LSAT Logic and the Trayvon Martin Shooting

LSAT Blog reader Julie wrote the following LSAT-style analysis of the Trayvon Martin shooting. Please feel free to discuss her analysis, and the Trayvon Martin case itself, in the comments.

If you'd like to write a post for LSAT Blog with your own analysis of the Trayvon Martin shooting or any other real-life situation, please email me. I'd love to feature you!

Julie's analysis:

Trayvon Martin was walking home wearing a hoodie and carrying Iced Tea and a pack of Skittles. He was shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman. Mr. Zimmerman is claiming self defense but has yet to be arrested.

Trayvon, 17 years old, was doing nothing more but walking through the wrong neighborhood , wearing the wrong clothes and having the wrong color skin. He was unarmed.

Zimmerman spotted Trayvon walking through the neighborhood and reported him to police. Zimmerman told 911 operators that he was following Trayvon and they told him that was not necessary. He claims that Trayvon attacked him and he acted in self defense when he shot and killed Trayvon.

Defenders of Zimmerman claim he was acting in self defense. Was he justified in using the amount of force he did?

The law that Zimmerman and his lawyers stand behind is called, “Stand Your Ground,” which allows victims to use deadly force if they believe seriously harm could come to them or someone else.

Did Trayvon Martin exhibit force? Did Zimmerman believe seriously harm could come to him at the hands of Trayvon Martin and a package of Skittles?

Trayvon’s family and supporters (about 75% of the country) argue that Trayvon could not have exhibited enough force to warrant Zimmerman to shoot and kill him. Especially since he was unarmed.

The case has exploded in the news media and Trayvon has been made a poster child for race, violence and stereotyping in our country. What is this case about? Was it self defense or racial profiling?

Al Sharpton and Self-Defense
The Reverend Al Sharpton stated, “This is not about self-defense. This is about a man deciding somebody, based on who he was, was a suspect and that he would take matters into his own hands."

Let’s think about Al Sharpton’s argument that this isn’t about self-defense. According to Zimmerman’s supporters, Zimmerman acted reasonably and in accordance with the law. He suffered injuries after the altercation with Trayvon.

However, Trayvon was unarmed. He was listening to music on his headphones and was apparently unaware of Zimmerman following him.

Is there sufficient evidence for Al Sharpton, and many others, to make this argument? Maybe. Is  Al Sharpton making an assumption based on the limited facts of the case that have been presented in the media?

What do you think? Can we make assumptions based on what we know of Zimmerman?

Geraldo Rivera and Hoodies
Let’s look at another argument made in the media by Geraldo Rivera:

"I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly not to let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as much as George Zimmerman was," Geraldo Rivera said on "Fox and Friends."

Isn’t this an over-generalization? Should Rivera make the assumption that the hoodie is “as much responsible for” Trayvon’s death as Zimmerman is? Isn’t there more to this case than what Trayvon was wearing? The way he was walking, his race, his gender all played into alerting Zimmerman's assessment of Trayvon Martin and led to Trayvon’s death.

What do you think? Can we generalize and say that a hoodie is responsible?

There are several problems with Rivera’s argument. First of all, a hoodie didn’t lead Zimmerman to pull the trigger. Zimmerman's himself is solely responsible for Trayvon’s death whether he acted in self defense or not. Lots of people wear hoodies of all races and genders and suggesting that an article of clothing caused Trayvon’s death is overgeneralizing and irresponsible.

Photo via Wikipedia


  1. "Trayvon,17 years old,was doing nothing more but walking through the wrong neighborhood , wearing the wrong clothes and having the wrong color skin. He was unarmed." Can we make this assumption? Witnesses are now saying otherwise. At first I was 100% convinced this was true, but I think we are making a rush for judgement. I think the hoodie comment is just silly. There is a new investigation, so we can only wait at this point and pray justice is served, no matter the outcome.

  2. Furthermore, Zimmerman was watching and following Trayvon. Trayvon, feeling that someone was following him, believed he was in danger, called 911 and tried to get away from the area in which he was being followed.

    Zimmerman, acting on his unfounded suspicions (on the phone with 911 while watching Trayvon - "He wore jeans or sweat pants and white tennis shoes. He’s here now … he’s just staring...These assholes. They always get away."), rushed to Trayvon where we can get the following incident on Trayvon's phone where he was talking to a friend. Hence, why he was walking slowly and "just staring" which Trayvon asks Zimmerman why he's been following him.

  3. Zimmerman's Stand Your Ground defense entirely depends on Trayvon having the intention and about to act on the intention of seriously harming Zimmerman.

    All evidence show that Trayvon could not have had that intention. Even if Trayvon did, how could he have attacked Zimmerman (fully armed) with a bag of skittles and an iced tea? Either way, Zimmerman's response is unjustified.

    1. "All evidence show" - Do you have access to this evidence that the rest of America would like to see? All you know is what you are being told. We weren't there, we don't know what the intentions of either party were.

  4. OK, I think this is an inappropriate discussion. If you are going to discuss the Trayvon Martin case from a legal aspect, do so. However, placing it in a LSAT problem format is disrespectful, THIS is real life NOT an LSAT necessary v. sufficient question. Yes, proper scrutiny should be given to the situation, but NOT like this. To understand why this is improper take the closest person you have lost and place THEIR name in the place of Trayvon's in the above scenarios. Hope you get the picture.

  5. I haven't heard anyone say anything about Trayvon Martin's right to "Stand Your Ground". Did he fear for his life when he saw Zimmerman armed (if he did), following him, and decided to defend himself? If Trayvon did then, was he acting within the law.

  6. Not a very logical Analysis. Julie ignores the possibility that A) Martin was possibly casing apartments for later robbery (he has a history of holding apparently stolen goods), and that B) Martin violently attacked Zimmerman without provocation. If so, the shooting was at least arguably justified, and Martin is more responsible for it than Zimmerman, who was potentially simply acting in self-defense.

    The real problem here is that the media is making tons of assumptions, and far more unwarranted ones than Zimmerman did. We need to stop making accusations until the facts are in.

    (Geraldo's opinions and comments are irrelevant.)