The Real Problem In The Trayvon Martin Shooting

Trayvon Benjamin Martin (Feb. 5, 1995 – Feb. 26, 2012)

I haven’t talked too much about the Trayvon Martin shooting  because I feel like the system needs to play out.  Like everyone else, I have very strong opinions on the subject, but facts are still coming out.  Unfortunately, as the story evolves, I see the real point of this tragic tale getting lost in the debate over the legality of a child’s murder.

Predictably, it has been politicized…mainly by Republicans.  The right has initiated and perpetuated a smear campaign against Trayvon Martin, blaming him for everything from wearing a hoodie, to confronting a man who was following him (i.e. standing his ground), to having been given a 10-day suspension from school.  Meanwhile, they tsk-tsk those calling for Zimmerman’s arrest because that’s “unfairly judging him in the media.”  This is a two-fold ridiculous assertion, because of the aforementioned hypocrisy, and because trying high profile cases in the court of public opinion is something of an American pastime, from the scopes monkey trial to Casey Anthony, often engaged in by these very same right-wing pundits.

The reason Republicans have been so staunch in their apparent support of George Zimmerman actually has nothing to do with Zimmerman at all.  They are defending Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which is the main culprit in this case.

George Zimmerman, 2005 mugshot (left) and more recently.

It makes sense to lay this all at George Zimmerman’s feet.  But, from what I can tell, Zimmerman is a paranoid kook who grabbed a gun and appointed himself defender of the neighborhood (Neighborhood Watch has come out and said he is in no way affiliated with them is not in accordance with their practices or philosophy).  There are paranoid kooks all over the world and sometimes they kill people because of that paranoia.  This is not to minimize Zimmerman’s actions.  If he is guilty, he should pay to the fullest extent of the law.

Others will charge that racism is the main culprit here, but I disagree.  Obviously, it is a significant factor.  If Zimmerman had shot a 17-year old, blonde-haired, white girl, I doubt Zimmerman’s defenders would find his self-defense excuse so credible.  That is to say nothing of the fact that Zimmerman would likely never have even followed a blonde-haired white girl in the first place.

Even the botched investigation by the primary officer on the scene and the apparent obstruction by the chief of police aren’t the core problems.  The interrogating officer wanted to arrest Zimmerman for murder.  There were people in the department doing their jobs that night.

Racism is a significant element but not the central issue of the Trayvon Martin shooting.

The real problem is that Florida has a law that changes the nature of  justifiable homicide.  Self defense is traditionally (and logically) an active defense where the burden of proof falls on the defendant, not the prosecution.   The presumption of innocence applies when someone denies committing the crime for which they are accused.  We don’t presume that person is guilty; it has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  When someone admits to committing a crime–as Zimmerman has admitted to killing Trayvon Martin–there is no presumption of innocence.  Zimmerman must prove he was defending himself–as he would have to prove his defense if he said chemicals from a toxic corn dog had rendered him temporarily insane.

Stand Your Ground turns all that on its head.  Under this preposterous law, if two guys get into a drunken brawl  and one guy pulls out a gun and shoots the other, he is now justified in doing so because he “felt threatened.”  In other words, the last man standing is presumed justified so long as he claims self defense.  He can’t even be charged–hence the furor.  If Zimmerman had been arrested and was due to stand trial, the outrage over this shooting would be greatly diminished.

April 26, 2005, NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer (in red) makes sure Gov. Jeb Bush signs SB-436 (Stand Your Ground) into law as instructed.

Now, the reason Republicans will do anything–even smear the reputation of a 17-year old murder victim–to divert attention away from Stand Your Ground is because it’s their law.  In 2005, Florida’s Republican-led state legislature passed the bill and Republican governor Jeb Bush signed it into law (with an NRA lobbyist looking over his shoulder as he did).  And as usual, rather than admit that the law is poorly written or (gulp) poorly conceived, or even that the Trayvon Martin shooting goes outside of the law’s intent, the GOP doubles down on their support for the law no matter how heinous a position it puts them in.

This is because versions of Stand Your Ground laws currently exist in 21 states–all Republican-controlled at the time of passage–and ALEC, a particularly vile conservative PAC, is currently trying to make the law federal.  Statistics show that Stand Your Ground has led to a 200% increase in “legally” justifiable homicides in Florida.  The other Stand Your Ground states have seen a similar increase.

However, the facts are irrelevant.  The Republicans are not going to back down.  They can’t.  Otherwise, the NRA will eviscerate them, as the powerful lobbying group will not be derailed from their goal–in cooperation with the gun manufacturers–of ensuring that as many Americans as possible own and use as many guns as can be put out into the world.

For Sale SOLD.

This goes back to the corruption of our system, where the political parties cannot act in the interests of their constituents, much less their conscience.  They have an obligation to their campaign benefactors.  If they buck, or get out of line, they will be put down and replaced by someone who plays ball.  In that sense, it’s unfair to overly politicize the Republican position.  They got caught on the ugly end of this, the system gives them no room to move.  If not these Republicans, then those who will; only the names would change; the outcome would remain the same.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for a single tear for any of these bought out lawmakers.

I just don’t want the point to get lost.

The real tragedy, of course,  is the death of Trayvon Martin.  In a sense, there can be no justice because their is no equivalent or recompense for the loss of his life.   But the underlying problem is that his killer may never even have to defend his actions in a court of law because of a corrupt political system that does not work for, represent, or even care about the people it is supposed t0 protect.

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Author: therealkenjones

writer, artist, wannabe photographer, recovering Southern Californian...

6 thoughts on “The Real Problem In The Trayvon Martin Shooting”

  1. I suppose that by now, you’ve already heard the news that defense attorneys for the accused killer George Zimmerman have withdrawn from his case. They cited numerous reasons, among them was that – against their advice – he was talking to the press, the prosecution and others, and that for over a week has refused to acknowledge any form of coummunication from them, either voice or text message, or email. Looks like he’s being hung out to dry… and he’s the one doing the hanging.

    1. Well put!

      I would imagine that unless George Zimmerman is a sociopath, he has to be an emotional wreck. I just hope he doesn’t make a more drastic decision before getting his day in court. He doesn’t seem to be on a healthy path, though. What a debacle that would be. Everybody’s gotta pay the man, I guess.

  2. I think Trayvon Martin got a bad deal, but he was walking in a place that he shouldnt be. I think the injuries on that other guys head in the police photos indicate he was attacked and Trayvon should have tried to flee since he was not supposed to be there. He deserved to be shot, maybe not killed but shot in the stomach or knees to stop him.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Steve.

      However, I fundamentally disagree with pretty much everything you stated.

      Unless he was trespassing (which no one, including George Zimmerman is alleging), Trayvon has the right to be anywhere he chooses. That’s beside the fact that his father lived in that neighborhood. By your argument, gang bangers would be justified in shooting anyone who makes a wrong turn into their neighborhood.

      2nd, we don’t know what transpired between Martin and Zimmerman before the gun was fired. But doesn’t Martin have as much right to “stand his ground” as Zimmerman? Your position takes the side of the shooter and blames the victim without any evidence that the victim actually did anything wrong…except be a black kid in a hooded sweatshirt walking in a nice neighborhood. You really feel that warrants a bullet in the gut? Would your position be different if Martin had been a 14-year old girl? No one has the right to shoot–or even arrest–another person simply for “looking suspicious” for the obvious fact that we’re all biased in one way or another. George Zimmerman’s responsibility regarding Trayvon Martin ended the second he dialed 9-1-1. He decided to take matter into his own hands, now he should have to prove that he acted in self-defense.

      My biggest problem, outside of the tragedy of a 17 year old kid being killed, is that Stand Your Ground laws create a culture where the last person standing after a shooting is justified as long as they claim self defense…and there are no survivors (creating the scenario where it’s better to kill the other person so they can’t contradict your story). It is unfathomable to me that a modern nation in the 21st century would choose to live this way.

  3. “Stand Your Ground turns all that on its head. Under this preposterous law, if two guys get into a drunken brawl and one guy pulls out a gun and shoots the other, he is now justified in doing so because he “felt threatened.” In other words, the last man standing is presumed justified so long as he claims self defense. He can’t even be charged–hence the furor. If Zimmerman had been arrested and was due to stand trial, the outrage over this shooting would be greatly diminished.”

    This paragraph is incorrect. At this specific point, Florida and most of the “stand your ground states” would consider this mutual combat and this would not be justifiable self defense. Mr. Martin using the cement as a weapon of opportunity made Mr. Zimmerman fear for his life, thus giving him a justifiable argument of self defense.

    “My biggest problem, outside of the tragedy of a 17 year old kid being killed, is that Stand Your Ground laws create a culture where the last person standing after a shooting is justified as long as they claim self defense…and there are no survivors (creating the scenario where it’s better to kill the other person so they can’t contradict your story). It is unfathomable to me that a modern nation in the 21st century would choose to live this way.”

    My biggest problem, outside the tragedy of a 17 year old being killed, is that you do not understand the real reasoning for these laws and automatically will assume it is intended to harm you. These laws do justify a selfish act of murder, but give you the opportunity to save yourself and/or your family. I fear you will not understand this until you experience it personally.

    I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it. Please always know that our First Amendment rights are protected by our Second Amendment rights.

    This entire argument you have made it as if this tragedy were “race” inspired. You blame the fact that Mr. Zimmerman is half Caucasian (you did argue this, but not in these exact words). In the 21st century it is you that is racist to think that only a white on black is a race issue. Yet you will turn a blind eye to this tragedy because it is a black on white situation…

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/22/us/georgia-baby-killed/index.html

    1. “This paragraph is incorrect. At this specific point, Florida and most of the “stand your ground states” would consider this mutual combat and this would not be justifiable self defense. Mr. Martin using the cement as a weapon of opportunity made Mr. Zimmerman fear for his life, thus giving him a justifiable argument of self defense.”

      1st we don’t know if Zimmerman and Trayvon weren’t also locked in “mutual combat” and Zimmerman was just losing. The only real account of what happened is Zimmerman’s who, by his own admission, has just killed someone. He has a self-interest in telling the story a certain way.

      This is my criticism of the law; traditional self-defense claims shift the burden of proof onto the claimant (defendant). One who admits to committing murder, then has to prove, quantifiably, that they were justified in doing so. So in my brawl scenario the killer could simply claim that the victim was using the wall or the edge of the table, or what have you as a weapon of opportunity and so they were forced to kill. it’s absurd. Once Zimmerman was told by authorities not to follow and did anyway, the burden should have fallen to him to PROVE that he did not start the fight that ended in Trayvon’s death.

      “I fear you will not understand this until you experience it personally.”

      You don’t know what I’ve experienced and appear to be relying on biased generalizations to make your case (if not please list the personal experiences I’ve had that you are basing your assessment on).

      The evidence thus far clearly shows that Stand Your Ground defenses heavily favor whites killing blacks over ever other scenario (blacks killing blacks, whites killing whites, etc.). http://www.policymic.com/articles/54671/the-one-graph-that-proves-stand-your-ground-laws-help-jurors-let-white-defendants-go-free
      Marissa Alexander getting 20 years for firing a warning shot is further evidence of this. Thus it stands to reason that it’s an issue for me to be concerned about. When we see an equivalent rate of blacks killing whites, claiming self defense, and being acquitted we can revisit.

      “This entire argument you have made it as if this tragedy were “race” inspired. You blame the fact that Mr. Zimmerman is half Caucasian (you did argue this, but not in these exact words). In the 21st century it is you that is racist to think that only a white on black is a race issue. Yet you will turn a blind eye to this tragedy because it is a black on white situation…”

      Either you are somehow ignorant of the history of race in America or you are being duplicitous in order to try and win an argument. I’m guessing it’s the latter as I have never said, nor do I believe that racism only occurs with whites on blacks.

      I actually believe that bigotry is a bastardization of our fear of the unknown or “other” and is a core component of the human condition. Certain manifestations of it are more impactful than others, especially when coupled with political and/or economic power, but it’s no one’s unique province.

      Your problem seems to be that you either lack critical thinking skills or have eschewed them in favor of parroting standard conservative tropes on race and gun rights. Fortunately, I stand by your right to be wholly unoriginal in much the same way you stand by my right to appear wrong to the misinformed and presumptive.

      Thanks for the comment.

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