Brian Underwood

I am no stranger to addressing volatile issues in print, and rather enjoy stepping on others’ toes when they are in the way of my desire for a culture of reason and a government that wholly respects individual rights.

Oddly enough, the trial of George Zimmerman is not one of those issues worth considerable discussion.

The outcome was altogether predictable given legal evidentiary standards and the plain fact that there is so much that simply will never be known about the night of Trayvon Martin’s death.

In all the discussion regarding whether Zimmerman was acting purely in self-defense or whether he provoked Martin in some way, many forget how little we actually know regarding how events unfolded that night — though many presume to know more than is knowable, given their media bias of choice.

Speculate as we might, it is still speculation, and the law does not operate on speculation — either from those who believe Zimmerman is some “patron saint of self-defense” or from those who believe Martin is a martyr for civil rights.

Beyond the case itself, there is a considerably more important narrative.

As tempting as it is to discuss how voices in the media turned a local tragedy into a national circus over the issue of race without just cause for it (ABC correspondent Matt Gutman’s tweet from March of last year is but one example that not-so-subtly speaks for itself), or how numerous others pushed for a trial despite the initial judgment of local officials that there was simply not enough evidence to convict Zimmerman for wrongdoing (a judgment now corroborated by the trial’s outcome), those already aware of this need not be retold — those who are unaware cannot likely be convinced.

There is, however, a proper debate over civil rights in our legal system worth having, a debate that has been sadly overshadowed by media and political figures more interested in proving without adequate proof some sort of racial motivation and illicitness in Zimmerman’s actions — more interested in speculation than in justice based on available evidence.

Far be it from people on social media to be the voice of reason in any emotionally charged issue, but in this instance, a friend from New York by the name of Jason Camp explains the issue most clearly and rationally:

“The irony [in saying that Zimmerman’s trial was a ‘miscarriage of justice’] is that the type of prosecution with flimsy evidence is exactly the type of prosecution that railroads so many poor people in this country that can’t afford decent defense attorneys, particularly young black males. If Sharpton, et al, were so concerned about Civil Rights, this would be the issue they should be talking about.”

Camp goes on to criticize the poor state of the indigent defense system in our nation and the prosecutorial bias in mechanisms like a grand jury and in how empty judgeships are filled. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wrote an op-ed in the Courier-Journal on June 13 that decried even more shocking forms of civil rights abuse in our legal system:

“In the case of arrests, federal agencies have hamstrung local law enforcement agencies by requiring them to meet numerical arrest goals in order to secure funding. Morally, this is troubling. In practical terms, instead of local enforcement agencies spending their time investigating serious felony crimes, they concentrate on minority and depressed neighborhoods to increase their drug arrest statistics…We are literally sending our money to Washington where an overgrown bureaucracy is encouraging racial profiling before the money is allowed to be sent back to us.”

What are the results of these “numerical arrest goals” when applied to drug crimes that ought not even be crimes at all?

As Elbert Guillory — a state senator of Louisiana who recently switched parties — stated with regard to our judicial system in his viral “Why I Am a Republican” video, “Our prisons are filled with young black men who should be at home — being fathers.”

These are the civil rights issues that ought to be at the forefront of the national discussion.

Unfortunately, these are the issues that have been lost in the midst of media hyperbole and sensationalism of a drawn-out witch hunt to prove the unprovable and of a desire for “justice” — not according to individual rights and the law, but according to emotion and whim.

—Brian Underwood is a junior from Evans majoring in history and political science

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