An opinion piece from frequent guest
On Monday, July 15th, it hit me. A disturbing and destructive story line was building about George Zimmerman’s acquittal. It goes like this: The jury did not just acquit George Zimmerman of murder and manslaughter on Saturday night. The jury convicted Trayvon Martin. I said as much that night on All In. In retrospect, it started Saturday night. George Zimmerman’s defense attorney, Mark O’Mara, said that Trayvon Martin “lashed out violently” at George Zimmerman. Then defense attorney Don West made one of the two most offensive comments of the press conference (second only to O’Mara’s statement that if Zimmerman was Black, he never would have been charged). West said that the state’s decision to prosecute George Zimmerman for gunning down the skittle toting teen, was “disgraceful.”
Then there is Zimmerman’s brother Robert, the self-appointed George Zimmerman PR firm. The night of the verdict, Robert Zimmerman told CNN’s Don Lemon: “I want to know what makes people angry enough to attack someone the way that Trayvon Martin did. I want to know if it is true, and I don’t know if it’s true, that Trayvon Martin was looking to procure firearms, was growing marijuana plants.”
Then came the tweet. It read: “You attack someone bad things are going to happen. Remember, Trayvon Martin was found guilty. Zimmerman was innocent.” The tweet came from a viewer I’d never met in response to my July 15th afternoon appearance on msnbc’s Now With Alex Wagner. That is when I realized that the story line had been building each day since the verdict and O’Mara’s, West’s and Robert Zimmerman’s outrageous statements.
And it hasn’t stopped. The O’Mara/West traveling side show appeared on Hannity not long after I appeared on All In. They roiled in their righteous indignation that “the most powerful evidence” that was kept out of the trial that would exonerate their client was Trayvon Martin’s cell phone text that would show he could fight. Trayvon Martin is now being painted as a crazy, dangerous person who threatened George Zimmerman, the man who had never seen him before, assumed he was an “F—ing punk” and stalked him after advised to stay in his car.
“Beyond reasonable doubt.” That is the evidentiary standard prosecutors had to meet in the George Zimmerman trial. It means that the jury has to be pretty darn sure that Zimmerman had no excuse for the shooting. If we are going to put someone away for up to 30 years, we better be good and sure that we are making the right decision. It’s a tremendous, and sometimes overwhelming responsibility ordinary citizens bear. An acquittal means the prosecution did not do away with reasonable doubt. It means that the Prosecution failed to give the jury the comfort it needed to put George Zimmerman away. Remember what the judge told the jury. “A person is justified in using deadly force if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.” The belief can be dead wrong, as long as it isn’t crazy. That doesn’t make Trayvon Martin an attempted murderer for fighting his stalker.
Juror B37 has now told us that three of the six jurors wanted to convict George Zimmerman of something. That is telling. That means that three people think Zimmerman did something very wrong, but didn ot feel that the judge’s instruction allowed them to. Trayvon Martin was not on trial.
Maya Wiley is the Founder and President of the Center for Social Inclusion