Zimmerman and where we go from here (or hopefully – don’t)
We’re unhappy with the verdict. We wanted a verdict that closed our nation’s cultural chasm and let families, American families, let their children walk the streets safely at night. We didn’t get that.
We didn’t get that because it is entirely too much to ask the jury system to produce.
Here we’ll discuss a few changes people are clamoring for, and at the end I’ll ask for you to submit yours to discuss in the future.
There’s talk about the system being broken. Something’s wrong with the system and there needs to be a change. I want to address that for a minute because I that is very, very dangerous talk. There’s an old saying in the law that “good cases make bad law”. (“Good” here meaning big or interesting or juicy to a lawyer.) What this saying means is high profile or emotionally charged cases cause people to induce changes in the law that would affect that one particular, peculiar case the way it happened. In many of my other posts I’ve been resistant to law changes. Mainly because these law changes don’t consider the other one thousand, ten thousand, or one million other cases for whom the law was designed, for whom the law was working correctly.
Remember the “We’d rather have ten guilty people go free than one innocent person go to jail?” We all agree that fundamental bedrock of our judicial system when we’re the innocent person, and despise that saying when the guilty person is someone we abhor.
HINT: Not the right answer
There’s three things I could’ve gone wrong in this case three. Three moving parts that always get looked at when something like this happens.
- The judicial system or the court: was the court unfair in this case?
- The police: the police, or for that matter the prosecutor, do such a poor job that they were negligent in their duties and that caused a guilty man to go free?
- The law: is the law in this case so unfair that it needs to be changed?
One by one: I don’t think anyone is suggesting the court itself in this case was unfair. If anything the court was hard on the defense. That’s not a bad thing, if courts are generally hard on the defense, it’s in the nature of the work. A defense attorney is supposed to ask for more than he is supposed to get and the judge is supposed to tell them “no”. This case in particular the judge has been commended as to her adhesion to the law.
What about the police? Did the police do something wrong? Let me put my biases on the table: The police are always always ALWAYS my favorite scapegoat when I have a trial. The police didn’t investigate something, or look at something, or turn over that rock, or if they did, they shouldn’t have turned over that rock. And then I get turnt up. There are some suggestion that the police chief was fired soon after Zimmerman was not arrested in this case. I see all that as a distraction.
That only leaves #3, the law.
What’re we going to do about the law?
Answer: “I don’t know”.
Laws are going to change because of this. The infamous “stand your ground” law is sure to be looked at with a fine tooth comb. That law itself is not the worst thing in the world. Basically it says you are not “required” to retreat from someone attacking you, that you may defend yourself. (Hawaii is considered a “stand your ground” state for all except deadly force. In Hawaii you can only use deadly force if you are unable to retreat, among other conditions.) There’s some discussion of “Stand your ground” laws being racist in application. I can’t find fault with that study.
I’m betting money there are going to be a rash of new “failure to follow the lawful order of a 911 operator”. The problem with those being, that opens a can of worms with liability for the 911 operators being properly trained. They are not psychic, and are often encouraged not to tell you what to do in their training. It would also limit the number of people we would have working at the 911 call center. 911 should operate as a clearinghouse to get police and ambulance to where they need to be. It shouldn’t be a helpline.
The third option I’ve heard is that people want to change the burden of the self-defense statute. Currently only Ohio has Self-defense as an affirmative defense. What that means is, the burden of proof (see my last post for a graphical representation) is no longer borne by the Prosecutor, but that a Defendant would have to say, “Yes, I did it but…” Let’s understand what an affirmative defense is: at its very definition, its burden-shifting. Remember our fifth amendment, that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”, an affirmative defense turns that upside down. No one shall be compelled against themselves, “unless the government thinks you did it, now prove otherwise” is no where in the constitution and shouldn’t be written in there now. If the government can’t prove you guilty with all the powers of the police, the FBI, Homeland Security, and now PRISM, should we really make it easier for them?
Marcus, answer my question: What should happen?
If you guessed an increase in a call for gun laws, you are correct. The chance if it working is none. There’s no chance that stricter gun laws are happening after this if it didn’t happen after Sandy Hook. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this doesn’t cause more people to buy guns.
Because it’s not safe out there.
Trayvon Martin may still be alive if he owned a gun.
Of course, he would probably be in prison.
Which begs the question, do you think the outcome would be different if the races were reversed? Let’s ask Matthew McConaughey what he thinks (start at exactly 4 minutes in):
I’m interested to find out what my readers think is the proper “fix” of the law. What law would you add or change to, well, to keep more people alive? And keep the right people alive, both of which are the goals of the law. Answer below, answer on twitter @landsberglaw, or go to the contact us and answer anonymously. Would love to hear your thoughts!