There’s less to the Zimmerman verdict than meets the eye. “Beyond reasonable doubt” is a tough standard to meet when the question is whether someone could reasonably have believed himself in mortal peril. Would the jury have decided otherwise if an armed black man accosted an unarmed white man in a white neighborhood? Possibly. But that doesn’t prove the verdict actually rendered was wrong. It probably wasn’t.
On the other hand, the demonization of the unarmed guy with the bullet hole in him and the valorization of the guy with the gun by the wingnuts and the racists are pretty hard to take. One fact I hadn’t been aware of until today – admittedly, I wasn’t paying very much attention to the case – is that Zimmerman had previously been charged with felony assault on a police officer (case dismissed when he agreed to enter alcohol treatment) and accused by a girlfriend of domestic violence (no charges filed, cross restraining orders granted).
None of that was admissible at trial. But a prosecutor thinking about whether to take a hard-to-win case might reasonably view Zimmerman’s self-defense story a shade more skeptically knowing that he’d used it before in the domestic-violence case and that he’d been aggressive enough to push a uniformed cop on duty. As Lady Bracknell might have remarked, to be accused of one violent felony may be regarded as a misfortune, but to be accused of two looks like … something else.
Perhaps, having killed and gotten away with it, Zimmerman’s blood-lust is now satisfied. Or perhaps, having been tried for murder, he will have learned his lesson. Let’s hope so.