Inside Opinion

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Tag: Trayvon Martin


For Zimmerman, ‘not guilty’ does not equal innocence

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Trials are supposed to provide closure, at least for someone. A Florida jury’s decision to acquit George Zimmerman on Saturday won’t come close to doing that.

Too many people want more satisfaction from the verdict than any jury could have delivered. The unprovable murder charge didn’t address what could be proven: the aggressive and reckless course Zimmerman took when he set in motion the fatal confrontation.

There were two different cases here – one that played out in the justice system, another that played out in the court of public opinion.

In the initial media narrative, a white man arbitrarily gunned down a black kid for doing nothing more than walk through the neighborhood with a package of Skittles in his pocket. It sounded like a reprise of the 1955 Emmett Till atrocity, in which a 14-year-old Chicago boy was beaten to death in Mississippi for no reason beyond the color of his skin.

The actual criminal proceedings kept spitting out complicating details. Martin turned out to be a good-sized young man who could handle himself in a fight. There was evidence – including head wounds – consistent with Zimmerman’s account of being beaten by Martin. A credible eyewitness put Martin on top of Zimmerman, throwing punches.

It was important that the trial be held. Black Americans in this country – such as Emmett Till – have been targeted and killed by vigilantes too often to count. Justice had to take its course.

But in the courtroom itself, Zimmerman, like anyone charged with murder, deserved the presumption of innocence. The prosecution turned out to have a wobbly case that was undermined by some of its own witnesses.
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Concealed guns and stupidity: A deadly combination

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Ask George Zimmerman – if you can find him – if he still thinks it was a great idea to pack heat while doing neighborhood watch patrols in Sanford, Fla. This wannabe police officer may be rethinking the whole idea of looking for trouble with a lethal weapon at hand.

Witnesses have given wildly conflicting accounts of just how Zimmerman came to shoot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last month. Whatever happened, the confrontation ended with Martin dead and Zimmerman despised by millions as a racist gunslinger.

He may never be arrested or convicted of anything. But he’s won immortality on the Internet, and a stigma will follow him for life.

The theme of “guns in the hands of foolish people” plays out every day, everywhere in this country. In Pierce County Superior Court, a man and a woman have just been charged with manslaughter in connection with the death of 3-year-old Julio Segura-McIntosh ­– the woman’s son – in a car two weeks ago.

It’s a pathetic story. Police say the man was carrying a handgun with a legal permit; he shoved the weapon under the seat when he got out to buy gas at a Tacoma convenience store. The woman, reportedly worried that her son might get the 9mm pistol, reportedly retrieved it and put it under her own seat.

Then, police say, she left the car with the gun unattended. The 3-year-old got it and accidentally shot himself in the head.

The criminal justice system will have to decide how culpable the man and woman are. They should be held to account in some way.

Subject to reasonable restrictions, gun ownership is a constitutional right in the United States. But this particular right comes with an exceptionally high burden of responsibility. Many people can’t handle it.
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