The Norman Transcript

Opinion

July 25, 2013

Zimmerman case points to distrust of U.S. legal system

NORMAN — The trial of George Zimmerman for the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., cast a glaring light on both the U.S. legal system and the simmering distrust of that system among many African Americans.

The legal system worked the way it is designed to work. The jury heard three weeks of testimony and reviewed all of the pertinent documents. It reached the decision to issue a verdict of not guilty on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter. This is the way the U.S. legal system functions.

From a layman’s perspective, though, we’re left to wonder whether the innocent-until-proven-guilty foundation of the system passes muster in a case where a man has been shot and killed and there are no eyewitnesses. Shouldn’t the accused have the burden of proof that their well-being was tangibly threatened?

In the aftermath of the verdict, protests flared up around the country. African Americans are aghast that an unarmed black teenager could be gunned down and the shooter be found not guilty of committing a crime.

This reaction is another indicator that America has a long way to go in creating a society where all are treated equally — and believe that they’re treated equally. A 2011 study by Harvard and Tufts universities suggests that a majority of whites believe whites have displaced blacks as the primary target of racial discrimination in America.

However, an abundance of statistical evidence related to crime suggests the contrary. For example, an American Civil Liberties Union study released in June showed that blacks in Indiana were about three times more likely than whites to be arrested on marijuana charges. This discrepancy exists despite evidence that the incidence of marijuana use among whites and blacks is roughly equal.

— The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind.

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