Monday, July 15, 2013

American Justice: An Oxymoron (Part 1)

This past weekend on a hot and sultry Saturday evening a bombshell was dropped on this country which is still reverberating three days later.  The Florida trial of 29-year-old George Zimmerman, killer of 17-year-old Skittles-carrier and chronic iced-tea abuser Trayvon Martin, came to an end with Zimmerman's acquittal.  The moonpie-faced defendant sauntered out of the courtroom a free asshole man (not really totally free, more on that later) while Trayvon Martin, well, remains buried in his grave.

The largely arcane, inscrutable wheels of the American judicial system churned and wheezed and rattled one more time, and once more left huge numbers of people extremely upset and disappointed in a very obvious miscarriage of justice.  Our court system has a way of doing that, ignoring the big-picture for the niggling little details and minutiae of process.  Remember O.J. Simpson?  There wasn't a shadow of a doubt that he committed the murders, yet he got let off by a jury who was talked into having reasonable doubts.  Now, almost two decades later, it is an indisputable fact of public knowledge that he murdered two people in cold blood.  Casey Anthony, who murdered her daughter and failed to notify authorities of her disappearance for a month because she was too busy partying and participating in wet t-shirt contests, also skated out the front door, thanks to the jury.  On what planet is it considered justice when obviously guilty criminals can get away with their heinous actions scot free?  Also, how is it possible to have a shred of respect for such a system that allows such glaring, atrocious failures to happen?

Prosecutors in the Zimmerman trial certainly had their work cut out for them, because the investigation of the case was horrifically botched up from the start.  Evidence was contaminated or not collected at all.  Martin's body was physically moved from the sidewalk to a grassy area, disturbing and tainting the evidence.  The now-famous hoodie he was wearing was placed in an airtight plastic bag after being moistened by rain, further destroying and corrupting evidence.  At first it seemed like a slam-dunk for the state.  The initial statement by the prosecutor was riveting and emotional, and the opening statement by dickwad defense attorney Don West started off with a supremely ill-advised and staggeringly unfunny knock-knock joke, which seemed to imply the jurors were idiots.  Laying the biggest egg since the brontosaurus walked the earth, the silence in the courtroom that followed that incredibly stupid attempt at comedy was deafening, leaving West chortling and grinning at himself like the biggest jerk in the world, which he is.

Slowly but surely it changed from George Zimmerman being on trial to Trayvon Martin being on trial, for having the audacity of dressing like a thug and walking through a neighborhood.  Zimmerman, a wanna-be cop with apparently a lot more free time than common sense, decided that Martin was surely up to no good being in that part of town looking the way he did and took it upon himself - despite clear admonishment from a 911 dispatcher to mind his own business and stay put - to confront Martin for ... what?  A cell-phone recording of someone calling for help became a bone of contention as families on both sides claimed it was their relative screaming for his life.

Central to this case is the concept of self-defense and when it is appropriate to use deadly force to save your own hide.  Florida's recent "stand your ground" law makes deadly force a much more viable option because it says if you perceive yourself to be in imminent danger of death or severe bodily harm, you are justified in the use of deadly force to defend yourself.  If you PERCEIVE yourself to be in danger!  You don't have to actually BE in danger, only THINK that you are.  Think about the ramifications of that for a second.  Someone you don't like because of the way they dress or the color of their skin is walking in a part of town where you don't think they belong, and they turn to look at you as you approach them from behind to confront them, and you think THEY are being threatening??  How many dimwitted, gun-happy douchebags would find that a "threatening" situation when in fact they are the ones doing the threatening?  Just think of all the batshit-crazy, mentally-unstable nut cases there are in Florida and then imagine them given carte-blanche by the authorities to shoot anyone who happens to look at them the wrong way.  That's what "stand your ground" does.

Some people think this trial was only about race, and others think it's about self-defense.  Personally I think it's about both, with the added complication of guns and gun use in America.  Again the problem of mentally-deficient faux-vigilantes carrying firearms and being all too eager to use them has resulted in a pointless loss of life.  But how can we expect anything different if twenty young children in Newtown, Connecticut can be blasted to smithereens by a deranged gunman and months later Congress is too cowardly and spineless to pass even the most innocuous, toothless law about background checks?  Because of such selfish, narrow-minded cowardice, these types of ridiculous, tragic murders will continue until every street in America is stained with blood.  And still the NRA, their ape-like, knuckle-dragging supporters and their bottom-bitches in Congress will bleat and complain about how their precious, god-given Second Amendment rights are being trampled and violated.  Well, BOO-FUCKING-HOO.  You want a nice Camembert to go with that whine?  At least your damned kid is still alive.

The trial may be over, but Zimmerman's life will be forever changed.  He will need to be on the alert every minute of every day, because he must be painfully aware of the millions of people who are outraged at this travesty of justice.  Some people will not be content to move on; still others will seek some sort of vigilante justice (which, in a weirdly ironic way, is not at all different from what Zimmerman was instigating on that cool, damp, February evening in Sanford, Florida).  It will be next to impossible for Zimmerman to function in the general public, being instantly recognizable (read: targetable).  No one will want to hire him with the toxic baggage he will carry for the rest of his life.  He is the one who will be in a kind of solitary confinement for the rest of his life.  Meanwhile a seventeen-year-old person lies in a grave and a family, along with millions of American citizens, grieve at how spectacularly broken our justice system is when an obvious murderer can be set free and walk among us.


  1. I really wish these tragic events would open a real dialogue but it won't. I have heard Trayvon called every name under the sun, including thug. Zimmerman's history is completely ignored. We are twisted, mean-spirited and cheer for a young man cut down in his prime simply because he looked suspicious to a self appointed judge with a gun.

  2. And did I mention that I rejoice when I see white liberal men over the age of 30? I love ya Stephen.

    1. Even though I'm WAY over the age of 30, I'm sending the love right back to you, Christina! Even though these days being conservative seems to be the default in this country, I am glad for every liberal I see. They bring humanity back into politics, which conservatives conspicuously seem to lack.