Over the past months, the United States has been rocked by the murder trial of George Zimmerman. By now we all know the basic facts, Zimmerman followed Trayvon Martin because he was unfamiliar in the gated community where Zimmerman lived following a string of recent burglaries. A fight broke out between the two men, and in the end Martin was shot once in the heart and killed.
We all know that already, this is the story of how Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, NAACP, and every other protester unwittingly caused George Zimmerman to be acquitted of murder. It goes like this:
Following the police investigation, Zimmerman was released from custody without being charged. The lead detective simply couldn’t find any evidence to suggest that Zimmerman’s account of what lead him to shoot Martin was inaccurate. He’s acknowledged that after receiving all the evidence, he believed Zimmerman’s account — that Trayvon attacked him for following him, pinned him to the ground, expressed that he was going to kill Zimmerman, and pounded his head into the pavement when Zimmerman fatally shot Martin. If Zimmerman’s account of events is true, he acted in self-defense.
Because physical evidence and eyewitness affidavits corroborated Zimmerman’s story, the police determined they should not charge him at that time.
This is where Sharpton et al. get involved. They have no facts, they have not seen the evidence, they have not read the affidavits. All they know, and all they understand, is that a black 17 year old was killed by a “white” guy (who wasn’t), and didn’t get charged with murder. They felt that this would make a perfect opportunity to turn the event into a civil rights issue, and would force the state’s hand into charging Zimmerman.
They organized protests, they bombarded the media with false reports, and the media rolled with it. Before any facts were publicly known, the media already convicted Zimmerman of murder. They convinced celebrities to make speeches and join the propaganda to spill racism into the event. Even president Obama, of whom those who know me know that I adore, said that if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon, before anything about Trayvon was known.
They got the media to post childhood pictures of Trayvon along with mugshot-esque photos of Zimmerman to make it look like a thug killed an innocent child. Zimmerman was stupid, but no thug, and Trayvon wasn’t the innocent child that America initially believed him to be.
So what happened? Protests. Mass protests calling for the arrest and trial of Zimmerman. Political pressure was too great, and the state had to cave in. They knew the public wouldn’t be satisfied with a voluntary manslaughter charge (which they may have been able to get at a later date), so they charged him with murder in the second degree — a charge they knew couldn’t stick to appease the general public.
As the facts of the trial came out, it was obvious that Zimmerman couldn’t be found guilty of murder two. Our legal system doesn’t work that way. Our legal system is designed on the Blackstone formulation: “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” This is how we come up with beyond a reasonable doubt. Basically it means that if there is doubt that a charged person doesn’t meet the requirements of the crime for which he is charged, he has to be found not guilty of the crime. It doesn’t mean they are innocent. It doesn’t mean they are more likely innocent than guilty. The jury believed that Zimmerman’s story of self-defense matches the physical evidence and the witness testimony, so they had to accept that it was reasonable doubt to the murder charge. It may or may not be true, but it casts reasonable doubt. Once the jury determined tha thtey believed self-defense, the lesser charge (added last minute) of manslaughter wasn’t an option. If they bought self-defense for the larger charge, they had to accept self-defense for the lesser one. They had to acquit him.
This could have been avoided. The police may have in the future decided to charge Zimmerman on their own. Without the media attention and public outrage, the state would have had the option to give Zimmerman a plea bargain. The public outrage prevented that — it wouldn’t satiate the public’s bloodlust if Zimmerman got a deal, and they knew that. Murder 2 wasn’t an option, but without a trial to determine self-defense, voluntary manslaughter would have been an option. It would have been the smarter move, and likely would have been the move that would have convinced Zimmerman to plead guilty instead of force a murder trial.
There was also the possibility that if Zimmerman intended to kill Martin that night that down the road he would have confided that to someone. Then the state would have had him on murder — but that time never came because the media-fueled public outrage didn’t give him the opportunity.
Zimmerman may be in jail right now if it weren’t for the attention that Sharpton et al. put on the case. Their desire to turn it into a civil rights issue and give the nation a bloodlust let a man who was likely guilty go free.
I hope that made sense.
Now a few details about the case that I keep seeing on facebook, twitter, and news blogs reported incorrectly.
- The jury wasn’t a jury of his peers — the law doesn’t require it. That’s a phrase from the movies. It was an impartial jury, which is what the 6th Amendment to the Constitution requires.
- The prosecution and defense selected the jurors out of a huge pool of potential jurors and together and BOTH sides agreed to it. The fact that it was 6 women (with a man and woman on reserve in case others proved to not be impartial later) is coincidence. The judge also approved of each member of the jury.
- Police did NOT order Zimmerman not to follow Martin. A dispatcher said that they didn’t need him to continue to follow Martin. That’s not an order not to, and even so, a dispatcher’s opinions (or orders) do not hold the legal weight of those from a sworn officer. The dispatcher is not a sworn officer and does not have the training that police officers have.
- The facts leading up to the fight do not negate Zimmerman’s Constitutional rights to defend his life once the fight escalated to a life or death situation.
- Stand Your Ground was not an issue in this case. Zimmerman’s attorney refused this defense, and it was not brought up in trial. You can stop attacking this law based on Zimmerman’s acquittal. It played no role whatsoever in the case. Stand Your Ground (see Supreme Court Cases Beard vs US 1895 and Brown vs US 1921) says that when your life is in clear, immediate danger, but you have the opportunity to flee that you have NO obligation to flee before using force. That isn’t what happened in the case, and that isn’t what Zimmerman used as his defense. What it does have in common to his defense is that both are affirmative defenses (they would acknowledge that he killed him, but that it was justifiable).
- Zimmerman’s claim was simply self-defense. He claimed that his life was in immediate danger and that he did not have the possibility fleeing. His claim was that when Martin expressed his intentions to kill Zimmerman and that when Martin had Zimmerman pinned to the ground and was pounding his head into the pavement that he was incapable of fleeing and that if he didn’t take immediate action he would be killed.
- Justice was served. Just because no one was sent to jail doesn’t mean justice wasn’t served. He was tried in court, an impartial jury found that his affirmative defense was more likely true than not (in an affirmative defense the defendant has to prove a “preponderance of the evidence”, not the same “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the prosecution has to prove, that the defense is true). Again, our legal system believes it’s better for the guilty to go unpunished than for the innocent to go punished for a crime they didn’t commit. That’s what happened here. Justice was served.
- Mob justice isn’t the answer. Violent protests such as those in L.A. following the verdict or the Black Panther $10,000 reward for the capture of Zimmerman prior to his arrest does nothing but hurt our justice system and collapse a free nation.
I can totally agree that some laws may need to change. That’s why it’s important for you to vote at every election. You can change the laws by voting directly on the ones up for vote and indirectly by replacing politicians you disagree with for ones with whom you do agree.
I can totally agree that Zimmerman is more likely guilty than he is innocent. That doesn’t mean our justice system is flawed. If I ever get falsely accused of a crime, I will be ecstatic that we’ve decided that our justice system requires beyond a reasonable doubt before punishing me rather than just punishing me because it might be true. I suspect in the same situation, any of my readers would feel the same way.
Please people, watch the trial if you want accurate facts about what happened — do not look to the media. Remember, media outlets look for headlines and stories that will give them the most viewers/readers and the highest ratings, they do not care about making sure the information is factually accurate. They don’t have the legal obligation that courts do to review facts and wait for evidence before pronouncing a person guilty. This case exemplifies that.
Finally, do not let the likes of Al Sharpton, the NAACP, or their cohorts trick you into thinking every situation where two people of opposing races is a civil rights issue. There is a reason that it has been said of Al Sharpton that he would show up to a car accident if one of the vehicles was black. His bias goes to an extreme and he stands to make significant financial gains and personal attention every time he convinces people that non-racially motivated circumstances are civil rights issues.