Some thoughts on the Zimmerman verdict

By , July 14, 2013 12:38 pm

EDIT: I have since rethought this post.

None of us were in the courtroom. None of us heard the evidence presented. Beyond that, none of the people in the courtroom were actually there the night that Trayvon Martin was shot. And in criminal cases, there is the intentionally high standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” for determining guilt.

This case brings out a flaw (or maybe an intentional design quirk) that someone can be morally corrupt, have committed unethical and unjustifiable actions, without the system being able to prove – beyond a reasonable doubt – their guilt in breaking any laws.

Zimmerman was absolutely and reprehensibly overzealous in his persona as ‘neighborhood watchman.’ And yet, that is not against the law.

He absolutely should not have followed Trayvon in the first place, particularly after 911 told him to back off. And yet, doing so was not against the law.

He absolutely should not have engaged Trayvon in ANY way, shape, or manner. And yet, doing so – simply talking to him – was not against the law.

So the facts we can all agree on paint an idiot, an unjustifiable vigilante who holds his sense of right and wrong – and his views on another based on their skin – above whatever any of us might believe. Again, none of that is not against the law.

Do I think – taken as a whole – those facts MORALLY add up to manslaughter? Yes, I do. Even if Trayvon attacked Zimmerman, Zimmerman went far out of his way to engage. Had his head not been full of delusions of vigilante grandeur, none of this would have happened. Likewise, the delay it took for Zimmerman to be arrested, coupled with the delay in holding his trial, point to huge and systemic issues of racism within the criminal justice system.

But, at the end of the day, all of those horrible things – the actions we agree Zimmerman took, the racism of the system, the endless delays – the don’t add up to the legal threshold to find someone guilty of a crime.

This case became a symbol. I don’t even think that’s a bad thing; as I said, this case brought up a huge number of legitimately problematic and racist flaws in our culture and in our criminal justice system. But I’m not convinced that the verdict itself was one of those flaws.

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