Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, and Justice

The public discussion of the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman – basic facts here, if you have somehow missed this – grow more and more bizarre. Various supporters of the killer have told stories that he was attacked by the victim, in fear for his life, etc., while others have pointed out that various video and audio recordings show that these stories cannot be true.

You can’t blame the average American for feeling confused. How are we supposed to sort out all this conflicting testimony? The answer is: we aren’t. That’s what juries are for! If the Sanford, Florida, prosecutors did their job and charged Zimmerman for the killing, it could go to trial, and the conflicting testimony could be evaluated by a jury of people who actually heard the testimony live, in person, without being distracted by everything else they were doing (since they wouldn’t be doing those things while they were on a jury.)

I think we could usefully borrow a procedure from the English. When someone dies by violence, they hold a coroner’s inquest; the jury, not the local police superintendent, decided whether it’s murder, an accident, or self-defense. If it’s murder, it eventually goes to trial, and another jury decides if the accused is guilty. (I may be a little off on the details here – I learned about coroner’s inquests by reading those great scholars Agatha Christe and Dorothy L. Sayers.)

I have an opinion, based on reading the papers, Twitter, and Facebook – but the real decision should be made by a jury of people who have studied the evidence in person, not by a media audience.

That’s why Zimmerman should be charged. Then he could offer his defense to the jury, and they could evaluate it.