Huffpost Crime
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Judge H. Lee Sarokin Headshot

Shouldn't George Zimmerman Be Required to Prove Self-Defense?

Posted: Updated:

Imagine this scenario: a man shoots and kills someone. He tells the police he was temporarily insane at the time. So they say "OK you can go home and take your gun with you," because they can't contradict his claim of insanity at the time of the killing. Ridiculous? Yes, but according to CNN: "Police say they have not charged Zimmerman because they have no evidence to contradict his story that he shot in self-defense." Am I missing something here? The only evidence of self-defense comes from the person who shot the victim. Doesn't he have a motive to lie? Isn't his credibility an issue? Aren't there surrounding circumstances that place the claim of self-defense in dispute? What is undisputed is that George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin. Whether or not there is a valid defense to that shooting is not a determination to be made by police -- particularly when based solely on the word of the shooter.

It would be unfair to reach any conclusions about Mr. Zimmerman's guilt at this stage, but it is likewise unfair to Trayvon Martin and his family to find Zimmerman innocent. It sounds as though Mr. Zimmerman admitted the shooting, said it was self-defense, and the police accepted his version and sent him home with the gun used in the shooting! Suppose there is evidence that a man committed a murder and he claims to have an alibi -- and "there is no evidence to contradict the alibi"? Does he go free or is he charged and required to present competent and believable evidence of the alibi. The shooting here is admitted. Charges must be filed and the defense has to be proven -- not accepted based solely upon the version of the perpetrator.

Those demanding that charges be filed certainly seem to be on firm ground. Mr. Zimmerman pursued the victim contrary to instructions not to do so. He was much bigger than Trayvon. He had a gun. Trayvon had Skittles. He was "suspicious" of Trayvon apparently without justification or good cause, and there is evidence that he had some predisposition to reach such a conclusion. There is evidence that someone heard Trayvon whimpering before the shooting and that he was running away. His girlfriend heard him ask Zimmerman why he was following him. There is some question about the use of a racial slur. The ultimate question is whether or not Mr. Zimmerman was in reasonable fear for his life and killed Trayvon solely because of that fear. He ultimately may be found innocent, but no sidewalk judgment by a police officer should suffice. Justice requires so much more. Both Mr. Zimmerman and the statute which shields him should be put on trial.