The Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case is back in the news, as the judge rules the defense can attempt to put the victim on trial.
Why not? If you're going to have a circus, might as well make it a big one. The authorities never wanted to bring this case, and did so only after intense public pressure. Florida's incredibly dumb Stand Your Ground law puts a gray fog over any reasonable distinctions about self-defense.
And prosecutors loaded the dice, deliberately overcharging Zimmerman with murder, requiring intent, instead of some degree of manslaughter - which only requires recklessness. They're essentially saying, you want a trial? You're getting one, and that's all you're getting.
Many will howl for Zimmerman's head, insisting he should be found guilty: he followed Martin, which lead to the events resulting in death, and therefore he should be held responsible for that death.
But really, he shouldn't. Let's break down this theory using that supreme model of logic and philosophy, The Simpsons.
I'm driving through my neighborhood and I spot someone in a red 1998 Canyonero. My pal Homer drives one just like it, I mistakenly think it's him, I start to follow, figuring he's headed to the local pub to quaff a few Duffs.
The driver sees me following him, and given my hideous monster-like face (I usually hide it under a helmet, but its a humid evening in Florida) and reckless disregard of the use of turn signals, he panics. Thinking I'm stalking him, he decides to take off at a high rate of speed.
Careening down the street, trying to get away from me, he barrels through a crosswalk, striking and killing a pedestrian.
It never would have happened if I hadn't been following him. Am I responsible for that death? Should I be locked up for that?
Hint: By following him, I was not committing a felony, so the felony murder law does not apply.
So no, setting the events in motion is not enough. Could I reasonably foresee that following someone was at all likely to result in a death? No.
And to bring the principle to the Zimmerman case, if the defendent's account is to be believed, he had stopped following the victim by the time the confrontation occurred. Making the result even less foreseeable.
None of this makes Zimmerman a paragon of good judgment. Outside of a courtroom, there's enough information available about him to make one suspect he could be a few french fries short of a Happy Meal.
Try to set that aside when you hear the news of his acquittal, because on principle, it isn't germane in this case.