Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Will Justice Prevail in the Tragic Trayvon Martin Case?

The tragic shooting death of Trayvon Martin has entered a new phase with the arrest of George Zimmerman on a 2nd degree murder charge. After a thorough investigation, the State of Florida decided that sufficient evidence exists to charge Zimmerman with a homicide. No one knows the facts in this case but everyone is speculating, especially the media who literally fueled potential and actual racial violence. Many folks are of the opinion that racism is so widespread in America that justice is impossible.

On 5/19/09, two black teens entered an Oklahoma pharmacy with the intent to commit armed robber. One had a firearm. The white pharmacist accessed a firearm and fired, hitting one of the robbers. The unarmed teen fell to the floor bleeding from a head wound. The armed teen fled the pharmacy but the pharmacist followed him out of the store in pursuit but never caught him. The pharmacist returned to the store where the other teen was still down and bleeding on the floor but alive, if immobile. The pharmacist retrieved another firearm and fired 5 shots into him, killing him.

The case obviously had all the ingredients for a sensationalized media trial - a black teen was shot dead by a white man. Because the black teen was actually in committing a crime, many folks screamed that it was a case of legitimate self-defense. An Oklahoma jury did not agree, convicted the pharmacist of 1st degree murder (though the jury had other options, including lesser charges) and the pharmacist was sentenced to life in prison. Why? Because the assailant was down, bleeding, unarmed and no longer posed a threat; the moment the pharmacist retrieved another weapon and fired 5 more shots into him, he became a cold blooded killer who was no longer defending himself against a threat.

Oklahoma City pharmacist Jerome Ersland gets life; judge refuses to suspend any prison time

Our laws are based on the theory that you cannot use deadly forced unless you are threatened with deadly force.  In the case of Martin/Zimmerman, it's not clear if Zimmerman shot Martin dead as a legitimate act of self defense.  Martin wasn't committing a crime and was just a kid returning from a convenience store armed with a bag of Skittles and a can of ice tea.  Evidence does exist however that Zimmerman called 911, reported that Martin looked 'suspicious' and the police advised Zimmerman not to follow Martin.  Zimmerman disregarded the instructions of the police,  proceeded to follow Martin (stalking?) and the two engaged in a physical confrontation.

Whether this is a case of legitimate self-defense or just shooting a teen to death for no justifiable reason is something that will be left to a jury to decide after being presented with all the evidence.

Trying this case in the court of public opinion is inflammatory and definitely doesn't serve the interest of justice or racial harmony.  American juries take their responsibilities seriously, especially in cases of murder.  It's wise to allow the criminal justice system to do its job.  

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