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October 23, 2014

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The George Zimmerman jury got it right

The verdict is in for the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case. What did we learn?

• Being a vigilante is a dangerous hobby.

• Juvenile bravado can get you killed.

• Mark O’Mara is a heck of a defense attorney.

We also learned that the jury had no choice but to vote “not guilty.”

The prosecution didn’t prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt; Zimmerman’s defense team was more masterful in presentation, more adept at story-telling and more effective in cross-examination. Three aspects of the defense’s case were in the fore: When Police Detective Chris Serino testified that he found no significant inconsistencies in Zimmerman’s statements to police, as Juror B37 told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday night; when O’Mara mounted the life-size test dummy to demonstrate how Martin supposedly bashed Zimmerman’s head against the concrete, as Zimmerman claimed, and the most riveting — when Zimmerman neighbor John Good testified he’d seen a black man on top of a lighter-skinned man “just throwing down blows on the guy, MMA-style.”

Good’s testimony was earth-shattering. A most tragic case essentially was over after that, based on law.

As Harvard law school professor Alan Dershowitz said on CNN’s “State of the Union with Candy Crowley” on Sunday: “Zimmerman may have been morally at fault for racially profiling and following him, but under the law of self-defense, if he was on bottom and he was having his head banged against the pavement and was in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily harm, he had the right to respond the way he did.”

Perhaps Zimmerman’s actions before that confrontation can be viewed through the prism of a syllogism, which usually is based on two connected premises.

In this case, a George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin Syllogism could go like this:

Premise A: Different groups of black teens dressing and acting in a certain way recently had been burglarizing apartments and homes in the neighborhood,

Premise B: Trayvon Martin was a black teen dressing and acting in that certain way.

Logical conclusion: Trayvon Martin was a logical source of suspicion.

Instead of racial profiling, perhaps Zimmerman was engaging in racial observation — from a syllogistic view.

There is a difference.

However, there is one issue in this case that’s similar to some of its predecessors to many in the black community: That is, Zimmerman was viewed as an outsider. That’s the source of much of this visceral outrage. If Zimmerman were named “Smith” and black, would there be mass protests nationwide? No way. The facts of life are these: Most black males in this country are killed by other black males within their own communities. Most of the assailants are between the ages of 15 and 34.

Why aren’t the protesters marching about that from San Francisco to New York? If NAACP president and CEO Ben Jealous employed even one-tenth of his unbridled passion and energy to black-on-black crime as he has to the Martin-Zimmerman case, perhaps we could accomplish something.

That’s the way it is in the United States these days. There is a certain degree of acceptance of black-on-black homicides. Check out these numbers from the four-day Fourth of July holiday covering July 4 to 7 in Chicago: According to NBC Chicago, 72 people were shot there, with 12 dead. That’s approximately 18 per day, mostly black.

Now back to racial profiling ...

Suppose a corporation implemented a racial survey of its key workers. The survey revealed that one important division within the corporation featured no black employees. None. Zero. Then the corporate CEO ordered internal hiring managers to find at least three black people to employ for staff diversification. Is that racial profiling? Or is it diversity? Are they one in the same? Is workplace racial profiling operating under the guise of diversity? Or is the word “diversity” simply a euphemism for racial profiling?

In each case, a certain racial group is being targeted. So what’s the difference?

Example No. 2: Washington D.C., like New York and Chicago, is a Cab City. Taxis traverse the nation’s streets all hours, night and day, weekends, too. A cabdriver once told me that he refused to pick up any black male who appeared to be under the age of 30.

Why is that pivotal to this essay? Because that particular cabdriver was American-born black.

Why did he assume this stance? Because the taxi driver claimed he had been robbed multiple times, each time by young black dudes. Is that racial profiling? He is a perfect example in this sense: Anyone who thinks black folk don’t racially profile in this country is delusional.

Let’s not forget that even Rev. Jesse Jackson himself admitted to racial profiling. The year was 1993. The reverend shocked the world when he made this statement on stereotyping: “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start to think about robbery and then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”

So, let’s be real: Who’s fooling whom here.

Perhaps ESPN sports broadcaster Stephen A. Smith got it right when he, on his television show on Monday, profoundly advised black males to adjust and adapt. “Take off that hoodie. . There is a responsibility that we have to have,” Smith said. “I’m talking about my community. We have to have a responsibility where everything can’t be about being right. Sometimes it has to be about being smart ...

“It’s not always about right and wrong. It’s about what the reality of a situation may be and adapting to the circumstances to make sure you don’t find yourself in a world of trouble.”

Lastly, there’s one other thing: Knee-jerk critics who have compared Trayvon Martin to civil rights martyrs Emmett Till and Medgar Evers are simply disingenuous.

But, then again, we learned many disingenuous aspects about America during this case.

Gregory Clay is assistant sports editor for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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  1. Excellent article. Author highlights the cogent and lucid points of the trial. But the jury had another option: Be a hung jury and let the case go to retrial. Why? In order to get justice, you have to have the truth. With Trayvon Martin dead, the truth won't ever be known. Especially since Zimmerman refused to testify under oath and be subjected to cross examination, despite the Judge's efforts to make him do so.

    Carmine D

  2. "She gave him the opportunity, and that's all she can do."

    I know the 5th Amendment well. The Judge pressed Zimmerman several times on the matter of him testifying. Each time over the repeated outspoken objections of defense attorney Don West. This is very unusual behavior for a Judge's court room demeanor. She was sending a message loud and clear.

    Carmine D

  3. This article by Gregory Clay, has been the exceptional BEST evaluation of the Martin-Zimmerman case.

    The situation was aggrevated by two young male adults (although Martin's parents continue to call Trayvon a "CHILD") with "attitude" with neither one of them backing down in the confrontation. It became a pissing contest of wills that tragically turned deadly.

    As ESPN broadcaster Stephen A. Smith surmizes, "It's not always about right and wrong. It's about what the reality of a situation may be and adapting to the circumstances to make sure you don't find yourself in a world of trouble."

    Both young men acted irresponsibly. Both acted like tough guys. Both were wrong in their behaviors. Both had their judgement clouded by posturing tough guy images to one another. But NEITHER of them backed down. This tragedy would have had a much different outcome had just one of them backed down.

    Ultimately, some responsibility needs to be assigned to the entertainment industry that promotes the gangsta culture that youth are so quick to latch onto and emulate. Flashing gang signs, wearing gangster type apparrel, even the talk, walk, music, video games, movies, and gesturing. The fashion industry profits from it as well. Who wears a ski mask to commit a crime anymore when "hoodies" are far more easier and prevalent. And THAT is the problem. IMAGE is just about everything in our modern culture.

    Until "content of character" as promoted by the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is what we, as a society focuses on, we will continue to suffer these tragic contests of wills, now, and in the future. When will we learn and smarten up?

    Blessings and peace,
    Star

  4. This article by Gregory Clay, has been the exceptional BEST evaluation of the Martin-Zimmerman case.

    The situation was aggrevated by two young male adults (although Martin's parents continue to call Trayvon a "CHILD") with "attitude" with neither one of them backing down in the confrontation. It became a pissing contest of wills that tragically turned deadly.

    As ESPN broadcaster Stephen A. Smith surmizes, "It's not always about right and wrong. It's about what the reality of a situation may be and adapting to the circumstances to make sure you don't find yourself in a world of trouble."

    Both young men acted irresponsibly. Both acted like tough guys. Both were wrong in their behaviors. Both had their judgement clouded by posturing tough guy images to one another. But NEITHER of them backed down. This tragedy would have had a much different outcome had just one of them backed down.

    Ultimately, some responsibility needs to be assigned to the entertainment industry that promotes the gangsta culture that youth are so quick to latch onto and emulate. Flashing gang signs, wearing gangster type apparrel, even the talk, walk, music, video games, movies, and gesturing. The fashion industry profits from it as well. Who wears a ski mask to commit a crime anymore when "hoodies" are far more easier and prevalent. And THAT is the problem. IMAGE is just about everything in our modern culture.

    Until "content of character" as promoted by the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is what we, as a society focuses on, we will continue to suffer these tragic contests of wills, now, and in the future. When will we learn and smarten up?

    Blessings and peace,
    Star

  5. I don't know why you think NAACP, et al are not trying to stop black on black crime. They sure mention it a lot. Passionately I think. I believe you are also wrong about comments concerning Till, Evers & now Martin. There is no justice for the type of individual as Martin was. What we should call America now is not postracial but postzimmerman. Meaning: everyone has a gun & must protect himself at all costs. No more good old fist fights only guns. Now that's a theory.
    Too bad, though.What are you doing about guns in the Ghetto? Anything? You Sports guys come out of your hallowed place where only sports is spoken. Why are all the coaches, commentators, etc. not black? I bet you've heard that now & then. What's your answer. Dumbness among AA's is found in many situations. Let's guess where!I like Stephen A. what time & station on Mons. Only one I hear in early AM"s is Artrell H & now espn has been pushed to the end of the dial & hard to get.Also, getting it all out: Sometimes I have to look at the headline of paper to see if I'm reading the RJ or the Sun.

  6. "Carmine,

    You saw the judges questions, which by the way were her duty to ask as pressure to testify?

    What color is the sky in your world?"
    ___________________________________________

    Wrong question. Why? You left out one important detail. The Zimmerman defense team had not finished calling all it's witnesses yet when the judge grilled Zimmerman to testify. Hence the repeated objections of Don West, and the judge's over rulings to them.

    Carmine D

  7. Three days after George Zimmerman was found innocent, Marissa Alexander, a 32 year old African was sentenced in Florida to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot into the wall of her home to end a violent argument with her abusive husband.

    Marissa feared for her life as her husband had a history of abuse and was capable of beating her to death. No one was hit by the bullet but the sentence was equivalent to manslaughter.

    The Florida legal system as seen from its judgments, is clearly race based. The out come of verdicts aren't due to the specific words but the interpretation of those words.

    Trayvon Martin was found guilty for defending himself against an aggressive stalker carrying a concealed weapon. He wanted Martin to think he was unarmed so that Martin would come close before being suprised. Zimmerman provoked a confrontation when he ignored police directions to stay in his car and instead, picked up his gun and began stalking Martin.

    Zimmerman had no legal right to follow Martin or to stop or ask him any questions. Martin feared for his life but his existence was not on the innocent side of the law.