President Obama has talked about the racial aspect of the Zimmerman case, but what no one has talked about is the explosive ingredient: testosterone.

Would Zimmerman have followed a black (or white) woman around the neighborhood? Would Martin have felt threatened if a white woman had been following him?

Confrontations between young males often end in violence,  bodily harm, or death.

The scenario is all too common: a guy walks down the street in a dubious area and sees a young guy trying to break into a car (his own; he has lost his keys or locked them in the car). First guy yells at second guy, “Hey, what are you doing?!” Second guy: “None of your goddamn (expletive, expletive, expletive) business.” First guy: “You can’t talk to me like that!” and so on, until someone gets his face punched in. Race has little to do with it, and masculinity a lot.

As to the verdict: it was correct. There was a reasonable (and very large) doubt that Zimmerman had the mental frame of mind to commit murder, or even homicide, within the meaning of the Florida statute. Zimmerman might have been found guilty in other states of some form of homicide, but Florida law does not cover what he did.

Zimmerman was guilty of something like reckless homicide or reckless endangerment. He was armed and had the responsibility to avoid situations in which he might have to use his gun, and instead sought out such a situation. Martin did not trail him; he trailed Martin. Who threw the first punch? Probably Martin, but Martin felt that his masculinity was being challenged and perhaps that Zimmerman was a threat (which he in fact turned out to be).

“When asked by his law clerk whether justice had been done in the Sacco-Venzetti case, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes replied,

Don’t be foolish, boy. We practice law, not “justice.” There is no such thing as “justice,” which is a subjective matter… The image of justice changes with the beholder’s viewpoint, prejudice, or social affiliation. But for society to function, the set of rules agreed on by the body politic must be observed – the law must be carried out,” (Understanding Lawyers’ Ethics).

Law, not justice, was done in the Zimmerman case. Florida can and should amend its laws so that what Zimmerman did is not only wrong but illegal. But our Constitution forbids ex post facto laws, so such a new law cannot be applied to what he did.

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