If Trayvon Was On Trial, Would the Outcome Have Been the Same?

TrayvonMartinHoodedWhen news of the Zimmerman verdict first came out I was torn, and truth be told I still am. On one hand, as a criminal defense attorney I have an automatic bias, and tendency to side with defense in their self defense claim — and in the fact the prosecution was overzealous in pursuing a Murder Two charge. On the other hand, from what I know about the facts of the case, it seems clear to me that Mr. Zimmerman was in the wrong the moment he got out of his car after he was told by the 911 operator to stay put.

But honestly, my real thoughts on the verdict are multilayered.  Innocent, guilty, not guilty… the system is so broken that after a while they all just blend together… Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was fixing it, but some of us are trying. And by system, I mean both the justice system and the legislative system.

Moreover, although I am a criminal defense attorney (which gives me an automatic bias – as I mentioned previously), I am also a progressive who believes in justice in the face of race relations gone wrong and a broken system. All of these factors make my opinion on the subject a whole lot more complicated than just a simple “black and white, I think the verdict was right or wrong” answer. For me it goes deeper than that, hence my decision not to attempt to explain it in a few sentences online.

Anyways, the question I find the most interesting is whether the outcome of the trial would have been the same if roles were reversed, and Trayvon was on trial for killing Zimmerman. Same defense, the same lawyers, etc. I predict the answer would be no. Trayvon would have been found guilty and probably would have spent the rest of his life in jail. Nonetheless, my opinion aside, I was curious what other people thought — so I posed the question on my page, Politically Preposterous. The response? Almost everyone that responded tended to agree with me. My followers, just like me, believe the outcome would have been vastly different, and that the same people who are celebrating Zimmerman’s acquittal would be comparing a Martin acquittal to Casey Anthony.

Moreover, given the case of Marissa Alexander, the Florida mom that got convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing warning shots in the air, it seems almost obvious that the outcome would be different. I’ll leave it at that, since I prefer not to speculate any further than I already have. The question is open ended so it’s up to you to decide for yourself.

In the end however, although Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted yesterday (and many people have mixed feelings on the topic) it is important to remember that despite his acquittal he will still have to carry both the weight and personal guilt of killing a 17 year old kid — and the reputation that will follow him for the rest of his life. And although many people feel and will continue to feel that justice was not done, in the wise words of Martin Luther King Jr., in the long run, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Look at O.J. Simpson. Although acquitted back in 1994 for Nicole Simpson’s murder, he was convicted of robbery in 2008 and sentenced to 33 years in prison.  In the minds of many, justice may not have been done today, but in the long run, people usually get what they deserve.

Ilyssa Fuchs

Ilyssa Fuchs is an attorney, freelance writer, and activist from New York City, who holds both a juris doctor and a political science degree. She is the founder of the popular Facebook page Politically Preposterous and a blog of the same name. Follow Ilyssa on Twitter @IlyssaFuchs, and be sure to check out her archives on Forward Progressives as well!


Facebook comments

  • Paul

    I don’t think Zimmerman carries any weight, or personal guilt over the situation. But nice placation, Ms. Fuchs.

    • Aphy

      I agree. I do not think he will lose a moment of sleep over the matter. I
      don’t think it will give him even a second of pause the next time he
      wants to follow an unarmed teenager in a hoodie. What I think will
      happen is that next time he’ll be smarter about how he injures himself
      to support his self defense claim. What I think is that next time he
      won’t call 911 beforehand and get told to stay in his car.

      • Copernicus Darwin

        Yep, because he knew Martin was unarmed. Even the police never make a mistake about someone carrying something that they think might be a weapon. And then breaking his own nose, beating himself upside the head, smashing his head into the concrete over and over then pulling Martin on top of him AFTER he shot him and before people could get out there to see what happened? Zimmerman is brilliant. Next time someone is following me I think I’ll just go home or call 911 or maybe after I attack them I’ll just run away. I’d hate to have to make someone go through all trouble of faking my beating them up.

      • jchastn

        Excuse me, smashing his head over and over? He had a small wound on the back of his head, no bruising or skull fracture, or even a brain bruise which he surely would have suffered if a strong black kid smashed his head on the concrete again and again. Head wounds, even superficial ones, bleed profusely. Hence the bloody pictures. But even the police expressed skepticism about Zimmerman’s “smashing” story in their reports.

      • jchastn

        Trayvon WAS going home when his murderer started following him in a vehicle. Then the child hunter Zimmerman, left his vehicle to assault and kill the young man. At some point, Trayvon realized that Zimmerman was either going to abduct him or kill him and s he fought for his life. But the armed child hunter/vigilante/murderer shot him dead.

      • Copernicus Darwin

        Was either going to abduct him or hill him so he fought for his life. Really. Someone who is on a neighborhood watch, where there had been several break-ins the previous couple months, watches someone to make sure they’re not going to break in someones house and they’re going to abduct or kill them. You have lost all credibility.

      • jchastn

        I agree. Next time he will be much smarter how he hunts black teenagers.

  • Thom Cameron

    Absolutely it would! Those women were a good jury and followed the evidence

  • scottrose

    The home owners association did settle a wrongful death civil suit brought by Trayvon’s parents for $1 million, so at least there was some acknowledgement through a court that a wrongful death occurred.

  • Bob

    This is what happens when all the bleeding hearts think everyone should own a hand gun

  • Charlie

    The end of that really annoyed me, you cannot choose a single case for evidence that ‘in the long run, people usually get what they deserve.’ There is no real evidence for this, some do, some don’t, summing this case up in this way is kind of like saying ‘it doesn’t matter if this guy, or hell, anyone, gets away with murder, the universe will get them.’ It’s insulting

    • jchastn

      Mr Zimmerman’s own lawyers are saying that he will have to be in hiding for a long, long time given the fact that most Americans believe he hunted and killed that boy. Not punishment enough, but its a start.

  • Ron Carr

    I not only believe the verdict would have been different, I believe we would not have heard of the case unless you live in the immediate area, and then in a very limited sense.

  • Cathy

    I’m not sure – but would it be legal for Trayvon, at 17, to carry a gun?

    But – I assume you are trying to play the “if the black person shot the hispanic person” angle? Who knows? Would depend on the circumstances. I would hope that given the evidence/lack of evidence (assuming it was legal for a 17 yr old to carry a gun), that the outcome would be the same, but no one will know and I’m not sure it is helpful to speculate.

  • Yup

    “but in the long run, people usually get what they deserve,” said every dictator who got to die in bed like Pinochet, et al…

    Come on. The rich and powerful almost never get “what they deserve.” Mystical poppycock.

  • Jan

    I heard no information about what young Treyvon was doing inside that community when he did not live or work there. I possibly missed it, I’ve not followed this closely.

    • Ejay

      You didn’t hear that his father lived there & that’s who Trayvon was staying with at the time?

    • jchastn

      He was living there with his father.

  • JoeBS

    I just think it’s worth mentioning that this phenomenon of a specific race immediately believing that every member of that race who is arrested, shot, or otherwise inconvenienced, is being harmed for reasons of race, regardless of the situation or their own actions, is… racist.

    Racism takes many guises. Amongst the most insidious is that of knee-jerk self-persecution. Because it plays not only upon the needs of the mob to lash out, but also upon the guilt of non-minorities to perpetuate it, as well as pushing all of us into the hands of unscrupulous people who want to take advantage of all of this guilt and shame.

    Not every black person is an innocent. Just like not every white person is an innocent. Just like neither is always a criminal. But as progressives, we have trained ourselves to accept that every single black person who is arrested, killed, or even just mildly inconvenienced is somehow automatically a victim of racism.

    Speculation, as in the headline of this article, that an outcome would be different were the roles reversed, is just more fuel to the fire of incoherence. We don’t need more, “yeah, but what if a black dude…” We need honest discussion to move ahead as a species, and that will include the hard work of not catering to white guilt or black persecution at every single opportunity, but facing the real racism that dwells not only in the negative aspects of our characters, but also behind our too-often insincere desires to do “right.”

    • harleyone

      Thank you Joe for a reasoned common sense response to this horrible racism business. Until “every member of (a particular) race who is …. otherwise inconvenienced…” considers more than the particular chip on their own shoulder our country will remain divided. Rodney King said it best “Why can’t we all just get along?”.

    • HoldFastToYourDreams

      Thank you for your thoughtful response!! That was awesome!!

    • tony r

      Nice explanation Joe and good points. Now what do you propose to do about the laws which are racially inclined. Whether you like it or not you pigeon holed the topic as well as the author here. To deny the FACT that in particular since the Rockefeller laws were established in the early 1970’s and geared towards a certain part of our culture is no different than what you are accusing the author of here. Disregarding those are just as racist. Never mind the history of laws that were in place especially in the south before the 70’s. The fruits of southern trees are not some made up character in a Tolkien novel, and very seldom were they white. I wonder if the subject was WWII and the people concerned were Jewish if you would feel the same. You are just as guilty as what you accuse the author by not putting it in the PROPER context and that is the unprecedented abuse of the black culture historically by american society. Nice try though!

  • Anton de Bergerac

    i see many people express that Zimmerman will be troubled by his murder of Trayvon. I see no evidence of that at all. Zimmerman killed a black and like his supporters he wants to kill more.

    • Copernicus Darwin

      He killed someone who was sitting on top of him beating on him. I’m inclined to think that no matter what color the person was they would have been shot.

      • jchastn

        The person on top of him had been pursued by Zimmerman for about 10 minutes even though Martin turned several corners to evade his assailant. Martin then stood his ground and was shot while defending himself on his way to his home.

  • KatndHat

    You’re posing the wrong situation: Ask if the outcome would have been different if Zimmerman had been on trial but Trayvon had been white. The reaction to his killing and the outcome of the trial would have been VASTLY different, and not so divided.

    • jchastn

      If Trayvon had been white, Zimmerman wouldn’t have profiled him and followed him. He would have seen the bottle of Ice Tea and the bag of skittles in his hands and seen a young teenager on a snack run. It was Trayvon’s skin color that made Zimmerman see “a thug”.

  • harleyone

    Ms Fuchs if you really do “believe(s) in justice” race wouldn’t matter. The jury both TM and GZ’s attorney chose found GZ NOT GUILTY. That should end it. There should be no further discussions. This case is being retried over and over by those who don’t have all the facts, as did the jury, is being commented on by people who refuse to accept the facts they’ve been given, who insist there was something there that simply was not. I don’t understand why you “progressives” aren’t all up in arms about the 200th homicide in Chicago? Is that because is’t mainly Black on Black crime which doesn’t fit the ideological narrative of how racist America is?

    • Spratan

      The facts are, a black kid is dead, murdered by a white (hispanic) man, whose only reason for following, accosting him and murdering him is because he was black.
      The facts as they were given, were that of the accused….the dead black kid was not around to give his side of the story….THOSE are the facts.
      And if you think America isn’t racist, you are living in a fantasy world.

      • MHFLHRC

        the facts are. a black kid is dead, killed by a hispanic man, in the course of self defense. the kid was followed because of a rash of break ins in the neighborhood. (we do have the right to keep our selfs safe in our own neighborhoods ya know. and ask strangers what they are doing if they look suspicious.) George was already following him when the dispatcher asked if he was following him. then when he was told him he didn’t need to do that George was on his way back to the truck when he was confronted and asked “what is your problem” the hispanic said “i Don’t have a problem” the black kid said. “you do now” and struck the hispanic. I wonder why Trayvon just didn’t go home when some “crazy ass cracker was following him”. He also had that choice. instead he wanted to go after the hispanic. because as we all know from his tweets and texts he was a bad ass. the hispanic on the other hand was a mentor for kids, active in his neighborhood. always there to help his neighbors. he cared that his neighbors were robbed and assaulted. you guys also ignore the fact that he was found not guilty of the charges set against him by a jury of his peers. get over it. you guys talk about racism. but from what I see, you do everything to keep the race issue alive. and claim racism as an excuse for your own failures.

      • Nomorelies

        “George was already following him when the dispatcher asked if he was following him. then when he was told him he didn’t need to do that George was on his way back to the truck when he was confronted and asked “what is your problem” the hispanic said “i Don’t have a problem” the black kid said. “you do now” and struck the hispanic.”

        This is Zimmerman’s version. How does anyone know that this actually happened?? Naturally, Zimmerman would have to come up with a story to make himself look like the “victim” and Trayvon , the aggressor.

        As for Zimmerman being such a wonderful mentor/neighbor…. Ted Bundy’s neighbors had said the same thing about him!

      • Durrrr!

        And you JUST proved why the jury HAD to acquit him… reasonable doubt.

      • Jesse Scotia

        Reasonable doubt is more than the defense strategy at face value.

      • mommyof2

        I’m white.. not hispanic, not black… I have a serious problem with someone wandering around a neighborhood under the guise of neighborhood watch with a firearm. I don’t care .. there was no eminent danger if he was walking around. call the police.. let them deal with it.

        If he thought TM was seriously dangerous then why would he approach him. why wouldn’t he follow him in his car until the cops got there??

        IMO he wanted a fight.. to prove he’s the protector.. there are so many inconsistencies in his story.

        I DO think the prosecutor over reached with the murder 2 charge and that it may have been the reason for the acquittal. it’s a sad day

      • jchastn

        That is the key. Most neighborhood watch groups are just that-WATCHERS. You watch, you see something you think is suspicious, you call the police. Mr. Zimmerman had seen so many suspicious things and called the cops so many times in a few years that I have a feeling he was not happy with the results of his calling. Funny thing, the police come(not soon enough for him), they don’t shoot anyone, or arrest them for being black in his mostly non-black neighborhood, so Mr. Z is going to do their job for them. He becomes self appointed Neighborhood Policeman, instead of Neighborhood Watchman. This guy was rejected by the police academy for “emotional instability”. The neighborhood watch group in his neighborhood discouraged him from carrying a weapon. And yet he vigilanteed(dont think that is a real word, but you get what I mean) his way into lifetime infamy.

      • proud of who I am

        Racism is a two way street, not all black people are victims of racism and not all white people are guilty of being racist. There are blacks that are racist against whites for no other reason then because they are the same color as people that owned slaves. People of all colors come to this country everyday and make something of themselves and their childern. Who have nothing but a desire to better themselves. To call a white person a cracker and it be ok because they are racist is wrong. there are racist in America but to say the whole country is racist is a racist statement in it’s self.

      • Jesse Scotia

        It’s impossible to be racist toward a geopolitical entity. It sounds like you’re trying to say that equality/protection of a minority somehow damages the majority (e.g., gay marriage is destroying the institution of marriage, laws which specifically protect LGBT victims are unfair to people who aren’t victims of hate crimes, etc). And that point of view is ignorant.

      • beingstraight

        Well… if racism means only black people get to throw the pity card or injustice card or say its racism…. its a problem. Thats true racism. Everyone keeps saying zimmermans white… he isnt. Everyone forgets how he helped troubled black youth…. and forgets that tray was thd aggresssor and hit first. But he was black and killed by someone other than another black so that makes it racist? Grow up people…. you were never a slave, worked on a plantation, sold to work on railroads…. hell your parents didnt live this life and their parents didnt either. Time to stop feeling bad for yourself. You dont live in that world…. you are an america . A free country.

    • Jesse Scotia

      Black on black crime does fit the ideological narrative. It’s just not sensational so it’s not on the news. There’s a difference.

  • John E. Conway

    Just like with OJ, his time will come.

  • Kevin Hanley

    The system is not broken the people operating the system are.

  • Gabby

    All that I have to say is this….more like all I have to ask is this, if this happened between 2 white people or 2 Blacks or 2 latins ….will this be handled the same way ????

    • Heather McDougall

      Hopefully the outcome would have been the same, but there would not be as much outrage nor would it be the focus of so much sensationalized media coverage.

  • John

    So basically you ignore facts and just are giving your opinion on the matter like every other article on the matter, way to be objective…

    …btw last time I checked with the case of Marrisa Alexander, forensic evidence showed her firing gun shots at the husband/children, not into the air. Way to get your facts straight and be another pawn of the media.

    • Ilyssa

      This is an opinion site, I am not the media, I am not a paid journalist, and I am certainly not a pawn. I am an attorney who writes my opinion for this site as a hobby, not as a job and since this is clearly an opinion site, I clearly have no obligation to be objective if I choose not to. You want objective? Go watch BBC. As for your assertions, pretty much all the alleged evidence that I have read about in the Alexander case says she fired in the air. Whether or not she was supposed to be at the location is a much different issue. I don’t know where you are getting information that she shot at them, other than from the fact their have been conflicted reports about what happened. But guess what, I wasn’t there so I can only go on the information I have and pretty much all of the info I have says she shot in the air.

  • proud of who I am

    Why is no one outraged at Rachel Jeantel using the Creepy White Ass Cracker comment? If it was reversed and she was a white woman and got on the stand and said Creepy Black Ass Negro. There would be people wanting to kill her. Can someone explain the double standards and why it’s not racist?

    • jchastn

      Maybe its because most white people know they are “creepy white ass crackers”?

  • deckbose

    Trayvon was on trial, ma’am. The first time in my memory a man has been tried for his own murder.

  • Paranormal Skeptic

    Except, since Zimmerman is most likely a psychopath with a hero complex, he will feel no guilt.

  • amt72182

    Give it up people. Everyones trying to make this about race. It not. Its about a punk kid that got killed for beon a punk. Yes, zimmerman shouldn’t have followed him, but if trayvon wasn’t out doin dumb shit it never wouldve happened. Plus he tried to attack zimmerman while he had the gun holding him there, I woulda shot hos ass too. What happened was tragic but its not like he randomly killed an upstanding harvard student on his way to success. He killed a thug n probably saved other innocent people from getting robbed or murdered themselves.

    • jchastn

      So walking to a convenience store, buying a drink and a snack, then walking home is “doin dumb shit” ???

    • Mark Strange

      You sir are an idiot! There has been no evidence to suggest Trayvon was acting in anyway other then a normal 17 year old walking home from the convenient store. If there was it would have been brought up in the defense. The only person who claimed he was a punk is the one who shot him.

  • Mark Strange

    If Zimmerman would have had darker skin or if Trayvon had been white, the story would never have gotten national attention. It would have been just as tragic, yet no one would care. The mainstream 24/7 media loves controversy and to stir up special interest groups. It didn’t matter to anyone on FOX or MSNBC that George was not white. They made it about white vs. black anyway. Them vs us. I find that totally twisted. Here we as a nation, trying
    to over come our past sins, try to move forward with this great diverse family of ours. Can’t we talk about racism without signaling out two ethic groups and pit them against each other. Them vs. us mentality needs to die and the media is just fueling the fire, stirring up the pot, causing the family feud to continue for another generation. It’s sad.

    • jchastn

      Come on. If Trayvon had been white, he would not have been profiled, followed, then murdered. There would have been no crime at all, hence no story..

      • Mark Strange

        That may or may not be true, George is Hispanic, he might not care for anyone that’s not Hispanic. I don’t know and neither do you, but that was not the focus of my point. My point is that there are cases similar to these all over the place that no one seems to pay attention too. But the moment its a light skinned person who is accused of killing a dark skinned person, there is political uproar that leads to special interest groups pitting white people vs black people even when white people are not even involved. Let’s talk about hate in everyone for a change. Lets end this feud. It’s stupid.

  • JerryA

    Well back to the top of your comment, “HE SHOULD NOT HAVE GOTTEN OUT OF HIS AUTO” following someone is NOT “self defense”

  • Charles Vincent

    George Zimmermans story and subsequent testimony at trial was validated by All the evidence gathered during the investigation. The story went like this, the neiborhood George lived in had been burglarized several times in the last several months so the neighborhood head formed a neighborhood watch of which George was a part of. George followed trayvon because he though he might be up to no good. When trayvon noticed Zimmerman following him he asked if he had a problem, Zimmerman replied no. At which point martin struck Zimmerman in the nose breaking it and knocking him on to his back, Martin jumped on top of Zimmerman and started banging the back of Zimmermans head on the concrete side walk. It is at this point that Zimmermans coat came open exposing his hand gun and Martin told Zimmerman he was “going to die tonight” and he reach down to take Zimmermans holstered weapon, at this point Zimmerman feared for his life and pulled his weapon before Martin could take it and Zimmerman fired one shot hitting Martin in the chest killing him. Keep in mind that this story was backed up by all the evidence at trial and that’s why Zimmerman was found not guilty.

  • Justice

    There will never be a civil trial as was OJ’s. TM was not your typical, clean cut 17 year old. The truth about TM has been totally repressed. If the facts be known………………..