Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Zimmerman verdict

So George Zimmerman has been found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin.

Like a lot of people, I'm having a hard time accepting that the guy who was armed and who chose to follow the unarmed guy — against the explicit request of a 911 operator — acted in self-defense.

My hunch is that Zimmerman is legally innocent because of the way the Florida "stand your ground" law is written. I served on a jury that was itching to convict on a murder charge, but the definition of "murder" in the jury instructions included requirements we simply couldn't meet. We had to convict on lesser included charges. The victims' families were pissed. I don't blame them. We weren't happy either. But we were stuck with the law as it was set out in the jury instructions.

On the plus side, the judge threw the book at the defendant in that case. George Zimmerman will know no such penalty.

I can't pretend I like the Zimmerman verdict. I'm trying hard, though, to remember that I know very, very little about this case — probably a lot less than you do. It was easy to pigeonhole Zimmerman as an arrogant vigilante. It still is, to tell you the truth.

But I don't know the man. Even if I'd followed this story 24/7, I wouldn't know him. You can't get into another person's head. In any case, it's unlikely he is the thoroughgoing villain my sense of justice demands.

If I had accidentally shot someone to death, I have to imagine I'd take refuge under whatever shelter the law provided. Is there even one in a million of us who wouldn't do the same?

That doesn't mean I wouldn't feel the weight of the life I'd taken for the rest of my days.

I hope Zimmerman feels that weight.

That's the only consolation a lot of us will be able to take from this tragedy.

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