Monday, July 15, 2013

The Zimmerman Case - an opinion

I've been asked countless times in recent days to give my opinion about the George Zimmerman case. That can mean a couple of things, of course: my opinion on the incident, or on the trial. I have no desire to second-guess someone else's trial work, and don't plan to.  And I hadn't really planned on saying anything about the incident, either, until I read the words of a friend, fellow author, and former cop.

His name is John Levitt and I asked (and received!) his permission to post here, in its entirety, his view of what happened and why. I thought it one of the most insightful things that I've read on the matter, and hope you find it interesting.

And for context, he was responding to this opinion:

These stand your ground and concealed carry laws seem to me like something that can give guys with chips on their shoulders a perceived opportunity to do what they've always fantasized about--getting away with killing someone they don't like.

John said:

I really don't think that's what Zimmerman was about. He was a wannabee cop, imo, and I've run into plenty of them in my time.

A police job can seem incredibly tempting for a certain type of person. It's not, like you might assume, about having the power to push people around. It's about being part of a special group, living a life most people don't get, doing a job most people can't. Like being an Army ranger. Or part of an elite sports team. It feels special

You cruise around in your patrol car on a late graveyard shift, watching out for your city, listening to radio chatter from people you know well, people you've worked with for years, people who have possibly saved your skin more than once and perhaps you've saved theirs as well. You belong.

It's an attractive prospect -- esp for someone who has been a "loser," an outsider for much of their lives. Never one of the cool kids.

So you try to join up -- but more often than not, you don't make the grade. Wannabees exude a certain desperation that makes departments shy away from them.

So you take criminal justice courses. You go to self defense classes. You get a job as security guard, or become a neighborhood watch person.

But just doing the job of neighborhood watch is not enough. You want to play cop. So you call in everything you can -- not just because you're being suspicious, but because that way you get to talk to dispatch, maybe even talk to the cops when they show up -- hey, guys, I'm one of you. You're part of the fraternity -- or so you imagine.

So when you see a "suspicious character" namely a young black male, you call the cops. But then you decide to go a little further, to play cop yourself. I mean, you're almost a cop yourself, anyway, right?

'These punks always get away.'

But not this time, not when George Zimmerman is on the job. So you follow him. You're not particularly worried -- the cops (your backup) are on their way, and besides that, you're packing. That criminal better not give you any trouble if he knows what's good for him. George Zimmerman is nobody to mess with.

I don't think he thought it through. I don't think he thought at all. He just thought he was going to catch a burglar and be a hero.

Then, when he comes out of the darkness to confront Martin, things don't go according to his fantasy. The black "criminal" (Martin) doesn't meekly surrender, or try to run away. He sees Zimmerman as a threat and defends himself.

Suddenly Zimmerman is in a fight. A real fight, not like sparring in the dojo. He gets hit, and it hurts. He gets knocked to the ground. And at this point, he stops thinking at all, if ever he had been.

A dangerous black criminal that he confronted is kicking his ass. His life is in danger. Why does he think that? Because black criminals are violent and dangerous. It's him or them. So he pulls out his gun and shoots him.

What's more, he feels totally justified. In his little cop fantasy world, he simply did what he had to do.

And guess what? The cops buy it. Dangerous black kid, up to no good. That's a part of this story that gets overlooked, but that mindset is telling.

The whole thing is more sad, pitiful, and disgusting than evil.


  1. If Florida didn't have the odious stand-your-ground law, Zimmerman would not have gotten off, regardless of what kind of fantasy he was spinning.

  2. It's hard to say what any of us would have done in his position. I know that if I had felt that my life was in danger, and I had been armed, I may have shot him too. On the other hand, if I had the option of retreating to a safe location and waiting for the police, I may have done so. But until you are put into that situation, you can't judge anyone for how they reacted, and that's what it really boils down to, reaction.

  3. And the law says guilty or innocent, move on. Don't like the law, get it changed.

  4. The author seems to be projecting his feelings about how he might have reacted. He is full of assumptions and is quick to judge. The prosecuting team would have loved him to to have been a member of the jury. Fact is, everyone, including the media and our President of the U.S, tried and convicted Mr. Zimmerman long before the official trial. We the People, are in for substantially serious times ahead with these types of dangerous minds at work. I could go on and on about the hypocritical examples of our leaders and media meatheads, but I won't. They would not be able to comprehend the truth or even try to because they think they have all the answers and everyone else is just to stupid to get what they are saying or they are merly racists. God help us all.

  5. Interesting. That sounds like the mindset for sure.

  6. The biased media convicted Zimmerman and placed an overnight order for a lynching. As to the "white Hispanic" I counter with our "white Black" president portraying the poor kid with skittles in his pocket (portrayed with pictures taken three years+ earlier) as a victim. Look at the facts, like the jury did. As to the policeman in effect making fun of the wannabes that aspire to his position, his statement stands by itself as to a mindset, no doubt.

  7. So where was the elite force when Zimmerman's neighborhood was getting burglarized multiple times. And why does the NYPD blanket discriminate against candidates with high IQs?

  8. Well, this is certainly one way to explain things. Either way, race does seem to have played a huge role in his actions. And yet, everybody says race has nothing to do with this case. Is it any wonder civil rights groups are up in arms over this?

  9. What if Martin had been packing and shot Zimmerman? His defense? He was a good guy out minding his business and is stalked by a large, creepy, older man. He stood his ground. So the take home lesson for blacks in FL is carry and fire first. The lesson: Martin is dead because he was packing skittles and not metal.

    So Florida, is this the calculus you're looking for?

  10. I watched the entire trial and neither side brought these elements to the table or introduced any evidence as to this being a racially motivated incident (that discussion happened in the media before anybody had their day in court).

    The 911 tape was played in it's entirety and the evidence provided to the jury proved that race had no play in this act.

    Also, Florida's stand your ground was not the defendant's claim for having shot Mr. Martin. Self-defense was their stance and that's what everything was based on. Stand your ground was never in question here because it didn't apply.

    The trial exposed some serious political issues with regard to the evidence provided/witheld in the process of discovery, and I think we'll see more of it in the coming weeks.

    It's a tragedy, that's what it is.

  11. Wonder what Trayvon's father did with his son's illegal gun.

  12. Diane Carlisle was paying attention. Zimmerman never invoked the Stand Your Ground law, even skipped the pre-trial where a judge could have tossed the whole trial before it started.

    Zimmerman wouldn't have taken interest in the young man if Martin had SIMPLY been walking from the store after getting candy and a drink. The kid had his face covered, his clothing fit the stereotype (right or wrong, we all profile) and there was a heightened since of awareness due to criminal behavior in the neighborhood that wasn't being addressed by local authority.

    ("The police aren't here to prevent crime, we're here to clean up afterwords.")

    It was Zimmerman's right to approach ANYONE and ask what they were up to. It would have been common courtesy for Martin to respond "Oh hey, I'm on my way back to my mom's place just up the street. What are you up to yourself?" Rather, he immediately went to the famous "creepy ass cracker" line.

    Martin responded in a foolish and confrontational manner. THAT testimony came from the person Martin was on the phone with at the time of the incident.

    Martin turned it into a pissing contest and then appears to have resorted to using his fists to do the talking. Zimmerman found himself in a situation he wasn't trained for and resorted to deadly force. He was within his right to do so, but a young man still lost his life and Zimmerman will never lead a normal life again.

    Should Zimmerman have left well enough alone because Martin was a minority?

    Should Zimmerman have left well enough alone because the police could just handle it in 30 minutes or so?

    Was Zimmerman in the wrong because Martin had Skittles in his pocket instead of an illegal firearm?

    Was Martin within his right to become confrontational and defensive when a concerned member of the community asked what he was up to?


    The whole thing could have been avoided if Zimmerman would have capitulated and stayed at home, ignoring the problem.

    The whole thing could have been avoided if Martin would have responded like a decent human being.

    The whole thing wouldn't have been news if the race card hadn't been played by the media.

    I don't know what the answer to the overall problem and clearly taking the law into your own hands often ends in disaster. BUT citizens can't just be expected to just put up with intimidation and crime. Self-defense laws wouldn't exist if that were the case.


Comments posted to this blog are NOT the opinion of the Travis County D.A.'s office, under any circumstances. They are only the personal, non-representative opinion of D.A. Confidential if posted under his name.
I welcome all comments, as long as they are expressed with politeness and respect. I will delete all comments that I deem to be personal attacks, or that are posted merely to antagonize or insult.