The Zimmerman case underlines what many experts have been saying for some time: America’s system of criminal justice is seriously broken. We have a list of federal crimes so vast in number that it can’t be counted. We’ve also departed from standards of intentional wrongdoing and criminalized acts done without a guilty mind. Put those two things together, and America makes a potential criminal out of everyone. The only safeguard is the integrity of the criminal justice system, from the Department of Justice to local prosecutors on down, and now the Zimmerman trial tells us how weak a reed that can be.
Start with Obama’s tampering with the jury pool, in this case all of America. Trayvon Martin, he said, looked like the son he might have had. After that, I found the defense counsel’s Knock, Knock joke about the near-impossibility of finding an unbiased jury funny. One had to laugh. Either that, or cry.
Then there was the DoJ subsidy to protesters in the area of the trial. Just in case, maybe, the jurors hadn’t gotten with the program. The dollars in question were small. The principle in question wasn’t. Justice is supposed to be blind, and maybe it is in other countries. Only not in Eric Holder’s DoJ.
Then there was the evidence of prosecutorial misbehavior. Prosecutors are supposed to turn over all evidence that might tend to lead to an acquittal. Seems they didn’t here, but things like that don’t appear to matter much anymore.
Then there was the judge, who did everything in her power to signal the jury which way to go. The scene in which she questioned Zimmerman about his plea would shock criminal lawyers in most other countries.
Finally, you have the post-trial protests and condemnations from the Al Sharptons of the world. You just don’t see that elsewhere. Let me let you non-lawyers into a little secret. When lawyers talk about guilt or innocence, they’re not talking about who did it or what he did. They’re talking about a jury verdict. So Zimmerman is innocent. So was O.J., for that matter, after the criminal trial. You get the verdict and that the end of the story for lawyers everywhere, and for non-lawyers in first world countries. But it’s not the end of the story in populist countries that mistrust the justice system, and that’s a symptom of a serious rule of law problem.
In the Zimmerman case, the state, responding to political pressure, and fanning the flames for political reasons, did everything it could to make life Hell for an innocent man. They forgot only one thing. The judge agreed to keep the names of the jurors from the press during the course of the trial. She’s now been asked to extend the ban a further six months, and she’s sitting on the motion. Am I the only person who thinks the trial might have gone differently if a DoJ mob had been sitting on the jurors’ doorsteps?
Criminal justice is very different in other first world countries. We shouldn’t for a moment confuse what we have with what they have.