Just because you don’t like a verdict, does not mean the system failed

Zimmerman trial

I just read a tweet by Mia Farrow.  She said the ‘system failed.’  Actually it did not.  She just doesn’t like the jury verdict and chances are she did not watch the entire trial and even if she did watch all that was presented on TV, she did not see the entire trial, or the trial the jurors saw….and watching a trial in a courtroom is different from watching a trial on TV – alot different.

There are alot of people saying and tweeting the same as Mia Farrow. They are just wrong. It is also harmful.

I have tried many cases and lost….and each time I lost, absent a constitutional violation in trial, the system did not fail. As much as I hated to lose, my losses often proved the system did work.

If you have any doubt whether the system worked in the Zimmerman trial, remember this:

- the prosecutors who tried this case are very experienced; one said that he had tried 80 murder cases and this was only his second loss;

- the prosecutors had plenty of money to get experts and anything else they needed to support their work;

- the Prosecution helped pick this jury;

- the Prosecution had as much time as it wanted to present evidence and it used it;

- the Prosecution did not complain post trial of any evidentiary ruling;

- the Prosecution had an opportunity to cross examine the defendant’s evidence;

- the Prosecution had plenty of time in closing and got its rebuttal closing;

- the Prosecution had an opportunity to be heard on the jury instructions;

- the jury listened attentively to the evidence, took notes, were instructed on the law by the judge, and then deliberated; their verdict was unanimous;

- after the trial the prosecutors said they ‘respect the verdict’ but of course were disappointed in the outcome. When you lose a case you have poured your heart and soul into, you are disappointed. I know as I have been there. But losing a trial does not mean the system failed or even that the lawyers / prosecutors failed. It means – absent a constitutional violation in trial or an egregious judge’s ruling – the system worked and that the evidence did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt someone is guilty of a crime charged.

If the George Zimmerman PROSECUTORS are NOT SAYING the system failed, why do others who were NOT in the courtroom hearing and seeing all the evidence make those painful allegations? At best they are uninformed and irresponsible – at worse they are mean and seeking to stir up trouble.  

We expect people to be fair in the all important criminal justice system and not simply take sides as though an important trial is a sporting event.  Trials are not sporting events. It is not about taking sides.

In the end, our system did not fail us. Some celebrities are now failing us. We need them to be smart and putting a lid on simmering hostility and working towards making us stronger in our differences and fixing historic inequities – not at each others’ throats.

I spent many years in the trenches of the courtroom. My clients were 95% African American and 99% poor. I tried criminal cases (yes, many murder cases) and civil rights cases. I know what I am talking about. I know when something is unfair. The criminal justice system has been historically unfair to African Americans – but being unfair now to this jury in the Zimmerman case by calling their verdict unfair or wrong does not cure historic inequities or even current ones. It does just the opposite. It is unfair to everyone. It is even unfair to the family and friends of Trayvon Martin – it makes them a pawn.

It is terrible that Trayvon Martin is dead. It is terrible for him and it is terrible for his family. Your heart should bleed for all of them – but stirring up hatred is not the solution. Claiming the system didn’t work when it did is not a solution. Wrongfully claiming this is a white on black crime is terrible. We all know race is a hot button issue so it is convenient to misuse for those who seek to stir up trouble.

Consider this:

a/ According to the Miami Herald, the FBI investigated and concluded that George Zimmerman was not motivated by racism.

b/ And it is also worth noting that George Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic, and not white. The inconvenient truth is that this was minority on minority but that truth is not one that can be used by those with bad motive or those who are irresponsible by speaking without knowledge.

Finally, you should know – since I used Mia Farrow’s tweet as a jumping off point for this posting – that I admire her for her work in putting the spotlight on the cruel and evil President Bashir of Sudan. That is why I follow her on twitter.

And a PS: it would really prove our system works if our leaders, who are lawyers, would speak up about this. They know who they are. That would also show courage.

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