Regardless of one's view of the Trayvon Martin shooting, it is a tragic scenario that has exhibited the best and worst of America.
The best is reflected in the power of social media, transforming a local issue into a national news story that swept the nation.
The worst came from both sides of the divide, demonstrating little patience for the facts to unfold before not only rendering a decision prematurely, but engaging in the most reprehensible behavior.
Filmmaker Spike Lee took matters into his own hand by publishing on Twitter what he believed was the address of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Martin on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. The address was not Zimmerman's but a septuagenarian couple who feared for their lives as they received needless threats.
Assuming it was Zimmerman's address, what was Lee thinking?
Not to be outdone, some supporting Zimmerman have also participated in the worst behavior. After the shooting, gun range targets meant to resemble Martin went on sale in Florida and reportedly sold out within two days.
What's striking is the moral gap that exists between what we think we know and how jurisprudence is actually practiced in Florida.
Under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, the section most applicable to Zimmerman's second-degree murder trial states:
"A person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat
How the aforementioned statement is understood may very well determine whether Zimmerman is exonerated without a jury trial. Zimmerman's attorney could seek a "Stand Your Ground" hearing.
In a "Stand Your Ground" hearing, one's fate does not rest with a jury of one's peers but only with a judge. If the judge rules that this law applies, case closed. Zimmerman is a free man.
Assuming there is a "Stand Your Ground" hearing, the judge's decision could rest on how widely the facts apply. If "Stand Your Ground" is limited to the immediacy of the shooting, the gashes on Zimmerman's head and being the only survivor who knows exactly what happened could bode well for his release.
But what if a wider range of circumstances are included? What if Zimmerman's "Stand Your Ground" defense began Sept. 11, 2011, when he hosted a neighborhood watch meeting?
According to NBC, a PowerPoint presentation conducted by a Sanford police officer at the neighborhood watch meeting expressly stated do not pursue or attempt to capture subjects, do not carry arms, and no vigilante justice. Does "Stand Your Ground" exempt one from the neighborhood watch PowerPoint presentation?
Or what about the fact that after Zimmerman placed his 911 call alerting police to Martin's "suspicious" behavior, confirmed he was following Martin and was told by police dispatch, "We don't need you to do that," he nevertheless gets out of his car?
In this light, is Zimmerman still justified in the use of deadly force? Does he have no duty to retreat because he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death?
Zimmerman getting out of the car after being told by law enforcement essentially to "cease and desist" seems problematic for his defense. Under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, can one leave the safety of one's vehicle, ignore police instructions, and still be exonerated without a jury?
If so, the Sunshine State will harbor dark clouds for the foreseeable future.
Contact Byron Williams at 510-208-6417 or email@example.com.