The night the Trayvon Martin verdict came down, I took a walk around my mixed-race neighborhood and saw three black teen boys standing there chatting. I suddenly had the urge to walk up to them and say, "I'm sorry." Of course, I had no idea if they even followed the case. But, as a white woman, just like the mostly white, all-female George Zimmerman jury, I felt the need to apologize for what seems like a miscarriage of justice. But, technically, it isn't. Everyone wants to blame the jury. That is natural because the jury came back with an unpopular and seemingly morally wrong decision. But in reality the jury was there to decide not whether what George Zimmerman did was right (in my opinion, it was not), but whether he was justified in using deadly force because he was acting in self-defense. The jury decided he was. They felt the evidence backed up that Zimmerman felt he was going to be killed or harmed.
The jury saw pictures of the back of George Zimmerman's head, which was cut and bloodied, and concluded that he had been attacked by Trayvon Martin. The jury was not asked to decide whether Trayvon may have had good reason to attack Zimmerman -- because he himself felt threatened and was also acting in self-defense. The irony here is that if Trayvon had had a gun and killed Zimmerman, he could have claimed self-defense because it was Zimmerman who approached him initially.
The jury was not asked to decide if Zimmerman had a right to approach Trayvon. Or whether Zimmerman may have seemed threatening. Or even whether Trayvon had the right to try and take down Zimmerman.
This is where the problem with the Stand Your Ground law comes in. The law was originally envisioned as a way for someone like a store owner to fire upon someone who came into the store with a gun or with threats and not be punished for it.
What the law didn't take into consideration was the idea that someone could approach a person, provoke that person, and then when that person reacts in a threatening manner to what he or she perceives as a threat -- get shot for their pains and have that the provoker get off scot-free.
I know if a strange man approaches me in a threatening manner, and perhaps even waves a gun at me, I'm going to do what I can to protect myself. And that might mean smashing that person's head against the road if I can manage it.
Unfortunately, that would also put me in the position of being the aggressor -- and opening myself up to being justifiably killed. And in this way, there is something fundamentally wrong with the way Stand Your Ground is being interpreted. The way it is going now, anyone with a gun can run around causing trouble, be challenged, and then shoot someone because he or she perceives that challenge as a "threat."
This tragedy could have been easily avoided if Zimmerman hadn't taken it upon himself to act the "hero" in a situation that didn't need a hero.
But the jury was not there to parse the finer points of all of the gray areas of what may or may not have happened. It was there to determine whether Zimmerman had justifiably felt he was under threat. Period. And they decided that he did based on the evidence presented.
Would they have decided that way if Zimmerman was black and Trayvon was a young white kid who was on break from his freshman year at Harvard? I think we all know there's a pretty good chance the case would have gone another way in that scenario. But that isn't the scenario the jury had to decide.
All in all, a tragedy. Think how this could have gone if these two men had been able to communicate with each other without presupposed ideas. And if one of them didn't have a gun?
The jury may have made the "right" decision but that doesn't mean it was the right decision.
Do you think the jury is to blame?
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