Judge, Jury and Executioner


The news is filled with two cases is which white men killed young suspicious black boys who were unarmed under circumstances that have sparked outrage across the country. One case is in Wisconsin where a newly enacted “castle doctrine” is being used to justify shooting an unarmed youth on a homeowner’s porch. In the second, a teenage boy was gunned down by a neighborhood watch captain while walking through a gated community in Florida. This killing was carried out in the name of “self-defense” by a man who had driven down the street following the boy.

The Florida boy, Trayvon Martin, was on the telephone talking to a girl moments before he was killed.  The killer, George Zimmerman, has a past that should have raised a lot of red flags prohibiting him from participating in neighborhood watch. For one thing, there was the matter of his assaulting a police officer.

Here is an excerpt from Huffington Post by Josh Horwwitz Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence entitled Arming Zimmerman.

“Another disturbing aspect of this case is the fact that Zimmerman was issued a permit to carry a concealed handgun by the state of Florida in the first place. Zimmerman, of course, was arrested in 2005 for resisting arrest with violence and battery on a police officer. The case was dismissed, and Zimmerman’s record expunged after he agreed to attend a pre-trial diversion program. In addition, police have fielded complaints from members of Zimmerman’s gated community about his aggressive conduct in the neighborhood.”

Stories about the 911 call Zimmerman made to the police clearly show that he ignored their advice. They told him not to pursue  and the boy asked him, “why are you following me?” So, why was Zimmerman following him and why was he armed in clear violation of neighborhood watch guidelines? Who appointed him to judge Trayvon’s guilt and pronounce a death sentence upon him when there was no evidence of any criminal intent?

In the Northern Wisconsin town of Slinger we have a case of underage drinking. Bo Morrison, 20 was at a party where alcohol was being served. Police were called to investigate the party due to a noise complaint. Morrison ran next door and was standing on a porch to avoid a ticket when the homeowner shot him. Although some internet messages suggested he had been trying to break in, there was no evidence of any criminal intent on his part.

Yesterday’s article by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Eugene Kane drew a parallel between the two cases . “Given the circumstances, Morrison’s shooting had the potential to become as sensational as Trayvon Martin’s death. Authorities in Washington County will be looking at the recently enacted Wisconsin law known as the castle doctrine to determine whether charges will be filed…For those who loved Morrison most, the fact remains they believe his death could have been avoided, since he wasn’t trying to break into the home or harm anyone, which is what the castle doctrine was meant to address.”

Two black youths have been killed without mercy or consideration of alternate means of action. The elements that tie these cases together, the ready availability of weapons due to lenient gun laws and the perceived threat created in white men, will haunt their families for years to come. Will the tide of history turn toward justice? Will the cycle of violence be broken?

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