The Corner

When Law Becomes Politics

Ms. Jeralyn Merritt runs a blog called “TalkLeft,” which I happened upon when trying to update myself on the Zimmerman case. Ms. Merritt is an accomplished criminal defense attorney of left-wing views — hence the name of her blog — and I doubt that I, or many readers of NR, would agree with many of her political opinions. But her blog’s analysis of the Zimmerman case was thorough, and thoroughly documented, and her conclusion has an integrity about it that warrants consideration by thoughtful people across the political spectrum. For that reason, I’m stepping away from my usual subject — the national defense — to post what she has to say: 

Now that the evidence has been presented, my previously expressed opinions on this case have only become more solidified. Looking to the future, and the legacy of this case, here is what I see. Keep in mind this is only my opinion.

Whether George Zimmerman is acquitted or convicted, and I am not making any predictions before hearing closing arguments and reading the jury instructions, the legacy of this case will be that the media never gets it right, and worse, that a group of lawyers, with the aid of a public relations team, who had a financial stake in the outcome of pending and anticipated civil litigation, were allowed to commandeer control of Florida’s criminal justice system, in pursuit of a divisive, personal agenda.

Their transformation of a tragic but spontaneous shooting into the crime of the century, and their relentless demonization of the person they deemed responsible, not for a tragic killing, but for “cold-blooded murder,” has called into question the political motives and ethics of the officials serving in the Executive branch of Florida’s government, ruined the career of other public officials, turned the lives of the Zimmerman family, who are as innocent as their grieving clients, into a nightmare, and along the way, set back any chance of a rational discussion of the very cause they were promoting, probably for years.

The problems of racial disparity and arbitrary enforcement of our criminal laws are real, systemic and need to be addressed. Criminal defense lawyers see it and fight to correct it every day. From charging decisions to plea offers to sentences, the system is not fair and everybody knows it.

But this case has never been representative of those problems. And perhaps most unfortunate of all, as a result of the false narrative created by the lawyers for grieving parents who tragically lost their son — a narrative perpetuated by a complicit and ratings-hungry media — any attempt at meaningful reform is likely to fall on deaf ears for years to come.

Those who want to read Ms. Merritt’s analysis in greater depth can find it here.

 
Jim Talent — Jim Talent is a former U.S. senator for Missouri and a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

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