Yesterday, George Zimmermann was found not guilty. Immediately millions of people reacted with outrage, disgust, anger, and other negative emotions because they wanted justice for Trayvon Martin in the form of a guilty verdict. Apparently a lot of these people were more informed about the case than the jury, because they’re all saying that the justice system is broken and failed.
You sorta follow one trial. When the jury fails to convinct a guy who kinda seemed guilty to you, you say America is broken. Gimme a break!
— Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) July 14, 2013
When the shooting happened over a year ago, we saw similar outrage. I said then that Everyone was Not Qualified To Have An Opinion about it. I guess everyone’s qualified to have some kind of opinion about the shooting now, but You’re Not Qualified To Have An Opinion About The Verdict. From everything I’ve seen about the case (which admittedly isn’t a whole lot), there seems to be enough confusion about what really happened that there’s at least “reasonable doubt,” and in a properly functioning justice system that should mean an acquittal. It only means guilty when your justice is determined by a majority mob of opinionated rumor-chasers.
That’s not to say that our justice system doesn’t have big problems.
The system is broken because we incarcerate more people than any other nation, half of them for non-violent drug offenses, most of whom are black and poor, contributing to continuing cycles of poverty and broken families.
It’s broken because we have an increasingly militarized police, prone to overreaction and immune from consequences.
It’s broken because we’ve legalized indefinite detention of American citizens with no right to trial, and because we have secret courts that write their own secret rules about surveillance.
Maybe it’s broken if the same law that acquitted Zimmermann convicted a black woman for 20 years.
But it’s not broken when a jury acquits someone whose guilt is not beyond reasonable doubt; two wrongs don’t make a right. Sure, let’s work to change unjust laws, to heal race relations, to protect young black men from being killed by whites, Hispanics, AND other blacks. But don’t get angry about a verdict just because you’d already made up your mind.
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