Here is what we know: Trayvon Martin died in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, 2012. If George Zimmerman hadn’t been there, Martin would still be alive. Zimmerman found Martin suspicious. He called 911. A confrontation ensued. Beyond that, the facts are unclear. There’s not much physical evidence in the case. Other than the defendant, there are no eyewitnesses. Zimmerman claims that he was attacked by Martin, and that he shot him because he felt he was at risk of great bodily harm. We can certainly speculate as to whether or not he’s telling the truth, but can we say for sure? Zimmerman’s the only one who was there, and none of the prosecution’s witnesses came close to conclusively refuting his story.
That’s a problem for the state. To convict Zimmerman, the prosecutors have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. That hasn’t happened. And if the prosecution can’t prove its case, then Zimmerman should walk. Many will see this as an unsatisfying outcome; many will think it shouldn’t be this easy to kill someone, concoct an uncontradictable excuse, and get away with it. But a legally satisfying verdict cannot always be the same as a morally satisfying verdict. It would be unjust if Zimmerman were convicted based not on the strength of the evidence against him, but rather on the public sentiment against him.
“Remember, it’s monumentally irrelevant who’s morally guilty here,” Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told Newsmax. “Whether or not Zimmerman was a racist and racially profiled and shouldn’t have been doing it and didn’t listen to police, that’s all irrelevant in Florida law.” Dershowitz was part of the legal team that defended O.J. Simpson in his 1995 murder trial. When Simpson was acquitted, there was the sense that Simpson was saved by high-priced lawyers who clouded the issues with sideshow tactics, bombast, and catchy rhymes. (“If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit!”)