Sunday, July 14, 2013

The George Zimmerman Verdict

George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin in February 2012. That is a sad fact. But, yet Zimmerman was found not guilty and people can’t seem to figure out why and are mislabeling the verdict as racist. That assertion is nonsense. It could have been argued as racist had Zimmerman never been charged. However, he was charged with 2nd Degree murder and faced up to life in prison had he been convicted.

Why Zimmerman wasn’t convicted was because the prosecution’s case was weak. Here is what happened. Zimmerman sees Martin and thinks he looks suspicious. Zimmerman is probably racially profiling Martin, which is deplorable but not illegal. Then, Zimmerman gets out of his car and follows Martin, though he’s advised not to. Again, that’s not illegal but doesn’t look good for Zimmerman.

At some point, verbal and then physical altercations erupt that are witnessed by no one. The State was unable to prove who the initial physical aggressor was. This might have been the most fatal flaw in their case. Evidence showed that Zimmerman’s nose was struck hard and the back of his head was cut at least twice. Thus, Martin obviously got some blows in.

But whom touched whom first? The State couldn’t prove this and in a self-defense case, this is an extremely important point. Also, no witness was able to positively identify the person heard yelling during the 911 call. There was opinion testimony but that’s it. Opinions.

The jury is left with a dead kid and the guy that shot him. But the state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman was not acting in lawful self-defense. And I imagine, that’s why Zimmerman was acquitted.

Zimmerman was wrong for profiling Martin and he was wrong for following him. And those acts might have been racist. But in no way was the verdict racist. The State had the opportunity to put on all of its evidence and the jury appeared to do a very thorough job of evaluating that evidence before reaching a verdict.

To suggest that the outcome of the Zimmerman trial was racist would mean that the prosecutor’s office conspired with the jurors to have Zimmerman acquitted and that’s simply nonsensical. A number of us may not like this verdict because Zimmerman was responsible for Martin’s death. And his acts that night may have been racially motivated.

The trial, however, was not racist and properly so. The jurors witnessed the evidence. Most of the people complaining about this verdict did not. For many, that a white (sort of white) man was acquitted for killing a young black man, just has to be racist. The actions that led to Martin’s death might have been racist, but the verdict was not and was the right verdict.

However, it’s easy to understand the confusion. The media portrayed Zimmerman as a racist and he might be. But that’s not what he was on trial for. This whole mess was simply sad. A young black man minding his own business was killed. And for that, people rightly felt his killer should be held accountable. However, the law often doesn’t fit the views of a society that’s been pumped full of media spun stories.

You can dislike the verdict as a society that rightfully felt Trayvon Martin deserved justice. I wanted Zimmerman convicted because I believe he was in the wrong. He should have stayed in his car and not followed Martin. But exiting his car is not illegal and the jury determined that him shooting Martin was also not illegal because the State of Florida simply could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman did not act in self-defense and thus, reached the right verdict.

It’s understandable that many cannot get their heads around the verdict, but labeling it as racist is misguided. And it needs to stop. The Martin family lawyer, Benjamin Crump, in his post verdict statements, likened Martin to Medgar Evers and Emmet Till. I find that statement highly reckless and far off the mark. The only purpose that comment could have served was stirring up more racial discontent over the verdict.

George Zimmerman may be a racist, but it was a fair and just trial in the eyes of the law. Dislike of the verdict is understandable, but playing the race card isn't justified and only makes things worse. This mess was sensationalized due to race and I find that sad. Black man killed by non-black man and it looks like the killer is a racist, thus he must pay. As a society, we can feel that way and perhaps, rightly so.

In the courtroom, however, there is no media spin. There are only facts derived from proper evidence. And in the case of George Zimmerman, the prosecution simply did not have enough evidence to convict. It was an extremely fair trial that was judged quite well. The prosecution just didn't have a strong case and racism played no part in their failure to secure a conviction.

Had Trayvon Martin been white, George Zimmerman likely never gets charged. But the media spun this story as the racist murdering of a young black teenager, which sounds horrible and cannot be allowed by our society. If this trial stands for anything it's how dangerous and reckless the media is in its never ending hunt for stories that shock us and this one certainly did so. 

Due to the media frenzy, Zimmerman was convicted before the trial began. Thousands gripped tightly to their beliefs about the case, only to have them shattered by the verdict. By swallowing the media spin, you've lost the ability to consider the case objectively, which is what jurors must do. Thus, it's no surprise that the legal verdict, which was inconsistent with the media's verdict, caused such an uproar.

The blame should focused on the media, not the State of Florida.