Commenting on the George Zimmerman verdict in today’s America is a dangerous activity. Writers are misinterpreted, misquoted and have words twisted or taken completely out of context. Some people will automatically hate those who offered their opinion of the case. Having said this, as a blogger and an attorney, I cannot resist exercising my freedom of speech.
First and foremost, I extend my sympathy to the family of Trayvon Martin. To lose a son, brother, grandson, cousin or nephew to sudden violence is an unimaginable tragedy. I do not pretend to know their grief. Second, to George Zimmerman, I suggest that you look within, carefully review your actions of that evening, and determine whether there was (and, in the future, is) a better way to handle situations like this. An unarmed young man is dead by your gun; my question since the day I first heard the reports has always been, “Why did you ignore the operator and get out of the car?” Perhaps you can use this experience to dedicate the rest of your life to preventing similar tragedies. Now…on to the verdict and the public and “professional” responses to the verdict:
I was unable to watch the entire trial, but did see large bits and pieces. I also watched much of the press build-up to the trial, including the reported “collection of evidence” in the case. This has always been an “insufficient evidence” case; the only eye-witnesses were George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. One of these men is dead; the other isn’t talking (which is his right under the 5th Amendment of the Constitution and appropriate common sense). In that situation, if there is a plausible explanation for how the events transpired that doesn’t amount to either 2nd Degree Murder or Manslaughter under Florida law, there is “reasonable doubt”. That, plainly and simply, is why Zimmerman was found “not guilty”. The prosecution could not prove his guilt, on either count, beyond a reasonable doubt. To those of us in the legal profession, “not guilty” became, almost, a foregone conclusion as the trial wound down.
Zimmerman didn’t have to get out of the car and he didn’t have to shoot Martin. He didn’t have to carry a gun nor proclaim himself a neighborhood watchman. Had he done none of those things, this tragedy would never have happened. A seventeen year old kid should be able to walk to the store and back without being shot to death. If Zimmerman was defending himself, as he claimed, he put himself in that position by ignoring the suggestion of the 911 operator. Perhaps he is a really bad guy (perhaps he isn’t). He wasn’t exonerated because of the type of person the jury thought he was; he was exonerated because this jury, on the evidence presented, had no choice but to exonerate him. The facts of the case and the law that applied to those facts forced the jury’s hand. The jury was required by law to exonerate him.
Negative publicity and a public outcry for the unarmed victim forced the state to pursue this less than perfect case. The state assigned three experienced prosecutors to the case; why do you suppose that was? There was a tape of someone screaming, but no clear way to identify the person. Again, there were no eye-witnesses. There was, at the end of the day, no evidence to base a guilty verdict upon. It is sad; we are all sad. It is infuriating; we are all angry. It leaves all of us with a bad taste in our mouth. I dare say that the collective members of the jury may be left with a bad taste in their mouth, as well. At the end of the day, however, in America, would we want it any other way?
One last thing: All of these “talking head” lawyers on the various news shows, especially Nancy Grace, need to remember what they learned in law school. Inflaming emotions and passions against this so-called “injustice” does our precious system of justice, the best in the world, a severe injustice. If any of us, Nancy [Dis] Grace included, found ourselves on the defendant side of the criminal justice system, we would want to be afforded the same fundamental rights as were afforded to George Zimmerman. We would want to be innocent until proven guilty. We would want the right to remain silent. We would want to face our accusers in a court of law and make them prove our guilt. Failing that, we would expect to be exonerated. Criminal defendants don’t have to prove anything; the burden is on the prosecution to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Many have called for an “appeal”; there is no appeal. Jeopardy has attached itself and a person cannot be tried twice for the same crime. Many have criticized the “Stand Your Ground” law that seemed to justify George Zimmerman’s conduct. These are the same people who don’t vote or vote for people like Rick Perry or Rick Scott. Don’t like the law? Vote! Vote for progressives who will change things.
Finally, please stop your whining and bitching; the only people that have that right are family members of Trayvon Martin. And, even if you are a member of the Martin family, you want to live in a country where the government can’t railroad you into prison. You want to live in a country where the government must prove you’re guilty in order to make you guilty. And, you want to be a citizen who gets to walk free if the government doesn’t meet its burden of proof. America isn’t easy; democracy is sometimes a difficult concept and its application doesn’t always go the way we wish. That’s how we get a Barack Obama and a George Bush in the same decade. If you don’t like something, you can work or vote to change it (as long as it is constitutional). Where else can you do that? Where else would you rather be?
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.