Archive for July, 2013

I have tried to be regular with this blog – but I have not been able to. But once in a while something happens that is eventful enough to interrupt my slumber.  The Zimmerman vs. Martin case is one such incident. Almost everyone in the US who listens/watches/reads the news, know about it – and, has a strong opinion about it.  The whole debate has primarily circled around whether Zimmerman should have been convicted. As the case unfolded and was finally decided resulting in acquittal of Zimmerman, emotions have been flowing aplenty from both sides.

To me, there are two sides of the story – one, the practical/moral/real side; and two, the legal side. Before, I get into the details, I would state that I strongly believe in the rule of law and the US Justice System. But in this one instance, it appears the courts were able to uphold the law, but could not do justice.

The facts

Lets first review the  practical/moral/real side. The facts – not considering past records, characters, race, career ambitions, love for guns or drugs etc. of the two main figures in this incident – that most people would agree to, are as follows:

  • A man spots a hooded boy walking in his neighborhood; he does not see the boy committing any crimes whatsoever;
  • He calls 911; the responder suggests (not being entitled to “instruct”) that the man should stay in the car;
  • The man decides to leave the car for a reason only he knows [hard to believe that he was trying to read street name];
  • There was a scuffle – no one knows (except for the man) how it came to be;
  • The man gets a nose bleed (possibly broken) and bump on the head and the boy is fatally shot;


Does the man have any right to pursue and take action? Neighborhood Watch volunteers are entitled to just that: watch and report. Remember the man is NOT an authorized security officer who should patrol or investigate incidents in the neighborhood.   Would anyone argue that this was an indiscretion on the man’s part?

What would I do?

If I have reasons to suspect that a crime was about to occur, I would call the police and I would stay in the car, try to follow along only from a safe distance without offering any opportunity to my suspect to engage.  Trying to read the street name to provide directions to cops sounds pretty lame especially if there is a “punk” roaming around.

If I were the boy, I would be suspicious of a man following me in a new neighborhood.  I would either try to hide.  Running would draw attention, and most people who do not know me in that neighborhood would think I have done something wrong. My skin color and attire will not help either. If I hide and realize that my stalker is about to find me I would try my best to defend myself – and in that situation, I would try to get him down on the ground and run (notice, this time I run because do not have any other viable option).

The boy did not attack the car; if he were to engage first, he could have thrown a stone, or do something to provoke an encounter. What could have happened if Zimmerman did not get out of the car, even if his suspicions were indeed true? The cops would come and would probably have detained Martin.  There could have been a break-in. But a life would not have been lost.

Is Zimmerman guilty? He is guilty of not listening to the responder’s advice; he is guilty of pursuing a suspect that he was not authorized to do; he is guilty of provoking an engagement (which he could have avoided) which resulted in the death of a teenager even if it is inadvertent.

The legal side

The legal side of the story is very different. The law (and I am not a lawyer) requires the jury to review evidences and witness testimony and conclude whether Zimmerman acted in self defense.  What amounts to self defense rather when can I act in self defense? When someone threatens to punch me? When someone pushes and my head hits a wall? When someone threatens me with a ball point pen? In theory, all of that. What action can I take in self defense? Any. It does not have to commensurate the threat. I can take out a concealed weapon and fire.

A very few reasonable human beings can conclude (in fairness) that Zimmerman did not act in self defense beyond reasonable doubt. So I do not think that if I were a juror, I could have had a different conclusion.

Can you act in self defense if you started an incident then as it progresses, you feel threatened and/or overpowered? I do not know the legal side of that argument.

The issue is there is no way to know how the scuffle started. We only know how it ended. Although, one can argue that the incident started with Zimmerman started the pursuit in his car.  But it is hard to say beyond reasonable doubt that he got off the car to attack Martin. However slim, there is a possibility that he got off only to see where Martin was headed when he lost sight of him. Martin may have jumped him, I would too, if I see stalker coming close to me when I am trying to hide. Remember Martin’s car did not have “Neighborhood Watch” printed on it.  I don’t think that anyone would argue it is logical to conclude that someone without the stamp of authority following me in my neighborhood is most likely be a stalker or at least have a bad intent.

But the law, as it stands, cannot take into account those eventualities. So the jury can not really be faulted in their decision.


If I killed a burglar who broke into my house defending my family, I would still feel remorseful for the rest of my life. Because I took a life – something irreversible. While it could be that the person may have harmed my family, but may be he was just after my money or valuables.  So there is still a 50% chance that I killed him for saving my money or valuables – which, to me is despicable, unpardonable. I hope, if anything  Zimmerman is remorseful of taking a life which he could have avoided if he acted differently.

My daughter, who is taller than most others her age, often wears  a hoodie. She is not black, but brown. She goes around the neighborhood sometimes for a walk, for a run. I do not think anyone outside of the few homes that are adjacent or close by knows her. (I do not know any of the kids outside of my immediate neighborhood, not even by face). Could this happen to her?

A good law should account for exceptional circumstances.  This incident may be an exception – but the outcome of the trial could end up making it an excuse – a license to kill.  I certainly would not want to be on the receiving end of it.