I wanted to share my friend Parke Morris' thoughts on the case, as they closely mirror mine. Parke and I spent much time together during our young lawyer days, including one memorable trip where he bravely climbed into the cockpit with me for a 8 hour, round trip flight from Memphis to the Tri-Cities area in northeastern Tennessee.
After a stint in a tall building law firm in Memphis, Parke spent six years working for Johnnie Cochran's firm, representing those injured and victimized by the negligence of others. More recently, he's struck out on his own, continuing his work in the area of personal injury.
I share with you his thoughts below, in their entirety:
The Zimmerman trial is the inverse of the Simpson case. Now most black folks know what the whites felt like back in 1995 and vice versa. Whitley and I went for a second time to a mixed race downtown church where many of the needs are third-world and raw-rent money, funeral money, murder charges etc. there are a lot of poor folks who go to church there and it feels real. The white minister told the crowd that this result in the Zimmerman trial was a travesty and that an injustice has been perpetrated.
I must be honest- I wanted to leave. I felt it was inappropriate to mix politics in the church and essentially pander to certain church members who vocally supported such a statement. Whitley has reminded me that in any racially mixed setting its just going to be messy. Its just hard to get out of your comfort zone. There is no doubt in my mind that black kids are inappropriately targeted, that the police profile, that minorities are still screwed over in this country and that the vestiges of slavery still exist where we live. I have filed civil rights cases. I have seen government officials rush to judgment and prosecute the wrong person. I just wish that the political capital and moral outrage displayed in this case had been spent on a different case with better facts. An eyewitness and physical evidence of a received beating are hard to deny. This entire situation is just a travesty but folks need to be careful baiting others or stoking the fires....
Lastly, where is Sharpton here in Memphis when there are black kids consistently killed by other black kids? Why are their deaths somehow less important than T Martin's? Why is the seeming perpetual zone of black on black violence that exists about three miles from our house summarily ignored, forgotten and left out of the Zimmerman discussion? Is it because it does not sell newspapers or 30 second ad spots?
And there you have it. The media picks one case out of literally thousands of stories of young black men who are killed each year, fan the flames of racial incitement despite the fact there was no evidence that Zimmerman engaged Martin because he was black, all while ignoring the staggering statistics of how often these same young people are killed or incarcerated.
Zimmerman was acquitted. But just because he was found not guilty of a crime doesn't mean he is not guilty of bad tactics. So what can we learn from this? Here are my thoughts:
- Everything you do and don't do, say and don't say, before and after a self defense shooting will be scrutinized. If a prosecutor thinks it will help convict you if they put your third grade teacher on the stand to say you said a bad word when you were a little kid, expect them to do it. Your entire life will be put under a microscope. Before you decide to use deadly force to defend yourself, determine whether it's worth it to go through what Zimmerman went through mentally, emotionally and financially.
- Don't stop asking for help after you've stopped the threat. Both the lead prosecutor on the case and the State Attorney commented separately that one of the things that drove them to prosecute the case was that the yelling for help stopped immediately after the gun was fired. Would it have mattered if Zimmerman had called 911 immediately after that? It couldn't have hurt. Also, to the extent you can safely do so, provide medical assistance to the person who was attacking you - even if all you can do is to call 911 and ask them to send EMS for the person you just shot.
- Get advanced training. Going through a licensing class every few years isn't sufficient to adequately train you for the variety of threats you will face on the street - it's just the bare minimum. Spend the money to go take a class where you are forced to make decisions - Force on Force training may very well be the best money spent for anyone who is serious about carrying a gun for self defense.