Just the facts please!

As an attorney and a conflict coach, I have watched in horror as the verdict in the George Zimmerman has resulted in a political firestorm of enormous proportions between the left and right political proponents. As I sit here in my seat today and hear all the ridiculous banter expounded by both sides on this case, I am thankful for one thing, our legal system. It may not be perfect, but it is time tested and still works. I am thankful that we have a system where jurors are only allowed to make their decision based on the evidence presented in the case, and not on outside information or rhetoric. I am also thankful that we live in a country where prosecutors and police are not allowed to manufacture evidence, which is so prevalent in corrupt countries all over the world. I am thankful that defendants are allowed to have a fair trial and that both parties are allowed to appeal the case, if they disagree with the verdict.

But as I listen to all the arguments, it seems to me that the majority of the public banter has nothing to do with the case and everything to do with race. I hear people alleging racism. Are you saying the jurors were all prejudice against black people and not hispanics? I hear people upset because they believe Zimmerman didn’t like black people and want the jury to make the logical leap into deciding he must have meant to kill Trayvon. So they want Zimmerman convicted because he was a racist rather than the charges against him. It seems that people want this case to be decided on what was brought out in the media, and not at trial. They don’t want the jury to assess the credibility of the witnesses on both sides and decide who they think is telling the truth. Instead, they want the jury the make the decision based on their emotion and what they feel was true, rather than the evidence before them.

Is this what our country has come to? A bunch of political pundits on both sides turning this into a race war. I think if the average person just put himself in the position of the defendant for one moment and thought about whether they would want their case tried in the media or by the rule of law, we know what the answer would be. Of course, YOU would want a fair, judicially sound trial. YOU would want the jurors sequestered and instructed to only decide based on the evidence.

Do we have guilty people who have been found not guilty in our legal system? Yes unfortunately. But we also have people who are innocent that have also been found guilty and wrongly imprisoned for many years. The legal system is not perfect. It puts a tremendous burden on the prosecution to prove the case and the defendant must be seen as innocent until proven guilty. The bottom line is the prosecution must prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. The Zimmerman trial was not an easy one because of the nature of the events. In the end the jury found there was a reasonable doubt. It is that simple.

Having spent some of my early years of legal practice in the public defenders office, I know first hand the complexities of the legal system. I had to knowingly defend people who were guilty as sin. The only way you can sleep at night is to know that if the prosecution does their job than your client will be found guilty. But there were also situations where the events were a bit more complicated and it was unclear based on the circumstances. This is when you have to trust an unbiased jury to listen to the evidence and make the decision. This is what we have had in the Zimmerman trial. That is all you can expect of the jury.

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