Before George Zimmerman was charged with the second degree murder of Trayvon Martin, the suspicion was already growing that powerful people, much of the news media and perhaps one entire political party was attempting to take his freedom and life for ideological, partisan or political gain. Then came the bizarre and unprofessional public statements by Florida prosecutor Angela Corey, unequivocally proclaiming her alliance with the Martin family and her certainty of Zimmerman’s guilt—neither of which sentiments were appropriate or ethical. Now that we have seen and heard the state’s case, there is little doubt that Zimmerman, contrary to American principles of justice, is being required to prove his innocence, rather than be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There are reasons for this, not the least of which is that the President of the United States decided to dictate that getting to the bottom of the “Why is Trayvon dead?” conundrum was a matter of national importance, but none of them are honorable, fair, right or ethical.
I give Martin’s parents, civil rights activists, the President and even some of the media the benefit of the doubt, to the extent that I believe they may have, at one time, plausibly believed that Martin’s death was not adequately investigated before authorities made the decision not to charge Zimmerman, and also that there were elements of racial profiling and bias in his murder. But once racial politics had begun, the demagogues began ranting, the shameless Congressional Black Caucus members had seen the opportunity for TV time and the President’s Machiavellian political advisors saw an opportunity to energize Obama’s “base” (translation: there was a chance to sew racial divisiveness, distrust and hate to spur turnout in the black community for the President who was going to bring us together), the result of the investigation was a foregone conclusion. It didn’t matter that Zimmerman’s shooting of Martin looked like self-defense, albeit in a confrontation Zimmerman caused himself. It didn’t matter that the evidence couldn’t possibly support a conviction of second degree murder beyond a re3asonable doubt. People in high places with famous names or TV shows and columns were throwing the R-word around—racist—and nobody wants to have that linked to them. Ask poor, silly, Paula Deen.
George Zimmerman had to be charged—that is, he had to be charged because there was nobody in Florida with both the power and the integrity to stop him from being charged. The New Black Panthers and Maxine Waters and Al Sharpton and Spike Lee and legions of vicious fools on Twitter were seeding violence, and race riots before a national election would not be good for our first black President.
U.S. justice was being dictated by the mob.
It still is. Last week, Judge Debra Nelson, presiding over Zimmerman’s trial, rejected the motion by Zimmerman’s defense team to dismiss the case before a single defense witness had been called, because the prosecution had not met its burden of proof. Media analysts were quick to note that such motions are routine, but this one wasn’t: it was obvious and undeniable that the prosecution’s case could not support a verdict of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A courageous, fair and ethical judge would have dismissed the case: Judge Nelson did not. Judges usually default to the position that we should let the jury decide, but when the evidence won’t support a legitimate guilty verdict, as in this case, that position is irresponsible. In a case like this, there are two possible jury decisions: not guilty, and a mistake. A fair and ethical judge has an obligation not to allow the jury to make a mistake that will take away a citizen’s freedom, and juries do make mistakes. In this case, there are already too many extraneous influences and biases that could distort the jury’s ability to be objective and fair—fear, for example, that Spike Lee will publish their home addresses on Twitter, leading them to be hunted down by vigilantes wearing Trayvon hoodies.
Because Zimmerman was charged, I wanted to believe that the state’s case was more than it appeared. It was worse than I could have imagined. Its star witness, Rachel Jeantel, admitted to lying, couldn’t read the letter she dictated herself, and was obviously hostile to the defense. Her testimony bolstered Zimmerman’s case for self-defense more than it did than the State’s; for example, she confirmed that it was Martin, not Zimmerman, who initiated a direct confrontation. Another prosecution witness testified that indeed it was Martin who was on top of Zimmerman in the tussle before the fatal shot. The judge had to instruct the jury to “ignore” (sure) a statement by the lead investigator that he believed that Zimmerman’s account of events was truthful. The prosecution was reduced to the pathetic stunt of calling the victim’s mother as an “expert” to claim that the muddled voice shouting for help on the recording of the fight was her son, as if there was any chance in the world that she would say otherwise. I’m sure she would also testify, as my mother would have, that her son was a good boy, would never hurt a fly and was shot by Zimmerman while making a plea for taking in abused pets and unilateral disarmament.
You can read the analyses of three attorneys who concluded, as anyone objective would, that the State’s case is shockingly inadequate, here, here, and especially here. Why then, is Zimmerman being tried? Conspiracy theories are rife, and I hate conspiracy theories, but the facts demand some theories, and the conspiracies make more sense than most. One is that the politicians and state leaders in Florida want to forestall African-American anger by having a high profile trial that shows the world why Zimmerman can’t be convicted. If this is true, Florida’s politicians and state leaders are even dumber than those of the other states. The people screaming for Zimmerman’s head don’t care about evidence or trials, and a jury verdict in Zimmerman’s favor won’t mollify them at all. The trial may be high-profile, but the average person (and certainly the below-average person, which is what the bulk of the Twitter vigilantes appear to be) isn’t going to watch it carefully or thoroughly. You can’t blame them: Rachel Jeantel’s monotonous, inarticulate testimony could be used in place of CIA waterboarding on terrorist suspects. Moreover, the news media continues to distort the case by its reporting. How it is that alleged progressives think that railroading a man into prison for a crime he didn’t commit while inflaming racial animus in the process advances progressive causes, civil rights, social justice or any virtuous objective baffles me, and the answer, whatever it is, points to something dark and destructive at that end of the political spectrum.
George Zimmerman is hardly an innocent figure in all this. His zealotry and poor judgment culminated in death of a young man, but if he was properly a murderer in the eyes of the law, there appears to be no way to prove it. His trial is, as James Taranto correctly diagnosed, a show trial, and that should repulse everyone.