George Zimmerman: Not Guilty

One year ago, shortly after the news broke about the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, I posted an article about it. You can read it here.

Today, a jury – after only two days of deliberation – found George Zimmerman not guilty on all counts. They did not even convict him of manslaughter. The jury wasn’t undecided – they voted unanimously to acquit. This is where some of my friends who are very angry about this start dreaming of my death:

This is exactly as it should be.

If you read the article I previously wrote, you’ll see a point I made about the Crown Heights riots. The Jews in Crown Heights in 1991 were brutally wronged and none of them have ever received anything resembling an apology for what mobs of black men did to them. Twenty-two years later, after Al Sharpton excused himself without ever apologizing for inciting those riots, he is once again center stage to call the verdict “an atrocity” and “one of the worst situations I’ve ever seen.” I wonder if he said that after Josef Lifsh tried to avoid hurting anyone as he was about to wreck and ended up killing a boy he couldn’t see in what was purely an accident.

Nobody is taking a center-of-the-road stance on the subject of Zimmerman’s acquittal. Everyone is passionately angry or rejoicing about it. Nobody wins in this situation; the Martins have still lost their son. Zimmerman will never really be a free man because tens of thousands of people want him dead now. Even people whom I respect (even though we don’t always agree) are wildly emotional right now, going so far as to call for the riots to begin.

That’s because all anyone has viewed this incident through is the lens of emotion. Some of my black friends – some, not all – heard his non-emergency call to police that night and believed immediately that the whole thing was racial. At least one person claimed to me that another non-emergency call to police has been played publicly but I have not been able to find anything other than his call the night of the shooting.

Here’s what I know. I’m in public safety. I’ve helped a lot of victims of burglaries and home invasions, both as a victim advocate and as an EMT. I’ve seen the havoc that kind of crime plays in a person’s life. What I hear when that call is played is a man whose home was broken into and is now paranoid that every stranger in his condo complex is trouble. On the night of the shooting, while he says, “I think he’s black,” I can’t hear racism in that. Calling him a racist for one call to police (when in reality he made nearly 100 for the neighborhood watch) in which he describes the person he sees as being black does not make him a racist. What I hear is a man whose adrenalin is going because someone he has never seen before is walking through the complex wearing a hood pulled low over his face. I don’t hear a racist.

This is where I say something that my other friends may not like. Zimmerman was completely irresponsible in the way he conducted himself. I’m a little different from most people; I have years of experience in tactics, close-quarters combat, and the use of small arms. I’ve been in martial arts for nearly half my life. I have a lot of experience, and while I am capable of being very violent if the situation calls for it, I try very hard to find another solution. I will only pull my sidearm as a last resort, if my life or the life of another is in jeopardy. If a person attacks me with his bare hands, I will handle it with my bare hands. I have never in my life had to actually shoot a person despite being attacked, and I hope that I never do have to fire my weapon at another human being. (As an aside, since Nancy Grace asked, I carry a firearm everywhere it is legal for me to do so, even when walking the dog. Why? Because the bad guy will target you when you least expect it.)

The most responsible thing any gun owner or CCW holder can do is get some training in hand-to-hand combat. Not the flashy karate or kung fu crap you see in the movies, but honest-to-Pete street fighting. I always recommend Krav Maga, not because it’s Israeli, but because it’s extremely effective. If you want Asian martial arts then you should be careful to find a place that actually teaches fighting, not one that promises you’ll reach black belt within a year.

He shouldn’t have gotten out of his truck, but if you listen to the call closely, you hear something quite interesting…he didn’t get out until after he told the dispatcher that Martin was running away. By that time, Martin had already noticed he was being followed. What he should have done (as I said in my previous post) was keep running until he got home. Instead, he circled around, called Zimmerman out, and attacked him.

Let me pose this question…if you were walking home in the middle of the night, would you cut through a strange neighborhood? If you did and you found someone following you, would you then pick a fight with that person? If your answer to both of those is yes, you have a problem. At night, if you must walk, you should stick to well-lit areas, preferably those that are populated. If you find yourself being followed, you should either ask the person, “can I help you?” or just run as fast as you can to the nearest populated area to get help. Your first instinct should NEVER be to yell, insult, or start throwing punches. The instant Trayvon did those things he was taking responsibility for a grave decision. Yes, Zimmerman was irresponsible for not knowing how to handle a confrontation with an unarmed person – but Trayvon instigated the violence, therefore he is responsible. Whether Zimmerman is a racist or not is irrelevant at that point.

I don’t think any of my black friends have ever been spit on for being black. I don’t think any of them have ever had a group of white people threaten them because they are black. I know that none of them have ever gotten death threats for being black. I have been spit on for being gay, I have been threatened for being white (while on duty and in uniform, no less), and I have been openly threatened for being gay. I was first called a faggot when I was in the third grade. Even before I began identifying as Jewish, I had several people – a couple of them black – call me things like kike and dirty Jew, merely for defending Jewish people. Even on the pages of this blog I’ve been attacked as a Jew. I know what hate is. These idiots calling for riots and brandishing guns on Twitter don’t know the first damn thing about hatred. They’ll perpetuate it, though, because something really needs to be done about all of these creepy ass crackas. I suppose I should be thankful that I can tell by the picture that the doofus has absolutely no training at all with guns, but unfortunately an idiot with a gun is still deadly.

Violence may solve a good many problems, but this is not one of them. Dr. King would be beside himself if he could see what is going on right now. Were it only that more would take a page from Lupe Fiasco’s book and turn the spotlight on themselves, we might not need to have this debate. Unfortunately the press turned this sad story, one in which everyone lost, into a circus and the public won’t learn anything from it.

None Of Us Are Perfect

I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard those words. When I worked in prisons, both with youth and adult offenders, medium and maximum security, every single time I had to discipline an inmate who got out of line would say that to me. It has become the mantra of criminals the world over: the Bible says we’re all sinners, so you are no more perfect than I am, motherf**ker.

Reading through the last statements of death row inmates before they were executed by the State of Texas, the trend of “you’re not perfect, so don’t you dare judge me” continues. Many try to say that their death, even when they admit to their crimes, is wrong.

In my experience, those are the last fighting words of dying men and women hoping to be spared at the last second.

It’s human nature to want to live. That’s why suicide has such a stigma surrounding it. Every species on this planet does what they can to survive. Human beings are no different. The big difference between people and animals is that we have a conscience. We can make our own decisions. We do not go out into public and randomly murder other people because it’s in our nature to do so; we are taught early that stealing, hurting, and committing murder are wrong. Even if we’re not taught these things at home, it’s in the culture. We know that it’s not acceptable.

So when convicts – from the lowliest white-collar criminal who knows no violence to the monster who kills five people and then blames it on his hatred for another race – look you in the eye and tell you, “none of us are perfect,” they are lying by omission. They lie just as much to themselves as they do to you.

They lie by casting the spotlight away from themselves. They lie by pointing a finger at you so they don’t have to take responsibility for their own actions. They lie by belittling their crimes and the impact those crimes had on the victims (and, in murder cases, those left behind by their victims). They do it as easily as one would speak their own name; for sociopaths and psychopaths it is always easy, but for convicts who have a conscience and simply choose to ignore it, lying in this manner assuages their guilt for a short while. Eventually it doesn’t bother them at all.

I can’t work in corrections anymore because I don’t have the patience for that lie. I’ve been asked to come back – I simply won’t. Convicts are convicts whether they’re in Texas or Arizona, California or Maine. As I watch certain trials play out in the media, I can tell by watching the accused whether they’re guilty or innocent. You can see it in the way they respond and how the witnesses describe their responses in the days after their arrest.

We live in a culture that claims to want both justice and mercy. Liberals scream that the death penalty needs to be stopped, yet the same people who are against the death penalty are okay with abortions after the second trimester – and they set up websites and threads calling for men like George Zimmerman to be killed, whether he’s found guilty or acquitted. The media reports certain crimes in certain ways to get a lot of attention. Others, they practically ignore…then when the accused in those cases face the death chamber, they call for clemency, right after climbing down from their soapbox where they passionately cried for justice against an innocent soul.

This is what happens when we let our emotions rule us unchecked. It is compounded when there is a lack of education. In a day and age when the average twentysomething has developed the attention span of a gnat and a fantastic ability to process stories no longer than the average Twitter post, it’s not surprising. It is embarrassing, though, that this is what my country has become. I’m aware that none of us are perfect. That is not an excuse to behave like an animal, even if the atheists among us would have you believe that’s all you are.

The Criminal Revolving Door Keeps Turning

The original post on this issue is over two years old – and it’s still getting attention and comments. Here’s the latest comment from someone who wished to remain anonymous (although I do have the IP):

“excuse me but isnt the deceased man just the same like the so called murders you r talking about.hes been in prison to.i read he is a user to.so dont judge nobody.i dont think your family is so called perfect.thank you.”

Oh, I’m so glad you commented, honey. I’m about to light into you, but before I do, allow me to regale everyone with the short-version story.

Rene Enrique Durgin and his girlfriend, Patricia Denise Mayhorn, committed an armed robbery at a car wash in Glendale, Arizona – then led police on a chase through town. They ended up crossing over into Phoenix. After Glendale police called off the chase and let them go, the pair invaded a home near 35th Ave and Dunlap where they happened upon a couple in their mid-50’s. Durgin (it is believed to have been Durgin) shot both of the residents, killing the male. The female survived, albeit barely. Police arrived to find the 9mm handgun in pieces scattered throughout the home and Durgin admitting to having fired a weapon quite recently, though not willing to admit to the killing.

I quickly wrote a piece about it. Normally the first person to stand up for the police – particularly Glendale, as a close trusted friend was the first Glendale officer to be shot to death in the line of duty – I asked why they called the chase off during a time when few were on the road and they had suspects in a violent crime who would likely go on to commit another crime.

I also asked why these two had been allowed to move in and out of the justice system so many times. Both Durgin and Mayhorn had done time before and their crimes had continued to escalate, yet judges with soft spines kept giving them slaps on the wrist and admonishments to clean up their acts. Then we ended up with this mess. Now we have a friend of Durgin and/or Mayhorn posting to this blog some of the most ridiculous tripe I have ever read in my life.

You see, hon, regulars on this blog know that I’ve been a corrections officer. I know that argument by heart. If I had a dime for every inmate who tried to put the blame for something on me because MY family isn’t perfect and his victim somehow deserved what he’d done, I wouldn’t be working in EMS today. I’d be independently wealthy. I am going to tell you all of the things I used to tell them.

Don’t give me that “I don’t think your family is perfect, either” bullshit. We’re not talking about me and mine, we are talking about YOU. What YOU did. The choices YOU made. I’m not the one in prison – YOU ARE. That’s not because I was better at hiding anything; I have obeyed the law my whole life and respected other people and their rights regardless of what wrongs they have committed. I had very little as a kid, but my family never took anything that wasn’t ours nor did we expect anyone else to pay our way. We always made the best with what we had and that ethic has paid off. You’re right, we’re not perfect – but we have done right by everyone around us. That is the only thing anyone has ever asked of YOU, and YOU have failed that task. Because YOU have stolen, robbed, assaulted, used illegal drugs, and killed people, YOU are paying the penalty and YOU are the one we’re talking about.

I do not care what the victims’ crimes may have been. It’s interesting that you mention them, because the victims’ names have not been released publicly and I haven’t even been able to get their full names from the prosecutors. Whatever their past crimes may have been, they did not deserve to be taken prisoner in their own home and murdered. You do not get to excuse yourself by pointing out that the victim may have wronged someone else. What the hell do you think the judge is going to say if you stand up in court and say, “but, Your Honor, he was a dealer! We got our meth from him! What I did wasn’t so wrong!” If I were that judge (or if the judge were Roland Steinle, and I desperately wish he were the one trying this case), I would ask, “who are we trying today? Oh, that’s right – YOU!” You know as well as I do that no judge or jury would accept such an asinine response from a defendant. Why in the hell would you dare try to use that line on me?

Do you think I’m that stupid? That childish? Do you really think that I’m going to hang my head now and go, “I’m sorry, I didn’t think of it that way…”? Should I slink away and act like my feelings are hurt? Every single time an inmate would attack another inmate or an inmate’s visitor they would always later say, “but they did…” I would always cut them off with, “I’m sorry, but how are you better than they are? Let’s recount the reasons YOU are here, shall we?” At that point, without fail, every one of them would say, “oh, and you’re miss perfect? How many relatives you got in here?”

With pride, I would say, “not a single one. They’re all out defending this country and your right to due process. You might wanna invoke your right to shut the hell up before that mouth gets you into more trouble than you’re already in.”

Take the hint.