Prosecution Rests as Zimmerman Trial Rolls on, and Reflections from Proverbs (Near the Middle)

“The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.” – Prov 15:3

As I noted yesterday, I was on vacation last week and didn’t get a chance to post. There were a number of developments in the George Zimmerman trial, including the conclusion of the prosecution’s case. As I pondered these latest developments, I found myself reading the middle chapters of Proverbs; there are quite a few verses that would seem to apply. Some thoughts.

“In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines.” – Prov 18:17

I was in college during the O. J. Simpson trial. I remember at the time talking with a good friend Shawn about the trial (Jefe Ocho’s roommate, as it turns out). Shawn is black, and we were members of the same church at the time. His description of the case was telling. He explained that as he watched the prosecution he said to himself “wow, O. J. did it, and he’s going to fry!” but then as the defense presented he said “Hmmm, maybe he didn’t do it.”

This is, I think, a description of how cases should be presented. Each side makes a credible argument in support of their narrative, their version of events. The prosecution demonstrated why O. J. obviously did it, and the defense demonstrated why maybe he didn’t. And each side made the best argument they could make. That’s lawyers doing their job. Perhaps some could have done better, but they all made credible arguments.

Not so in the Zimmerman case. As the prosecution rested last week I was left with the indelible impression that they didn’t prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt – perhaps because they couldn’t do so. (This doesn’t at all mean Zimmerman is innocent, just that the state’s ability to prove him guilty is lacking.)

Furthermore, as the defense puts on their case (they did so in part today) I can only imagine it will continue to bolster their claims of self-defense. Most of the legal analysts I’ve seen discussing the case today have indicated that the second-degree murder charge is all but impossible at this point, and there’s likely sufficient doubt to rule out a manslaughter conviction. I don’t know what other charges Zimmerman could answer for in this trial, but it seems that the big ones have gone by the wayside. (Of course, nobody really knows how the jury will weigh in.)

“All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” – Prov 16:2

People have a tendency to tolerate their own wrongs and magnify those of others. We tend to give ourselves the benefit of every doubt, even if we fail to realize the deep-seated and evil motives of our hearts. Those are weighed by the Lord.

I don’t  know with certainty the nature of guilt or innocence on the part of George Zimmerman (or Trayvon Martin, for that matter), but I suspect each could justify their actions at the time of the altercation. But surely there was some evil motive, some “unlove of thy neighbor” by one or both.

“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” – Prov 16:25

Not much to add here. Folks follow down a course that seems right, defensible, justifiable; but in the end it’s a big mess.

“Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.” – Prov 20:11

While we have a way of convincing ourselves that we are in the right, and certainly a way of convincing others (we lie when we must), we have a great deal of difficulty convincing our subconscious. (I’m reminded here of the Lord’s admonition to “know them by their fruit” – people can deceive with their mouths, much less so with the conduct of their lives.)

Those of us who are old enough remember the white bronco chase down the L. A. freeways as O. J. Simpson and Al Cowlings made for home. O. J. would claim innocence and later go on to be acquitted at trial – but his actions were not those of a man who believed himself to be innocent.

I point this out because I would say that is much less the case here. Whether Zimmerman is or isn’t guilty, there is a fair bit of evidence in his actions that indicates he believes he’s innocent. Not just in a “justify yourself” way either – he really believes it.

He was on the phone with 911 as he followed Martin; not the actions of someone out to commit second-degree murder. He made no attempts to flee the scene; not the actions of someone who thinks he’s guilty (I hardly make Zimmerman out as a criminal mastermind “playing the long game” by calling 911 ahead of time and then staying at the scene to keep the “self-defense” narrative alive). There are more examples, to be sure, and my point here isn’t that Zimmerman is innocent – but that he at least thinks he is. Meaning, if he is actually guilty, he doesn’t understand it even at a subconscious level. And that’s something.

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” – Prov 15:1

What would it have taken, on either side, to draw down the anger on that night and leave us no dead children? A soft answer, on the part of either side? I tend to think so. My experience has been that indeed a soft answer, a calm, non-combative voice of reason and compassion stamps out anger and wrath (rather quickly). I have to think that soft words could have put a stop to this.

“The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” – Prov 17:14

This is a vivid description of the cascade of violence that follows once the quarrel has picked up. What started as a neighborhood watch following a kid, perhaps with racial profiling overtones, ends with a shooting death. It exploded with horrific consequences.

Regardless of what I think about guilt or innocence here, I cannot imagine that Trayvon Martin is dead today if he responds to Zimmerman’s accosting with “I’m just walking to my father’s house, he lives at [address], you’re welcome to walk with me if you want.” And I’m sure that Trayvon Martin is alive today if Zimmerman approaches with “sir, we’ve had some break-ins, and I’m just trying to make sure everything is safe, can I offer you a ride back to your house?” Neither of these happened.

To my mind the “breaking of the dam” metaphor reaches beyond the confrontation and killing of Trayvon Martin. I personally think the impending “not-guilty” verdict will be a breaking of the dam with regards to race-relations and possibly even the fabric of our society. I honestly think it could get seriously ugly.

“Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.” – Prov 17:5

As I’ve perused commentary in some of the Zimmerman stories on the internet, I have to conclude that there are some who expect to see riots in the streets over a not-guilty verdict … and are actually hoping for it. This could be calamitous. I for one have been predicting exactly that – but I want you (dear reader) to know that I don’t mind being wrong about this.

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2 Responses to Prosecution Rests as Zimmerman Trial Rolls on, and Reflections from Proverbs (Near the Middle)

  1. Bottom line. Zimmerman will get off and double jeopardy is in play. No matter what conjuncture and prognostication we can come up with, the story is the same. Young black child gets killed and no one will pay for it legally. This is a broken record. I can say this because of the facts. If Zimmerman stays in his car as the 911 dispatcher encourages him to do, Trayvon is alive. If Zimmerman was afraid of his life, why follow? Why get out of the safety of the car? Why engage Trayvon in a hand to hand confrontation? Doesn’t Trayvon have a right to defend himself? Stand His Ground? I wonder, if Trayvon would have taken off running, would Zimmerman would have chased him down or shot him in the back? I wonder, what would the outcry be if Trayvon would have been a white kid and Zimmerman would have gunned him down. Would this case be operated in the same way? Brad I ask all of these questions, because these are some of the questions people in the african-american community are truly asking. They asking in a honest inquiry for the truth and also asking in a cynical tone as well. This is par for the course. Rioting makes no sense. What did rioting accomplish after Rodney King besides many local small businesses being destroyed? Nothing. Instead of rioting, how about my people in Florida vote the clowns out who thought Stand Yoru Ground was a good idea. How about my people in Florida make sure that Trayvon’s parents have the funding to take Zimmerman to civil court and clean his clock? How about my people in Florida force the issue, demand and work for unity and change? How about my people in Florida make the church walk the walk and be involved in the community? Ok, I am done preaching….Sorry my brother….

    • nomasir says:

      Excellent points you bring up … Especially the “broken record” aspect. When does it end? How does it end?

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