On the George Zimmerman trial.
You can’t predict what the hell they are going to do.
Juries are made up of people. And people are random, arbitrary and often dumb.
When you hear the screwed up stuff juries decide cases on, you often start to question the jury system. After you see a guy convicted because the jury wanted out of deliberations to go watch the playoffs or a person acquitted because they didn’t like the victim’s wife, you get a little concerned for the criminal justice system. And yes, I saw both those jury findings happen in my time.
But try as I might, I can’t think of a better system and nobody else can either. 12 - or in the case of Florida’s non-capital cases 6 - random people selected out of a pool by the attorneys that represent the parties to the case are the best anybody can come up with. I’ve seen what a system where judges decide guilt looks like. Japan has a 99.8% conviction rate. No thanks to that system. So what’s left if not professional judges? 12 (or 6) random citizens is who. And I’ve yet to find a way to ever predict what those 12 random people are going to do.
I’ve also learned something else. It is not a court of justice it is a court of laws. Let’s say that together.
It’s not a court of justice it’s a court of laws.
Justice is something that occasionally happens in a court. If you’re looking for justice in court, keep looking. You won’t find it. It is not about the way you think it should be. It’s not about being fair, it’s not about making people happy. It’s about the law. It’s a system by lawyers, for lawyers. The only decision makers in the process who aren't lawyers are the jurors, and that is precisely why they are there.
So this post is about the Trevon Martin, George Zimmerman case better known as The People of Florida vs. George Zimmerman. I wrote a while back that I wanted to see a trial before I made up my mind either way. And now I’ve seen the trial. I’ve seen the evidence the jury saw. As usual I have no idea what those 6 women are going to do. But I do figure that since I said I’d say what I thought when the time came, I’d better go ahead and share my conclusions for what they are worth. You might agree, you might not. That’s fine either way. Law isn’t a popularity contest, and I’m telling you the truth about law. Contrary to popular belief, the truth doesn’t always set you free; sometimes it just hurts.
So we’ll look at what we’ve seen or at least what I saw. What I saw, is that both the Defendant (Zimmerman) and the Victim (Martin) used deadly force in this incident. Deadly force defined by law is “That force which to a reasonable person would be enough force to cause death or great bodily harm.” That is a cut and dried legal definition and both victim and defendant met it. Zimmerman is an obvious case. Shooting someone is always considered deadly force. It’s a little more complicated on Martin’s part. But he did meet it. We have eye witness testimony that Martin was on top of Zimmerman, and we have the pictures to prove Zimmerman got his ass kicked. Now you might say –especially my Army and Marine Corps buddies– that simply having a person down on the ground whooping their ass isn’t tantamount to shooting them. You could say that, and under the law you would be wrong. Your personal opinion of this is of total irrelevance. It isn’t a court of justice, it’s a court of law remember?
Case law specifically states that if an assailant has a person in a helpless position that prevents the victim from escaping - such as performing a ground-and-pound on them – then that is deadly force and that deadly force in turn is legally acceptable. The definition is worded so that the attacker doesn’t have to kill the victim or even injure them. There must only be THE POTENTIAL of killing or seriously harming. If you’ve ever kicked someone while they were down, or held someone pinned and then hit them, under the law that is tantamount to shooting them. That's aggravated assault and battery at minimum, and at most attempted murder. Courts have even ruled that a person restrained by the seat belt in their car is by definition held in a helpless position just as if they were tied to the seat with a rope. Bear that in mind the next time you punch somebody repeatedly who is buckled up because at that point they can legally shoot you dead.
So – like it or not – both the defendant and the victim used deadly force. So now... as far as law is concerned, it goes back to little kid rules. We have to ask who started it just like your second grade teacher used to. Just with a lot more at stake. Deadly force is sometimes authorized by law. Sometimes that is cut and dried. Like when a 300 pound axe murder is kicking down a 120 pound woman’s door and she puts both barrels of the shot gun into him. And sometimes it’s not so cut and dried as in the Zimmerman case. If Zimmerman didn’t have a scratch on him, this would be open and shut murder or at least manslaughter. But at some point before Martin’s death Zimmerman got struck over and over by Martin while he was down on the ground. We have eye witness testimony to that fact and the wound forensics on Zimmerman to back that narrative up. That is both eye witness and physical evidence. So the crux of this thing becomes; Who initiated force? That is the guilty party and determines Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence.
Some have said that Zimmerman carrying a gun equates to motive. Sorry it just doesn’t. Concealed carry is legal in Florida with a permit and Zimmerman had one. Following someone too - even against the advice of 911 dispatchers - is not a criminal act. For deadly force to be ruled self defense it has to be shown that the attacker was an eminent threat to the defender’s life. Unlike shooting someone or pounding their head on the side walk, following someone never killed them. Someone following you may indeed by creepy; it isn’t tantamount to pulling a gun out and pointing it at you which indeed would be grounds.
So we are left with the question, who initiated deadly force? Martin or Zimmerman? Here’s the deal. After all the testimony and evidence… We. Don’t. Know.
There are no witnesses or evidence as to who threw the first punch so to speak. The evidence hasn't shown us if Zimmerman drew down on Martin and Martin was reasonably defending himself. It hasn't shown us if Martin saw Zimmerman get out of his truck to look around and confronted him physically for following him. In short, nobody knows for sure who started it except George Zimmerman, and he didn’t testify one way or another.
And that my friends, is the definition of reasonable doubt.
Like it or not, we have a presumption of innocence in our criminal justice system. When in doubt, a jury is instructed to side with innocence because we PRESUME the Defendant is innocent unless it’s beyond a reasonable doubt he is guilty.
Now if I were talking to George Zimmerman, I’d slap his silly ass and call him the moron he is. He got himself into a lot of trouble, somebody died that didn’t need to, and he didn’t do concealed carry advocates like myself any favors. I think the man was an overzealous prick. But if I were on his jury, that reasonable doubt would be staring me in the face. And it’s not a court of justice guys it’s a court of laws. So I would vote to acquit with a very bad taste in my mouth.
Will this jury of 6 random women vote the law or not? Part of the answer to that is another reason we have a jury system. The jurors can totally discard the law if they feel it is too unjust. There are no grounds for appeal because the jury didn’t go your way on the law. Will this jury of 6 random women do that? I have no idea. I’m not the bailiff listening outside the door on this one. But if it were me - all I can say is I believe in reasonable doubt and the presumption of innocence. So I couldn’t vote any other way, no matter how I feel about George Zimmerman. And before you complain too loudly about it, remember that same presumption of innocence and standard or reasonable doubt in criminal trials protects YOU just like its protecting George Zimmerman. Before you suggest we throw it away, remember you might need it some day.