Monday, March 19, 2012

Shooting of African American Teenager Trayvon Martin Illustrates Continuing Lack of Justice in the United States

Not a Liberal Issue; Not a Conservative Issue; An American Issue

Ever wonder what it would be like to have a time machine and travel back to the America of the South in the 1930’s?  The citizens of Sanford, Florida have done that, and it is not a very pleasant trip.  It places front and center the concept of racial injustice, and the attitude that in certain parts of the country, the shooting and killing of an unarmed teen aged African American is not a crime.

Three facts must be stated at the beginning here.  The first is that there is no doubt that George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin.  The second is that Mr. Zimmerman may or may not be guilty of a crime.  And the third thing is that in any society that believes it is a society of laws and justice, Mr. Zimmerman should be charged with a crime and a court of law should determine if he indeed committed one.

Mr. Zimmerman is a self appointed armed vigilante.  Here is what happened.

It was raining the night of Feb. 26 when George Zimmerman, a crime watch volunteer, set out to patrol his neighborhood in his sport utility vehicle, as was his habit in recent weeks. Several break-ins had been reported in the area, and Mr. Zimmerman was especially alert.
Mr. Martin

Shot and Killed for Walking
through a neighborhood
with  a can of iced tea and some

He spotted a young black teenager wearing a sweatshirt, with the hood draped over his head. Mr. Zimmerman, a 28-year-old Hispanic man, trailed him a bit. Then he called 911, the first of seven calls from Mr. Zimmerman and panicked neighbors that begin to flesh out the details in the death of Trayvon Martin, 17, whom Mr. Zimmerman shot. 

Mr. Zimmerman has claimed self defense and local officials will not charge him with a crime.

They say that prosecutors have told them they do not have enough evidence to dispute Mr. Zimmerman’s claim that he acted in self-defense. Florida affords people who act in self-defense greater protection than most states, allowing them to take action if they have a reasonable fear that their lives are in peril.

But after strenuous efforts the 911 tapes have been released over the objections of law enforcement officials..  They tell a story that it is entirely possible that a crime was committed. First of all Mr. Zimmerman pursued Mr. Martin soley on the basis that he looked “suspicious”.   

“This guy looks like he’s up to no good or on drugs or something,” Mr. Zimmerman told dispatch, in his initial call. “It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.” Mr. Zimmerman continued: “He’s here now just looking at all the houses. Now he’s just staring at me.” 
and  Mr. Zimmerman confronted Mr. Martin even though he was told  by police not to do so, like this

Then he got out of the car with his licensed 9-millimeter pistol, and a worried dispatcher asked: “Are you following him? O.K., you don’t need to do that.”

Mr. Zimmerman seems to be what may be called a “professional vigilante” and had logged over 40 calls to the police.  They had told him before not to pursue a potential criminal, to let the police handle it.

Police volunteer program coordinator Wendy Dorival said she met Zimmerman in September at a community neighborhood watch presentation.

“I said, ‘If it’s someone you don’t recognize, call us. We’ll figure it out,’” Dorival said. “‘Observe from a safe location.’ There’s even a slide about not being vigilante police. I don’t know how many more times I can repeat it.”
So we have a “suspect” running away, and yes Mr. Martin was unarmed

The unarmed teenager, who carried Skittles and a can of iced tea, was walking to the home of his father’s girlfriend from a convenience store.

And yes Mr. Zimmerman did pursue Mr. Martin, engaged him and ultimately shot and killed him.

Is race an issue?  Obviously.

“That is the circumstance we are dealing with: If we arrest, we open ourselves to a lawsuit,” Sgt. Dave Morgenstern, a spokesman with the Sanford Police Department, said. “I would have to say I don’t think we have conducted a racially biased investigation at all.”

Really, no racially biased investigation at all?  Just imagine if the racial identities were reversed.  The shooter would be in jail, without bail and charged with first degree murder.  Anyone who doubts that has not been living on this planet for a long time.  The idea that police have not arrested Mr. Zimmerman because they fear a lawsuit is ludicrous, and just adds to their lack of credibility.

Here is the chief of police rationalizing away any investigation and follow up.

Police Chief Bill Lee said that although police do not encourage watch program volunteers to carry weapons, he recognizes a citizen’s constitutional right to do so. No arrest was made, Lee said, because there was no evidence to disprove Zimmerman’s account.

Well the police could get evidence from Trayvon Margin to disprove Mr. Zimmerman’s account.  No wait, Mr. Martin is dead. And those pesky 911 tapes, well everybody knows how unreliable they are.   And as for the attitude of the police, well there is this.

“We are taking a beating over this,” said Lee, who defends the investigation. “This is all very unsettling. I’m sure if George Zimmerman had the opportunity to relive Sunday, Feb. 26, he’d probably do things differently. I’m sure Trayvon would, too.”

Yeah, that’s right, the real victim here is the local police who are taking a “beating” over the killing.  And yes, the shooting victim is to blame here too according to the police chief.  He sure should have known better than to walk unarmed minding his own business through a neighborhood and not expected to be shot and killed. 
It is possible justice will be done

Representative Corrine Brown, a Florida Democrat, and Sanford’s mayor, Jeff Triplett, have joined the parents’ request for a Department of Justice investigation.

And let’s reiterate what justice is in this case.  It is not ncessarily a conviction, Mr. Zimmerman is indeed entitled to present his defense before a court of law. And none of us can judge the guilt or innocence without sitting through the trial and hearing all the tapes, all the statements and viewing all the evidence. 

 In this case justice at this time is bringing Mr. Zimmerman to trial, because in America no one has the absolute right to follow an individual in a car, get out of the car and confront that individual and then shoot and kill that individual. 

The residents of Sanford, Florida are entitled to law enforcement that belongs in the 21st century, not the ugly days of the pre-civil rights 20th and 19th centuries.  Everyone hopes that is what they will get.

1 comment:

  1. What if the police chief was a victim to a shooting and the attacker claimed self defense , will the attacker be allowed to walk free , for fear of a law suit against the police dept.?
    This shows police chief is wearing jaundiced glasses , he needs to be suspended first, and that too without pay . How many times can he get away doing this . Stories from that county are a tell tale evidence of police misconduct. An unarmed teenager getting shot fatally, he could have been shot in his feet , Why on God's Earth did this man need to shoot a kid in the chest.Zimmerman does not even get tested for drugs.Is this law enforcemet? The police chief : Bill Lee needs to be sacked first. Otherwise it is a Crime on Crime. First Crime is to chase a kid and shoot in the chest. Second one is not to test the killer for drugs , or even arrest the killer. American blood is so cheap to spill , because it is suspicious teenager. Zimmerman was advised by the police way before the incident not to chase the suspicious ones and he was advised on the day of his lethal use of weapon. I am not in Law Enforcement that is clearly the fault of Zimmerman to chase a kid a kill a kid. What if it was Bill Lee 's Kid. If Bill Lee had said for fear of litigation we can't arrest the killer.? American blood spilling should not be so cheap , whether it is African American , Caucasian American or Asian American. Shame on you Bill Lee , you are unworthy to be a Police Chief and you are an Unworthy American.