The Zimmerman Case
Yes I know everyone else is calling it the ‘Trayvon Martin Case’, but he wasn’t the guy on trial. The verdict of the petit jury did not take me by surprise. Indeed I hinted at it in previous comments on this website.
Right from day one it looked as though the Sanford Police Department got it right when they decided not to charge George Zimmerman. His injuries were consistent with his account of being attacked by Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was clearly not a racist and Trayvon was clearly not the ‘butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth’ young teenager portrayed in the mainstream media, using carefully selected out of date photos. Why not go the whole hog and use cute baby photos?
Of course Zimmerman may have profiled Martin initially, but so what? It’s a standard intelligence technique. The trick is not to take it too far. Most police officers and INS agents use it, even if they deny it. Pretending it doesn’t happen is just silly. As long it’s based on fact not prejudice profiling is fine. I fit certain profiles – English barrister etc.
There seem to me to be two critical pieces of evidence. The first was the injuries to George Zimmerman. These were consistent with his account that Trayvon was violent towards him and put him in fear of his life. If that account was right then Zimmerman was entitled to use force, lethal force if necessary. All the vaporing and posturing by civil rights and African American groups doesn’t alter the facts as presented to the jury.
The 911 Call
Someone is heard screaming and shouting for help. That person was mostly likely the victim. The prosecution had to prove beyond reasonable doubt that it was Trayvon Martin appealing for help. They couldn’t. It doesn’t sound to me like a case which turned on the onus of proof however. My impression is that the jury decided that it was George Zimmerman shouting for help. That was a view they were entitled to form.
Is George Zimmerman racist?
There is no evidence that he is, either from the facts of the incident itself, or his life story. He isn’t white, he has no priors for racist assault or abuse and he isn’t a vigilante. He was a neighbourhood watch captain, looking out for the community, for which he deserves credit. The attempt to portray him as a racist comes across as a character smear – an attempt to put Zimmerman in the frame if you like. It was almost as though Thames Valley Police were investigating!
The Jury’s Verdict
It comes across as a true verdict according to the evidence. The jury saw and heard the witnesses and considered all the evidence. Their verdict has to be respected. I am not bothered by the racial profile of the jury. Far too much is made in my view of ‘diversity’ on juries. In my experience as a trial lawyer most juries are fair and reach verdicts according to the evidence.
I made this point in a letter to the New York Times after the O.J. Simpson case. If the copyright issues can be sorted perhaps VT could display it! I defended the mostly black jury in that case and suggested that an English jury, on that evidence would have reached the same verdict, stopping only for tea. There was clearly a huge problem with the prosecution case.
I still don’t think Simpson actually carried out the murder, although he may have arranged it. The later civil verdict wasn’t inconsistent with that in the criminal trial, since the standards of proof were different and the case was presented in a different way. If you’re prosecuting you have to get your theory of the case straight. If it’s murder two or manslaughter there is no point trying to stretch it to murder one. Make your case fit the facts not the other way round. Law and intelligence have a lot in common – each is an evidence-based discipline.
The Feds need to back off, no offense. Someone needs to explain the concept of double jeopardy to Attorney-General Holder. There is no point the FBI or DOJ taking refuge in technicalities on state versus federal law. In practice they are talking about putting him on trial for killing Trayvon Martin, the exact same charge thrown out by the Florida jury. No matter how they dress it up it would be an outrage. Motive was thoroughly explored at trial and no evidence of a racial motive on the part of Zimmerman emerged.
If civil rights laws are misused by the DOJ then they may forfeit cross-party support for them. In the opinion of many on the right the pendulum has swung too far. In the UK we have an ongoing case at the moment, where an elderly lady of good character campaigning against gypsy encampments has been arrested by our heavy-handed police and charged with calling a gypsy a ‘gippo.’ The prosecution has caused outrage and brought the offense itself into disrepute, indeed clearly it needs to be taken off the statute book.
The case was interesting as an illustration of the jury system in Florida. It’s one of the few states where petit (i.e. as opposed to grand) juries consist of fewer than 12 jurors. Some states, like Arizona, have a smaller number of jurors for less serious cases, i.e. where you’re not going to get fried or juiced if they find you guilty. I’m a fan of 12, but I cannot say that only having six jurors affected the outcome. In any event it’s a matter for Florida. Her legal system has come out of this pretty well, standing up to enormous Administration and media pressure for a guilty verdict.
President Obama has further tarnished his reputation, with respect. He should have known better than to step into a second degree murder/manslaughter case on the side of the prosecution. The First Lady may be high maintenance – no offense – but she’s not a bad lawyer. I am sure she told him to leave it to the jury.
My friend and fellow commentator Andy Martin, into whom Gordon may have bumped in Laos back in the good old days, has called for George Zimmerman’s gun permit to be withdrawn! With respect I think that would be a great mistake. If I were George I would carry on carrying.
Good luck to HRH the Duchess of Cambridge with the baby!