When the Emirates 777 touched down in Dubai early Thursday morning and I turned on my Blackberry, there were 100 messages.
En route to Afghanistan, I knew it was big news on the story back home that has occupied so much of my editorial attention for the last six weeks. Indeed, all of the messages had the same urgent theme: George Zimmerman had finally been arrested for killing Trayvon Martin. He was in jail in Sanford Florida, and was planning on pleading not guilty.
And I am happy for the long-suffering Martin family that their son’s death will not go unanswered by the justice system. They have behaved with grace and dignity throughout this ordeal, which has captivated and divided the nation, and made hoodies a household word.
Far from unexpected, the arrest was overdue and pre-ordained once the decision was made by Florida governor Rick Scott to appoint tough, take-no-prisoners Angela Corey special prosecutor. With her record of going for the max, she was chosen once the local prosecutor withdrew from the case after screwing it up back in February by declining to arrest Zimmerman at the scene.
Given the pressure from the White House, civil rights leaders, elected officials and much of the media, as I said on my radio program, despite the murky details of the deadly encounter, it would have taken an act of supreme self-confidence for Ms. Corey to defy the popular will and decline to arrest the neighborhood watch vigilante.
Clearly, the arrest has ample legal justification. Zimmerman killed an unarmed teenager, and the fact that he was well-intentioned makes no difference. His claims of self-defense will now be litigated before a jury, but hopefully not a hometown jury from enraged Sanford, Florida.
"We do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition. We prosecute based on the facts on any given case as well as the laws of the state of Florida," claimed Ms. Corey.
Yet her decision to go for second-degree murder rather than manslaughter indicates that she is not above the political fray.
Unless Ms. Corey has a lot more information than we do, and given the cascade of leaks in this case I doubt that she does, however you read the conflicting accounts of this tragic encounter, Zimmerman was not acting with the “depraved indifference” to Trayvon Martin’s life required to support a charge of Murder 2.
Rather, Zimmerman was reckless, overzealous and grossly negligent. He should have held back once warned off by the 911 operator. He should not have tried to be a Super Auxiliary Cop. He should not have drawn his weapon. He should not have fired it, killing an unarmed kid.
But in his defense, Zimmerman thought he was being a responsible citizen, even a hero, protecting his beleaguered community from the latest incident in a sorry epidemic of burglary. He didn’t set out to become the poster boy for racial profiling. This was a perfect storm of random circumstances leading to an awful tragedy. His crime, if it is a crime, is manslaughter.
By charging Zimmerman with murder, the special prosecutor has insured that he will garner sympathy and support from a substantial segment of the country, including the enormously powerful gun lobby.
Watch the donations pour in from segments both mainstream and unsavory. By quieting half the country, Ms. Corey has aroused the other.
Geraldo Rivera is Senior Columnist for Fox New Latino.