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Thoughts on Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman

We haven’t written anything about one of the day’s major news stories, the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. So let’s wade in:

1) For liberals, it is always 1962, and we are always in Mississippi. Unfortunately, however–from their perspective–it isn’t 1962, and the problems we now face are far more complicated and harder of solution than the problems of the early 1960s. In fact, liberalism offers no guidance in the present circumstances. So any time something happens that allows liberals to pretend that the 1962 template is operative once again, they rush in. Hence Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, etc., politicizing the shooting of Mr. Martin; and Barack Obama, too.

2) This incident, whatever you think of it, has nothing to do with the Civil Rights template. The neighborhood where the incident happened is multiracial, only about 50% white. The man who shot Martin, George Zimmerman, is a Hispanic who has African-American relatives and may himself be partly black. He appears to be something of a nut, obsessively calling 911. He evidently thinks that he is a some kind of neighborhood watchman, but he has no official capacity of any sort and is unknown to the national neighborhood watch organization. Whatever he did, he did on his own, and not as part of some sort of movement or political faction.

3) This case has nothing to do with race. Racialists cite Zimmerman’s muttering of the phrase “f****** coons” while on the phone with 911 as evidence of racism. Others have interpreted that phrase differently, but to me, the one time I listened to it, it sounded like “f****** coons.” But so what? It is not illegal to say “f****** coons.” Zimmerman or anyone else can go around muttering “f****** coons” to his heart’s content. What caused the problem here was not Zimmerman’s mumbling into the telephone, whatever he said, but rather the fact that he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. The case would be exactly the same if Martin were white or, like Zimmerman, Hispanic. The only question is, did Zimmerman act in self-defense, or did he murder Martin?

4) In my opinion, the fact that local authorities have found it difficult to charge Zimmerman is ludicrous. They seem to be taking the position that Zimmerman says he acted in self-defense, and with Martin dead, there is no one to contradict him. If established as a general principle, that thinking would let a lot of murderers go free. The reality is that there is always evidence other than the testimony of the survivor. There is considerable physical evidence, and here, both of the protagonists were on the telephone until moments before their final confrontation. Some of that conversation was recorded. In addition, there may well be eyewitness testimony. In my view, Zimmerman should be charged with manslaughter, at a minimum. When the evidence ultimately comes in, it may well sustain that charge. If the case fails for lack of proof, so be it. It wouldn’t be the first time. But for the case not to be charged would be a travesty; based, at least, on the information that is now public.

5) A final comment on self-defense. The Florida “stand your ground” statute, which some liberals are blaming for the incident, has little if anything to do with it. Zimmerman was entitled to follow Martin around if he wanted to, even though the 911 operator advised him not to. He was not, however, entitled to start a fight with Martin and, if the altercation was going poorly for him, draw his gun and shoot Martin. That is not self-defense. On the other hand, if it was Martin who started the altercation, even if Zimmerman was behaving somewhat weirdly, and if Zimmerman reasonably feared great bodily harm, he would have been justified in shooting Martin.

6) Maybe the relevant facts can be established beyond a reasonable doubt, and maybe they can’t be. But worse cases than this one are charged all the time. The local authorities should charge Zimmerman with manslaughter, at a minimum, and try to prove their case with the various forms of evidence that are available. Based on what we now know, I would think their chance of success is good. But in any event, if a jury decides to the contrary, Martin’s family will have had its well-deserved day in court.

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