The frustrating Zimmerman verdict
Not guilty. Photo: Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images
I didn't want to weigh on Trayvon Martin's death even though I grew up in a white gated community very close to Sanford, Florida.
For those who follow the case, it seems that, no matter what you say, who you are determines what you apparently believe. Or, you had to believe something absolutely, from the start, about the case, and carry it through to the end, and its logical conclusion.
From the beginning, I thought that George Zimmerman did it -- that is, he racially profiled a young black kid, got into a fight with him, and shot him when the fight got out of hand. The facts of the case suggested almost the dictionary definition of manslaughter: He illegitimately exercised his legitimate right to self-defense. He provoked a confrontation. He shot a teenager who didn't have a gun and almost certainly had no intention to do anything but walk home. And those skittles -- that's the detail that haunts me.
I didn't listen to the whole case, although I did hear the hours of closing arguments, and the prosecution's case convinced me that Zimmerman did it. That he lost control of a situation he should not have provoked. That he ought to be deprived of his liberty for a long time because of his miscalculation.
I was not convinced that he did it intentionally, or that he decided to do it because Martin was black. I suspect this to be true, but reasonable doubt is a marker in the small area between "he likely did it" and "he definitely did it." And I couldn't say that. The prosecution couldn't prove it.
I also suspect that the initial stupidity by police and the overwhelming and genuine backlash it provoked forced the state of Florida to levy charges they could not prove because they had a social duty to take a strong stand against injustice. Problem is, their overreach seems to have compounded the initial injustice.
Was Justice done? No, of course not. Not in the capital J sense. I want to see the man punished, to see a jury agree with me, and to see a strong message about racial prejudice sent from the courtroom in Sanford.
But little-j justice is not about vengeance. It's not about sending messages. It's about a process that disregards, initially, the horrible act and focuses simply on whether a jury finds that there is sufficient evidence to deprive a man of his liberty. Often the apparatuses of big-J Justice and little-j justice produce the same results. Sometimes they don't.
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