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July 27th / 28th, 2013

"Zimmerman and Jury Both Guilty"

George Zimmerman and the jurors' empty seats at his trial

Something’s wrong with Florida. First it was incompetent tabulators whose hanging chads stole the 2000 presidential election from Al Gore. Then it was the incompetent jury who gave Casey Anthony a free pass for murdering her baby. And last week, it was a really incompetent jury who decided that shooting and killing an unarmed black boy is not murder. So what’s up with Floridians? Are they all just stupid down there? Perhaps so. A Montana State University study shows that Florida public schools rank low in average test scores. That means most Floridians don’t pay attention, can’t retain information and lack any analytical skills. That, in a nutshell, describes the Zimmerman jurors.

Example: juror No. 37B told CNN that Trayvon Martin was acting suspicious because he was out walking late at night. First of all, Martin was walking toward his home, which, at the time George Zimmerman spotted him, was a mere two blocks away. And what about the 17-year-old Martin being out so late? When Zimmerman called in his report to police, it was around 7 p.m., which means the jurors have no concept of time. Juror No. 37B also said that Trayvon should have walked away  from Mr. Zimmerman, and because he failed to do so, Martin “played a huge role in his own death.”

Well, Madame Juror, Trayvon was walking away from Zimmerman. What’s more, she and her fellow jurors listened to the 911 call, yet failed to understand its importance or content. When neighborhood-watch geek Zimmerman called 911 and reported a suspicious black man, the police dispatcher emphatically told Zimmerman to remain in his vehicle and not to pursue Martin. But Zimmerman got out of his car and pursued Martin anyway.

Martin, meanwhile, saw a scary white guy with a gun coming towards him and did what any of us would do if we thought someone was about to kill us: He fought for his life. Zimmerman’s own attorneys implied that Curious George was lacking in the fisticuffs department and that’s why the cowardly wannabe cop ended the fight (and Trayvon Martin’s life) with a gun.

This should have been an open-and-shut case of murder, but not in the Sunshine State of Stupidity, whose “Stand Your Ground” law makes it legal for anyone who feels his life is in danger to defend himself by using lethal force. On paper, “Stand Your Ground” seems fair, but the problem lies in the way the law has been interpreted, applied and adjudicated. For example, in the 22 states where “Stand Your Ground” is the law of the land, whites are 354 percent more likely to be found justified in killing a black person, than vice versa.

Even worse, Florida juries and judges have a habit of misapplying “Stand Your Ground.” Case in point, Marissa Alexander, a black woman who had been beaten repeatedly by her husband. On one occasion, her husband stormed into the house and, fearful for her life, Marissa picked up a gun and fired a warning shot into the ceiling in order to keep him at bay. The judge in that case cited “Stand Your Ground,” told Marissa she should have run away from her attacker instead of using a gun, and sentenced her to 20 years in prison. It is not surprising, then, that judge, jury and defense attorneys in the Zimmerman case misapplied, misunderstood and misused “Stand Your Ground.”

In fact, the Zimmerman jury proved both in their verdict and in their posttrial interviews that they had no intention of applying “Stand Your Ground” in an equitable manner, and instead misused it to put Trayvon, rather than his attacker, on trial. Under the law, had Zimmerman really feared for his life, then he shouldn’t have left his car in the first place, and once he did, he should have retreated back to the car to avoid the so called “danger” (don’t forget the judge’s ruling against Marissa Alexander). But, in truth, it was Martin who was in danger from George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was the aggressor, and should have been found guilty of murder.

In an impromptu press conference just days after the Zimmerman verdict, President Obama articulated his empathy with young Trayvon, and spoke of knowing what it’s like to be a black man in a society where white women clutch their handbags and lock their car doors when they see you coming.

It’s just too bad the president can’t sign an executive order making racism and stupidity illegal. If he could, probably half of the people in Florida would be prosecuted, and I would gladly volunteer for jury duty.