The state of Florida’s politically driven decision to charge George Zimmerman with murder has resulted, as some of us predicted it would, in a pathetically weak case. It has taken only a few days of trial to collapse of its own weightlessness – undone, in fact, by the direct testimony of a prosecution witness, as Bryan Preston relates at the Tatler and Ed Morrissey details at Hot Air.
Over a year ago, I explained why this would happen:
When Trayvon Martin was first shot to death nearly two months ago [on February 26, 2012], state authorities sensibly opted not to charge George Zimmerman with murder. It wasn’t that they were looking to excuse wrongdoing. It was that the evidence was insufficient to prove murder beyond a reasonable doubt.
Plainly, there was a lack of criminal intent: There was obviously no premeditation; and, alternatively, the facts do not remotely suggest that Zimmerman acted with a “depraved mind regardless of human life” (e.g., the savage indifference of a man who fires into a crowd, heedless of the consequences). To the contrary, the known facts indicate (a) Zimmerman’s concern that Martin was acting suspiciously (the depraved do not call the police, as Zimmerman did, before shooting), and (b) a struggle in which Zimmerman may well have been severely beaten and, in any event, would have a strong basis to persuade a jury that he shot in self-defense.
In advancing that argument, Zimmerman would be aided by Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which gives the law-abiding latitude to use guns for protection….
The “Stand Your Ground” point was gravy as far as the baseless murder charge was concerned. If a prosecutor cannot prove the statutorily required intent element (mens rea) for murder, then the accused’s conduct cannot amount to murder, period. The accused only needs to rely on a legal defense of his conduct (such as self-defense) if the prosecution’s proof is sufficient to establish the offense (here, murder) in the first place. But “Stand Your Ground” would have been very relevant had Zimmerman been formally accused of an offense less serious than murder. Regarding that, as I observed when Zimmerman was initially charged:
Florida law makes causing the death of a person under the age of 18 manslaughter, provided there has been “culpable negligence.” It also criminalizes as manslaughter the “unnecessary killing” of a person in order to resist or prevent that person’s violation of law (e.g., the use of lethal force to repel a clearly non-lethal threat). Neither of these charges would [be] a slam-dunk; indeed, they’d be losers if Zimmerman shot because he was justifiably in fear of his life.
Despite the palpable lack of evidence that Zimmerman had the required intent to commit murder, the state bowed to pressure from the racial grievance industry (led by Huckster-in-Chief Al Sharpton), shamefully aided and abetted by the most politicized, race-obsessed Justice Department in American history. Lest we forget, it was Attorney General Eric Holder’s collaboration with Sharpton and threat to trump up a federal civil rights prosecution that induced state officials in Florida to reconsider the initial decision not to charge Zimmerman.
It’s easy for a corrupt process to produce criminal charges. It is quite something else to prove them. To try to fill the gaping intent hole in its case, the Zimmerman prosecution has transferred the hobgoblin of racism from the headlines into the courtroom. Indeed, it did not even wait for the trial to do that; the prosecutor injected racism directly into the charging documents.
As I noted at the time, the affidavit in “support” of the murder charge employed the explosive term “profiling” to describe Zimmerman’s suspicion of Martin. That word has no place in a charging instrument: It was transparent code to imply, in the absence of any evidence, that Zimmerman is a bigot who assumed Martin was up to no good just because he was black.
“Profiling” is an ambiguous term. Generally speaking, it is a perfectly appropriate, commonsense practice – a marshaling of various characteristics and behaviors typically found in kinds of criminal conduct. It is routinely used by police to avoid hassling innocent people. Like all sound police practices, it can be abused – a bad cop can invidiously home in on one characteristic (like race, religious belief, political stance) and groundlessly associate it with criminality. The latter is rare, but it is unfortunately what the racial grievance industry, echoed by the media, has conditioned the public to think of when the term “profiling” is used. It is this slanderous connotation of “profiling” that the prosecution wants people (especially juror-people) to associate with Zimmerman. Rather than as a legal term, the charging documents use “profiling” as an atmospheric – since prosecutors had neither the evidence to prove racism nor the courage to be forthright about what they were doing.
It would be bad enough to do this in a case where attitudes about race were pertinent – say, a prosecution for violating someone’s civil rights. But it is even more shameful to do it in a case where attitudes about race are legally irrelevant. However much the media may be fascinated by racial dynamics, racism or the lack of it should have no bearing on a prosecution for what the law calls “depraved indifference” murder (second-degree murder in Florida).