We are troubled by the reactions of some to the “Not Guilty” verdict in the Zimmerman/Martin case. The unanimous conclusion by the jury notwithstanding, there is a hue and cry that racism was behind the shooting and an injustice was done simply because Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted. Indeed, there are calls for the federal government to bring federal charges against him – though no one has taken the trouble to explain where the jurors erred in evaluating the evidence or deal with the fact that the FBI has already issued a report concluding that there is no reason to believe Mr. Zimmerman acted out of racial motives.
It is not that we are insensitive to the emotional reaction to the lamentable death of a 17 year old. But it is an alarming development when a jury verdict is summarily dismissed for vague and unarticulated reasons. Of particular concern to us as New Yorkers is that the individuals vying to succeed Michael Bloomberg as mayor of the city have all, to one degree or another, jumped on the racism bandwagon and seem wholly disinterested in discussing why they think the evidence presented to the jury should have led to a conviction.
New York’s mayor is also the city’s chief magistrate, and we can think of no more odious or dangerous pandering on the part of those seeking the job than asserting that because Trayvon Martin was black, race necessarily drove the episode, regardless of the evidence the jurors had before them.
Thus, William Thompson airily concluded, “Trayvon Martin was killed because he was black. There was no justice done…in Florida.”
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the verdict was “a shocking insult. We must also put an end to a culture that presumes any young man of color…is looking to commit a crime simply because he was walking down the street.”
City Controller John Liu weighed in with this written statement: “[The] decision is shocking and highlights the sad reality that the day of equal justice for Trayvon and millions of other young men of color has yet to arrive.”
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio declared the verdict to be “a slap in the face to justice. Trayvon Martin’s death was a terrible tragedy.”
Anthony Weiner was a little more sophisticated, terming the verdict “deeply unsatisfying” but lamenting that “trial by jury is our only choice in a democracy.”
Note that Mr. Weiner, like the other candidates, chose not to say how the jury erred other than to complain that its verdict left an emotional void.
On the other hand we found a post-verdict interview with one of the jurors particularly noteworthy in this regard. The juror spoke anonymously with CNN’s Anderson Cooper and said she did not believe Mr. Zimmerman followed Trayvon Martin because he was black. “I think he just profiled him because he [Mr. Zimmerman] was the neighborhood watch and he profiled anybody who came in and saw them acting strange,” with race having nothing to do with it.
As New York Times reporter Lizette Alvarez paraphrased the juror’s assessment, “It was the overall situation – he was cutting through the back, the townhouse complex had been hit by a series of burglaries, and Mr. Martin seemed to be walking aimlessly in the rain, looking in houses.”
As for Mr. Zimmerman’s defense that he acted in self-defense, the juror, wrote Ms. Alvarez, “said that she and most of the other jurors believed Mr. Zimmerman was the one screaming for help during the recording of a resident’s 911 call because he was the one being beaten. An ‘important’ piece of evidence, she called it. ‘It was a long cry and scream for help – whoever was crying for help was in fear for their life,’ she said.”
In sum, there was much to support the conclusion that Mr. Zimmerman was defending himself and that race played no role. And let us never forget that this is still America, where no one is supposed to be convicted of a crime unless guilt is demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt, no matter who the accused and the alleged victim are.
Finally, we find it interesting – and quite telling – that the relentless criticism of the all-woman jury has not drawn a backlash from feminist groups and spokespersons who ordinarily would be heard from when the capacity for reasoned judgment by women is put into question.