Was justice done in Zimmerman trial?


After a 25-day trial, a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of murder in the death of Trayvon Martin. Was justice done? That question has dominated political conversation in America. Some persons want to interject a discussion about race relations into the trial analysis. While those concerns are appropriate on a wider scale, they are misplaced when talking about a single jury trial.

A jury trial occurs at the individual level. Juries are not convened to determine social policy on a societal level. The proper question is whether or not the case was tried fairly in accordance with the law. If it was, then justice was done.

Over the years I have tried or presided over many trials. I have always been impressed by the work of jurors. Without exception, they are incredibly conscientious. They devote great effort into focusing on the witness testimony, trial exhibits and on the law given to them in the jury instructions.

You might have come to conclusions in your own mind about whether or not the outcome of the trial was just. However, we all likely know far less about the trial than we may think.

Everyone gets their news from various sources. Every news organization reports in a manner that leans a certain way. Some are conservative, others liberal. Reporters distill a day’s worth of trial testimony into a brief report of what they thought was the most important — or perhaps most sensational — part of the day. Commentators then try to persuade us as to what it all means.

Jurors receive information directly and unfiltered. They personally hear every word spoken including testimony, opening statements and closing arguments. They see every exhibit. They listen to all of the judge’s rulings and instructions. They also take an oath to follow the law’s requirements. They don’t hear from pundits who put their own “spin” on what the trial is about.

Jurors, not reporters or commentators, are told that they are not to allow bias, prejudice or sympathy to affect their decisions. Only jurors are instructed to, “Base your verdict entirely upon the evidence, which has been received in court, and upon the law, which has been given to you in the instructions.”

Jurors are to decide cases based on the merits — not on outside influences.
Recall the statute of “Lady Justice.”  She holds a set of scales before her and is blindfolded. She weighs the merits of the case without peeking to see who is before her. The law must treat everyone according to the same rules, no matter who they are, and without regard to public opinion.

Finally, recall that in a criminal trial, the state must prove every element of its case beyond any “reasonable doubt.” This is the highest standard in our legal system. It is used to insure that people aren’t wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit.

It is our agreement as a society to accept and apply these rules and concepts to everyone so that when disputes arise they can be peaceably resolved in court.

Tenth Judicial District Judge Greg Galler is chambered in Washington County. If you have a general question about the law or courts for Judge Galler, send your question to the editor of this newspaper. Learn more about Judge Galler, or listen to a podcast of his columns, at www.judgegreggaller.com.

  • Barry Black

    Thank you!

  • White Angel

    Bet you didn’t feel that way about the O.J. Simpson murder trial verdict. Planted evidence and only the liar Mark Fuhrman was convicted for perjury. Mark later planted evidence his own department stated wasn’t there when they performed a thorough investigation.

    Yes, you devils always find an excuse. Pure hypocrisy.

    God will ensure Zimmerman is judged. God and not man.

    • Joe Bltznk

      Seek help, Angel.

  • Phil H.

    Well said.

    Having served on a jury, I can attest to the effort that jurors put towards a fair and accurate verdict. I do not doubt that the jurors for the Zimmerman trial did the same and came to an accurate decision.

    Justice, in every sense of the word, was served. Zimmerman was arrested. The evidence was provided. The trial was performed, and the jury found him innocent of the charges. That is justice!

    Those still crying about the verdict have likely never served on a jury for something as serious as this. They simply want vigilante justice…which is NOT truly justice, it is simply mob rule.

    I’m glad someone finally spoke up, in an intelligent manner, and relayed the proper information about our justice system.

    • Gregor999

      George Zimmerman was subjected to the injustice of a murder trial. His version of events was reasonable and credible and supported by the available evidence. He was routinely and justly released. Subsequently, he was re-arrested and charged with a crime – murder no less – as a result of politicians pandering to protesters and activists.

      People in the police department that were involved in the original and correct decision not to prosecute him were demonized or fired. The trial itself was a sham; the prosecution case was downright silly.

      This harms all of us. Any of us can be prosecuted with the full resources of the government simply for being the subject of protests.

  • Ed Abbot

    Justice was done. A man was attacked. He defended himself. Finished.

  • http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-backroom/2312894/posts Aaron Klein

    The problem has been the focus on irrelevant arguments – some of which are actually unsupported by the evidence.

    1. ‘GZ racially profiled TM’ There is no evidence of this.

    2. ‘GZ disobeyed an order by the police’ * The civilian dispatcher, Sean Noffke, testified that he did not give GZ an order and, in fact, he, like his fellow dispatchers, are trained not make comments that sound like commands. * Noffke also testified under cross that, as a result of his asking GZ which way TM was going, GZ could have reasonably interpreted this as being asked to follow Martin. * It is also not a crime in Florida to disregard a comment made by a civilian dispatcher.

    3. ‘GZ got out of his car’ Not a crime on public property and not negligent either.

    4. ‘GZ followed TM’ Again, anyone can follow anyone on a public street unless the followee has obtained a restraining order against the follower and even there, the RS only places time, place, and manner restrictions on the person enjoined.

    5. ‘GZ wasn’t really injured’ * Under Florida’s self-defense laws, one doesn’t have to be injured AT ALL to use deadly force * No one is required to refrain from defending himself while another is engaged in or attempting to commit a felony.

    6. ‘TM is dead through no fault of his own’ * If you believe that TM assaulted GZ, then he IS dead as a result of his own actions.

    7. ‘GZ could have left’ * Under Florida law, there is not a duty to withdraw rather than use deadly force * TM was straddling GZ so how the latter was supposed to leave the scene is unanswered.

    8. ‘GZ was armed and TM wasn’t’ * One’s fists can be considered weapons and can result in severe bodily harm or death. * GZ was legally carrying a weapon * There is no requirement under the law that the same weapon be used by the assailant * A homeowner can kill an intruder whether or not he has been threatened * Those that attack cannot feign surprise if they are met with superior firepower.

    9. ‘Stand Your Ground!’ * SYG is NOT at issue in this trial. * The defense is a classic self-defense case.

    10. ‘Black men NEVER get to use SYG!’ * Wrong http://tinyurl.com/nboht35

    11. ‘GZ is a man and TM was a boy!’ * As if ‘boys’ don’t commit murder, rape, and assault everyday in this country.