You think the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck is almost done? Ha! I would love for you to be right, but the signs are not promising:
- Yesterday, the special prosecutor ended the suspense and announced that Zimmerman would be charged, putting a sock in the collective mouths of activists who claimed that the case was already closed. That was nice, but it also allowed Al Sharpton to claim that it was the demonstrations, the threats and the public outcry that forced that outcome. This is bad in three ways:
1.) It suggests that the U.S. justice system can be manipulated by mob rule;
2.) It tells the public that any citizen might be arrested, not because law enforcement believes it has a legitimate case, but because his rights have been balanced against other political and popular factors and found to be dispensable; and
3.) He may be right. Angela Corey, who made the decision to charge Zimmerman without a grand jury, strongly denied Sharpton’s point, and we should all hope she was being truthful.
- But she almost certainly over-charged. Again, with a second degree murder charge, she is saying that there was no self-defense and that Zimmerman shot Trayvon out of spontaneous anger, animus or other cause that does not include any excuse or legally recognized mitigating factor. Here’s hope again: I hope she has sufficient evidence to support this. Otherwise, she has set everyone up for another round of mob fury and even violence, when Zimmerman is released by the judge who must rule on the “Stand Your Ground” law’s application to Zimmerman before trial, or when a jury finds that the evidence doesn’t support the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Unethical: if Corey took this path intentionally to take the city and state off the hook, guaranteeing that a judge would take the heat, and everyone could attack the judiciary for following the law, since that is the current fad. Unethical: if she overcharged to give the jury the unenviable job of freeing Zimmerman, since people are used to blaming Florida juries. (See: Anthony, Casey) Requiring less suspicion is the theory, advanced by some defense lawyers, that Corey is over-charging to put leverage on Zimmerman (he will be facing life imprisonment) and squeeze him to agree to a lesser charge, like manslaughter. Prosecutors are not supposed to charge citizens with crimes they know they can’t prove in trial; it is professional misconduct. I know, Jack McCoy used to do it all the time on Law and Order. So do too many prosecutors. It’s still unethical.
- Zimmerman promptly turned himself in, which means that his blabber-mouth lawyers were even more unethical than I thought they were, suggesting that Zimmerman was on the run and out of state when, obviously, he wasn’t. George is well rid of these two.
If this wasn’t enough to prove that the Trayvon train wreck was still rolling, Sybrina Fulton, the dead teen’s mother, weighed in with this jaw-dropper:
“I believe it was an accident, I believe that it just got out of control and he couldn’t turn the clock back.”
NOW she tells us?
The entire uproar was originally launched by Martin’s parents, who provided the catalyst for activists, demagogues,the media and members of Congress to declare Zimmerman a murderous racist, Martin’s death a hate crime, and law enforcement a cabal of racists right out of “Mississippi Burning.” Zimmerman had a $10,000 bounty placed on his head; he was vilified nationwide—and now his mother says she thinks it was all an accident? This should be Exhibit A for why people who are completely ignorant of the law should never meddle in law enforcement. If it was truly an accident, than Zimmerman shouldn’t have been arrested for Second Degree Murder, though now his parents are also saying that all they ever wanted “was an arrest.” If Trayvon’s parents believed his shooting was an accident, then this entire, ugly, nation-dividing, bias-exposing, exploited, horrible exhibition of race politics at their worst was advanced under false pretenses.
An accident at most would mean that Zimmerman engaged in involuntary manslaughter, which is the only serious charge close to murder that Zimmerman could be guilty of unintentionally. Florida calls it involuntary manslaughter when the defendant acted with “culpable negligence,” which Florida statutes define as a disregard for human life while engaging in wanton or reckless behavior. This does not comport with any of the rhetoric and accusations pressed by the hoodie-wearers, and certainly not with their intensity and venom.
At this point, I almost hope it was second degree murder; that at least all this insanity and chaos produced a fair trial and a just verdict, and that law enforcement is proven to have finally done its job effectively and completely, getting to the truth at last.
Trayvon’s mother apparently wanted to have an man arrested out of deference to her son. Wrong. To show that Trayvon’s life mattered. Wrong. To make Zimmerman sorry about what happened. Wrong, wrong, wrong. None of these are appropriate, ethical reasons to arrest someone and make him stand trial for his freedom. None of these justify inflaming a nation against him, and placing his life in peril while destroying his prospects of a normal existence forever. The family allowed its supporters to scream that Trayvon was profiled and hunted down. That would be no accident. The parents allowed Sharpton and others to say that their son was shot “in cold blood,” and didn’t believe it themselves.
And Trayvon’s mother had more to say.
“One of the things that I still believe in: A person should apologize when they really — when they are actually remorseful for what they’ve done.”
Absolutely true. I was surprised to learn that Zimmerman hadn’t already said he was genuinely sorry about the shooting—maybe his previous lawyers, Bozo and Clarabell, told him not to because they thought it would weaken his self-defense claims. If one good thing comes out of this epically awful episode, maybe it will be to teach everyone that when you’ve shot someone’s unarmed teenage son, no matter how it happened, the right thing to do is to tell his parents you’re sorry about it, and mean it.
That won’t be much of a payoff for a tragedy and and a national disgrace, but at least it will be something.