Zimmerman’s not-guilty verdict doesn’t make him totally innocent

Some THREE weeks after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter, I’m taken aback by the comments still being made about the incident. The rants of opportunist demagogues like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have thankfully diminished, but there are now some voices trying to demonize Trayvon Martin while others try to trivialize the event by citing examples of black-on-white and black-on-black violence that did not receive the same level of national coverage.

While there was a racial element in Zimmerman’s singling out Martin for surveillance, it is understandable. If, as reported, homes in the community were recently robbed by young black men, Zimmerman was justified in notifying the police of a possibly suspicious interloper in the community.

Where Zimmerman crossed the line between block-watch and vigilantism is when he decided to get out of his vehicle and follow Martin despite explicit police instructions not to and at odds with national neighborhood-watch rules.

The question that begs an answer is whether or not Zimmerman would have chosen to stalk Martin had he not been armed. By his own admission he was being pummeled by a 5-foot-11-inch, 158-pound teen, notwithstanding false Internet claims that Martin was over 6 feet tall and weighed over 200 pounds. That beating itself would indicate Zimmerman’s lack of rudimentary self-defense skills that would certainly dissuade any rational person from provoking a confrontation.

The courage Zimmerman derived from his Kel-Tec PF-9 9mm pistol obviously emboldened him in the escalation of events that led to Martin’s death. This tragedy could have been avoided if neighborhood watch volunteers were required to leave their weapons at home while on duty.

While I believe that the jury’s verdict of not guilty of murder or manslaughter was appropriate, it does not mean that Zimmerman is innocent. His actions assuredly make him morally responsible for the death of a 17-year-old boy, who was doing absolutely nothing wrong at the time. This is a fact with which he must live for the rest of his life. That the victim was black is no more or less tragic than if he were white, Hispanic or Oriental.

Robert F. Mollic, Liberty Township