So, exactly what are the facts? What is the big picture that was missed in the trial?
The state tried to prove second degree murder – a charge that from the very beginning looked unlikely to succeed. As I understand it, the jury could also have arrived at a guilty of manslaughter verdict, but chose not to. Why not?
It seems to me that the trial focused primarily upon the final 2 minutes or so of the interaction between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. Basically, the prosecution and defense both tried to prove who was on top – as if that was a significant factor in determining guilt. There was also a fascination with who actually called for help. The prosecution rightfully lost this war of words because it did such a horrible job. It simply did not prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
If we look at the big picture – in this case the entire interaction between Zimmerman and Martin – we see quite a different picture. We come to realize that it doesn’t make any difference who was on top or who called for help. Moreover, the truth of the big picture was not disputed by anyone in the case.
1. George Zimmerman was following Trayvon Martin. He believed Martin was up to no good. He believed Martin had no right to be where he was. He was so convinced of this that he ignored the recommendation of a police dispatcher to disengage. He may even have confronted Martin.
2. Trayvon Martin was returning to an apartment in the gated community. He had been to a nearby convenience store, where he had purchased a couple of items. He seems to have discovered that he was being followed by a stranger and likely became fearful (Yes even streetwise black teenagers in Florida can be fearful.) He may even have turned upon this stranger.
We know for certain that there was a confrontation and that Martin ended up dead.
Yes, we know – and nobody disagrees with this – that during the confrontation between these two individuals, the black teenager who was where he had a right to be was shot dead by the Hispanic 28 year-old man who had no business being where he was.
Those are the facts. The rest is rhetoric.
The social conversations about this verdict are just beginning because for many of us justice was not done in Florida.
This commentary was first published June 30, 2013 by the Winona Daily News
The age of George Zimmerman - incorrectly listed as 40 in the newspaper - has been corrected in this blog entry.