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Trusting the Jury System Means Accepting the Zimmerman Verdict

For the last few days, it has been impossible to step into an elevator, log on to a social network site or stand in line for a cup of coffee without hearing someone’s opinion on the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case.

Sadly, it seems there is often a direct correlation between the race of the person expressing the opinion and the stance they take.  Before you again share your opinions with anyone, ask yourself how much you really know?  Do you know the elements of second degree murder and/or manslaughter?  Do you know what evidence the state offered to prove each element?  Do you know what the defense’s response to each piece of evidence was?  If you don’t have this information, aren’t you making assumptions based on your biases and prejudices, whether you support Zimmerman or Martin?

The fact is, there are only six people who are qualified to have an opinion on whether Zimmerman was guilty of the crimes with which he was charged: the six jurors – who, in this case, happened to all be women.

Though many of us may feel like we know all there is to know about this case, educated for more than a year by cable news reports and the prognostications of Nancy Grace and her ilk, none of us sat threw the three weeks of testimony. None of us waded through the boxes of documents and photographs.  Only the jurors were instructed by the judge as to the actual elements of the crime and the state’s burden.

Remember, these jurors are just regular people like you and me. They were chosen from approximately 500 Seminole County residents who were summoned for the case. Prosecutors and defense attorneys both had the opportunity to question each juror at length. More or less, both sides were content that those six women could reach a fair verdict.

For anyone to say that their decision was racist is to say that the six jurors were unable to set aside their personal biases, as all jurors are told they must do.  It is my belief that jury’s get it right more often than not.

I think there is a better reason why Zimmerman was not convicted: The prosecution simply did not make their case very well.

One example may be that the State overcharged Zimmerman with second degree murder; a killing carried out with hatred, ill will or spite, that is not premeditated.  There was evidence that Zimmerman was of questionable character but no evidence that met this definition of murder.

The defense team effectively challenged the important question of who was actually the aggressor. Was it Martin or Zimmerman? The State never effectively answered that question, yet it was their burden to do so. They had to convince the six jurors, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Zimmerman was the aggressor, and they failed woefully.

When the jury got the case, they were not simply faced with the emotional question of whether they thought Zimmerman “did it” or not. The jury had to decide if the State had proven that Zimmerman was guilty of second-degree murder or the lesser offense of manslaughter.  As with all criminal cases, these jurors were given specific instructions to follow to decide if the State had proven either of those offenses.

We may not agree with the outcome but we must accept that the jury did the best job possible with the evidence presented to them.

Either the jury system works, or it doesn’t. I believe it does, at least as much as any human institution can. Therefore, I have to live with the verdicts that system produces, even the ones I don’t like. Holding the State responsible to meet its burden of proof is what separates our system and the quality of our personal liberty from all others.

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