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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Another Controversial Decision

Hi All.  Sunday night, and you know what that means. . . .

Last night, a jury in Seminole County, Florida found George Zimmerman not guilty, even after the charge of manslaughter was added.  The reaction to all of this was huge, and seems to be dividing our society along political lines, and to some degree, along ethnic backgrounds.

First and foremost, I want to extend my thoughts and prayers to the family of Trayvon Martin.  It is not only tragic, but unnatural, for a parent to outlive a child.  I will never know what Trayvon's parents have been going through for the past year and a half, but I extend my sympathies for their loss, and I pray that they'll find justice in another venue.  That being said, I'd like to give my take on it all.

(1)  THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RACE.  I already mentioned this in an earlier post and video when I noted how unfortunate it is that people made it a racial issue when it wasn't one.  This seems to happen quite often because racism is what I like to call a "soft issue."  That doesn't mean I deny its existence or I minimize its impact on our society.  That does mean that it's an issue that the masses can grasp far more easily than facts and substance.  It's a lot easier to make a fuss over buzzwords and catchphrases than it is to ask questions, research, study, and figure out everything that happened.  The only reason why jumping to conclusions is not an Olympic event is because it requires no skill.  No matter how passionate the rhetoric is, no matter how many examples of similar situations decided differently have been discussed, and no matter how righteous it may seem, it is completely disingenuous to make this case a racial issue, or to blindly follow any demagogue who would have you believe that there is a racial issue.  And now that you've had a day to get it all out of your systems, I suggest that further discussions of this inflammatory topic be contained.

(2)  THIS HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH THE LAW.  The United States Constitution and Bill of Rights delegate the police power to the states and their subdivisions.  This is why every state has some form of penal code.  And this is also why, as Judge Wapner told us decades ago on "The People's Court," the laws of your state may or may not be different.  In Florida, the statute defining murder in the second degree is drafted and worded differently than it might be in other states in defining the intent that must be proven for a conviction.  That state also happens to have a "stand your ground" law that is somewhat broader than the self-defense affirmative defenses that are available in many other states.  The essence of criminal law is that crimes can only be defined by statute, and that jurisdiction can extend no further than the county and state where the crime is alleged to have been committed.  Accordingly, this case had to be tried under Florida law, regardless of what the rest of the country may have thought about it.

Congress cannot force a state to repeal its own laws because it does not agree with them.  Neither can any other state in the union.  The U.S. Supreme Court can only deem a state law unconstitutional (should it even elect to consider the matter at all) if it violates constitutional rights, and not if it increases them.  Laws that protect defendants accused of crimes are sacrosanct in the United States of America, as they prevent us from becoming a one-party dictatorship where a mere accusation of a crime sends one hurtling towards oblivion.

In all 50 states, the prosecution has the burden of proving a criminal defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  In Seminole County, Florida, the State's Attorney did not carry that burden.  Its witnesses testified favorably for the defense.  Their testimony revealed that Martin was on top of Zimmerman, assaulting him, actually supporting the self-defense issue.  There was no testimony that Zimmerman was ordered to remain in his car.  There was nothing to indicate that Zimmerman's mental state was as described by statute.  And last but not least, manslaughter was added at the last minute, sending a clear signal that the State's Attorney realized it might not win.

All of these factors, and then some, led to the only proper result, an acquittal.  We do not send people to prison because they're ugly, because they're stupid, because the victim is a different color than the defendant is, or because they "probably" did it.  We send them there when the prosecution carries its burden, covers all bases, eliminates all wiggle room, and leaves nothing to chance.  Here, they did not.  If anything, they fulfilled the defendant's burden of proving self defense, eliminating the need for him to testify on his own behalf.

On the facts and the law, George Zimmerman was not guilty.  And there is no appeal from an acquittal.

There has been talk about a possible federal prosecution for civil rights violations.  However, since the FBI already performed an investigation and found no such evidence, it does not seem likely that the Government would press this further.  They've already lost to Roger Clemens and John Edwards -- does the Department of Justice really need another front-page acquittal?  I think not.

(3)  THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES NONETHELESS.  I never said that Zimmerman was a hero, either.  Guilty or not, he killed a teenager.  He will be a marked man the rest of his life, like Cain himself.  He will have no employment prospects, he will have lost most of his close friends, and family will always have to tiptoe around this issue from now on.  Other than to promote the book he may write, or to consult on the TV movie that will be made, he will be at risk wherever he goes.  Unless he and Casey Anthony want to cohabitate in hiding, and put a Netflix account in someone else's name, they will both be personal non grata forever.  The jury was free to make its finding at trial, but the rest of society is free to make its own findings as well.

And more importantly, a family remains without a son.  Regardless of the outcome of this trial, they would have remained without Trayvon Martin, and that pain still would have followed them the rest of their lives.

SO NOW WHAT?

(A)  I appeal to the public to become more educated as to these basic civic matters.  I find it distressing that every time there is a sensationalist case like this one, people pretend that they never took seventh grade social studies, and rail against the perceived injustice of a criminal justice system that has been in place for more than 200 years.  Everybody knows about "innocent until proven guilty," and everybody knows what "beyond a reasonable doubt" means, but they let emotions and feelings get in the way of their judgment of the result.  Sooner or later, we've got to become mature enough to understand why it's done this way, and save the teeth-gnashing and rancor until the process is finished.  You don't decide who wins a sporting event until its over, don't make premature judgments about trials either.  And once it is finished, let those feelings be tempered by wisdom.  Especially when we don't live in the jurisdiction where this happened, and the laws of that state have nothing to do with the rest of us.

(B)  However, the people of Florida have more thinking to do than the rest of us.  Are they content to let a law remain on their books that allows for this kind of result?  Is this the kind of self-defense that the legislature intended?  Apparently an amendment of this statute down in Tallahassee may be in order.

(C)  This is why we need to think before we act, all the time.  A neighborhood watchman could have thought before he got into a confrontation with someone who posed no threat.  A teenager could have thought before he wore clothing that would make him appear more threatening than he was.  They were both wrong, and they both had their lives ruined.  Please see Paragraph (1), above.

As a child, I disliked it immensely when my parents would "test" me to make sure I had thought of everything, and was prepared for anything, no matter what I did.  How right they were.

Yes, this one was longer than normal, but that's only to drive home the message even further:  (A)  Educate yourselves on the substance, and don't be swept away by the "soft issues;" (B)  If a law provides an inequitable result, in the jurisdiction where you live or work, contact your representatives and let them know that if they don't make changes, they will be voted out of office;  (C) Don't make the same mistakes they made:  THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK OR ACT, ALWAYS.

That is all, check the video.

DISCLAIMER:  The above post is not intended to smear, besmirch, malign, or cast aspersions on anyone, beyond what is objectively and obviously true.  While it may invite opposing arguments, it is still not intended to invite libel, slander, personal attacks, accusations, preaching, or any other adversarial responses, whether the audience agrees or disagrees.  See also Paragraph (1), above.  The author reserves his rights to take appropriate action against anything other than a rational and thoughtful argument.