Phil: Any way you look at it, a tragedy occurred the night Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman confronted each other. If only they both could have found a way to walk away, none of this would be happening.
Ethan: I’m not accepting the mutual responsibility theory. One of these two was an adult and the other a child. One was armed with a gun and the other with nothing. One is dead and the other is free. Our system has failed.
Phil: Where do you believe it failed? After the police investigation revealed Zimmerman was within his rights, the federal government stepped in and took him to trial. Then a jury heard all the evidence and found him not guilty. What am I missing?
Ethan: From beginning to end our system failed. A local chief sees a young black boy killed and does nothing. The federal government then has to step in to ensure that a man is held accountable. Then the jury says the law didn’t allow them to convict, when at least half said conviction should have been the correct outcome.
Phil: Suggesting the police chief based his decision on Martin’s skin color is unsubstantiated.
Ethan: I don’t have any idea if he based his decision on Martin’s skin color. I know that a number of his officers said an arrest should have been made. I know that the department had been accused of protecting officers’ family members who were involved in violent skirmishes with people of color. And I know that the chief was ultimately fired for his handling of the case.
Phil: To me, if there flaw in the system, it’s in the Stand Your Ground law that the chief based his decision upon. That law was created by the Florida Legislature and governor.
Ethan: I certainly agree with you there. Not only the Florida Legislature and governor, but two dozen states have similar laws that make it all too easy to kill. The law in this case allowed Zimmerman to do what should never be tolerated. Had Martin been your son, would you feel that the system worked?
Phil: If he were my son, like any loving parent, I would seek truth and justice. Isn’t that why we have a trial process?
Ethan: It is, and sometimes that process fails. Unfortunately, we see it fail much more often when the crimes involve African-Americans, either in regard to their being found guilty, over-sentenced, or when they are the victim and their perpetrator is allowed to walk.
Phil: You make it seem like Martin was just strolling along and Zimmerman pulled his gun and committed murder. The facts prove there was a beating initiated by Martin.
Ethan: The facts prove nothing of the sort. In fact, it is quite clear that Zimmerman instigated the confrontation by pursuing this young man, even after being told to back off by a 911 operator.
Phil: We were not present, so how can either of us decide this was another incident of a person being denied justice because of the color of his skin?
Ethan: I haven’t decided that. But I am pretty sure Zimmerman would not have been following you around that evening if you were walking home in the rain minding your own business.
Phil: What other system of justice would you propose to right the wrongs you believe are the facts in this case?
Ethan: I’d like a system that doesn’t protect a 28-year-old wannabe cop from being held accountable for recklessly killing a 17-year-old child.
Phil: What does age have to do with it when someone is beating you? What if Martin killed Zimmerman in this situation? Would we even be hearing about this case?
Ethan: You seem to have accepted Zimmerman’s side of the story, but regardless of what happened, 17-year-olds are not yet considered adults. They make stupid decisions. Adults are supposed to be more mature and responsible. Zimmerman clearly wasn’t.
Phil: It appears we must agree to disagree on the facts, but retrying it here won’t do much good. How about we turn to the future? What changes do we as a country need going forward?
Ethan: Certainly we continue to need to have a dialogue about race and the effects of racism on how we interact with others.
Phil: I would also suggest we revisit “stand your ground” laws that seem to create a pretty low bar for a claim of self-defense.
Ethan: One area where we may not agree is that we also need to be smarter about who we allow to carry a gun pretending they are a cop.
Phil: Being smarter is fine, as long as you don’t infringe on the rights of those who have every right to carry what they choose in their own defense.
Ethan: The New York Times said it best last week: “In the end, what is most frightening is that there are so many people with guns who are like George Zimmerman. Fear and racism may never be fully eliminated by legislative or judicial order, but neither should our laws allow and even facilitate their most deadly expression. Trayvon Martin was an unarmed boy walking home from the convenience store. If only Florida could give him back his life as easily as it is giving back George Zimmerman’s gun.”