A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: outrage

The Cost of Acquittal

By Zachary Edelman

On February 26, 2012, while visiting his dad’s girlfriend with his father at the Retreat at Twin Lakes community in Sanford, Florida, a 17-year old high school student was involved in a violent confrontation with a neighborhood watch volunteer.

What exactly happened on that rainy night is unclear. What is clear is that the fight ended when the older man fired his 9mm Kel-Tec pistol into the teenager’s chest, killing him in minutes. The shooter was not immediately charged with a crime.

There was general outrage, with people feeling that the lack of a charge was due to the respective races of the killer and his victim –George Zimmerman, the older male, was Hispanic (or “White Hispanic”); the teenager, Trayvon Martin, was black. There were vigils, national protests, and threats of violence, as Mr. Zimmerman became the most hated man in America. It wasn’t until 44 days after the shooting, certainly as a result of public pressure, that Mr. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder.

Mr. Zimmerman’s  trial began on June 24, 2013. His lawyers argued that Mr. Martin had been on top of their client bashing his head into the sidewalk; Mr. Zimmerman, they said, shot in self-defense, fearing for his life. The prosecution contended that the defendant acted with malice and premeditation, and that Mr. Zimmerman had racially profiled his victim. Following a 14-day trial, on July 13 a six-woman jury found Mr. Zimmerman not guilty.

Demonstrators throughout the country took to the streets (peacefully, despite dire warnings from Bill O’Reilly) to protest the verdict. Many feel that Mr. Zimmerman – literally — got away with murder.  Others believe the verdict was correct given the evidence presented – he was overcharged — but are morally uncomfortable with it.  All would probably agree that Mr. Zimmerman had caught a lucky break.

Since his acquittal, Mr. Zimmerman has mostly been in hiding. When he has emerged, his activities have ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. And then there’s this:

He has directed his attorney, Mark O’Mara, to ask the state of Florida to reimburse him for his legal expenses from the trial totaling $200,000 to $300,000.

The chattering class is dismayed, astonished, and disgusted by his request, but is there precedent to support Mr. O’Mara’s request?

LASIS investigates.

(more…)

Comments

1 Comment »