In the United States some people break the court systems down into civil courts, criminal courts and the court of public opinion. While in fact many courts have dual jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases, the distinction is valid to some extent. That is recognized in the fact that most jurisdictions have separate civil rules of evidence and procedure and criminal rules of evidence and procedure.
Through recorded history, we know that certain cases have captured the attention of the public and been tried in a third court; the court of public opinion.
When we try a case in civil court, we are seeking a civil remedy; generally money damages. When we try a case in a criminal court, we are seeking a criminal penalty; either jail time or a fine. But when we try a case in the court of public opinion, what we are seeking is essentially a political result. At least past a certain point, all someone is doing is promoting their political agenda; and we are past that point.
In my opinion, promoting our political agendas prosecuting criminal cases in the court of public opinion subverts the process. Think about it. The court of public opinion is the only court with an infinite number of judges assigned to the case. It is the only court where no witnesses are ever sworn to tell the truth, and where people that weren’t present at the time, people that cannot shed any real light on the case, can call themselves to testify without end, no matter how brilliantly their bias shines. It is the only place where the real “evidence” can be “edited” to convey a totally different meaning and no one is held accountable. It is the only court with unlimited opening and closing arguments. It is the only court not empowered to dispense justice, but with the very real power to subvert it.
Recent media circus / trials in the court of public opinion/ that come to mind include Michael Jackson and O. J. Simpson’s trials. While I have no way of knowing whether justice was done in those cases, I can say that both cases cost everyone involved large fortunes, and that they served one purpose very well: they divided our nation along racial lines.
I think the question we all need to ask is, “who is served by this polarization?” If we all blindly point a finger at “the other side” as if THEY are the enemy, we all lose. Our unity in seeking justice and the truth, through an unbiased court of law, is the only hope any of us have. Trying a case in the court of public opinion works for political gain, but in the process, “we the people” lose. The only way this nation can win, is to refuse to play the finger pointing, blame game we are being bated into.
STAND YOUR GROUND IS NOT THE ISSUE:
On the issue of the Florida “Stand Your Ground” law, “standing his ground” has nothing to do with George Zimmerman’s case. This case will be decided based on plain old self defense (though that justification is contained in the same section of the Florida statute). Either George Zimmerman’s use of deadly force in self defense was justified under the facts and Florida law or it wasn’t. If he was flat on his back with someone straddle his chest, pounding his head, there is no place to retreat. If he confronted a man, bullied him and shot him in cold blood that’s Second Degree Murder under Florida’s statute, and there is no justification for it in any state. Under the Florida statute the question is going to be, did he reasonably believe it was necessary to use deadly force to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself (Sect 776.013 (3)). In any state in the country, that’s a straight up question of self defense.
That’s just my opinion.