Thursday, July 25, 2013
I enjoy people watching. I’ll make up an entire back story about somebody based totally on how they look, walk, interact with others. Then they’ll do something that is ‘out-of-character’ with the person I’ve made up and I’ll revise their entire history. It’s an amusing and harmless way to while away time. Perhaps I’m wistful for my days working in entertainment, or perhaps I’m a profiler. And if I’m a profiler – then it’s a good thing I live in a state with a stand your ground law – I can be a total help to law enforcement.
The Castle Doctrine permits somebody to use deadly force in protecting their ‘castle.’ There’s a unique variation on each of the states that it’s on the books for – but the essential philosophy is an extension of the mountain of constitutional self-defense law. The principle now extends to one’s personal space, not just possessions.
These sorts of laws are quite popular – with property-owning constituents and their elected representatives. In fact, then State Senator Barak Obama co-sponsored legislation in Illinois that strengthened their stand-your-ground bill that passed unanimously with no debate.
The acquittal of George Zimmerman erupted a tsunami of outrage across the political spectrum. Now President Obama took to the White House podium for an unscheduled 20-minute monologue. He took the opportunity to speak personally about race which is very helpful for our nation’s discourse. In his way, though, he was expressing support for those who were upset at the acquittal. The chant has been “Justice for Trayvon” – the young man who Zimmerman shot.
While I did not follow the ins and outs of the sensationalized trial, from what I understand a trial was held. A jury was chosen. The judge largely ruled against defense motions – as most judges do. The prosecution had the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman intended to kill Martin. The jury was sequestered from the hyperventilating coverage. (This trial was so important that CNN chose to cover it instead of the overthrow of the Egyptian President.) The jurors deliberated and came to a unanimous conclusion. That is how the U.S. justice system is designed to work. So by pure definition Trayvon got justice. Zimmerman did not get punished…and that’s the missing ingredient that has people upset. The chant should be “Punish Zimmerman.”
The American judicial system is a collection of arcane rules of evidence and strict procedures. The jury has to be “instructed” on how to deliberate. Watching from the comfort of our homes and accustomed to Law & Order style justice – most people consider everything when making a determination about somebody’s guilt or innocence. The justice system doesn’t actually work that way – it’s very exclusive about what it allows. Its fundamental principal is “innocent until proven guilty.”
The prosecutions job is hard – because it’s supposed to be. English jurist William Blackstone set the standard in the 1760’s when he said: "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer."
The principle still applies to state crimes like murder that are governed by state legislatures and state laws, like the ones Mr. Obama supported and co-sponsored when he was a state legislator. The principle is less secure at the federal level where an entirely separate and secret justice system has been established. Secret courts make secret rulings. President Obama has his own Kill list of people who he personally chooses should die based on his own secret criteria. People (including Americans) who haven’t been accused of, tried or convicted of any crime are killed on the say so of one person. Where’s the cry for justice in these instances?
The taking of another human life is the most heinous crime against society that we have. That somebody could do that and be found “not guilty” shows that the system works as William Blackstone intended but doesn’t help the emotional desire for revenge. It also shows that Mr. Obama is actually using the same standard as President as he used as a State Senator…standing his ground to defend what he has determined needs protecting.