"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Zimmerman, Trayvon and Common Sense

I've been half-following the George Zimmerman trial via the Internet.   It is not disputed that Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin.   The only dispute at the trial is whether he has a valid defense of self-defense against an attack by Martin.   Florida must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, not just that he killed Martin, but that he didn't do so in self-defense -- they essentially have to prove a negative, and do so so clearly that no reasonable person could doubt it.   It has seemed obvious from the outset (and even before the trial) that the state could never carry its burden, and thus the trial has been somewhat anticlimactic, with the sole mystery being what will happen after Zimmerman is acquitted -- Rodney King-style riots? civil suits?  gabfests on TV news shows?   Only the last seems a given.

Anyway, on the central factual point of whether an audiotape of the assault features Zimmerman or Martin screaming for help (the prosecution says Martin, the defense says Zimmerman), Jack Dunphy in NRO provides some useful common sense:

There is a commonsense way to reasonably infer which of them was screaming for help. By now the extent of Zimmerman’s injuries are well known (though prosecutors seemed determined to keep this information under wraps for as long as possible). Zimmerman suffered a broken nose and lacerations to the back of his head, all consistent with his account of being punched, knocked down, and having his head bashed on the concrete walkway. Other than the fatal gunshot, Martin’s only injury was bruising to one of his hands.
For the jury to believe the screaming voice was Martin’s they would have to accept a scenario in which Zimmerman remained silent while sustaining his injuries, and in which Martin screamed for help while sustaining only a bruised hand. Unlikely.
For this and the prosecution’s many other manifest weaknesses, the jury will not convict. Nor should they.

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