Guest Column: We all must learn from Zimmerman case

2013-07-22T00:00:00Z Guest Column: We all must learn from Zimmerman caseRich Wodka Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The Zimmerman case is a tragic situation. But it has nothing to do with the concept of "stand your ground."

The origin and intent of Stand your ground laws solely address a situation where an individual is threatened in his domicile.

It provides for the right to address such a threat with force (up to and including "deadly force") to protect yourself and family.

Nothing else.

This case is about an individual who overreacted to a situation he likely provoked. Perhaps "well-intentioned," perhaps not.

It is about an individual who, in my opinion, should not have been granted a license to carry a concealed weapon. We're told in testimony that he has current and ongoing mental-health issues.

We're told he was found "unfit" to be a police officer. This desire to be a police officer was manifest in his involvement in a community watch program.

Zimmerman's perception of his role is clearly not correct. He was solely to be the "eyes and ears" of local law enforcement. He acted as a vigilante.

After reporting a concern, he reacted incorrectly, not consistent with his role, ignoring the instructions from the police dispatcher.

Apparently his continuing "provocation," perceived as a threat by Trayvon Martin, became heated and violent to whatever degree, and Zimmerman responded with the use of deadly force that appears through testimony to have been unwarranted.

I believe he acted recklessly, certainly overboard, and a young man is dead.

This is a tragedy.

Zimmerman did not commit murder or manslaughter as defined by statute.

I believe he did, however, commit both reckless endangerment and/or negligent homicide.

The state chose not to include these "lesser" criminal acts, and was unable to establish a case for the crimes it chose to charge.

As a result, after careful deliberation by a jury, Zimmerman was found not guilty. As a result, he walked. No consequences, no remediation, no evaluations.

This is a tragedy.

Zimmerman continues to possess a concealed weapons permit. Zimmerman has no "conditions of release," such as anger management, psychological evaluation or behavioral health management.

Apparently, after a respite, he will be welcomed back to community watch, as a leader, viewed as a hero.

This is a tragedy.

This entire "comedy" of errors, from the fateful night and deadly confrontation, the subsequent investigation by the local police, the local government reaction to public outrage, the state's conduct in preparing for the trial, the charges made, the prosecution's behavior and lack of clarity and focus in the courtroom, the political positioning by the local mayor's office and assigned state's attorney and, sadly, the outcome of the trial, the lack of any effected change, consequences or even punishment cause me to be profoundly disappointed in "the system."

This is a tragedy.

It worked correctly based on the facts presented, but a young man is dead, and the individual who caused his death continues to walk the streets, armed, untrained, with a significant mental-health history and ongoing issues, to be welcomed back to the same situation.

And someone expects different results? That's the definition of insanity; doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome.

And when it happens here in Tucson, in Arizona, an even more "gun-friendly" state, where we've already experienced a gun-mental health tragedy, what are we going to say?

If we don't get it right, if we don't understand the problems, we'll never be able to change the situation and solve them.

Rich Wodka is a retired behavioral health physician and former deputy sheriff in Los Angeles County and a paralegal. He lives in Tucson.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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