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Friday, July 5, 2013

Not Right, Not Illegal

Brace yourselves, Nation: George Zimmerman is not guilty.  Now, this in no way means he is innocent, nor does it mean he should not spend a significant amount of time in jail.  But he probably won't.  Because he's not guilty.

I know this doesn't feel right: An unarmed young man, Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed by Zimmerman, an overzealous wannabe-cop, who claims that Martin "attacked" him.  The fact that Zimmerman was following Martin around, despite being told by a 911 dispatcher that they (the authorities) "didn't need him to do that" certainly weakens Zimmerman's claims of self-defense.  At the same time, though, the fact that Florida has a by-now-well-known "stand your ground" law--which enables people to claim self-defense despite, essentially, not needing to defend themselves--makes a successful prosecution difficult--particularly when the victim is no longer around to provide his side of the story.

Were George Zimmerman's actions right?  Absolutely not.  Were they illegal?  Under Florida law, probably not.  The fault lies not with the prosecution--nor even entirely with George Zimmerman--but with the benighted state of the criminal justice system in the redneck South.

Perhaps, if and when Zimmerman is acquitted, a federal civil rights case could be filed against him.  I don't know all the technicalities involved in such a prosecution, but I do know that such things have been done before.

Of course, if acquitted, Zimmerman will need to be careful.  After all, the stand-your-ground provision states that anyone "who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself."  Given Zimmerman's proven propensity to use deadly force at the slightest provocation, wouldn't anyone in his vicinity have the right to stand his ground and defend himself accordingly?

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