Sunday, July 14, 2013

Professor Jonathan Turley on the George Zimmerman Trial

In Why was Zimmerman overcharged? USA Today (July 14, 2013), Jonathan Turley writes:

"With the verdict, the Zimmerman case entered the realm of legal mythology -- a tale told by different groups in radically different ways for different meanings. Fax machines were activated with solicitations and sound bites long ago programmed for this moment. The legal standards long ago seemed to be lost to the social symbolism of the case.

"Criminal cases make for perfect and often dangerous vehicles for social expression. They allow longstanding social and racial issues to be personified in villains and victims. We simplify facts and characters -- discarding those facts that do not fit our narrative. We pile meanings on the outcome that soon make the actual murder secondary to the message. Zimmerman and Martin became proxies in our national debate over race. There was little patience or need for the niceties of rules of proof and adjudication."

Turley then recounts a variety of blunders by the prosecution but concludes:

"Ultimately, it was the case and not the prosecutors that were weak."

Turley then explains why he thinks the evidence did not support guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But he ends with this observation:

"Of course, little of this matters in the wake of a high-profile case. The case and its characters long ago took on the qualities of legend. People will make what they will of the murder trial of Zimmerman. However, this jury proved that the justice system remains a matter not of legend but law."

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