Judgement

I wrote this over the weekend (before all the news stories that say essentially the same thing came out), and didn’t intend to post it. But the post I wanted to post is taking on a life of its own, so here’s some filler instead. Not that it is trite, but a) you all have probably heard enough about this, and b) compared to this other post, I am not emotionally invested in it. So, the post:

Treyvon is dead. His killer was deemed not guilty of murder, and not guilty of manslaughter. People are upset, how could this happen? They make it about politics. They make it about race. They make it about wealth. They say there is no question about whether he was the man who did it, or that he did it. They claim the only question is, was he fully justified in every way in doing it?

But this is not what the jurors were instructed to deliberate. The jurors were instructed to deliberate the questions, “Is he, beyond the shadow of a doubt, guilty of murder in the second degree?” and “Is he, beyond the shadow of a doubt, guilty of manslaughter?” The former question seems to many of these disappointed masses to be sufficiently answered “no”. As for the latter question, if a man kills another in self-defense, does that exempt him from manslaughter? If so, then as long as there is a glimmer of hope that Zimmerman acted out of self-defense, there is a shadow of doubt, cast by that glimmer of hope.

The little I do know about the trial, beyond the initial news stories, is that evidence was omitted from the warrant papers, the evidence of the trauma to Zimmerman’s head caused by Treyvon bashing it into the concrete or asphalt. I don’t know how it came to be that Zimmerman had a gun on him, and I don’t know whether it was easy or difficult for him to get the gun out while his head was being bashed into the ground, or if he already had it out. But I do know if someone is repeatedly slamming my head into something hard, and I still have the presence of mind to grab a nearby object, be it a gun, a sharp stick, a rock, I am going to use that object to defend myself. I will poke my assailant in the eye with the sharp stick; I will bash his head with the rock; I will shoot him with the gun to defend myself. Perhaps I ought not to have had the gun with me; perhaps I shouldn’t have been near the sharp stick or the rock. But I was, and I used it to defend myself, my life.

Sad as it is that Treyvon is gone, sad as it is that millions think justice was not served, can the jurors say that without a shadow of doubt, it was manslaughter and not self-defense? Again, I do not have all the evidence the jurors had, but based on what I have read or seen, I think that shadow of doubt remains. If Zimmerman deserved to do prison time, as many people I know believe, then Florida botched the case in several ways: 1) they should have sought manslaughter to begin with instead of second degree murder, 2) they should have proved Zimmerman guilty of manslaughter instead of trying to dispute his testimony, 3) under Governor Bush they passed a law making crimes involving a gun require significantly more time, thus manslaughter requires essentially the same time and therefore is essentially the same crime as second degree murder, which, had I been on the jury, I would have been reluctant to say yes he deserved to be locked up for 20 years, when several other states would have only given 1-5 years.

One person commented that Florida had failed them. To them I would also say, this is the same state that let Casey go free, the same state with the hanging chad issues. Can it be anything but a disappointment? (Apologies to any Floridians reading this.) One last thing: If we are supposed to be tried by a jury of our peers, how did it come to be that Zimmerman was tried by a jury composed entirely of women? Not that women can’t be jurors, and if I was being tried for certain crimes, I would certainly want women on my jury. But I would also feel that the jury needed at least one man to constitute a jury of my peers.

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