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Assumptions Not Enough

posted: 7.19.13 by Donna Winchell

When the leading attorney charged with representing George Zimmerman spoke to the press shortly after the not-guilty verdict, she said that she was surprised that so many people, including lawyers, formed an opinion about the case without hearing all of the testimony and seeing all of the evidence. There seems to be a lot of that going around.  That means there is a lot to consider here about the warrants underlying these rushes to judgment.

In the absence of eyewitnesses, we have the words of Zimmerman when he made his 911 call and when he spoke to the police to support the notion that, in his mind, Trayvon Martin was linked to others who had committed crimes in the area. He assumed that Martin did not belong in the neighborhood and in spite of being told not to, challenged Martin before police could arrive. What the jury could not assume, but many others have, is that Zimmerman shot Martin because he didn’t think he belonged there or, more specifically, that as a black youth, he didn’t belong there. No one now living, except Zimmerman, knows whether or not that is true.

What about those outside of the courtroom who judged Zimmerman not guilty? What were they assuming that a jury could not assume? They assumed that Zimmerman shot Martin because his life was in jeopardy. Was it? We don’t know. A lot of  people think that they do, but the members of a jury cannot judge on what they think they know.

Under it all is the assumption that our judicial system is based on: a person is innocent until proven guilty, and that guilt must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. There have been protests since the verdict but not the violence that some feared would erupt with a not-guilty verdict. Many are donning their hoodies again in solidarity with the Martin family; at least they seem to agree that the loss of more lives would not be a fitting memorial to Trayvon Martin.

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