It’s been near impossible to avoid hearing about the George Zimmerman trial. A grown man who pursued a young teenager as part of what he determined was his duty as a member of the neighborhood watch. A grown man who ended up killing this unarmed teenager. A black teenager, which angered people even more, as they felt that the teen’s death was no doubt linked to his race. The trial kept people on the edge of their seats up until the moment that the six person jury, all females, found Zimmerman not guilty of all charges. Even the lesser charge of manslaughter did not stick, so Zimmerman is now a free man.
I’ve heard many comparisons between this case and the Casey Anthony trial. Two Florida cases where a presumed guilty killer got off scot-free and the family of the lost loved one is left feeling that justice was not served. Some have compared it to the OJ Simpson trial as well; another case where a man who the general public viewed as guilty was allowed to walk free at the expense of lost lives and devastated family. The only comparison I feel comfortable in making with the Zimmerman trial and any other trial is that the prosecution didn’t do their jobs to their fullest extent and didn’t provide the jury with enough ammunition for a verdict.
This opinion is coming from someone who did not follow every letter of the Zimmerman trial, mind you. I read the updates in the news, I saw clips of the trial on TV, but I didn’t go above and beyond in obtaining information and immersing myself in the case. The defense claimed that Martin “viciously attacked” Zimmerman, which caused him to shoot in self-defense. Prosecutors claimed that Zimmerman profiled the teenager as a criminal, pursued him, and shot him because he wanted to. Zimmerman did call the non-emergency police line and stated that he was following Martin, and the defense states that there was no suggestion from police that Zimmerman stop the pursuit. One juror has come out to say that Zimmerman’s heart was in the right place and that things just went terribly wrong.
Florida’s Stand Your Ground law allows someone to use deadly force if they are in fear for their life. The confusion came from whether Martin was simply just walking home after buying some candy and afraid because a strange man was following him or if Zimmerman was attacked by Martin and simply doing what he thought was his duty to protect the neighborhood. There was no doubt that Zimmerman had injuries, but the question is did Zimmerman put himself in a bad situation by pursuing an unarmed teen and provoking an attack or was Zimmerman honestly in fear for himself and his neighborhood?
I personally cannot see how Zimmerman can say that he felt threatened. If there is a suspicious person nearby, call the police and have them deal with it. Keep an eye on the person from a distance and DO NOT FOLLOW THEM AROUND. Martin wasn’t a large adult with weapons, he was a kid with candy. Kids have big mouths, sure, but I have a hard time believing that Martin was a threat. I have a hard time believing that the Stand Your Ground law was meant to allow people to pursue and antagonize others in order to provoke an altercation that would allow them to stand their ground and harm that person. I firmly believe that Zimmerman got carried away with his neighborhood watch duties and the end result was a young life was needlessly lost.
Legally though, my opinion (and yours) does not matter. What matters is what the prosecution can prove and what the defense can counter with. The prosecution did not do enough to show that Martin was innocent and that Zimmerman acted outside the bounds of the Stand Your Ground law. They did not do enough to show that Martin was pursued for no reason other than having a suspicious appearance. They failed to even prove that Zimmerman was guilty of manslaughter. Whether or not Zimmerman racially profiled Martin is not the issue here. The issue is that the legal system failed because the people we trust to put guilty people behind bars aren’t living up to their responsibilities and aren’t working hard enough to prove their case.
We can be angry with the jury, but it will do no good. We can hate Zimmerman and riot and protest, but it won’t fix anything. We can cry racism until we’re blue in the face, but the only result will be tiring ourselves out. Look at Casey Anthony for a minute; most people see her as guilty, but the prosecution couldn’t prove it and that is why she is free. Don’t believe for a second that people on her jury didn’t believe 100% that she killed her daughter. Don’t believe for a second that one or more jurors on the Zimmerman trial didn’t believe that he killed Martin out of spite, racism, or to be some sort of vigilante. But belief and personal opinion is not what matters in a trial. It’s what can be proved and disproved.
Zimmerman is now said to need to look over his shoulder for the rest of his life. It’s made worse by the fact that he will be able to retrieve the gun used to kill Martin. And while I fully believe that this man should suffer with what he did, I do not feel that it’s the public’s responsibility to make him suffer. What is being fixed by going outside the justice system and harassing or harming a man who was cleared of guilt by the court? I’m disgusted by the fact that Zimmerman is “not guilty,” but I’m also disgusted by the people who are now saying they’ll attack him on the streets if they see him. How does that make you any better than him? How is that helping? We do not live in a society that accepts eye for an eye justice. We have to be better than the people who anger us.
What I do hope is that Zimmerman suffers emotionally for what happened, learns from it, and that people learn from his experience. I hope that Martin’s family is able to find peace and able to move on. I hope that the focus shifts from racism and onto what seems to be a broken judicial system. The fact that Zimmerman is a free man is a clear sign that there is a serious problem with the prosecution teams in Florida (and probably elsewhere) and that needs to be repaired. We need prosecutors to do their job and make people accountable for their crimes. If you’re riled up about this case, please put your focus in the proper place. Focus on the people who can make a difference and who can keep something like this from happening again.