Sunday, March 18

The Trayvon Martin Tragedy -

"Yet the questions remain:
Why did Zimmerman find Trayvon
suspicious? ... How is it self-defense
when you are the one in pursuit?"

Charles M Blow raises some provocative questions in his Op-Ed piece about this tragedy.

Let's see if we can answer some of these questions without banging on too much. I've been in transit this past week and, initially, did not want to comment in order to avoid inflaming an already sensitive situation. But I now feel the news coverage may be losing its way in this case.

A divorced father accompanied by his teenage son travel from their home base in Miami up to Central Florida to visit a lady friend who lives on a private estate in the form of a gated community. What could possibly go wrong? A million things! Unfortunately, many of the things that could go wrong, did go wrong.

First, is this a Racial case? No. This is a complex social situation in which Race is only one of many elements. There is something else going on here which is vital to grasp. This situation could impact any of us, although Blacks may be at higher risk.

This issue first arose in my awareness with a case in which a group wanted to distribute political leaflets in a shopping mall for an election. Mall management prohibited them from that activity. The issue first seemed to narrowly impact The First Amendment regarding political speech on the private property of a shopping mall.

The case raised questions about whether we still have FA rights on private property equivalent to our rights out on the public Main Street. Then the debate evolved to the issue of the privatization of public space: what are the implications and consequences?

The next phase of the discussion developed when shopping malls seemed to resemble Roach Motel: some shoppers entered the mall, then disappeared in a mysterious black hole. What happened to them? They were somehow "arrested" by mall security.Do we still have our Civil Rights while shopping on the private property of a shopping mall?

The focus of the debate today is no longer shopping malls, but, rather, a private estate. When you visit one of these gated communities located on private property, it is not the same as visiting someone who lives on a public street. It is important that you develop an awareness of the potential distinctions.

When Zimmerman encountered the teenage Trayvon, Zimmerman either resided on the private estate or owned a condo there or something similar. His perspective is that he is on his own home turf, protecting his family and/or homestead.

Zimmerman saw an unfamiliar face and may have asked the teenager: Hi, do you live around here? Do you have an ID on you?

Keep in mind: many things went wrong here. The teenager had no ID on him. Under other circumstances, he might have been carrying a cell phone with an "ICE" contact listed, which he could have given to Zimmerman. But, unfortunately, he had nothing on him and may have been too startled to explain that he was on the estate with his father to visit a resident here named Ms X at her invitation - "and you can check that out with my father and Ms X."

Who is responsible for this tragic situation? I am not a lawyer, but, according to my preliminary analysis, some responsibility for this situation may belong to the lady friend who resides on that private estate. I would not hold her responsible for the tragic turn the situation took, but maybe she could have been more pro-active about warning the father that he should not allow his son to wander around this estate where he might be regarded as an unwelcome trespasser.

Can or should Zimmerman be prosecuted? Currently, according to my understanding of the Law, including "Stand Your Ground," I can't see how Zimmerman would be prosecuted. Even so, that does not render him immune to criticism. I don't like the idea of a fellow Crime Watcher carrying a gun, when we're just supposed to be watching. I served as Crime Watcher for my apartment complex and I did not carry a gun.

Yes, on occasion I have followed suspicious characters around without a gun. What do I look like - Miss Marple? I did not want to be the Crime Watcher, but I wanted to keep fellow tenants happy, so I was trying to accommodate their demand.

Not all tragedies reduce to a legal solution; not all emotions reduce to a pathological symptom of some disorder. The public debate on this issue should continue:

What are the implications and consequences
of converting public space to private property?

:: The Curious Case of Trayvon Martin ::
-- by Charles M Blow at the NYTimes --