Sunday, 14 July 2013

The George Zimmerman Verdict and The British Justice System

The not guilty verdicts in the George Zimmerman trial for the murder of Travyon Martin may be a result of the British criminal justice system (that is shared by both Canada and the United States) and it's most important principle that it is better that the guilty go free than the innocent be convicted.

One of the earliest expressionless of this principle was Blackstone's formulation: "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer", further amplified in the United States by Benjamin Franklin: "It is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer".

This principle is expressed in practice by the principle that juries must find an accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal prosecutions.

So we have a jury presented with a case involving an altercation with no witnesses and a defendant that apparently has significant injuries and that, along with other factors, may be enough to create reasonable doubt in the jurors minds and thus a not guilty verdict.

None of that changes the fact that Zimmerman, having a vigilante attitude, profiled Martin (whether racially or otherwise) and pursued him even after being advised not to by authorities - a chain of events set in motion by Zimmerman and controlled by him that led to the death of Trayvon Martin who was doing nothing wrong when Zimmerman set these actions into motion.

A reasonable person would conclude that, even if not criminally guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, George Zimmerman was responsible for the death of Trayvon Martin.

One would expect a very different outcome if a wrongful death claim was filed against Zimmerman where the standard of proof would not be beyond a reasonable doubt but a preponderance of the evidence.

Federal prosecution under federal civil rights law may also result in a different outcome.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Sunday it would review the Travyon Martin-George Zimmerman case to determine if it should consider prosecuting Zimmerman, who was acquitted in a Florida court in the shooting death of the unarmed black teenager.

"Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction, and whether federal prosecution is appropriate in accordance with the Department's policy governing successive federal prosecution following a state trial," said a statement released by the department.

As further events unfold we should all heed United States President Obama's call for calm.

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