Our View: Zimmerman verdict appropriate

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 12:42 PM

Editorial Board

The jury’s verdict in Florida that found George Zimmerman not guilty in the killing of Trayvon Martin, 17, was appropriate. It was a legal decision, not a proclamation of innocence. The prosecution failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

In retrospect, this was a case of the prosecution overreaching. This was never a second-degree murder charge. It should have been tried solely as a manslaughter case. Though the manslaughter option was provided to jurors late in the trial’s phase, the defense had so thoroughly dominated proceedings that even manslaughter was a tough charge to prove. There was enough reasonable doubt to acquit Zimmerman.

In its opening statement, the prosecution made many arguments that it later failed to prove, such as that Zimmerman had targeted Martin to kill or even that Martin had been on the defensive prior to the shot that killed him.

In fact, as an example of how poorly the case went for the prosecution, by the end of the trial prosecutors were agreeing that Zimmerman had been on the ground during the altercation. Also, key prosecution witnesses turned out to bolster defense claims. They included Chris Serino, lead investigator in the case, who testified that he believed Zimmerman was telling the truth, and John Good, eyewitness to the fatal fight, who testified that Martin was on top of Zimmerman during the fighting, punching him “MMA style.”

This is a heart-wrenching case. A teenager is dead, shot by a man, Zimmerman, who in our opinion behaved unwisely. Zimmerman appears to have been a “wannabe” cop, with a lawful concealed-carry gun permit, who allowed himself to get into a situation where he was attacked by a teenager he was following. While being beaten, Zimmerman, apparently fearing for his safety, shot Martin. We wish he had taken the advice of a 911 dispatcher and not left his vehicle on that night.

However, there was not conclusive evidence presented at the trial that justified a manslaughter conviction or a second-degree murder conviction. In an otherwise emotional case, it’s a dispassionate, correct legal decision.

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