Archive for April, 2012

“Dodge City” Florida

April 12, 2012

Those of us who like old tv westerns have watched the scene uncounted times. A gunfighter goads someone into drawing against him and gets away with the subsequent killing by claiming “self defense” because the other guy “drew first”.

George Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin sounds very similar except for the fact that Martin jumped Zimmerman instead of drawing on him.

Zimmerman has admitted that he essentially was stalking Martin before Martin apparently attempted to hide from Zimmerman. When Zimmerman got out of his vehicle Martin may have felt Zimmerman was going to attack him and decided to act first.

Martin reminds me of the “young cowboy named Billy Joe” that Johnny Cash sang about. Billy Joe was convinced that it would be safe for him to take his guns to town because he could “shoot as quick and straight as anybody”. We can’t be sure of what Martin was thinking but he apparently thought he could take on anybody even though he didn’t have a weapon and had no way of knowing if his stalker was armed.

I don’t know if Zimmerman has watched many cop/private detective shows, but if he has he has watched the wrong shows or didn’t pay attention. If I had been watching this scenario on tv knowing that Zimmerman was armed and Martin was not, I would have anticipated what happened. Movie and tv characters being followed at least since the days of Humphrey Bogart have been known to step into the shadows to catch stalkers.

If Martin had been a armed criminal instead of an teenager just interested in getting something to eat and drink, Zimmerman would likely have died from a stab wound or bullet. If Martin had been armed he could have used the Stand Your Ground law to justify killing the man who was stalking him.

The media have focused on Martin’s skin color because most of those in the media are obsessed with the issue of skin color. However, Martin’s age may have been more important in causing Zimmerman to consider him suspicious. Male teenagers commit a disproportionate number of crimes.

There’s one critical difference between what happened in Florida and the gunfights in Matt Dillon’s Dodge City. In Dodge City a man who shot an unarmed man would be taken to jail by Marshall Dillon or given a permanent home on Boot Hill. On tv westerns ending a fist fight with a gun was considered murder regardless of who started the fight.

George Zimmerman may not have wanted to push Trayvon Martin into a fight, but he did. Zimmerman’s reckless behavior resulted in the death of Martin. If Florida’s law allows a man to cause a fight with an unarmed man so he can get away with killing, there is something wrong with the law. If Florida fails to prosecute Zimmerman it will be a signal to bullies that they can get away with murder if they can push their victims into throwing the first punch.

Florida’s “Stand your ground” law might be a good thing if it applies to those are trying to defend against a threat from someone else. However, if the law protects those who initiate
dangerous situations it may legalize murder.

On the old westerns, when the law was too slow to deal with someone people had decided was guilty, some of them might decide to take the law into their own hands. Some groups are already reportedly threatening some form of vigilante action if Zimmerman isn’t prosecuted. In another case, police might be able to wait to see if they could find evidence that would make prosecution easier. They may not have that option in this case. If authorities delay getting the case into the courts too long, they may end up having to prosecute someone else for killing Zimmerman.