The Zimmerman Verdict

By | July 14, 2013 | 1 Comments

The word verdict comes from the Latin “to speak truly.” That’s the oath jurors take – to weigh the evidence and render a true and just decision. They swear to weigh the evidence actually presented in court, and not pay attention to the comments of pundits in the media, and not even to the comments of the president of the United States.

Yes, as President Obama said, if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin. So what? We should have empathy for all human beings according to their circumstances and their actions, entirely without regard for what they look like – or how much they resemble us. At least that’s what religion teaches us. Of course, identity politics teaches us the opposite – that we should divide people into groups determined by race, gender, and class. Which lesson we learn depends on us.

George Zimmerman is repeatedly described in the media as a “white Hispanic,” or “half Peruvian,” or “self-described Hispanic.” Of course, President Obama is never described as a “white black,” or “half Kenyan,” or “self-described black.” But all these dubious terms could apply to Obama as well as to Zimmerman.

In fact, Zimmerman’s father is white and of European origin, while his mother was born in Peru and is of mixed European, Peruvian Indian, and black origins. In fact, Zimmerman’s maternal great-grandfather was black.

In view of Zimmerman’s mixed race, the “race, gender, class” enthusiasts were confused as to how they should view him. This dilemma was easily solved by using these made-up, ambiguous terms that really mean, “Zimmerman is white, no matter what his mother’s racial background actually is.” Zimmerman had to be seen as white in order to inflame racial hostility, which serves the interests of those who want to divide us.

But with this preamble, let us ask what are the possible verdicts in this case, and what are their implications?

1. A “hung” jury.

In so controversial a trial, it would be no surprise if the jury were unable to reach a unanimous verdict. But this would be the worst possible outcome. For Zimmerman, it would mean a second trial, and going through all the trouble and expense again. For the nation, it would mean that both sides were dissatisfied. Enemies of Zimmerman might cause violent incidents. “No justice, no peace” means, in effect, “Do what we want, or there will be big trouble.” Let us hope that the jury reaches a verdict.

2. Guilty of second-degree murder.

Here the jury must find that Zimmerman acted with a “depraved indifference to human life.” As the prosecution admitted in its last-minute bid to include the charge of manslaughter, there was no evidence to support a charge of second-degree murder. The prosecution belatedly realized that they had over-charged Zimmerman, perhaps in an effort to placate the intense political pressure that had been put on them by everyone from President Obama on down. After all, how could killing someone who looked like the president’s own son be anything less than murder?

But paradoxically, this would be the best outcome for Zimmerman and for the nation. After a few years of appeals, almost surely this verdict would be overturned as utterly unjustified by the evidence – as well as being influenced by a judge who was prejudiced against the defendant. When was the last time you saw a judge interrogate in front of the jury a defendant who had invoked his right to remain silent, while in effect telling his lawyer to shut up? You never did? Neither did I. In addition, evidence may have been withheld from the defense.

But meanwhile, racial animosity would cool, and the enemies of Zimmerman would be appeased by the harsh verdict. Of course, there would be no riots. And by the time the verdict was overturned on appeal, hardly anyone except those involved would remember the case. The media would have moved on to the next “big story” of the hour.

The best outcome for Zimmerman is that he would be freed after his conviction was overturned. Alternatively, he would have to go through a second trial, but by that time, passions would have cooled. The best outcome for the nation is that we would be seen as being exceptionally harsh on the killers of young black men, regardless of the circumstances of the case.

3. Guilty of manslaughter.

Though this might seem better for Zimmerman, it would be a less unreasonable verdict. True, his claim of self-defense was unrefuted by the prosecution, and self-defense is as powerful a rebuttal to manslaughter as it is to second-degree murder. But this verdict would seem to be a compromise, and therefore would be less likely to be overturned on appeal. Then Zimmerman would still have to spend many years in prison. As far as the nation is concerned, riots would be less likely than after an acquittal, but there still might be isolated outbursts of violence, because he had not received the harshest penalty.

4. Not guilty.

At first glance, this would seem to be the best outcome for Zimmerman. But within hours, he would be arrested on federal charges of violating Trayvon Martin’s civil rights. Recall the Rodney King cops and their second trial on federal charges.

To me, trying someone twice for the same act is double jeopardy, which is forbidden by the Constitution. But the government gets around this objection by claiming that though it is the same act, it is a different offense – that is, a civil-rights violation rather than the killing itself. To me, this makes no sense at all, but then I’m not a lawyer. I try to think logically, not legalistically. I’m naïve enough to believe that we have courts of justice as well as courts of law.

In any event, Zimmerman would have to go through a whole new trial, probably with new attorneys experienced at practicing in federal courts – and at great expense, of course. Indeed, by this time he would probably be broke and have to rely on public defenders. And his chances for acquittal would be slim indeed, with Attorney General Eric Holder orchestrating the proceedings.

So we would have the worst possible outcomes. For Zimmerman, it would be a rerun of the arrest, perp-walk, trial, and probable conviction, along with bankruptcy for himself and his parents. And for the nation, it would mean racial unrest and possible riots after the initial acquittal, perhaps egged on behind the scenes from on high. I hope I’m wrong, but I expect I’m not.

As the old saying goes, Zimmerman should be careful what he wishes for – he might get it. He shouldn’t wish for Not Guilty. He should wish for Guilty of Murder. It may not make sense, but who said anything about our legal system has to make sense?

Contact: You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

Social Widgets powered by