Monster in the justice systemThe verdict acquitting George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin was correct.
The verdict acquitting George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin was correct.
Our justice system demands evidence beyond a reasonable doubt; it doesn’t allow convicting defendants based on our personal assumptions. So before we decide guilt or innocence, we better be sure about how we differentiate the two.
If juries handed down verdicts based only on circumstantial or hearsay evidence, then any of us could spend years in prison, or even on death row, as the result of a mistake. This observation isn’t just hypothetical. Many people have indeed spent years in prison or awaited execution until previously absent DNA evidence exonerated them.
Consequently, consider how many innocent people are convicted by the decision of a jury, judge or lawyer, who absolutely “knew” the defendant was guilty? Then ask yourself how many innocent people have been dragged out of court kicking and screaming about being innocent of crimes they really weren’t guilty of, as a self-satisfied press and public screamed for their convictions and even executions?
Witnesses for the prosecution claimed it was Martin’s voice screaming for help while defense witnesses claimed just as surely it was Zimmerman’s voice. The only eyewitness to the fight claimed Martin was on top and raining blows on Zimmerman.
There was a great deal of inconsistent information coming from Zimmerman’s camp, but also a great deal of it coming from the prosecution. Whatever any of us may feel, we really have no right to convict someone for up to 30 years to life in prison based on personal intuition or sketchy evidence.
If any of us embrace making Zimmerman a scapegoat — allowing us to express our racial frustrations — are we really any different from the Klu Klux Klan that felt took the law into its own hands to punish black citizens?
If any of us decides to oppose the court’s decision on the premise the verdict delivered was wrong — only motivated by racism — we then have two choices. We can either respect the law for doing what it is supposed to, or we can grab our pitchforks, clubs and torches as we self-righteously storm the doors of any castle we are convinced contains a monster. In the latter case, we might very well become the monsters ourselves.
Peter W. Johnson,