Thursday, July 18, 2013

. . . and Justice for . . .

“. . . with liberty and justice for all.”  In my time, school kids in America started the classroom day by reciting that description of the land we pledged allegiance to.

As we grew older, every thinking person came to know that this phrase could only be taken as a promise, not a fact of life in the U.S. In a broad sense, we all enjoyed liberty, but justice for all was a work in progress. My life began in a racially segregated society and one in which women were subservient to men. Progress toward social and economic equality has been dramatic, but much remains to be done.

Inequality and injustice go hand in hand. Who would dispute the fact that wealthy Americans who can
afford teams of top-notch lawyers often “beat the rap” in courtrooms? Who would argue that minorities always experience full justice when they encounter majority law enforcement and seldom face juries of their peers in our courts?

That does not mean Americans don’t try to be fair and impartial. I’ve served on several juries. Without exception, I thought everyone I served with sincerely tried to mete out justice. And I think we succeeded. But we did not face any racial or “rich man, poor man” issues in the cases we heard.

I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to the six jurors who found George Zimmerman innocent of murdering teenager Trayvon Martin. They apparently tried to be just. From the many accounts of the evidence presented in the trial, it appears they were correct in finding Zimmerman not guilty of murder. There was plenty of reasonable doubt about that charge.

But it also appears the jury should have convicted Zimmerman of manslaughter. Zimmerman admitted he killed Martin. There was no doubt about that. Is it plausible to believe that a big, strong man trained in martial arts had to shoot to kill an unarmed kid to defend himself?  Hardly.

If justice was not blind in this case, what can we learn from the experience?

For one thing, people who value justice need to be vigilant at every level. Florida’s self-defense law, for example, deserves careful scrutiny and perhaps changes now that we see how it can be misapplied. Concern about laws that foster injustice should not be confined to national laws and Supreme Court decisions. A much larger part of the justice system is local and state-wide. That’s where people of good will can get together and have a big impact in moving America forward in the quest for true justice for all.


Kay Dennison said...

Well said. The bottom line is that a young man is dead because of someone playing cowboy who can kill another day.

And that, is a tragedy.

Vagabonde said...

You make a good point but I don’t know if anything will change in Florida. I heard that a poll was taken and the people of Florida said they liked their Stand your Ground law. I also heard one of the jurors say that she thought Zimmerman was just trying to keep the neighborhood safe from “these” people…. said...

Interesting take on the contentious topic. I've tried to stay out of the discussion, but note several points:

1. Prosecutor blew it when she asked for 2nd degree conviction.
2. GZ found not guilty, not the same thing as "innocent."

3. According to TM's girlfriend, he went after GZ.

4. Dispatcher 'recommended' GZ stay in his car AFTER asking him 3 times where was TM (the suspect).

5. No mention of race or the 'stand your ground law', self defense was the plea.

6. I agree jurors did the best they could with the material presented.

Stand your Ground Laws will not be changed, guns will not be banned in any state, no matter how much the left complains. The fact that last year, millions of people "saved" themselves from harm by using their own guns assures that.

I don't own a gun but having seen a dramatic rescue from a former boyfriend turned stalker of one of my granddaughters by someone who owns a gun (her sister's boyfriend) makes me think that private ownership is still important, at least in the South.


Dick Klade said...

Dianne . . . Your observations coincide with mine. However, although the "stand your ground" law wasn't part of the plea, it was included in the judge's instructions to the jury. Thus, my comment about the role it played.

Barb said...

Ya know, people keep saying that this boy turned on the adult. This was not a police officer and did not announce him as such-dont know about anyone else but I have trained my kids NOT to stop when a strange man rapidly approaches, but to run if they can and if not to turn around and face. This boy had absolutely no idea it would seem who was following him. What would any of us do if a strange man started walking rapidly towards us after dark shouting? I ask you.

Kay said...

You are so right, Dick! This is such an excellent post. I really felt that he should have gotten manslaughter as well.

The statement that really brought it home for me was when the President asked what if it was turned around and it was the black person that stood his ground. Would the jury have made the same decision?

I remember a couple of my African American teacher friends telling me that they knew they were being watched closely when they entered a store. There's still racism in this country.