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Sunday, January 24, 2021

With Zimmerman’s acquittal came shock, rage and celebration. Activity spiked across social media as everyone weighed in on whether justice was served. Friends turned on each other, relatives engaged in feuds, and others lashed out against complete strangers in fury.

Regardless of what people think transpired on the fateful Feb. 26, 2012 night, justice was served in some degree.

The justice served was not in relation to Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin. It was not justice in relation to how media outlets swayed their audiences. The justice served lies in how Florida’s justice system, for the second time — the first being the Casey Anthony trial — worked as it was supposed to.

I believe Zimmerman deserved punishment for provoking the fight that led to Martin’s death by following him after a police dispatcher instructed Zimmerman not to. I believe Anthony murdered her child.

I also believe that the prosecution in both cases was not able to prove Anthony or Zimmerman’s guilt beyond any reasonable doubt to an unbiased jury.

Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. That’s one of the most basic tenets of our justice system. Verdicts are not delivered as “guilty” or “innocent.” Verdicts are read as “guilty” or “not guilty.” The burden of proof falls upon prosecutors. The defense isn’t required to prove innocence. Zimmerman’s attorneys knew and used this, just as Anthony’s did.

Part of why the burden of proof fell exclusively to the prosecution in this case was because of the terribly worded and horribly conceived “stand your ground” law, in which the primary imperative to flee potentially dangerous situations if possible to do so safely is removed.

As The Wall Street Journal reported: “Defense attorney Mark O’Mara urged jurors not to make assumptions in a case riddled with uncertainties. ‘You can’t fill in the gaps,’ he told them. ‘You can’t connect the dots for the state attorney’s office.’”

In short, because of the laws in effect, and the lack of undisputed evidence, an acquittal was pretty much the only verdict that could be fairly reached when “fairly” applies to the functions of the legal system.

Logan Ladnyk is a UF journalism junior. His columns appear Tuesdays.

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