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A Cautionary Note About Justice and Twitter

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George Zimmerman has been found not guilty of the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Fact number one.

Fact numbers two and three: Trayvon Martin was black. The jury was made up of six people, five of them white.

Fact number four: Twitter is wringing its hands so thoroughly over this that they might just fall off.

Zimmerman did, in fact, shoot and kill Martin on the night of 26 February last year. The controversy stems from the exact circumstances of that shooting. Two very different pictures were apparently presented to the jury: one of a man who defended himself when he was attacked apropos of nothing, one of a vigilante who pursued an innocent young man and gunned him down sadistically. I wasn't there, so I can't say which of these two accounts is true.

And neither can the legions of very angry people on Twitter. #NoJustice is trending strong at time of writing and judging by the number of people confidently calling Zimmerman a murderer there must have been several thousand eyewitnesses that night. More alarmingly there is a strong feeling that a black teenager shot by a man acquitted by a mostly white jury in Florida must definitely definitely be a racist outcome.

Now I'm not saying that courts are infallible: I'd put money on it that faulty and racist decisions are sometimes made and guilty people walk free. But those kind of accusations require proof. What makes @playboystudG4L (who called me a "hoe" for floating the opinion that the jury had better access to the available evidence than those who had been following the trial from outside) so certain that the jury's decision was a racist one - the fact that they were white? To say: "You are bound to be discriminatory because you are a white person" is itself discriminatory. Of course, if evidence was released that showed the jurors had made racist comments in the past or were members of racist organisations then that would be a game-changer. But I wasn't there the night Trayvon Martin died. Neither was Ben Jealous or Rosyln Brock, the president and chair of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, both of whom have publicly expressed their outrage and disappointment at the verdict. Are black people in Florida statistically more likely to be found guilty by white jurors? Perhaps, I haven't seen the figures but if the NAACP has reviewed them and says so then I'll happily trust their findings. Does it follow that this jury reached a racist decision? Emphatically, no.

I don't know whether Zimmerman is really guilty or not: all the 'evidence' that I have access to has been filtered and packaged by media sources, who as we all know must be taken with a heaping pinch of salt. It must be conceded the jury were in a better position to decide this than me or any of the members of Twitter's own have-a-go jurors who are ready to proclaim themselves legal experts because someone is 'just so obviously guilty'. And if anybody wants to say that the actual jury were influenced by more than the relevant facts of the case, that they let Zimmerman go because they were mainly white and Martin was black, they require evidence to back that accusation up.

At the end of the day, a seventeen year old was shot dead, and that's a tragedy whether it was murder or not. It makes me upset and confused: that kid wasn't much younger than I am. Those feelings don't make me an expert on the case though: they don't qualify me to call George Zimmerman a murderer or his jurors racists, they don't make me an eyewitness to the crime and they don't support me when I blindly tweet #NoJustice.