Wednesday, September 11, 2013

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: JUST PLAIN NEWS OR JUST PLAIN NUTS?

A friend of mine, Matt Robertson -- who, among his numerous other duties is the web and, I assume, social media, editor for The Morning News in Florence, S.C. -- posted this on his Facebook page yesterday:

"I'm taking an informal poll here. George Zimmerman's marital status and woes -- news or drek. You tell me."

He didn't exactly get a slew of responses, but more than 60 percent of those he did get leaned toward "drek." One of the more interesting responses came from Bernie Elliott who wrote: "Drek, unless she shoots him, then its karma."

My response at the time (with the profanity deleted) was: "Considering that these are keys to what may have caused him to kill Trayvon Martin...I vote news (as well as drek)."

Twenty-four hours later, and with more of a swirl developing today over his latest defense for allegedly violent behavior -- in this case against his now estranged wife and her father -- which essentially is "I was in fear of my life; she pulled and iPad on me," I stand by that statement.

Following his controversial arrest and trial for the slaying of Trayvon Martin -- an African-American Florida teenager with no serious record of violent behavior -- Zimmerman has managed to stay in the public spotlight thanks to his part in the rescue of a motorist following a traffic accident and then a couple of traffic citations, his wife's decision to possibly seek a divorce and, now, his alleged threats of violence against his wife and her father.

One would think that after his acquittal in the Trayvon Martin trial, Zimmerman would be trying very hard to stay out of the public spotlight. If that, in fact, is the case, you must admit that he hasn't done a very good job of it.

Frankly, it appears to me that Zimmerman has a strong propensity for finding trouble, or maybe he's simply a natural-born screwup. Either way, he just keeps on attracting trouble and media attention.

Naturally, the argument can be made that he is showing up in the news more simply because he is getting more attention from the media than some other Average Joe Sixpack. Of course, as is often the case with "celebrities," Zimmerman's antics since the trial are getting far more prominent play on television and on the Internet than in the print media, where the latest stories about him are largely being relegated to inside pages except in some papers in Florida, where his latest alleged offense occurred.

But, is all of this, in the classic sense, news? Well, yes...and no.

I am not sure that the fact that he got a couple of traffic tickets is earth shattering. Any of us could get picked up for driving too fast and the police dash-cam video most likely won't show up on the network evening news programs, and I am not at all sure that Zimmerman's traffic stops should have unless he had led police on a high-speed chase or if significant road rage had been involved. That was not the case and, in my opinion, the news coverage those incidents got was not warranted.

However, I do believe this latest incident, in which he allegedly threatened violence against his estranged wife and her father, is news.

For the sake of transparency (excuse me for employing that buzzword), I will admit that I was among those who did not feel justice was in anyway served by Zimmerman's acquittal in the Trayvon Martin slaying. The way I see it, a kid is dead for no really good reason and the person who killed him got off Scot free based on Florida's ludicrous "stand your ground" law that is little more than a license to kill. I blame the law in this case and, to a degree, the prosecutors, not the jury.

Clearly, at least to me, Zimmerman armed himself and went out looking for trouble on the night of Feb. 26, 2012, in Stanford, Fla.  He found it when he accosted the 17-year-old Martin, who's only discernible offense before getting into the scuffle with Zimmerman was that he was a black kid walking through a largely white neighbor wearing a hoodie after dark. At the time, Martin was armed only with Skittles and a soda. If Zimmerman had minded his own business, Martin would be alive today and Zimmerman would not keep finding himself on television in the public eye.

And now, with this latest incident, he's done it again. The argument certainly can be made that Zimmerman was courting -- if not outright looking for -- trouble Monday when he showed up at the house in Lake Mary, Fla., where he and his wife, Shellie, lived during the trial. His estranged wife and her father -- who, together, own the house -- were there when Zimmerman and several friends arrived. Apparently, George, Shellie and her father had some sort of heated exchange that prompted her to call 911 and allege that he had threatened her and her father.

Apparently, at some point during the confrontation, Shellie Zimmerman started filming with her iPad, which ended up getting smashed, allegedly by Zimmerman, who apparently is contending that Shellie assaulted him with the device.

Police are trying to sort the whole mess out and could end up charging someone with domestic violence.

Granted, all this is still quite convoluted, but I, nonetheless, believe this incident IS newsworthy because it does show that Zimmerman apparently has a knack for placing himself in tense situations that have a potential for turning violent and then may let anger -- or fear -- get the better of him. These factors, which if better known about him before or during the trial, might have made a difference in the way the jurors viewed his behavior on the night of Feb. 29, 2012.

In her initial 911 call, Shellie Zimmerman alleged that George threatened her and her father with a gun. Police did not find a gun and Shellie later recanted the gun allegation. However, there apparently was a tussle of some sort between George and her father which may have resulted in the father getting punched in the nose -- more violent behavior on Zimmerman's part.

All things considered, Shellie Zimmerman and her father may have been quite fortunate that George did not have a weapon. After all, under Florida law, he could have contended that he was "standing his ground" against a woman armed with an iPad.

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