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Not Guilty: Zimmerman Jury says it was Self Defense. How Will the Nation Respond?

By Keith A. Fournier
July 15th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

What was a local story, gained national significance because of the narrative in which it was framed by many in the main stream media. The return of a unanimous verdict of acquittal by the Jury, in a trial broadcast on every major network, will not end the controversies which the entire matter has brought to the surface. Everyone who cares about this Nation, whether you agree with the decision of the Jury in Florida or not, should pray that the discussion and examination of conscience which this trial has engendered is not only peaceful but productive.

SANFORD, FL (Catholic Online) - After deliberating for fifteen hours, the Jury of six women, chosen by both the prosecution and the defense, ended a drama which has captured the attention of many Americans. They decided that George Zimmerman took the life of Trayvon Martin in a justifiable act of self defense.

Zimmerman had been charged with Second Degree murder under Florida law. The Judge ruled that the Jury could also consider the lesser included offense of Manslaughter before the case was given to the Jury for deliberations.

The incident arose out of a neighborhood watch encounter which occurred on February 26, 2012 when a seventeen year old Trayvon Martin was considered suspicious by a watch volunteer named George Zimmerman.

The end result of the hotly disputed encounter - and the altercation which followed - became a deadly tragedy. The younger man, Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed.

The initial investigation of the Sanford Police Department confirmed Zimmerman's claim that it was more than likely a matter of self defense. They decided there was not sufficient evidence to charge Zimmerman with a crime.

Within a week, the case drew national attention. It was presented over most main stream media outlets as having been tinged with racial bias. Trayvon Martin was black and Zimmerman was wrongly reported as "white" - and then as "white Hispanic".

In response to growing calls for a thorough investigation - coupled with regular insinuations from some in the politically motivated media that the entire affair was not being properly investigated due to the racial issues involved - the case gained not only national but international attention.  

Weeks of shoddy reporting, filled with racial allegations and insinuation, only added fuel to the fire. The Nation was deeply and understandably concerned over the entire affair.

On March 23, 2013, President Obama weighed in during an unrelated event in the Rose Garden. He told reporters, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. I think [Trayvon's parents] are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and we are going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened."

The high drama filled every segment of the integrated news media from television and radio to the internet and social media sources. The understandable national concerns only grew worse as the celebrity culture weighed in.

No-one with any sanity or moral conscience wanted this case to be about an incident of racial profiling. Racism, in any form, is morally wrong. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has much to say about the equal dignity of all men and women and the requirements of justice it entails. For example:  

"The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it: Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God's design. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1935)

However, as the two starkly contrasting and contested accounts of what happened that fateful night began to emerge, alongside of the undeniable fact that Zimmerman Hispanic and had a personal history which contradicted any tinge of racism in the man, the narrative shifted again in much of the main stream media.  

Many media sources continued to stoke the flames of national division by pushing an altered and modified narrative. In some instances, though purporting to be news, media reports really constituted incitement. They insinuated that, though the encounter was still probably a result of profiling, the failure to prosecute was itself racially tinged and revealed systemic racism in the justice system.

On April 11, 2012, George Zimmerman was charged in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The charge was Second Degree Murder. The United States was irrevocably transfixed on a story which involved a terrible tragedy, the death of a seventeen year old young man. However, it had moved beyond that tragedy.  

What was a local story, gained national significance because of the narrative in which it was framed by many in the main stream media. The return of a unanimous verdict of acquittal by the Jury, in a trial broadcast on every major network, will not end the controversies which the entire matter has brought to the surface.

Everyone who cares about this Nation, whether you agree with the decision of the Jury in Florida or not, should pray that the discussion and examination of conscience which this trial has engendered is not only peaceful but productive.

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