Monday, July 15, 2013

Doing their job

Amid much hand wringing we are left to decipher the meaning of the verdict in the Zimmerman case. There are those in our fraternity who think the jury got it wrong.

The six women on that jury didn't get it wrong. They just did their job.

Their job was to listen to the evidence presented in the courtroom and to decide whether or not the prosecution proved each and every element of its case beyond all reasonable doubt. Based on their decision, the obvious answer is that they failed.

It wasn't the jury's duty to resolve any longstanding social issues. It wasn't their job to right past wrongs or to make any statements about their views on gun violence and race relations.

It's not an uncommon sight on a criminal defense lawyer listserve for someone to send out congratulations to a colleague who managed to nab a not guilty verdict on a case with less than stellar facts. In fact, the more outrageous the facts, the more huzzahs come flowing in.

Well, that's exactly what happened in Florida. The facts for Mr. Zimmerman weren't good. Many just assumed that the trial was only delaying the inevitable. But, somewhere along the way Mr. Zimmerman's lawyers didn't get the memo.

Regardless of one's feelings about the politics surrounding the case, Mr. Zimmerman's legal team did their job. They poked holes in the state's case. They misdirected the jury's attention. They weaved the evidence into a story that the jury was willing to follow.

They held the state to its burden of proof. They convinced the jury to presume that Mr. Zimmerman was innocent unless proven otherwise. They challenged the evidence. They confronted the witnesses called against their client. In the face of certain defeat (according to the pundits), they stood their ground and fought for their client.

You may not like the verdict. I may not care for the verdict. But, in the end, that verdict is proof that our criminal (in)justice system does, on occasion, work.

Whenever I pick a jury I always ask the panelists how they feel about Blackstone's statement (or at least the statement attributed to him) that it's better that 10 (or 100 or 1,000) guilty men go free than one innocent man suffer. So, in light of the verdict in the Zimmerman case, do you agree or disagree with Blackstone's statement -- and how strongly?

1 comment:

Lee said...

Go with Blackstone's ratio. The system is designed to protect the innocent.

We should also raise the burden of proof to beyond complete doubt.