“Toward the end of the state’s summation” in the trial of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin, “it was said that if a person wanted to do what George Zimmerman did ‘you’d better have one of these’ (whereupon a photo of a policeman’s badge was projected onto the screen).” So wrote Butler Shaffer, yesterday:

What the state was implicitly acknowledging — whether such was its intent or not — was the real-world dual standard that operates on the streets of virtually every city in every state: a police officer will almost never be held to account, criminally, for wrongs committed against innocent victims.

Shaffer thus offered a wider context, the fact that police rarely get charged with anything even in the most outrageous cases. They are presumed innocent.

George Zimmerman was not presumed innocent by some, with many still believing he’s guilty.

Even after a jury acquitted him of all charges.

Initially, when we knew so little about the case, I had some sympathy for those who demanded action, “justice.” As evidence quickly began piling up, however, we learned that the information we were being fed was highly skewed. NBC’s redacted tape of the 911 call was inexcusable and incendiary.

Also unsettling?

  • Nearly everybody called Trayvon Martin a “child.” He was under 18, that’s true. But try calling a 17-year-old male — especially a black male — “a child.” See where that gets you. But now that he’s safely dead, his parents and lawyers and Internet advocates called him “child” (but, somehow, not “boy”) all they wanted. This was disgusting. Teenagers are not “children” any longer. They are “youths.” They are nearly adults.
  • Idiotic racial elements shot through the whole debate. What was Zimmerman called by journalists? “Self-described Hispanic” and “white Hispanic” and other embarrassments to journalistic standards. It was obvious from the beginning that this was all in an effort to shoe-horn the whole case into an old oppressor/oppressed framework, into the familiar anti-racist categories. But the case never really fit.
  • Also disturbing was the fact that Zimmerman did not go through a standard grand jury process, but was charged and arrested because of political pressure brought to bear against officials, who usurped authority before establishing any real lapse in police work. Indeed, there was the stink of “somebody’s gotta pay” throughout the whole fracas. Not, “let justice be done,” but “get ’im” — “’im” being Mr. Zimmerman. The whole thing felt like a high-tech lynching.

But the most important of the “broader perspectives” is this: under a rule of law we don’t find suspects guilty when there is reasonable doubt.

Of which there was aplenty.

Beyond that, skeptics should remember: In an imperfect world perfect justice cannot be found.

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