Of Course There Was Reasonable Doubt

Posted by Melvin Bray on July 14th, 2013 filed in Useful Perhaps

https://i0.wp.com/media.philly.com/images/526*395/20130714_georgezimmerman_600.jpg?resize=200%2C148On 13 July 2013 at 10p EST, George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen whom George fatally shot the previous year. He had been charged with Second Degree Murder. In the stated of Florida that means the prosecution had to prove 3 specific things beyond a reasonable doubt according to section 7.4 of the Florida Criminal Jury Instructions Handbook, 2012-2013 Edition:

  1. The victim is dead.
  2. The death was caused by the criminal act of the defendant (with “act” being further defined to include “a series of related actions… performed pursuant to a single… purpose” of creating the dangerous condition that led to a death).
  3. There was an unlawful killing of the victim by an act imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for human life (with the underlined phrase being further defined as having 3 necessary components: foreseeable harm, “ill will” and “indifference”).

article imageAs you can see, it was a fairly simple matter; then again, it wasn’t. The legal definitions of things are always more involved than the public’s general notions of what particular words mean. Still juries are made up of the public (at least select portions of it), and some would say “second degree murders often are decided on the ‘common sense’ of the jury.” And one can understand that. As writer, professor and culture critic Jimi Izrael has said, the Zimmerman trial was basically He said/He said. The problem is that one party couldn’t be present (will never be present ever again), yet his involuntary absence was taken as commentary against him. Trayvon Martin was tried and convicted for his own murder, with the only witness being the man who pulled the trigger.

As for George Zimmerman, the trigger man, of course there was reasonable doubt as to his criminal involvement in Trayvon Martin’s death. Trayvon was “up to no good,” “on drugs or something” the night of his demise. How do we know? George told us. Not at trial, mind you, where his version of events could be cross examined directly, but rather on the night he chose to see Trayvon as a threat 6 minutes before ending Trayvon’s life. What was Trayvon doing that made him “a real suspicious guy”? “Walking around” while talking on the phone and “looking about.” How do we know? Again George told us! Well, admittedly, we know about the phone call from phone records. George doesn’t mention the call, presumably because he doesn’t recognize it’s taking place. Why would recognizing Trayvon was on a phone call have been material? Because as common as the notion may be, there is no such thing as multi-tasking, only trying to switch between multiple things quickly, and if Trayvon were actually engrossed in a conversation on the phone, that would explain aimless pacing, meandering about, talking to himself and exhibiting sporadic body movements like “something’s wrong with him”, “just staring” and “looking at all the houses” to get one’s bearing in an otherwise unfamiliar neighborhood. But none of that explains the behavior to which George openly attributed nefarious motive. How do we know? George says so. And his mere saying so while not under oath establishes reasonable doubt.

Listen to the entire 9-1-1 call for yourself.

But for the sake of argument, let’s say it doesn’t. Even if he weren’t guilty of any of the ways in which George profiled him as worthy of suspicion and characterized him as on drugs to the emergency dispatcher, we still know Trayvon was “up to no good.” Why else would he turn toward George–who was only politely, non-aggressively, non-threateningly following Trayvon in his car?  Why would Trayvon walk toward George with “his hand in his waist band” and end up with “something in his hands” as he moved “to check [George] out”? And we know he did. How do we know? George tells us, just 5 minutes before he shoots Trayvon. Never mind the fact that absolutely nothing comes of this convincingly hostile act. In fact, so little comes of it that George stops narrating Trayvon’s actions for nearly 40 seconds. George’s uncross-examined blow-by-blow account of Trayvon’s actions are the official record, however, as to exactly what happened that night. And even though he has insisted that the police hurry while on the phone with the dispatcher, punctuating the urgency of the situation with all manner of erroneous speculation regarding Trayvon, George clearly has no motive to insinuate Trayvon has armed himself and even less reason to brandish his own firearm in response. According to George’s lawyers, it is “irresponsible” for the prosecution to imagine what George did in response to what he says he perceived as first suspicious and then threatening behavior. We must have facts, and the only facts we have are George’s interpretation of them on this 9-1-1 recording as they are happening, which only reference Trayvon and George’s feelings about Trayvon. George doesn’t say what he himself is doing or how that might be interpreted by a 17-year-old walking alone at night in an unfamiliar neighborhood, so all that must be inconsequential. That’s reasonable doubt right there.

Trayvon must have been “up to no good.” Why else would he run… from a stranger who has a gun and has been following him slowly in a truck for at the very least a full 2 minutes? Rachel Jeantel says Trayvon was worried and expressed relief when he loses George for a while, but let’s ignore her. She could barely talk straight and lied about multiple things not related to her testimony, including why she didn’t want to attend Trayvon’s funeral, so what she has to say, however contradictory to George’s account, doesn’t count. She’s only saying anything to help Trayvon and out of loyalty to his parents. George, on the other hand, has no such personal stake in the outcome of the trial. He only personally and permanently eliminated the one witness of equal involvement. As long as George can suggest that Trayvon ran because he had been caught doing something wrong or in order to get the drop on him, that’s reasonable doubt that he, George, acted with singularity of purpose. Dismiss Rachel and there is no evidence that George’s account of what Trayvon was up to and how the fight started is wrong. Dismiss Rachel and everything but George’s account of what happened is conjecture or conflicting 3rd-party testimony.

Even if we recognize how much uncritical deference we are giving to George’s account of what is taking place prior to the confrontation that ended Trayvon’s life, we know Trayvon was “up to no good,” which therefore exonerates George of any ill will in profiling, mischaracterizing and stalking him.  We know it because at some point Trayvon fights back. How could any reasonable person foresee this?  And better yet, how dare he?  Hasn’t he learned about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King?  Fighting back immediately disqualifies Trayvon as a credible witness to his own death.

Now here’s the thing, according to George’s attorney’s, it is irresponsible for us to imagine that anything more or other than what George has reported to the emergency dispatcher occurred that fateful night, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with simply assuming that George has told the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth to the dispatcher, investigators, family, friends, attorneys and TV cameras leading up to the trial–even though every verifiable judgement George makes about Trayvon on the emergency dispatch recording turns out to be false.  Sure George acted on these false judgements, but this isn’t indifference to human life.  Indifference doesn’t start with profiling and end with death.  No, George’s forthrightness with law enforcement and apparent regret for killing a “kid” he at first reported to be in his “late teens” but later at his arraignment said he mistook as being in his mid- to late-twenties are actions steeped in ethics and good intent. Even though George’s ethics and good intent didn’t stop him from profiling, mischaracterizing, stalking and articulating disdain that “they always get away”–clearly identifying Trayvon, a person George doesn’t know, as one of “they”–we should imagine that George’s ethics and good intent stopped him from continuing to act on all his presumptions the moment the emergency dispatcher says to. Just because George says so and Trayvon’s not alive to say otherwise, that’s reasonable doubt.

Mind you, the imagination George and his attorneys do ask us to exercise in favor of George seems to have to rule out all kinds of real life experience. You can’t remember being a kid, tripping or sliding on concrete and scraping up your leg, because that might account for why with two people wrestling on concrete, a head and a hand would get bumped and scraped. You also can’t have ever pounded anything repeatedly against concrete, because then you’d remember how hard things break and soft things dent, bruise and tear badly–not a little. You also can’t have ever punched anything very hard, because you’d know how easily knuckles bruise (unlike Trayvon’s). And you can’t have ever fought for dear life, because you’d know that scratching is just a part of it (though nothing was found under Trayvon’s nails). It’s okay to imagine in favor of George, you just have to imagine that most of what George and his attorneys describe about both the fight and George’s reasons for being suspicious of Trayvon in the first place happened in a different world. As long as you do, that’s reasonable doubt as to any ill will on George’s part.

This is why a jury of his peers acquitted George Zimmerman of not only 2nd Degree Murder, which requires a victim, the intentional endangerment of human life and discernible commitment to follow through, but also of every possible lesser charge, including Manslaughter, which only requires a victim whose slaying was unjustified. Since the fact that Trayvon was killed at the hands of George was not in dispute, in this instance, as George’s attorney’s point out, being found “not guilty” means George is innocent of any crime as far as the jury is concerned. Obviously, like George, George’s attorneys and the jury live in a world where randomly labeling a stranger a criminal, branding him a threat to your personal safety, hunting him down after expressing contempt for “assholes” who “always get away” and then using deadly force to make sure it didn’t happen this time isn’t evidence of ill will and indifference and no reasonable person could have foreseen that each act in that series would have led to the next. It was the common sense of George’s six peers that Trayvon’s death at the hands of George was justified. In other words, it’s Trayvon’s fault he’s dead. How do George’s peers know this? That’s what George through his lawyers told them.  Trayvon, the only other witness to the entire series of acts that precipitated his death, wasn’t here to say otherwise–and that’s American justice for some.


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One Response to “Of Course There Was Reasonable Doubt”

  1. Jordyne Says:

    Great article. When walking down the sidewalk as a black teenager is enough “probable cause” to be followed by a gun, we need to wake up. This stuff happens every single day in America and we turn our head.

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