by brian boru
They’d staked out their positions early on, liberals with Travon and conservatives with Zimmerman. We go to our corners so quickly – reflexively. Everything is political, everything partisan.
This retreat to political camps even from journalists whose work speaks to scrupulous objectivity – who so distinguish themselves from the rest by being only as subjective as the facts allow. They are close, many of them, to my politics but they sure as hell went to their corners too. I couldn’t – not this time.
I came to this thing reluctantly, recalling the cases of Tawana Brawley, Rodney King and O.J. Simpson – hideous exemplars of race and the law. These things get overheated fast and godawful messy. The facts are swept hither and yon in the maelstrom. People’s lives are ruined and some die too before the storm quiets and the facts settle in. By then, what’s done is done and what was bad got a helluva a lot worse.
Against this backdrop, I would keep a safe emotional distance from this case. Not be pulled in by the politics or media hype – not like before.
Still, staying out of a corner was a strange place to be – neutral is its own sort of statement with its own sort of stigma.
I had my suspicions about this killing in Sanford, Florida. After the Lauer 911 call, I thought sure that it was Travon who was yelling for help, begging for his life. I’d disconnected race as much as possible from my assumptions but that call all but decided it for me. The last haunting scream, before death’s silence – that did it. Zimmerman had hunted down and killed a frightened child.
Then there was the trial – evidence and witnesses. If you were firmly in one corner or the other, the case for Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence was clear. If you weren’t, things were clouding quickly.
Some things were clear but not murder.
As the trial wore on, it also became clear that something was a little off with George Zimmerman.’Georgie’ to his friends. His high pitched voice, his flat affect, his strange little tics and puffy countenance.
He’s the not too bright, busy-body and tattletale who is the bane of every office. The just bright enough passive-aggressive who connives and whines until he get’s his way.
He’s the hidden cause of office drama or the reason a good employee gets fired for a no good reason. He of the belief that his moral code, as simple as it is, should be the way of the world. Simple codes for simple people. Black and white simple.
We’ve all dealt with George Zimmermans. Too damn many of them. And, while they’re not usually bold enough to pronounce their beliefs, they’re just stubborn enough to find ways to interfere in our lives so that their beliefs collide with our own. These are the meddlesome antics of soft people.
That’s what Georgie’s trainer called him – soft. A no good weakling. Weaklings are often in the business of compensating for their fecklessness and that usually spells trouble for the rest of us.
If only Georgie didn’t feel compelled to compensate for his peculiar brand of softness on February 26, 2012.
On that Sunday, George Zimmerman’s antics caused more than some office drama or getting a good man fired. He did more than interfere in a life – he sure as hell took one. He took one because his world is so small that he couldn’t control his fear or paranoia. He profiled a kid. He took one because his inner caped crusader had to get out of that goddamned truck so that Georgie could fulfill some hero fantasy and vindicate his cartoonish code.
And for that, he’s an asshole and a fucking punk.
Jury instructions didn’t suggest how to consider puffy weaklings. They required a jury of six to consider whether Zimmerman was guilty of murder or manslaughter.
A slew of mediocre lawyers and a singularly mediocre judge seemed only to muddle the issues and obfuscate the law. The jury was left to their own devices to sort this mess out.
Two days into deliberation, the jury sent a question to the judge, requesting clarification of the manslaughter charge. Their question was strangely basic, please tell us more about what manslaughter means. It was clear then that they had ruled out the murder charge. A charge that required them to believe, among other things, that Zimmerman was of depraved mind and had spite and hatred in his heart when he killed Travon.
Zimmerman is a simp but did he get out of his truck in a rage thinking, I’m going to kill that black boy tonight? Evidence for that just did not exist.
It seemed, however, that the manslaughter charge was still in play. That charge required:
The killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification according to the provisions of chapter 776 and in cases in which such killing shall not be excusable homicide or murder, according to the provisions of this chapter, is manslaughter, a felony of the second degree ….
The problem – the prosecution never bothered to make the case for manslaughter to the jury. Thus, the jury’s desperate plea for more information. Please tell us, what is manslaughter?
Was culpable negligence ever argued or explained to the jury? What are lawful justifications versus unlawful justifications?
Prosecutor De La Rionda was all in on murder two and dealt with the manslaughter argument as an afterthought, a fall back. That is to say, he just didn’t deal with it. John Guy for all his rhetorical wizardry never bothered to deal with it either. They simply assumed the jury would default to that position if they didn’t buy the murder charge. That’s sloppy lawyering and it probably cost them their case.
The judge was too busy keeping time to be bothered to answer the jury’s critical manslaughter query. She was nothing if not prompt and punctilious. But, that didn’t help the jury – with no answers from anyone, they were left where they began – in a confusing muddle.
And now, here we are with a muddle of our own and a damned unacceptable verdict – not guilty.
One political camp is elated and vindicated. The other deflated and defeated. But, it never should have been about the goddamned politics.
If Zimmerman’s actions did not meet the legal standard for murder or manslaughter, they sure as hell met the standard for actions precipitating death. Where the hell is the Florida statute for that?
The law, it appears, is insufficient to deal with this extraordinary case. The case of a no good, do-gooder who scared a kid and got in over his head. A weakling who got popped in the nose a few times and rather than pop back or get away, panicked and pulled a gun.
And now, Travon will never have the opportunity to be an articulate, thoughtful young man and college student – like his big brother, Jahvaris – who gave us a bittersweet glimpse of the Travon who was and the Travon that might have been.
The political camps can go to hell – justice has not been done. It would not have been done if Zimmerman had been found guilty of murder and now it’s sure as hell not done because he’s been found not guilty of anything.
Justice, in this case, resided somewhere in the hard footing of the middle. We don’t like to go there because it’s a damn difficult walk through the gray crags of life. The treacherous middle. But that’s where justice was and that’s the place that the law and the partisans chose not to be. They were too busy in their corners.