George Zimmerman has been acquitted of all charges in the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. The six person jury deliberated well into the night returning with their decision. The not guilty verdict had sent shockwaves across the United States, most poignantly within the African-American community who felt this polarizing case illustrated that justice was not served and that America’s racial rift would be widened. This case reignited a national conversation on race, guns, self-policing programs within tight-knit communities and vigilantism. Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder but the jury was also allowed to consider manslaughter. Mr. Zimmerman pleaded not guilty and said he shot the Florida teenager in self-defense because he feared for his life.
After Zimmerman was cleared of all charges, the Justice Department said that it will look into the death of Trayon Martin and determine whether federal prosecutors will file criminal civil rights charges against Zimmerman. The Justice Department had opened an investigation into the case last year but stepped aside to allow the state prosecution to proceed. Within the framework of a civil rights charge, evidence must be presented that Zimmerman was racially motivated in killing Trayon Martin.
Edward Prutschi, a criminal legal expert, joined CTV News to talk about this incredibly divisive and emotionally-charged case. Mr. Prutschi starts off by saying that he is not surprised by the verdict. Despite the outpouring of discontent on social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook, the prosecution’s case was simply not up to standard in this high-profile case, Mr. Prutschi argues. Mr. Prutschi lauded the jury’s due diligence in their deliberation, and it showed that they were respectful to the sensitive nature of the case and spent a healthy amount of time coming to the conclusion that they did. The jury, Mr. Prutschi contends, showed that this was not an open-and-shut case and that they were listening to arguments from both sides.
Mr. Prutschi answers a very important and common legal question when he is asked about what a not guilty verdict really encapsulates. From a legal standpoint, to get a not guilty verdict, the defense has to show that there is some reasonable doubt to the charge(s) in question. Mr. Prutschi elucidates on this point by stating that in essence, a not guilty verdict shows that the prosecution failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Mr. Prutschi does clarify, however, that just because a not guilty verdict was given, it does not mean that the jury found Zimmerman to be free from blame and an innocent party in what had transpired. What it does mean, however, is that the prosecution’s arguments was not strong enough to win the jury completely over, they accepted the defense’s side that Zimmerman shot Martin in self-defense.
Mr. Prutschi then discusses the major turning points in the case. First and foremost was when the prosecution called in their medical examiner, who did not appear to be particularly sharp and presented a disjointed case that did not benefit the prosecution case. The stark contrast and disparity between the defense and prosecution was further highlighted when the defence called in their own medical examiners, who were cogent and clear and unshaken on the injuries suffered by Zimmerman during the altercation.