Following the shooting of Trayvon Martin in a modest central Florida suburb, two cases immediately sprang to life.
The case of State of Florida v. George Zimmerman sought to prosecute Zimmerman for the second-degree murder of Martin using legal means — evidence, witness testimonies and professional analysts. The case of biased speculation v. Zimmerman, on the other hand, was a contest of gross assumptions and partial grandiloquence fought in Internet chat rooms and by water coolers in break rooms across the country.
Neither by legal nor ethical standards would Zimmerman be considered a victim in any of these cases — a life was lost, families were torn apart and racial tension brewed.
But it’s important to understand the underlying dichotomy of the shooting and what role it plays in shielding the required neutrality of the criminal justice system from the emotional, poignant nature of supporters on either side of the issue.
Before the 16-hour jury deliberation, three weeks of court hearings and 56 witnesses, the verdict had already been reached.
Either Zimmerman was absolutely guilty of racism and murder or he was an undeniably innocent man simply defending himself within the confines of Florida law. The speculative debate supported no other alternative — a juvenile frenzy reminiscent of a “Twilight” saga campaign with each camp choosing its respective idol, boiling down to a mockery of the judicial system — Team Trayvon or Team Zimmerman?
As pertinent information permeated the airwaves, Internet bloggers and activists alike seized every bit of information that would substantiate their unqualified assertions and dismissed evidence that would point to the contrary.
The theatrics of the moot court were spectacular in the worst of ways: they nearly contradicted every aspect of America’s criminal justice system and proved that justice, in the hands of ordinary citizens outside the rule of law, was not blind but possesses 20/20 vision, capable of discerning what is and isn’t right without due process. It was neither fair nor honest, gave no credence to litigious matters and made no effort to allow for equal representation by both the defendant and the prosecutor. It was, for all intents and purposes, deliberately dumb and ignorant.
In the case of biased speculation v. Zimmerman, there was only one victim — the rule of law — gutted, immolated and turned on its head months before it was allowed to proceed.
There are credible explanations as to why the jury was sequestered for the duration of the case, their identities were kept anonymous and certain evidence was ruled admissible or inadmissible in court — speculation prior to the Zimmerman trial had become so rampant that the objectivity of law was put in jeopardy.
The criminal justice system had an obligation to divorce itself from the emotionally charged rhetoric and sensationalism that surrounded the case.
It did so with the legal prudence of a shrewd judge and a fairly selected jury — a quality that would have withstood the likelihood of either outcome.
In this case of biased speculation, there was no respect for rule of law and no intention to reserve comment until all parties were equally represented, thus exhibiting the gaping discrepancy between public perception and legal reality.