Zimmerman’s Not Guilty, But He’s Not Out of the Woods

The push to retry George Zimmerman should be troubling to us all.

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A Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman Saturday on all counts in the death of Trayvon Martin. The verdict was not unexpected, as it was clear to all but those who had pre-judged the accused as guilty that the prosecution had failed to make its case beyond the standard of reasonable doubt.

Zimmerman, nonetheless, remains in jeopardy because of the racial overtones bystanders, including President Barack Obama, interest groups and the media injected into the case. Like other famous trials before this, there was a concerted effort by the prosecutors in particular to convict the defendant in the court of public opinion, poisoning the jury pool in the process, long before the accused ever had his day in court. It has generated a blood lust that must be satiated before people are willing to let it go.

It was Obama who, in the earliest moments of the case, said if he had a son he would look like Trayvon. It's not clear what that means unless it was a thinly-disguised attempt to upend the 2012 presidential campaign in Florida on the issue of race. Unfortunately, the president neglected to add whether if he had a son he would have behaved like Trayvon Martin, whose image as an angelic innocent was tarnished by pictures of him flashing gang signs and exhaling what was presumably marijuana smoke that the prosecutors allegedly tried to suppress, but which got out anyway. And how Martin behaved, and for that matter how Zimmerman behaved, is really more important than what either of them look like.

[Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

Despite the caterwauling of so-called civil rights leaders like Al Sharpton of MSNBC and Ben Jealous of the NAACP, not every non-white person in America thinks the verdict unjust. "This case should never have been brought forward. The grand jury should never have been bypassed and Judge Nelson should never have allowed this case to get this far," said Horace Cooper, a former law professor and co-chairman of Project 21, an organization of young black conservatives. "The rush to arrest and indict Zimmerman merely to appease the media or race-based interest groups not only jeopardized Mr. Zimmerman's rights and liberty, but the precedent suggests that all of our rights could be infringed."

Radio talk show host Lisa Fritsch, also a member of Project 21, said the case presented a situation in which America seemed to be "on trial for racial prejudice." "The not guilty verdict should make us reflect on what it means to give the benefit of the doubt before judging harshly and deciding one's actions are racially motivated. The final question for every community is how we can protect our youth from a system of violence and a lifestyle that nearly guarantees they will find trouble. Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin's family and more urban Americans will hopefully use this case and verdict as an opportunity to correct that system," Fritsch said.

[See a collection of editorial cartoons on the Trayvon Martin tragedy.]

Unfortunately, since the race-baiters have not yet had their pound of flesh, Zimmerman's troubles are far from over. Having failed to win a conviction on the criminal charge, the United States Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder are reportedly looking into whether a federal cause of action exists against Zimmerman on the dubious, nebulous charge that he somehow violated Martin's civil rights.

The United States Constitution includes a safeguard that is supposed to prevent such instances of retrial for what is, essentially, the same offense. In the case, where it appears the prosecution stacked the deck in a most venal way and still failed to obtain a conviction, the idea of putting Zimmerman on trial once again, to make him again face the loss of his liberty as a result of the same act while being tried under a the terms of a different statute, is an offense to us all. It strikes at the heart of the liberties we all enjoy and places us all in jeopardy.

There are those who do not like the way the trial turned out. They are entitled to their feelings and their opinions. These opinions and feelings do not, however, entitle them to disregard the constitutional protections afforded George Zimmerman and the rest of us for the sake of public relations and to win votes in the upcoming congressional elections.

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