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baltimoresun.com

Zimmerman trial: 'When terrible things happen, we look for someone to blame'

9:45 AM EDT, July 16, 2013

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When terrible things happen we look for someone to blame and we become angry when we feel that no one pays a price; in doing so we temporarily forget that revenge is not the answer to tragedy ("Martin verdict fires debate," July 15).

Trayvon Martin's death was clearly unjustified. George Zimmerman should never have had a gun in the first place. Racial profiling and racial tensions are still very much alive in this county — another tragedy — and we should all take a good look at what we learned about these issues during Mr. Zimmerman's trial.

But we must also remember that there is a difference between the tragic death of Mr. Martin and the way our legal system does and should work. In our system, the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove a defendant's actions meet the legally defined standard for murder or manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt.

Despite the 911 calls and the audio that recorded someone screaming, no one knows exactly what transpired in the moments before this tragedy. Therefore there was no compelling proof of what happened that could meet this high legal threshold.

A verdict of "not guilty" has never meant "innocent" in our legal system, only that the high threshold of "reasonable doubt" could not be proven. We do not and should not expect our courts to disregard these rights in order to assuage our anger.

The cable media played this like a 24/7 reality show, setting it up so that people would choose sides and tune in to cheer for their team. They were shameless in their exploitation of the tragedy, and though they probably won't change, the Zimmerman trial was the American legal system at work, not a game.

Finally, let us remember that every single day people die in our streets. There are too many Trayvon Martins. There are too many guns carried by the wrong people and there are too many deaths.

We should be focused on that — on healing the racial inequalities, the violence and the sickness that has infected our culture.

Let us begin that by being our best selves at this moment, by celebrating the fact that our courts are not lynch mobs, and by moving on to the formidable task of creating a viable future for all children.

Mary D. Gaut, Baltimore

The writer is pastor of the Maryland Presbyterian Church in Towson.