So said TalkLeft’s Jeralyn Merritt:
Why Zimmerman reported Trayvon to the non-emergency number is a red herring. It doesn’t matter if he profiled him or unfairly suspected him of criminal activity. It doesn’t matter that he was a crime warrior. He didn’t break the law. His neighborhood watch program, set up with the assistance of the police, instructed residents to report suspicious activity. That’s what he did. He wasn’t on watch that night, he had a concealed weapons permit, and it wasn’t a crime to get out of his car to see where Trayvon had run off to, so he could tell the police when they got there.
All that matters legally is whether Trayvon Martin’s physical attack on him caused him to reasonably believe he was in danger of serious bodily injury or death. Zimmerman’s testimony, which is supported by proof of his injuries and witnesses observing the struggle, is that Martin broke his nose and banged his head against cement. He tried to get up and couldn’t. Using an objective standard, a reasonable person in that situation would fear imminent serious bodily injury if he didn’t react with force.
The state is unlikely to prevail in arguing Zimmerman was the aggressor because to be the aggressor, Zimmerman had to contemporaneously provoke the force Martin used against him. Zimmerman’s profiling of Martin and call to the non-emergency number were not contemporaneous with Martin’s attack. Even if the state could convince a judge or jury that Zimmerman was following Martin, rather than walking back to his car, rendering his pursuit a contemporaneous act, it is not an act that provokes Martin’s use of force against him. Demanding someone account for their presence does not provoke the use of force. Even if it could be construed to be provocation for using force, all it means is Zimmerman had to attempt reasonable means to extricate himself before using deadly force in response. W-6’s steadfast insistence that Zimmerman was struggling to get up and out from under Trayvon, right before the shot went off, fulfills that requirement. Zimmerman will say the same. And no witnesses saw anything different.
Now, this all speaks to the legal case and not the underlying social issues. Having said that, I found this account very convincing and – unless new information comes to light, less than comfortable with the prosecution. (This was written a while back, but a scan of what has been written since doesn’t move the needle). Merritt’s explanation of events – even keeping in mind that she is a defense lawyer – has changed my mind on the legal aspects (again, pending more information). I had a lot of skepticism of Zimmerman’s story in the more immediate aftermath of the story.
The underlying social issues I wrote about here remain in tact. And none of this should be construed as believing that Martin “deserved” what he got. Even if it wasn’t a crime, it was a horrible tragedy. I’d need to see a robust explanation from the prosecution, but as it stands, I’m less neutral on the “What if I was a juror?” question than I was. If what Merritt cites as law (what qualifies as a provocative action on Zimmerman’s part and so forth – more here). I’m also less sure about the “acted immorally” part, though Zimmerman’s actions still don’t sit right on a gut level (or I’m not entirely sold on his narrative… or both).
There’s been a lot of talk on the issue over here and thought I would share my updated perspective.