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Keep Calm! This Murder Was Legal

People protest against acquittal of Zimmerman
People protest against acquittal of Zimmerman • Photograph: Werth Media

Seventeen months on from his death, Trayvon Martin’s family have been denied justice, as the jury declare George Zimmerman as ‘not guilty’ of second-degree murder.

On the evening of February 26th 2012, Zimmerman followed Martin from his car on his own charge of Martin looking “up to no good”. Within twenty-one minutes of Zimmerman phoning the police declaring his unfounded concerns, Martin was declared dead after having been shot by the neighbourhood watch coordinator. The evidence suggests that this was a completely unprovoked attack on an innocent teenager, yet strangely, Zimmerman has been acquitted.

Despicably, there was nothing to suggest that Martin was involved in any criminal activity. In fact, it appears that Martin was returning to his home, and only began running from Zimmerman as he became aware of the fact that he was being followed. Ludicrously, according to the transcript between Zimmerman and the police dispatcher, Martin deserved the attention, because “it [was] raining and he [was] just walking around, looking about”. That hardly calls for active pursuit – when did it become a crime to walk around in the rain and use your eyes to look at things around you. The dispatcher told Zimmerman not to follow Martin, but he continued. Zimmerman was also reluctant to give his address to the dispatcher. This already screams guilt.

If the injuries that Zimmerman suffered were a result of Martin’s actions, it can only be assumed that they were in self-defence against the unwarranted pursuit and aggravation of the powerless neighbour watchman. The attack escalated quickly and resulted in the shooting of the teenager; Martin was shot within seven minutes and dead within twenty-one minutes of Zimmerman calling the non-emergency line. Zimmerman cries that he acted in self-defence, but if we are to believe that he followed Martin and acted to detain him before the police arrived, with no justification outside of supposed suspicious activity, then Trayvon is the only one who could have cried self-defence. It’s not a legitimate claim to argue that you acted in self-defence against someone else who was already acting in self-defence. You can’t claim that you acted in defence when it was you that instigated the altercation.

Some might argue that this verdict of ‘not guilty’ does not proclaim Zimmerman’s innocence, but that there was simply not enough evidence to convict him as guilty. But the call with the dispatcher, testimonies from witnesses, and no evidence to suggest that Trayvon was involved in any criminal activity at the time, only suggest that there was no legitimate motivation for Zimmerman to pursue and kill the teenager. Furthermore, Zimmerman was told not to follow Trayvon, did not have any power as a police officer and, thus, no right to use his gun in defence, and may have acted with a racist motivation – did Zimmerman see him as suspicious because he was a black male walking around? He was recorded stating “fucking punks” and “these assholes, they always get away”, implying that he discriminated against Trayvon on the basis of being part of the group that he named as “punks” and “assholes” – this group most certainly could have been based on race. This may not be just a case of murder, this may be a new case of anti-racism.

The fact of the matter is that Zimmerman shot dead an innocent male, with no real power to use such force. The police arrived just a moment later, and that one moment could have been enough to save this young male’s life. Yet, the jury declare Zimmerman as ‘not guilty’ of murder and even manslaughter, which seems ludicrous. There is no doubt here that Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin – it is also likely that he planned the action from the moment he set his eyes on him – and that his response was not a proportionate response to the attack he alleges he was defending himself from.

As such, the string of protests in response to the verdict are justified, pronounced and internationally supported. There is real cause for concern in this case and the appeal for a further case should be backed by millions of supporters. Yet, Obama has called for calm, seemingly acknowledging the verdict as final and dismissing the distress the case has caused for people across the world.

However, if this appeal to the civil rights case is unsuccessful, Zimmerman will be unlikely to live his life as an innocent man. In the minds of many across the United States (and indeed the world), he remains a guilty man, and he will not be allowed to forget the death of the young teenager that he caused.

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