Does George Zimmerman's Fight With His Girlfriend Cast Doubt on His Acquittal?


Video via The Orlando Sentinel

Yesterday George Zimmerman was charged with aggravated assault after his girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, claimed he aimed a shotgun at her during a fight. Here is part of the 911 call that Scheibe placed at 12:30 p.m. from her home in Apopka, Florida:

Scheibe: He's in my house breaking all my shit because I asked him to leave. He has a freakin' gun, breaking all of my stuff right now. [To Zimmerman:]  I'm doing this again? You just broke my glass table, you broke my sunglasses, and you put your gun in my freakin' face and told me to get the fuck out…This is not your house. No, get out of here. 

Dispatcher: OK, where's his weapon at?

Scheibe: He just put it down. [To Zimmerman:] Get out of my house. Do not push me out of my house. 

Zimmerman: I didn't push you, Sammy.

Scheibe: Will you please get out of my house.

Zimmerman: Calm down. 

Scheibe: Are you serious right now? Are you fucking kidding me? [To dispatcher:] He just pushed me out of my house and locked me out.

Zimmerman denies brandishing any weapons. He claims Scheibe was the one who flew off the handle and broke the table. He says she became irate when he started packing his things to move out after she informed him that she was pregnant but wanted to raise the baby on her own. (Scheibe says she is not pregnant.) When police arrived, about four minutes after Scheibe called 911, they found Zimmerman calm and unarmed.

This incident is reminiscent of a fight that Zimmerman had with his estranged wife, Shellie, in September. She initially claimed he had threatened her and her father with a gun but later admitted she never actually saw a weapon. The police concluded there was insufficient evidence to charge Zimmerman.

People who are already convinced that Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon Martin was not justified will see these two incidents as further evidence that Zimmerman is an aggressor who is good at playing the victim. And if he really did threaten his ex-wife or his girlfriend with a gun, that suggests a disposition consistent with the conclusion that he acted more out of anger than out of fear when he shot Martin.

Still, the prosecution did not come close to proving that claim beyond a reasonable doubt at Zimmerman's trial. On the whole, the evidence indicated that Martin started the fight and that he was on top of Zimmerman when the shot was fired. Furthermore, Zimmerman's injuries were consistent with his report that Martin punched him in the face and knocked his head against the pavement. That does not necessarily mean Zimmerman reasonably believed shooting Martin was necessary to prevent death or serious injury. But to win an acquittal, all the defense had to do was make that scenario seem plausible. If it seems a little less plausible in light of Zimmerman's subsequent domestic squabbles, that does not mean the jury erred. After all, even an asshole can act in self-defense. We will never know for sure whether Zimmerman really did, but under our system of justice he rightly benefited from that doubt. And it should go without saying that any crime Zimmerman might commit after his acquittal cannot possibly make the right to stand your ground retroactively relevant to his defense in the earlier case.