Monday, March 26, 2012

Guilt, Innocence, and Not Having All the Facts

So, as the Trayvon Martin case continues, more and more evidence is coming out involving the confrontation between Trayvon and George Zimmerman. People have been jabbing back and forth about how they'd vote on juries and other nonsense with others condemning Zimmerman as a murderer. I take neither of these positions because we clearly don't know what happened that night and talking about what you'd do on a jury in a case that hasn't been assigned lawyers, let alone been presented yet, is more than a little premature.

What we do know is that George Zimmerman started following Trayvon because he looked suspicious. He was instructed not to continue following Trayvon,* but did anyway. There was an altercation, and Trayvon was killed from a close-range gunshot wound that Zimmerman fired.

This is about all we know. (MoJo's Adam Weinstein has been keeping a good timeline of case developments here. I recommend it highly, though I find the tangential issues he gets into distracting and unhelpful.)

Zimmerman's past or whether he said 'coon' or 'goon' on 911 tapes and whatever else may be relevant at trial as aggravating circumstances, but these are ancillary to the provable facts about what exactly transpired that night. A history of overreaction and racism could be relevant to the reliability of his story, but it doesn't prove anything and isn't useful until we know how it went down.

Any number of circumstances could be in play, but without question, we have an overzealous armed man who took it upon himself to follow a 17 year old boy who was breaking no laws. Even if everything in this account is true, Zimmerman discarded police instruction and eventually engaged Trayvon Martin. To what extent Trayvon reacted/overreacted to Zimmerman is highly questionable, and how excusable that reaction was, given that he was being followed by strange person who was clearly not a police officer, is also questionable. We really don't know who engaged whom first and how that happened. These are the facts most pertinent to any investigation or charges that may be filed.

We also know that the police didn't do their due diligence when collecting evidence from the scene. Zimmerman wasn't tested for being under the influence of drugs or alcohol and though he was treated for wounds at the scene, he was never was examined by a doctor, and what other protocols that were not followed have yet to be known. When someone is dead, the highest standard of investigation is in order, even if all the circumstances described by the shooter appear to be true. Clearly, this standard was not met and people are going to be upset about that--and rightfully so.

Everything I said in this post is still valid. That doesn't mean George Zimmerman is guilty of murder, but he is clearly guilty of poor judgment. Whether or not he committed a crime is not my call and people on both sides of this issue should stop blaming the Kochs and ALEC and the New Black Panthers and MSNBC and Barack Obama and Eric Holder and Al Sharpton etc. for doing this or that. None of them have anything to do with this and reacting to what they do just makes you look like an asshole.

Let's hope the scrutiny that has been brought upon this case will make a thorough investigation more possible, despite the undeniable failures at the beginning. As for guilt or innocence, you can't possibly have enough information about the case to declare it one way or the other, so I would suggest you stop.

bellum medicamenti delenda est

*Zimmerman was not under direct order to cease following him, and so he wasn't disobeying a lawful order. That said, Zimmerman having reported that he 'lost sight' of Trayvon is indicative that he was attempting to maintain visual contact with him.

1 comment:

Cynthia Chiles said...

I hope there's justice and people truly learn and grow from this tragedy.