One question on the Martin/Zimmerman case

There is only one question I want answered at this point. There might be more questions once I get the answer but I suspect I’ll know all I need to know with that one answer. I would like to think that answer would enough for everyone else as well but for the people chanting for Zimmerman’s arrest and those putting up “dead or alive” rewards for Zimmerman little things like facts probably won’t make much of a difference.

I strongly suspect Zimmerman is innocent of a crime. I need one more fact to convince me it was a lawful use of deadly force or that we cannot know the answer.

It is possible that Zimmerman instigated the confrontation in such a way that Martin attacked him. Taunting or “picking a fight” with Martin would have Zimmerman sharing a significant amount of responsibility in the death of Martin. But I have heard zero reports of a beginning to the confrontation in this manner. Hence I am of the opinion it did not happen this way or that as long as Zimmerman does not change his story we will never know about it.

I realize the police can’t always be trusted that concern is usually associated with the facts in regard to police conduct, the conduct of those with significant political power, or the conduct of groups being discriminated against. In the case of Zimmerman I don’t think there is any particular reason to believe the police are “fact challenged”. I realize witnesses can be mistaken and/or have a bias. If possible I would like to be able to reach a conclusion based entirely upon physical evidence that is difficult to convincingly fake in a timely manner without getting caught. Hence the particular facts that I think are most relevant are:

  • The grass stain on the back of Zimmerman’s shirt
  • Zimmerman was bleeding from the nose, had a swollen lip and had bloody cuts to the back of his head—presumably with matching blood on the sidewalk
  • There have been no reports (correct me if I am wrong on this) that Martin had physical injuries beyond a single gunshot wound to the chest

The one question I have that will probably settle the issue for me is when the authorities said, “Zimmerman then shot Martin once in the chest at very close range”; What was that range? I’ve probably spent more time and money than most on learning about such things and if the investigators know what they are doing, and I have no reason to believe they don’t, then they should be able to determine that range quite accurately. If the range was under 12 inches they can probably determine the range to within a fraction of an inch. And of course the angle can be determine quite closely as well.

If the range is determined to be within six inches and the bullet path matches Zimmerman’s story then I have to conclude the two were in a fight at contact distance and Zimmerman was losing badly. If I were on a jury I would insist that Zimmerman was in reasonable fear of imminent permanent physical injury or death and was justified in using deadly force to protect himself.

End of story for me.

25 thoughts on “One question on the Martin/Zimmerman case

  1. I’d imagine he shot at contact distance given his gun didn’t cycle. The police report says it had a full magazine but no round in the chamber.

  2. @Justin Buist, I had not heard that. Thanks.

    @SGB, That is my suspicion too.

    My guess is the entire police report will be public knowledge within a few weeks, if not days.

  3. FYI one thing I noticed was in the Zimmerman 911 call he doesn’t give his address to the dispatcher because he’s lost sight of Martin and doesn’t know where he is, and is worried he might overhear the address.

    Occam’s razor points to the more simple thing, that Martin ambushed Zimmerman when he saw an opening, rather than Zimmerman tracking down Martin, chasing down a young athletic man much taller than him and initiating a fight.

    I think this story will be further solidified by the toxicology report of Martin’s blood at the time of death. I suspect he went out in the rain as it was getting dark for more than just candy and some tea, given his school record of drug possession, and possession of stolen jewelry, as well as his many comments of drug use on Twitter.

    Of course the angry mobs that are calling Zimmerman a Murderer won’t care, and I have little doubt there will be a Rodeny King-style riot. Also given the ability for people to snoop on the internet and distribute information, I’d be amazed if Zimmerman doesn’t have at least one attempt on his life.

  4. I see a lot of discussion regarding Zimmerman’s position, but not Martin’s.

    I imagine, if I was 17, walking through a neighborhood I had a right to be in (AFAIK he was not trespassing), and my situational awareness was such that I noticed some strange guy following me around the neighborhood, I would certainly be of a mind to confront the guy such that the advantage was mine (I remember being 17 and adults were still intimidating enough that I wasn’t interested in taking one on without an advantage). And Zimmerman wasn’t jumped, witnesses said the two exchanged words before Zimmerman got knocked to the ground.

    I mean, think about it. Put yourself in Martin’s shoes. Don’t assume he was high, just assume he was walking through the neighborhood being a teenager. What would you do if some creep was following you around (and remember you are 17, male, black, & recently got in trouble).

    IMHO, Zimmerman fucked up, big time. He forgot who he was, and the responsibilities he had, as an adult, as a neighborhood watch, as a permit holder.

  5. MRS – I wouldn’t deck the guy in the face, then jump on top of him and start beating the shit out of him while smashing his head on the pavement…….all because he “followed” me.

  6. walking through a neighborhood I had a right to be in

    Which also means Zimmerman was walking through a neighborhood he had a right to be in.

    witnesses said the two exchanged words before Zimmerman got knocked to the ground

    Sticks and stones? Words? Then who decided to take a ‘mere conversation’ between two people who were both legally (?) entitled to be where they were and escalate to a use of force encounter? That is the question isn’t it?

    What would you do if some creep was following you around

    OK. No adult could keep up with me at 17. Run? Call 911(There weren’t cell phones when I was 17, but he had one)? He was blocks from his current residence – could he not have went there? Or did he ‘have’ to confront Zimmerman for some reason?

  7. “a full magazine but no round in the chamber.”

    That is amazing, I think even if a gun had two people pressing against it fore and aft, that the slide, even pressed on the ribs with 200 lbs of person would have enough force from the ignition to deform the ribs and allow the gun to cycle.

  8. I said put yourself in his shoes, not yours.

    Listen, I’m not trying to say Zimmerman should go to jail, or that Martin was innocent. The moment Martin rang Zimmerman’s bell by slamming his head into the ground, the event moved into the “Life in Danger” territory.

    But Zimmerman screwed up by being careless, or clumsy, or so overzealous he forgot he wasn’t a cop. Martin made him, and for whatever reason (probably young male bravado), he confronted him. Words were exchanged, and it became physical. We’ll never know what those words were, but if the 911 call(s) are any indication, Zimmerman had already lost his cool & was in no mind to de-escalate when he was confronted.

    We who carry guns can not be hot headed, ever. Zimmerman should have gone home when the 911 operator suggested so.

  9. @Windy Wilson, Even having your thumb against the side of the slide can cause a pistol malfunction. Deform the ribs? No way. A bruise and maybe break the skin? Maybe.

    I know people that have fired their handguns with the thumb pressing firmly against the back of the slide and suffered no ill effects. I’m scared to do it but others that I trust tell me they have.

  10. Whether or not the shooting is justified, I wonder if Zimmerman could still be guilty of a crime? I don’t know anything about Florida’s laws, but I’m thinking something like stalking or harassment or disobeying a police order. I’m not sure if what he did before the final confrontation is illegal or should be illegal, but I think those are important questions that I haven’t seen addressed anywhere.

  11. chrispy,

    The million dollar question here is, who did & said what in the events leading up to the confrontation? IF Mr. Zimmerman said/did something to provoke the incident, then it’s not really self-defense–under FL law or pretty much any other law I can think of. IF Mr. Martin came out swinging unprovoked, then it is self-defense and therefore justifiable. I don’t know where he hit the guy, but it must have been somewhere very important–usually people who have been shot by a pistol survive, especially if they’ve only been hit once. The trouble is that there really is only one side of the story we have to go on here–AFAIK the only actual witnesses that are available (or at least the only ones who have made public statements that I have read) only come into play AFTER Mr. Zimmerman was on the ground getting beaten up. That makes it Zimmerman’s word against, well, nobody’s. Apparently the available physical evidence (which has not been seen in full by any but a few people–most notably the local police department, probably the FBI, and the state’s attorney’s office) is consistent with Mr. Zimmerman’s claims. Even if it is also consistent with the other interpretation, without proof he can’t (in theory) be prosecuted or convicted.

    This could easily mean that a guilty man goes free, but by the same token it could also mean that an innocent man is allowed to pick up the pieces of his shattered life and move on. I honestly don’t know which is the case. Here’s where I know that I differ from Mr. Huffman, and probably many people, even of the religious persuasion: because I believe in a God and an afterlife, I don’t feel a pressing need for us mere humans to prosecute each other to death over this kind of stuff. While it is important to hold people responsible for their actions, it isn’t always necessary for us mere humans to do so, every time, in the here and now. It doesn’t have to be our problem. If a guilty man goes free for a while it isn’t really all that important in the grand scheme of things. Ruining an innocent man’s life and livelihood, on the other hand, seems to me to be the sort of thing that could count against a person in the long run, so I’m afraid of doing that. I’m sure there is a nonreligious argument that gets to the same place, but that’s what works for me. YMMV.

    That’s part of what I like about this kind of stuff, though–for the most part, it doesn’t matter how you get there, so much as that you value being in that place. Freedom, voluntary association–or disassociation–mutual respect for rights–it’s all there. And if something else floats your boat, that’s ok too, just don’t force everyone else on board (if you do that you’ll probably overload and sink at that point anyway).

  12. Just FYI, the autopsy report has been sent to the State Attorney and will not be made public until the investigation has concluded.

    Mad Rocket Scientist,

    Where did he lose his cool where he was in no position to de-escalate?

  13. It is possible that Zimmerman instigated the confrontation in such a way that Martin attacked him.

    If Martin’s girlfriend correctly reported the brief exchange between the two neither one had any reason to use force. I’m guessing Zimmerman touched/restrained Martin or more likely drew his gun which I believe would have been brandishing it. If someone walked up to me and said “what are you doing” while drawing a gun I think I’d probably defend myself.

  14. Is it just me, or has the Fact that Martin was shot in the Chest at Close Range and not in the Back while at a middle Distance tend to support Forensically that both people were involved in Hand-to-Hand Combat? Combined with wounds suffered by Zimmerman, I don’t think that the claims that some of the Professional Racists are spouting that Zimmerman was looking to “Gun Down” a “Young Black Man wearing a Hoodie” hold water. If one was to engage in such Evil Behavior, why not Brandish the Firearm when approaching Martin, put him on his Knees and Execute Him? Yet there’s nothing in any Report that we have seen to date that implies that was the case.

    Of course, this means nothing to those who prefer Mob Rule over the Rule of Law, as long as they get to run the Mob.

  15. What Justin wrote …

    The full magazine, empty chamber line in the report was buggin me a coupla days ago. It was mentioned early on, but my first reaction was along the lines of, “Idiots are wrong … again”

    Would be kinda sweet to hear that a long established detail was a) True and b) Further corroborated Zimmerman’s account

  16. RWC – He lost his cool before he ever stepped out of his truck. It was obvious he was determined to find the suspicious person he was tracking, and he was panicking & angry when Martin approached him, then ran.

  17. If Zimmerman was really as pissed off as MRC thinks he was, he would have not broken off the pursuit and head back to his truck when he lost sight of Martin.

    Zimmerman says Martin threw the first punch, knocking him to the ground, whereupon Martin commenced bouncing his head off the sidewalk. The physical evidence confirms his version of events.

    All Martin had to do was continue walking to the residence he was headed to, but instead, he picked a fight with an armed man.

    I have zero doubt, at this point, that the shooting was justified.

  18. @mike w:
    “Following” someone in your neighborhood is not stalking. it is not a crime.
    I’m not surprised to hear that following someone around like that isn’t a crime, but what I’m saying is maybe it should be. Obviously it’s a slippery slope and the law would have to be worded very carefully, but I think almost everyone would agree that Zimmerman acted inappropriately, at least up until the point that Martin attacked him (if that is in fact what happened).

    Don’t get me wrong- we already have plenty of laws and I’m not certain we’d be better off with another one. Brandishing, for instance, is generally already illegal as far as I know. On the other hand, I certainly wouldn’t want some self-appointed neighborhood watch captain judging me guilty and following me around without any reason to believe I’ve done anything wrong. Either way, I think this area of debate is far more interesting (and potentially useful in the future) as compared to arguing over the details of this particular case.

  19. “but I’m thinking something like stalking or harassment or disobeying a police order. ”

    Nope. He didn’t disobey any police order. If you listen to the 911 tape instead of what the media is reporting

    Dispatch asks “are you following him”
    Zimmerman says “OK”
    Dispatch says “OK, we don’t need you to do that”

    Not only is dispatch NOT ordering him not to follow, but they’re also just a 911 dispatcher. He’s not disobeying anything. FYI – Stalking doesn’t apply here either. “Following” someone in your neighborhood is not stalking. it is not a crime.

  20. You realize that Zimmerman’s father is a retired judge? And his mother worked for the court system too?

    After looking at the video of Zimmerman at the Sanford Police station, I’m getting a big whiff of corruption…. seriously.

  21. @ubu52, I did not know that. That is suspicious. It bears scrutiny.

    @el bombardero, True. But unless Zimmerman confesses to doing that we probably will never know for certain and the only legal conclusion we can come to is “Not guilty”. This doesn’t mean that he is innocent. Just that there is no legal justification to insist a crime has been committed.

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