Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Zimmerman Telegram

I can’t resist.  I just can’t risk being the only human being on the internet that didn’t post about the George Zimmerman verdict.  Trayvon Martin’s death is a tragedy that could have been avoided.  The conviction of George Zimmerman is a tragedy that was avoided. 

The verdict doesn’t mean that Trayvon Martin’s death is acceptable.  It isn’t.  It doesn’t mean that George Zimmerman’s actions that night were okay.  They weren’t.  It doesn’t mean that racial prejudice, profiling and gun violence aren’t real issues to be addressed.  What it means is that the system of justice we created for ourselves worked.  We didn’t get the verdict that the media expected.  We didn’t get a verdict driven by popular opinion.  What we did get is a jury of regular folks doing their best to apply the law to the facts as presented in court.  They did what the rule of law and a free and just society demand; they held emotion in check, ignored the media frenzy, and did something that was likely uncomfortable for all of them.  They honestly admitted that they had reasonable doubt…and they acquitted him.  From what I’ve seen, it was the right call.  I don’t know what happened that night.  Neither do you.  I’ll not second guess other prosecutors, but I’m not sure there was ever a time in this case when reasonable doubt didn’t seem to be an insurmountable legal obstacle…IF a jury applied that standard. 

It’s not supposed to be easy to obtain a conviction and deprive a citizen of their liberty.  In fact, it’s supposed to be hard.  The criminal justice system has the highest legal standard known to the law.  Beyond a reasonable doubt is a tough standard to meet.  Ask any prosecutor.  I have had more than one juror tell me (after the trial) they believed the defendant “did it”, but they just weren’t sure beyond a reasonable doubt (or words to that one says “reasonable doubt” except lawyers, right?).  Its hard to be upset with that…not impossible, but hard.  Even jurors professing a “hang ‘em high” attitude usually sober up very quickly when the power to actually do so is placed in their hands.  That is as it should be.  It is not a light or easy thing that we are doing in the courthouse. 

I am reminded of a passage in Zechariah 7:9 that often comes to my mind as a prosecutor.  “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.  Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor.  In your hearts, do not think evil of each other.”  If ever we reach the point of finding ways to convict the accused of “something” just to avoid a riot, discontent or criticism, we will have lost any semblance of true justice.  Fortunately, at least in Sanford, FL, these six women left our justice system alive and well.  


  1. Excellent. Very well said, and the more people who say things like this, the better for our society.

  2. The highest standard known to law. It was a jury and they gave a verdict...that is how it works.