Law doesn’t always equal justice

There is a huge difference betweenapplication of the law and actual justice. That is the painful reality that many Americans of all ages and all colors face in the aftermath of the George Zimmerman verdict. The State prosecutors did not make their case, according to the law, but the fact that Zimmerman could shoot an unarmed teenager and not do jail time is not justice.

Justice occurs when the machinery of the law meets our collective moral intentions. For example, if I stick the keys in the ignition, the engine starts, the wheels start to turn, but my car doesn’t take me to the store, I can’t still call that “transportation.” The machinery didn’t support my intention, which in the minds of many is what occurred with last Saturday’s ruling.

There are many reasons why this happened. Race is one of them. And unfortunately, while the case may be over, the underlying issues that led to a shooting in February 2012 are not even close to being resolved.

Imagine the following exchange:

Person A: Guess what? 2+2=5
Person B: Actually, that’s not right. 2+2 = 4. I can show you countless examples where that’s the case.
Person A: Why do you always have to bring math into this? You people are just obsessed with math all the time! No one brought up math until you did!

That sounds ridiculous, right? No one would ever just deny the existence of math because they don’t want to accept it. Unfortunately, all too many Americans have an equally ridiculous resistance to any suggestion that race played a role in the outcome of the Zimmerman trial.

Some conservatives argue that race had nothing to do with the case, until Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton led protests calling for Zimmerman’s arrest last summer. On the other hand, many believe that, at bare minimum, Zimmerman racially profiled Martin and, at worst, the mediocre police investigation, the selection of a majority white female jury, and the incredibly uneven prosecution were a reflection of how the death of a young black boy is not taken as seriously as that of a white 17-year-old.

In the wake of Juror B37’s interview on CNN, it’s harder and harder to claim that race didn’t play a role at least in terms of how the jury processed and viewed the Zimmerman trial.

During her interview with Anderson Cooper, Juror B37 description of Rachel Jeantelreeked of racial and class condescension. It seemed like she assumed Jeantel was ashamed and embarrassed to be on the witness stand (as opposed to being in mourning). She discounted her as a credible witness without a specific reason why.

In addition, throughout the entire interview, Juror B37 kept referring to Zimmerman as “George,” not Mr. Zimmerman or the defendant. Yet when talking about the actual shooting, the most empathy she could muster was to say “It’s a shame someonedied.” She didn’t even utter Martin’s name until prompted by Cooper. She clearly identified more with Zimmerman than Martin.

A 2003 study out of Chicago-Kent Law School shows that Americans believe that the more racially diverse the jury is in a trial, the more legitimate and fair the final verdict is, which might explain why thousands of Americans are protesting the jury verdict in the Zimmerman case. Even further, in 2010, researchers at Tufts University found that the sympathy and empathy of white and black jurors does influence the final jury verdict. In other words, as it applies to the Zimmerman case, white jurors are less likely to empathize with black victims or convict those who perpetrate crimes on African-Americans.

Stepping back from the jury a bit to the wider trial, a 2012 study conducted by PBS showed that:

“In ‘Stand your ground’ states, white people who kill black people are 354% more likely to be found justified in their killings. And it doesn’t get much better in non-‘Stand your ground’ states, where that number goes down only to 250%.”

The very idea that race doesn’t play a role in how a jury comes to a final decision is just as preposterous as saying gender doesn’t play a role in the process. Not one analyst or lawyer ever suggested women leave their gender at the deliberation door. In fact, we spent six weeks talking about how having an all-women jury could influence the outcome of the trial — how women communicate or organize differently from men, how having five jurors who are mothers could impact the trial — and no one said that was outrageous. Race could no more be taken out of this deliberation process than gender.

In other words, Juror B37 can say that race played no role in the deliberations or final decision in the Zimmerman trial, but the math doesn’t add up. Unless, of course, you don’t believe in math.

During his closing statements, defense attorney Mark O’Mara stated that if the jury used common sense, Zimmerman would go to jail. But their job was to determine if the State met the burden of proof for second-degree murder or manslaughter, not use common sense.

The jury decided in favor of the defense and Zimmerman goes free. Sort of. For some Americans, this was the right result and confirmed their belief in Zimmerman’s innocence. However, for many Americans of all ages, colors, and beliefs, this ruling was the application of the law without corresponding collective moral intention. The verdict was the law — but not justice.

And, unfortunately, that is the America we live in.

This article originally appeared online at Headline News.

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