Alan Dershowitz is Wrong: Trayvon Martin’s Alleged Killer Must Be Tried

The attorney is arguing that the charges against George Zimmerman should be dropped. But Mansfield Frazier says a trial is the only way we'll know that justice was served.

Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel, Pool / AP Photo

When a voice as authoritative in legal matters as Alan Dershowitz’s calls for charges against George Zimmerman to be dropped, people listen. In a New York Daily News article he recounts the documented injuries Zimmerman suffered and then writes, “If this evidence turns out to be valid, the prosecutor will have no choice but to drop the second-degree murder charge against Zimmerman—if she wants to act ethically, lawfully and professionally.”

While I have the utmost respect for Dershowitz, in this case I have to disagree. There are simply too many unanswered questions to even suggest circumventing the jury process by dropping the charges. This case cries out for a very public and thorough airing of the facts.

Certainly Zimmerman’s injuries add another layer to an already cloudy set of circumstances, but all they really prove is that a violent struggle took place between him and Trayvon Martin, which is all the more reason to allow the legal process to play out. We need find out—to the greatest extent possible—what really happened. And while Zimmerman’s attorney is duty-bound to get the best possible outcome for his client, the prosecutor in this case has a duty to assure that all of the facts are presented in a legal forum.

At heart, this case is really about the type of society some want to have versus the one the National Rifle Association wants to foist on an unsuspecting public. Just imagine for a minute that Trayvon Martin was an adult instead of a juvenile; further, that he was licensed to carry a concealed weapon; and still further, that he had a gun on his person when Zimmerman approached him. Under “Stand Your Ground” laws Martin could have just as easily shot and killed Zimmerman instead, and (if not for the fact he was black, and that laws—when race enters into the picture—have been applied unequally in this country for centuries) he then could have made the same self-defense claim. Under this type of Wild West mentality fistfights can (and will) escalate into murders.

Nonetheless, more laws are being proposed in some states to allow concealed weapons to be carried into bars, schools, and public buildings, all in the name of creating a safer society.

According to a study published in the prestigious American Journal of Epidemiology, however, “Those persons with guns in the home were at greater risk than those without guns in the home of dying from a homicide in the home …”

Writing on the website for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Violence, Dennis Henigan said, “The NRA has a wonderfully simple story to tell. In the NRA’s world, people are neatly divided into two readily identifiable groups: good guys and bad guys. In this imaginary world, we know that legal carriers of guns must be good guys and that good guys use their guns only in legitimate self-defense—that’s what makes them good guys in the first place. The Trayvon Martin tragedy reveals the real world to be far more complicated.” Indeed it is.

In the streets there’s a phenomenon called “pistol courage” which poses the question, would Zimmerman—if he wasn’t armed—have approached Martin in the aggressive manner in which he did? Put another way, are cowards, when they’re empowered with the advantage of firepower, willing to take more risks, and even provoke situations that could have been handled in another manner if they were not armed?

Many gun nuts brag about how they could blow someone away and sleep like babies, and for some of them that’s the gospel truth. But for others (even case-hardened soldiers and police officers) once they’ve taken the life of another human being they’re forever changed—and not for the better. And there’s really no way to know in advance how a person will be affected.

In the Martin/Zimmerman case, issues such as who was crying out for help and what Trayvon was saying to his girlfriend in the seconds before the confrontation cannot be dismissed, and can only be thoroughly examined in a court of law. But the real upside of a trial is that a much-needed spotlight will be placed on “Stand Your Ground” laws. Even if Zimmerman is found not guilty, if those dangerous laws are changed, society will have won a victory.