July 20, 2013

WALTER OLSON: Changing the law in response to the Zimmerman verdict would put more young black men in prison.

People upset at George Zimmerman’s acquittal are calling for awarding various new powers to prosecutors at the expense of protections for criminal defendants.

Maybe this would make it easier to hang a rap on some future Zimmerman. But it also would have an effect that its backers probably don’t intend: increasing the number of persons convicted and sent to prison. As part of that effect, more young black men — as well as more members of other groups — will end up behind bars.

On Twitter and Facebook, many people have expressed frustration with the conviction standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which the state of Florida was unable to overcome. Couldn’t we lower it? Others hoped prosecutors could appeal the verdict (right now, they can’t; an acquittal is final).

I don’t think we want to give prosecutors more power.

Related: Blacks benefit from Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ law at disproportionate rate. “Black Floridians have made about a third of the state’s total “Stand Your Ground” claims in homicide cases, a rate nearly double the black percentage of Florida’s population. The majority of those claims have been successful, a success rate that exceeds that for Florida whites.”

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