Protesters gathered in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to demand a hate-crime investigation into the killing of Trayvon Martin, a black teen who was shot last month by a half-Latino neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman. Police in Sanford, Fla., the town where Martin was killed, say Zimmerman told them the shooting occurred after Martin punched him in the nose and banged his head against the ground. Martin's parents say the account is just part of an attempt to smear their son and deflect blame. Does Zimmerman's side of the story suggest the tragedy wasn't his fault?
Zimmerman still belongs in jail: Let's assume everything happened as Zimmerman claims, says Robert Wright at The Atlantic. Zimmerman shot Martin because the teen was beating him up, and Zimmerman feared for his life. But how did they get to that point? "A man with a gun pursued an unarmed teenager who had done nothing wrong" and started a confrontation that ended in the young man's death. Zimmerman still "should do jail time for killing Martin."
"The case for George Zimmerman is the case against him"
But Zimmerman's side of the story complicates things: These details make the case against Zimmerman "murkier," says William A. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection, and at the very least, "cast doubt on the simplistic narrative in the media." We've all been told that Zimmerman is "an out of control Neighborhood Watch vigilante who hunted down Martin with an intent to kill or capture because of Martin's race." That may not be true after all, and we should all reserve judgment until all the facts are known.
"Trayvon Martin case heading towards the political abyss"
Regardless, this is still a tragedy: We might never find out what really happened, says Katherine Ozment at Boston Magazine. If there was a fight, it's easy to imagine that the 140-pound Martin felt threatened when the 200-pound Zimmerman followed him; "perhaps the teen was the one who felt, in essence, that he had to 'stand his ground.'" We may never know for sure. But some things are certain: "A black teen is dead at the hands of someone who was charged with protecting people. A family has lost a beloved son and brother. There's a reason people are outraged; Trayvon Martin's story, of a black male tagged as suspicious because of his race, is a story we are tired of hearing."
"Trayvon Martin and the 'code'"