Bett Norris


I Got Something to Say

That’s a quote from To Kill a Mockingbird. Page 214 of the fortieth anniversary edition. Mayella Ewell is testifying.

This is a book that helped raise me. This novel taught me about right and wrong. It also taught me a lot about justice and juries.

So now I have something to say.

George Zimmerman was found not guilty of second degree murder, not guilty of manslaughter. Those words sting. They are bitter and unsatisfying.

In related news, a Florida woman got twenty years for firing a warning shot into a wall during a confrontation with her abusive husband. She didn’t shoot him. The Stand Your Ground law did not help her, and she was denied bond during her appeal after refusing to take a plea deal.

The verdict for George Zimmerman came at after midnight. If I had been on that jury, I would have liked to slink away in the night if possible.

Don’t get me wrong. I watched the trial. I can see where the jurors, acting as conscientiously as they could, found that the state did not prove its case. I am sad and angry that this man goes unpunished for what I believe was a deliberate act, and I believe the jurors might feel the same way. It’s not their fault, the jury, if the state did a lousy job prosecuting.

It is one tragedy on top of another. The only thing that saves me any peace of mind is the hope that George Zimmerman might have a conscience. I hope he feels guilty, and responsible. I hope he never carries another loaded gun again. With a round in the chamber and the safety off. If there is a lesson to be learned here, I hope he learns it.

There is already talk of petitioning the Department of Justice to bring charges against Zimmerman for violating Trayvon Martin’s civil rights. I don’t know where the family stands on this idea. I do hope that they can get some rest now.

So, if Marissa Alexander had actually shot her abusive husband, would she have had a better chance of going free, either under self defense or “stand your ground?”

Another great line from To Kill a Mockingbird: “The Haverfords had dispatched Maycomb’s leading blacksmith in a misunderstanding arising from the alleged wrongful detention of a mare, were imprudent enough to do it in the presence of three witnesses, and insisted that the-son-of-a-bitch-had-it-coming-to-him was a good enough defense for anybody.” Page five of the  of the fortieth anniversary edition.

Florida is not Alabama in the nineteen thirties, is it?

The murder trial in To Kill a Mockingbird did not have a happy ending. This very real trial did not have a good ending either. No one walks away satisfied. Zimmerman’s life will never be the same, at least I hope not, for his sake. Trayvon Martin’s family will never be the same.

My life was forever changed by a book. Isn’t that something? A book with a very simple premise, that we shouldn’t judge others, that we should see things from their point of view.

Where did Zimmerman get his sense of right and wrong? What is it like to walk in his shoes right now?

Trayvon Martin was seventeen years old, in high school, a football player, a mother’s son, walking home from the store in the rain. He had a cell phone with him. George Zimmerman was on his way to the store too, when he spotted Trayvon. George Zimmerman took a gun with him.

Trayvon Martin


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