Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Guilt and responsibility in the Zimmerman trial

Posted By on 07.17.13 at 02:43 PM

George Zimmerman smiling after hearing a not-guilty verdict
  • AP Photo
  • George Zimmerman
If Anderson Cooper, at the conclusion of his excellent interview on CNN with "Juror B37," had asked, "Was justice served?" and the juror had been honest with herself, I think her answer would have had to be no. But it's an unfair question. It's hard enough just to serve the law.

Juror B37 had voted to acquit George Zimmerman of any crime in the killing of Trayvon Martin. Yet she told Cooper, "It’s a tragedy this happened, but it happened. And I think both were responsible for the situation they had gotten themselves into. I think both of them could have walked away. It just didn’t happen."

When the jury first began to deliberate, she told Cooper, three of the six jurors believed Zimmerman was guilty of either second-degree murder or manslaughter. At another point she said that "there was a couple of them in there that wanted to find him guilty of something." She was not one of them: she maintained all along what all six jurors accepted at the end—that when Zimmerman felt threatened by Martin he had a legal right to pull and use his gun.

"Because of the heat of the moment and the 'stand your ground.' He had a right to defend himself," she told Cooper. "If he felt threatened that his life was going to be taken away from him or he was going to have bodily harm, he had a right."

But that didn't make him blameless.

Cooper asked, "Do you feel sorry for Trayvon Martin?" And Juror B37 replied, "I feel sorry for both of them. I feel sorry for Trayvon, in the situation he was in. And I feel sorry for George because of the situation he got himself in."

Cooper asked her, "Is George Zimmerman somebody you would like to have on a neighborhood watch in your community?" And she replied, "If he didn’t go too far"—which she believed he did the night he and Martin confronted each other. "I mean, you can always go too far," she went on. "He just didn't stop at the limitations that he should have stopped at. . . . I think he just didn't know when to stop. He was frustrated, and things just got out of hand."

"I think he's learned a good lesson," said Juror B37.

Better than anyone else I've read, columnist Clarence Page put his finger on what it is about Zimmerman's trial and acquittal that doesn't sit right. "It turns out that under Florida law, I can provoke you into a fight," Page said in the Wednesday Tribune, "and, if things turn sour on me, I can legally kill you as long as I 'believe' I am in danger 'of great bodily harm.'"

If you're threatened, it's OK to use a gun. But if you're threatened and you use your fists, you're asking for it. We've all seen that scenario play out time and again on the silver screen: the gunslinger who goads the peaceable farmer into standing up for himself, and then drills him. George Zimmerman might have been more scared that night than Martin was; but he brought the only gun to their showdown.

The law, Juror B37 might agree, is a crude instrument.

"After we had put our vote in and the bailiff had taken our vote, that's when everybody started to cry," she told Anderson. "It was just hard, thinking that somebody lost their life, and there's nothing else that could be done about it. I mean, it's what happened. It's sad. It's a tragedy this happened."

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