Mike Kueber's Blog

April 12, 2012

George Zimmerman is finally arrested

Filed under: Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 8:13 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I have no objection to George Zimmerman finally being arrested in connection with the killing of Trayvon Martin.  America’s system of justice provides for people to be arrested when there is probable cause that the person committed the crime.  Because I don’t know the facts, I can’t say whether the arrest was justified or unjustified. 

According to an article in ezinearticles.com, probable cause in Florida means “that the facts and circumstances must indicate more likely than not that a crime was committed by the person who is being arrested.”  This standard is much less than “beyond reasonable doubt” required for a criminal conviction and appears similar to the standard required in non-criminal cases – i.e., a preponderance of the evidence.  Please recall that O.J. was found not guilty of murder under the criminal standard of “beyond reasonable doubt,” but was found liable for wrongful death under the civil standard of “a “preponderance of the evidence.” 

I also have no objection to the Zimmerman/Martin matter being reviewed by a special prosecutor after the local officials concluded there was no probable cause that Zimmerman committed a crime.  The U.S. constitution prohibits double jeopardy, but American courts do not consider jeopardy to attach during a preliminary investigation. 

I am concerned, however, despite the special prosecutor’s assertions to the contrary, that Zimmerman’s arrest was prompted by the outcry in the media.  And I suspect that some of this outcry was based on a misunderstanding of the law.  Because most of us don’t know the critical facts of the case, we are not in a position to know whether an arrest was appropriate. 

My favorite talk-show guy, Don Imus, has been howling for weeks that Zimmerman should be arrested and then there should be an investigation to determine if he is guilty.  That is wrong.  Zimmerman should not be arrested unless there was probable cause that he was guilty of a crime.  You don’t arrest and then investigate.  Instead you investigate and then arrest if you find probable cause that Zimmerman committed a crime.  And finally, after the arrest, you are required to prove beyond reasonable doubt to a jury that Zimmerman committed the crime.

Thus, we will not know until all the facts come out whether Zimmerman’s arrest was justified.  Until then, we need to give the prosecutor the benefit of a doubt, something that most of the media refused to give to the initial investigation by the police and local prosecutor.  Instead of asking for a special investigation, they asked for an arrest.  That is not the “presumed innocent” that is fundamental to the American way.

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7 Comments »

  1. I understand the distinction you make, and don’t disagree with it. But we are lawyers. I don’t think, in the wake of such a killing, when the shooter has gone free, that it occurs to most laypeople to demand, “independent investigation!” or “special prosecutor!” Based on what they know, they want an arrest.

    Comment by Rebecca Abel — April 12, 2012 @ 8:58 pm | Reply

    • Maybe the demands of the parents for an arrest are understandable, but I expect more from Don Imus. I’m going to send him a criticism. Furthermore, I wonder what the process is for triggering a special investigation from either the state or federal government. (I think the Feds are still looking into the shooting.) That can be your assignment, Becky.

      Comment by Mike Kueber — April 12, 2012 @ 9:13 pm | Reply

  2. Rebecca,

    “most laypeople” don’t know what they want and moo with the rest of the herd… i expect the DA to do their job. i expect the police to do their job. i would hope that in all cases where there is reasonable doubt a person is presummed innocent and not arrested. i don’t have a problem with the family, and others questioning the DA or the police. the only problems i’ve had in this whole deal is the press.

    when i was 17 i got a draft card and was told get ready to visit Vietnam. a 17 year old is not a “boy” or a “child”. showing pictures at age 12 is manipulaitve beyond rationaization. if it isn’t manipulative then why not show pictures of Zimmerman looking all boyish at age 12? likewise, if Zimmerman is a “white Hispanic” then is Obama a “white African American”? Alas, this mentality is why the founders established a Republic…

    Comment by Q — April 13, 2012 @ 1:02 pm | Reply

  3. […] former co-worker at USAA, Becky Abel, recently commented in response to my posting about George Zimmerman’s arrest and the fact that many people seemed to think an arrest was […]

    Pingback by Did the special prosecutor over-charge George Zimmerman? « Mike Kueber's Blog — April 13, 2012 @ 7:20 pm | Reply


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