He is smiling tonight. He killed an entirely innocent 17 year old boy, and he is found not criminally culpable.

George Zimmerman not guilty ? Hard for us at Here and Sphere, who were not in the courtroom, to dispute a jury’s finding. We felt strongly that Zimmerman was criminally culpable, at least to the extent of manslaughter. He initiated the chain of events, he stalked Martin, he deemed Martin a suspect, he put Martin in  fear, he did not identify himself, he allowed Martin to feel that he needed to defend himself.

Reasonable doubt, however, there sure was, about the level of wrong in Zimmerman’s actions, in a case difficult for a jury to grasp the facts of. Faced with a criminal verdict standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt,’ the jury eventually — after two days of thorough deliberation — decided that reasonable doubt existed.

Not doubt that Zimmerman was wrong. Wrong he was. Doubt about HOW wrong. Manslaughter wrong ? Manslaughter requires the conduct leading up to it to be reckless. Not merely negligent, or mistaken, or tortious, but reckless.

We at here and Sphere felt that Zimmerman’s conduct was reckless, given that he disregarded police advice about following Martin. The jury gave Zimmerman the benefit of their doubt about that. Legally, they had ample grounds for doing so. Nor do we question the jury’s diligence or its obvious concern to “get it right.” Still, their finding has consequences for civil peace in Florida.
The not guilty finding makes it clear that, in Florida, a man who follows another, in the dark, unidentified, and putting you in fear, is going to be given the benefit of the doubt if an altercation ensues, and YOU ARE NOT. Thus you had better be very very careful if you find yourself in that position. Very careful and PRAY.

We would have hoped that the jury would consider the above and other public policy consequences of a not guilty finding. It is hard for us to imagine behavior more blameworthy than Zimmerman’s on that night. This entire event could have been prevented if he had simply listened to the police 911 operator.

But no, he HAD to go do what he did. And now we know that a jury, a year later, is not going to second-guess him to a criminal extent.
 In Florida, a stalker with a gun will now know that he has the benefit of the doubt — because doubt, there is — if he does what Zimmerman did — disregard police advice ! — and an altercation ensues.
There is only one way that Florida can resolve the terrible public policy consequences of this finding : pass legislation disallowing association watchpeople from carrying loaded weapons.
Do you think that such a law will pass, in the current national climate about guns everywhere ? We think it extremely unlikely, at least in Florida and in about 30 other of our 50 states..
 What is more likely to happen, in a state like Florida, where concealed carry of loaded guns is common, and where a “stand your ground” defense is permitted, by law, in trials involving shootings, is that many more ordinary people will now arm THEMSELVES, so that if they find themselves in Martin’s position, they can shoot the stalker if they think they have to. Then THEY will have the benefit of the doubt on their side.
 This finding opens the door to anarchy. Guns will be the answer. Guns and shooting, injury and death. That or else a ton of fear. Or both.

It is not a happy day in America. but it hasn’t been a happy day, as far as shocking gun killings are concerned, for many, many, many years in this nation fixated on — obsessed by — insisting on promoting more of — armed vigilantes everywhere.

— Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere