George Zimmerman may have considered the color of Trayvon Martin‘s skin when he approached him on the fateful night. Does race, gender, age, and manner of dress qualify as probable cause to shoot him? No, No, No. Today the law of police/citizen encounters says that approaching someone without more doesn’t require probable cause or reasonable suspicion because Mr Zimmerman was a voluntary police/citizen and the person encountered could walk away with no recourse. Do I expect anyone to believe Trayvon Martin was upset that he was being followed and may have believed it was simply because he was black? I probably do.But, who attacked who? I don’t have a clue and I don’t think it is right for anyone to place themselves in place of the jury and say unequivocally that the jury got it wrong.
If following someone or even approaching someone based on racial stereotyping is the issue, we should all have a problem, but the problem may be in the system itself.
We may not like Zimmerman, but this is like a the case of dirty policeman. If mere dislike of the person causes us to want to ignore all legalities and focus on them out of our dislike, we become the criminal. The defense counsel made a strategic decision to pursue Florida’s self-defense definitions at that trial. All the interpreters of the Florida law indicate that the strong statutory self-defense language resolves all doubts in favor of the shooter. This places an extremely low value on Trayvon Martin’s life. Do I think that Zimmerman legally had the right to act as he did in following Trayvon Marrtin? The police who investigated it thought it was self-defense. The first prosecutor on the case believed Zimmerman acted in self-defense.
Now politicians who were in fear of a race riot, or worse, brought in a special prosecutor who appears to have had a record of playing fast and loose with the law. The evidence suggests that she made a conscious decision to continue the policy of playing fast and loose with evidence in making the case against Zimmerman. Serious evidence was used to highlight Trayvon Martin was not what most people suspected he was. Trayvon Martin had issues that anyone with law enforcement training may have ruled him a “suspect” worthy of paying attention. Did this make him a criminal? No evidence presented to date indicates anything that would make me believe he was a criminal. However, both sides were playing fast and lose with facts. That is what we might expect in this case on a Monday morning.
Racial profiling is abhorrent and too many blacks, as well as other minorities, have had experiences of being profiled. This egregious policy raises our ire and our first reaction is to demand that all the power of the federal, state and local governments be directed to demand justice for any party so damaged. No cost is too great in our minds to right these wrongs – today
Our society may now be on guard for future injustices, but retribution in this case cannot bring back Trevon Martin and it cannot undo the history we want to rewrite. The lesson we learn, if we remain vigilant, will be to understand future transgressions.
Our lesson may be to look more closely at that person where our first instinct is to question if they are “potentially a criminal” because of their dressed or lack of what we believe to be “proper behavior.” If our revised training causes us to be less vigilant and let down our security, we may have learned a poor lesson. For those who believe that they are being profiled, you must step up, learn the law where you live and work within the law. We don’t want anyone to be judgmental. Everyone’s rights must be protected.