14 July 2013

More years ago than I care to count back, I took a business law class; the teacher was engaging and effective, and spent time on things that were less about business and more about general law. I think he was looking for, in his younger students, the few who might be interested in law as a career and who not there to simply fulfill an elective requirement.

He often used news stories to illustrate his points and initiate discussions; I don’t remember what case specifically brought about the topic of someone who seemed obviously guilty to the class being found not guilty, but I do remember two very specific things he had to say about it.

1 – being found not guilty is not the same thing as being declared innocent. The jury has to work with the information and evidence they’ve been given, not the suppositions we tend to insert into the media opinions we’re fed on TV and the newspapers.

2 – one of the cornerstones upon which our judicial system is built is the fundamental belief that it is far better to allow a few guilty men to go free than to imprison one person who is truly innocent.

Those are the things that bubbled up from the depths of my brain yesterday when the guy who killed Trayvon Martin was found not guilty. It doesn’t mean he’s innocent, it just means the prosecution failed to make their case effectively, for whatever reasons. Perhaps they didn’t do well their due diligence. Perhaps they chose the wrong charges to bring against him and trying to wedge manslaughter as a consideration in at pretty much the last minute worked against them. I’m not a lawyer; I don’t even pretend to understand how the particulars work. The end result is that the guy walked.

Forget Florida’s stand-your-ground law; as far as I’m concerned he was culpable the moment he ignored the dispatcher’s order to stay put and wait for the police and he began to follow Martin. The moment he made that decision, he was not standing his ground, but he instead forced a teenager to stand his own, and the kid lost. It doesn’t matter if the teen was up to no good or not; George Zimmerman acted as judge, jury, and executioner.

That’s not standing ones’ ground. That’s being a vigilante.

So hell yeah, *I* think he’s guilty, but I wasn’t on that jury and did not have to make the decision weighted by the evidence presented to me. I don’t have to allow for any measure of reasonable doubt. I think the guy is a racist farkwad and deserves some serious punishment.

But do I think that justice was served?

I do.

Justice isn’t necessarily finding someone guilty who is not innocent; it’s the whole process of due process; it’s allowing for the notion that sometimes you let the bad guy get away, because in the end you don’t want to imprison someone truly innocent.

Zimmerman walked, but he isn’t free. He’ll never be free.


G.G. Mueller said...

Wow! This is what I do. I represent people against the power of the State and make sure that the principles of law are followed.
I agree--he is guilty. But I also know that the State did NOT make their case.
I will stand by and defend to my death the principle that it is better to let a guilty person go free than to punish an innocent one.
You are so right. Mr. Zimmerman will never be free. He will forever be haunted by the events that he started that day. He will not sleep and he will try to rationalize his actions.
I do not ask the justice system to punish a person's heart--only their actions.
Thank you for having listened and learned from your professor. It is what keeps us from anarchy.
You are my hero!

caircair said...

It's cases like these that make me wish we followed the Scottish version of the law. They have three possible outcomes: Not Guilty, Guilty, and Not Proven. Based on what I've seen, the Not Proven verdict would have fit here.

Angel and Kirby said...

I agree. I was not there on the night it happened. I do not know what happened. I am not a voice recognition expert. I have no idea who was screaming for help on the tape. Of course both Mothers would say it is their son.

If I had been on that jury, I do not think I would have changed the verdict.

I do not know 'with out a reasonable doubt' from the evidence what really happened!

Derby, Ducky said...

Very well said Thumper. Plus we agree that he has to live the rest of his life knowing people will forever be watching him to do something or wanting to find him to do something to him.

RANGER said...

I agree with you with one minor difference. He didn't start to follow Trayvon, he CONTINUED to follow him after the dispatcher told him it was not what was needed.