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.