Tragedy All Around - The Missourian: Editorials

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Tragedy All Around

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Posted: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 11:40 am

The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. So was the prosecution and eventual acquittal of George Zimmerman.

Some will argue that you really can’t compare the two. After all, Martin is dead and Zimmerman is a free man who can resume his life. But Zimmerman’s life will never be the same. He’s a victim also.

He will always be viewed by many as an overzealous racist who shot an unarmed teenager who was walking home from a convenience store. It appears he may have to defend himself again in a courtroom.

He will always have a target on his back.

The circumstances of Martin’s death are gut-wrenching and heartbreaking to be sure. Anytime a young person dies it is a tragedy.

But those who claim the verdict was a miscarriage of justice are way off base. Equally unfounded are claims that the case was just about race.

The facts, at least those that are uncontradicted, tell a much different story — a story that hasn’t always been given a fair hearing in the media but was litigated fairly in a courtroom.

The outcome of the criminal case against Zimmerman was not a surprise. The criminal case against Zimmerman was weak at best. So weak the Sanford Police, who initially investigated the case, declined to recommend any criminal charges against Zimmerman.

The prosecution went forward anyway, no doubt spurred by external political pressure motivated by racial overtones. The media played a role in the decision to pursue criminal charges needlessly hyping the racial aspects of the case.

The reality is the facts never supported a criminal case which was ultimately borne out at trial. The prosecution would have to prove — beyond a reasonable doubt — Zimmerman didn’t act in lawful self-defense. That was a bar too high given the evidence in the case which included eye-witness testimony of Martin on top of Zimmerman beating him with his fists.

As the politically charged trial went forward the prosecution’s case unraveled.

While Zimmerman’s defense team never invoked Florida’s “stand your ground” defense, it clearly factored into the proceedings.

In the final analysis, the case came down to whether or not Zimmerman feared for his life according to a juror in the case. She said that the jury believed Zimmerman on that score. Under Florida law, that is all that is necessary to be justified in using lethal force.

The juror also said emphatically that race never played a role in their decision to acquit Zimmerman. She characterized the encounter between Zimmerman and Martin as two people who misinterpreted each other’s actions with tragic consequences.

Tragic indeed.

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