Did Trayvon Martin receive justice?
Reginald J. Clyne | 8/8/2013, 9:44 a.m.
Sixty-seven percent of Americans polled do not believe that a jury verdict of not guilty is justice for Trayvon Martin. This means that across race, gender, age and geographic location, most Americans do not believe that Martin received justice. However, the concept of justice in America in our court system is not always understood.
For instance, a person in a rear end collision, who will suffer pain for the rest of their life may be paid only $10,000, while a woman who puts hot coffee between her legs while driving is awarded millions by a jury. The rear end accident victim was paid the full policy limits of the defendant’s insurance and so while $10,000 is not complete compensation for life long pain, it is a fair payment from a person who has no financial resources other than a 10/20 insurance policy. In the instance of the woman who was awarded millions, the reality is that she was not paid as much as the jury award after appeals and a reduction in the award by the judge. As a lawyer, I take a much more conservative view of justice. I have seen cases where people have won that no one thought they could win and cases where someone lost that no one believed they should have lost. No matter how well you present your evidence, the jury can accept, reject or just completely misunderstand what you presented. And jury instructions are often confusing and a myriad of factors come into play when a jury reaches a verdict. Still, in an imperfect world, the jury system remains the best means of seeking justice that we have.
In my mind, justice is served if a person has a fair judge, an unbiased jury and competent counsel. In that instance, whatever the verdict is, it is justice — that means one had a fair trial and the chips fell as they may.
At the outset of the Trayvon Martin incident, I thought the legal system was failing him and his family because George Zimmerman seemed to be not subject to prosecution in a case where prosecution was warranted.
The absence of a fair trial was akin to no justice. As the trial continued, it became clear to me that a “not guilty verdict” was a strong possibility because the standard is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Zimmerman had excellent defense counsel who obtained excellent experts and a parade of witnesses who created reasonable doubt. In addition, Zimmerman’s physical demonstrated that a physical altercation took place which would support self defense. In contrast, the police investigation was not as strong as I would have liked and critical prosecution witnesses were not as credible or strong as could be hoped. While you may not like the outcome, Martin received a fair trial, before a fair judge and he had experienced counsel and justice was served. Ultimately, the system worked even though it rendered an outcome that is hard for everyone to accept and the life of a young man has been lost forever.
Reginald J. Clyne is a partner at Clyne and Associates, P.A. of Miami/Fort Lauderdale.