In a case filled with idiotic decisions, tragic outcomes, and a defense lawyer who opens with what he perceives to be stand up comedy, the final verdict was a surprise to me.
At first glance, it seems to be a no-brainer. Nearly everyone in the country knows the major facts in the case (and I won’t re-hash them here, but if you don’t know, you can surely Google it). A person who followed only the media might be surprised as I was, given that the media seized upon the racial profiling aspects of the case, as well as Zimmerman’s glaring lack of good judgment.
Unfortunately, Florida’s Stand Your Ground law is something that makes it easy for the jury to reasonably feel that the state’s case was not proven as it was argued. With conflicting witness accounts, a 911 tape that contains ambiguous screaming in the background, and forensic evidence that could prove either account of who was the aggressor…. well, let’s just say I probably wouldn’t have been able to vote guilty either in good conscience.
We must remember that “guilty” and “not guilty” are legal terms. A person can be guilty, but still be found “not guilty in the eyes of the law” if the prosecution can’t prove beyond a doubt that the defendant committed the crime. This means the prosecution can have a solid case… but not for the charges they are pressing. Each crime has its own legal definitions and parameters, which is probably why we still spend so much money on crooked lawyers as a nation — traversing the minefield of legalese is best left to someone with a degree.
And let’s not forget how many people have been convicted of a crime and later on released when DNA or other evidence reveals that they were wrongly accused. Even a person who has been a lifelong criminal may not actually be guilty of a crime they are being charged with. It’s important that we understand that justice is not a hammer to be swung around wildly. To paraphrase a well-known quote, better ten guilty men go free than one innocent man be convicted. Getting locked up in jail for something you didn’t do, especially if you’re put on death row, is probably the crappiest vacation anyone could ever win.
All that being said, I don’t believe the jury failed in their duty. After some digging, some facts of the case were blatantly ignored by the media, generally those negative towards the victim. I have no doubt that Trayvon Martin would be alive today if Zimmerman had just stayed in his damn car instead of playing vigilante, but it’s entirely possible the kid was not an angel. It’s entirely possible that even though Zimmerman instigated the entire wretched ordeal, Martin did in fact start bashing his stalker’s skull into the ground. I know if some strange older man was following me around on foot after following me in a car, I’d probably run off. If he caught up with me and got in my face threateningly, I would probably come out swinging as well. I think the state should have tried proving Trayvon Martin was the one covered under the Stand Your Ground law and that Zimmerman was stalking and harassing the teenager, but that’s just me. In the end, we’ll never know exactly what happened, but apparently the jury believes Zimmerman was not guilty of second degree murder or manslaughter. With other facts in play, I can agree with that.
That doesn’t mean I don’t think Zimmerman is a jackass who deserves to spend the rest of his life contemplating his actions. 🙂