On Headline News Weekend Express, HLN Contributor Jason Johnson discusses signups for the Affordable Care Act as the March 31st Obamacare deadline looms.
“If you were wrongly accused of murder and found not guilty, how would you live the rest of your life, particularly if everyone in the world still believed you were the murderer?”
The majority of Americans who are old enough to remember the O.J. Simpson trial think that he either killed his ex-wife, Nicole, or certainly had something to do with it. When it was all over and Simpson was found not guilty, he had two choices: He could go live life in obscurity with his wealth or continue to try to live the public life of a celebrity he had before. Simpson chose poorly, and that eventually landed him in jail.
Based on his photo-ops and autograph signings at a gun show last weekend in Orlando, Florida, George Zimmerman is making the wrong choice as well, and if he’s not careful, he’ll end up like Simpson.
On Saturday, the New Orlando Gun Show took place at a small gun shop called “The Arms Room.” The event was initially supposed to take place at the large Majestic Event Center in Orlando, but the gun show organizer, Mike Piwowarski, added a special guest at the last minute: Zimmerman. When the Majestic owners found out that Zimmerman had been invited as a celebrity guest to sign autographs and take pictures, they canceled the contract and Piwowarski was forced to move his event to a smaller venue.
While the Majestic and Piwowarski argued over potential lawsuits and breach of contract, Zimmerman quietly came to the gun show, signed autographs, took pictures with people and lamented that people still “hate him.” Simpson was rolling over in his cell.
In his book, “I Wear the Black Hat,” Chuck Klosterman talks about villainy in public and how people that society has deemed to be “bad guys” choose to deal with their fate. Simpson actually behaved like an innocent man should: He was found not guilty, he expressed remorse for the death of his ex-wife and wanted to go back to living the public life he always had. And why shouldn’t he? Isn’t that exactly what an innocent man would do?
The public may have thought he was a wife-abusing murderer, but Simpson acted like a regular guy trying to get his life back. There’s a lesson in this for Zimmerman.
Zimmerman acts like a man who got away with murder. In the months since his acquittal of murder charges in the death of Trayvon Martin, he’s been in two domestic violence calls, done horribly tone-deaf interviews claiming he doesn’t understand the public’s anger, and tried to portray himself as a victim.
He’s tried to make himself into a celebrity painter, attempted a charity boxing match against fallen rapper DMX, and now he’s making celebrity appearances at gun shows 20 miles from where he fatally shot a 17-year-old two years ago.
It’s like he’s trolling the public, desperately searching for a way to live a celebrity life he never had while at the same time claiming he just wants to be left alone.
If Zimmerman feels he’s innocent, he should embrace his role as a celebrity. He should be on national tours, educating the nation about the importance of gun ownership or speaking out against President Barack Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative.
Every time we turn on the television, we should see Zimmerman testifying in front of Congress on the importance of keeping “Stand Your Ground” laws. Every National Rifle Association convention in the United States should have a “Zimmerman” booth, where he’d charge $100 per autograph.
He should join gun show organizers in suing the Majestic for discriminating against a private citizen who’s done no wrong. In others words, Zimmerman should act like an innocent man. But he can’t. And he won’t.
Simpson and Zimmerman have a lot in common. They’re both men with a history of domestic disturbances with women. They’re both men who were found not guilty because they were prosecuted by incompetent state attorneys. They are also both men who had a choice about how to rebuild their lives after murder trials.
Simpson refused to accept his role as a public villain and go quietly into private life. Zimmerman still has time to make a choice.
He could change his name, move away from Florida, rebuild his life and make peace with whatever higher power he claims to believe in. Instead, he seems intent on skulking around the edges of society, showing up at gun shows or in random places with artwork, then disappearing into the night.
He still has time to change and to embrace who he is, but he seems a little conflicted. I guess getting away with killing someone can do that do you.
This article originally appeared online at Headline News.
On Headline News Weekend Express, HLN contributor Jason Johnson discusses an NFL proposal to enforce a 15 yard penalty on players that use racial epithets such as the N-word.
The opening narration to “Law & Order” reminds Americans that our criminal justice system has two separate but equally important parts: We expect the cops to catch criminals and then we elect state attorneys to prosecute them.
We depend on state attorneys to represent the judicial desires of the voters no matter their color, class, gender or party affiliation. So when the government fails — when sheer unadulterated incompetence leads to one part of the criminal justice system consistently not being up to the task — it’s time for a change.
Florida State Attorney Angela Corey and her office failed Jordan Davis, his family, and the people of Florida by failing to get a murder conviction in the Michael Dunn trial. After going 0-2 in the two biggest cases of her career (Dunn and George Zimmerman), it’s time for Floridians to get better legal representation.
On Saturday, a day before what would have been Davis’ 19th birthday, a jury in Jacksonville, Florida came back with a verdict in the Dunn trial: Guilty on three counts of attempted murder, one count of shooting into an occupied vehicle, and they couldn’t decide on the counts of first and second-degree murder.
To many court observers, the Dunn trial was the “un-losable” case. No matter the race of the jury, or the media surrounding the case, convicting a man who shot into a car of teenagers because he thought their music was too loud seemed like a slam dunk. Once Dunn’s fiancée clearly contradicted his statements on the stand, coupled with the overwhelming direct evidence against him, this case should have been a no brainer for Corey and her team. Yet they still failed to get a conviction on their main charge of murder.
The reality is that race definitely played a role in the jury’s verdict. There is significant research in political science and sociology that shows the racial makeup of a jury has an impact on the final outcome of the trial. No attorney can perform miracles, and in the wake of the Zimmerman ruling, we know that states with Stand Your Ground laws — even when not invoked by the defense — are less likely to result in convictions against those who kill black men and women.
However, any competent prosecutor is expected to account for these factors and still get convictions.
In Corey’s case, the strategies for success seem to elude her and her staff. While Corey has established a reputation over the years for being a tough prosecutor, that reputation has come at the expense of the under-privileged and the poorly represented. Charging 12-year-olds as adults and putting Marissa Alexander away for 20 years for firing warning shots doesn’t make for an impressive resume.
But Corey’s mediocrity as a State Attorney runs even deeper than Zimmerman and Dunn. According to AVVO.com, an independent site ranking lawyer quality across the United States, Corey scores a paltry 6.7 out of 10. Compare this to the two defense attorneys who represented Zimmerman, Mark O’Mara (10.0) and Don West (10.0), Dunn’s defense attorney Cory Strolla (6.9), and even Casey Anthony’s prosecutor Jeff Ashton (7.3), and the picture becomes even clearer.
Corey has failed twice, and no one should have confidence that she could win a retrial against a ham sandwich, let alone a competent defense attorney.
If you elect a politician to build a bridge and clean up the streets, and they only get half of the job done, they should be booted out of office in the next election. Corey has established a reputation for cleaning up the streets, but failing miserably in the tough cases that require real courtroom skill and strategy.
Corey won the Republican primary for State Attorney in 2012 and went on to win her seat by running un-opposed in the general election. Every voter in her district should think long and hard about whether they’d want Corey representing their loved ones in a high-profile court case that requires more than smiling press conferences and post-loss platitudes.
Come 2016, there should be a long line of challengers to her position.
No single court case can stop racism or ignorance among a jury, but we elect public officials to do a job. When they fail at that job — not once, but twice — and have a mediocre track record that doesn’t suggest future improvements, it’s time for a change.
While the Davis family won’t be able to move on from Corey’s legal incompetence, the citizens of Florida have the chance to move on from her brand of bungling courtroom antics. If not for Davis then for the next victim who needs the best representation that tax money and a competent elected official should provide.
This article originally appeared online at Headline News.
On Morning Express with Robin Meade, HLN Contributor Jason Johnson discusses the verdict and mistrial in the trial of Michael Dunn for the shooting death of Jordan Davis.