The rage I used to feel toward George Zimmerman for the ease with which he manipulated Florida's incompetent criminal justice system has been replaced by something totally unexpected in recent days -- pity.
The man who convinced a jury that the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was something the victim brought on himself has apparently not had a moment's peace since his acquittal in August.
Since that day he walked out of court, he has been stopped for speeding by police on three separate occasions. He had a violent encounter with Shellie Zimmerman, his soon-to-be ex-wife, and her family. That incident allegedly involved punching her elderly father in the face, breaking the iPad with which she recorded the assault and menacing the family with a gun.
Quick intervention by the same legal team that got him acquitted for murder prevented his wife from filing assault charges, but she still went on a morning television show to voice doubts about her husband's innocence in the Martin killing. Like the juror who came forward to confess that she made a mistake going along with her peers in acquitting Mr. Zimmerman, Shellie Zimmerman insisted that recent events had "[taken] the blinders off" her eyes.
Mr. Zimmerman's post-acquittal tour of the gun manufacturing plant that produced the weapon he used to kill Martin wasn't considered too unseemly a victory lap by the amen corner cheering him on from the bowels of conservative talk radio at the time.
Short of shooting up a shopping mall, Mr. Zimmerman was on track to be the gun lobby's favorite Second Amendment poster boy in perpetuity. Unfortunately for him, the problem with being a symbol of gun-toting braggadocio in America is that it doesn't pay very well.
There wasn't much chance of an unemployed, failed neighborhood watch captain saddled with $2 million in legal bills and a pending civil suit of getting his own slot on Fox News. Still, if he played his cards right, he could've counted on popping up with some regularity on "Hannity" where his commentary on matters of "urban violence" wouldn't have been automatically giggled at.
Now even that opportunity for innocuous bloviating and an easy paycheck may have been lost. Recently, Mr. Zimmerman was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and domestic battery against Samantha Scheibe, his 27-year-old girlfriend whom he moved in with shortly after his acquittal. No, his divorce from Mrs. Zimmerman is not final yet, but thanks for asking.
Part of his angry exchange with Ms. Scheibe was caught on the 911 dispatcher's recording, including her allegation that he stuck a gun in her face even though he thought she was pregnant. It is Ms. Scheibe's contention that he also broke her furniture and shoved her out the front door of her own apartment. When the cops arrived, they found her outside. Initially, Mr. Zimmerman defied police orders to open the door. He called 911 to report that his girlfriend was "going crazy on me" and that the cops were pounding on the door and windows.
When the dispatcher suggested that he talk to the cops on the scene, he confessed he was in no hurry to do so. Knowing that his 911 call would be released to the media within hours, he was more interested in getting his side of the story out. After all, his advocates at Fox News would need fresh talking points now that the glow of his acquittal has worn off.
"He knows how to do it," Ms. Scheibe complained to the dispatcher. "He knows how to play the game." The game she was referring to was the criminal justice game that enabled him to beat the system as shamelessly as O.J. Simpson once did. Later, she would tell an interviewer that he also choked her once, but had never reported it. So much for the right-wing myth about Mr. Zimmerman's reluctance to use violence.
Mr. Zimmerman's call to 911 was not only diabolical, it was an ingenious refutation of everything Ms. Scheibe had told the cops. For being so composed, he was able to walk out of jail on a measly $9,000 bail bond. The judge ordered him to give up his shotgun, two handguns and an AR-15 assault rifle. He was also ordered to wear a monitoring device and to stay away from Ms. Scheibe. He was a free man again, though burdened with suicidal thoughts, according to Ms. Scheibe.
Amateur psychology suggests that all of Mr. Zimmerman's post-acquittal drama may be his way of trying to come clean for killing Martin. He may have wanted to be convicted, but he beat the system with a far-fetched defense and a gullible jury. Even so, there's a tiny part of him that still craves justice. The fact that Florida can't give it to him is what's so damn pitiful.
Tony Norman: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1631 or on Twitter @TonyNormanPG.