In an article yesterday on the ABC News website, Dan Abrams says that George Zimmerman probably won’t be convicted of manslaughter or murder.
Abrams analysis is probably correct. The state’s case was weak to begin with, there were indications that Zimmerman was finally charged only due to political pressure, and based on what we have seen in the news the prosecution hasn’t exactly done a bang-up job.
What worries me about the Abrams article is that he seems to be not only setting us up to expect and acquittal, but also setting us up to believe that an acquittal would be a miscarriage of justice.
It’s only the third paragraph in the story where Abrams asks:
“So what happened? How can an armed man who shot and killed an unarmed teen after being told by the police that he didn’t need to keep following him, likely be found not guilty of those crimes?”
Well Dan, the answer to that question is “Maybe Zimmerman really was acting in self-defense.” Unfortunately, Dan goes everywhere except there in the remainder of the article.
Abrams very next sentence gives us his position on the case: “I certainly sympathize with the anger and frustration of the Martin family…” Abrams postulates that the jury won’t find Zimmerman’s account of the events credible, but bemoans that the case simply won’t meet legal standards that would permit a guilty verdict. In other words, he’s saying Zimmerman is guilty but will get off on a technicality.
Abrams concedes “For a moment, lets put aside the fact that many of the prosecution witnesses seemed to help Zimmerman in one way or another.” One would think that this statement alone would sink Abrams entire thesis, but Abrams continues with the tar-and-feathers.
Abrams explains the difficulty of getting a conviction if the evidence isn’t overwhelming, and then lays out a case that despite what the prosecution presented, it may not be enough. Quote:
“If these jurors have questions or doubts about whether, at the moment he fired the fatal shot, Zimmerman ‘reasonably’ feared that this was the only way to stop from getting beaten further, then they have to find him not guilty.”
The subtle message that Abrams presents is that Zimmerman might literally get away with murder. The misinformation begins in that third paragraph. Despite a widespread perception that Zimmerman disobeyed an “order” not to follow Martin, in reality the police dispatcher actually does not have the authority to order someone like Zimmerman to stop following a suspected intruder. Abrams never quite exactly says that the dispatcher does have that authority, but he reinforces that common misunderstanding with a bit of weasel-wording.
So, what’s this really all about? That’s where I’m a bit worried, and have been worried since shortly after the incident. I am not surprised to see an article like this, and expect to see more between now and the verdict.
If indeed the verdict is an acquittal, then I expect to see a tidal wave of similar articles, except they’ll be even less-reasoned and more emotional than what Abrams wrote.
The killing of Trayvon Martin long ago turned into a political event, and those who are using it as such probably are hoping that Zimmerman is acquitted. If Zimmerman is convicted, all that they will be able to say is “Justice was done” and pitch in on some celebration.
But if the jury comes back not guilty? The tinder is in place and the match is ready. Those who howled for Zimmerman’s arrest will be back and will howl for his blood (and I mean that in the literal sense). I would not at all be surprised if civil unrest were to follow, and in fact fear that this might be the goal of some of the instigators.
If violence breaks out, in the best case it will be confined to the Sanford FL area. In the worst case there will be violent outbursts across the country. The timing is right, factions in this nation are long past the point of dealing with each other reasonably. Anger is bubbling below the surface of society, be it from the lack of jobs, perceptions that the wealthy are robbing from the rest of us, or that the government is just getting too big with certain agencies being used as a hammer against the Obama administration.
Add on to that the unfortunate timing: we’re moving into the hottest part of the year, a time when temperature helps push tempers to the edge. Frankly, if there are people who are secretly hoping for a jury decision that will provide an excuse to riot, they could not have hoped for a better time of year to have this trial take place.
I remember clearly what happened when the cops in the Rodney King case got off, I think we’ll be lucky if a Zimmerman acquittal “only” results in an equal amount of damage.
I’ve been wrong before. I hope this turns out to be one of those times.