A surprising moment of faith emerges at the George Zimmerman trial

As the nation continues to keep close watch on the trial of George Zimmerman, who faces second-degree murder charges for the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year, a number of interesting facts continue to emerge about the night of Martin's death. And as week two of the trial kicked off today, Officer Doris Singleton shared a surprising discussion she had about faith with Zimmerman during his questioning on the night of the shooting.

It had already been reported that Zimmerman, at least according to an old MySpace page that was dug up, considered himself a Roman Catholic. Now Singleton has revealed that Zimmerman, upon learning at the police station that Martin had died from the gunshot wound suffered during their altercation, brought up his faith after noticing that Singleton wore a cross around her neck. The New York Times reports:

“He kind of slung his head and shook it,” she said. She also said he noticed the cross she was wearing and said, “In the Catholic religion it’s always wrong to kill somebody.” To which she replied: “If what you’re telling me is true, that’s not what God meant. It doesn’t mean you can’t save your own life.”

That's an unexpected moment of spiritual reflection on the justification of taking a human life, an element that I didn't see coming in this trial that has focused so heavily on hot button issues like racial prejudice and gun violence.

Of course, we may never know what really happened on the night of Martin's death. Maybe, as some argue, Zimmerman was an overzealous neighborhood watchman who deliberately stalked an unarmed African American teen and gunned him down. Or maybe, as Zimmerman contends, he was watching someone who may have been a danger to the neighborhood and then was forced to shoot Martin in self-defense after being assaulted. Maybe the real story lies somewhere in between, with only Zimmerman (and God) knowing the truth. Either way, Zimmerman's words to Singleton indicate that he understood the gravity of taking a human life and clearly had some level of remorse over what happened that night.

Trayvon Martin's death was undoubtedly tragic, and it will now be up to the courts to decide who is to blame for the teen's death. But Zimmerman–even if the worst case scenario of the shooting is true–should also be given the opportunity to make amends for whatever it was that led him to pull the trigger that night. As a Catholic, Zimmerman surely knows that no living person is denied the opportunity for redemption and forgiveness by God. For all we know, Zimmerman may have already received it inside the confessional.

About the author

Scott Alessi

Scott Alessi is a former managing editor of U.S. Catholic.