The Conversation

Further implications of the Zimmerman trial

In response to Consider the Implications if Zimmerman Had Been Convicted:

The other disturbing set of implications from the Zimmerman trial, and the angry reaction of "Justice for Trayvon" demonstrators to the verdict, goes back to the incident itself.  You've got a neighborhood watch guy volunteering his own time to keep an eye on a neighborhood that has been rocked by theft and property crime, including the theft of Zimmerman's own bicycle, right off his porch.  (There's a little detail the media has been decidedly unwilling to dwell upon.)  The thieves resembled Trayvon Martin.  

Zimmerman sees someone of that description walking through the neighborhood, and thinks he's behaving oddly.  He decides to keep an eye on him, which is what neighborhood watch people do.  It's become a core conviction of Trayvon mythology that the police told Zimmerman to back off, but he ignored their orders and provoked an encounter.  That is not true, not at all.  He was talking to a 911 dispatcher, not a police officer, and the "we don't need you to do that" remark about following Martin was not an order he recklessly disregarded.

Testimony at the trial left little doubt that Martin confronted Zimmerman, and was angry about being kept under surveillance.  The great unknown remains which one of them escalated this confrontation to a physical fight, but anyone reviewing the evidence (including the stuff the prosecution deliberately sought to hide, like the text messages from Martin's cell phone) would be 90 percent convinced it was Martin.  There is no evidence to doubt Zimmerman's claim along these lines, and jury verdicts are all about reasonable doubt, as is Florida law concerning claims of self-defense (which has nothing to do with the Stand Your Ground law, which - again contrary to Trayvon mythology - played no role in the case.)

So, to return to that tragic night: what are the Trayvon groupies saying law-abiding citizens with good reason to worry about crime are supposed to do when they see a suspicious individual?  Remain motionless with your head lowered and your eyes closed until they've gone by?  "Shelter in place" with the curtains drawn until you can no longer hear their footsteps?  Remain passive if they decide to beat you up, and hope they decide not to kill you, perhaps with your own weapon?  That's not lawful society, it's barbarian anarchy.

Following someone or looking at them does not give them carte blanche to beat you to a pulp.  Neither does injured pride.  There was no reason for Trayvon Martin to do anything other than ignore George Zimmerman and walk home, or perhaps hail him from a comfortable distance and ask why he was following Martin.  The prosecution tried to concoct some fanciful scenario about Martin fearing Zimmerman was a sexual predator and not wanting to lead him back to the Martin home.  That's ludicrous, and someone who thinks the correct response is to jump the suspected pursuer and beat him bloody is not a functioning member of society.  

Martin's cell-phone chatter does not make it seem like he was genuinely concerned about Zimmerman as a threat - he was more contemptuous than nervous - but if he was, he could have hurried home, locked the door, and called the police.  No one would have been injured that night, if he had done so; maybe Martin would have ended up talking to the same dispatcher who had George Zimmerman on the line, and the whole thing might have concluded with an apology: "Sorry, man, we've had a lot of crime in this neighborhood, someone stole my bike a while ago.  I'm looking out for you and your family, too."

When I was a teenager, I was actually profiled twice, under exactly the same circumstances.  There had been break-ins in my neighborhood, and the perpetrators vaguely resembled me.  On one occasion, a friend and I were walking home from the gym when we were followed by a neighborhood watch volunteer.  He eventually called out to us, introduced himself, and asked what we were doing; I explained I was a resident, he watched me go home, and that was that.  On the second, much more alarming occasion shortly afterward, I was walking down the street alone when an unmarked cop car flew out of nowhere, pulled up in front of me, and disgorged a plainclothes cop with some questions.  In neither case did it occur to me to get angry.  It was inconvenient and a bit unsettling, but the cop and the watch volunteer were looking out for my neighborhood.  I wanted the real perps caught as much as anyone.

I can tell the Trayvon groupies exactly what I think Trayvon Martin should have done that fateful night.  What do they think people concerned about crime are supposed to do?  Why are they so eager to stick up for a mindset that promotes confrontation - and, according to the preponderance of the evidence, physical confrontation - instead of polite and moderate behavior?


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