Trayvon Martin's death in February of last year became, as so many things do these days, a front in America's political wars. A young black man shot and killed by an armed, non-black man was distilled into a number of important questions — Was Martin killed because he was black? Should George Zimmerman have been armed? Would Zimmerman have gone to trial at all had it not been for the public outcry? — and then distilled again into Democrat versus Republican, seen as black versus white. The not guilty verdict, a personal victory for Zimmerman, will be seen by many as a victory for a political party, or as an answer to all of those questions. It's an answer to none. And people of every political persuasion should now push even harder to answer them.
The only answer the jury's verdict provides is this: the state of Florida did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman violated the statutory mandates of the state's murder and manslaughter laws. We won't know immediately how close to that level the jurors believed the prosecution got, but it doesn't really matter. Reasonable doubt is a tricky, hazy marker that is as much a product of the jury and its members as it is of any sort of legal standard. The prosecution didn't get there. The jurors may believe that "stand your ground" laws are important, that concealed carry of firearms bolsters public safety, that American jurisprudence is beyond race. But that's not what they said when they checked the box next to "not guilty." No matter how you hold the jury's verdict up to the light, no matter how you interpret that "X," that's not what the verdict said.