“George Zimmerman is not guilty of murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, a Florida jury decided late Saturday. The fact that Zimmerman fired the bullet that killed Martin was never in question, but the verdict means the six-person jury had reasonable doubt that the shooting amounted to a criminal act. The verdict caps a case that has inflamed passions for well over a year, much of it focused on race and gun rights. The six-person jury — all women — had three choices: to find Zimmerman guilty of second-degree murder; to find him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter; or to find him not guilty.”
As for Zimmerman’s innocence or guilt, I start off by saying that he acted like an idiotic wannabe cop that night. He should have gone home when he called the police like he was told to do by the dispatcher. But he didn’t. And now a 17 year-old is dead.
However, Zimmerman should have never been charged with 2nd degree murder. He did not follow Martin that night with the intention to harm or kill him. Instead, he was acting as a bumbling vigilante who was going to help the police arrest a “troublemaker.”
As for manslaughter, which was the other option available to the jury, the only defense Zimmerman had was that he was justified in using deadly force. From witness testimony, we know that at the moment the gun was fired Martin was on top of Zimmerman, pummeling him “MMA style” and bashing his head into the concrete sidewalk. Is it reasonable for Zimmerman to believe that he was under threat of death or great bodily harm? I think so.
Does George Zimmerman bear some responsibility for the events that led to the death of Trayvon Martin? Absolutely. Is that criminal responsibility? The evidence says no. But I believe the moral responsibility he bears is more of a burden than any prison sentence a judge could impose. He has to live everyday with the knowledge that he ended a 17 year-old’s life.
As a side note, the media coverage of this has been horrendous. They trumped this up as a racial issue when in fact it was much more complicated than white versus black. By making this about race, the media has successfully (and needlessly) riled up a good portion of the black community. Look on Twitter and you’ll find thousands of calls for George Zimmerman’s head on a stick. When Martin Luther King Jr was shot, there were riots all over the country. I’m not saying that will happen, but the media is playing with fire here.
There is still racial inequality in this country. The drug war has put an entire generation of black men behind bars with criminal records. Crime disproportionately affects blacks more than whites. Blacks are economically disadvantaged and work worse jobs for lower wages. Many black children are stuck in the worst schools in the country and have little opportunity ahead of them in life. But of all the racial problems we should be angry about, this verdict is not one of them.