Crime and Punishment

I read Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky in college.  The story has many layers but the one thing I remember is the guilt that Raskolnikov felt as he argued with himself over the many good deeds that he had performed outweighed murdering someone. That internal push-pull of him trying to justify his actions eventually takes over his entire being. 

It is the first thing I thought about when I read this morning that George Zimmerman was found not guilty on all charges on killing Trayvon Martin.  Zimmerman said he had killed Martin in self-defense.  Martin, a young black man who had yet to see his 17th birthday was walking home when a strange man followed him starting with a car and then on foot.  What was the fear that Martin felt?  We will never know because that strange man, George Zimmerman, killed him. 

Florida, the state that this heinous crime took place in, has a law called "stand your ground".  Essentially private citizens are allowed to carry concealed weapons and can use them in self defense when a person believes they are being threatened.  To me that means that the state of Florida has given each citizen a right to be their own police.  I am sure there are plenty of studies that show that more innocent people get killed and crime rates have actually gone up from this law not down.  IMHO, citizens should not be the police.

I read about the case as it went through the court of law the past few weeks.  My take away is that a young defenseless man who has nothing but skittles in his pocket with him was walking home in the dark when someone decided that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and decided to pursue him, with gun in hand, and in the end for whatever reasons we will never know, shot and killed him in cold blood. 

The outcome of that trial is senseless and heartbreaking.  I am not sure that time will ever heal the wounds that Zimmerman inflicted on the Martin family.  Yet, if you believe in Crime and Punishment, it is Zimmerman who will have to live with the true story of what a terrible crime he committed.  Every day he has to get up and live with what he did.  Only he knows as we were not able to hear the other side of the story because the only other person there was killed.  Zimmerman gets to grow old, walk the streets freely and live his life.  Trayvon Martin does not.

As for the gun laws in the state of Florida and the juries conclusion we can only be sad and dismayed.  I was thinking about going to Basel this year in Miami but I do not want to support the state of Florida.  Just like the Senators who voted against gun laws this past year, I will not support them anymore.  It is a small amount on the grand scale but I do not plan on going to Florida any time soon or possibly ever again. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    Like OJ, society will punish Zimmerman since the judicial system didn’t.

    1. Gotham Gal


    2. JLM

      .George Zimmerman was submitted to the full weight and power of the government to carry its burden of proving him guilty of the crime of second degree murder.The government failed to meet its burden of proving his guilt.The jury discharged its duties listening to weeks of testimony, evaluating the evidence and rendering a verdict.George Zimmerman was found to be not guilty — not innocent. Juries do not render innocent verdicts.There is no reason why George Zimmerman should be subjected to any further travail and under our system of laws he is the same George Zimmerman as before this saga began.If we want to be a nation of laws, then we must accept the verdicts of juries and live within those laws.If one wants to recriminate this matter, then look to the prosecution who presented a ham handed case in which its very witnesses provided sterling testimony and evidence for the defense.JLM.

      1. William Mougayar

        Don’t you see an analogy between ZImmerman and OJ?OJ was subjected to the judicial system too, and look at the result. It’s not a perfect system.

        1. JLM

          .I am not sure what analogy that you see between Zimmerman and the Juice.No system is perfect. Ever. That was known the day the country was formed. “…in order to form a more perfect union…”JLM.

        2. Gotham Gal

          I totally do. It is not a perfect system but it is our system.

          1. William Mougayar


          2. TanyaMonteiro

            and our system in SA will soon experience the Oscar Pistorius “proof” which I fear will be a repeat of the OJ & Zimmerman cases. Scary, sad and senseless

          3. Gotham Gal

            unfortunately you are so right.

  2. CCjudy

    to me with Zimmerman it is Not over and it is a sad commentary on this countryJ

    1. Gotham Gal

      I couldn’t agree more

  3. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Amen, sister.

  4. lynnerae

    Bravo, Joanne. I’m been trying to sort out my feelings on this, and you expressed them perfectly. Senseless. And another reason for a more logical gun policy. I grew up in Florida, and day by day become more embarrassed this was a place I called home. No more.

    1. Gotham Gal

      senseless. senseless. senseless.

  5. JLM

    .Hate to spoil a good rant but you have gotten the facts terribly wrong.The Zimmerman defense was NOT even remotely based upon the Stand Your Ground legal theory. It was a garden variety self-defense defense. Nothing more, nothing less.To invoke the Stand Your Ground defense, the defense would have had to “plead” that in their answer to the Complaint. They did not.They could have plead BOTH Stand Your Ground and self-defense in their Answer but they tactically decided not to because the invocation of the SYG defense is quite technical and they wisely decided that a jury would get bogged down in the technicalities.Florida does not have a general law allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons. In Florida, like most every state, one must apply for and be licensed to carry a concealed weapon. To suggest that Florida is generally more dangerous because of a proliferation of concealed weapons is simply not true.As to the merits of the case, the most important power of any prosecutor is discretion as to whether to bring a case in the first place.Absent high level political meddling, this case would likely never have been brought. That was exactly the sentiment of the Police Chief who was replaced in the course of this investigation.The prosecution did not even have an inkling of the testimony of their own witnesses — some of them offered testimony that was mind bogglingly powerful for the defense. More than one.Any skillful prosecutor reviewing this testimony before trial would have concluded — we do not have the evidence to carry our burden of proving a crime was committed beyond a reasonable doubt.Having put on their prosecution, they were trounced by an able defense and a jury which quickly decided a very weak case in less than two full days of deliberations. It was not a close decision in any manner.We must accept the decisions of juries. That is the way justice is administered in a fair society. This jury did its job whether we agree with it or not.Juries do not decide guilt or innocence — they decide whether the prosecution has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. They only render GUILTY or NOT GUILTY verdicts.The jury rendered a Not Guilty verdict. That does not mean that George Zimmerman is innocent. That will be between God and George.George Zimmerman was tried fairly and found to be NOT GUILTY and fair minded people will accept it for what it is.JLM.

    1. Hershberg

      Regardless of whether Zimmerman’s defense was based on Stand Your Ground, it was included in the Judge’s instructions to the jury:“If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force,” Nelson told jurors.Zimmerman could use deadly force if he reasonably believed it was necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm, she said.”…Given that the jury only heard George Zimmerman’s version of what transpired before he shot Trayvon Martin – and he alleged that he feared for his life – it’s hard to see how those instructions didn’t play a role in his acquittal.

      1. JLM

        .You are conflating a “Stand Your Ground” defense which is a specific theory of law with specific elements of proof and the instructions of the Judge which were generally instructive as to what what constitutes a self-defense argument.Stand Your Ground is subsumed in the notion of self-defense but it requires a specific pleading in the Answer to the Complaint to be able to invoke it.George Zimmerman did not testify in his own defense though he did provide six sworn interviews to the police which were entered into evidence.The police testified that they believed Zimmerman’s interview evidence. Quite extraordinary testimony.The prosecution and the defense both relied upon witnesses, including an eye witness to the crime who testified that Trayvon Martin was on top of Zimmerman engaging in a MMA “ground and pound”.What other evidence would you have liked other than an eye witness who completely confirmed and validated Zimmerman’s version of events as well as the police testimony corroborating their view that Zimmerman’s version of events was credible and true.It is a wonder that given the above, the prosecution ever decided to try this case. Their witnesses were in many instances supportive of the defense.JLM.

        1. Hershberg

          To be clear, I am not suggesting that Zimmerman should have been convicted. Based on even the limited amount of the trial I saw, it seemed clear that the prosecution failed to meet its burden. But while you make a fair point about Zimmerman’s defense not being based on the Stand Your Ground theory, it seems reasonable to think he might have acted differently that night in the absence of a SYG law that seems to encourage vigilantism and then allow someone to claim self-defense.

          1. JLM

            .I am a huge skeptic of neighborhood watches and, in particular, armed neighborhood watches.If one wanted to walk the cat backwards far enough, this neighborhood should have employed a paid security service or off duty cops to provide security rather than neighbors.JLM.

          2. Gotham Gal

            agree. citizens carrying guns should not be neighborhood watch dogs.

          3. JLM

            .This may strike you as odd but I think nobody should ever carry a gun except for their own personal protection.When you carry a gun for someone else’s protection, you are morphed into being law enforcement and that is a different kettle of fish.Nobody should ever carry a gun when the objective is the safeguarding of property. Personal safety, yes. Property, no.I would even have misgivings about shooting someone who was only stealing from me. I am not going to shot someone riding away with my bike or car but I would shoot someone who put my life in danger.JLM.

          4. Gotham Gal

            i get it

    2. Gotham Gal

      I hear you. This case was tried under a certain law and through that a group of his peers found him not guilty. That does not assume he is innocent, for sure.

      1. JLM

        .Juries render “guilty” or “not guilty” verdicts only.Juries do not render “innocent” verdicts.When juries render verdicts they are relying upon a charge, a defense and the presentation of testimony and evidence in support or refutation of those charges and defense.Juries do not hear evidence of innocence and no such evidence is presented.Our system is a good system and a fair system.While innocence is not within the purview of a jury, a man is entitled to a legal presumption of innocence. Innocent until PROVEN guilty.By that standard, Zimmerman continues to legally enjoy that presumption of innocence.With the entire power of the government, the prosecution did not lay a glove on Zimmerman and its own witnesses indicted their case.The jury decided this case in less than two days which was really the equivalent of less than a day. Unanimously. Quickly. Conclusively.JLM.

  6. jedd

    the sad thing is the media fueling this story. these events should never be televised.

  7. As you likely know there were six women on this jury. From what I understand, they were educated. And they’re holding, their verdict, was consistent with the legal scholars of our time. Most of us reading this blog know little about protecting ourselves, our property, with the use of force. And hopefully we never will.

  8. JMHB239

    Reading Americanah and loving it as I did her other books and short stories. A beautiful voice.

  9. pixiedust8

    Thanks for this. I am from Florida and still own property in Florida. I have been increasingly disgusted with my home state since the hanging chad issue (and they still hold elections like a developing nation–some people I know waited SIX hours to vote this past election). I’ll be getting rid of my property soon. It’s not worth it to me to support such a backward state financially. I know that sounds extreme, but I’ve been increasingly disgusted for decades now.

  10. andyswan

    GG I think you’d be surprised to read into the actual crime statistics that correlate to conceal-carry laws.Also, this case had absolutely nothing at all to do with SYG laws. The defense rejected defending under that, opting instead for simple self-defense as it was Zimmerman who was physically attacked.