On Friday I came across a photograph someone posted on Facebook of the deceased body of Trayvon Martin. It was the first time I saw this photo and it has haunted me for the past couple of days. There, laying on the ground, was my brother, my cousin, my nephews and my spirit wept. I just returned from Washington, DC for the 100 Year Centennial Celebration of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and the entire ride back, my phone was dead so I did not become privy to the verdict until 1:55 am Sunday morning and I am disgusted. George Zimmerman was found not guilty.
As we all know, George Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder for shooting and killing Trayvon Martin. In the State of Florida, the crime of second degree murder occurs when a person commits either:
(a) murder with a depraved heart or
(b) accomplice felony murder. Murder with a depraved heart occurs when a person is killed, without any premeditated design, by an act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind by showing no regard for human life.
There had to have been ill will, hatred, spite or an evil intent by George Zimmerman. A defense to second degree murder is self-defense. In 2005 Florida passed the now infamous “Stand Your Ground” law. Based upon this law, a person who is attacked has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand their ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if it is reasonably believed necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
In addition to the second degree charge, the jury was also instructed to consider the elements of manslaughter. Manslaughter is a lesser offense and hinges upon proving Zimmerman intentionally committed an act or acts that caused the death of Trayvon Martin.
From a legal standpoint, it is important to remember every element of a crime must be proven in order to find the defendant guilty. I have yet to read any commentary on the details of the verdict, how legal analysts perceive the road to this verdict or any comments from laymen, therefore, I will not offer a description of how the jurors got to this decision, because in the end it does not matter. A young man’s life was taken for no good reason.
How does this affect you ?
I will get personal and tell you how this affects me. The law is the law and despite its flaws, it has to be upheld in a court of law. My father was killed in 1995 and the person who killed him was found guilty of manslaughter. I did not attend the trial, I did not ask any questions, I did not even know the name of the person who killed him. However, this time, as it relates to a young Black man who had his entire life in front of him, it’s time for me and the rest of us to start asking questions.
Why is it acceptable to profile and follow someone because they look “suspicious” ? Why is it ok for someone to disregard instructions from professionals, get out of his car with a fire arm and continue to go after someone who looks “suspicious?” Why is it ok for young Black men to continue to die with no retribution? Why are our Black men targets, both at the hands of racists and our own people?
George Zimmerman may have thought he was in danger of his life or great bodily harm and figured the best thing to do was shoot Trayvon, and according to this verdict, the jurors believed this also. However, had George stayed in the car as he was instructed to do, none of this would happen. Wrong is wrong, despite statutes that attempt to tell us otherwise.
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.
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