Scottish “Not Proven” Verdict & Zimmerman trial

“Not proven is a verdict available to a court in Scotland. . . .. Under Scots law, a criminal trial may end in one of three verdicts: one of conviction (“guilty”) and two of acquittal (“not proven” and “not guilty”). . .. . . . . [there] is the modern perception that the “not proven” verdict is an acquittal used when the judge or jury does not have enough evidence to convict but is not sufficiently convinced of the accused person’s innocence to bring in a “not guilty” verdict. Essentially, the judge or jury is unconvinced that the suspect is innocent, but has insufficient evidence to the contrary. In popular parlance, this verdict is sometimes jokingly referred to as “not guilty and don’t do it again”.” (from Wikipedia, s.v., “not proven”).

A choice like this could be a safety valve for an emotional, widely-publicized case like the Zimmerman / Trayvon Martin case.
However, under Florida law, the “not guilty” verdict was obvious. Nobody (except Zimmerman) knows what really happened during the tragic fight. That, alone is reasonable doubt. And a crime requires criminal intent. I don’t think many criminals would call 911 for the police to come just before committing a crime. But Zimmerman did call 911. It may be that Martin felt as threatened by Zimmerman as Zimmerman felt threatened by Martin. Stereotyping and profiling are alive and well. That is the cultural tragedy which has mesmerized the nation about this case. But it would be an even greater tragedy to make Zimmerman a scapegoat (ie to “lynch” him) in order to placate the righteous indignation of those who are dissatisfied with our cultural shortcomings – however justified they may be in their dissatisfaction. .

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