I wanted to write something meaningful about the death of Trayvon Martin here in The Family Meeting. I asked myself several times was there anything about my perspective that would give my voice a unique character as I continue to reflect on this senseless tragedy.
I think there is!
In addition to my extraordinary privilege and role of father to a terrific 18-year-old African-American male/man-child, I am also the Chief District Attorney to a municipality that probably is a lot like Sanford, Florida. What this means in short is that I would be the person making the call to arrest George Zimmerman had he shot Trayvon Martin in my jurisdiction.
The intersection of these facets of my life give me a very unique perspective. Because my professional responsibility and the law would necessitate that I separate my fatherhood from my professional decision-making, I am going to do just that in this commentary and my next. This one will contain my thoughts as a Black District Attorney and in Sunday’s post I will offer my thoughts about this tragedy as a Black father raising an 18-year-old son.
The issue is simply stated for the district attorney in Sanford, Florida, as a matter of federal constitutional law. He or she must determine if it is more probable than not based on the total set of circumstances that George Zimmerman committed a crime. This is called in the law a determination of probable cause. If the answer to this question is yes, the district attorney should issue an arrest warrant for those crime(s) committed by Zimmerman where there is probable cause.
In my professional opinion, the analysis of this legal framework is equally as straightforward as the rule of law. George Zimmerman is asked by the dispatcher if he is following Trayvon. Zimmerman replies that he is following Trayvon. The dispatcher then tells him “we don’t need you to do that.” Zimmerman’s response, after being told to no longer follow Trayvon, is to continue to follow him saying quietly “these assholes always get away.” There is also ample evidence that he uttered a racial slur.
The slur notwithstanding, George Zimmerman becomes, in my professional opinion, at the moment in time that he chooses not to heed the direction of the dispatcher, the primary aggressor towards Trayvon Martin. But for Zimmerman’s continued aggression (continuing to follow Trayvon after being told not to), there would not have been a physical confrontation between Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin-period!
There has been much buzz about the “stand your ground” defense of self-defense in Florida. This defense, of self-defense, does not apply to George Zimmerman because he is the primary aggressor towards Trayvon Martin. The “stand your ground” defense as I understand it applies to “victims” who have been attacked, not the aggressor or attacker.
Therefore, in my professional opinion, George Zimmerman, based on the above straightforward reasoning should be arrested for the murder of Trayvon Martin.
I will turn my attention and thoughts this weekend in my next post on Sunday to my role and privilege of being the father of an African-American 18-year-old man-child. It is truly a time for all of us to regroup and sharpen our focus on the job of being fathers.
In the meantime, may the good Lord bless the soul of Trayvon Martin and provide his family with the kind of comfort only God can give in the days ahead.
Read, learn, and share….and if there ever was a time…Have a Family Meeting!
C. Randolph Keller