23 March 2012

Trayvon Martin does not deserve to be dead. But does George Zimmerman deserve jail? Because that's where he's going.

I have to be honest - I don't have a clue who started the confrontation. No serious person could examine the known facts and presume to know what happened.

If you have not already done so, listen to Zimmerman's whole 911 call - it's about four minutes long. I was struck by the part where he is reluctant to say his address out loud because he doesn't know where "this kid" is, and is afraid he might overhear. He seems a little nervous - not like the aggressive pursuer you might expect (from the simple fact that he got out of his car after noting that the person looked like trouble.) He doesn't want to say his address in case the kid is close enough to hear him - he definitely sounds nervous.

A lot has been made of the 911 operator suggesting that Zimmerman should not pursue. What's been overlooked is that Zimmerman responds "okay." We can't see what he is doing, but he did continue the conversation for several minutes. At the end of his 911 call, Zimmerman did not know where Martin was - only what direction he'd gone. I suspect that Zimmerman headed that way, but at a distance, hoping to spot Martin in order to point him out when the police arrived.

The kid was hurrying away, but (according to accounts of his girlfriend who was speaking with him on the phone) with a watchful eye over his shoulder. 

At some point, I am guessing, they may have found themselves suddenly in closer proximity than either expected. Remember, Zimmerman had lost sight of Martin. Martin told his girlfriend he was hurrying to get out of Zimmerman's sight.

But somehow, they ended up face to face, and at that point the whole "why are you here?" "why are you following me?" conversation occurred. Both of them scared. Neither wanting to back away (or turn his back.)

Then what?

I don't think we will ever know. But I do think that it is not as cut and dried as so many seem to think (including me, when I first started reading about it.)

Was Zimmerman "aggressively pursuing" or just trying to stay close enough to keep an eye on Martin? Was Martin trying to get away, or trying to assert himself?

Somewhere in the dim recesses of my memory, I can recall being a teenage boy, and not wanting to appear frightened. It happens. Was it Martin who suddenly stepped out of the shadows to ask "why are you following me?"

And not to spread the second-guessing too far beyond Zimmerman and Martin, but when two guys are fighting, and one is screaming for help, why didn't anybody just come outside and yell "stop it! I'm calling the cops!" Because that may very well have stopped the fight. Numerous neighbors heard the ruckus and called 911. Nobody went outside to intervene - even with no gun apparent.

This was a real, senseless tragedy. There must have been a dozen decisions by Martin and Zimmerman and several witnesses, each of which, taken by itself, could have saved a life if decided differently. The undisputed fact is that both Martin and Zimmerman were not engaged in criminal activity. Neither needed to apologize for where he was and or he was doing, and neither owed the other an explanation for his actions.

I was a young man once, and I can understand how easily things can come to blows. Except Trayvon Martin is dead. And that means somebody is going to do some time. And that somebody is George Zimmerman.

You can decide for yourself if either one of them deserves it. It's hard for me to think of any reason on earth that Trayvon Martin deserves to be dead, but I'm getting a lot closer to concluding that neither one of them deserves his fate.

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