A Great Hour for America
The smear campaign against Zimmerman was disgraceful, but the verdict was just.

George Zimmerman hears the not-guilty verdict on July 13.


Conrad Black

The principal takeaway from the Zimmerman trial and verdict is that the greatness of America and its people still vastly exceeds the corruption and in many respects, the outright evil of its justice system. More important by far were the dignity and stoicism of the defendant and the eloquence and simply hewn moral strength of his counsel, than the mealy-mouthed pieties of the egregious state attorney general and the sanctimony of the defeated prosecutors. More eloquent than all, perhaps, was the silence of the jury after each had confirmed the verdict: “Not guilty.” It was an inexpressible relief to find anyone associated with an American trial, in particular those most importantly involved in it apart from the defendant, whose chief purpose did not appear to be garrulously to inflict upon the parched and biased media their vapid expatiations on everything.


In this case, the judge, like most American judges in criminal cases, was an ex-prosecutor and acted effectively as part of the prosecution. She was biased in her rulings and abusive and injudiciously rude in her manner, and she did her best to salvage something for the prosecution by giving the jury the right to find guilty on a lesser charge at the very end of the trial. Prosecutors win 99.5 percent of their cases in the United States, an unheard of figure in the democratic world (about 60 percent in Canada and just over 50 percent in Great Britain are convicted, and in both countries the procedural rules are equal, the media are discouraged from poisoning the wells of the jury pools and lynching the defendants before the trial begins, and the defense speaks last to the jury). Of these 99.5 percent, 97 percent are without trial, after prosecution manipulation of the plea bargain so that everyone who has ever met the target can be given immunity from perjury prosecution and told that if their memories do not produce something useful to the government they will be charged as co-conspirators with the defendant. In the countries mentioned, and many others, prosecutors would be disbarred for what is routine in the United States.

So those who go to trial in the U.S. have about a one in six chance of not being convicted: grim, but not hopeless odds. In the Zimmerman case, there were no witnesses to the fatal and tragic encounter between the defendant and the deceased, Trayvon Martin, so the abuse of the plea bargain could not thicken and serry the ranks of prosecution stooges repeating their rehearsed lines like parrots reciting the catechism extracted from them by prosecutors as the condition for not prosecuting them, the lugubrious farce featured in most American criminal trials. The Sanford police did not want to charge Zimmerman, because there was no evidence, from witnesses or forensic analysis, to contradict his story that it was a case of self-defense. So there would be no men in blue testifying under oath to his guilt and no chance for a cops-are-tops Manichaean bout between the Society of Laws and the Forces of Darkness. (The problem with American justice is not and never was that the country is a police state. If anything, it is still under-policed, and though there are many imperfections in the constabulary, the police in general are competent if given the right orders. The problem is the prosecutors, who are out of control policemen in suits performing in front of judges who are prosecutors in robes, for the benefit of jurors an inordinate number of whom are the dregs of society.)

Deprived of the usual stacked deck, the prosecution, roused to action by that ineffable pillar of popular theology and racial harmony, the Reverend Al Sharpton, relied not just on playing the race card and, as Johnnie Cochrane’s co-counsel said of him in the O. J. Simpson case, dealing it “off the bottom of the deck.” It emulated the opening of My Little Chickadee, where W. C. Fields, faced with a hand of four aces, put down five aces and claimed the pot. The attorney general, Eric Holder, urged pro-Trayvon demonstrations, presumably because he prejudged Zimmerman to be guilty, and the president, in the most distressingly novel aspect of the case, averred that if he had had a son, he would look like the deceased. No previous U.S. president had so prejudicially inserted himself in a criminal proceeding. And the national media, showing again why they are distrusted by most and why the following of the main traditional television networks and periodicals has shriveled for decades, joined the liberal political establishment in trying to make the case a watershed against racial profiling and the full panoply of minority grievances. George Zimmerman was to be a symbol, a metaphor turned on the spit over the fire of racial bigotry. The New York Times invented the term “white Hispanic” to deprive the target of minority sympathy, but at least that newspaper, whose controlling shareholders would probably not like to be described as “Anglo-Saxonoid Jews,” stopped short of inciting the inference, as some of the African-American media allegedly did, that he was a Jew. The CNN legal correspondent, an attractive and articulate ex-prosecutor, Sunny Hostin, was rabidly partisan and commented at the merciful end that “Justice has taken a holiday.” I think not, but any sense of professionalism she may have, did.