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Editor's column: ‘Stand your ground’ lets us down

George Zimmerman is a man who used really bad judgement — something you can get away with in certain states, even if an innocent kid gets killed.

July 20, 2013
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

George Zimmerman's life will never be the same.

The wanna-be cop acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin is technically a free man, but he more than likely will forever be looking over his shoulder. He's now living in a bubble.

The Zimmerman trial was a difficult and sensitive case to be sure, and similar to previous trials in the U.S. where race is an obvious player, African Americans are upset over the verdict and the fact that Zimmerman still hasn't been punished.

There were serious racial overtones to the trial and the verdict, but believe it or not, this is about more than race. Many people, regardless of the color of their skin, are troubled by the outcome, because the bottom line is one man killed another man and technically walked away without as much as a slap on the wrist - at least for now. The fact that Martin was black only adds fuel to a racial fire that seems eternal in this country. But ask yourself, if both the victim and the shooter were white, would you be satisfied with the outcome?

Zimmerman didn't use the "stand your ground" defense in his case per se, but he wasn't arrested until almost two months after the shooting because of the law that requires police to have specific evidence to refute a self defense claim in order to arrest someone who claims self defense. That weeks-long grace period, if you will, got everything started off on the wrong foot.

Right or wrong, he will always be linked with "stand your ground," and living his life as the poster child for an extremely controversial law won't be easy for Zimmerman, but it could be argued that he needs to be held more accountable for his actions to some extent. The "stand your ground" law has its place in society and was put into place to protect people - if a would-be victim shoots a robber in their home or shoots a potential rapist - but the question that lingers is, was this a justifiable shooting? Was Zimmerman's life, his well-being, in danger, and if it was, wasn't he, in a way, asking for trouble by following Martin after he was advised not to? And if so, how can self defense be his defense? Had he stayed in his vehicle he never would've been in an altercation with the teen in the first place.

"Stand your ground" is for people who are being pursued, not those doing the pursuing.

There are only two people who actually know what happened between Martin and Zimmerman; we're just speculating spectators. But clearly, skin color aside, this law is a lightning rod of controversy, and laws like this - designed to protect people who are in fear of their well being and that give those people the right to do whatever it takes to defend themselves - are important enough to be challenged and perhaps even changed.

Scratch perhaps, change to definitely.

While the trial may be over, the dust won't settle on this one for quite some time. And it shouldn't. There are deep societal issues at play - issues that unfortunately only make headlines after a tragedy - and there are fundamental issues, too, like the "stand your ground" law.

Zimmerman used really poor judgement in playing cop and pursuing Martin, but he isn't the real problem here, the law is. Laws are made to prevent violence and protect us, not promote violence and put someone - black or white - in harm's way. This particular law is too broad and should be put through the shredder and rewritten by state law enforcement, without any politicians' input.

I don't think Zimmerman "won" this case as much as the Martin family lost it and became victims of a well-meaning law that comes with major baggage - a law that ultimately protected a man with a gun and failed a grieving family.



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