I am normally one of those guys who would be seen as a "defense" guy. If they were picking a jury and I was in the jury pool, prosecutors would treat me like the plague. 12 years ago I left law school because I was in no psychological or psychiatric condition to continue. I probably wasn't even in psychological condition to start law school looking back on it. But before I dropped out of law school I thought I was on my way to fulfilling my dream of being either a civil liberties lawyer or a criminal defense lawyer.
The climax of my very short lived law school career was the murder of my brother Jeffrey. I was such a "pro-defense" guy that even as his wife has appeared to get away with paying off some teenagers to murder him, I have never boiled over in anger over that fact. The police and prosecutors in Nashville told us she was only a suspect, and that they could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. I have been content with that decision because that's how much of a believer I have always been in our system that requires a high burden on the state. I didn't even want the murderer of my brother to rot in jail without due process and a full case proven against her.
So, why am I so angry about the Zimmerman case? Why do I feel so much more that an injustice has been done here than in my own brother's murder? Why do I feel that the fact that my brother's murderer failing to be brought to justice is just an inexplicable cosmic accident, but that the failure to convict George Zimmerman is a grave injustice resulting from centuries old "ill will, spite, and hatred" of the most powerful, of the elite towards -- let's say it -- young black males? Because it is that feeling that answers the question implicit in the first two paragraphs of this post: how did a wannabe criminal defense lawyer get to the point to believe that justice in this case required nothing less than conviction?
My brother like me is a white male. It's not that we white males are less valuable than black males that makes me less aroused by the injustice that still exists in his case. I most certainly think my brother is just as valuable as anyone else. Instead, that fact means that I have the white (and male) privilege to know, really, that the police and prosecutors really did do every thing they could to bring justice, and, in this case, just couldn't. I'd like to think that about the Trayvon Martin case: that the failure to bring justice in his murder case was just a cosmic accident and this time police just couldn't do anything about it.
But then, there is a HUGE difference. Police can't prove WHO murdered my brother. Police can't prove who, while my brother spoke to his mother on the phone, shot my brother seven times (his last words were "mom, I've just been shot"). Police know who shot and killed Trayvon Martin.
That's what fucks me up. The police knew who shot Trayvon Martin, and gave a bit more than a cursory interview of that person, George Zimmerman. Experienced prosecutors failed to ask obvious questions about Zimmerman's defense in the lead up to the trial. They didn't appear to research all the witnesses. For example, they never asked a defense witness about his gym's advertising their success in training George Zimmerman even as the owner of that gym pretended that Zimmerman didn't learn anything about fighting from his gym.
The reason I wanted to be a criminal defense lawyer can be best explained by Jesus' words: the healthy do not need a physician. I always saw the role of a defense lawyer was to provide a balance between the powerful state and its weakest citizens who were most vulnerable to unjust prosecutions. See? That's the point: to defend the weak against the powerful.
I've seen prosecutors and police officers use every technicality, every legal maneuver possible, to frighten the least powerful defendants, the poorest defendants, the weakest defendants into guilty pleas before any hint of a trial is near. I've seen police officers find such defendants and grill them endlessly in manners that some might find to be cruel and inhumane to squeeze from them some kind of confession to some kind of crime that the defendant doesn't even know exists.
But when it came to George Zimmerman shooting and killing a 17 year old black boy, police hardly pressed him. There was an old Saturday Night Live skit where a lawyer tells a judge how his client said he was innocent and therefore should be set free. The SNL skit judge said to the effect "well that proves it", dropped the gavel and freed the defendant in a heart beat. That's pretty much the treatment George Zimmerman got.
Nope. This prosecutorial failure was no cosmic accident. The reason it angers me so much is because, once again, it showed the rules don't apply to all. If you are weak and trespass against the strong even in the slightest, you can count on a police investigation and a prosecution plotted out with great zeal. But if you are the weak, the spited, the hated, the sufferer of ill will, and you are trespassed against by the strong, or those in good with the strong, well, then, you don't get to count on that kind of prosecutorial zeal.
I don't know if that explains it all. But there it is. This is why this case, unlike most TV trials, garnered my attention, and had my ordinary pro-defense lens turned inside out and praying for a conviction.