By Dave Palmer
For better or for worse, the verdict has come in for the George Zimmerman case. Regardless of evidence in the 911 call that Zimmerman showed malice by saying, “These f-ing punks, they always f-ing get away with this,” and through his actions in ignoring the 911 operator’s request that he stay in his vehicle until real law enforcement officers arrived, the verdict is not guilty. The jury decided that a man that had been taking mixed martial arts classes three times a week, carried a gun, and outweighed his victim by many pounds was somehow put in danger of life and limb from a 17-year old boy carrying Skittles and a can of iced tea who was just looking to get to his dad’s house to watch a football game.
There is no doubt in my mind that Trayvon Martin was a punk. A wanna-be suburban thug, even. But, can he really be faulted for doing what every “stranger danger” class has taught all of us since the time we were knee-high to a grasshopper? (i.e. Don’t talk to them, ignore them if they talk to you, walk or run away if they are following you.) The jury obviously thinks that he can be blamed. And perhaps he can, considering he chose not to continue running and instead turned around and attacked Zimmerman. But, a death sentence for a case of bad judgment seems a bit harsh.
Probably the most interesting part of this whole trial is that the defense was unwilling to test Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law.” For about 18 months preceding the trial, it seemed like the defense was dead set on using the law to defend Zimmerman’s actions. Suddenly, when it’s time for the rubber to meet the road, the Stand Your Ground defense was tossed out. Instead, they played the “justifiable homicide” card, thus completely chickening out. After all, we wouldn’t want the law to be struck down in case someone else feels that a youth in a hoodie carrying candy and a non-alcoholic beverage is in the wrong place at the wrong time and needs to be chased down to ask him what he’s doing besides ignoring the stranger who is not a law enforcement officer.
To put the absolute icing on the cake, Zimmerman is getting his gun back so that he can stand his ground once again. Then again, he was found not guilty, so in reality he has no debt to society that needs to be paid.
Enter the civil law system, and my suggestion that some savvy attorney out there looking for a pro bono case with a humanitarian theme step in and take Zimmerman to court in a wrongful death case.
The basic standard for proving wrongful death is presenting a preponderance of evidence that a person caused another person’s death, rather than the famous “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard for criminal prosecution. Normally, if the plaintiff wins, some nature of monetary damages are awarded.
I would propose that this case not seek monetary damages, but instead seek permanent revocation of Zimmerman’s right to own a gun. Zimmerman does not have a mountain of assets to attack as did O.J. Simpson. But, he does value his gun very highly, as demonstrated by this case.
Before you start firing off angry “violation of the Second Amendment” comments, I would invite you to actually read the amendment. Every word, not just the last part:
“A well-regulated militia being necessary for the preservation of a free state, the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
As the text suggests, regulation is the intent of the framers of the Constitution. The word “regulated” does indeed precede “shall not be infringed.”
Therefore, we as a nation have the right to regulate Zimmerman’s usage of a gun to zero. He has proved that he is neither a part of a well-regulated militia, nor does he care to be. His actions were not necessary to the preservation of a free state. He has infringed an innocent citizen’s right to walk home in peace, even if he is wearing weather-appropriate attire while carrying food and drink.
The case could also provide an interesting test of the Second Amendment, and decide once and for all whether the gun manufacturers have finished paying for our government, or if there are judges willing to state on the legal record that regulation is not infringement.
For the sake of our country, I would hope that some lawyer might actually consider taking up a case along these lines. It might never happen because there’s no money behind it, but a wrongful death verdict against George Zimmerman would at the very least prove that the criminal law jury didn’t really consider all of the evidence in the case for at least a manslaughter charge. It would also prove that being a member of the local neighborhood watch doesn’t grant you the same lethal force privileges as a police officer.
Everyone deserves the right to defend themselves in an attack. However, there is a difference between engaging in fisticuffs and being in real danger of being killed by an attacker’s wielded knife or pistol. We at the very least should realize that the sidewalk or even a glass bottle filled with liquid is not that sort of danger.