Saturday, July 6, 2013

Obviousness is in the Eye of the Beholder

"It's obvious Zimmerman acted in self-defense."

"It's obvious Zimmerman hunted down and murdered Trayvon Martin."

There are many people who believe that each of the above statements is true (not both at the same time, of course).

I've been following the trial relatively closely, and one thing seems obvious to me: nothing is obvious here.

There were a very small number of eye-witnesses to the event. Even then, they were a good distance away, it was dark, and none can say for sure who was screaming for help.

The girl that was on the phone with Trayvon in the minutes leading up to the incident told the court what happened, but she may or may not be telling the truth, given that she has an obvious prior relationship with the deceased.

Did Zimmerman follow Martin after being told not to? Did Martin double-back and attack Zimmerman? There isn't clear evidence either way. It seems that people's bias has really got them to see things that aren't there, to make the unclear obvious.

In a normal trial, this would be good for the defense. It is generally the job of the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime. But Zimmerman is going with a self-defense claim. Self-defense is an affirmative defense. This means some of the burden of proof swings to their side. They must put forth convincing evidence to show that Zimmerman did not begin the confrontation that ended Trayvon Martin's life. And I'm just not sure that evidence is there. I don't think there's a witness (other than Zimmerman himself, who wouldn't be 100% reliable for obvious reasons) that can definitively say that Trayvon attacked Zimmerman while Zimmerman was walking away from Trayvon.

So what happened? Only one living person knows, and he may or may not tell us, depending on whether or not in incriminates him.

What else isn't obvious? What the jury will do. As murky as this case is, and as many variables as there are, the jury doesn't have an easy task ahead of them. I don't think they'll come back with a murder conviction. What I think will happen, and personally agree with, would be a manslaughter conviction. I don't know everything that happened that tragic night, but I think I can say that Zimmerman's actions led to the death of Martin.

Then again, as is the theme of this case, I'm not 100% sure of this. Anything from murder to acquittal is possible, and no one will know what will happen until it happens, regardless of what "experts" or random watches seem to "know".

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