Thursday, July 18, 2013

No Ground to Stand On

For weeks, at least in my world, all anyone's been able to talk about is Trayvon Martin. On every news broadcast, the trial of George Zimmerman for Martin's murder was the top (and usually only) story every night. When the verdict came down on Saturday, I was speechless. I was heartbroken. I was, most upsettingly, unsurprised. Unsurprised in part because the defense was ruthless and the prosecution was weak. Unsurprised because this country has a saddening history of trying to pretend away injustice.

I could talk about that injustice. I could talk about how, though everyone from defense attorney Mark O'Mara to prosecutor Angela Corey to Juror B-37 has claimed that this case has nothing to do with race, the facts of the matter show unequivocally that it had everything to do with race. I could talk about how George Zimmerman is a free man, reunited with his deadly weapon, who will be able to live a life Trayvon Martin will never experience. I could talk about any or all of those things, but they've been talked to death, so I won't. What I will talk about is Florida's Stand Your Ground law.

The most concerning thing, to me, about the Zimmerman trial is that Stand Your Ground was inadmissible as a defense in the case. Juror B-37 (she's quite the Chatty Cathy) has mentioned, however, that SYG factored, at least somewhat, into the acquittal. Possible mistrial notwithstanding, the verbiage used in the legislation leaves some gray areas in this instance.

According to the law itself, as found on the website of the Florida Legislature, the use of deadly force is permissible if "a person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another..." There are conditions therein, but it is stipulated that the presumption (given) is non-applicable if "the person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or vehicle..." and/or "the person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity..."

What's interesting, then, is that Martin had every right to be in the neighborhood. His father's fiancee lived in the community, and as a ward of his father, he was obligated to be where his father was. Zimmerman acted in direct opposition to police by following Martin, so he was also arguably disallowed from using SYG to protect him. But what's worse than all this is the fact that Trayvon Martin's family may lose more than just him if they sue Zimmerman in civil court.

According to an article on Politico yesterday, the NRA's involvement in SYG has done more than just make it easier for NRA members to do whatever they please. It also has the ability to make the victim's family pay the defense if they sue for damages in civil court and lose. Possibly, one of the reasons the Martin-Fulton family has not yet declared their intent to sue Zimmerman is because if the Florida courts continue on their crooked, corrupt trajectory, they're liable to lose, and if they do, they will be forced - by law - to reimburse the Zimmermans for legal fees and "lost wages."

I'm not sure if this is an argument to tighten restrictions on gun usage or to abolish the NRA (I personally would be fine with both), but whatever it is, it's something that's got to happen soon.

peace and love, y'all.


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