The Inherent Danger Behind Zimmerman Being Found “Not Guilty” of Murdering Trayvon Martin

George ZimmermanI’m not here to talk about the guilt or innocence of George Zimmerman.  I didn’t follow the trial much, so I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on what evidence was presented by either side.

He was found “not guilty.”  Right or wrong, that’s the verdict and there’s nothing we can do to change it.

The general consensus that seems to be coming from those involved is that while the jury found him “not guilty,” they don’t believe that he was innocent.

But the bottom line is a tragedy occurred and a young life was taken far too soon.  A lot of people want to make it into a race thing, and it’s valid by some of the arguments I’ve read, but I see life as life—regardless of race.  The loss of such a young life is awful and I feel terrible for Trayvon Martin’s family.

But I will say this — the belief by many that someone is suddenly not dangerous just because they had a bag of Skittles (instead of a weapon) is a naive way to look at this tragedy.

And it also leads me to my point.  These laws which give people the right to kill based on their perceived notion of “danger” and “self defense” are a slippery slope toward disaster that we’re barreling into head first.  Broad laws such as the “stand your ground” law used by Zimmerman’s defense are a recipe for tragedy.

It’s indisputable that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin.  That wasn’t on trial.  He freely admitted to killing the young man.

What was on trial was the “why” he killed him.

See, in most murder trials the “why” isn’t on trial — it’s the “did they” that has to be proven by the prosecution.  Even in a normal murder trial, juries are instructed that a verdict of “guilty” is supposed to be based on the notion that “without a doubt” the person accused of murder is the one who’s guilty.

All the defense really needs to do with these trials is create enough doubt that the jury cannot come to that conclusion.  It’s why prosecution is much more difficult than defense in many cases.  The prosecution must prove “without a doubt” that the person accused is guilty.  The defense just needs to create enough doubt where the jury might think they’re guilty, but there are some unanswered questions based on whatever evidence the defense used to build that doubt.

With the Zimmerman trial, there was no disputing that he was the one who killed Trayvon Martin.  So the prosecution was held to an even more difficult task — proving that Zimmerman acted with malicious intent rather than self defense.

And that’s where the danger lies.

If it’s often difficult to prove murder, it’s even more difficult to prove intent when the defense is “self defense.”

Because what defines self defense?  Everyone’s point at which they feel threatened is different.  What I deem as threatening might not be what another person feels is threatening.

So how do you say, “Well, they overreacted so they’re guilty.”  Sure, you’re allowed to feel that way, but it’s often impossible to prove, and essentially puts jurors in a position where they must use their own personal judgments to determine the level of threat in a situation.  A situation which they weren’t involved in and there might not be any direct witnesses to collaborate any accounts of what actually happened.

That’s what makes these laws like “stand your ground” so dangerous.  It gives people permission to act as the judge, jury and executioner based on what they feel might be a threatening situation.  And if there’s no one to paint a clear picture that they weren’t threatened, how do you prove that they didn’t feel they were in danger?

Sure you can use evidence to piece together a picture where logic might dictate what was the most plausible series of events, but does that prove “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that’s what actually happened?

Because what these laws do is open the door for people to commit murder and place in a jury’s hands “why” they killed — which is a hell of a lot harder to prove than whether or not they actually committed the murder.

They justify killing based on self perception of threat and provide enough of a gray area that “without a shadow of a doubt” becomes almost impossible to prove.

Because it’s one thing if it’s your house, someone tries to get in, and you shoot them protecting your home and family.  That’s the stereotypical “self defense” image many think of when the topic is brought up.

But when two individuals have a run in on a street with no witnesses, and one of them shoots and kills the other while claiming “self defense” when there are no weapons found on the victim — how do you prove they didn’t feel threatened?   How do you prove that they didn’t just shoot the person in cold blood and say they felt threatened?  How do you prove that they didn’t know the victim wasn’t armed?

It’s a dangerous precedent that these laws open the door wide open for.

If we continue to allow laws such as the “stand your ground” you’ve seen passed in many states, we’re then opening the door not to prove whether or not the defendant killed someone (that won’t be on trial) but to prove “why” they killed someone.

And as we’ve seen with this trial, for the prosecution proving malicious intent is a lot harder to do than it is for the defense to create doubt.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


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