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Did the System Fail During the George Zimmerman Trial?

by Gary Reinhardt, published


“The system failed.” George Zimmerman “Not Guilty.” While people feel cheated, disrespected and even discriminated against by this result, it is the wrong reaction.

In the aftermath of the shooting, protests erupted because prosecutors did not immediately charge Zimmerman for killing Martin.  However, faced with Florida’s strange “stand your ground” law, prosecutors knew that Zimmerman held all the cards by claiming self-defense or that he “stood his ground.” Despite the statutory advantages, Zimmerman and his lawyers decided to put their faith in “the system” instead.  They submitted to the trial by jury that so many screamed for.

The protesters got what they wanted. Zimmerman was tried a jury of his peers, although that is certainly debatable.  “The system” is set up to protect the people, all the people, even Zimmerman, from Government oppression. Indeed, the Bill of Rights protects the innocent-until-proven-guilty both pre-trial and at trial to prevent the Government from railroading the truly innocent. As the old saying goes, better ten guilty men go free than one innocent man go to jail.

Is George Zimmerman a racist? Were his actions racially motivated on that terrible, terrible night?  Maybe, but Zimmerman wasn’t on trial for being a racist nor was Zimmerman automatically guilty of murder for killing Martin just because he killed Martin.  The State had to prove Zimmerman murdered Martin outside the protections of the “stand your ground” law.

A jury trial is a crap shoot. Jurors must have no opinion about the defendant or the case at hand before qualifying to serve.  Jurors in the Florida v. Zimmerman trial either lived under rocks or were so oblivious to the world around them that they could serve as impartial jurors.  That is the type of person who decided George Zimmerman’s fate.

Because these jurors found Zimmerman “not guilty” (not “innocent”, but “not guilty”; an important distinction), some immediately assumed these jurors are racist. Jurors are volunteers, plucked from their everyday lives to decide legal issues they previously knew nothing about. They decide cases for any reason they can.  Many times I have seen juries reach a verdict after an all day trial right about 5:00 p.m.

I have heard stories of jurors deciding cases based on the way a party reacted to hearing one witness’s testimony or even how a judge treated the attorneys. Race could have been a factor; Zimmerman’s choice of tie color could have been a factor.  “The system” is not perfect, but it is the way our Founding Fathers decided to do things and America has gone along with it for centuries.

In this particular county in Florida, ordinary volunteers decided that either George Zimmerman “stood his ground,” or that they couldn’t decide what happened that night or that the State of Florida failed to prove its case or something else entirely that resulted in their verdict. Regardless, “the system” worked.  While the result rang hollow with many, trial by jury is about the opportunity to be heard, the protections afforded the people through the trial process and the right of the people to decide their own fate.   “The system” is not about the result.

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