Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 18th 2013 Contents Justice is supposed to be
the American way. But the
acquittal of a Florida neigh-
borhood watchman in the
shooting death of a black
teenager has revealed two
starkly different visions of
what Americans think jus-
tice should be.
What is justice for Trayvon
black youth, mourned by
many as a victim who was
minding his own business
when he fell under misplaced
suspicion? What is justice for
George Zimmerman, seen by
many others as a good neigh-
bour who made a fatal mis-
The national conversation
over the verdict shows two
sides talking about two dif-
ferent things: either the two
minutes when Zimmerman
and Martin fought face to
face, or the centuries of racial
context that many believe
caused a senseless death.
The debate also has
revealed deep resistance to
the idea that justice in this
case might not be black and
white, but could include a
gray area with important parts of both
"Is justice getting the bad guy?" asks
Gene Demby, who writes about race
for National Public Radio s Code Switch
"So many of us," he says, "have very
different ideas of what the bad guys
Martin and Zimmerman each
thought he was the good guy on a rainy
night in February 2012.
Zimmerman, a Hispanic neighbor-
hood watch volunteer, spotted Martin,
who was simply walking home from
the store wearing a hooded sweater.
Zimmerman called police to report a
"suspicious" person "up to no good."
Martin, on his cell phone, told a friend
that a "creepy-ass cracker" was fol-
lowing him. They fought---testimony
differed regarding who was on top of
whom---and then Zimmerman shot
Martin once in the chest.
Zimmerman said he killed Martin in
self-defense. A jury of six women---
five white, one described as Hispanic,
none black---found him not guilty of
second-degree murder or manslaugh-
ter.Among the things jurors were
instructed to consider was whether
Zimmerman believed he was in severe
danger during the fight with Martin.
What led to the fight was not the issue,
according to the only juror who has
The juror, who did not allow her
name to be used, told CNN that Zim-
merman didn t use "good judgment"
and he shouldn t have gotten out of
his car. But she believes that Martin
attacked Zimmerman, and that he had
a right to defend himself.
Says Richard Lowry, editor of the
National Review, the conservative mag-
azine: "It was a terrible tragedy, it never
should have happened, Zimmerman
showed awful judgment, it has placed
an unspeakable burden on the Martin
family---but it just wasn t a crime."
Glen Weekley, a software salesman
from Georgia, says Zimmerman may
have profiled Martin.
"But that does not go back to the
core issue of whether justice was served.
Of course it was. It s completely illogical
to say anything else," Weekley says.
"He was not on trial for confronting
him or profiling him or following him."
This view of justice is focused nar-
rowly on the two minutes that Zim-
merman and Martin fought. Guided by
the law, this view excludes everything
before those fleeting seconds---such as
the belief that Zimmerman thought
Martin was suspicious because he was
Those who decry the verdict want
a broad justice that accounts for how
race affects society. They think justice
should hold Zimmerman accountable
for causing the fatal encounter by racial-
ly profiling Martin, then following him
against the instructions of the police
"The justice system is essentially
saying that context doesn t matter,"
says George Ciccariello-Maher, a history
and politics professor at Drexel Uni-
versity. "It s not illegal to be a racist
stalker---that s extraneous to the legal
question of self-defense."
Rashad Robinson, executive director
of the black advocacy group Color of
Change, says the verdict shows "the
American justice system is not color-
blind, it is not fair."
"We can t have this discussion about
whether the letter of the law is fair,"
Robinson says, "because the law is
influenced by our culture---by bias and
media depictions and all the other
things that play into how judges make
decisions, how police make decisions,
how juries make decisions." (AP)
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, July 18, 2013
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A large crowd marches along Broad Street on Sunday in Newark, N.J, to protest the acquittal in George
Zimmerman's murder trial. Organisers said the outdoor protest drew a diverse crowd unhappy with a Florida
jury's decision to clear the former neighbourhood watch volunteer in the shooting death of 17-year-old
Trayvon Martin. AP PHOTO
A mother holds and sits with her children after
hearing the verdict of not guilty in the trial of
neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman
at the Seminole County Courthouse, in Sanford,
Florida. AP PHOTO
Florida shooting verdict: Two visions of justice
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