It’s a sad day for many Americans; especially of African American descent. George Zimmerman, the man accused of murdering Trayvon Martin, was found not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter on Saturday. Zimmerman, 29, was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Martin, a 17 year old African-American male whom the defendant shot during a scuffle in a gated community on Feb 26, 2012. The jury also could have convicted Zimmerman on the lesser charge of manslaughter.
The verdict is the culmination of a case that captured the nation’s attention and will undoubtedly be imprinted in America’s history. The not guilty verdict means the jury of six women found that Zimmerman justifiably used deadly force and reasonably believed that such force was “necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm” to himself — Florida’s definition of self-defense. The six-woman panel signed they had reached a verdict 9:45 pm ET and filed into the courtroom around 10 pm.
Has the system failed Americans again? Is there one code of conduct for one set of people while others have no apparent accountability? One has to contemplate the compass of a justice system that will send a man to jail for dog fighting, where dogs were killed, but will let a man who initiates a crime with a black man walk free.
Yes, I’m referencing the Michael Vick case where was sentenced to prison in 2007 for running a dog fighting operation; where dogs were injured and some killed. Vick ended up receiving a longer sentence than his two co-defendants because he lied about his involvement when he was supposed to be coming clean to the judge who would decide his fate. Is America more concerned with the life of an animal than that of a young African American male?
Then we have Plaxico Burress who was sentenced to two years in prison for violating New York’s stringent gun laws and was immediately taken into custody following his hearing. One would think that having to live with the pain of shooting himself would have caused him to suffer enough. It makes people wonder if he was sentenced to jail because he shot an African American male. Remember, he shot himself.
Many years ago America was stunned with the verdict in the People of the State of California vs. Orenthal James Simpson. O.J. Simpson was tried on two counts of murder following the June 1994 deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman. . The case has been described, up until now, as the most publicized criminal trial in American history where Simpson was acquitted after a lengthy trial that lasted over eight months. Once again, America is stunned.
The case ignited a national debate over self-defense laws and race, prompting marches and demonstrations around the country. No mass demonstrations materialized outside the Seminole County Courthouse since the jury began deliberating Friday afternoon, however. On Saturday, about a hundred mostly pro-Martin protesters peacefully demonstrated in front of the court. Police said they had to eject a handful of protesters over verbal altercations, but no arrests were made. Local leaders have urged members of the community to remain peaceful no matter what verdict the jury hands down. The jury has found the neighborhood watchman not guilty in the killing of Trayvon Martin. Where do we go from here?
- Accountability is a must: Accountability is one of those terms that have gained popularity in recent years. The issue is most have lost the essence of what it means to be accountable. It is more than someone checking another’s goals; it is a system of checks and balances. This case, for many, was more about accountability for one’s actions than race. If Zimmerman would have obeyed the directives he received from the 911 team he would have never followed Martin. Where’s the accountability in this?
- Control what you can: Highly successful people do not spend a lot of time stressing over things out of their circle of control. In fact, they are locked into those things that they can influence. It’s the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat. One only reads the temps, the other changes them. At this stage America cannot control the outcome of the verdict but they can play a role in helping to change the laws that allowed such a verdict.
- Keep the vision forward: As America progresses through this situation, it can become difficult to keep their eyes ahead on what is important. Successful people figure out ways to keep their motivation in front of them. Whether through outside empowerment or governing their own internal issues through another method, they are looking at what is next. In order to be successful, we need to focus our attention beyond the current state and prepare for what is to come.
Let’s not make the mistake of jumping into the emotion of our desired outcome and never consider what direction we must to take for the journey. Life is about discovering the process. And you can’t do that without allowing a moral compass to be the guide.
It’s a sad day in America. A young unarmed man lost his life defending himself while another with a loaded gun walks free for defending himself.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)