The jurors’ “not guilty” verdict in the George Zimmerman trial has started a national discussion regarding confrontations, neighborhood watch would-be policemen, violence, influence of racial stereotyping, the stand-your-ground laws, the extent to which a person can go to ward off aggressors, the justice system, to mention a few. Some moral issues also need to be addressed.
Lawyers tell us that a not guilty verdict can mean two things: First, the accused person did nothing improper and is innocent of any wrong doing. Secondly, the accused person might be guilty but the evidence present at the trail was not sufficient to prove that a crime was committed.
Standing back and looking at “the big picture” these are the facts: George Zimmerman had a gun. A gun makes a person feel powerful. After calling 911 and told to remain in his car, he got out of the car, confronted Trayvon Martin, a fight broke out, and Trayvon Martin was killed. If George Zimmerman had stayed in his car after calling 911, the police would have found out that Martin was doing nothing wrong. He would be alive today.
In the words of one juror, “I think he’s guilty of not using good judgment. When he was in the car and he called 911, he shouldn’t have gotten out of that car.”
Zimmerman showed poor judgment in getting out of his vehicle with a firearm and pursuing a pedestrian, whom he had not witnessed committing any crime, and who posed no imminent threat to him. He could have known that a stranger that he was pursuing on a dark street would feel threatened, and perhaps react violently in the belief that the stranger had to defend himself.
Again if there was no confrontation, both Zimmerman and Martin would be alive today.
The traditional Christian moral teaching regarding self-defense says that people have the right to defend their life against the attacks of an unjust aggressor. They may employ whatever force is necessary and even take the life of an unjust assailant. However, the only injuries that can be inflicted on the assailant must be in proportion to the treat of the attacker.
If, for example, a person can be driven off by a call for help or by inflicting a minor wound, killing a person would be morally wrong. Again, the unjust attack must have actually begun, not merely planned or intended for some future occasion.
The honest thing to say is that we do not know what really happened when the confrontation took place. Did Trayvon Martin think he was being threatened by a “creepy’ character following him? We only have one side of the story. What if Martin had killed Zimmerman in the struggle, would he have been considered “not guilty?”
The Seminole County Sheriff's Office released the record of forty-six 911 calls Zimmerman made between 2004 and the time of the Martin shooting, all reporting “suspicious persons”.
All of the “suspicious persons” were black. When 20 percent of his neighborhood is black, how can people say race had nothing to do with his mentality?
Attorney General Eric Holder has criticized the “stand-your-ground” laws, which allow individuals to use lethal force when they believe their lives are in danger – even if they have the option of fleeing. This of course is morally wrong as stated above. The NRA criticized Holder for the comments, saying self-defense is a “fundamental human right” but they do not make the necessary distinctions. If it can be avoided, taking another person’s life is still against God’s Commandment, “Thou shall not kill.”
We have to become pro-life people in all of our moral decisions. It is obvious from the reaction of the NRA that being pro-gun is more important than being pro-life.
Posted on Fri, July 26, 2013
by Rev. Wilmer L. Todd