Thoughts on the Zimmerman Case
George Zimmerman put himself in the wrong place. Sorry, guys, I know we like to say “when seconds count, the police are only minutes away,” and that’s true, but even if Trayvon Martin was up to something criminal that night, there was no immediate threat to Zimmerman. A suspicious person walking through your neighborhood is something for the police, not for you.
Am I blaming Zimmerman for the attack? No. From the evidence at the trial, Martin attacked Zimmerman. Saying that it is Zimmerman’s fault is about the same as saying a woman deserved to be raped because she was wearing provocative clothing. However, in both cases, there were steps the victim could have taken to make an attack less likely. That’s why self defense teachers stress situational awareness and avoiding dangerous situations.
Am I saying that we should be helpless victims, and just wait for the police? Absolutely not. I believe in the right, even the responsibility, of self defense. But a suspicious person in your neighborhood is not yet a case of self defense.
What I am saying is that you need to very carefully consider the possible consequences of your actions, and that when you are not under a direct threat, calling the police is the best option.
It’s easy for me to say this from my living room, but we need to be able to look at situations, and learn from them. My takeaways are:
- Even if you are eventually acquitted, you can be dragged through hell after a shooting.
- Incidents can escalate very quickly. Don’t do anything to speed it up.
- Avoiding a situation is your best option.
- The police have a lot of advantages when approaching someone. Leave it to them.
- In an incident where you approach someone, or are seen to, the self defense argument can be turned on you.This didn’t work on Zimmerman, but it certainly could in the future.
The cases of George Zimmerman and Marissa Alexander show that real life is not like some old Western movie, with 100% good Alan Ladd against 100% evil Jack Palance. Often, no one involved in the incident is a saint. And, looking back with 20/20 hindsight, one can see things that could have been done (often on both sides) to avoid the confrontation. Of course, bad judgment or tactical errors (yes, Zimmerman never should have followed Martin) do not make a person guilty of murder. If I had been on Zimmerman’s jury, I would have found him not guilty of murder. If he had been charged with something that did not involve criminal intent (reckless endangerment, negligence), that might be another story. Anyone who owns a weapon for protection should get some training, not only in shooting, but in avoiding a fight. Better to be tried by twelve than carried by six. But better to avoid trouble altogether, and not be tried in the first place.