This is my third attempt to write out my feelings on the conclusion of the trial of George Zimmerman. It’s been more difficult than I expected, to be honest, hard to put feelings into words, to force order from the chaos of my thoughts.
It probably doesn’t help that I’m a little volatile lately already, but I figure at this point I need to get this done before it fades from relevance.
I suppose the first thing I thought upon hearing the verdict was once again… well… “I told you so.” It was a nearly forgone conclusion in my mind that he’d walk on the murder charge, and the only doubt I entertained about the manslaughter charge was whether the jury would convict him of that simply in order to convict him of something.
I understand that a lot of people are upset about the verdict, considering it a miscarriage of justice, a travesty of the law. For this, I largely blame the media, not just in its depiction of the events in question, but in a grander scale, for its depiction of the process of justice.
Emotional appeals may win court cases in the movies, but they’re not supposed to. The task of the jury is to decide the case based on the evidence, not how they feel about it. So when two strangers meet in the dark, and only one emerges to tell the tale, the jury has to look at the evidence surrounding that meeting, what it could mean, and to pick the explanation that best fits the facts available.
And much to the dismay of a vast swathe of the public, that explanation was the one that George Zimmerman gave the very night that he shot and killed Trayvon Martin.
Yes, Trayvon Martin was unarmed. Yes, he was young. Yes, he was likely profiled by George Zimmerman, though the truth of the matter is that while profiling may be a dirty word, it’s something that all of us do every day.
To believe the state’s case for murder, the jury would have had to accept that George Zimmerman, out of malice and hatred, stalked and murdered Trayvon Martin. And the evidence to support that charge simply did not exist.
From the length of Zimmerman’s phone call to 911, to the placement of the various items dropped during the course of the scuffle, to the angle and proximity of the shot that ended Trayvon’s life, all of these things support Zimmerman’s telling of the tale.
His telling may be incomplete, it may conceal happenings that would leave him culpable, guilty of the manslaughter charge tacked on in the final day of the trial, but without evidence to that end, it’s simply speculation.
And by that, we come to the heart of the controversy; so many believe that there had to be more to it, some darker motive or nefarious purpose, some hideous logic behind the tragedy. They believe it so strongly that no amount of evidence, no judgment in a court of law, can dissuade them.
I can understand why they feel the way they feel. And ironically, they share that with George Zimmerman himself, when he stated his feeling that somehow this was all “God’s plan”, that a greater design was at work that night.
So people invent a narrative that fits what they think they know, “facts” gleaned from skewed sources; “evidence” found in a mother’s heartbreak, a friend’s retelling. Theories shouted into like-minded forums, reverberating and regurgitated until the sheer noise of it crushes any dissent. Emotion run rampant, and vengeance confused with justice.
In the end, however, it’s hollow. Empty. Vengeance serves no-one, but merely opens the door to further tragedy. Better to take that energy and turn it towards useful ends. Address the problems that lie behind the case, the causes and forces that brought Zimmerman and Martin together that night, the fear and mistrust that caused their confrontation. Don’t waste it baying for retribution.
Justice has already been served.