July 18, 2013 | Volume 118, Issue No. 29

Controversial case: guilty ... not guilty

Wick's World

To be very clear, these are the views and opinions reflected by Wick Fisher and not of the newspaper.

The verdict was obvious before the charges were even made. The way Florida law was written, Trayvon Martin should not even had his day in court. Morally, he deserved one; legally, he did not. The way the ticking-time bomb law was written in Florida, wannabe cop George Zimmerman, a trigger-happy vigilante was legally allowed to go a huntin’.

George Zimmerman’s actions that tragic night had nothing to do with protecting society and everything to do with his passion for playing with cowboy justice. Back in the Wild West, a blind eye would have greeted his actions. Today, one thought America would have placed a little more emphasis on the "civil" part of the word civilization. Unfortunately, the law referred to as “Stand Your Ground” has proven civility to be limited. In many parts of America, this law will become a license to kill.

George Zimmerman was a legal gunslinger who exercised the new, poorly written "Stand Your Ground" law.

Technically, this case should never have gone to trial. You can either blame or thank the media that it did. Remember, the local police made the decision that night not to charge George Zimmerman with any unlawful act. In this case, the cops were correct. The law was on their side. Ethically, morally and especially historically, this incident came across as another cold-blooded murder for no other reason than the fact that the victim was an African-American; period. This case was no more complicated than that.

The same incident could have happened to Hispanics in Arizona or elsewhere. Two sets of justice prevail in my home state of South Dakota — one for whites and another for Indians. I mean no disrespect by the term “Indian” but if you live in South Dakota, you understand why it’s used in this context. Racism in the Dakotas and elsewhere runs as deep as anywhere in the Deep South.

Trayvon Martin would not have gotten more than a second glance from George Zimmerman but for the color of his skin.

Decades ago, a Native American friend of mine got pulled over near Cloquet one night. The officer eventually charged my law-abiding friend with crossing the center line, a common police practice when no other illegal evidence turns up.

When my friend, a professor at UMD, went to a lawyer to fight this injustice, the lawyer stated, “You just got charged with a DWI.”

“No,” replied my friend. “I don’t even drink.”

“I meant Driving While Indian,” replied the lawyer.

Fortunately, some things have changed since the days of the Wild West. Yes, they have even improved since Jim Crow ran his reign of terror in the Deep South. Despite this, a new archaic, life-threatening "Stand Your Ground" law is sweeping the nation. To me, it looks like a red-neck sport-hunting license to harass, intimidate and even murder minorities.

Hopefully change will come as it has in Carlton County, due in a large part to our no-nonsense sheriff, Kelly Lake. The buck stops at the top and Sheriff Lake has set a high standard since she assumed authority. Leadership such as hers has a trickledown effect that needs to be emulated by not just law enforcement, but particularly by lawmakers.

You can blame George Zimmerman for being an over-zealous want to be cop. You cannot legally claim him to be a murderer. It is the Florida State Legislature that has the blood on their hands.

I spent two full years as the only white person at a Native American school — the first as a 4-year-old first grader, a half century later as a librarian. One day the school counselor walked into my library and handed me a small wallet size card. It contained the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

“You probably won’t need it, but I give one to all the kids as soon as they enter high school. Some day every one of them will need it,” he said.

To George Zimmerman: You could have said, “Do you need a lift? I patrol the area; who are you seeing or why are you here?” or even, “I don’t recognize you, can I be of assistance?”

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