Tuesday, July 23, 2013

George Zimmerman Verdict

On Saturday evening, July 13, the jury reached a verdict in the George Zimmerman case. For anyone who may be living under a rock (or in a different country and might not be familiar with the case) here's a brief summary of how George Zimmerman came to be on trial:

On the evening of February 26, 2012, 28-year-old White Hispanic George Zimmerman, shot and killed 17-year-old African-American high school student, Trayvon Martin. Trayvon was walking home after after buying a pack of Skittles and an iced tea from a gas station when Zimmerman saw him and thought he looked suspicious. 
Zimmerman (who was the neighborhood watch coordinator for the gated community where Trayvon was temporarily staying) called 911 and told the dispatcher about "a real suspicious guy." Zimmerman said, "This guy looks like he's up to no good, or he's on drugs or something. It's raining, and he's just walking around." The dispatchers asked Zimmerman if he was following the person. Zimmerman replied, "Yes." The dispatcher said, "We don't need you to do that," but Zimmerman continued following Trayvon anyway. What happened next is unclear and is a matter of dispute, but Zimmerman (who was carrying a concealed weapon) and Trayvon got into a scuffle and Zimmerman ended up shooting Trayvon in the chest, killing him.

Zimmerman claimed that Trayvon attacked him as Zimmerman approached Trayvon, so Zimmerman shot Trayvon in self-defense. Zimmerman was questioned for several hours after the incident, but was later released. Police described what happened as "ultimately avoidable by Zimmerman, if Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle and had awaited the arrival of law enforcement, or conversely if he had identified himself to Trayvon as a concerned citizen and initiated dialogue in an attempt to dispel each party's concerns."  On April 11, 2012, Zimmerman was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. He posted bail and has been on house arrest since that time.

The George Zimmerman trial started last month when the jury selection began on June 10. The trial started shortly after the jury selection was complete. It didn't take long for both sides to present their case, and a verdict was reached on the evening of Saturday, July 13th. A jury of six women found George Zimmerman not guilty.
So what do you think of the George Zimmerman verdict? Was justice served or did Zimmerman get away with murder? This is definitely a matter of debate. The discussion can get heated pretty quickly since people's opinions vary so much based on their personal beliefs and their life experiences. Here's my take on things:

I don't think that George Zimmerman (or "Cousin George" as some of my family members refer to him since my mother's side of the family has the last name Zimmerman) set out to kill Trayvon. Even when he started following Trayvon, I definitely don't think it was with the intent to kill him; I think she was genuinely concerned about someone that appeared suspicious to him, But I do think he got over zealous and then things got carried away. I bet all of a sudden Trayvon was dead and Zimmerman was like, "Oh my gosh, what just happened?!?!" Now, this is just my conjecture, but I bet Trayvon did attack George. I think there's a good chance he felt threatened by Zimmerman and attacked him. I think Trayvon AND both have some ownership in what happened, but I DO think a fair amount of the blame for Trayvon's death falls on Zimmerman's shoulders, though. If he would've let the police handle things and would've listened to the 911 dispatcher when she told him NOT to follow Trayvon, then Trayvon would've never gotten killed and George wouldn't be on trial for murder.

I don't think Zimmerman should've been found guilty of second-degree murder, and I don't know what the answer is, but I think he should've been found guilty of something, whether it was manslaughter or something else. Even though Zimmerman has his "freedom," it's not like he's off the hook or will ever truly be free. On one show I watched they said that George Zimmerman has been dubbed "the most hated man in America." I don't think I'd go that far, but I almost think receiving a not guilty verdict is a worse fate in the long run. Many people feel like Zimmerman got away with murder, and they're extremely hostile in their feelings towards him. I think Zimmerman would be looked on more favorably if he served some jail time, because I think it would help sooth people's anger a little bit and ease some of the tension that the uproar over the verdict has created. I just feel like Zimmerman is really going to have to watch his back for many years, and is going to have this follow him around for the rest of his life.

What it all boils down to is this: there are only two people that really know what truly happened on the night of February 26, 2012, and one of them is dead. People can speculate all night long as to what they think happened, but ultimately Trayvon and Zimmerman are the only ones that really know. As Dr Phil says, "No matter how flat you make a pancake, it still has two sides." That's really true, and I think it's important to keep in mind. Could George Zimmerman be guilty and lying to cover his back? Sure. I think a lot of people would probably say or do anything they had to in order to save their hide and to keep themselves from going to prison, even if that meant lying or meant fudging the truth in order to make things out differently than they actually happened.

This incident has really ignited the topic of race. I think it's interesting to speculate on what would've happened to George Zimmerman if he were black and Trayvon Martin was white. Of course I can't say for certain, but I really think he would've been found guilty of second-degree murder, or at least manslaughter. Although this is the 21st century, racism is still very prevalent and it still rears its ugly head far too often.

The first picture of George Zimmerman below is from last year, soon after after the incident on February 26, and the second pic is a current one of Zimmerman during his trial last month. He's put on 110 pounds in the last year. Was this weight gain just the result of the stress of the upcoming murder trial and being on house arrest, or was it a calculated move on Zimmerman's part so as to appear less physically intimidating? I obviously don't know the answer to that, but I could easily see Zimmerman's lawyers telling him to pack on the pounds since someone's appearance can really affect your opinion of them.
After Trayvon was killed last year, people began gathering together to show their support for him.   People definitely have strong feelings when it comes to what they believe happened, and what they believe the true motive behind the crime was. It's for sure that it's a polarizing subject and the case has made some people really volatile
The people I feel the most badly for are Trayvon's parents. Not only have they lost their son, but they've had to hear everyone talk about him (especially since a lot of the things people have said about Trayvon aren't especially flattering. He definitely had gotten into some trouble, and wasn't a perfect kid, but even if he was kind of a "thug" it's still sad that he's dead. Regardless of what Trayvon was like, as a parent it would be really difficult to see your child villainized, even if there were elements of truth behind what people were saying about him.
One of the things pertaining to the case that got a lot of buzz is Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law that states that any person may justifiably use force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of an unlawful threat without an obligation to retreat first. "Stand your ground" seems like it could be dangerous, especially when you combine it with people's second amendment right to bear arms.
Here are some more political cartoons relating to Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman. (I always like seeing political cartoons because some of them are spot on in their depictions of current events. Others, not so much, but are just really humorous.)
It's just so sad that this tragedy had to happen because it was so senseless and so avoidable. One life was taken, and the other life was ruined. I know that the issue of gun control is another topic that people go back and forth on, but I just think guns are bad news. Sometimes pro-gun people will say, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people," but it's people WITH GUNS that kill people!!! Other times people say, "If you take away guns from honest citizens, then it will only be the criminals who have guns!" I'm not completely anti-gun, however, I think there needs to be reform so that the process of buying a firearm isn't quite so easy. I think there needs to be more thorough background checks and a longer waiting period before you can obtain a firearm. I obviously don't have all of the answers, but  guns aren't the answer to most problems, and I feel like guns in the public's hands (as opposed to military personnel and law enforcement officers) do a lot more harm than good. Something has to change, but that's a whole other blog post!

I read a really interesting article called "What if Trayvon Martin was My Son?" that posed the questions "how would I feel if Trayvon Martin was my son" or "how would I feel if George Zimmerman was my son." If you think about the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman tragedy putting yourself in their situations, it's easy to see why people's feelings vary so drastically. If Trayvon were my son, I'm sure I would feel like he had been racially profiled and murdered because he was black, and I'm sure I would be outraged over the verdict and feel like justice had not been served. But on the other side of the coin, if George Zimmerman were my son, I'm sure I would have complete faith in him that he only shot Trayvon because Trayvon attacked him first, and that that was his only option. I think it's natural to trust in your family member or friend that you know and love. Why wouldn't you give them the benefit of the doubt?

I thought a good way to end this post would be with a quote from the blog post I mentioned in the above paragraph. The post was very well-written and stated things eloquently:

It's a funny thing about truth: we are so biased by our experiences it is nearly impossible for us to know the whole truth. Yet we are unaware of these biases so we are deceived into thinking we know it all. So when someone disagrees with us we claim they are there ignorant or evil. But often they are neither. Often when people disagree with us, they simply see a different part of the story which we don't fully see.


Angela Butler said...

I completely agree with everything you have said. You are wise beyond your years. I live a little over an hour where this incident took place and was born in and have lived in Florida all of my life. I am a true "cracker", as they say, and I do not look as that as a derogatory term I embrace it as part of my heritage. I have a 19 year old son that if anything like this happened to him I wonder if I would ever recover. Zimmerman will be punished in ways we will never understand unless placed in the same position. The civil case will be very telling. I also live about 10 miles from where Casey Anthony resides in a condo on the beach, where she has to hide out fearing for her life. Whole other story on that one. I have always been curious as to what other parts of the country view us Floridians and you have helped me in that. We all have opinions on these stories. I happen to agree with everything you have said and I have heard other points of view from friends and family. This is not the country I grew up in. I am nearing 60 and in elementary school I learned to crouch under my desk in case of an attack from Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis. Today, for the first time in my life, there is a twinge of fear just leaving my home and going to the grocery store. The fear is coming from within our own walls and not from outside them any longer. My daughter is attending college with hopes of becoming a teacher and I no longer feel she is completely safe in choosing that profession. Somewhere along the line this country has lost respect for human life and that is very scary to me.

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