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When I posted on the call for justice in the Trayvon Martin tragedy not long ago, most of the facts were still unknown. George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon Martin has now been charged with second-degree murder by State Prosecutor Angela Corey. It looks as if we may finally be moving toward justice based on a careful review of the evidence. Then again, maybe not.

The charge of second-degree murder filed against George Zimmerman by State Prosecutor Angela Corey may leave the families affected, the good people of Sanford, and the entire nation in a more precarious position. Here’s why: It looks likely that the charge will be tossed out before the case gets to trial.

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Harvard law professor Alan Dershowtiz claims the details of the charging affidavit don’t come anywhere near establishing the probable cause required to charge George Zimmerman with second-degree murder. Read the brief charging affidavit yourself and count the holes, misstatements, and absence of critical facts in the case. There is much about Zimmerman — not all of it accurate — but little about Trayvon and the bigger picture we are seeing now that doesn’t fit the all-American-boy-scout image the media has portrayed. As Allahpundit at points out, the affidavit does not make a valid case for second-degree murder under Florida law. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t know what George Zimmerman is guilty of, if anything. But this bit of legal jujitsu will likely move us not toward justice but even greater disillusionment.

Insufficient evidence in the charging affidavit begs the question: why would an experienced prosecutor file such charges? There’s no way I could read the mind of Angela Corey, of course. Does she have political ambitions? If so, how exactly is botching this case supposed to help her career? Is she simply engaging in grandstanding as Dershowitz suggests? Was she facing political pressure behind the scenes? I don’t know. None of it moves us any closer to justice for either Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman.

Perhaps the charge was filed out of fear of riots or outrage at a lesser charge such as manslaughter. There may be good reason to be afraid. There have already been a reports of such fallout:

A faith-based understanding requires us to never let fear define justice. “God has not given us the spirit of fear.” (2 Tim. 1:7)  “In righteousness you will be established…. You will have nothing to fear.” (Is. 54:14)  “Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord; but a just weight is His delight.” (Prov. 11:1) Clearly fear-based thinking that gets justice wrong won’t cut it with God. As people of faith, we must insist on justice without fear of consequences.

We see the debilitating effects of fear on decision-making in our schools every day where the fear of being sued has brought innovation to a halt for decades. We no longer lead the world in education largely because we are paralyzed by that fear of criticism. We are afraid to move forward. As Seth Godin puts it succinctly in Tribes:

What people are afraid of isn’t failure. It’s blame. Criticism. We choose not to be remarkable because we’re worried about criticism.

Perhaps that fear of criticism motivated Angela Corey to file an anemic charging affidavit against George Zimmerman.  Perhaps, somehow, justice will still be done for Trayvon Martin and everyone involved. I pray so. But it sure looks as if things are about to get a lot messier before we can get much needed clarity.

What role do you think fear is playing in this case? What should be done to clear a path to justice that is truly blind — as it should be? Leave a comment to share your thoughts. 


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