Sunday, July 14, 2013

Perry Mason it wasn't

For 18 years I served on my city's Civil Service Commission overseeing the police and fire departments.  In the event of a dispute between a police officer or firefighter and their chief, we heard the issues and rendered a decision.  These disputes usually involved hiring, firing, discipline, and promotions.

I remember one instance when the Police Chief "indefinitely suspended" (fired) an officer, and the officer felt this was an unfair and excessive punishment.  We heard the case and agreed, giving him some time off without pay, but allowed him to keep his job.  

I later heard the Police Chief was furious with us for our decision.  The city's Director of Civil Service calmed him down by telling him that regardless of what the Chief knew to be the facts, the City Attorney on that day, in that hearing, did NOT prove the city's case, and therefore our decision was correct.

This sounds like what might have happened in the George Zimmerman case in Florida, too.  Zimmerman was, IMO, an idiot.  He should never have been armed while on citizen patrol (a huge no-no) and he should never have confronted Trayvon Martin.  He should have made the call and waited.  Shoulda, woulda....

Nevertheless, during the course of the trial the state did NOT prove their case.  Too much of their crucial testimony was refuted by credible defense witnesses.  Based on the evidence presented there was not "proof beyond a reasonable doubt", regardless of what really might have happened that night.  

I think this is probably why the local police chief and DA didn't charge Zimmerman immediately....they didn't have enough evidence to go to court with.  This is what happens when popular opinion instead of solid evidence moves prosecution forward.  

I hope cool heads prevail and the city stays calm after the "not guilty" decision.  The thoughtful jurors did their job.  The system worked.


  1. Correct again Scott, though I thought a fair case could have been made that by virtue of Mr.Z's not listening to the 911 command to not follow, and then to get out of the car that the resulting attack by Mr. M was not unreasonable (he may have felt for his life as well) made Mr. M's death a result of Mr. Z's involuntary manslaughter.

    1. That might be exactly the scenario that will be used in the civil case to follow. But here, there were no facts presented to make the case you described. There simply wasn't a case made beyond reaonable doubt that any of that occurred.

  2. If only Zimmerman had stayed in his car! As far as I'm concerned, everything that followed was his fault.

  3. That may well be the verdict in the coming civil trial, Steve, but evidence was simply insufficient to convict in a criminal trial.

  4. I agree with you...the case that the prosecution presented was just not convincing enough. Why did they never raise question as to why Zimmerman did not stay in his car as told by the 911 operator?

    A radio host from New York tweeted: The fundamental danger of an acquittal is not more riots, it is more George Zimmermans. While the jury followed the directions, Zimmerman did not.

  5. I agree with you, Scott. The prosecution mishandled a difficult case based on circumstantial evidence and the jury had no choice but to find a not guilty verdict.

    But I'm not sure there will be a civil case. The Department of Justice announced today it was studying the criminal case to determine if a civil case was called for.