Paul Jacob

In his younger days, Zimmerman had been the victim of a criminal assault, which might have influenced him to be more fearful of being victimized, quicker to pull a trigger. There is no indication of a racial component to that earlier incident.

On the more crucial issue, self-defense, it appears that it was Zimmerman who was following Martin, not the other way around. This seems to obliterate a defense under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows the use of deadly force when under threat.

As for any tendency toward violence, in 2005 an ex-fiancée won a protective injunction against Zimmerman citing domestic violence. The implication of this is muddied up by the fact that Zimmerman filed and won his own injunction against her, too.

George Zimmerman attended a four-month law-enforcement program put on by the local sheriff’s office in 2008 and claimed at that time that he hoped to become a policeman one day. He has also worked with the Retreat at Twin Lakes neighborhood watch for eight years.

The bottom-line? We know too little about Mr. Zimmerman’s state of mind before or during this tragic clash. But whether his shooting of Trayvon Martin was spurred by race or an itchy trigger finger or a hero complex or something we know absolutely nothing about, or was actually somehow in self defense, is beside the point.

The point is that our justice system ought to get to the bottom of it.

We innocent bystanders are no more responsible for this deadly tragedy than are hoodies. But a miscarriage of justice by those who work for us — our government, our police — is our responsibility. Even though African Americans have experienced a lack of justice for far too long, the broader lesson here is for all of us to stand up in whatever way we can to demand and secure justice for each and every individual.

Sabrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, put it all in proper perspective, when she said, “This is not about a black and white thing; this is about a right and wrong thing.”

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, and the complexities of this case may have baffled the police in the first instance, discouraging action. Or habitual racism may have been a factor in officialdom’s initial inaction, even if it played a scant role in the shooting itself.

Whatever proves to be the case, public reaction and a free press seem to be doing their job, spurring review, investigation and, ultimately, some justice.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.