The wheels of justice grind slowly. After forty-four days of grinding in Florida, the next step in the George Zimmerman Saga played out. Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder. While the family of Trayvon Martin sees this as some sort of interim justice, the charge raises more questions than it answers.
The first question of course is why did it take so long? The next question is why did the special prosecutor decide to file charges directly instead of taking the matter to a grand jury? To continue, if there is enough evidence now to file charges, why was Zimmerman not arrested by the Sanford Police? I could go on, but I think you get the point.
The question of why this process took so long is relatively easy to answer. It took so long because some parties used the understandable anger, frustration and confusion over the death of an unarmed seventeen-year-old to push their own agendas. That is not to say some pushing was not needed. Simply letting George Zimmerman go free based on his claim of self-defense was not good police work. If that is actually what the Sanford Police intended, that was a mistake. The death of Trayvon Martin deserved a full and meticulous investigation.
The problem in this case is we will never know what the Sanford Police Department might have done on its own. The intervention of high profile personalities and groups from outside the immediate community did nothing to speed up the wheels of justice. Instead, their frothing at the mouth made it almost impossible for the process to work. If they really wanted a full and objective investigation of the killing, there were more effective ways to bring that about.
The fact someone is not arrested immediately does not mean they will not be arrested. It may simply mean law enforcement needs more time to investigate the case. In states where there are no rights of self-protection, arrests in a matter like this one would be normal. In the states where there is a right of self-defense, the police must build a case to arrest someone claiming self-defense. Perhaps that was the case in Florida, but we will never know.
The special prosecutor’s decision to charge Zimmerman without a grand jury indictment is also relatively easy to answer. First, grand jury indictments take even more time. With threats of more violence against Zimmerman and the community in general, that part of the process had to be truncated. Charging Zimmerman with a crime under Florida law that did not need an indictment did shorten the process. However, that is not the only reason.
It is possible Zimmerman would not have been indicted by a grand jury. If he had been indicted, he might have been indicted on a lesser charge such as manslaughter. That would have been politically unacceptable, and given the threats made by some of those demanding “justice,” the members of the grand jury might find themselves the target of threats and attacks.
The deciding factor, however, was likely based on politics. The special prosecutor has charged Zimmerman with a very serious crime. A serious crime that may be very difficult to prove, and it is probably based on evidence that a good defense attorney can turn into reasonable doubt.
Charging Zimmerman with second degree murder lets the prosecutor claim she charged him with the most serious crime she could. If she accepts a plea bargain at some point, she can claim she did so to assure a conviction and some form of punishment. If no plea agreement is reached, and Zimmerman is not convicted, she can claim the burden of proof was too high and the Florida law under which Zimmerman claimed self-defense is too broad or too vague. The prosecutor is covering her backside, to be polite about it.
George Zimmerman made a mistake on that fateful February day. He set himself on a path that may lead to his incarceration for life, or his death if some of the irresponsible rhetoric of his loudest accusers leads another vigilante to act irresponsibly. Prison or assassination, Zimmerman is in some ways a dead man walking or facing a lifetime of looking over this shoulder. Life as he knew it is over.
George Zimmerman is the only living person who knows what happened when he followed Trayvon Martin. Unfortunately, anyone who has been paying attention knows what has happened since. The understandable anger, frustration and confusion over the death of an unarmed seventeen-year-old have been used by certain individuals and groups to further their own agendas. Only time will tell if justice can still be served in this case.
© S. E. Jackson