Monday, July 15, 2013

The Nightmare Scenario

I like many other Americans was flabbergasted by the verdict that was handed down in the George Zimmerman / Trayvon Martin case.

If you follow someone after the police have specifically told you not to do so, pick a fight with the person and then end up shooting the person when you realize that you're not going to win the fight... that's not standing your ground, that's manslaughter.

People have been all over facebook howling about how this isn't about race.  Please.  If Treyvon Martin had called 911 about a suspicious white guy, followed the white guy down the street, picked a fight and then shot the guy, he'd likely already been in jail for many years.  This case is about racism.  To say it's not is to ignore the elephant in the room.  There is overwhelming evidence to show that race really does matter in the courtroom.  White people consistently get lighter sentences and get acquitted in much higher numbers than anybody else.

Putting the race card aside for the moment, there's a bigger conundrum that is created from this case and that is going forward how the mechanics of the stand your ground law is going to work.

This ruling distorts the basic premise behind the law and opens a pandora's box and creates what I refer to as "The Nightmare Scenario".

If you're going to argue that what Zimmerman did was self defense, now when anybody shoots anybody for anything in Florida they will argue self defense.

The next time there's a fender bender and a scuffle ensues and one person shoots the other person they'll argue they did it in self defense.

The next time tempers flair at a little league game and a gun gets used it'll be in self defense.

Just imagine all the old scenarios that just two days ago we'd called "manslaughter" will now be called "self defense"

Moreover you can expect that there won't be any consistency either in how the courts interpret this going forward either. I suspect the full ramifications of this legal decision are not fully understood.

Sure, if you're sitting in your house and a person climbs through your window with a gun in their hands this will be clear cut.  However the next Trayvon Martin situation that happens is anybody's guess.

It creates a legal landscape that's full of crevasses.   Crevasses that likely will be filled partially on ethnicity and social rank.

Now I have to imagine that I'm the only person whose thinking this seriosly alters the legal landscape.  Considering that public outrage that led to this trial, these same people now have a cause.  For better or worse, Trayvon Martin is now a martyr. I expect protests at the capital building in Tallahassee and people demanding that this law be rewritten.

This is literally a ready made campaign.  If this isn't used as a platform to start the dialog about race inequality in this country then Trayvon Martin's death was utterly in vain.  We have to start talking about this and stop ignoring the fact that our legal system is divided along race lines.  I suspect that for the next month there's going to be lots of in coherent howling on both sides of the fence but once the shouting stops, cooler heads have to prevail and we have to collectively acknowledge we have a problem and work to fix it.

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