The recent decision in the Zimmerman trial in Florida left many shocked and angry as the neighborhood watchman was ultimately found ‘not guilty’ for the murder of Trevon Martin. In many ways, the fallout after the Zimmerman trial is a reflection of the overall situation in America: what is considered “right” is not based on facts or foundational principles but simply upon what Americans as a group want.
The American justice system is far from perfect. Many have been acquitted who are guilty and many have been found guilty who are actually innocent. But consider the genius behind the jury system. The assumption of innocence is maintained throughout trials, forcing evidence and the prosecution to prove guilt ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ The accused must stand before a jury of their peers, who must reach a unanimous decision of guilt or innocence. The entire process is overseen by an appointed judge who acts, not as judge and jury, but as the supervisor of proceedings, ensuring that the trial is fair and objective. The judge is given the rare authority to overrule a jury’s decision or declare a mistrial and retrial. Any outside tampering or influence upon the system is grounds for such a mistrial. In as many ways as possible, the jury trial system is as objective as is humanly possible. And that does not even include the appellate system or the larger judicial system which contains a series of checks and balances, methods for choosing jurors, and opportunities in subsequent trials for an individual to prove their innocence. Although far from perfect, the jury trial attempts to be objective.
The jury system is also a system of consensus. Citizens and government each agree to submit to the decisions of the jury, using whatever legal avenues are available for arguing their point of view. Each gives up rights for the greater good. The government gives its citizens the right to decide the case. The citizens give up the right to enforce their own brand of justice.
What occurred in Florida was an objective trial, held before Zimmerman’s peers, overseen by a judge, watched by the Attorney General of the United States, with all the objective safeguards possible. It took place under the consensus of the American people and the state of Florida. And yet, despite all of that, many Americans are upset at the results. Never mind the fact that Zimmerman received a fair trial, the jury reviewed all of the evidence, the prosecution prosecuted the case to the best of their ability, and the judge allowed the verdict to stand. Never mind the fact that the judicial system relies heavily upon citizen and government abiding by the decisions of the jury. What Americans appear to want is not an objective trial of persons accused of crimes, but subjective trials in the court of public opinion. The result of such mob mentality would be the removal of objectivism and the condemnation of those we want to be declared guilty rather than those who are actually guilty. If the objective consensus of the judicial system is removed, what would stop the American form of justice from becoming lynchings or totalitarian dictatorship?
It should really come as no surprise as America has already established that subjectivism, not objective truth, rules the day. Our current culture’s stance on what is right and wrong is based on subjective ideas of what we want rather than any foundational principle. The mass demonstrations simply show that many Americans do not care what an objective court determined; they want their perceived ounce of flesh. What is most scary about the fallout from the Zimmerman case is that now many Americans are not simply attempting to remove a universal foundation for the law, but now they wish to remove the law itself when it prevents the desires of the masses. Most Americans do not even realize what they are really saying when they argue against the results of such judicial proceedings? The results of a system lacking objectivity or consensus would be disastrous.
Such a system would have little foundation and little bearing on the future. Citizens would be left to wonder from one case to the next what the dictator or mob would decide. Previous decisions by the court would have no bearing and the consistency of justice would be eroded. Justice itself would become subjective. In a word, what has happened to American morality would would occur to American justice. Without an objective foundation, and left to the whims of the people, justice would become as wishy-washy as morality. Wish means that as we see the result of the Zimmerman trial, whether we agree or disagree with the results, we should rejoice that here in the judiciary jury trials, objective truth still rules the day. May true objective fairness and consensus continue (and maybe even spread back into American morality!)