On Saturday 13th July, a jury of six found George Zimmerman not guilty of any crime in the shooting of a black teenager named Trayvon Martin. Not guilty of murder; not guilty of manslaughter; not guilty of anything.
I personally think that such a ruling is bonkers considering that Zimmerman was armed with a pistol and Martin was not. Zimmerman was also told by police radio not to follow Martin and he did it anyway.
Yet when a person lies dead and for 44 days no charges were laid, it makes you wonder what sort of justice is being administered. It's all quite alien to me, a mere outsider.
Zimmerman argued that he acted in self-defence and cited Florida's "stand-your-ground" law which suggests that a person may justifiably use force when there is reasonable belief of an unlawful threat.
I have already written about the so-called "castle doctrine" which supposedly exists as a result of English common law and which I found no evidence (see Horse 1142) but it appears as though "stand-your-ground" laws do have basis in American statute law.
In Beard v. United States (1895), a Mr Beard killed a Will Jones who had gone "upon the premises of the accused for the purpose of taking the cow away whether Beard consented or not".
The court held that Mr Beard:
"...did not provoke the assault, and had at the time reasonable grounds to believe, and in good faith believed, that the deceased intended to take his life, or do him great bodily harm...was not obliged to retreat, nor to consider whether he could safely retreat, but was entitled to stand his ground."
Now say what you like about this particular incident but the only two witnesses were Martin and Zimmerman and of those, Martin is dead. Forensically it's very easy to say that Martin was standing over Zimmerman at the time the shots were fired but that's it.
According to the lead detective in the case, there was no evidence that Martin was committing a crime that evening, except for a "burglary tool" found in some bushes nearby which was impossible to connect to the incident.
Zimmerman sustained injuries to the back of his head and the shots which Martin suffered were consistent with being fired from underneath. As far as Zimmerman is concerned, he was being stood over and beaten but since there is no other possible means of proving otherwise, to design a prosecution case is impossible.
Therein lies the rub to all of this and why a "not guilty" verdict was reached. This entire case hinges on the legal standard that the prosecution must prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and the simple fact is that in this case the burden of proof which rests on the prosecution (not the defence) renders that impossible because there's doubt all over this.
Because no-one other than Martin and Zimmerman saw anything, there can be no definitive third party timeline or even collaborated story of events. There is an audio recording but it proves nothing. Since a jury can not convict someone where it can not be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of the chain of events, then the verdict of not guilty is the only logical outcome.
All of this isn't helped by a case which same prosecutor won against a Marissa Alexander, who fired a warning shot to ward off her abusive ex-husband; hurt no-one but still ended up in prison for 20 years.
Nor is it helped by the fact that the six member jury was made up of women only and only one of them wasn't white. A smaller jury is more likely to less representative of "the people" when it comes to matters of race, religion, gender etc.
The truth is that I certainly have no idea of the details of what happened that night, though I suspect that the jury has a better idea (I'm think that they have honestly tried their best too). I also have no idea of even comprehending if justice has been served or not. I do know that a 17-year-old boy lies dead as a result of the operation of some incredibly stupid laws and a culture which churns out stories like this on a semi-regular basis and that in itself is a tragedy.
I do know that the outcome of this trial is going to send waves though the United States. There have been reports of Interstate Freeways being blocked and civil protests up and down the country. I also know that the consequences might not stop here.