Jul 152013

george-zimmerman-620x356It’s a bit of a joke that “You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.” But there’s a more important principle that it seems some people were never taught: You don’t bring a knife to a fistfight.

A few years ago I was on an attempted-murder jury. Two young minority men (one black, one Hispanic) got into an argument which escalated to a fistfight, which escalated to one of them stabbing the other in the neck. The trial lasted 2.5 days, with a half day of deliberation. The act itself was caught on tape (security camera footage) so there was no dispute as to what happened. The defendant’s claim was that he was in fear for his life, so it was self-defense to pull out his knife. He claimed his opponent had yelled something to his sister about “Get the gun from the truck!” There was no audio aspect to the recording.

It took half the day (which surprised me, in my opinion this was not a difficult case), but we the jury finally found the defendant guilty of attempted manslaughter. Because the two of them were having a fistfight, and the defendant turned it nearly-lethal – not his opponent. There was no other weapon produced. Perhaps the defendant was scared, likely he was going to lose the fight, but that doesn’t give him the right to initiate lethal force. How often do people get into arguments with neighbors, or even strangers? Those arguments should never turn lethal, and the party who escalates to physical force, and/or lethal force, must be held responsible. Always.

Florida has decided that someone can now stalk, threaten, and harass an unarmed black teenager, and if there is a physical altercation, that man can summarily execute that teenager as long as he was losing the fight. Florida has (again) legalized terrorism against a minority portion of its population. I’m ashamed to share a country with those people.

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