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home : opinion : news views May 22, 2015

7/20/2013 12:15:00 AM
Look At The Whole Zimmerman Case
Gary Gerard
Times-Union General Manager

The George Zimmerman case was – and continues to be – just a big bowl of wrong.
I understand how people get worked up over these things, but I just wish people could see the whole issue.
It’s like one side or the other just likes to gloss over the facts that don’t support their conclusions.
Seems to me that both Zimmerman and the 17-year-old victim in the case, Trayvon Martin, were culpable in varying degrees.
I don’t think Zimmerman was out hunting that night. I don’t think he was eager to shoot someone.
But he was overzealous with regard to following the eventual victim.
And Zimmerman’s story was a bit dodgy at times. He said some things that didn’t really pass my sniff test.
I am pretty sure throughout his version of the events of that night, Zimmerman set out to make himself look as innocent as possible. After all, it’s not like Martin was going to get to tell his side of the story, now was he?
First of all, Zimmerman  could have easily just done what the dispatcher told him and waited for the cops to arrive. Instead, he felt it necessary to get out of his car.
Now, according to Zimmerman, he got out of his car so he could get an address for the police. Nah. I don’t buy that. He got out of the car to see what Martin was up to.
And then, when there was that confrontation between the two of them, I wonder what that initial conversation was really like.
Was Martin the aggressor? Was he violent right off jump street as Zimmerman says? What did Zimmerman say to Martin? Was it just a polite, “No, young man. I don’t have a problem.”
Probably not. It was probably a lot more pointed than Zimmerman claimed. After all, just moments before, Zimmerman was telling the dispatcher it annoyed him how these “punks always get away.”
So for whatever reason –  a reason we will never know, to be sure – a fight breaks out.
Zimmerman says Martin banged his head against the sidewalk repeatedly.
I’m not sure that happened. Seems to me if that would have happened he would have had a lot more than just a couple little cuts on the back of his head – like some really big knots. He didn’t.
And then he said the part about Martin “smothering” him by placing his hand over his mouth and nose. Zimmerman said it happened when he was on his back on the ground.
But that was after Martin punched Zimmerman, breaking and bloodying Zimmerman’s nose.
Well, if things really happened that way, somebody needs to explain to me how there was no Zimmerman DNA on either of Martin’s hands. That just makes zero sense.
So to paint Zimmerman as some hapless neighborhood watchman simply defending himself after being victimized by a wanton thug is an inaccurate characterization of what happened that night.
I think Zimmerman was convinced Martin was up to no good and Zimmerman wanted to get to the bottom of it. When things got dicey he pulled his gun and fired.
Given the facts of the case as presented to the jury and the intricacies of Florida law, Zimmerman may not be  guilty of a crime. But he is guilty of some fatally flawed judgement and is morally – and likely civilly – responsible for the death of a teenager.
Conversely, Martin didn’t need to  confront Zimmerman, either.
Those who paint Martin as an innocent child just walking home with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea ignore some pretty telling details.
First of all, the notion that Martin was “just a child” is a bit misleading. Martin was more than 6 feet tall. And make no mistake about it. If that child had managed to get Zimmerman’s gun away from him and shoot him with it, he would have been charged as an adult.
Martin also had a bit of a storied past, none of which was shown to the jury in Zimmerman’s murder trial.
There was a photo of Martin showing his gold teeth to the camera while sticking up his middle fingers.
There were Martin’s school records, which included a suspension for pot less than a month before he was killed.
There were texts and photos from Martin’s cellphone referencing firearms and a photo of a hand holding a gun taken with Martin’s phone.
There were texts referencing pot, photos of pot plants and photos of him blowing smoke.
There were texts and photos suggesting he was involved in organized fights.
I was surprised by the testimony of Rachel Jeantel, the girl Martin was talking to on the phone prior to the shooting. She shared with the court that Martin referred to Zimmerman as a “creepy-a** cracker.” I will speculate she did that because she thought nothing of it – as if it wasn’t pejorative or derogatory.
But it raised a red flag for me. It is derogatory, and it showed Martin had animosity toward Zimmerman. It told me Martin wasn’t afraid, he was angry.
And it begs the question: What did he say that she didn’t share?
Did he say, “Well, gosh, I guess I’ll just go on home now?” No, or she would have shared that, too. More likely he told her something like, “I’m gonna kick this cracker’s a**?”
Of course that’s pure speculation on my part and we’ll never know what he told her.
What we do know is that Martin reversed course, circled back, confronted Zimmerman, punched him in the face and got on top of him.
So for those who paint Martin as a completely innocent child, I think it’s fair to point out that he likely was shot during the commission of a felony battery.
Did he deserve to die that night? Of course not. But to say he has absolutely no culpability isn’t accurate either.
As much as Zimmerman was a wannabe cop, Martin was a wannabe gangster.
I think we need to learn from this as a society and a culture. We generally need to be more civil and stop thinking the worst of each other.
With a little civility, this incident would never have become deadly. If Zimmerman hadn’t felt the need to protect his neighborhood and profile Martin as a potential criminal, no one dies.
If Martin just walks home instead of confronting Zimmerman, no one dies.
Failing all of that, when the two finally did confront each other, had Martin said, “Hey, what’s up? Everything’s OK. I’m just headed home. My dad lives two blocks away...” Zimmerman would have said, “Oh, OK” and nobody dies.
Unfortunately, that’s not the world in which we life. We live in a world of extreme suspicion and animosity.
More unfortunately, incidents like this tend to divide us even more.
My fondest hope is that we can learn from this. My biggest fear is that we won’t.





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