UPDATE 13 July, 2013: George Zimmerman has been found not guilty of murder, and has been acquitted on all charges.

Books are written about it. Movie plots hang on it. Everyone loves a good suspenseful murder trial. And why not? It’s great drama. Someone is dead, and the life of another hangs in the balance.

Soon we will all know the fate of accused murderer George Zimmerman. My prediction is a verdict in Zimmerman’s favor. At the beginning of the trial I thought the prosecution would be a lot stronger, but ultimately from what I’ve seen in following this case, I think the prosecution’s key arguments were all either disproved or significantly weakened. Evidence has to support you beyond reasonable doubt, and I think there plenty of doubt that this was actually a murder, rather than a neighborhood watch altercation gone deadly.

A tipped scale?

Cases like the Zimmerman trial drive my political nerve crazy, because they automatically disadvantage the defendant. People who were not present when the shooting occurred have decided for the rest of the world what happened that night.

In our court system, it is said the “burden of proof” lays upon the accuser, because our American belief and law considers men innocent until proven guilty. And that’s absolutely true; the George Zimmerman trial  is an attempt to prove his guilt.

So what’s the disadvantage? This trial has become an attempt to prove the innocence of Mr. Zimmerman. He chased down some kid eating a bag of Skittles and went in for the kill. Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee lost his job for not having him arrested. Protests denouncing the killing as racism and a hate crime garnered national media attention. There’s even expectated riots if the jury finds him innocent.

In short, widespread publicity has altered the normal process of justice.

Sometimes that can be a good thing, in situations where justice is not being applied, and political pressure forces the system to operate. Then there’s instances like this, where an investigation in progress was interrupted, and certain key elements were released to the public against the direction of the police department.

Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplet overruled Police Chief Lee, who wanted to play the 911 call to family members one at a time in order to establish untainted opinions of who was crying for help. Instead, he made the call publicly available and had it played to the whole family at once.

Not the first time

In Oklahoma, we’ve had our own “white on black” self-defense-turned murder trial recently. In 2011, Jerome Ersland was convicted of the murder of 16 year old Antwun Parker, whom he shot after Parker and a friend entered his pharmacy with a gun, attempting to rob it. Ersland responded with his own gun, shooting Parker in the head. This would have been the end of the story, and there would likely be no trial even if that shot killed Parker, if not for the fact that Ersland came back inside after chasing down the other would-be robber, and shooting Parker 5 more times.

That was certainly a mistake, and a costly one resulting in a life sentence for Ersland.

Both Zimmerman and Ersland could have chosen different courses of action that would have prevented their trials in the first place, but neither one of them woke up one day with the intent to kill anyone.

Zimmerman woke up planning to do his neighborhood watch. Ersland woke up planning to run his pharmacy, just like any other day. In both instances someone else came onto the property, which led to the shootings. Both acted in self defense, at least initially.

I say they are disadvantaged in the trials because though they are legally treated as innocent, the public and even the families of the victims treat them as guilty, before the trials are even held.

To give further evidence to my case that defendants are disadvantaged in trials like these, the Associated Press is reporting today that the jury may now be considering other lesser charges than murder. These are charges, including child abuse, that were not originally brought to the trial. The prosecution feels it was unable to satisfy the  requirements to prove murder, so now it’s just going for anything it can get.

My argument is not that either of these men are innocent or being unjustly tried, but