Verdict hard to accept, but justified

Guest Editorial
There are many who believe George Zimmerman escaped justice; that he was spared responsibility for the death of Trayvon Martin and he will become a symbol for vigilantes who prefer to take the law into their own hands.

Zimmerman’s acquittal Saturday was shocking to those who were convinced the Neighborhood Watch volunteer exceeded his authority when he targeted the 17-year-old and created the circumstances that took his life. The debate about Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence will continue, but the jury’s verdict should not be second-guessed.

Despite the belief of many Americans that he is guilty of taking an innocent life, the evidence presented was not compelling enough to convict him. In the despair expressed by critics of the verdict, it is worth remembering that the U.S. judicial system doesn’t guarantee outcomes with which the public agrees. Its purpose is to ensure defendants receive fair trials.

A considerable number of legal experts said the verdict was inevitable. The prosecution’s case, they said, was weak.

Zimmerman was accused of profiling Martin as suspicious because he was black. He followed Martin. After Zimmerman contacted the police, he continued to pursue Martin despite being told not to do so.

But Zimmerman’s actions before he fatally shot Martin are not illegal. The prosecution lacked the evidence to challenge his contention that he shot the unarmed youth in self defense.

Zimmerman said Martin punched him, and he was screaming for help when the 17-year-old was prevailing in the fight that ensued. Zimmerman said he, not Martin, screamed for help before Zimmerman shot him.

There are those who will embrace Zimmerman’s acquittal as justification for profiling visitors to neighborhoods as suspicious solely because of their race. That’s wrong.

An innocent 17-year-old youth lost his life Feb. 26, 2012, in a Sanford, Fla., housing complex. There is every reason to believe Trayvon Martin might be alive today if Zimmerman had followed the police’s advice and ended his pursuit of Martin.

Racial profiling is wrong. There is a critical difference between Neighborhood Watches that train their volunteers to cooperate with police, not to attempt to do their jobs.

Trayvon Martin’s death is a tragedy. But George Zimmerman’s conviction on the evidence the prosecution presented only would have made it worse.

The judicial system worked.