There was justice but no joy in the courtroom when the acquittal of George Zimmerman was announced. No one can say the death of a teenager, a racial witch hunt, an agonizing trial and outlandish press coverage are worth celebrating. George Zimmerman’s life is in shambles.
That said, a horrid injustice was avoided by six jurors who could see plainly what fair-minded observers saw during the trial: The prosecutors had a shabby case and it didn’t take long to figure that out.
If reasonable doubt had not been the standard, George Zimmerman might still have gotten acquitted. The prosecution’s case was that bad. At times one almost imagined that the defense had proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. There was no “depraved mind” or other basis for charging, let alone any reason to convict of second degree murder.
As for manslaughter, there are buckets of reasonable doubt that were spilled in the courtroom, much of it by the prosecution’s own witnesses. There was doubt as to what Trayvon Martin did between his last call and the confrontation. There was plenty of physical evidence, eyewitness testimony and expert testimony that Martin was on top of Zimmerman and delivering quite a beating. The prosecutors had to remove all of that and reasonable doubt as to Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense. They did not come close.
In the hall of shame goes Angela Corey, the prosecutor brought in to get an indictment. She proceeded to overcharge, grandstand and personify abuse of prosecutorial discretion. After the verdict, she delivered a rambling, self-righteous press conference in which she tried to justify her gross overreach. Good luck with that. Corey showed, once again, that the power of prosecutors is awesome and in the wrong hands can do immense harm.
The president’s public identification with the victim was uncalled for and arguably contributed to the prosecute-at-any-cost mentality. The Justice Department, which reportedly assisted pro-Trayvon Martin demonstrators, once again shows itself to be the most politicized in history.
The press coverage — snatching at half-truths, misconstruing evidence, inferring racial bias in the absence of evidence and openly cheering for a convictions — was generally deplorable. Zimmerman has a lawsuit against NBC, the settlement value of which just went sky-high. The commentators and the producers who put them on should do some soul searching, but they won’t.
The verdict was an exception to this festival of ill will and incompetence. Actually there were six exceptions — the jurors. They ignored all the hoopla, listened to the case and reached the only logical verdict. The jury system is far from perfect in delivering justice, but like democracy it is better than all the other systems.
The lesson of the case for members of the media is that criminal justice is different from punditry: the facts matter. So much of what they scribbled and blabbered about was wrong or irrelevant or both. We do not convict on memes, buzzwords, inferences, accusations or theories.