STATE – Saturday night, a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman of second degree murder and manslaughter charges in the death of Trayvon Martin.
The jury determined that Zimmerman justifiably used deadly force when he shot and killed Martin, 17, on Feb. 26, 2012 even though the teen was unarmed and Zimmerman could have avoided the confrontation.
New Jersey leaders offered a variety of reactions to the verdict.
“It was clear since the day Trayvon Martin was tragically killed that not only was this an avoidable tragedy, but also one based on fundamental prejudices,” said Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley. “Whether the assailant, Zimmerman, was technically guilty or not, justice has not been served. The fact remains that a 17-year-old young man with his entire life in front of him is no longer with us. Like Trayvon’s mother, Mrs. Fulton, said: ‘I would hope for this to never have happened and he would still be here.’ I do, too.”
“This verdict is confounding,” said Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “It’s impossible to forget that Zimmerman got out of his car and had a weapon on him. Are we saying it’s OK to follow and then shoot an innocent person on the street? That should never be acceptable in America.”
“Society only functions in a healthy manner if everyone participates lawfully and fully with respect for others, but this verdict is a stunning failure of justice,” she added.
Linden Councilman Derek Armstead called for a peaceful and sincere dialogue about our culture. “Let’s not be blinded and lose sight of the real problem. Our dilemma is not the justice system here. Instead of critiquing the jurors, we need to ask the tough question: Why was Trayvon Martin profiled? We need to look at the Trayvon Martin case as an opportunity to look at ourselves closely and openly engage in a sincere dialogue about the culture of our society,” he said.
“We need to put our differences aside and unite to fight for equal opportunities for all and not just a selected few so that cases like Trayvon could be a thing of the past,” Armstead added.
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ-6) drew attention to the issue of gun violence. “The death of Trayvon Martin and the resulting not guilty verdict of George Zimmerman underscores the troubling reality in our society that gun violence continues to threaten our families and communities. Far too many lives have been destroyed by gun violence and Trayvon’s death is yet another example of the fact that we need a change in the way our culture deals with both guns and race,” Pallone said.
“The simple facts are that there are too many guns on our streets and too many people are too quick to use them. It is long past time for Congress to take action on gun violence. We need to adopt common sense measure that would reduce the proliferation of guns in communities throughout the nation,” he added.
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