, Gloucester, MA

July 22, 2013

Poor prosecution, not racism, in Florida verdict

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

In the wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal, the debate rages over whether or not the verdict was racist.

Now, given our police academy reject/vigilante’s well-documented slurs against African-Americans, I believe that George Zimmerman himself is a racist.

But when it comes to the tragic verdict that set him free, I think prosecutorial incompetence was a bigger contributing factor than racism.

Despite the fact there were no eye witnesses to what happened, and despite the fact Trayvon Martin was unable, for obvious reasons, to tell his side of the story, the prosecution still sought a second-degree murder conviction instead of a manslaughter conviction that would have had a lower burden of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” than the murder charge.

The prosecution’s last-minute decision to allow the jury to consider the lesser manslaughter charge was too little too late and, quite frankly, smacked of desperation. In addition, the prosecution seemed hesitant to drill home to the jury that Zimmerman consciously chose to disobey the police dispatcher’s order to “stand down,” stay in his car, and not pursue the unarmed teenager Zimmerman described as a “suspect” to the dispatcher.

The prosecution also glossed over Zimmerman’s description of young Trayvon Martin to the dispatcher as just another “(bleeping) punk” who “gets away with” everything. And the prosecution neglected to remind jurors that Zimmerman has such a long, almost chronic, history of calling the police with a litany of complaints and suspicions, that some on the the police force, and some of his own neighbors, viewed him as a crank and a kook.

Zimmerman’s story changed numerous times in the months following his killing of an unarmed teenager who was walking home from the store with a bag of candy and a soft drink to watch a sporting event with his dad.

How, for example, is it possible that the coroner found no DNA from George Zimmerman anywhere on Trayvon Martin’s body or clothes if the two were locked in the kind of close physical contact and bloody combat Zimmerman alleged?

None of it adds up, but the prosecution failed miserably in doing its job and, as our system requires, the failure to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman deliberately set out to murder the teenager meant the jury had no choice but to acquit him of the murder charge. Given the desperate, late Hail Mary pass to get the jury to consider the lesser manslaughter charge, it’s little wonder the jury rejected that as well.

Hopefully, the Martin family will succeed in getting some justice via a wrongful death and civil suit that will at least get it on the record that Zimmerman’s attitudes and actions wrongfully led to the death of an innocent kid minding his own business.

The Zimmerman verdict was not so much about about racism as it was prosecutorial incompetence.

That makes the verdict particularly hard to take.