Was Justice Served?
As the country processes the result of the Trayvon Martin murder trial, we have to remember one important fact: our judicial system is what it is, for better or worse.
Some groups are currently calling for civil rights charges to be filed in the case, as many individuals find it hard to believe that a jury could acquit a grown man of shooting an unarmed teenager in "self-defense." The case has once again raised the age old debates regarding racial profiling, self-defense and equal justice. At the end of the day however, the jury has spoken.
The decision has become the catalyst for further discussion regarding the war on guns and judicial prejudice against minorities. Still, we as a society have to realize that the jury trial of one man, in which the entire resources of an entire State were stacked against him, is not the proper venue to exhaust our energy on topics that transcend that one man. In the case at hand, the prosecution bit off more than it could chew, and its evidence did not support the charges they filed. This was confirmed by the jury.
We have to focus on the fact that the jury was only tasked with answering one question: whether George Zimmerman was guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt, of second degree murder or the lesser-included charge of manslaughter. The jury was not required, and in fact had no right, to consider whether this was a case of racial profiling or racial prejudice.
In fact, many individuals are confusing the issues to an even greater degree by focusing soley on the self-defense aspect. The not guilty verdict does not mean the jury found that Zimmerman was without doubt acting in self-defense, per se; legally, it only indicates the jury found there was a reasonable doubt as to whether Zimmerman had the requisite mental intent to commit second degree murder... and that Zimmerman may have been acting in self-defense.
"Beyond a reasonable doubt" is the highest evidentiary burden in our legal system. As such, we may see this situation play out like so many other high profile murder cases... O.J. Simpson comes to mind. Zimmerman may have beaten the criminal charges, but he may still be found civilly liable for the death of Trayvon Martin. This is due to the fact that the evidentiary burden in a civil suit is lower than that of a criminal prosecution. There very well may be enough evidence to hold Zimmerman liable in a civil court. There just wasn't enough to convict him in a criminal prosecution.
During jury trials in Oklahoma, we are forbidden from describing what a 'reasonable doubt' actually is. But it's common sense, really. All of the jurors were (hopefully) reasonable people. If they had a doubt as to whether Zimmerman had the necessary 'depraved' mind or ill will, then he is not guilty of Second degree Murder. If they had a doubt as to whether or not he justifiably acted in self-defense, then he is not guilty of Manslaughter.
Florida gives a great deal of deference to individuals who fear death or great bodily harm to use deadly force to protect their lives. I believe they should. Did George Zimmerman put himself in a situation he should have stayed out of? Probably so. But that does not change the facts presented to the jury.
Think about it. The all-woman jury considered nearly three weeks' worth of conflicting testimony as to who was the aggressor and Zimmerman's state-of-mind. They heard recounts from over fifty individuals, none of which had a clear view of the incident. Both Martin's parents and Zimmerman's parents testified that the voice screaming for help in the background was that of their son, respectively. Zimmerman had a fractured nose, two black eyes, cuts and scrapes on his face and abrasions to the back of his head. The medical and scientific evidence presented by the defense showed that Trayvon Martin was leaning over Zimmerman when the fatal shot was fired into Martin's chest. The prosecution's medical examiner was lackluster... to say the least.
There are not enough words I could type to express my sadness that another young man (white, black, yellow, red, green, or blue) has lost his life long before his time. However, I have to stand by the decision. There was reasonable doubt in this case, and the jury made the right call.
I hope you all realize that my opinion is made in a vacuum, just as the jury's decision should have been. I am not considering race. I am not considering prejudice. I am not considering vigilantism. I am not considering issues of gun control. I am only considering the facts presented in a court of law.
At the end of the day, that is all we can ask for as a country. The protection of a jury of one's peers is all we have left to guard us from the State... and it is what it is. If anyone has a better alternative, I'm all ears.