Just a few moments ago, word came out via AP newswire that George Zimmerman has been found not-guilty in the 2nd Degree Murder of Trayvon Martin.
From what I can tell of Florida’s law as it has been described in the news media, Zimmerman was acting in accordance with it. But was George Zimmerman acting in accordance with good judgment? Was he acting in accordance with common sense?
The larger questions that surround Zimmerman’s behavior bring us right back to the so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws that exist in Florida and some other states.
I wrote last year about the deafening silence among evangelical Christians in this country as the events of Zimmerman’s arrest unfolded. It took days and weeks to convince Florida officials to bring charges against George Zimmerman.
It wasn’t because of a dearth of facts. There was evidence that would likely have gotten an arrest in most other states. The problem was in the law that Zimmerman was purportedly following when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. The crime was committed months earlier when the “Stand Your Ground” law was passed.
Everything but the Main Thing
Pundits everywhere have weighed in on the matter. Character has been assassinated on both sides of this argument. Attorneys have debated the likelihood and impossibility of Zimmerman’s conviction. And activists have weighed in on the side of their pet issues with little or no regard for the reality or facts of the situation.
Still, we are left with the insanity of this particular law. But the trial spent little to no time on the justice of this law. Instead, investigators uncovered details of Zimmerman’s life. Trayvon Martin was researched and brought before the members of the jury. His actions were considered. His character was portrayed as angelic and demonic by the attorneys of record.
We must look Trayvon’s parents in the eye and say, “Our legal system failed you.” We must look into George Zimmerman’s face and tell him, “What you did may have been legal, but it was not right.”
And when everyone had their say about the players in this drama, there’s that pesky law again. In all of the furor and hype surrounding this case, no one is really looking at the sad reality of our current legal system. We have been grousing about judges legislating from the bench, the inadequacies of under-educated juries, and the fatal flaw of justice being available for purchase and sale for those who can afford the best legal counsel.
The Solution is in the Voting Booth
Under our noses,multiple legislators have been elected who simply cannot write a good law. I wrote about the problems we have in Tennessee with lawmakers who write laws that are entirely unworkable. I often think that the goal is to make a small group of people clap and cheer while the rest of the state shudders. With enough of them in a room, those bad bills become bad laws. And those bad laws get people killed. Most bad legislation is simply not fair. And any good parent will tell their children, “Life is not always fair.”
But we do not say things like this to the parents of dead teens. We must instead look Trayvon’s parents in the eye and say, “Our legal system failed you.” We must look into George Zimmerman’s face and tell him, “What you did may have been legal, but it was not right.”
And, most importantly, we must tell our legislators that they are failing all of us. And the string of asinine bills must end.
Author: Joey Reed
Joey is married to his best friend. Together, they have two children and live in Jackson, Tennessee. Joey serves Grace United Methodist Church, the Jackson District, the Memphis Annual Conference, and the world is his parish.