George Zimmerman couldn't be found guilty because Florida law made it impossible. Let me put it this way: I'm buying each of you a steak and lobster dinner every time a defendant in a stand-your-ground killing is convicted in spite of asserting self-defense. Friends, you are going to wait a long time for those dinners.
A stand-your-ground law says in effect that you can, with impunity, shoot anybody at any time anywhere provided you thought you were in danger of your life or of serious injury. You don't have to do sensible things like stay in your car or your house and lock the doors or walk away from a fight or just mind your own business. All you have to do is say you are afraid and pull the trigger.
And it's up to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were not afraid.
That's a big burden for the prosecution. How do you prove what was in someone else's mind? Admittedly the prosecution in the Zimmerman case was pretty inept, but in reality it was up against a high fence on the issue of Zimmerman's state of mind. And it always will be, absent some strong evidence that the shooter was not afraid - like a third-party's footage of the shooter dancing around in an Uncle Sam hat and yelling at the victim-to-be, "Nyah! Nyah! Who's ascared of you, you little skinny noodle punk!" This doesn't happen a lot.
But the stand-your-ground defense happens all too often. Here in my Central Pennsylvania area some homeowner shot a 15-year-old boy to death because the boy approached the shooter's window in the mistaken belief he was at the home of a friend. The boy wasn't at the shooter's door and he wasn't trying to get in. He was just outside a window because he was lost. And for that he is dead.
The shooter was not even charged with manslaughter. He wasn't charged with anything. He said he was afraid and claimed self-defense. The cops and the DA figured he must have been afraid because, after all, he shot the kid, didn't he? So you've got this circular reasoning. Shoot someone because you're afraid and we'll know you were afraid because you shot the person. Pretty soon we'll all have a duty to shoot each other on sight!
Do you worry about your kids, especially your sons and grandsons?
God forbid they should wear a hoodie. Or be out after dark. Or be in a neighborhood where people are afraid of "them". Or live in a state where the stupid and ugly racist element of the GOP has taken control of the state government and endowed every armed person with impunity to shoot whomever they like whenever they like.
Yes, you'd better worry about your sons and grandsons. And meantime we can all mourn Trayvon Martin and the fifteen-year-old Pennsylvania boy, both executed by reckless or puffed-up idiots for being absolutely innocent and doing nothing but being young men.
2010 was a bad year for a lot of people, politically. Maybe 2014 will be better. Maybe we can get some state legislatures that enact sensible laws. Maybe.
It's up to you, isn't it?