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    Posted July 15, 2013 by
    Douglaston, New York
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Zimmerman verdict: The world reacts

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    Not Guilty Doesn't Always Mean Innocent

    If George Zimmerman was to be convicted of anything, it should have been manslaughter, given the available facts of the case. In many other states, he probably would have been convicted of such a charge, and I personally feel that's what should have happened, but Florida's stand-your-ground law gave Zimmerman a way to avoid conviction. I think the viability of stand-your-ground legislation is a far more important issue than that of the skin colors of the two people involved in this horrible incident. Unfortunately many media depictions have been playing heavily to the racial divide surrounding this case and only serve to deepen the schism, and people spouting hyperbole on Facebook and Twitter about how it's illegal to be black in Florida, how this was a roundabout lynching, etc, etc, only help feed that fire and push it to the far foreground.

    I'm not saying that race isn't an issue here, but it's been amplified beyond necessity to have more weight than the issue of vindicating Zimmerman's disproportionate use of force to defend himself. Both Martin and Zimmerman felt threatened and acted on those feelings, albeit at different times. Zimmerman following Martin might constitute profiling coupled with an overzealous neighborhood watchman/policeman complex, but it doesn't automatically mean malicious, murderous intent. Nothing happens without context, but how soon we forget that when Trayvon’s picture is pushed full-screen on newscasts and Zimmerman is pinned as a racist for trying to do what he felt was protecting a neighborhood that had experienced past burglaries.

    Zimmerman would very well have feared for his life if his head was being slammed to the ground by Martin, but his use of a gun against an unarmed assailant (whose reason for assault was defense out of fear for his own young life) brings to light the debate over the appropriateness of the nature of force to be used in the interest of self-defense/self-preservation. We have to ask ourselves: if Zimmerman had used a knife instead of a gun, would the public response have been as vitriolic? What if he had also been unarmed and had thrown Martin off, and in doing so, inadvertently cracked the boy's head open on pavement or on the side of a car? What would have happened if, in defending himself out of fear for his life, Martin had killed Zimmerman? (Admittedly, given Florida's track record, considering a much-linked-to story in which a black woman was sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot at an abusive husband, the racial discrepancy of the state's jurisprudence may very well have reared its head in a glaringly unjust manner...I have no illusions about that possibility).

    Neither of the two involved that night were bad people. Martin was perhaps the more justified for attacking the stranger that was following him for reasons unbeknownst to him. Who knows what was running through his mind? Zimmerman should have followed the directions of the police dispatcher and not followed, but he decided to anyway. His mistake, as it led to the tragic death of a 17-year-old boy who it turned out was minding his business. Zimmerman’s intent wasn’t to kill Martin at the outset of the situation, so it’s not murder. Both stood their ground against one another, but what happened wasn’t murder. Legally speaking, at its worst, what happened was manslaughter, but Zimmerman got away with even that.

    Our justice system has always stood by the sentiment that a defendant is innocent of the charges until proven guilty. That’s a difficult distinction, because any way you look at it, George Zimmerman is not an innocent person. He’s still responsible for taking the life of Trayvon Martin, plain and simple. I feel that “innocent” and “not guilty” are not the same thing. Zimmerman was not guilty of murder, but he’s not innocent because he pulled the trigger. That part is undeniable. Regardless, the Martin family mourns for their son and for what they feel is the justice that he was denied. One can’t blame them for feeling that way. The jury gave what I feel is both the right and wrong verdict in what was a very complicated case, and as a result, a lot of wounds have been opened that will continue to bleed as the country examines itself in the mirror, and as those who wish to carry on the memory of Trayvon Martin take to the streets.
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