Saturday July 20, 2013

There’s nothing like weighing in on an emotional subject, but here goes: George Zimmerman getting acquitted in the Trayvon Martin killing. What do you think? Was justice done, or did the jury get it wrong? We’ll probably be debating this one for years to come because of all the questions that remain open. According to the law, the jury did what they were supposed to within the restraints of their duties. Read the fine print on that one. They may have done their job correctly, but what they were given to work with was flawed to say the very least. Here’s an unanswered question that may have made it a hate crime case.

Several reporters claim to have heard the original 911 tape. While the sound quality wasn’t perfect, more than one reporter claims that a part of the tape was either misinterpreted or altered. Court transcripts claim that the word "punk" was used by Zimmerman to describe Martin to the police. Reporters who had heard the tape early on claim that Zimmerman used a racial slur to describe Martin. That one inconsistency could have easily made all the difference in the outcome.

We are now hearing that Zimmerman’s father is a retired judge, and that statements made by Zimmerman sounded heavily "coached." However, once again, it is unclear and inconclusive whether Zimmerman was coached by his father or not. Most defendants receive coaching from someone. We see it all the time.


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Defendants who never took care of themselves or wore a suit and tie at any time in their lives show up in court in shirts, ties and sports jackets looking like choir boys, when you know full well what kind of person they really are. It’s another kind of coaching, and it goes on all the time. The law is so complex, and the opportunities for multiple conclusions of greatly differing opinions is always present. How many minor cases escape any scrutiny at all, while big visibility cases cause such legal scrutiny that the chances for a miscarriage of justice over something minor seems to be the norm? I can’t help but think that the process of justice isn’t a very pretty thing.

Was the jury allowed to consider the fact that George Zimmerman had a criminal past that included violence? Did any of them know that Zimmerman’s father very likely got third degree felony cases kicked down to misdemeanors? On at least one of those cases, had George Zimmerman been convicted of a third degree felony, he never would have been able to legally carry a firearm. That opens up an entirely different set of questions, all pertaining to George Zimmerman’s overall mindset and his state of mind at the time of the shooting. I doubt that we will ever know all of the nuances and hard facts that would make the Trayvon Martin killing something less than an unsolved mystery. I’ve got my opinion, and I’m sure you have yours, but wouldn’t it be nice to know what really happened? Case in point, Zimmerman was told to stay in his car after he reported Trayvon Martin’s presence in his neighborhood to the police. How did Zimmerman end up in a physical struggle on the ground with Trayvon Martin? I don’t believe that question was ever completely cleared up in the trial. I can imagine a bunch of scenarios that would answer that question, and none of them really helps Zimmerman’s case.

Everyone knows that there are a good many police wannabes out there. I’m talking overzealous, misguided individuals who are not deemed stable enough or responsible enough to be entrusted with law enforcement authority. Was George Zimmerman one of those? Rather than being a gun issue, was this actually a mental stability issue? Even tougher still, how do you screen out people who are overzealous wannabes with a retired judge running interference for them, when it comes to weapon possession?

The whole sordid affair just makes me sick to my stomach. From the very beginning, this thing has been one unfortunate development after another. The world, and the legal system is not yet done with George Zimmerman. There will likely be a civil case, and I can’t begin to imagine what life for this guy is going to be like from now on. Is there justice? Well, it depends on how you look at things. There may very well be justice in this sad situation, but it simply isn’t the kind of justice we expect.

Arlo Mudgett’s Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.