Monday, July 15, 2013

Why I blame the Prosecutors

I have a number of thoughts, observations and emotions relating to the Zimmerman verdict.

Notwithstanding the anger I have over the Zimmerman’s acquittal in shooting Trayvon Martin is the blame that I place at the feet of the Jacksonville, FL Prosecutors Office for  repeated failures during the trial to aggressively pursue Zimmerman’s conviction.  At the heart of this trial, I believe, was the knowledge that race determines whether fear, history, and public sentiment offers a killer a usable alibi.  Was Zimmerman profiling Martin which began the unfortunate chain of events?  Was Zimmerman motivated by race to pursue Trayvon even after he was instructed not to do so?  Was Zimmerman obligated to retreat before using deadly force?
There was little if no discussion or analysis of racial profiling by Zimmerman.  These questions were not asked: "Why did you assume because [Trayvon] Martin was wearing a hoodie, he was committing a crime? Why did you assume that because he was walking he was doing something improper? What made him decide to follow Martin? Why did he not heed the police directive not to pursue Martin? What made him feel so threatened? Why didn't you identify yourself? Why did you assume he didn't belong in the neighborhood?" What made you leave your car? You were armed with a gun, did you think you might need to use it? We may never know, but Zimmerman did believe that Martin was a "fucking punk" — words he used on a call to a police despatcher, referring to troublemakers in the neighborhood.

The jurors never had an opportunity to consider these facts because Zimmerman did not take the stand and the Judge would not allow race to enter into the trial sans opening or closing statement.  But racial profiling is at the heart of this trial, as the Zimmerman’s defense lawyer pointed out
Zimmerman was not trained as a law-enforcement officer, and Zimmerman was told not to follow Martin.  The prosecutors did not effectively show that Zimmerman was the aggressor and should not have been allowed to use the “Stand Your Ground” defense. “Zimmerman's statements to the police lay the groundwork for self-defense. They contain numerous self-serving references to previous break-ins and the need to start a watch program in the neighborhood, how Martin fled to a darkened area and disappeared between houses, how Zimmerman dropped his phone, got punched in the face by Martin, had his head slammed into the concrete sidewalk, felt like his head was "going to explode," shouted for help several times, was told by Martin, "You're gonna die tonight, mother[expletive]," was terrified, and prayed to God that someone videotaped his encounter with Martin. Zimmerman's demeanor on the video is calm, polite, willing, and non-confrontational. “

“The prosecution's case without Zimmerman's statements is legally sufficient for a jury to convict, if not murder, then arguably manslaughter. Its case consists of Zimmerman's apparent targeting and profiling of Martin, pursuing Martin while uttering expletives, continuing to pursue Martin after Zimmerman was directed by a police operator not to do so, and Martin, sounding fearful, telling his girlfriend over the phone that he was being pursued by a "creepy" man, then Martin crying for help and shouting "Get off, get off," and during an ensuing struggle being shot and killed by Zimmerman.” After shooting Martin dead, Zimmerman spread out the boy's arms to "make him look menacing, violent, threatening." He did not call an ambulance, or try to render First Aid.
Another important mistake made by the prosecution: why only six jurors, the legal minimum in the state of Florida.  By having such a small jury, lacking in diversity or an understanding of the dynamics of race; a conviction was doomed from the start.  The prosecution also failed to charge Zimmerman with manslaughter – which many legal scholars considered a basic error in strategy.

Assistant Florida State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda presented the state’s closing arguments against Zimmerman using words like ‘maybe’, ‘what if’’, ‘I hope so’, ‘you figure it out’, and ‘could have been’.  Those were not the words and phrases of a good prosecutor.  Words like ‘certainty’ and ‘definite’ and ‘without question’, ‘beyond a doubt’ and ‘no other explanation.’ are what drive home your point.
Lastly I feel for Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father.  There were trial exhibits features an image of him holding Trayvon as a toddler, a birthday hat perched on the boy’s head. “At the trial, he sat through a grim procession of autopsy photos and audio of the gunshot that ended his son’s life. No matter the verdict, this simple pursuit of justice meant amplifying the trauma of his loss by some unknowable exponent.”  In the end his son was killed for being black and for wearing a hoody.

1 comment:

Sandi said...

Alvin, I agree with you 100%. It's a travesty! But I will say this: I'm kind of glad that the trial wasn't about race. I don't think it would have changed the outcome of the trial and as Al Sharpton pointed out this morning on the Today Show, if the race card had been played, then double jeopardy would apply and there wouldn't be a federal investigation. Similar to the Rodney King trials, Zimmerman will get his just desserts but in through the federal courts.