If you are engaged in neighborhood watch, don’t carry a gun and don’t confront any person that seems suspicious to you. Call the police and stay in your house or your car even if you lose sight of the person. If George Zimmerman had done that, he would not have had an encounter with Trayvon Martin and would not have shot him.
If you are walking in a neighborhood at night and someone accosts you, tell the person who you are and where you are going — and ask the person who he/she is. Walk or run away if necessary. Don’t be confrontational. If Trayvon Martin had done that, he would be alive today.
Zimmerman, who was 28, was trying to prevent crime in his gated community. He spotted hoodie-wearing Martin who had just passed his 17th birthday walking in between rows of houses and called police to report a suspicious person. He lost sight of Martin and got out of his car — to find a house number, he said — but then was confronted by the teenager. Zimmerman said he was slugged in the nose, knocked or pushed down and beaten in the face with his head repeatedly slammed against a concrete sidewalk. He had a bloody, broken nose and cuts on the back of his head. Zimmerman said he fired his pistol while on his back under attack, shooting Martin in the heart.
Key testimony in the trial came from John Good, a resident of the housing complex, who testified that he saw Martin straddling Zimmerman on the ground and striking at him in a “ground and pound” manner. He said Zimmerman was yelling for help. It was Good’s 911 call that picked up the screams of terror before the fatal shot. Martin was not a “child,” as the prosecution described him, but stood 5-11 and weighed 158 pounds, while Zimmerman was 5-7 and weighed 185 pounds.
The all-woman jury of five whites and one Hispanic, after hearing all the evidence, reached a unanimous verdict of not guilty. They agreed with the defense’s contention that Zimmerman fired his pistol while in fear of great bodily harm or death, the legal justification for killing in self-defense.
Because Zimmerman was identified as “white” in early news reports — although he is Hispanic — and Martin was an African-American, the killing was turned into a “civil rights” issue having nothing to do with self-defense, and protests were staged in Sanford and around the country. This led Florida Gov. Rick Scott to boot local prosecutors from the case. He appointed a special prosecutor who filed a charge of second-degree murder against Zimmerman instead of going before a grand jury and seeking an indictment.
After the trial, one of Zimmerman’s lawyers, Don West, said the jury “kept this tragedy from becoming a travesty.”
But the costs of lessons learned in this case are far, far too high.