Saturday evening, after sixteen hours of deliberations, the jury in the Trayvon Martin murder trial returned with a verdict of not guilty. Martin’s supporters were dismayed at the news, while George Zimmerman’s friends and family were joyous knowing he was once more a free man. More than a thousand miles away, in suburban Ohio, Jonathan Bains, head of the United Vigilantes Action Network, was just relieved that the trial was at an end.
“It’s never good when a vigilante is in the news,” he explained, “We’re glad this whole thing will be coming to an end soon, so our members can go back to operating under the radar where we’re more comfortable.”
Though Zimmerman does not belong to the Network–which has barely more than one hundred members–many involved with UVAN have been monitoring the trial very closely. “It’s dangerous out on the streets,” related a longtime member who preferred to remain anonymous, “A man has to be able to defend himself. If George Zimmerman had been convicted of murder, a lot of vigilantes would have felt much less safe and would be more reluctant to go out nights looking for dangerous elements.”
According to Bains, the Network was on edge as deliberations began, about evenly split over the likely outcome. Several UVAN members believed that the persistent media coverage and racial overtones of the case almost guaranteed a guilty verdict. A post on the UVAN website under the pseudonym NightJustice23 summed up this sentiment: “If TM had been white, GZ never would been [sic] charged with crime. Shameful system.”
Still, others never wavered in their conviction throughout the trial that Zimmerman was innocent and the jury would confirm as such. “They saw what kind of man he was,” a UVAN member going by the name of Dark Guardian reasoned, “He was only after the bad guys. He wouldn’t have gone after that kid if he didn’t have good reason to think he was up to no good. The good guys never do.”
With the result of Zimmerman’s acquittal known to the vigilante community, Bains believes a lot of fears have been alleviated for the time being. “Of course, there will be another trial enventually,” he said gravely, but went on unpreturbed, “However, the vigilante community is strong and we weather these storms. And we are not without grief. It is sad that Trayvon Martin’s life was cut short. Life is unfortunately not yet immune to tragedy.”
Another UVAN member summed up the whole affair this way: “Martin may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but, you know, these things happen. A vigilante has to work with a presumption of guilt. You can’t positively identify a criminal until they commit a crime, so if you want to prevent crime you have to anticipate criminal activity. Sometimes when a vigilante thinks like a criminal to find a criminal he gets ahead of himself and misunderstandings happen. But you need that to stop the bad guys. That’s how our justice system works: on a presumption of guilt.
(Some material provided for this story was made up. The rest is fictional.)
Copyright 2013 by Michael Marsters.
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