In America (which obviously includes Florida), “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.” W.E.B. Du Bois was correct when he wrote that in 1903. And he’d be just as correct 109 years later by replacing the 20th century with the 21st century. That’s why I always say I’m not a lawyer who happens to be a black man. Instead, I’m a black man who just happens to be a lawyer. Accordingly, I view the February 26th shooting death of the stalked and confronted unarmed kid, Trayvon Martin, by the stalking and confronting armed adult, George Zimmerman, as an intentional and racist criminal homicide, not a mere happenstance and spontaneous killing. Therefore, Zimmerman should have been—and still should be—charged with first, not second, degree murder.
When asked by the police dispatcher if the business-minding, non-crime-committing person was white, black, or Hispanic, Zimmerman responded “black.” Lucky guess, I guess. When he said “These assholes … always get away,” who were the “these” he was talking about? Certainly not black people. No way. He probably simply meant innocent unarmed kids. I misunderstood. My bad.
He referred to Trayvon as “a real suspicious guy … who’s up to no good … (by) just walking around, looking about.” I now take back what I previously said about Trayvon being an innocent kid. As a real suspicious guy up to no good by engaging in felonious walking and looking, he obviously was guilty of BAYBM (Being A Young Black Male), which in Florida and throughout America is a capital offense.
Although repeated playbacks of the 9-1-1 audio tape clearly sound like he referred to Trayvon as a “fucking coon,” maybe Zimmerman’s Clarence Thomas—I mean his black spokesman Joe Oliver—was right when he said the word was “goon,” not coon. In other words, Zimmerman thought Trayvon was a grotesque person or an oafish individual or a Mafia enforcer or, in Oliver’s words, a “proud … Louisiana” term of endearment. Yeah. Riiiiiight. N’awlins homie Georgie Z was just giving a shout-out to his brotha Tray Dawg. Oh-kaaaay.
Zimmerman’s supporters will probably argue that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law rendered his conduct lawful. But they’d be wrong. Even State Rep. Dennis Baxley, the prime sponsor of Section 776.012 and 776.041, said the legislation doesn’t apply to Zimmerman because “there is no protection in the Stand Your Ground law for anyone who pursues and confronts people.” He pointed out that this 2005 statute stemmed primarily from the need to protect people from the looting of recreational vehicles following hurricanes in the Florida panhandle. It had nothing to do with murdering defenseless black children.
Zimmerman’s supporters must concede that it’s undisputed that Zimmerman was in a vehicle pursuing Trayvon (contrary to police instructions), that Trayvon was a pedestrian, that Trayvon tried to run away, that Zimmerman exited his vehicle and approached and confronted Trayvon, that Zimmerman outweighed Trayvon, that Trayvon was unarmed, that Zimmerman was armed, and that Zimmerman shot Trayvon in the chest, killing him. These are the uncontested facts. Now let’s apply the uncontested Florida criminal law.
On April 11th, Zimmerman was arrested and charged with second degree murder, defined as the “unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous … and evincing a depraved mind … although without any premeditated design …” But there was premeditation, hence first degree murder. There’s enough evidence of premeditation—certainly sufficient enough to present to a jury—as shown in the carrying of a loaded gun, plus the unarmed status of the victim, plus the weight disparity, and plus especially the pursuing, approaching and confronting, and then the pointing, aiming and firing of gun into the chest of the victim.
I know: You thought premeditation required some long thought-out deliberation lasting months or weeks or days or hours or minutes. Nope. Premeditation is basically “thought beforehand, no matter how short.” Ask any DA in Pennsylvania. I’m fighting right now here in Philly to get a defendant off death row (in order to serve life) for killing someone in a situation wherein he was facing and confronting one person in a store when another person suddenly entered and in response he instantly spun around and shot and killed that other person. He was charged with first degree murder, convicted, and sentenced to death. But maybe, just maybe, that had something to do with the fact that he was a young black male and the victim was white. But shouldn’t the “thought beforehand, no matter how short” definition of premeditation be equally applicable to everyone all the time, I ask naively? In the Sunshine State, the law is basically the same as in the Keystone State. It’s premeditation if it involves “a fully formed conscious purpose to kill … (and) this purpose … may be formed a ‘moment before’ the act … ”
So why didn’t Republican State Attorney Angela Corey charge first degree? Aren’t GOPers supposed to be tough on crime? Why didn’t she throw the book at Zimmerman like she always throws the book at blacks—actually black kids and other kids of color. As the lead prosecutor in Duval, Nassau, and Clay counties, she transferred more of those children to adult court for adult prison sentences than anyone in the history of that three-county jurisdiction.
Speaking of history-making, not only does Florida send more juveniles to adult prison than any other state in the country, Corey is currently prosecuting 12-year-old Cristian Fernandez—the youngest murder defendant ever in Jacksonville—on a first degree murder charge for killing his toddler sibling on March 14, 2011 during a violent shoving into a bookcase, without a gun or any weapon whatsoever. Moreover, the medical examiner said that if the mother had immediately called 9-1-1 instead of spending hours on the Internet doing medical research, balancing her checkbook and downloading music, there wouldn’t have been a death. In fact, on March 28th of this year, she pled guilty after having been arrested for aggravated manslaughter and felony child abuse. But the 12-year-old child is still facing a first degree murder conviction. Maybe he should have borrowed Zimmerman’s 9 mm Kel-Tec PF-9 and blasted a gaping hole into his two-year-old brother’s chest so he could have gotten his charge reduced.
Zimmerman’s arraignment is scheduled for May 29th. Demand justice before then by immediately calling State Attorney Angela Corey at 904-630-2400 and insisting that she prosecute him as zealously as she prosecutes black kids (who look like Trayvon) and other kids of color. Tell her that second degree is not enough because, although it generally carries a 25-to-life sentence, Section 782.04(2) says that second degree murder is “punishable by imprisonment for ‘a term of years’ not exceeding life … ” which a creative non-black-conscious defense lawyer could argue means just a few years as a minimum jail sentence followed by a lengthy parole. Let her know that 25 years is not enough and that the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment, as required by a first degree murder conviction, is needed. We, meaning black people—including black lawyers like me—and justice and equity, all demand that the heavy leather-bound hardback book be thrown at Zimmerman. Let’s turn the tables to see if he and America like how that feels.