2013-07-14 – Not guilty.
The George Zimmerman verdict is being ballyhooed as vindication of Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense. But that’s not how the law works when a defendant wins. Defendants are supposed to be found not guilty if the evidence fails to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendants win on doubt, not theories. The deck is deliberately stacked in defendants’ favor. A jury that was unsure was required to come to this verdict.
I suppose the technical legal effect of the Zimmerman case is to declare the death of Trayvon Martin to be accidental. But, of course, it was not. I have never thought Zimmerman to be an overt racist, but our society is infused with a subtler form of racism that brings suspicion to our minds when we see black teenagers that don’t arise when we see white teenagers. Zimmerman was a guy with a desire to act on suspicion. Accidents happen.
To me the telling moment was his refusal to let his suspicion go, after he was told to let police handle the situation. Once he began tailing Martin, against police advice, anything could happen. And did. Some boys being stalked may lash out. Maybe that’s what happened. Maybe not. The most we can say (unless jury member talk) is that the jury was unsure about that one. To me, though, Zimmerman started it and shouldn’t have prevailed based on a claim, essentially, that Martin was defending himself.
As usual, Zimmerman, the little guy, is a pawn. Forces in our society spin the fear that leads people like him to step forward and offer protection. At a time when violence in most of society has actually declined, the fear of violence is greater than ever. And it’s not just the NRA or Republicans or white supremacists who are responsible. Hollywood and the media and the recording industry thrive on stories of violence. Stories, not truth.
And so Zimmerman dodged his bullet. But he will never go back to a normal life. There may be a civil suit. The legal standards are different in civil court (as OJ learned). There will be places where Zimmerman will not be welcome, places where Zimmerman’s life may be in danger.
And there will be the book deal . . . to keep the story of violence in America alive.