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ICYMI: Try the Trayvon case in court, not in public

My first op-ed for the USA Today appeared in last Friday’s edition. The release of information seems to me to imperil the right to a fair trial.

The right to a fair trial is enshrined in the sixth amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It requires, among other things, an impartial jury. The courts have decided that an “impartial jury” consists of those who have no bias, prejudice or other preconception. The members should have no opinion at the start of the trial and should base their verdict only on the evidence presented there.

Finding an impartial jury – anywhere – seems to be difficult here. And I think Zimmerman, if convicted, will have basis for appeal.

I just don’t know what the prosecutor was thinking here.

3 thoughts on “ICYMI: Try the Trayvon case in court, not in public

  1. I agree. But it was readily apparent that this prosecutor had an agenda when she made the comment that it was her duty to seek “justice for Trayvon” — as if she knew the kid — utterly dismissing the uncomfortable and unfashionable possibility that he has already received all of the “justice” he was due.

  2. The difficulty faced here is that Sanford PD and the local prosecutor initially did a very poor job articulating why they elected not to prosecute in this shooting, which was a perplexing decision considering that the detective from their major crimes division who completed the first investigation into the case recommended charging Zimmerman with manslaughter. The public reacted to this decision as well as to perceived (and in some cases acknowledged) missteps in the investigation. It is well within the public’s right to react in this fashion, and it is indeed right and proper that they do so because there exists a public interest in ensuring the effectiveness of local law enforcement, and the public servants of the police department and the local prosecutor should be accountable as public servants. Moreover, the tragedy inherent in the precipitating event notwithstanding, it’s good for the public to be involved as a stakeholder as legislators re-examine their self defense laws. Whether one thinks that Stand Your Ground ought to be abolished or preserved, public involvement in that decision can only strengthen the legitimacy of that argument.

    However, at some point the idea of helping the public hold the agents and officials of their government accountable became conflated with the idea of holding Mr. Zimmerman accountable, and that’s truly a mistake. Especially when it comes to criminal justice, the point is for the public to ensure that the government is doing its job to the best of its ability — that’s generally what we call democracy — but when the public is instead encouraged to do the government’s job for them, that’s generally what we call a lynching.

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