The jury has spoken. George Zimmerman, the 28 year old neighborhood watchman and would be policeman was found not guilty in the shooting death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin. Martin and Zimmerman were engaged in a February 26, 2012 confrontation in Sanford, Florida that ended with Martin dead and Zimmerman claiming self defense.
The prosecution in the case, led by Jacksonville, Florida-based State Attorney Angel Corey presented a case that charged Zimmerman with 2nd degree murder, but gave the jury the option of finding for manslaughter, or as they did, find him not-guilty.
The prosecution team lead by Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda, presented a case to a jury of 6 persons, all women: 5 white and one Hispanic. Assigned as special prosecutor for the case by Florida Governor Rick Scott, Corey’s team chose not to take the matter to a Grand Jury at the outset, but rather decided to try the case directly.
The prosecution also chose not to use the issue of “race” in its case. The prosecution offered no countervailing reasons for Martin’s death at the hands of Zimmerman other than the one offered by the defendant and his defense team: He thought his life was in danger, he fought with the young man, and obviously he used the gun in his possession to protect his life.
The State always bears the burden of proof since it brings the charges. What is obvious to trial watchers who have vested an interest in the case is not so obvious to the persons chosen to serve on jury duty. This group of jurors clearly were not impressed with the case presented by State Attorney Corey.
Now the case becomes a matter of dollars and cents. Can Martin’s family win a civil suit? On the political end, the United States Justice Department will weigh in. They are seeking information that wasn’t in the trial. Their mission is to determine if Zimmerman committed any Civil Rights violations or if he committed a hate crime.
For the time being in Florida, the case stands as an affirmation of the “Stand your Ground” law whether intended or not. This jury by its verdict says that this defendant, despite the alternatives he had to a direct confrontation, was justified in following, confronting, fighting and ultimately killing another person. The key missing element: there were no eyewitnesses to the incident except for the defendant George Zimmerman.