Prosecutorial Abuse On Steroids
by William L. Anderson [edited by Amicus Curia]
Many casual observers of George Zimmerman’s show trial were surprised it ended with a “not guilty” verdict, given how the politics of race had so infected the entire saga from beginning to the announcement of the jury’s decision. After all, not only was Zimmerman indicted on charges based on the assumtion he had intentionally pursued Trayvon Martin with personal ill will and animosity while being in that supposed frame of mind when he shot the teen (17), but the weight of the very President of the United States had effectively declared Zimmerman guilty of a racially-motivated murder notwithstanding the preliminary nature of the proceedings.
There will be no shortfall of commentary on the verdict, the outlandish media coverage (which declared Zimmerman to be a “white Hispanic” laying the groundwork for the racial angle in the case to be most fully exploited). But let’s deal with another more familiar perspective: the prosecutorial abuse which helped drive this case. The politics of race, front-and-center, not only drove the push for criminal charges, but so did electoral politics–specifically electoral politics defining the recent career of Special Prosecutor Angela Corey.
At this point, it can be said, even after the trial has ended, confusion about what happened remains, but it’s also clear the State of Florida did not meet the legal burden of proof needed for a conviction–important to remember as President Obama, Al Sharpton, and any number of commentators openly were declaring this was a high-profile action involving race, a trial where the law should be bypassed and mob rule be the arbiter. Make no mistake; Obama, Sharpton, and the New York Times were declaring their belief the jury should have ignored legal standards of proof in exchange for a verdict the NYT declared would have been an “emotional catharsis.”
The NYT, and most news outlets, had refused to note the gated community where Zimmerman lived had been hit hard with numerous burglaries, thefts, or break-ins with recent months. The NAACP previously publicly declared Zimmerman a racist because he had made a number of calls before when on neighborhood watch. Both blacks and whites who lived there were adamant in their statements about the problems of crime:
One black neighbor of George Zimmerman said the neighborhood’s recent history should be taken into account.
“Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. I’m black, OK?” the woman said, declining to be identified because she anticipated backlash due to her race. She leaned in to look a reporter directly in the eyes. “There were black boys robbing houses in this neighborhood,” she said. “That’s why George was suspicious of Trayvon Martin.”
Understand this information was easily available to any journalist interested in finding out some fact. But in retrospect, most mainstream journalists and pundits had no interest in going outside of their narrow narratives of race. Ironically, those journalists would champion a prosecutor who had engaged in conduct which raised questions about her fairness in cases involving people of color. In fact, not one mainstream account referred to Corey’s tenuous relations with ethnic minorities. Once she secured charges of second-degree murder, she reached heroic stature in the eyes of the media.
Corey, before Martin was killed, had received numerous bitter complaints of prosecutorial abuse threatening her career. After Florida Gov. Rick Scott had appointed Corey as a special prosecutor to investigate the shooting (the police and local prosecutors had elected not to charge Zimmerman, concluding the facts didn’t meet the legal threshold to warrant it), it became a forgone conclusion things would end badly. Corey was in the midst of severe criticism for prosecutorial abuse in a case involving a 12-year-old boy named Cristian Fernandez charged as an adult with murder.
Fernandez had pushed his two-year-old brother against a bookshelf; the child died soon afterward. While punishment clearly was warranted, Corey’s decision to try him as an adult facing life in prison was seen as overkill by a number of people involved in Florida’s system of “justice.” Cory had not expected the level of public anger over her heavy-handed decision; she clearly was looking for a way to save or at least re-charge her career.
Scott’s appointment was a way for her to do it. First, it would re-establish her “get tough with crime” persona. Second, it would blunt the wrath racial minorities felt toward her. As one might expect, she pursued what essentially was a sham investigation and an inevitable outcome, an outcome that had obvious political ramifications.
The lead-up to Corey’s second-degree murder indictment against George Zimmerman came after what was an almost unprecedented campaign of vilification against him involving coordinated efforts by prominent blacks such as Al Sharpton, the U.S. Department of Justice (led by Attorney General Eric Holder), and the news media. In light of the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case, according to a number of journalists who covered the proceedings, what went down was shocking.
Early on, the media from CNN to the New York Times to NBC News (and especially its sister network, MSNBC) falsely claimed the Hispanic Zimmerman was “white,” that he killed Martin for “racial reasons.” There was no proof, but it didn’t matter as journalists simply declared what they wanted to opine.
Perhaps the lowest point of what was a very low standard for media coverage came when NBC News literally spliced together quotes from Zimmerman on a 911 call in order to make it look as though Zimmerman was racially profiling Martin. NBC reported the conversation between Zimmerman and the 911 dispatcher as follows:
Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.
This actually is what transpired during the call:
Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.
Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?
Zimmerman: He looks black.
The contrast is obvious as NBC deliberately tried to make the conversation something it wasn’t for the purpose of painting Zimmerman as a homicidal racist. (The NBC brass first insisted the network had done no wrong, but later quietly fired some people as even by the abysmal standards to which mainstream journalists adhere this was intolerably over the top.)
However, mainstream journalists were hardly finished completing their self-appointed tasks of trying to railroad Zimmerman to prison. About the time NBC News was busy splicing together Zimmerman’s comments, CNN solemnly broadcast Zimmerman had called Martin a “f*cking coon.” The left-wing Daily Kos picked it up, as did other news outlets. Two weeks later, CNN finally admitted he was saying, “f*cking cold,”…but not before legal analysts all over the country were declaring the statement “proved” Zimmerman was targeting and intending to kill blacks.
Not to be outdone by its competitors, ABC News declared to its viewers Zimmerman had “no injuries” from his encounter with Martin. Finally, President Barack Obama himself weighed in, essentially arguing Zimmerman was a racist murderer who needed to be prosecuted. (He and his attorney general Eric Holder – the same Eric Holder who was in charge of covering up the federal murders at Waco in 1993 – would look into pursuing federal charges against Zimmerman, something the journalists applauded. (Obama made more inflammatory statements at a press conference the afternoon following the announcement of the verdict.)
Yet another reason, other than sheer dishonesty/demagoguery and the desire to railroad a man into prison led ABC to obscure the fact that Zimmerman had received injuries during that fatal encounter. Corey, herself, had withheld photographs and other exculpatory evidence Martin had injured Zimmerman before gaining the indictment, an action which enraged the famed defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, who publicly criticized her. (For her part, Corey called Harvard University, ranted for 40 minutes, and threatened to sue the university.)
Why did Corey even file second-degree murder charges when it was clear that the state could not meet that threshold of evidence? The mainstream media made a conviction more likely, as journalists of supposedly reputable organizations literally made things up out of whole cloth, putting the lies on the Internet and the airwaves. The frenzy the media worked up made it easier for Corey to look like a crusader for justice rather than the dishonest opportunist she really was.
We can never know with certainty what happened in that encounter, other than Trayvon Martin was shot dead. At some point, Martin and Zimmerman tangled, Zimmerman getting the worst of it, which led to the shooting. What is known, however, is Corey’s people never came close to presenting evidence matching their rhetoric or the poisonous rhetoric American politicians and journalists had been spewing.
The trial of George Zimmerman was a show trial, but somewhere along the line, the six female jurors did not adhere to their pre-written script. However, that won’t stop those in power and those who supposedly make a living as journalists from making ludicrous claims Trayvon Martin was the Second Coming of Emmett Till or that Zimmerman was guilty of second-degree murder because Al Sharpton said so. This is the sorry state of current “justice” in the United States and…it will only get worse.