by John Grooms
I am apparently a member of a really small minority - people who thought George Zimmerman would be acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin. Not that I thought he should be acquitted. It's nearly unbelievable that a neighborhood busybody with no legal authority could stalk an unarmed teenager and finally kill him when the teen found the courage to confront his stalker. Note, though, that it was nearly unbelievable. Despite the outrage, a few things led me to expect an acquittal:
1. Miserable prosecutors. The state presented a sloppy, almost lackadaisical case that featured key witnesses who obviously had not been properly prepared, particularly the medical examiner, Dr. Shiping Bao, whose bewilderment was almost laughable - not what you want from the one person who could have presented a story that contradicted Zimmerman's. According to experts for the New York Times, the poor showing by Bao doomed the state's case all by itself. Prosecutors also overreached by charging Zimmerman with second degree murder when they had very little evidence to back it up. For a second degree murder conviction, the state has to prove that the killer was "full of ill will, hatred, spite or evil intent." All the state presented to back up that claim was Zimmerman's call to the police - the call in which police told Zimmerman he shouldn't follow Martin - but in which Zimmerman never mentioned Martin's race until he was asked.
2. Florida's "Stand your ground" law, which allows people who are afraid they will suffer great harm or death not to retreat, even when they could do so safely. Although defense lawyers did not refer to "Stand your ground" during the trial, the judge invoked the law while instructing the jury. It's easy to see why critics have lambasted the law, since it can result in, say, the following scenario: a busybody with too much time on his hands sees a young black man in his neighborhood and starts to follow him, which scares hell out of the young guy being followed. When the young guy confronts the cop-wanna-be, and if the busybody is scared, it's perfectly OK for him to shoot to kill. This is the kind of law that only makes sense to paranoids, which evidently describes many residents of. . .Reason No. 3 . . .
3. It's Florida. It's been a long time since the country's former sunny playground of choice lost its luster and turned into a second-rate, overpopulated circus of fear, heat stroke and reptile farms. When your state is dysfunctional enough to elect a governor whose hospital chain was fined $1.7 billion for Medicare and Medicaid fraud, you know it's basically hopeless. And so it was, in the end, for Trayvon Martin's family and friends, and anyone expecting a straightforward, well argued case against George Zimmerman - and a jury of clear-headed thinkers and experienced judges of character. But that's a whole other issue.