Thursday, March 29, 2012

On the Trayvon Martin Shooting

For the past several weeks, I have looked on, with some degree of horror, at the investigation of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, and all the circus that this tragedy has become.

And let's say very, very clearly, that this whole episode is a tragedy, first and foremost.  Whatever the circumstances of what happened that night, let's be clear on one thing - there was no reason whatsoever for Trayvon Martin to die.  He was walking home from a convenience store, armed with an iced tea in one hand, and a bag of Skiddles in the other, and spent at least some time talking on his cellphone with his girlfriend.

Now, it is the circumstances of his death, and how they came about, that drives this whole event.  We do know that the shooter, George Zimmerman, took it upon himself to be the neighborhood watch (even though there was a neighborhood watch in place, and that Zimmerman was not a member of that group, and that neighborhood watch members don't carry guns).  We know that Zimmerman thought that Trayvon Martin looked suspicious, and that, despite explicit instructions from the 9-11 dispatcher, Zimmerman followed Trayvon Martin. We also know that Zimmerman called 9-11 quite often about suspicious-looking characters in his neighborhood (not surprising given that he was acting as a neighborhood watchman), and that more than a few of said suspicious-looking individuals reported by Zimmerman were African-American.  These "suspicious-looking" individuals included a 7-9 year old boy.

Here's what we don't know - we don't know how the shooting happened.  Did Zimmerman stalk down and kill Trayvon Martin?  Or, did Trayvon Martin, filled with testosterone-laden confidence of a 17 year old, confront and/or attack Zimmerman for following him?  Zimmerman, of course, says that he was attacked by Trayvon Martin, and that he used his pistol in self-defense.  A video of Zimmerman made shortly after the Trayvon Martin's death doesn't appear to show any wounds.  But, of course, Zimmerman could have cleaned himself up in the intervening minutes between the shooting and the video.  At the same time, Trayvon Martin never had a history of violence, and Zimmerman outweighed Martin by over a hundred pounds (Zimmerman is 250 lbs, to Martin's 140 lbs.).  So if there was a fight, Zimmerman should have been able to overpower Martin.

Unfortunately, this means that the scenarios for this case are: 1) Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin in cold blood; 2)  Trayvon Martin, reacting to what he perceived to be threatening behavior, confronted Zimmerman, and Zimmerman shot Martin during a heated argument/fight; or 3) Martin, reacting to what he perceived to be threatening behavior, sucker-punched Zimmerman, and in self-defense, Zimmerman shot Martin.  Of the three, the second, which would result in Zimmerman committing manslaughter, seems the most likely.   

Now, with that said, the behavior of the people outside of this incident has been pretty crappy.  It appears that several elements of the Sanford Police Department took Zimmerman's side from the beginning (although the lead investigator apparently did not), and the State's Attorney refused to prosecute despite the recommendation of the lead investigator.  Then there are the idiots - conservative blogs like the Daily Caller who are currently smearing Trayvon Martin as a thug, the New Black Panthers putting a bounty on George Zimmerman, Spike Lee retweeting what he thought was George Zimmerman's address (and it wasn't), Geraldo Rivera (a long-time resident of the idiot list) blaming Martin's sweatshirt, and on and on. 

So, for the idiots out there - stop it.  Please, please stop it.  Yes, there was a time when it appeared that the Sanford Police Department (or the State's Attorney) was going to find a reason to not arrest George Zimmerman - a time that has passed.  And certainly, railroading Zimmerman (if he really was attacked by Martin) would be a bad thing too.  But neither is likely to now happen.  So please shut up.  Stop hacking Trayvon Martin's email account, stop stalking George Zimmerman, stop all of it. 

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