The Tragedy Of Trayvon: Reader Odds And Ends

Some remaining thoughts on the Zimmerman-Martin saga:

Each man likely was scared of the other. Each man likely thought he was fighting for his life.  Martin, because a stranger was following him with a gun.  Zimmerman, because he did not know if Martin was armed. Their mutual panic spiraled first into a fight, and then into a life-and-death struggle fueled only by fear of the other’s intentions.

I’m a gun owner, but this is what scares me most about guns.  If two men are fighting, and one notices the other has a gun, won’t the one without the gun naturally fear for his life?  Won’t this fear lead him to escalate the situation by trying to grab the gun, or disable the other by slamming his head into the concrete?  Won’t the man with the gun, seeing the escalation, choose to use his gun rather than risk serious injury, or the other man taking the gun away and using it against him?  Won’t both men be acting in self-defense?

Another reader:

Imagine that Martin is also armed, legally possessing a handgun, on the night of his killing. Is there a point in his confrontation with Zimmerman where he is legally justified to shoot Zimmerman in self-defense? It seems to me that Stand Your Ground laws give an incentive to use lethal force in confrontations with even potential for physical violence … and also to shoot first.


I’d like to raise one more point in this conversation which keeps being overlooked both in this specific case and the gun discussion in general: Why does any conversation about self-defense tumblr_mpz9xoYIvJ1qz4e1ro1_1280focus on lethal gun use? Zimmerman could have used mace or pepper spray. He could’ve used a Taser. He could’ve used rubber bullets or a bean bag rifle. He could’ve shot Martin in the thigh or right shoulder.  And on and on.  But his chosen method of self defense was to shoot Martin in the area of the heart using bullets intended to inflict massive internal injuries.

Like you, I’m a small “c” conservative. To me, those are the “conservative” approaches to self-defense.  Shoot to kill first and ask questions later is the opposite. We apparently had a black woman in Jacksonville use a more conservative approach to self-defense by firing warning shots, and she is sentenced to prison for 20 years. What is the message being sent here?


I think it’s a bit dishonest to proclaim that Zimmerman confronted Trayvon without attempting to address the four-minute delay between the time Zimmerman told the dispatcher he lost sight of Trayvon and the start of the fight between the two.  Keep in mind, Trayvon was about two blocks from his house when Zimmerman lost sight of him, yet, almost four minutes later, a fight occurred closer to Zimmerman’s truck than to Trayvon’s house. This was one of the defense teams main arguments in trial, yet conveniently enough, it goes unmentioned by virtually every serious journalists and commentator.  And while this four-minute gap isn’t dispositive one way or another, it is pretty deceitful to leave it out of all analysis.

Glad to include it. Another:

Something I haven’t seen brought up in the Trayvon Martin case: In 2005 Zimmerman is arrested for “resisting officer with violence” and “battery of law enforcement officer.” But he wrote in his application to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office Citizens Law Enforcement Academy that “the officer assaulted me first”.

Later that year, his fiance accuses him of domestic violence and takes out a restraining order on him. But he responded by taking out his own restraining order to protect himself against her. Finally we have this case, where Zimmerman claims that a kid who is running away suddenly, for no apparent reason, changes his mind and attacks Zimmerman.

The poor guy can’t catch a break! People keep attacking him, and then they (or the liberal media) claim that he attacked them!

In all seriousness, I think it would have been useful for the prosecution to present witnesses (the cop, the fiance) who could testify that Zimmerman was in the habit of assaulting people and then claiming that they assaulted him.


Did you know that George Zimmerman’s cousin accused him of molesting her beginning at at age 6, and it allegedly went on for several years? She said that her parents found out and confronted Zimmerman and that he admitted to the molestation. Why was this not admitted at trial, particularly since the defense was trying to admit things (and may actually have) from Trayvon Martin’s past?

One more:

I’ve been biting my tongue out of professional courtesy (I’m a prosecutor), but there is an issue here that isn’t getting enough attention: The prosecutors did a terrible job.

You noted that the juror conceded that one of the most important facts – that Martin was “suspicious” because he was walking in the rain – came from Zimmerman.  True, but he didn’t testify to that. Instead, the prosecutors inexplicably played a video of his self-serving explanation of that night.  They had no obligation to play that video, his explanation wasn’t subject to any cross-examine action, and he exonerated himself.  By playing it, they ensured he would never testify and thus be subjected to the cross-examination the prosecutor now says he was “praying” for.  It was obvious at the time this was a terrible decision.  This was their biggest blunder but there were many others; these folks were grossly incompetent.

Update from a reader regarding the molestation allegations:

Sometimes I forget that not everyone is a trial attorney like I am.  In all likelihood, the reason the prosecution did not attempt to enter this evidence is that it knew it was not admissible.  Evidence of prior bad acts in order to show character or conformity of behavior are almost never admissible.  The basis for this rule of evidence is that defendants are to be judged on what happened in this specific case, not what has the defendant done in the past.  The same logic kept out most of Trayvon’s past transgressions as well, if not all of them.

The same rationale applies to your reader’s suggestion that the evidence of Zimmerman’s prior claims of self defense should have been put into issue.  However, repeated self-defense claims and the self-defense claim in the Trayvon case could have caused this to be either “habit” evidence or permissible character evidence.  I don’t practice in Florida so cannot claim expertise of their rules of evidence.  But here the legal nuances are at least very interesting.  The sexual assault allegations would never be admitted.

Imagine if every trial became a list of horribles against the defendants?  We’d be persecuting people for their character, not prosecuting them for crimes.