Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Trayvon Martin verdict

A Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

I did not sit through the trial, hear the evidence, or weigh it. I trust, perhaps naively, my fellow Americans who sat on the jury to have done their best, i.e., that they paid attention to the proceedings, carefully considered the evidence and the opposing attorneys' arguments, and sought to apply the law as explained by the judge to the best of their ability. Relying on a jury seems preferable to the options: trusting a judge, no matter how selected, or, worse yet, resorting to the court of public opinion. Second-guessing the jury serves no useful purpose.

The Zimmerman verdict does highlight the need to reform the law. Stand your ground laws that authorize a person who feels threatened to use deadly force in self-protection invite abuses. Even a well-intentioned person, who has a weapon, may kill an innocent person legally if unjustly when such laws exist.

The Zimmerman verdict also highlights the lack of trust that Americans have in one another. If we trusted others more, we would feel less need to protect ourselves from them. Fewer rather than increasing numbers of people would carry concealed weapons. Outrage over the verdict underscores the lack of trust that Americans have for one another in general, for the jury in particular, and more broadly for our legal system. Laws should encourage and promote trust, rather than distrust.

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