One cannot open the newspaper or turn on the television without hearing of the latest nationwide protests concerning the status of the investigation involving the shooting death of Tayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Most media commentators and every community activist, including both Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have widely criticized the local authorities for not having immediately arrested the shooter, George Zimmerman, after the incident occurred. Some pundits have even gone so far as to advocate an arrest merely to quell the rising demonstrations and prevent further violence.
Beautiful. So much for constitutional protections, due process and the presumption of innocence. Funny thing about the facts. They tend to come to light sooner or later and many times reveal that the individuals who initially protest the loudest, have done so not from an abiding desire to seek justice, but rather to garner a platform from which they can further an underlying agenda.
Since the initial outcry, both a special State prosecutor and the US. Attorney’s office have become involved in the investigation. While the incident was first described as one where an out- of- control, racist vigilante brutally gunned down an innocent black youth guilty of merely wearing a “hoodie” in a gated community, we now know that Mr. Zimmerman told the police that while he had initially pursued Tayvon Martin because of his “suspicious” actions in the neighborhood, he broke off any further contact with him and was thereafter attacked by Martin as he tried to enter his vehicle. This version of the events is bolstered by Zimmerman’s broken nose, scratches and bruising on the back of his head, and blood and grass stains on his shirt. This evidence alone was sufficient to create serious questions as to whether probable cause existed to arrest Zimmerman for any crime, especially in light of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law which has been in effect since 2005.
While Tayvon Martin has been portrayed as an angelic 6’3″ young man known to his friends as “Slimm”, we now know that he was spending the week at his father’s girlfriend’s home while under suspension from school for placing obscene graffitti upon school property. At that time he was also found in possession of numerous pieces of jewelry, including wedding bands, women’s diamond earrings and watches. He apparently could not explain how he had obtained those items, nor why he also possessed a screwdriver. These facts do not directly affect the circumstances of the shooting, however do speak volumes concerning how the media and others have “sanitized” young Mr. Martin to bolster his perceived victimization.
This case has also once again brought Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law into question. Calls for its repeal have already been made by Democrats in the Florida Legislature. Prior to 2005, Florida followed the generally accepted common law principle that, unless an individual was located in their own home, they had a duty to retreat from the threat of an imminent attack, unless by retreating the danger would be increased. In 2005, the Florida Legislature enacted Section 776.012 which removed the requirement to retreat in any circumstances where a person reasonably believes force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to themselves or to another person. As with any statutory interpretation, however, “the devil is in the details”. What constitutes a “reasonable” belief of death or great bodily harm will always be a question of fact for police investigators, and if necessary, the jury. In the Martin / Zimmerman investigation, given the evidence known to the police on the date of the incident, can there be any question that serious factual issues were presented which still remain unclear whether an arrest was made or not?
Listen, the loss of any human life by violent means is tragic, especially if that life is a young one just reaching adulthood. But the death of Tayvon Martin alone cannot justify prosecution of the Mr. Zimmerman as the shooter. Rest assured that the overlapping investigations being conducted by both State and Federal agencies will uncover any and all facts surrounding the shooting. If, after such investigation, Mr. Zimmerman is prosecuted, so be it. In the interim, demonstrators, both sincere or otherwise, and their “activist’ leaders should shut down the “Kangaroo Court” in which Mr. Zimmerman has already been convicted.