Zimmerman verdict: Readers on all sides find little to like
The reader reaction to George Zimmerman’s acquittal Saturday on all charges in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin doesn’t fall in line with fears last week that violent uprisings would result from such a verdict. So far, most readers have been contemplative, measured and even forward-looking. Sure, a handful of letters leveled accusations that the news organizations covering the trial had it in for Zimmerman -- some even said The Times and other newspapers were unfairly prejudicing the public by publishing a photo of Martin from his childhood, a misconception that has long been debunked -- but most focused on the facts of the case and the implications of this verdict.
While all sides of this issue are well represented in our mailbag, one thing the letters have in common is the profound sense of malaise they express over Martin’s killing and Zimmerman’s trial. Those hoping for a guilty verdict say Zimmerman’s acquittal confirms their worst fears about race in America, while others who agree with the jury’s verdict nevertheless express great sadness over Martin’s death.
Several letters on the Zimmerman trial and verdict will be published in Tuesday’s paper. In the meantime, here’s a selection of what we’ve received so far.
Highland resident Shawn Johnson wonders if we’ll learn any important lessons in the long run:
“I would love to believe that Martin’s death is not in vain. I would love to believe that his death will cause our nation to look inward and ask ourselves some hard questions. I would love to believe that maybe, just maybe, we can learn something from this.
“I would love to believe that Martin’s death will force us to deal with the race issue that we constantly ignore. I would love to believe that people of all colors, backgrounds and genders can put aside our differences and reach out to one another. I would love to believe that parents, no matter their ethnic backgrounds, will hug their children more and grieve with Martin’s parents.
“I would love for us to realize that as a country, we are bigger than this and will learn and grow from this. I would love for us to realize that a person of color’s death impacts us all when it is done unjustly. I would love to believe that something good will come out of this.
“But in the end, the cynic in me says that when the protesting stops, when the anger subsides, when the next big news story comes along, all that will be left is a grieving mother and a father trying to figure out why this happened.”
Phil Wilt of Van Nuys says we need new laws:
“If it is true that Zimmerman broke no laws, as indicated by his acquittal, then there is something wrong with our laws.
“Neighborhood watch rules are to watch and report to law enforcement, not to watch, stalk and accost. Vigilantes went out with the Wild West. One does not need a gun to watch.
“Zimmerman’s conversation with the 911 operator suggests that he was looking for trouble, and he found it. Unfortunately, a 17-year-old boy is dead.
“We need new laws.”
Palm Springs resident Stefan Belger says the jury got it right:
“I’m surprised about the obvious for/against split in the reactions to the verdict. Given the decision the jury had to make -- between murder or manslaughter and acquittal -- the verdict was correct.
“I’m sure at the moment when, as Zimmerman claimed, he was on his back with Martin on top of him slamming his head on the concrete, he was in fear of his life and acted in self-defense.
“My problem is the charge of second-degree murder. Why was there no middle ground?
“I absolutely feel that Zimmerman should be held responsible for causing the situation in the first place. What he legally could be charged with I don’t know, but there should be something. One could even argue that by setting the bar too high, the prosecution asked for an acquittal.”
Manhattan Beach resident Bruce Chase accuses activists of unfairly exploiting this case:
“This weekend, I watched a black president, a black news anchor, black lawyers, educators and pundits talk about the verdict. How did our white, racist nation let those people assume these powerful positions?
“Now that the race merchants have ginned up the masses on the narrative that a young black child can’t walk home in the dark with candy -- rather than Zimmerman’s narrative, which is that he was attacked viciously by Martin -- we can all look forward to wallowing at this wonderful trough created for us.
“And we can continue to ignore our larger problems, such as why young men kill other young men across this great country of ours for no intelligent reason.”
Ronald L. Wallace of Sherman Oaks says the trial and verdict don’t bode well for our country:
“As an aging baby boomer, I find myself hard-pressed to recall a sort of inclusive gloom-and-doom atmosphere that prevails universally. This saga and its classic tragic narrative highlight the sad state of affairs regarding civil rights in our country.
“The simultaneous positive developments for same-sex couples, as great as they are, feel a bit less positive.”
Ilene Oller of Los Angeles says the verdict takes her back to a darker time:
“For me, the verdict was a reminder of an earlier time, personally, when I was growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s, when white men could murder black people with impunity and walk free knowing they would have an all-white jury.
“That said, I really didn’t expect a different verdict, since Zimmerman wasn’t actually charged with a crime until the rest of the country reacted with indignation and applied pressure. Then the prosecution did a perfunctory job. Voila, the verdict.
“I am white and deeply saddened that a black boy still cannot go for a walk in his neighborhood without being subjected to harassment and suspicion.”
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