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Is this still America?

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By Thomas Sowell

Published: Tuesday, July 16, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

There are no winners in the trial of George Zimmerman. The only question is whether the damage that has been done has been transient or irreparable.

Legally speaking, Zimmerman has won his freedom. But he can still be sued in a civil case, and he will probably never be safe to live his life in peace, as he could have before this case made him the focus of national attention and orchestrated hate.

More important than the fate of George Zimmerman, however, is the fate of the American justice system and of the public's faith in that system and in their country. People who have increasingly asked, during the lawlessness of the Obama administration, “Is this still America?” may feel some measure of relief.

But the very fact that this case was brought in the first place, in an absence of serious evidence, will be of limited encouragement as to how long this will remain America.

The political perversion of the criminal justice system began early and at the top, with the president of the United States. Unlike other public officials who decline to comment on criminal cases that have not yet been tried in court, Barack Obama chose to say, “If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.” It was a clever way to play the race card.

But it did not stop there. After the local police in Florida found insufficient evidence to ask for Zimmerman to be prosecuted, the Obama administration sent Justice Department investigators to Sanford, Fla., and used taxpayers' money to finance local activists who agitated for Zimmerman to be arrested.

Political intervention did not end with the federal government. The city manager in Sanford intervened to prevent the usual police procedures from being followed.

When the question arose of identifying the voice calling for help during the confrontation between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, the normal police procedure would have been to let individuals hear the recording separately, rather than have a whole family hear it together. When the city manager took this out of the hands of the police, and had Trayvon Martin's family, plus Rachel Jeantel, all hear the recording together, that's politics, not law.

This was just one way that this case looked like something out of “Alice in Wonderland.” Both in the courtroom and in the media, educated and apparently intelligent people said things that they seemed sincerely to believe, but which were unprovable and often even unknowable.

The jury indicated, as their deliberations began, that they wanted to compare hard evidence, when they asked for a complete list of the testimony on both sides. Once the issue boiled down to hard, provable facts, the prosecutors' loud histrionic assertions and sweeping innuendoes were just not going to cut it.

Nor was repeatedly calling Zimmerman a liar effective, especially when the prosecution misquoted what Zimmerman said, as an examination of the record would show.

The only real heroes in this trial were the jurors. They showed that this is still America — at least for now — despite politicians who try to cheapen or corrupt the law, as if this were some banana republic.

Some are already calling for a federal indictment of George Zimmerman, after he has been acquitted. Will this still be America then?

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

 

 
 


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