Sunday, July 14, 2013

Trayvon’s Silent Voice

George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. We know a bit more, but not much. We know what Zimmerman had to say in those taped 911 calls, and the physical evidence. Not much.

Here is something I do know. I once served on a jury for an assault case. Two people, a middle-aged woman and an older man, were arguing over a parking space at a shopping mall. They yelled at each other. The man says the woman was aggressively in his face. He pushed her away. That's it. Just pushing someone away can be assault. The man said he was justified; that her physical posture and yelling were threatening to him. He pushed her away to protect himself.

The judge gave us our jury instructions, detailing the definition of assault. What is was, and what is was not. The bottom line is who first made it physical. Who first laid hands on the other. In our deliberations we were unanimous in our dislike for the woman. She was the instigator. The man responded but she was the primary reason for the escalation. However, based on the definition of assault we had no recourse but to find the man guilty. The first step didn't matter, all of the in-between steps didn't matter. What mattered was who first crossed the line and made it physical. He did.

Of what little we know, we can say with confidence Zimmerman was the instigator, and Zimmerman stuck with it: escalation. We don't know who first made it physical. We can only hear Zimmerman's side. Trayvon's voice is silent. It is clear Zimmerman did not just shoot Trayvon outright. This we know because of Zimmerman's physical injuries. Something happened. But we can only hear Zimmerman's side. This uncertainty is what doomed the prosecution's case. Trayvon's voice remains silent.

We cannot convict a man on what we think we know. Emotions and opinions are irrelevant. Even the historical and current persecution of African-Americans, and specifically black men, with regards to this specific case is irrelevant. Trayvon's voice remains silent.

We must let go of Zimmerman. But we can learn. We can become more aware. We can alter and fine-tune the law. We can promote. We can educate. We can effect change in our society and culture. There will be resistance. It will be slow. At times we will be groping in the dark. Trayvon's silent voice can help lead the way.

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