Former President Jimmy Carter compared the demonstrations calling for justice on behalf of the family of slain 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to violent outbursts in the country’s past in an interview with WXIA-TV on Tuesday.
“I’ve seen outbreaks of this before, in California, when the black man was being beat up by the police” Carter told WXIA-TV, alluding to the violence that unfolded in 1992 following the acquittal of the police officers videotaped beating an unarmed Rodney King. “And when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. There were terrible race riots. And I think, eventually, no matter how deep the moral and personal feelings might be among African Americans or others, with time passing, they start saying, ‘What can we do about the present and future?’ and put aside their feelings about the past.”
Tuesday night’s protests in Oakland also reportedly passed without incident, suggesting different outcomes from both the Rodney King trial aftermath and the violence reported after Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968.
Carter also sided with the heavily-criticized decision by a six-woman jury to find former neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman not guilty for his role in Martin’s shooting death in February 2012.
“I think the jury made the right decision based in the evidence presented,” Carter told WXIA. “The prosecution inadvertently set the standard so high that the jury had to be convinced that it was a deliberate act by Zimmerman and that he was not defending himself and so forth.”
Carter explained that the jurors faced a moral question, instead of a legal one, and that he “could not allege” that they were not as sensitive about issues regarding race as other people.
“I don’t know that,” Carter told WXIA. “But I would presume that they listened to the evidence. The judge warned them over and over that they had to listen to the evidence only, not their own feelings about race. And since neither side were willing to bring in the race issue, I think, as far as the jury was concerned, they could not consider that.
Watch Carter’s remarks, posted by Talking Points Memo on Wednesday, below.