Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lady Justice Stands A Bit Taller Today

Forty six days ago George Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed Trayvon Martin.  These facts are not in dispute.
Forty six days ago the Sanford Florida police department took Mr. Zimmerman into custody.  Upon hearing Mr. Zimmerman’s account of the incident they believed Mr. Zimmerman had acted in self defense within the terms of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Within hours of the shooting they released Mr. Zimmerman and publically announced that no charges would be filed.
Forty six days later Special Prosecutor Angela Corey arrested Mr. Zimmerman and charged him with second degree murder; a charge which could put Zimmerman in jail for the rest of his life.
Over the past forty six days this case has been tried in the court of public opinion.  The public scrutiny and media attention has been intense. Chief among the questions being asked is how the Sanford Police could allow a man who shot and killed an unarmed boy to walk free based solely on his own account of the incident.  Had the shooter been black and the victim white would the police have acted in the same manner?  The answer to that question takes us to a dark place in our history better left for another day.
As we watched the press conferences held by prosecutor Angela Corey and Mr. Zimmerman’s new defense attorney, Mark O’Mara we were struck by two things.  The first was the professionalism and compassion exhibited by both attorneys.  Both have years of experience in trying murder cases and they understood the scrutiny to which they will be subjected.  They also clearly understood that this case is about the rights of the victim, Trayvon Martin and the accused, George Zimmerman; and that media speculation and political pressure should play no part in how they conduct themselves.  We found their reserved and professional demeanor comforting.  We felt like justice was finally in good hands.
The other thing that struck us as we listened to their comments was a sense that there is a whole lot more going on in this case than has been reported in the media.  We got the feeling that both sides have found a lot more in the evidence that make this incident far from an open and shut case.
The prosecutor’s decision to charge Mr. Zimmerman with second degree murder is quite stunning given where things were forty six days ago.  Early on the Sanford Police Department overstepped its authority and took on the mantle of judge and jury.  A black man was shot by Caucasian/Hispanic who claimed self defense.  Not guilty…case closed.  The media was slow to react.  But once the outrage grew loud enough they swooped in, polarizing the country with rhetoric about race, gun rights and probable cause.  There seems to be a sense of calm now; thanks in no small part to the efforts of Angela Corey and Mark O’Mara.  It’s as if we have come full circle.
We don’t have any idea how this case will turn out.  What we do know is that this case will finally be adjudicated in the proper venue of a United States criminal court.
The scales of Lady Justice were unfairly skewed for a while; and it looked like a horrible event would be allowed to go unquestioned.  Someone had their thumb on the plate.  But thanks to public outcry we are taking a second look; and Lady Justice is standing a little taller today.                   

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