published Friday, April 13th, 2012

A murder charge in Florida

The decision of Florida's special prosecutor to file a second-degree murder charge against George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot to death an unarmed 17-year-old black youth he had followed out of his gated community, marks a needed stand for justice and a welcome challenge to Florida's misbegotten "stand your ground" law.

The shooting six weeks ago of Trayvon Martin, a student who had no criminal record, should never have occurred. It would not have happened if Zimmerman had not disregarded a 911 dispatcher's warning not to follow the youth, who was walking through his gated community.

Zimmerman had made several calls to the police in Sanford, a suburb just north of Orlando, after he saw Martin in his neighborhood. During one of those calls, he left his car to follow the young man as the dispatcher warned him not to do that. "O.K. We don't need you to do that," the dispatcher said. Zimmerman responded, "O.K.," but followed the youth anyway.

Minutes later, Sanford police received a report that Zimmerman had shot and killed the youth, who was returning to his father's residence from a convenience store, carrying a bag of Skittles in one hand and iced-tea in the other. Zimmerman, 28, and armed with a 9-millimeter pistol, had fatally shot Martin in the chest at close range. He claimed Martin had knocked him to the ground and that he feared for his life.

The case rightly elicited outrage in Sanford -- and across the nation -- as details of the shooting spread. The circumstances have clearly appeared to beg an in-depth investigation: why did Zimmerman pursue the youth; how did their encounter start; what physical evidence suggested grounds to kill the unarmed young man? Sanford's police provided little evidence of a thorough inquiry, and they had quickly released Zimmerman after questioning without filing any charges.

Since these circumstances became broadly public, Sanford's police chief stepped down, and Florida authorities initiated an investigation by the attorney general of Jacksonville, who was appointed as special prosecutor. Her decision Wednesday to file a charge of second-degree murder appears to be the proper charge.

A charge of first-degree murder would require evidence of pre-meditation. The second-degree charge indicates grounds for a needless killing, but without pre-meditation. It carries a penalty of up to life in prison.

At issue is not just a wrongful death, but the state law that allows a citizen who holds a permit to carry a gun to use deadly force without the duty to retreat from an encounter in which he or she feels threatened. That law applies not just for Floridians in their homes, but in almost any public space. Though police and prosecutors in Florida objected to it, Florida's legislature enacted it in 2005 at the urging of the National Rifle Association. Versions of the law have since been adopted in Tennessee and 22 other states.

In Florida, unprosecuted homicides in which self-defense has been claimed have tripled in recent years. Prosecutors say that in the absence of hard physical evidence, it's hard to disprove a claim of self-defense when the victim is dead.

Florida has a duty to tighten the law, or repeal it. No citizen should be legally allowed to stalk and fatally shoot someone on the grounds of self-defense. That makes a mockery of justice, and invites a vigilante bent this country -- saturated with guns -- can ill afford.

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Rtazmann said...

WELL IT'S ABOUT TIME,,,,,ZIMMERMAN SHOULD HAVE BEEN ARRESTED THAT SAME NIGHT.WHAT ISSUE GAVE HIM FREEDOM FOR THIS LONG?

April 13, 2012 at 12:36 a.m.
LaughingBoy said...

He initially pursued him because of multiple burglaries in the neighborhood and this was an unknown person. The step dad should have introduced Martin to Zimmerman when he brought him up to visit.

April 13, 2012 at 12:46 a.m.
nucanuck said...

LB, "unknown" is neither illegal nor an indication of probable cause. Think about it.

April 13, 2012 at 2:11 a.m.
holdout said...

The stand your ground law most certainly applies in this case. To Mr. Martin. The fact that Mr. Zimmerman is citing the law as his justification for starting a fight and then using deadly force when he was losing the fight in no way makes it a bad law. It also in no way means that a jury will agree with him. In fact Mr. Zimmerman would have a stronger case if the law did not exist because in that case Mr. Martin would have been in the wrong to fight for his life when he was pursued by a stranger. And Ratzman he was arrested that night and the Detective who lead the investigation was going to charge him that night. He was overruled in that by the District Attorney's office, likely because he was the son of a judge.

April 13, 2012 at 8:14 a.m.
Jack_Dennis said...

If I'm Zimmerman, I don't like my chances for justice in this one.

April 13, 2012 at 8:29 a.m.
Walden said...

The lefty editorialist wrote, "The case rightly elicited outrage in Sanford -- and across the nation -- as details of the shooting spread."

Funny thing, how many other killings occurred that same night, in situations involving black on black, or black on white crime? Why no outrage for those? Why should this case evoke such outrage, when all those others do not? What about the crime in South Florida where two white British tourists were murdered in cold blood by blacks? Why no editorial on that one? Why no outrage? Could it be because it doesn't serve your lefty narrative of blacks being so horribly oppressed in this country, in this modern age, that they still need so much coddling from the Government? Just asking. Where's the outrage?

There is no way that pandering "special" prosecutor is going to hang Murder 2 on this guy. Maybe reckless endangerment, or possibly manslaughter.

For the record, Zimmerman should be tried, and I am glad he is going to have his day in court. He is guilty of something, and should pay a price for his malfeasance, but the trial by media that has occurred in this instance is sickening.

April 13, 2012 at 9:59 a.m.
ginagirl43 said...

Walden, you said exactly what I am curious about. Apparently they don't care when they kill each other. Go figure.

April 13, 2012 at 7:02 p.m.
Lr103 said...

LaughingBoy said... He initially pursued him because of multiple burglaries in the neighborhood and this was an unknown person. The step dad should have introduced Martin to Zimmerman when he brought him up to visit.

Are you really naive enough to actually believe Martin's dad {he's not a stepdad/that's George Zimmerman with the step dad) introducing him to Zimmerman would have made any difference? Just because someone lives in a community with a neighborhood watch doesn't mean everyone knows or even has to know everyone.

Reports of burglaries doesn't dictate that burglaries actually occured. People make false reports all the time. In fact, is it possible that these alleged burglaries were staged? Is it even possible that Zimmerman and his equally volunteering group could have been behind some of the alleged burglaries themselves? Like the arsonist who starts the fire he then rushes into the flames to save the trapped. Then he comes out like the hero? Zimmerman gives the impression of such a character.

Zimmerman has a history of a violent past. He should have never been allowed to legally own a weapon.

April 13, 2012 at 8:46 p.m.
Lr103 said...

Walden said... Funny thing, how many other killings occurred that same night, in situations involving black on black, or black on white crime? Why no outrage for those? Why should this case evoke such outrage

Can yo tell us O'wise one in how many of the black on black, black on white, white on black, white on Hispanic, Asian crimWhes where the law became complicit and attempted to cover up a homicide? Where they attempted to close a case without so much as an investigation?

You remind me of the perp who would stand up for the child molester in your family because there are two other child molesters in your neighborhood. Yours is a really dumb comparison.

April 13, 2012 at 8:51 p.m.
LaughingBoy said...

Yes it would have made a difference if Zimmerman recognized who was walking down through the neighborhood. Implying or flat out stating the burglaries were fabricated is just stupid.

April 14, 2012 at 11:08 a.m.
jjmez said...

My neighborhood has a neighborhood watch, yet we still don't personally know everyone who even lives there, let alone come to visit. Guess what? It's not necessary that we have to know everyone either. The rules of any neighborhood watch group is to WATCH {hence, neighborhood watch), observe and report. Not case, stalk, pursue, confront and shoot. dah!

April 14, 2012 at 5:01 p.m.
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