Sunday, July 14, 2013

On justice and the NRA

I herewith wade in on the Zimmerman case.

George Zimmerman was found "not guilty" of manslaughter and second degree murder of Trayvon Martin.

That is because the prosecution did not prove its case sufficiently to over come the "lethal force" law in effect in Florida.  The law states that you are entitled to use deadly force if you feel threatened.

Personally, I feel that Zimmerman deliberately provoked Martin.  Zimmerman took a gun and went in pursuit of Martin, whom he clearly racially profiled.  An altercation ensued.

But like it or not, Zimmerman legitimately felt his life was endangered, Florida law allowed him to do what he did.  If the jury found reasonable doubt in the prosecution's case, they had no option but to acquit.

That does not make it right.

That does not make it just.

It simply makes it legal.

And no one should confuse the law with justice.

Under Florida law, Zimmerman is "not guilty" of the charges.  I don't like it, but I understand it.  But remember he  is NOT  innocent of taking another human life, and he is not innocent of killing an unarmed boy.

 From Andrew Cohen:
Criminal trials are not searches for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. They never have been. Our rules of evidence and the Bill of Rights preclude it. Our trials are instead tests of only that limited evidence a judge declares fit to be shared with jurors, who in turn are then admonished daily, hourly even, not to look beyond the corners of what they've seen or heard in court.
So the murder trial of George Zimmerman did not allow jurors to deliberate over the fairness of Florida's outlandishly broad self-defense laws. It did not allow them debate the virtues of the state's liberal gun laws or its evident tolerance for vigilantes (which we now politely call "neighborhood watch"). It did not permit them to delve into the racial profiling that Zimmerman may have engaged in or into the misconduct and mischief that Martin may have engaged in long before he took that fatal trip to the store for candy. These factors, these elements, part of the more complete picture of this tragedy, were off-limits to the ultimate decision-makers.

Of course, just as we saw with the O.J. Simpson case, things are not over: 
And what comes next, surely, is a wrongful death civil action for money damages brought against Zimmerman by the Martin family. That means another case, and perhaps another trial, with evidentiary rules that are more relaxed than the ones we've just seen. And that means that a few years from now, after Martin v. Zimmerman is concluded, we'll likely know more about what happened that night than we do today. That's the good news. The bad news is that no matter how many times Zimmerman is hauled into court, we will never know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about what happened that terrible night.
The law is an imperfect tool in our society. As Ta-nahesi Coates writes,
[T]rials don't work as strict "moral surrogates." Everything that is immoral is not illegal--nor should it be. I want to live in a society that presumes innocence. I want to live in that society even when I feel that a person should be punished.
But just as we celebrate the times when the law brings justice, so must we soberly accept the times when it doesn't work.  We don't get to change the workings of the law to suit our desired outcome, any more than the supporters of Prop8 get to ignore the results of the SCOTUS decision.  We all are bound by the law, whether we like its outcome or not, so let's target our moral outrage appropriately.

As  Andrew Cohen concludes,
This verdict would not have occurred in every state. It might not even have occurred in any other state. But it occurred here, a tragic confluence that leaves a young man's untimely death unrequited under state law. Don't like it? Lobby to change Florida's laws.
That's the thing.  If you want to protest this verdict, you must gird your loins for political battle.  Because to the NRA, this is a triumph.  The battle here isn't over what George Zimmerman did.  It's over why he could.  This is a battle over gun rights and vigilante laws, that legally empowered George Zimmerman.    If you want justice for Trayvon, then that is the battle you must engage.

Update:  I agree with Brian Sims, State Representative in PA.
I’m angry because there’s a justice system that somehow says that the killing of an unarmed boy by an armed civilian who defied police orders and pursued him, got in a fight, and then killed him when he was probably losing that fight is ok.
We have to change that system.


Brother David said...

"Under Florida law, Zimmerman is "not guilty" of the charges. I don't like it, but I understand it. But remember he is NOT innocent of taking another human life, and he is not innocent of killing an unarmed boy."

I think this is a play with semantics on your part, IT. GZ admits that he killed TM. He admits that he took a human life. The much touted principal of US jurisprudence that we hear from Statesonians all the time, especially when one of you are in the court of another nation, is that in the USA, the accused is innocent until proven guilty. GZ was found to be not guilty. So based on this US principal, he was innocent of having committed a crime.

I personally am disappointed in the verdict. I think it shameful that not one person on that jury was black. And I agree, he may well be in court for many years with regard to killing TM. I also think that in spite of going free, GZ isn't a police officer protected by the force of comrads in blue, he is a lone citizen, a marked man, who will forever be looking over his shoulder and will likely never be at peace from the fear of retribution.

As weak as this case was for a Florida state criminal prosecution, I guess that it is even weaker as a US federal civil rights violation case.

IT said...

He is legally innocent, Brother David, but point is, he is not morally innocent. And I share the dismay at the entire proceeding....

Paul Campos writes,

Florida’s laws, in their majestic equality, extend to people of all races the right to engage in vigilante killing that eliminates the sole witness to that killing. To point this out is neither a defense of those laws, nor a claim that they will in fact be applied equally. In other words, to blame this jury in this situation is to miss the point.

JCF said...

That does not make it right.

That does not make it just.

It simply makes it legal.

And no one should confuse the law with justice.

A very nice rationale, IT, of why I am a person-of-faith . . . because I NEED to be.

Human justice can, and often will fail us (in this case, the "us" a black teenage boy).

We need a Judge that doesn't fail us.

dr.primrose said...

Good news - Prop. 8: California Supreme Court refuses to stop gay weddings during the time the court is considering the Prop. 8 proponents' argument that the U.S. Supreme Court decision applies only to the two couples involved or the two counties in which they live. It's not a very persuasive argument and the California Supreme Court was obviously not greatly impressed with it.

It's good news for a couple of guys in my parish that are getting married next weekend. The had originally planned on a blessing ceremony but changed it to a wedding after the U.S. Supreme Court decision. I'm happy they don't have to change it back again!

IT said...

Yes but they will perhaps "consider" it.