What's All This Then?

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Monday, April 23, 2012

The last time I wrote here - and it’s been a while - I postulated some "what ifs" about the Trayvon Martin killing. Since then, one of the "what ifs" has been eliminated from consideration, George Zimmerman having been charged with second degree murder which may or may not proceed to trial and may or may not eliminate some or all of the rest of my "what ifs."

With bond being granted, the case may not be a story on the nightly news for a while - at least not until a trial gets under way - if ever. But the question of a possible trial begs the question - can it be fair? Can George Zimmerman get a fair trial? There are those who would be angered at the mere asking of such a question. But it needs to be asked. Surely we don’t want the tragedy of Trayvon Martin’s death to be followed by another tragedy - that of an atmosphere filled with too much anger to allow a fair trial to proceed.

We had a glimpse of the potential problems during Zimmerman’s bond hearing. His father and wife testified by telephone - I would imagine as unusual an occurrence as an accused taking the stand at a bond hearing. Apparently they did so because of fear - the same fear that kept Zimmerman in hiding since the protests and the media trial gathered steam. Even if a request for a change of venue was successful, where would the prosecutors find twelve jurors who had no opinion about the case? And if a jury was seated, would they be able to render a not guilty verdict and not be in fear for their own safety?

I ask these questions because of what this case has become. A racial cause celebre. Al Sharpton and others want us to believe that Trayvon Martin is the poster child for all young black men - that each is in danger of being killed by a white man who will never be charged with his murder whenever they leave their homes. And Sharpton and his colleagues have been aided and abetted by so called "progressive" talk show hosts on radio and television. Even now, after Zimmerman has been charged, the media "trial" continues. Sharpton and others may be commended for calling attention to the initial refusal of prosecutors to charge Zimmerman with anything - even involuntary manslaughter - but the effort became something of a media lynch mob with supposition being used as a substitute for facts - of which little were known. Even as some facts became known at Zimmerman’s bond hearing - that the investigator on whose findings the indictment was presumably issued, admitted that he had no evidence of who attacked who - the media pundits continued to insist that they knew what must have happened.

Angela Corey, the prosecutor appointed by Governor Rick Scott to pursue the case after Stares Attorney Norm Wolfinger declined to bring charges, says that she is not influenced by public pressure - just by the evidence. If you believe that, I have some Brooklyn Bridge stock available for sale at a huge discount. Can you imagine what might have happened if she - the prosecutor specifically appointed to clean up the mess that Zimmerman’s release had created, had agreed with Wolfinger that there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Zimmerman given his claim of self defense under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law?

I doubt that the "what if" that relates to Zimmerman having to go to trial will come to pass. The same pressure that resulted in his indictment will prevail over motions to dismiss and he will be tried for second degree murder - with a possible guilty verdict being rendered for a lesser crime, which might be why he was charged with second degree murder in the first place - giving a jury leeway to vote to convict without iron clad evidence of premeditated murder. But if he is to stand any chance of beating the rap, he needs to stay off the stand. Trayvon Martin’s parents reportedly were angered at his attempt to "apologize" at his bond hearing. I was amazed that his lawyer allowed him to testify. He surely couldn’t have known what his client was about to say - that he was sorry for the parent’s loss and that he didn’t know how old the kid was or whether he was armed. It’s almost as if he was saying that had he known Trayvon was only seventeen and wasn’t packing, maybe he wouldn’t have shot him.

My impression of Zimmerman from all I have read and from his appearance at his bond hearing is that he is not very bright but likely not a racist and that firing his gun was done at a moment of panic and not in a deliberate attempt to kill Trayvon Martin. I can only hope, along with all fair minded people, that the legal system will be allowed to proceed to decide this case without public pressure to render one verdict or another. I know that if the case goes to trial, I would not want to be a member of the jury that would be asked to determine what really happened and to decide whether or not Zimmerman could be exonerated based on Florida’s laws - and those who are eventually asked to render those judgments have my sympathy.