Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Matinee Showings at the Theater of the Absurd

And it's true we are immune
When fact is fiction and TV reality....

- U2

Yesterday morning in a courtroom in central Florida jury selection began in the matter of State of Florida v. George Zimmerman.   Unless the rock you have been living under for the eighteen months does not have Wi-fi Zimmerman's name is most likely one that has at least a casual air of familiarity to you.  He is the man who shot Trayvon Martin.  He has been charged with Mr. Martin's murder, a charge to which he has entered a plea of "not guilty", which the Constitution of the United States permits him to do.  The burden now rests with the State of Florida to prove that Zimmerman did that which he is charged with having done and to do so by proving his guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.  

High-profile murder trials are big business in these United States, which is why Zimmerman's murder trial shall be televised nationally.  The broadcasting of such events has given rise to a new, particularly virulent strain of vermin:  the legal talking head.  Having learned from their brethren in the sports divisions of their various networks that viewers crave expert analysis and especially love receiving it from one who played the game, news divisions across broadcast and cable television learned to hire telegenic, opinionated attorneys to dispense their allegedly expert opinions to the huddled masses.  They learned right quick that the folks at home lap up legalese faster than a litter of thirsty kittens at a saucer of cream.  

For however long Zimmerman's murder trial lasts, the effect of its result on two families (the Zimmermans and the Martins) shall be no greater than a tertiary concern for those in the business of broadcast journalism.  What shall matter to the shills is their ability to get their message out there to their target audience.  And to increase their viewership and to enhance the likelihood of their word being elevated to the level of Gospel, they shall do what snake-oil salesmen have been doing since time immemorial:  they shall present conjecture, supposition, bias and opinion in the guise of fact.  And those who know no better shall sit in front of their television sets and nod approvingly - before powering up their laptops or their Mac Books and dispensing their newly-acquired "knowledge" (My apologies Dr. Einstein for stretching relativity up to - if not beyond - its logical breaking point) to their friends - and to the world at large - via Twitter, Facebook, etc.  The speed at which ignorance is capable of reproduction never ceases to amaze me.  

As a lawyer - and as a lawyer who earns his living as a litigator, which involves trying cases when necessary - there is one thing that I can state with almost 100% certainty without having seen a single piece of evidence in the Zimmerman case:  I have no idea what the jurors are going to think of and feel about the evidence presented.  And you know what?  Neither does anyone else.  It matters not whether the "legal expert" is the horrid Nancy Grace or one of her equally dreadful ilk.  Irrespective of his/her experience as an attorney and irrespective of his/her experience either prosecuting or defending criminal trials, he or she cannot state with certainty how a single juror or - ultimately - the group of six who shall comprise the panel in this case (foure alternates are also being chosen) is going to respond to a piece of demonstrative evidence or to the testimony of a particular witness.  

The attorneys trying this case for the State and Mr. Zimmerman - who know far more about the strengths and weaknesses of their argument than anyone else - and who shall spend far more time analyzing the jury and sizing up the panel's responses and reactions to events as they unfold at trial - cannot predict with certainty what the jury shall do and how it shall react.   When a "legal expert" pops up on your television at the end of a day's proceedings and informs you with certainty how and what the jury shall make of what they heard and saw during that day's trial, the so-called expert is not making a mistake. 

He or she is lying.  And he or she is counting upon you being a fool sufficient to take the bait.  Do not.  

Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand;
it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice & mercy.


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