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In Moment of Weakness Under the Guise of Strength....

When the Trayvon Martin case became a national story, I was quick to point out the necessity of waiting and seeing as the facts came to light.  I lost a Facebook friend over this particular stance.  But why is it that the “wait and see” opinion is so hard for people to grasp?

Too often, in the court of public opinion, do we find ourselves trying criminal cases that are thrust into the national spotlight.  The 24 Hour News Cycle feeds this obsession, turning all of us into wannabe Perry Mason’s overnight.  We use whatever information is given to us to formulate our arguments, either on the side of the prosecution or the defense.  We invest ourselves in our chosen side, and forget that there are real people on the other side of the television screen, who are dealing with actual grief, loss, sadness and anger.

I didn’t understand this myself, until I lived through it.  

On Saint Patrick’s Day 2011, my 23 year-old nephew Clarence was stabbed in a fight in Syracuse.  He died from his injuries less than 24 hours later.  His killer fled the law, but was found and arrested (not without resistance) a month later.  His trial was just last summer, the final week of June.  It was four days of testimony, going over that night, images burned into my mind and the minds of my family that will never quite go away.

The jury returned after a few short hours of deliberations, delivering a verdict of not guilty.  The tension in the room before the verdict was read was high, what seemed like an entire squad of police officers were on hand.  My family and I sat in stunned silence as the family and friends of the defendant left the courtroom in jubilation.  They had gotten the verdict that they had wanted, and we had not.

I was angry.  I wanted to hit something.  I felt as though the justice system had failed us.

Tonight, July 13, 2013, George Zimmerman was found not guilty.  The prosecution presented their case, which was flawed from the start with witnesses that were unreliable to say the least.  I could see sad parallels to the case involving Clarence.  They could not prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that it was an act of murder.  

But the sad fact remains:  a 17 year old kid is dead.  Despite the circumstances surrounding it, self-defense or not, a 17 year old kid is dead.  17 years old.  Forever etched in the minds of his parents and loved ones as their baby boy, their son, their cousin, their friend.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not deifying Trayvon.  It’s just -- he was 17.  


17 year old kids are stupid.  They do stupid stuff.  When I was 17 I remember running around like the knights in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and smashing a leftover bread bowl full of spinach dip on the house belonging to a teacher.  It was hilarious at the time, but stupid now.  The difference is - I’ve lived to see past the age of 30, been married for close to 15 years, and have four children.  All of these things are something that a dead kid at 17 years old will never see.  That is tragedy.  

My nephew was 23.  Old enough to know better, but too dumb to care.  Aren’t we all at that age, though?  He’ll never see marriage or children of his own.  

What these two young men share is that, in moments of weakness under the guise of strength, they were found wanting.  And despite cries of injustice, the system worked.  Occams Razor is reasonable doubt, and like the sword of Alexander the Great cutting through the Gordian Knot, it’s more often than not the simplest decisions that are hardest to come by.  

But I sit in empathy for the family of Trayvon Martin.  I know.  Anger is natural, normal, and understandable.  But the system is not flawed.  It’s the heart of man that is.


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