I fell asleep last night just as the jury in the George Zimmerman trial reached a verdict. I knew it would take another hour or so for all parties to gather and to announce the actual verdict, and I was pretty tired already. I'm glad I did. As it was, I only read about it this morning when I looked at my phone to see what time it was around 4 AM, and got so angry that I couldn't fall back to sleep.
A few thoughts:
1) Finding someone guilty on a charge of manslaughter entails two conditions: first, someone has to be dead and second, that death has to occur because of the deliberate actions of the accused. Unless you buy the ludicrous self-defense charge, that's clearly what happened here.
2) To buy the ludicrous self-defense charge means willfully ignoring the entire incident up to the point where the struggle between two men begins. It also means that the prosecution failed miserably to put the jurors in the scenario. A young boy is walking home, minding his own business, when a creep starts stalking him, first in his car, then on foot. He's terrified, not knowing who or what this is about. As he is still just a teen, he acts first and questions his actions later (sadly, he never gets that chance.) He turns and confronts his assailant, and demands to know what his problem is. Things escalate.
3) The trouble with the jury system is jurors. When your jury pool is the state of Florida, you are going to be hard pressed to find even six modestly intelligent people. That they asked to have the charge of manslaughter read back to them and then didn't respond to an admittedly stupid request of the judge, that told me the prosecution was in trouble.
4) My suspicion is the jury, unable to find sufficient cause to convict on murder (I might give them this. It's hard to know for sure that Zimmerman set out to kill this particular kid.) and completely confused about what constitutes manslaughter, threw up their hands because they wanted the trial over and to go home.
5) Zimmerman is far from off the hook. For one thing, the parents have recourse to a civil suit -- you may recall this was the trial that actually did find O. J. Simpson guilty -- which only needs a preponderance of evidence that Zimmerman caused the death of Trayvon Martin. For another, the Federal government could pursue a hate crimes case against Zimmerman, although that's a little unlikely given the paucity of evidence, some garbled phone transcripts.
6) Speaking of OJ, it's a bit ironic that just about twenty years after that verdict shocked America, here comes the Zimmerman verdict. I think the parallels will not end there. You may recall that OJ never really "got away with it," and although he gained his freedom, it didn't last. He's currently serving a prison sentence for another crime he committed and was convicted of and the judge in that case was none too kind in sentencing. Given the Zimmerman family propensity for criminal behavior, this is probably not the last time we'll see him in court. He'll try to get a book deal out of this, and in a worst case scenario, a movie, but in the end, he'll crash harder believing he got away with murder.
So a piece of advice, George: Not guilty is not the same thing as innocent. You killed a boy. You're going to have to square yourself with that.