Zimmerman Not Guilty Despite Flawed Approach to Active Citizenship

Yahoo Contributor Network

Yahoo News asked Sanford, Fla., residents and others across the nation to react to the not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman case and cultural issues surrounding the trial. Here's one response.

COMMENTARY | The Trayvon Martin case reproved the popular quotation, "What is right is not always popular; What is popular is not always right."

A jury of his peers acquitted George Zimmerman of all charges in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin -- a decision sure to be unpopular. However, it meets the parameters of rightness in a justice system where individuals are charged in a court of law instead of public opinion.

Prosecutors simply could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman was not acting in self-defense. No other verdict was possible unless the jurors allowed themselves to be swayed by the fervor that has surrounded this case. However, what will be the verdict in future trials when other concealed carriers decide to follow-up on a "feeling" they have about a black person walking in a white neighborhood or a poor person wondering across the wealthy side of town? Which person will be the defendant and which the deceased? Could we expect the same outcome when races are reversed?

George Zimmerman deserved to be found not guilty based on the evidence presented, but future "concerned citizens" need to realize the outcome may not be the same if they attempt to police the neighborhood with a gun that makes them feel larger than life. The definition of protecting a private home and property does not extend to seeking out potential threats to confront.

Trayvon Martin's death will affect George Zimmerman for the rest of his life. Being found not guilty of such a high-profile case is a life sentence in many ways, and he could have avoided it and killing Trayvon by voicing his concern in different ways more becoming to an active American citizen: continuing to call the police department to report suspicious behavior in his neighborhood, running for office himself in an effort to clean up his town, or working to fight poverty and improve education.

Concerned citizens should eliminate the need to "watch" the neighborhood by making it more cohesive, not divisive. It should not have taken the death of a young black man to once again teach Americans this lesson.

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