I am a public defender, so I looked at the George Zimmerman trial mostly through the eyes of a criminal defense attorney. It was all about the evidence, proof beyond a reasonable doubt. At the end of the trial, I thought the jurors should acquit. I wasn't surprised when they did.
An acquittal is not a vindication of all the defendant did; it does not erase the tragedy of the harm that occurred. To my lawyer's mind, it simply meant that the State had failed to meet its heavy burden of proof. I understood the outrage that greeted the verdict, but I didn't feel it myself.
That changed when I heard this: George Zimmerman wants his gun back. The 9mm pistol he was carrying the night he killed Trayvon Martin, the gun that took a young man's life. Zimmerman wants that very same gun back. He wants it back even though he is free to buy another weapon, a new and different one. That is as much an indictment of his character as anything his trial brought out.
Mark O'Mara, the lawyer for Zimmerman, told ABC News that if the gun is returned to his client, he plans to continue carrying it. That is a possibility. If the U.S. Department of Justice had not put a hold on the weapon as the DOJ investigates possible federal charges against Zimmerman, the State of Florida was due to return the gun to him by month's end.
That baffles me. How could George Zimmerman ever want to see that gun again? How could the sight of it not be hateful to him, a reproach? It ended the life of an innocent young man, precious and irreplaceable; it devastated his family and the community of people who loved him. That gun, which fired the fatal bullet into Trayvon Martin, has sparked genuine fear in the hearts of every parent of a child who, like Trayvon, might by his very appearance be considered -- wrongly -- to be a threat.
How could George ZImmerman not want that gun to be removed from the face of the earth? I am a public defender, but I am also a family member of three murder victims, shot to death in their home. When guns are taken by the police in my clients' cases, the prosecution at the end of the case asks the judge for a "C and D" order: confiscate and destroy. No more gun. Gone. When the judge enters the order, my heart quietly rejoices.
This is my outrage: that George Zimmerman can take a human life with so little thought for the immense value of that life that he wouldn't mind carrying the instrumentality that ended it. It is remorseless.
I spent the morning spinning this fantasy in my head: if there were no federal investigation, no hold on that gun, and I were George Zimmerman's lawyer, what would I counsel him to do with it?
Voluntarily consent that it be confiscated and destroyed. Offer it to the family of Trayvon Martin, to do what they wished with it -- blow it up, into smithereens, or melt it down and sculpt it into a symbol of peace. Donate it to a museum. Auction it off and give the proceeds to a charity devoted to helping African-American youth. And on and on...
But never, never would I counsel him, Get the gun back. Carry it. Maybe use it again, to kill when you feel threatened.