves to be.

Comments

I like the way you think, and write, thanks for the article..
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hopefully with the feds involved this zimmereman will be revealed for what he truly is; a stalker and a murderer of children and be brought to justice ...

The failure to arrest this individual is truly egregious, as is the statute that allows these gun nuts to declare "open season" on anyone their twisted minds decide might be "suspicious," even when all the person is doing is walking down a street.
The fact that Zimmerman followed the boy and attacked him, should be enough to show that HE is the aggressor in this matter. He should be arrested, tried and convicted of a premeditate murder.
The fact that he has abused the 911 system by numerous fake calls is an indication that he has been looking for an excuse to use that gun for a long, long time. He's a failed, wanna-be cop who committed a crime.
What is even more egregious is that if the boy had been shot by a real cop, there would be a massive investigation and the cop would be suspended from duty.
This is one reason I do not travel to Florida (or Texas or Arizona). Too many people carrying guns that do not have the mental facility to determine right from wrong.

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