The only thing that is certain in the road rage trial of Martin Zale is that it was tragic.
A wife widowed. Children growing up father-less.
After that, it gets tricky.
Zale is the motorist who is accused of murder in the fatal shooting of Derek Flemming last September 2 in Genoa Township, at Grand River Avenue and Chilson Road.
Zale was allegedly driving recklessly and Flemming, on a beautiful afternoon after having lunch with his wife, didn't appreciate it.
The vehicles stopped at a red light---Zale's in front of Flemming's---and Flemming got out of his vehicle to confront Zale. Witnesses say that Flemming looked very angry and had both fists clenched as he approached Zale's truck.
Moments later, Flemming was dead---shot once in the face. He died instantly.
Zale didn't flee; rather, he pulled off to the side of the road and called his lawyer.
Those are the basic facts. Zale's trial is happening now, and I think it's going to be fascinating to follow.
Of course, there's a lot more to it than what I have chronicled. But that's what makes it so fascinating.
Who among us has never been enraged by another motorist?
Martin Zale at his trial
That's what enthralls me about the Zale trial. So many criminal trials are difficult to relate to, because they involve actions or circumstances in which a vast majority of us would never find ourselves.
But Martin Zale and Derek Flemming? We've all been the latter and some of us, whether we choose to admit it or not, have been the former.
It's just that in this case, Flemming took that extra step that many of us have fantasized about but have still managed to avoid actually doing---probably because of the fear of the fate that befell Flemming.
It's a trial that so many of can relate to. And I believe that its verdict could have a ripple effect in several ways.
It's also a trial where there will be no shortage of opinion or water cooler talk at the office.
As I said, the only non-debatable aspect here is that what happened was a tragedy. It always is, when something bad happens that was avoidable.
But there's that word: avoidable.
It's a sort of chicken and egg thing going on here.
You can say that Flemming initiated, in essence, his own death by climbing out of his vehicle to confront Zale.
You can also say that Zale initiated everything because of his allegedly reckless driving to begin with.
Then there are the backgrounds of the two men.
Zale, according to co-workers at least, was notorious for crazy driving. He also has another documented road rage confrontation from his past in which police were called.
Flemming, for his part, also--according to those who knew him---had exhibited behavior in the past that aligns with possible anger issues.
So there we have it---two known hotheads coming together to form a perfect storm of rage and reaction.
The easy thing to do---and I am among those who have done it---is to wag a finger and hold up Flemming as the poster boy for why you should never confront, and why you should call 911 instead.
But that doesn't let Zale off the hook, of course. Flemming's actions may have been ill-advised, but did they deserve the death penalty?
Maybe something like this was bound to happen, involving Martin Zale.
Perhaps the same could be said of Derek Flemming.
They'll be talking about this one for years.