Here I come to save your threeeaaaaaDDDDDD!!!!
I pick apart terrible arguments, but yours are too easy.
The facts matter, and trials are all about facts. Every time there is a high-profile trial, observers rush to draw conclusions about the American legal system—or even about American society—based on the results. But the idiosyncrasies of the trial process generally make such judgments unwise. A dog walker, a security camera, a clearer audio on a 911 tape—and we’d be having a very different conversation about the Zimmerman trial.
The conclusions almost tell more about the observers than about the underlying facts. Consider, for example, one of the critical pieces of evidence in the case—Zimmerman’s call reporting his sighting of Trayvon Martin. It turns out that the call is open to a variety of interpretations.
On the night of February 26, 2012, Zimmerman was patrolling the Retreat at Twin Lakes, a town-house development in Sanford, Florida. At 7:09 P.M., Zimmerman called the non-emergency police-response line. (He did not call 911.) Was he inside or outside of his car at that point? It’s not clear. The range of his observations suggests that he was outside, but he also says that it’s raining. Since you can’t hear any rain on the call, it might mean that he’s still inside the vehicle. (A sound that might be a door chime raises the possibility that he got out of the car during the call.) The fact of the call alone presents different avenues for interpretation. Zimmerman was conducting a neighborhood watch. Does that mean he was a frustrated, wannabe cop? Or does that mean he was a good citizen trying to help a community that was beset by break-ins?
The call begins with Zimmerman reporting a suspicious person walking around in the rain. Zimmerman says, “We’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there’s a real suspicious guy.” He describes an unknown male “just walking around looking about” in the rain and says, “This guy looks like he is up to no good or he is on drugs or something.” Almost immediately, the dispatcher asks (Zimmerman does not volunteer the information) the subject’s race, and Zimmerman answers, “Black.” In a later observation during the call, Zimmerman confirms that the person is black. Zimmerman reports that the person has his hand in his waistband and is walking around looking at homes. Zimmerman says, further, “These assholes, they always get away.”
The dispatcher appears at first to be asking Zimmerman to keep an eye on the person. “Just let me know if this guy does anything else,” he says. A little later, Zimmerman says, “He’s running.” (Does the fact that Martin was running suggest that he was up to no good, or does it suggest that the young man was running away from Zimmerman?) The dispatcher asks, “He’s running? Which way is he running?” Again, this is an important point. It’s the dispatcher asking (for a second time) Zimmerman to watch the person.
At this point, Zimmerman follows Martin, eventually losing sight of him. The dispatcher asks, “Are you following him?” When Zimmerman answers, “Yeah,” the dispatcher says, “We don’t need you to do that.” Zimmerman responds, “O.K.” This is probably the best-known part of the exchange. The dispatcher says don’t follow him, one theory goes, Zimmerman does anyway, and that causes the fatal confrontation. But this view of the facts obscures the earlier part of the call—when the dispatcher appears to be asking Zimmerman to follow and report the person’s movements. The call ends when Zimmerman gives the dispatcher information about how the police should find him (Zimmerman, that is) in the complex. Zimmerman asks that the police call him upon their arrival so he can provide his location. Zimmerman ends the call at 7:13 P.M. The first police officer arrived on the scene at 7:17 P.M., by which time Trayvon Martin was already dead.
We’ll probably never know with absolute certainty what happened during those four (or so) critical minutes. But how people see the evidence of what happened—then and elsewhere, in this case and others—probably says more about them than about the evidence itself.