The reaction to the George Zimmernan verdict—in which six Florida jurors found the neighborhood watch coordinator not guilty of murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin—has been swift and impassioned.
Political commentators on both side of the spectrum have chimed in to offer their thoughts on what the verdict means for both race in America and the criminal justice system.
MSNBC political pundit Melissa Harris-Perry said, “[After the verdict], I thought, I live in a country that makes me wish my sons away, wish that they don’t exist, because it’s not safe.” University of Pennsylvania Chaplain Charles Howard asks: “So, now that we see that there is neither justice nor peace what is next?” Meanwhile, conservative commentator Ann Coulter tweeted a rather tasteless one-word response of: “Hallelujah!”
However, despite all the bells-and-whistles coming from the social networking stratosphere, one undeniable truth remains:
The correct verdict was reached.
I know that is not an opinion that will be readily shared amongst many persons of color who are seeing young black men killed and their killers vindicated because the black man “appeared threatening.”
I myself have written in the past about being stopped close to my own place of residence and questioned because I looked, “out of place,” or “like I was loitering.” And I don’t think I have ever seen a case in which a white teen was killed by a black man claiming self-defense and his version of the story was so readily consumed by the investigators.
Additionally, I have never truly believed Zimmerman’s version of the events.
I don’t believe that Zimmernan never threw a punch and apparently just lay there and taken a beating until Martin “went for the gun.”
I don’t believe there were no words exchanged between the two men and that Martin just attacked.
I don’t believe that, given the fact that Zimmerman was bald and the ground was wet, Martin would have had a sufficient grip on his head to, ‘repeatedly pound it into the pavement.” and I certainly don’t believe that Martin, with one-punch “busted his nose,” (it was apparently the fastest recovery from a broken nose in medical history).
Nevertheless, I can’t let my emotions dictate my response to the verdict and the fact of the matter is: The prosecution never proved its case, as a result, Zimmerman had to be acquitted.
For example, let’s look at what we know: We know that Zimmerman suspected that Martin was up-to-no-good. How do we know that? Because in the 911 tape he says as much and there is certainly nothing criminal about calling in suspicious behavior. During the call, he says: “they always get away.” Was he referring to criminals in the broad sense or specifically “black criminals?” There is no way to know for sure because he never verbalizes an overt racial bias on the tape.
So, the 911 operator suggests he stay in his car and not follow the teen. He follows the teen anyway and ignores the order. Is that a crime? No, because citizens are not beholden to take orders from 911 operators.
Now, what happened after that is purely speculative and that is the biggest problem with the prosecution’s case.
The witnesses testifying that Zimmerman was attacking Martin and those who claimed it was Martin attacking Zimmerman basically canceled each other out, as did the respective parents’ testimony claiming it was their child screaming for help. The close distance of the bullet entry in Martin’s chest only proves it was from close range, but was it close because Martin was on top of Zimmerman attacking him or because he basically executed the teen? No one knows other than Zimmerman.
It is hard for me as an African-American, who has seen cases such as these happen time and time again to acknowledge that justice was served, but I must do just that.
In any criminal case, the burden falls on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and it failed to reach that statute. Those who are upset at the verdict must realize that the facts were just not there to convict Zimmerman, and it is merely their emotions, and not the law, that convinces them of his guilt.
We must ask ourselves a fundamental question: Is it better to find people guilty based on public outrage and pressure or based on the rule of law?
In this instance, the jury got it right.