Zimmerman Acquitted

I am glad I was wrong on this one: I predicted that George Zimmerman would be convicted, even though his acquittal should have been a no-brainer.

In spite of the overwhelming pile of evidence i his favor, the deck was stacked against Zimmerman:

(1) the Governor–Richard Scott–caved to pressure from the Obama Administration and the Department of Justice to ignore a detailed police report, that exonerated Zimmerman, and appoint a special prosecutor;

(2) the “random” jury was six middle-aged women, a demographic group that–short of an all-black jury–was most likely to convict him;

(3) the judge excluded evidence that was indicative of Trayvon Martin’s propensity to get into fights, which would have bolstered the premise that he, not Zimmerman, was the aggressor;

(4) Right before the judge handed the trial to the jury, she allowed prosecutors to add a reduced charge of manslaughter as a possibility.

But the judge did one thing right. In her instructions, she explicitly said, “George Zimmerman cannot be guilty of manslaughter by committing a merely negligent act or if the killing was either justifiable or excusable homicide

This is important because, at the end, the prosecution was stuck with arguing that Zimmerman was guilty merely because he got out of his car to follow Martin. While I would contend that Zimmerman was well-within his rights to do that, as there is no law against watching someone who might be suspicious, even if you think he was wrong, that particular act does not establish intent to do harm.

When I saw that instruction–about an hour before I read the verdict–I was convinced that Zimmerman would walk. The jury was going to do their best to get it right, because (a) there was much hanging on the outcome, and (b) they wanted to do be remembered for doing a good job in the midst of a difficult case. They were trying to convict, and their only hope was manslaughter.

But if the only wrong thing they could prove that Zimmerman did was get out of his car, even manslaughter was not going to stick. When the jurors finally talk, you will find that that instruction forced the acquittal.

As for those who INSIST on Zimmerman’s guilt, I will call your attention to this: if six middle-aged women, most of them having children of their own, unanimously said “not guilty”, then almost any other jury combination short of an all-black jury (which would have been unconstitutional, as Zimmerman was entitled to a trial in front of a jury of his peers) would also have acquitted him.

He was innocent, and this was a slam-dunk.

But now what?

At this point, Zimmerman is still a marked man. He will need to keep a very low profile. I suggest living off the grid.

At this point, Zimmerman still faces the prospect of a federal civil rights trial. While his chances of acquittal are very good, his legal costs are going to mount.

When one reads the Old Testament, one realizes that it is cases like these for which God specified Cities of Refuge. In Old Testament Israel, a man like Zimmerman–who killed Trayvon Martin in self-defense–would be able to flee to such a city and live in safety. He would be forced to remain there until the High Priest in his home city died.

While he would have to suffer the penalty of being uprooted from his home, much of his family, and perhaps even his livelihood, his life would not be in danger. He would not face a lynch mob. He would not be in danger of being stoned to death. He would not face any prison time. He would not be sued.

That allows justice: on one hand, he gets to live; on the other hand, justifiable homicide is still homicide and there’s still a price to pay.

Ultimately, that’s the sobering truth: justifiable homicide is still homicide. It sucks all the way around.

Still, Zimmerman received the right verdict. Hopefully, his journeys through civil and federal court will have similar outcomes.

10 thoughts on “Zimmerman Acquitted

  1. Just found an ABC News story on Zimmerman’s future. One interesting thing is that he may face a civil trial because of a decision his defense made during pretrial motions.

    Florida has a “Stand Your Ground” law; under that law, if a self-defense claim is found to be valid, then the actor is immune from civil prosecution for that action. However, back in April, the defense waived a pretrial hearing on that very issue, and chose to go before a jury. A “Stand Your Ground” claim is decided solely by the judge.

    On the other hand, Martin’s family faces a real risk if they do go ahead with a civil trial. In that case, a “Stand Your Ground” defense will by necessity come up (if it doesn’t, Zimmerman would have a strong malpractice claim), and will have to be determined. If Zimmerman wins on that issue, Martin’s family would be on the hook for Zimmerman’s attorney’s fees (within reason), court costs, lost income, and defense expenses that stemmed from the civil action.

  2. (4) Right before the judge handed the trial to the jury, she allowed prosecutors to add a reduced charge of manslaughter as a possibility.

    From what I recall reading in Florida manslaughter is considered a “lesser included charge” in any case of second-degree murder and allowed to be added at the end of trial so that seemed OK to me. The third-degree-murder-child-abuse thing was where things got really weird in the end IMO.

    • This is true. OTOH, the prosecution was stretching from day one when they charged Zimmerman with Murder 2. I recall my own sentiments when that came down.

      UPDATE: Zimmerman has been charged with 2nd-degree murder. That’s probably the highest charge that he could have possibly faced.

      This is either (a) a bold move by a prosecutor who thinks she can get a conviction, even though the evidence thus far has pointed more to involuntary manslaughter than anything else, or (b) this is a trumped-up charge designed to get Zimmerman to accept a plea bargain on a lesser charge, thereby ensuring a conviction.

      If it’s (a), then she must have some compelling evidence.

      If it’s (b), then this is a case of her bitch-slapping the local yocals.

      But unless there is some compelling evidence here, she might be setting herself up for disaster.

      I say disaster because she needs to be prepared for what could happen if Zimmerman gets acquitted.

      They had no case on Murder 2 and they knew it. While manslaughter is commonly thrown in as the lesser charge, the evidence was obvious: manslaughter was the only charge they had a remote chance of sticking to Zimmerman from the outset.

      Even then, their evidence on manslaughter was iffy at best. They knew it, too.

      In their rebuttal to the defense’s closing argument, the prosecutors fell back on the “if he had stayed in his car, none of this would have happened” line of reasoning. Even though that very reasoning would not have been sufficient to warrant a manslaughter–much less a murder 2–conviction.

  3. A lawyer would be insane to try to bring a successful civil suit against Zimmerman. Why? Because evidence of Trayvon’s culpability and also of his past would be allowed into evidence into that kind of trial. I firmly predict this won’t happen.

  4. Moreover, Zimmerman is pretty much flat broke. Unless he gets a mammoth settlement from NBC–and he probably will–it’s not like he has a lot of money. He’s been out of work for over a year now, and his long-term job prospects aren’t all that great.

  5. If your kids are taking classes from a department that ends in “studies” they are doing it wrong. Ivy League or anywhere else…

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