I’m not sure how I feel about the notion that different communities can have legitimately different standards of justice. There is something to the argument, I am just not sure how much weight to assign to it.
Cohen’s rather dramatic interpretation of the facts as we know them – that Zimmerman went “looking for trouble” and that neighborhood watch participants are “vigilantes” – is more evidence of a regional bias at work in the author’s writing. Perhaps citizens in New York are more comfortable waiting for police to show up and save their property – or their lives – than in empowering their neighbors to proactively prevent crime. Given the draconian restrictions on guns in New York, that attitude would seem to work for local residents and is an acceptable, if incomprehensible to many, opinion to hold.
I think Mr. Moran has tapped into one of the under-discussed reasons why there are two very divided camps who interpret the killing of Trayvon Martin in very different ways. But there is still something missing from his argument. Mr. Zimmerman made a mistake. As the prosecution argued, he made some bad assumptions. And those bad assumptions led to the death of 17 year-old boy. There ought to be some provision under the law that allows Zimmerman to be held accountable for that.
I mean, we might disagree about whether it was reasonable to call the non-emergency number in the first place. We might disagree about whether Zimmerman was acting like a vigilante or just trying to protect his neighborhood. But we should be able to agree that he was wrong to suspect Trayvon Martin and that he made a mistake when he decided to pursue him on foot. He should have been able to identify himself as the captain of the Neighborhood Watch team and have a civil discussion about Martin’s right to be there.
The problem isn’t so much that Zimmerman isn’t doing 25 or 30 years in prison. The problem is that he isn’t being punished at all. All his mistakes are forgiven. An innocent life was lost, and no one will be held accountable. And that should be unacceptable in every community.