Sunday, July 14, 2013

REFLECTIONS ON THE ZIMMERMAN VERDICT

I turned off my cellphone this morning because I was busy doing some investigation and research on a pressing legal issue. After attending to that chore, I turned my cellphone back on and saw several messages from various news agencies wanting a comment on the Zimmerman verdict. Of course, by the time I saw the messages, the agencies had gotten their comments from other sources. It's just as well, because I have little to say about the verdict that I didn't say in my previous post while the jury was still out. I do have a comment or two, though.

Nobody should be upset that Zimmerman got acquitted. Our court system recognizes that we live in an imperfect world and we can seldom do perfect justice. Since fallible humans are prone to error, we designed our justice system to insure (as much as humanly possible) that when those errors are made, they will be to acquit the guilty rather than convict the innocent. I have seen many patently guilty people freed by juries because they believed they had a reasonable doubt. It is certainly disappointing, and I still occasionally feel anguish about some cases where juries acquitted evil men who had committed horrific crimes. But that's the nature of our criminal justice system, and any innocent person charged with a crime has reason to be glad the system is set up that way.

Because of how the system is set up, we can not say that the Zimmerman verdict was the product of prejudice--nor can we say the verdict proves Zimmerman innocent. We can say that the jury seems to have thoroughly studied the evidence, and we can say that they appear to have carefully weighed the law and the evidence. They asked for clarification of the manslaughter instruction and were told to ask a specific question. If normal procedures were followed, they had a copy of the instructions in the jury room with them and to read and try to interpret. Rather than asking a specific question, they worked on through to their verdict. This is not unusual. I have seen it happen many times.

They did their best, they came back with a verdict. We can ask no more of them and we should not attribute ill will to them. I do not care to elaborate, but I have seen verdicts returned which I sincerely believed were motivated by malice. In my experience, these malice-motivated verdicts are returned quickly. The length of deliberations, the apparent careful attention to the exhibits, and the request for clarification of the manslaughter instruction all indicate that the jury was trying to do the right thing. If you are a Zimmerman fan, you will think they did the right thing. If you're no Zimmerman fan, you have a right to think they made a mistake. There is, however, no evidence that they acted from any motivation other than the desire to try to do the right thing.