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article imageOp-Ed: Race and nonsense on the Zimmerman trial

By Alexander Baron     Jul 5, 2013 in Crime
Sanford - The trial of George Zimmerman for the second degree murder of Trayvon Martin has taken an extraordinary turn, and some people are relishing in it.
Financial pundit Peter Schiff is the son of legendary tax rebel Irwin Schiff. He has certainly inherited his father's forthrightness, but there are times when discretion is the better part of valour. Here he is giving America and the world the benefit of his insight into the testimony of Rachel Jeantel, the last person to speak to the victim, over the phone at any rate.
Miss Jeantel turned out to be a bad witness, to put it mildly. She lied about her age, and according to Schiff, she is illiterate. It does appear that she is not so hot at reading what used to be called "real writing", including her own letters, and she is clearly not the sharpest knife in the draw, but it remains to be seen if she is quite the schemer Schiff would have his viewers believe she is.
From the word go, the usual suspects claimed this case was about race — how could it be anything else? — black kid stereotyped as a hoodie wearing punk is shot and killed by a concerned white citizen. Then it came out that Zimmerman is not white, but hey, it's still about race, he stereotyped Trayvon, right?
Now it transpires that the only person to use racial epithets here was the victim himself: according to Miss Jeantel, he alluded to Zimmerman most unflatteringly as a cracker, and used the dreaded N word himself. What are we to make of this?
From the other end of the spectrum comes Michelle Bernard in a ludicrous blog for the Washington Post. Jim Crow lives, she proclaims, and then comes out with some nonsense about the 1965 Voting Rights Act which she tells her readers "was enacted to protect the right of African Americans to vote. The law was necessary because Southern states and a smattering of others intentionally suppressed the African American vote by requiring payment of poll taxes or passage of literacy tests".
It is difficult to credit that any intelligent person, least of all a lawyer, should argue against the suggestion that literacy should be a requirement for a citizen to vote.
Government or even the election of those to local office requires intelligence and education; a government or even a relatively small organisation cannot be run by illiterates, much less on ignorance or stupidity. Rather than so-called civil rights activists whining about illiterates being disbarred from voting or lobbying for laws to make this so, they should be lobbying for schools that teach kids to write and educate them so they can help shape the future. This has nothing to do with race, and neither does the current trial.
Peter Schiff has already made up his mind what should be the verdict; he would not simply acquit Zimmerman but award him a Congressional Medal of Honour. What, though, is the bottom line? Zimmerman was armed; Trayvon Martin was not. Zimmerman was told explicitly by the police not to confront Trayvon; he ignored that advice. Now one man is dead, and the admitted killer is the only witness to what happened.
One lawyer whose judgment might just be trusted on this case is Christopher Darden; for those with long memories, he was one of the prosecutors in the notorious OJ Simpson case. Darden says the current trial is about race because it was made a race case from the word go. He says too that he would probably not have indicted Zimmerman, and that this is a case for the defense to lose. Darden should know, but is he right?
At the heart of this case lies not race but Florida's stand your ground law. Here it is in all its glory. Clearly, if Zimmerman had been a woman and he had been attacked under such circumstances, the use of deadly force could have been justified. On a plain reading it is not so clear if such force could have been legally justified here, even if he did not initiate the violence, which in one sense he did, because it is not only women who might be concerned if they were being followed at night by someone who acted "creepy" - the word attributed to Martin by Rachel Jeantel.
But, just because you may be entitled to stand your ground, doesn't mean you must. A police officer should, but not a wannabe, especially one who has been told explicitly not to engage. It remains to be seen how all this will play out with the jury, but the fact that it is composed solely of women is probably the one thing of which Zimmerman's lawyers need be fearful. Unless they elect to put him on the stand, when he will have to explain inter alia what he meant by his claim that what happened that night was all part of God's plan.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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