Why the Acquittal of George Zimmerman Was a Good Thing

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trayvon

Several months have passed since a jury in Florida acquitted George Zimmerman of the charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The decision was sadly unsurprising to many. But to many, including myself, it still filled our hearts with anger. Many of us felt the decision was unjust. After the trial, we were left with nothing but the bitter irony of one’s life undeservedly lost and one’s innocence undeservedly gained. The worst case scenario for Trayvon Martin supporters following the trial was to watch George Zimmerman walk free. Which is exactly what he did.

I have wrestled with my own emotions, repressing the pent-up anger I have towards Zimmerman’s “innocence”. My opinion of the jury’s decision is that it was a systematic failure of due process (They were clearly misled by the jury instructions). Yet, despite my strong feelings, a small part of me is convinced that it was for the best. Here’s why.

Following his acquittal in July, Zimmerman hoped to fade back into society, unnoticed. However, despite his efforts, Zimmerman has been arrested not once, but twice for violent domestic disputes.

In September, at the home of Zimmerman’s parents-in-law, his estranged wife Shellie called 9-1-1 reporting that Zimmerman had smashed her iPad and punched her father in the nose. Zimmerman was not charged following the incident. Allegedly, there was video evidence of the fight on the iPad, which was conveniently destroyed beyond repair. The argument occurred only days after Shellie announced she was divorcing Zimmerman due to his increasingly aggressive behavior and also because she was starting to doubt his innocence in the death of Trayvon Martin (her words, not mine).

Two months later, it happened again. This time, at the residence of Zimmerman’s (now ex) girlfriend–Samantha Scheibe. This time, he was charged with aggravated assault plus one count of misdemeanor battery. Zimmerman allegedly pushed Scheibe out of her home after threatening her with a shotgun and then barricaded himself inside until police arrived. According to the judge, there was an unreported incident ten days earlier wherein Zimmerman choked Scheibe after a similar dispute.

Most people (normally, including myself) look at Zimmerman’s recent behavior and are refueled by anger, as the truth slowly reveals itself; a truth they have known all along. It has become increasingly clear that Zimmerman was likely the aggressor on the night he shot Travon Martin. Subsequently, causing insult to injury months after the trial ended.

I shared this sentiment at first. Even though Zimmerman had finally been charged with a crime, even though the judge banned him from using firearms, it was barely recompense for the life he took away and the lives he changed forever.

It should be known that I’m inherently cynical about almost everyone and everything. But despite my cynicism–in rare form–I am optimistic. Because, if anything, this proves we [supporters of Trayvon Martin] were right. I consider all of those around the country who supported Zimmerman (a lot more than you would think). People who actually searched deep-down within themselves and came to the conclusion that it was justified for a man to pursue and kill an unarmed teen out of suspicion. I consider these simple-minded American folk–in lieu of recent events–and I smile. I think about the jurors–who are sitting at home watching this on the news–and I smile. Because now they must witness how wrong they were. Now they must bare witness to the true character of a man they wrongfully defended.

If Zimmerman had been found guilty for the murder of Trayvon Martin, he would have been locked away for the world to forget. In accordance, he would have ostensibly become a martyr for everyone who defended him. Sure, hypothetically, justice would be served if he spent the rest of his life in prison. But the perceived ambiguity surrounding whether or not Zimmerman was actually the aggressor that evening, would continue to perpetuate the same uncertainty surrounding Trayvon’s death. Instead, Zimmerman’s persona has been revealed: someone who is (undoubtedly) gun-obsessed, irrational, and violent. The prosecutor’s couldn’t have painted a better picture themselves.

A reaffirmation of our beliefs is a small victory in the grand scheme of things (not to mention, self-satisfying). In a way, the recent events are disheartening. Because Zimmerman’s behavior only confirms what many of us have believed for so long. It’s easy to become further enraged about the fact he was acquitted in the first place. But, at the same time, I believe it’s subtle retribution. If the jury couldn’t incriminate him, at least he’s doing it to himself on public display. It’s certainly better than Zimmerman simply fading into obscurity, enjoying his freedom unhindered.

The big problem with a disguise is that, however hard you try, its always a self-portrait. In other words, George Zimmerman can’t stop himself from being George Zimmerman. Perhaps, having to live with himself, is an existential punishment to fit the crime.

To all those who might one-day contemplate the fate of someone like this:

Think hard about your decision. This is what being wrong looks like.

zimmyUPDATE: Zimmerman charges dropped (New York Times)

India Gang Rape Suspect To Be Tried As Juvenile

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India Gang Rape

On December 16th, in New Dheli, India, an unimaginable crime transpired that would shake the foundations of life in the country. A 23 year old medical student, on her way home from a movie with a friend, was assaulted and gang raped in the back of a public bus. When the suspects were done, they threw the girl and her friend onto the side of the road. She laid there unconscious–naked and bleeding–while her friend called for help. The victim was eventually airlifted to a Singapore hospital in a last-ditch effort to save her life. Unfortunately, two weeks following the attack, she succumbed to her injuries and died.

The young woman’s death sparked outrage. Indian people (specifically women) took to the streets in widespread protests across the country (a country marred by a deeply misogynistic culture). All six suspects were arrested, charged, and fast-tracked towards trial. However, recent court documents have revealed that one of the six accused is a minor. This development has delayed the trial altogether. Five of the six accused–when formally charged–will face the death sentence (execution by hanging). While the juvenile, if proven to have been underage during the crime, will face a maximum of three years in a reform facility. Three years. No prison. What is most infuriating about this particular evasion of justice is that the alleged juvenile is reported to have been the most brutal of the attackers. 

Full disclosure, I’m not a lawyer. In fact, I know very little about the law aside from what I’ve learned from listening to rap music. But this argument isn’t about the technicalities of the judicial system. It’s about stepping back and viewing this case through a completely objective lens. It should take no convincing on my part to persuade you that it is asinine to not charge a juvenile as an adult when the charges range from rape to murder. He not only willingly participated, he was allegedly more involved than anyone. Yet, due to the fact he was six months away from his 18th birthday, it circumvents any real retribution. Five other men will hang for these crimes. Why? Simply because they’re above the age of 18? It’s an egregious form of injustice.

The juvenile’s exact age has been difficult to verify, in particular, because it is common in India for children to be born at home and thus not receive birth certificates. School records obtained by the court suggest the juvenile is, in fact, a minor. However, the prosecution is now petitioning forensics for a bone test to prove he’s 18. While I appreciate the prosecution’s tenacious efforts to seek justice for a man who deserves it, I will say this for the justice system in general: that’s fucking ludicrous.

luda

Not to be confused with “Ludacris”

I’m aware it’s the law of the land–a minor cannot be put to death–but this conviction defies logic. Even bone tests aren’t completely accurate and can be offset by 1-2 years. So they basically diverted their efforts away from observing school records (because it was too inaccurate) to observing bone matter which is equally inaccurate.  Instead of actually convicting anyone, their focused more on finding the exact age of one suspect. Isn’t that besides the point? The other five suspects testified he was there. He’s guilty. A young woman’s life was snuffed out by rapists and murderers and yet due process has shifted towards this? A juvenile’s defense should only be invoked when deemed appropriate (e.g. A 12 year old accidently discharges a parent’s firearm, killing a younger sibling). That makes sense. However, the defense of a minor falls short when he’s a sexually active 17 year-old accused of rape and murder. I digress…

The earliest tenants of the law can be traced to Hammurabi’s Code. There is one specific law outlined in this ancient text that is perhaps most familiar to us: “An eye for an eye.” Essentially, it refers to the notion of reciprocity, which guides the moral compass of the judicial system. A punishment to fit the crime: take my eye and I’ll take yours. Simple. Luckily, civilization has evolved and we’re no longer an immoral world of nomadic barbarians, pillaging lands and poking eyes. But the phrase “an eye for an eye” is quintessential towards understanding the law at it’s core. It refers to the fine balance that underlies justice. Proper justice is both fair and reasonable. It is ‘give and take’. If you consciously take someone’s life, you deserve to be given the same fate, no matter what age.

That’s probably why Hammurabi never scribed: “An eye for an eye… unless you’re under 18.”

hammurabi

Damn you and your semantics, Hammurabi.