Sunday, July 14, 2013


Some who are outraged over the acquittal of Zimmerman say that, nevertheless, 'the jury has spoken; we have to respect the verdict.' No, we should not respect the verdict. Should we respect the countless verdicts in our history that unjustly condemned black youth to prison and death, verdicts that fill our prisons today with black victims of unequal justice?

A jury without a single black member reached a verdict in a court where the judge ruled out consideration of 'racial' issues in the killing of Trayvon Martin. But more than the judge and six jurors laid down the "not guilty" verdict, many more. Foremost were the governor and legislators who fashioned the "stand your ground" law. That law did just what it was intended to do; it gave sanction and encouragement to armed vigilante "justice" that made outcomes like the murder of Trayvon a virtual certainty. The "not guilty" verdict was laid down by a hidden jury, the American Legislative Exchange Council, funded by the Koch brothers and like-minded gun-happy billionaires who conspire to get "shoot first" laws like Florida's in every possible state. And if this case is an up-to-date version of an old, old story of Jim Crow justice,  then the Supreme Court majority, which just threw out the Voting Rights Act with the suggestion that racism is past history, also stands in the shadow of what passes for justice in the Florida verdict. No, the Florida verdict is no more deserving of respect than the Supreme Court majority's verdicts in "Citizen's United" and voting rights and its underhanded rulings designed to cripple and ultimately do away with affirmative action. (An excellent article by Linda Greenhouse in the New York Times describes Chief Justice Roberts' somewhat hidden agenda and the folly of "compromises" that lay the groundwork for completely eliminating affirmative action and civil rights legislation.)

No. Racist verdicts and con games don't deserve respect, rather exposure and condemnation. The NAACP's demand to the Justice Department for a civil rights suit against Florida's vigilante law is what deserves respect and determined support.
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Soon after this blog was posted, this comment from David:

Did you happen to see the prosecution press conference immediately following the verdict?  Special prosecutor Corey couldn't conceal her relief at the outcome.  This was not just a jury without blacks.  It was a white prosecution team appointed by a Republican governor and led by a conservative Republican prosecutor who seemed clearly to identify with the defense.  And a white judge.  Even if we overlook the external conspirators cited in your blog, it was courtroom process of white people in every role. Can anyone imagine a case of a white victim and a black defendant in which the prosecution team, the judge, and the entire jury was black?  It could never happen.


  1. Prof. Wofsy, totally agree with your comments re the Zimmerman verdict. Justice will and must be done. As you suggest, currently our country is controlled by huge corporations, Big Banks, Big Oil, Big Pharma, and a real Military-Industrial-Congressional Media Complex. In short, with the meshing of government with corporations, we do have a fascist-like state.
    We must act to counter such a state if our so-called democratic republic is to survive!

  2. I think there's another issue beyond the excellent ones you raise.

    From all the testimony, leaving aside questions of his motivations and perceptions, George Zimmerman's actions were reckless and irresponsible. He went armed on a neighborhood watch patrol, which any experienced cop will tell you should never happen, precisely because it can end up causing a tragedy like this. A neighborhood watch volunteer should be armed with a cell-phone -- nothing else. And, when he saw someone he perceived as "up to no good", Zimmerman pursued and confronted him, which -- again -- an experienced copy will advise against. Indeed, the police dispatcher who spoke to Zimmerman on the phone told him not to follow Martin, an instruction Zimmerman disobeyed, leading to Martin's death. In police jargon, Zimmerman was "playing cops and robbers", and a young man died as a result.

    As I've posted elsewhere, one of the underlying problems is the culture of vigilantism that an unsupervised neighborhood watch program encourages -- a culture that encourages perceptions of the "dangerous stranger" and the "other" -- a person of the wrong race -- as threats, as "persons up to no good". In the end, this culture, and the fear which created it, is the substrate underlying the tragic meeting of Zimmerman and Martin.