So the verdict for the Zimmerman trial is out. Lots of angry people, lots of angry social media posts about the terrible justice system, lots of emotions flying about. People pulling out the race card, questioning the credibility of the star witness (Rachel Jeantel, the last person to speak to Trayvon Martin on the phone before he died), people mass blasting their opinions on social media sites for the world to see. Honestly, I don’t have an opinion on whether or not Zimmerman should have walked. I’m more concerned about the fact that this is yet another situation where no matter what ACTUALLY happened that fateful night, the second the case went to trial and gained media attention, a whole new, convoluted world of multiple perspectives, exaggerated testimonies, and magnified evidence opened up.
The law is unyielding. Even though there is no question that this man killed the teenager and the jurors knew that, they had to abide by the law and give the ‘not guilty’ verdict because they were unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the man was guilty of second degree murder. Second degree murder, for those who don’t know, is the non premeditated, intentional killing out of hatred, spite or ill-will. If found not guilty of a second degree charge, one can be tried for the lesser charge of manslaughter, which is an intentional ‘heat of the moment’ killing of another. In this case, proving either was difficult and so the court had to rely on the very scarce amount of evidence gathered on the case due to the rain that fateful night. And on the testimony of a witness whose credibility was called into question a number of times.
How many cases like this have we heard of in our lifetime? Where everything seems so obvious when we hear about it but then when the case is put on trial there’s all these perspectives to consider, all these loop holes one could jump through (hello, the O.J. Simpson trial? double jeapordy?), all these technicalities that the poor jurors are faced with and have to adhere to no matter what their gut may be telling them.
My own ‘run-in’ with the United States judicial system was through my Health Law class back in graduate school. It was probably one of the most eye-opening and interesting classes I have ever taken. I’m assuming the professor had a lot to do with it as well (Dr. Petrila – so awesome!) but my main takeaway from that class was that the law was created to objectively arrive at a fair decision regarding the claims of two opposing parties. Unfortunately, that may mean that non innocent (I didn’t say guilty) parties get to walk free if they don’t fall under the pre-defined conditions of a crime they were originally charged for.
I’m not saying the judicial system is bad. Having strictly set, pre-defined rules is a very good thing and will ensure we remain as objective as possible in the face of heinous crimes where our emotions threaten to reign. But then, we have to be prepared when a verdict that lets a man walk free for killing a young boy is read. We have to respect the absolutely horrendous task those 6 jurors probably faced of coming to such a difficult decision. We have to understand the fact that there was negligible evidence at the crime scene and a lack of witnesses other than Zimmerman and Rachel. And through it all, we have to keep in our thoughts and prayers the family of the poor boy, because no matter what happened or who’s responsible for that night’s events, at the end of the day, a life was lost.
- Why Zimmerman was acquitted (tv.msnbc.com)
- George Zimmerman Trial: Verdict Is In (oldschool1053.com)