Zimmerman Prosecutor Defines Court of Law vs. Court of Public Opinion

The law and the bright lights of the media collided in a big way yesterday with the long-anticipated press conference by the special prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin case. Media representatives from around the world gathered to hear Angela Corey announce that she would pursue second degree murder charges against Martin’s shooter, George Zimmerman.  As we have noted before, the press – aided by those who have already reached their own conclusions based only on media reports – likes to consume itself with endless speculation about what the outcome should be, despite not having the benefit of an actual investigation. 

During her first appearance on the national stage, Corey passed with flying colors by setting forth clearly and articulately how the criminal justice system is supposed to work and why it is and must be completely different than how the press would handle things. Among her relevant points: 

• A criminal charge is based upon application of the law to the evidence, not because of media coverage or public opinion

•  A prosecutor’s mission is to seek the truth

• Prosecutors have strict rules regarding what they can and cannot discuss

• In the criminal justice system, facts are revealed carefully and painstakingly in a court of law to protect the rights of everyone involved

• Everyone should refrain from judging the case until “due diligence and due process takes its course”

That is exactly how the system is supposed to work.  Of course, some cynics will suggest that Corey’s comments are words only and won’t be followed.  Perhaps, but that will become clear as the case unfolds and the eventual trial takes place. Even prosecutors, who have a tremendous amount of power, can be severely punished when they violate their oath.

If this were the Old West, Zimmerman might already have been hunted down by vigilantes or strung up by a mob. We’re fortunate that we live in times like these, where the case is in the hands of a prosecutor who understands both the need for justice and the rights of the accused as she seeks to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.  

Posted: 4/12/2012 2:42:10 PM by Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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