As the reverberations of the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial continue to be felt across the country, “The Daily Show" returned to the air Monday night after a two-week hiatus just in time to weigh in on the controversy.
In what’s become John Oliver’s signature in his month as temporary co-host, the comedian delivered a segment (with the evocative title “Wait: What? How Could You Possibly…You’ve Got to be Kid…There is No Way… I Can’t… Oh My God”) that was filled with caustic humor and palpable moral outrage.
“Of the many truly depressing things about this case, where a man was found not guilty after admitting pursuing and shooting an unarmed teenager, one is just how unsurprised people seemed to be about the verdict,” he said, rolling clips in which various legal experts explained how Florida’s extreme self-defense laws made the verdict all but inevitable.
“That is what makes this so much worse, not because the system has broken down, but because the system worked exactly as it’s designed,” Oliver noted, likening the state to 1880s Tombstone.
He continued, “According to current Florida law, you can get a gun, follow an unarmed minor, call the police, have them explicitly tell you to stop following them, then choose to ignore that, keep following the minor, get into a confrontation with them and, if at any point in that process you get scared, you can shoot the minor to death, and the state of Florida will say, ‘Well, look, you did what you could.’ ”
Oliver suggested it was time for Florida to reconsider its motto, “The Sunshine State,” as a sign flashed on the screen reading “Welcome to Florida: The Worst State.”
He also took exception to defense attorney Mark O’Mara, who claimed that the case never would have been brought to trial if Zimmerman were African American, joking that “the one thing that our justice system is notorious for is how lenient it is on black people.”
As for remarks made by the accused’s brother, Robert Zimmerman, who in an appearance on CNN said he was concerned about “vigilantes” who might “take the law into their own hands,” Oliver called him “so breathtakingly unaware that it makes you think there might be genuinly be a problem in the Zimmerman family pool.”
Finally, Oliver noted what he saw as the troubling inconsistency with which Florida’s self-defense laws are applied, pointing (as have many others in recent days) to the case of Marissa Alexander, a black woman who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a gun in the air to ward off her abusive husband.
Alexander was found guilty after 12 minutes of deliberation, prompting Oliver to remark, “Has it ever occurred to anyone when visiting Orlando that when Mickey Mouse is waving at you, what he’s actually trying to say is ‘Please, someone get me … out of here, these people are … crazy’?”