Sunday, 14 July 2013

Zimmerman vs Martin, prejudice and inequality

The Zimmerman verdict is in. Acquitted, or not guilty, however you look at it the man is walking free after he stalked his neighbourhood like a paranoid vigilante, and then against the advice of the police went to confront a 17 year old young man before shooting him dead.

Like all the worst cases, there's little that the case would ever have hinged off of other than the reliability and credibility of Zimmerman's own statements. In Florida you can kill someone as long as you can make a jury believe you felt you were in serious danger, you see?

This case was always going to be hard for the prosecution, especially one that took weeks before it even started action to find justice for a young man murdered on the street. But with a law that legalises murder "in self defense" perhaps those hoping for justice should have faced up to reality months ago. This was never going to be the ending we wanted.

Is it the fault of the court? The law? American society and culture?

There are commentators that are criticising those that are laying the blame for Zimmerman walking free at the court. "Reasonable doubt" they cry. And they're right, up to a point. Unless the jury is 100% sure that Zimmerman did not feel his life was seriously in danger then the law is such that they must allow him to walk out of the court as a free man. Without a law that says that it is ok to kill someone if you feel this way, Zimmerman would not now be free.

And of course there will be those saying that this isn't a problem with the laws (guns don't kill people, etc. etc.) but that this was perhaps an isolated case of tension in a neighbourhood in Florida that ended up with a tragic result. Perhaps if inter-racial tensions weren't so high? Maybe if there wasn't so much crime? Maybe if the media didn't whip up inter-class hatred of fellow citizens?

Sure...but that argument is a side show anyway. Social and cultural factors being what they are, a person still chose to go as far as they did, to take a gun and hunt down the young Mr Martin, because of how the law stood and still stands.

But I don't absolve the court of blame here...because I believe by delivering the verdict that they have they have themselves shown up their own prejudices and how much they rate the life of one particular caste of person over another.

We know a couple of things about the case that are "absolute", the reason for this being there is either hard evidence or Zimmerman himself does not deny them. First is that Zimmerman made a choice to pursue Martin. Despite the police telling him to stay away from any potential danger, he walked towards it when he had the choice to drive away from it. Second, he definitely was the one that shot Martin.

Given the law the only way that Zimmerman walks away is because he presented a story that gave enough doubt to the idea that this was simply an elaborate execution. The story is that Zimmerman confronts Martin, and in response is attacked. Martin goes for the gun that Zimmerman has holstered, and the rest is history.

This is Zimmerman's life in "serious" threat of fatal danger.

But what about Martin's? Let us say that Zimmerman's account is 100% true. Martin is approached in the night by an unknown man with a holstered weapon who is demanding to know what he's doing. A fight breaks out, probably with words first, but then fists. Martin is suddenly in a fight with a man who has come from no-where, with a gun at his hip (or wherever it was). Fight or flight kicks in, Martin is the one who feels in his life is in serious danger, so he goes for the gun.

It would appear that the court has said that they believe Zimmerman's story to be believable enough that they can't convict...but in doing so they have also sent out a statement that if you walk up to someone, confront them, act hostile and then get in a fight...well...then you have more of a right to life than the person that has been confronted.

The person that is left dead on the street doesn't get to argue that they felt their life was in serious danger when they took whatever actions they took, simply by "losing" the fight the determination is that you are the one that was the threat.

This is why it is not the law, nor society, nor culture that is the problem with the result of the case...but the court itself. Shame on you America.