Kip, what you are saying is in part true, about the effects of legal safeguards sometimes resulting in the acquittal of the guilty, but they also often protect the innocent from false conviction (not always, but often). That is also why a legal scholar like Alan Dershowitz, a liberal civil libertarian and legal activist against prosecutorial abuse, has taken such an interest in this case. He, like me (though he has far greater expertise in criminal law), has identified the applicable legal principles and has described how they might apply, in an impartial and dispassionate fashion.
Kip, if you've read what I've written on this thread, it will be clear to you (and any reasonable
person) that I've certainly not said one word against Trayvon Martin, that I totally sympathize with the feelings of his family and contemplate with horror the fear that he must have gone through. My very first post on this thread and a few others were while wearing my emotional hat. As you sense, I then switched hats, putting on my unemotional lawyer's hat, to try to analyze
where we are going from here. Because the case does raise a host of legal issues. Including the kinds of issues that would normally concern civil libertarians, in the arena of prosecutorial abuse (for example, the prosecutor only disclosing for the probable cause hearing evidence supportive of the prosecution, and none of the evidence supportive of the defense, even though known
to and in the possession
of the prosecutor -- suggesting that she possibly has done so in the past, in other cases, as well).
Also, as I have looked into the case a bit further, it has troubled me that on this thread the articles that Reginald has posted have in many respects been inaccurate, because they are agenda-driven, rather than seeking to understand the law and apply the law to the facts of the case. As a result, only evidence against the defendant is mentioned, false statements are made, spurious "inconsistencies" in Zimmerman's story are identified that are not inconsistencies at all, and no evidence supportive of the defense is mentioned. For example, I had to learn by accident
(when looking into the bail hearing thing quickly on Google) that two months ago it came out that in Zimmerman's original police interrogations the night of the killing he passed the lie-detector voice stress test (and that, together with the consistency of his statements and the corroborating injuries and grass stains, were presumably part of the reason why the police ultimately released him)(though I also believe there was an element of racial bias involved). I should not have had to go to other sources, given the number of articles posted on this thread regarding the case.
The authors of those articles are being dishonest and they are misleading their readers, creating false expectations. I understand the authors' emotions, but that does not justify dishonesty or sloppy thinking. I understand authors wishing to identify weaknesses in Zimmerman's case, for example pointing out where Zimmerman's wife lied at the bail hearing with Zimmerman's knowledge, or other instances where they find weaknesses, but that can't be the end of the discussion. My primary source of information regarding this case has been this thread, supplemented with a very few Google searches when something specific came up. I've not perused "right-wing" websites, pro-Zimmerman sites, and the like, as I've no interest in doing so. Because I know I will never get an accurate picture of reality by only perusing biased sources of information.
Is Zimmerman "guilty as sin?" Well, none of us were there, so we are forced to look at this through the lens of the evidence that is being dribbled out for purposes of trying to get a handle on whether he is guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt." He may, for example, be guilty by a preponderance of the evidence, but not beyond a reasonable doubt (like O.J., for example). This all turns on his self-defense claim and how that interacts with Florida's stand-your-ground laws and concealed carry laws. It is in theory possible that the killing of Trayvon Martin was the result of a terrible series of misunderstandings and mistakes, in part fueled by Trayvon's understandable fear, in part fueled by the recent burglaries in which suspects got away because the police did not arrive promptly, in part fueled by broad racial profiling or by the fact that those prior actual perpetrators were of the same demographic as Trayvon or because Zimmerman really believed Trayvon was acting strangely, in part by Zimmerman's mistaken belief that Trayvon was casing homes for burglary, and a host of other things that led to Zimmerman feeling that he had to follow Trayvon, that lead to a struggle that resulted in Zimmerman shooting Trayvon in self-defense
. There just has to be a possibility that something like this happened so as to create a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman might not be guilty of murder but did in fact believe he was in jeopardy of immediate death or great bodily harm. This case turns on Zimmerman's self-defense argument.
I don't think it likely that Trayvon Martin charged Zimmerman while Zimmerman was holding a gun at him pointblank. I don't know if Zimmerman had even pulled out his gun when he was following Trayvon. I don't know if Zimmerman first attempted to grab or more vigorously attack Trayvon, or whether Trayvon (in an attempt to defend himself from some seeming "crazy man") initiated the violence. I don't know if Trayvon was really on top of Zimmerman pounding his head against the concrete and Zimmerman shot him then, or whether Zimmerman, pushed by Trayvon, fell backwards, bumped his head on the concrete, got up pissed off and shot Trayvon execution style while Trayvon was begging for his life. Even if Zimmerman did shoot Trayvon while Trayvon was on top of him, was Zimmerman's fear of death or great bodily harm subjectively reasonable? I don't know the answer to any of these questions, and I will not form an opinion until the facts are actually presented in court, where both sides
are allowed to present their evidence.
I can tell you that I will not cry bitter tears if Zimmerman is convicted. But at the same time, I would not view it as a miscarriage of justice if he were acquitted of second-degree murder. Given the high legal burden the state must
No reasonable person questions that Trayvon Martin was an innocent teenager. This does not answer, however, whether George Zimmerman is guilty of second-degree murder under the law
Anyway, I hope with the above you get a better picture where I'm coming from. Honestly, I believe most Forum members who have read this thread do understand. I also understand what a painful topic this is. I hope I have not offended anyone by donning my analytic "Mr. Spock" lawyer's hat. That's just what happens when I start analyzing something, anything.