Does Obama Believe That The Zimmerman Jury Racially Profiled Trayvon?
On July 19, 2013, President Barack Obama discussed racial profiling and commented on the jury verdict in the George Zimmerman case. Obama's statements indicate that he believes that the jury racially profiled Trayvon.
Obama said: "The juries [sic] were properly instructed that in a case such as this reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury has spoken, that's how our system works."
However, "reasonable doubt" is more than "relevant." It is the basic standard under which the jury operated. The jury had reasonable doubt about whether Zimmerman was guilty. That is why he was found "not guilty" by the jury. Obama, a former constitutional law lecturer, and chief law enforcement officer in the country, should know how important the concept of "reasonable doubt" is to the process.
Without offering any evidence that the jury's "reasonable doubt" was erroneous and that Zimmerman should have been found guilty, Obama minimized the standard of "reasonable doubt," and then discussed racial profiling.
However, the judge ruled that the prosecutors could not allege in their opening statements that Zimmerman had racially profiled Trayvon because they had not laid an evidentiary foundation for such an argument. Moreover, no such evidence was ever produced and the prosecution did not accuse Zimmerman of having any kind of racial motive.
Obama said: "If I see any violence, then I will remind folks that that dishonors what happened to Trayvon Martin and his family." Why does Obama believe that Trayvon deserves honor? The jury had reasonable doubt about whether Zimmerman acted in justifiable self-defense against a possible unjustified attack from Trayvon. The only one who knows the truth about what happened is Zimmerman. Although it is possible to create a scenario where Zimmerman unjustifiably attacked Trayvon, it is at least equally possible to create a scenario where Trayvon unjustifiably attacked Zimmerman. Obama's attempt to preserve honor for Trayvon implies that Obama believes that Trayvon was not the aggressor. This is consistent with Obama's statements of sympathy and affinity with Trayvon, in which Obama said on March 23, 2012 that "[i]f I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon" and said on July 19, 2013: "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago." Obama's belief that Trayvon deserves honor implies that he disagrees with the jury's implicit finding that there is reasonable doubt about who was the aggressor.
Obama said that there is "a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different." Here, Obama is implying that if Trayvon were white, the jury would have convicted Zimmerman.
First of all, I want to make sure that, once again, I send my thoughts and prayers, as well as Michelle's, to the family of Trayvon Martin, and to remark on the incredible grace and dignity with which they've dealt with the entire situation. I can only imagine what they're going through, and it's remarkable how they've handled it.
Obama did not say any such thing about Zimmerman and his family, despite the fact that Zimmerman has had to wear a disguise and bulletproof vest for months before his trial, and is probably still doing so, and he and his family receive constant death threats.
In light of these statements, when Obama said that "the jury has spoken, that's how our system works," he was giving as little legitimacy to the jury's verdict as he could, without explicitly denouncing it. The totality of Obama's statement strongly implies that he believes that the jury racially profiled Trayvon and we are stuck with the verdict.
Racial demagoguery has a new face under its definition in the dictionary.
Allan J. Favish is an attorney in Los Angeles. His website is allanfavish.com. He has co-authored with James Fernald a new book about what might happen if the government ran Disneyland entitled "Fireworks! If the Government Ran the Fairest Kingdom of Them All (A Very Unauthorized Fantasy).