George Zimmerman Verdict: The System Works — Unfortunately
Two massive news stories have shaken America to its core this weekend: The George Zimmerman case, and the Texas abortion bill.
Both events call into question two central pillars — our legislative and our legal system — and have many Americans screaming that the very fabric of the country has been torn apart.
The sad reality is, both of these events have only helped to prove that the American system is as strong as ever, doing exactly what it should be doing.
This weekend was a roller coaster. The Texas abortion bill came first, a sweeping piece of legislation that will ban abortions in that state past the 20-week mark. It is the strictest abortion law in the country. The law endured a filibuster by Democrats in the state's regular legislative session, made it through a special legislative session called by state leaders, and passed just before midnight on Friday. Social media went ape shit, claiming the disgusting bill was unconstitutional, immoral, and against the will of the people.
Less than 24 hours later, the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial was handed down. The case centered on the 2012 Trayvon Martin killing — a black teenager gunned down by the Hispanic/ white Zimmerman, which sparked a national race debate. Immediately the verdict was met by an *absolute* storm on social media, claiming the disgusting verdict was unjust, immoral, and racist.
In the social media catharsis that has followed both of these events, one theme stands strong: What the hell is wrong with America?!
The short answer is: Nothing.
Like the typical plot trajectory of the simplest Hollywood movie, the conclusion in the Zimmerman trial ended exactly like it was supposed to. The jury in the Zimmerman case was left with their hands tied after the specifics of the trial played out. The jury only had three options to convict Zimmerman with: murder, manslaughter, or not guilty.
Media outlets like the one above completely miss the point of the verdict. When it came time for the jury to make a decision, the story was no longer who killed Trayvon, but what state of mind the shooter (Zimmerman) was in.
Second degree murder necessitated "a depraved mind without regard for human life," which the prosecution could not prove. With manslaughter, the jury would have to believe that Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon was "neither excusable, nor justified."
But the Zimmerman defense made clear that the shooting was "justified" — necessary self-defense of a man being attacked.
The jury apparently pondered manslaughter the heaviest, but in the end wasn't convinced that Zimmerman wasn't himself in immediate danger, thus necessitating the use of force.
Thus the not guilty verdict.
Lead prosecutor Bernie De la Rionda said, "I am disappointed in the verdict but I respect it. We accept the jury's verdict."
The system worked (unfortunately). The saga played out exactly as it was supposed to. The jury did their job. Even the prosecution acknowledges that.
In a trial where details are hazy and interpretation critical, the jury had to see through a fog of arguments and make the best possible decision. They did that with the information they had, based on the narrow definition of Florida law in a case that had major local and national implications.
Jumping to rush decisions here. won't solve anything ... and would likely only make things worse.
Then there was Texas, where seemingly end of the world legislation was passed.
Texas’ efforts to enact more stringent anti-abortion laws initially seized national attention more than two weeks ago, when State Senator Wendy Davis (D) epicly filibustered a bill banning late-term abortion after 20 weeks for nearly 13 hours. On Friday, the state Republicans’ pro-life efforts proved successful when the Texas Senate passed the bill into law, albeit by a strictly partisan margin, 19-11.
Also like a completely linear Hollywood movie, the Texas story played out exactly as it should: The people got what they wanted.
According to a University of Texas/ Texas Tribune poll, a majority of Texans believed that abortion laws in the state should be more strict (38%).
“What you see is what you would expect in a relatively red state,” said the co-director of the poll, Daron Shaw, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin.
Heck, the same poll showed that 62% of Texans supported late-term abortion bans.
Duh. Completely duh. It's TEXAS we're talking about. The legislature, in their 19-11 vote, represented the views of their constituents. (BTW: Another poll shows a majority of Americans across the nation would also favor such a bill ....)
Were leaders in Texas supposed to shoot down a piece of legislation that a majority of their residents supported? No.
The majority won. Good for them, unfortunately. Our republican system of democracy flourishes off the very mechanisms used in the Texas abortion legislation saga. The minority (i.e. Wendy Davis) was able to pull off a sizable victory. That victory didn't mesh with the views of the majority, and elected representatives worked hard to make sure that this majority view was not lost in the minority's day in the sun. Wendy Davis had her say, and garnered significant attention and political capital. But most Texans didn't want what she wanted.
The system works. In both of these cases, what was supposed to happen happened exactly as it should. Unfortunately.
Angry? Call your representative. Join a community-building organization. Get out and vote. Join political office. Fight for what you want.
You might prevent the next Texas or George Zimmerman nightmare from happening.