The George Zimmerman trial in Florida has caused many in this country to question the state of “justice” in the United States. When the jury handed down a decision that a self-appointed neighborhood watchman did not commit second-degree murder, or at least manslaughter, when he shot and killed an unarmed teenager, lots of folks began to question the system. Trayvon Martin, who was 15 years old, was walking through the neighborhood “guarded” by Zimmerman. As it turned out, the teenager was simply walking home to his father’s house. The fact that Trayvon happened to be black brought into focus an issue, racial prejudice, that many Americans want to ignore. Unfortunately, this is a most serious problem that must be dealt with, but in a responsible manner.
The case, without a doubt, opened up the nation’s still-festering wounds of racial discrimination and added fuel to the fire in the argument over gun control legislation. But a jury heard from both sides in the Zimmerman trial and rendered their decision. I don’t question the jury’s verdict because I wasn’t there and really didn’t watch any of the trial on television. Based on media reports, however, it seems to me that the defense lawyers did a very good job of creating doubt in the minds of the all-female jury.
Some say their decision was a miscarriage of justice. Others, including former President Jimmy Carter, urged the American people to trust the system we have put in place, and to believe the jury “made the right decision.” He said that we should respect the jurors’ judgment and I agree with him. President Carter told Atlanta news station WXIA:
I think the jury made the right decision based on the evidence presented because the prosecution inadvertently set the standard so high that the jury had to be convinced that it was a deliberate act by Zimmerman and that he was not at all defending himself. It’s not a moral question. It was a legal question and the American law requires that the jury listens to the evidence presented.
My hope and prayer is that the result in this case won’t further divide the American people. But that doesn’t mean that we should ignore the issues that were put in strong focus because of the incident, the trial and subsequent events. We must all work extremely hard to bring about racial harmony in this country. That will require active involvement by our political leaders. Wouldn’t it be good if we lived in a world where George Zimmerman, upon seeing a teenager walking in the dark alone, would have offered to walk the young man home to make sure he got there safely? And where Trayvon Martin would have seen this offer as a kind and helpful gesture from an adult, instead of a threat from a potential predator? Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in and that’s very sad!
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