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?
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.