Zimmerman Jury Got It Right

The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates argues that George Zimmerman's jury got it right in his acquittal because the state failed to prove a charge of second-degree murder or that he acted recklessly beyond a reasonable doubt in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

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A demonstration against George Zimmerman's acquittal in New York City. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

Arguing that the state failed to prove a charge of second-degree murder against George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin or that he acted recklessly beyond a reasonable doubt, the Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates says the jury got it right in his acquittal. But, he said, "the message of this episode is unfortunate."

1.) Last year--after Zimmerman was arrested--I wrote something hoping that he would be convicted. A commenter wrote in to object, saying that arguing for his arrest was justifiable. Arguing for his conviction was not. I acknowledged the point at the time. The wisdom of it seems even more appropriate today.

2.) I think the jury basically got it right. The only real eyewitness to the death of Trayvon Martin was the man who killed him. At no point did I think that the state proved second degree murder. I also never thought they proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted recklessly. They had no ability to counter his basic narrative, because there were no other eye-witnesses.

3.) The idea that Zimmerman got out of the car to check the street signs, was ambushed by 17-year old kid with no violent history who told him he "you're going to die tonight" strikes me as very implausible.  It strikes me as much more plausible that Martin was being followed by a strange person, that the following resulted in a confrontation, that Martin was getting the best of Zimmerman in the confrontation, and Zimmerman then shot him.  But I didn't see the confrontation. No one else really saw the confrontation. Except George Zimmerman. I'm not even clear that situation I outlined would result in conviction.

4.) I think Andrew Cohen is right--trials don't work as strict "moral surrogates." Everything that is immoral is not illegal--nor should it be. I want to live in a society that presumes innocence. I want to live in that society even when I feel that a person should be punished. 

Read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ entire piece at the Atlantic.

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Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM