July 23 2013 05:44 PM

Why the Zimmerman verdict was a good thing, especially for black people

Ed Decker

I am truly astounded by the outrage over the George Zimmerman verdict. I watched much of that trial and it was pretty obvious, pretty quickly, that Zimmerman would not, and should not, be convicted. 

There just was not enough evidence to disprove Zim's account; yet there's all these people on the streets and on TV and radio howling about how the system is broken, and the system is racist, and that we have to change the broken, racist justice system right now. What these people don't realize is that it isn't the system that's broken—humanity is broken—and the system is the best thing we've got to manage our broken humanity and its ancient, ugly biases.

The truth is, people lie, people cheat, people murder, people are terrible eyewitnesses, people have selective memory, people are racist, people are prejudiced, people have tunnel vision, people have confirmation bias, people are corrupt and people have blind spots. History has shown that it's far too easy to send innocent folks to the dungeon on the whims of a biased accuser, so we created a system of judicial fairness, to help protect humanity from itself. And oh, how we love to boast due process and reasonable doubt as being the stanchions of the best system in the world until we get a verdict we don't like, and then everyone starts clucking, "The system is broken, the system is broken!" But the system isn't broken. The system is as close to perfect as possible. The justice system is like a multi-million-dollar super-computer. It processes data accurately, however the results are only as reliable as the data that humans put into it. And sometimes humans can't help but input their ancient, ugly prejudices. This is what the technology geeks call GIGO—Garbage In / Garbage Out—and there's no known system that can solve that problem.

On CNN, Jerome Horton—a friend of the Martin family—was talking about how the system is unfair to blacks and needs to be changed. "How many African Americans that we know went to prison for a crime they didn't commit?" he asked.

Exactly my point! Can you imagine how many more black people would be incarcerated if we undermine the thing that most protects them from their eager accusers? Because Horton and the protesters are right about one thing: Blacks in America get the short straw when it comes to criminal justice. They are over-profiled, over-arrested, over-charged, over-prosecuted, over-convicted, over-sentenced and over-executed. So it is they, more than anyone, who needs the system to remain in place. 

So I ask Mr. Horton, what about the system should we change? The only way a guilty verdict would have been issued in the Zimmerman case would be if we switched the burden of proof to the defense and did away with "reasonable doubt" which, sure as vegans don't eat head cheese, would result in a shit-ton more innocent brown faces wasting away inside the Prison Industrial Complex.

Consider the tragedy of Ronald Jones, who was on death row for 10 of his 18 years in prison because the system was defied when the police beat him into a bogus confession. Take Dennis Brown, who was convicted because the system was bastardized when DNA evidence was willfully misrepresented to the jury. And pity poor Timothy Cole, who died in a Texas prison, where he was sent for a rape he didn't commit because the system was willfully shat upon by just about everyone involved. And now you're all talking about diminishing the burden of proof and making it easier to get convictions? You must be out of your mind. 

On MSNBC, Rev. Jacques De Graff called for a boycott of Florida because (paraphrased) the Zimmerman verdict had sent a message that it's open season on black children. 

Only problem with that statement? The state of Florida was on Trayvon Martin's side! The state tried like hell to convict George Zimmerman! The state indicted him even when everybody knew there wasn't enough evidence to convict. They knew it! But they caved under public pressure and charged him with second-degree murder anyway—an act that spits in the face of the system because the system does not press charges based upon emotion and public pressure. The system presses charges based on evidence and facts and there simply was not enough, no matter how much you want there to be.

Jerome Horton said he couldn't understand how the jurors came up with a not-guilty verdict, and followed that by saying the prosecution was incompetent.

"I watched the two defense attorneys tear down everything the state did. I watched the state not have any rebuttal to what [the defense] was saying."

Sometimes I just wish people could hear themselves. You cannot say you don't understand how the jury could have ruled against the prosecution and also say the prosecution got their ass kicked. But, see, Horton, and the bulk of the black community are, understandably, very emotionally involved with this case and emotion is the mortal enemy of truth, proof and justice.

This is why Horton never considers that maybe, just maybe, the reason the defense was able to tear down the state's case so easily was because the state didn't have a case; and maybe, just maybe, the reason the state couldn't debunk the defense's account was because the defense's account was credible.

And "maybe, just maybe" is just another way to say "reasonable doubt." 

Write to ed@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.

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