In Memory of Trayvon

I know you’ve already read more than you care to read about the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, but I’m not quite done thinking about it, which means I’m not quite done writing about it. So, please indulge me this time.

I’m of the opinion that a terrible injustice was done. I can’t say, with any certainty, that I can precisely determine which party was to blame to which degree. What we do know, however, makes me quite certain that Zimmerman was not free of guilt. What we know, based on his own words, is that he pursued a kid that “looked suspicious” but was otherwise not doing anything wrong. We know that the police asked him not to follow Martin. We know that Neighborhood Watch guidelines forbid it. We know that he exited his vehicle to pursue Martin on foot, again, against advice and guidelines. We know that Zimmerman was carrying a gun, also against Neighborhood Watch guidelines. 

No matter what happened after that, I find it impossible to believe that Zimmerman is blameless in the death of Trayvon Martin. Even if the rest of Zimmeran’s testimony was truthful (at least the parts that he didn’t change), I believe that he bears some weight of guilt.

However, according to Florida law, the jury had no choice to find him not guilty. In Florida, when self-defense is claimed, the burden of proof lies on the state. Since there were no other witnesses, it was always going to be an uphill battle to convict Zimmerman. Blame the law, not the jury.

As you might be aware, I am not the only person that feels that letting Zimmerman off without any punishment for killing Martin. People are outraged, and I cannot blame them for that. But outrage will not bring Martin back. There are people who wish to see Zimmerman prosecuted under civil rights laws and I feel for them. Given Zimmerman’s history, it wouldn’t be reasonable to think that Martin’s race wasn’t a factor in Zimmerman’s decision to provoke a confrontation. But perverting our double-jeopardy laws to punish Zimmerman won’t bring Martin back. Nothing will.

This next bit is my opinion. I won’t pretend to speak for Martin’s family or friends or other people closer to the situation than I. It is my belief that the best outcome we can hope for, and the best way to honor Martin, would not be to pursue a conviction against Zimmerman. It would be to find a way to change these absurd laws that allowed Zimmerman to do what he did. The kid didn’t deserve to die, and Zimmerman didn’t deserve to walk. We can’t change either of those things, but maybe, we can prevent this heartbreaking situations from playing out again and again.

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