Sunday, 14 July 2013

George Zimmerman found Not Guilty for Trayvon Martin Shooting

George Zimmerman verdict

George Zimmerman has been found innocent of all charges relating to the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Trayvon Martin died last year after being shot by Zimmerman, who claimed he was acting in self-defence. Supporters of George Zimmerman are said to be "ecstatic" with the verdict. The entirely female jury deliberated for a total of 15 hours before announcing their decision that Zimmerman had acted in self-defence.

How has the US public reacted to the verdict?

Protest marches took place overnight in several major US cities. These spontaneous protests were carried out because large numbers of people disagree with the acquittal of George Zimmerman. Fears have been expressed during and after the trial that there might be civil unrest if a 'not guilty' verdict was reached. So far there have been no reports of violence or threats in response to the verdict, but it is yet to be seen whether peaceful protests will escalate.

Why is the George Zimmerman case controversial?

George Zimmerman has been accused of racial profiling. The Trayvon Martin case has also brought up the issue of gun control in the US. Issues of race and the use of guns in the US have therefore come into the public consciousness as a result of this case. President Obama has even likened Trayvon Martin to his own son in a statement made last year. The NAACP, an organisation which fights against racial segregation and discrimination, described the shooting of Trayvon Martin  and subsequent events as "civil rights violations". Zimmerman was acquitted because the jury found him to have acted in self-defence.

What are the Stand Your Ground laws?

Stand Your Ground laws allow people in certain states of the US to defend themselves through the use of deadly force. Deadly force may include an action (such as shooting) which endangers or takes a person's life. This deadly force is allowed when the person defending themself fears for their life. Self-defence with a weapon may, therefore, be carried out rather than running away from an attacker. At least 33 US states allow the use of deadly force in self-defence. 

Our opinion on the George Zimmerman verdict? 

The Stand Your Ground laws encourage people to fight rather than run away from attackers. This standpoint is not too hard to understand, but the term 'fears for their life' is problematic. This wording leaves the decision of whether their life is in danger in the hands of the would-be victim. It has been argued that this allows people to shoot first at others who appear to be a threat and ask questions later. In the US, African Americans can be profiled and seen as a threat because some people think that they are more likely to be criminals. Therefore, they might be shot by someone who believes they are acting in self-defence when their was no threat. In such cases, as may have happened in the trial of George Zimmerman, the shooter can be acquitted for killing an innocent person. The Stand Your Ground laws complicate the underlying racial issues in US society.

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Joe Malpas

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