Lawyers gave opening statements yesterday in the trial of George Zimmerman, the Florida man accused of murdering teenager Trayvon Martin. After prosecutors characterized Zimmerman as a “grown man with a gun,” in contrast to the unarmed Martin, the defense issued what may be one of the weakest rebuttals in the history of high profile court cases:
“Trayvon Martin armed himself with a sidewalk and used it to smash George Zimmerman’s head.”
Really? Armed himself with a sidewalk? Did the defense team actually write that, practice reciting it, and verbally ejaculate that nonsense in front of a real jury?
Before yesterday, George Zimmerman’s chances of acquittal were excellent. Proving reasonable doubt to just one out of 6 people in a case with no eyewitness is a slam dunk. But after his lawyer painted the absurd image in the jurors’ minds of a scrawny teenage boy “arming” himself with a sidewalk, the chances of a guilty verdict rest squarely on the (in)competence of the defense. A defense, mind you, that allowed for an all female jury.
A good friend of mine who teaches psychology explained to me how the all female jury benefits the prosecution. She told me that women are generally more apt to let emotion guide their decisions, and since “REASON-able doubt” is all the defense needs [reason being the opposite of emotion] the defense would have been much better off with an all male jury or a jury with at least one member less biologically inclined to pathos.
Despite the poor defense team, I doubt justice will be served in this case. I do not usually have strong opinions regarding highly publicized murder trials. If I wasn’t at the scene to see a crime, I don’t feel like I have the right to an opinion, but this case is different. The accused does not deny pulling the trigger, nor can he deny the facts that disprove his claim to self defense.
Now, like every person in the courtroom, save the accused, I was not a witness to the killing of Trayvon Martin, but an indisputable fact of this case (as detailed in the 911 call) shows that Zimmerman initiated the tragic events that transpired.
After seeing what he believed to be a suspicious looking person running away, George Zimmerman exited his vehicle to follow that individual. In most parts of planet Earth, this is commonly referred to as chasing, even hunting or stalking — something the 911 dispatcher explicitly told Zimmerman he should not do. One of the individuals may have indeed been in fear for his life at this point, but it wasn’t the hunter. Zimmerman verifies that he and Martin made eye contact just before the teenager started running away. It is not much of an inductive leap to conclude who was scared at this point. After all, there is no good reason to be afraid of someone running away from you.
Perhaps the justified homicide defense that Zimmerman relies on could be viable–if Zimmerman felt his life was in danger before he began pursuing Martin, or maybe if Zimmerman believed Martin was fleeing en route to harm someone else. But so far no facts or statements (even from Zimmerman himself) indicate that either of these options were the case. The self defense story does not start until after Zimmerman pursues Martin, and it is therefore completely illogical—as completely illogical as someone arming himself with a sidewalk.