Today, closing arguments by the prosecution for the Zimmerman trial have begun.
And I’m going to be honest with you, I’m not optimistic about the outcome of the George Zimmerman trial. I’ve watched the proceedings at a comfortable distance for the past two weeks and followed some smart observations from Mychal, Jelani Cobb, and Jonathan Capehart. Prior to the trial’s start, I had an opportunity to discuss some of my reservations with Zerlina on Sirius XM’s “The Urban View.” My principle concerns then, as it is now, are closing arguments and jury instruction.
Real talk: if you ever get a jury summons, do not begrudge the opportunity. If you’re
(un)fortunate enough to get selected as a juror, you’ll learn a few things that twenty years of Law & Order will never afford you, the citizen’s interpretation of legal statutes and its application to cases are equal parts complex and surprisingly simple. I’ve sat on two juries for criminal cases and the summations, your notes and the instructions are all that you’re left in the room. Your good reason, your common sense (supported by instructions and evidence) is what leads to conviction or acquittal.
This morning, Judge Debra Nelson allowed Manslaughter to be included in the list of charges for the jury’s consideration. And honestly, that is a relief to me as a casual observer. While we may understand the depth of this case in great detail (forensic evidence, Zimmerman’s public statements on Hannity) how Zimmerman’s story just doesn’t add up, the prosecution hasn’t provided the tightest counter narrative to Zimmerman’s story. While the optics of this case absolutely point to a pernicious racial profiling by a self-appointed gated community constable, the state has to prove under the second degree murder charge “intent from a deranged mind.” That part of the charge I’m not sure the prosecution met its burden in their case to the jury. I’m hoping that the jury’s copious notes reflect some important testimony from the firearms expert, Zimmerman’s public safety instructor, to add bolster some damning statements from Zimmerman regarding his perception of Trayvon Martin, “fucking punks” who get away. I hope the absence of remorse from Zimmerman sways the jury in recognizing a key narrative that neither the state or the defense has bothered to utter, that George Zimmerman seems to think himself a cop on trial for a justified homicide.
If you haven’t been following this closely, this is the moment to really pay attention.
I think my cynicism is partially a defense mechanism. The stakes of this trial at its core and can never be forgotten are justice for the family for the wrongful death of their teenage son. The stakes for all of us is that a not guilty verdict implicitly means that an armed civilian who likens himself to law enforcement has dominion over brown bodies. It calls to question that state’s set of laws that privilege white skin over dark skin in cases of self-defense and reinforces the cultural bias that a black boy walking casually down any street in America is a crime with fatal consequences.