Opinion: Who’s worse: Zimmerman or the police?

Elaina Sauber

Elaina Sauber

Elaina Sauber is a sophomore English major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]

Updated March 28 at 9:50 p.m.

The Will Smith tweet mentioned in this article has since been discovered to be from a fake account.

The killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., has been fueling the media and protests taking place across the country for the past month.

The result has been the realization of the flaws in our legal system, which can best be described by Will Smith’s recent tweet: “We live in America where a girl that threw flour on Kim Kardashian was arrested on site. But the man who killed Trayvon Martin is still free.”

Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, fatally shot Martin in his gated community on Feb. 26, and has yet to be charged with any crime. Even after a police dispatcher told him to not pursue Martin, Zimmerman did so anyway and claims that he was attacked from behind as he was returning to his car.

Although many are labeling this as a hate crime, it seems too early in the investigation for the crime to be determined as such. What can be determined, however, is the Sanford police department’s failure to uphold the legal system.

One reason Zimmerman was not charged is because of Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, which “empowers citizens to defend themselves — using deadly force — if they reasonably believe their life or the lives of others are in danger, or to prevent a forcible felony.”

However, state representative Dennis Baxley has asserted that this law does not apply in Zimmerman’s case: “If you carefully read the statute, which most of the critics have not, and read the legislative analysis, there’s nothing in this statute that authorizes you to pursue or confront other people. If anything, this law would have protected the victim in this case. It could have.”

The police not only wrongly applied this law to justify Martin’s death, but also failed to administer a drug or alcohol test to Zimmerman upon his assertion that he shot Martin out of self-defense, nor did they run a background check on Zimmerman.

Another issue that may have contributed to the lack of legal action against Zimmerman is Florida’s laws concerning manslaughter.

Since there is no evidence that Martin’s death was deliberate or intentional, there is a good chance Zimmerman would be charged with manslaughter instead of murder. However, in the state of Florida, there is no distinction between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. It is still a “second degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in state prison.”

However, if manslaughter is committed upon a child, it becomes a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Finally, the 10-20-Life Law in Florida, which states that if a firearm is used during a felony, “the penalty will be raised to the next degree.”

If Zimmerman is convicted, he faces the possibility of spending the next 30 years in prison. To some this may seem too harsh — to others, not harsh enough. This is a man who disobeyed a dispatcher’s instructions and pursued an unarmed youth, then killed the youth and called it self-defense.

Perhaps police didn’t charge him because they knew the very possible and severe consequences for Zimmerman, and decided it wasn’t worth convicting him for the death of a black kid. The result is a suspect of homicide walking free because police protocol was not followed.

George Zimmerman acted as he thought a police officer should by pursuing Martin and ultimately killing him. Meanwhile, the Sanford police have yet to do their jobs.