I’ll be honest. I didn’t watch much of the trial — or the hoards of legal analysts who told us what to think. So you won’t be getting red-hot opinions about how smart/stupid the jury was here.
I see merit in virtually every argument I’ve read online from friends and family in social media or even from editorials on TV or in the newspaper. George Zimmerman may have gotten away with cold-blooded murder. Then again maybe he was defending himself from an attacker. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I just know we did our best to figure it all out.
The strong reaction I see everywhere — going both directions — reminds me of simple truisms about why the framer’s of the constitution gave us the rights we have.
Humans are biased. Others need protection from our biases because when we put our heads together in big numbers we can be very dangerous to people we aren’t interested in hearing from.
Don’t think so? I guess advertising doesn’t work on you… it just works on me?
Our rights guaranteed by the framers of the Constitution are designed to combat our biases, prejudices, and knee-jerk reactions we would naturally have in protecting our families and communities in favor of protecting individuals.
The presumption of innocence holds jurors must presume an accused person as innocent as they would a neighbor or even the judge.
The accused has the right to remain silent because strapping someone in a chair and launching loaded questions at them is a tactic of 3rd world justice.
The burden of proof never shifts to the accused. It’s impossible to prove you’re innocent of a traffic ticket when you think about it. Especially if you’re dealing with a jury or judge whose default is to trust the policeman who wrote you the citation.
But here’s where the rubber meets the road — these rights are hollow unless we understand why we have them and they’re hollow if we only give them lip service.
The aftermath of this verdict has been ugly arguments and protest. Anytime we debate our system of justice, though, it’s a healthy exercise as long as it leads to greater understanding instead of disillusionment.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about this situation or any other, you should contact an attorney directly