Due Process and George Zimmerman

Can due process produce a result that is, in some sense, unjust? Yes. People can kill and defraud and rape and abuse but leave insufficient evidence of their crimes to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The fact that the victim suffered is unjust. The fact that the perpetrator was not punished is unjust. The fact that skin color drives outcomes is unjust. It is unjust that moral wrongs go unredressed: such as, perhaps, the moral wrong that Trayvon Martin would be alive if George Zimmerman didn’t think he had a right and duty to confront people of the wrong color in his neighborhood. But there’s a central question some people ignore about such injustice: compared to what?

People assail results like the acquittal of George Zimmerman. But critics don’t tell us what the alternative should be. Shall guilt or innocence be determined by society’s reaction to the vapid summaries of prosecutions on cable news? Clearly not. Should verdicts necessarily reflect social consensus of the time about the crime and the accused? Tell that to the Scottsboro boys — theirs did. Should we make it easier to convict people of crimes in order to reduce injustice against the weak? How foolish. The weak already suffer because it is too easy to convict — because we love to pass criminal laws, but hate to pay for an adequate defense. Thanks to “law and order” and the War on Drugs and our puerile willingness to be terrified by politicians and the media, one-sixth of African-American men like Trayvon Martin have been in prison, trending towards one-third. The notion that we can improve their status in America by making it easier to convict people and by undermining the concept of a vigorous defense is criminally stupid. The assertion that an acquittal is wrong and unjust might, in some cases, be true, in the sense that some juries will vote their ignorance or racism or indifference. But the assertion that an acquittal is by its nature unjust because of how we feel about the case serves the state — the state that incarcerates 25% of the world’s prisoners.

Ken White on the Zimmerman trial. He later concludes by noting that he is more afraid of the state than of the George Zimmermans of the world. The whole article is very much worth your time.