In the tragic and mysterious case of the murder of Trayvon Martin, the focus of the public and, unfortunately, the Sanford Police Department, is on whether George Zimmerman is innocent and whether race played a factor in Zimmerman’s actions. But what society can’t seem to grasp is that the public has no say in the outcome over the trials of Geroge Zimmerman. Zimmerman will probably get off, as do many shootings where the Stand Your Ground law is possibly applicable. The public’s focus should instead be on the institutions in place, and what is seriously wrong with Florida law, the Sanford Police Department, and the idea of community watch.
First of all, it is highly questionable as to why Zimmerman was allowed to have any leadership role in his community in the first place. When a citizen has been arrested for “resisting arrest with violence and battery on an officer” and accused of domestic violence, how in the world is that citizen allowed to be in any position involving neighborhood watch supervised by the police department itself? Not only did this man have a knack for not respecting police officers or lovers, but his vigilante-esque tendencies did not seem to bode well for his community. A simple background check and a rule stating that any person with a criminal record is not allowed to be a community watchmen could easily have fixed the problem of Zimmerman’s immunity when it came down to being investigated by the police.
While the racist tendencies of Zimmerman, a Latino-American, are widely disputed, it is also appropriate to question possible racial biases of the Sanford Police Department itself. I’m not here to give my opinion on where the nation is when it comes to racial prejudice, but it’s undisputed that racism, to some degree, is still an issue in this country, especially in the south. This department has been accused of racial bias before when Chief Brian Tooley was forced to resign after the beating of a homeless black man. Why can’t the state import northern, or here’s an idea, black officers to some of these southern counties to help alleviate some of these issues in the future? It’s ridiculous that this is even still an issue in today’s society.
But I feel the most absurd aspect of this case that the public is dealing with is Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, which allows the use of deadly force to prevent possible death or serious harm or practically whenever someone you don’t like is on your property. The law itself is over-the-top, absurd and completely contrary to some of the morals that this country is founded on. When is it OK, in any circumstance, to use deadly force? Regardless if it was possible that George Zimmerman was defending himself, shouldn’t the use of deadly force warrant an arrest in America? Zimmerman could have pled self-defense all he wanted in court, but just because he uttered the words “stand your ground” his was lava to the police officers investigating.
Deadly shootings have tripled since the implementation of Stand Your Ground. And I truly don’t believe that this state should allow any citizen to attempt to kill somebody regardless of the situation. Do I believe in the use of force in self-defense? Of course. But outside of the home (where things like private property and being cornered become a problem), it isn’t as hard to avoid a potential danger. Zimmerman had a car; he could have easily called the police and left the scene. And unless someone has a gun (or another deadly weapon) and is threatening you with it, you have no right to use deadly force on that person.
My heart goes out to the families of both parties involved in this terrible tragedy. It is truly a shame that a 17 year-old had to die with a bag of skittles and a bottle of ice tea in his hands. But the jury is not out on this case, and no one truly knows what happened that night but Zimmerman. What we can and should have an opinion on, however, is how the Trayvon Martin case is not being definitively biased by race but the circumstances of law and law enforcement around it.