Two Thoughts on Trayvon Martin

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The first from my colleague, Andrew Cohen who gives us some sense of what the case against Zimmerman will look like when the prosecutor puts it before the grand jury. Cohen zeroes in on the claim by Martin's girlfriend that Martin was attempting to flee:


This is the essence of this case. If grand jurors believe this story, there is no reason not to indict Zimmerman. And if trial jurors believe this story, it is likely that Zimmerman would be convicted of a crime. You can't "reasonably" be trying to avoid serious injury or death, you can't be doing something absolutely necessary to spare your own life, if you are at the same time chasing down the very person you claim to be deathly fearful of. Even under Florida's addled self-defense law, even under its most strident interpretation from its worst judge, such an explanation makes no sense.

We know from the 911 tapes what Zimmerman's motive might have been in going after Martin the way he did. But what would Martin's motive have been to attack Zimmerman, who was 11 years older and 100 pounds heavier than him? That's a question grand jurors will have to answer if and when they are confronted by the evident conflict between Zimmerman's story and the version offered by Martin's girlfriend. And it is here where the failings of the police investigation will likely deprive grand jurors of all the pertinent evidence and information they might have had, and should have had, in looking into this tragedy.
The last part is crucial. We have a good idea of who Zimmerman is; a guy who called 911 almost weekly -- once to report a group of kids "playing in the street" and another time to report two black men who were "hanging out" by the gate -- and ignored the dispatchers instructions not to pursue Trayvon Martin. Why would Martin, a teenager with no criminal or violent history, ambush Zimmerman from behind? And why would he do it while on the phone with his girlfriend?

The second thought is from me. I was on WNYC this morning talking to Brian Lehrer. I lost it a bit when Brian played the tape, and then lost it a bit more when a caller impugned the release of the statement from Martin's girlfriend, and pitched the police as blameless. I try to make a point of keeping cool. But there is something about those tapes that is heart-breaking, and the caller just pushed me over.


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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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