Race and politics trump gun control in George Zimmerman case
The killing reverberated throughout the nation’s black communities, whose members know only too well the harsh reality of racial profiling and that the justice system is rife with racial bias, as many studies have shown.
While these two ingredients were mixed into the judicial process, two other elements in the case retreated into the shadows. Those ingredients, however, would prove pivotal: gun control and Florida’s so-called “Stand Your Ground” law plus its related statutes on self-defence.
Essentially, Zimmerman was able to shoot Martin because Florida law – and the law in most states – permits him to carry a concealed weapon and gave him the right to use that weapon to defend himself against grave bodily harm.
The problem, however, is people can get it wrong. They can misinterpret the danger. Luckily for these shooters, the law also protects against that eventuality.
“The chaos of such defensive-force situations means that people commonly make mistakes,” Paul Robinson, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “The law does not require that a person get it exactly right. It may be enough that the person honestly believed his force was necessary.”
Zimmerman said he followed Martin because he thought he was a robber. When an angry Martin turned on him and began beating him up, Zimmerman shot him in self-defence. That’s his story.
When police declared the shooting was indeed self-defence, civil rights activists organized mass protests. The dark hoodie Martin wore that fateful night became a civil rights emblem. Federal and state politicians met with prosecutors and urged Zimmerman’s arrest and prosecution.
The killing was hashed out in America’s newsrooms. Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist and MSNBC host, travelled to Florida where he lead protest marches. CNN and MSNBC claimed the tape of a 911 call made by Zimmerman “clearly” recorded him calling Martin a “coon.” NBC host Joe O’Donnell said the tape “constitutes obvious evidence of hateful intent.” CNN later retracted its statement admitting that the tape did not contain any racial slur but rather the word “cold.” O’Donnell said nothing.
Even U.S. President Barack Obama joined the fray. He announced to the nation, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
The U.S. Justice Department sent FBI investigators to gather evidence for possible prosecution of Zimmerman for federal civil rights violations. No case was filed. Read the rest of the story in the Calgary Herald.