On Saturday, July 13 George Zimmerman was adjudicated innocent of both second degree murder as well as a lesser charge of manslaughter. The verdict, to me, is a somber one. Trayvon Martin lost his life in an act of self-defense by Zimmerman. That is a heavy burden for Zimmerman to live with, and one I do not believe he will take lightly.
The Huffington Post reported in March of this year that Zimmerman was remorseful after the shooting, quoting Joe Oliver, a former news reporter and friend of Zimmerman. “He couldn’t stop crying. He’s a caring human being.”
From watching portions of the testimony and receiving regular updates on the trial, I believe the case came down to whether the jury believed Martin was beating Zimmerman’s head against the pavement. While Martin did not have a weapon with him when the physical altercation broke out, Zimmerman’s defense attorneys, in their closing argument, argued that the pavement becomes a blunt instrument capable of death or serious bodily injury when an assailant begins beating a victim’s head against the ground.
This case, the State vs. George Zimmerman has been described as an example of racial discrimination and has been contrasted with another recent case in which Marissa Alexander received a 20 year sentence for firing warning shots when her ex-husband, who had a restraining order against him for physical abuse violated the order and approached her as reported by CBS News.
I believe that both cases are examples of racial inequality, and I further believe that the discourse around race and the law highlights a unique challenge to America. How are we to see justice? How are we to perform justice? What should be the basis of our conception of law?
In June I attended and spoke at the 4th National Conference on Restorative Justice held in Toledo, Ohio. The conference focused on the topic of Race and justice. Angela Davis, educator and activist, spoke powerfully about prejudice in a culture where many claim to be beyond difference, to see people without seeing race. Davis described the Zimmerman case as one of the most powerful examples of racial inequality, highlighting how media coverage turned toward stereotypes of drug abuse and “street” behavior, with limited coverage of positive descriptions such as President Obama’s statement that were he to have a son, he would look much like Trayvon Martin.
The conference focused the topic of restorative justice, the concept that crimes should not be a matter of state enforcement, but are wrongs between people that create obligations. They further believe that these obligations should be redressed between the parties with the support of members of the community rather than be played out in the formal setting of a court of law. A powerful example of restorative justice is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission charged with healing the harms perpetrated under Apartheid in South Africa.
Restorative Justice has wonderful intentions, but… Read more…
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Contributed by Alan Murdock of The Gun Tutor.