The Many Misperceptions of the Martin-Zimmerman Matter
The political tides were such that the decision by the Sanford police not to arrest and charge Zimmerman could not be allowed to stand. Once Al Sharpton gets his No Justice-No Peace Hallelujah Chorus mobilized and in full throat, there are few politicians in the country of either party with a spine so stiff as to turn a deaf ear to the clamor. And Florida Governor Rick Scott dutifully fell in line with the appointment of Angela Corey as special prosecutor for the case. Corey would soon reveal herself as less than professional in the press conference (video here) in which she announced the murder charge against Zimmerman.
She seemed just a bit too happy to be on television as she spoke of the “search for justice for Trayvon,” invoking the phrase that has become all too familiar. And in using that phrase she gave her game away, forgetting her obligation to seek justice for all concerned, including the defendant. As I wrote a year ago, the charging affidavit submitted by Corey’s office was a shoddy piece of work, one that Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz described as “if not perjurious, completely misleading.” I found it unfathomable that in a case as noteworthy as this one, prosecutors would submit such a poorly prepared document. Now we know it wasn’t an aberration.
Compounding her lack of professionalism, Corey tried to sandbag exculpatory evidence and fired the man who dared to reveal it. And despite Zimmerman’s acquittal, Corey arrogantly labeled him as a “murderer” in an interview with CNN (video here). “[Corey] was among the most irresponsible prosecutors I’ve seen in 50 years of litigating cases,” Dershowitz told Mike Huckabee, “and believe me, I’ve seen good prosecutors, bad prosecutors, but rarely have I seen one as bad as this prosecutor, [Angela] Corey.” I’ve only been a cop for 30 years, but even if I hang on for another 20, I doubt I’ll find cause to disagree with Dershowitz’s assessment.
I anticipated the acquittal, but this hardly makes me prescient or a legal scholar. Anyone paying attention could have seen it coming, even from the outset of the trial. Prosecutors opened the trial by portraying George Zimmerman as hateful, claiming he killed Trayvon Martin “because he wanted to.” When you make this kind of opening statement, you had better have the evidence to back it up. None was produced. Whatever sympathies the jurors might have had for Martin, they surely knew Zimmerman was no wanton killer, and in portraying him as such the prosecutors broke faith with the six women they were trying to persuade. The jury responded with the only verdict possible based on an impartial examination of the evidence.
Al Sharpton and his acolytes would have people believe that the greatest threat facing young black males in this country comes in the form of overzealous, trigger-happy neighborhood watchmen. Sharpton’s rise to prominence began in the cruel hoax of the Tawana Brawley affair, and his behavior in the Zimmerman-Martin case has been less reprehensible only in the sense that, unlike Tawana Brawley, something actually happened to Trayvon Martin. Sharpton has made a handsome living on being outraged, but his anger over Trayvon Martin’s death will last only as long as the cameras remain focused on him, or until something more lucrative comes along. I know it’s trite to say it, but may I live to see the day he summons the same level of outrage for the thousands of blacks who die each year at the hands of other blacks.
Now George Zimmerman, free as a matter of law but not of circumstance, awaits the decision by the Justice Department on whether he will be prosecuted in federal court for violating Trayvon Martin’s civil rights. Most legal observers agree such a prosecution is unlikely to succeed based on the available evidence, but can we have faith that Eric Holder won’t put Zimmerman through another trial -- one in which Zimmerman would surely prevail as he did in the first -- merely to punish him further? Can anyone claim such an endeavor would be beneath our attorney general?
And if Holder does proceed with a civil rights case, we can look forward to another year or so of Martin-Zimmerman blather on television, all day, every day. George Zimmerman isn’t the only one who dreads the thought of it.