With the media hoopla surrounding the Zimmerman trial, a casual observer might be excused for thinking that this was the most contentious murder trial in American history. Even more so when you consider the underlying threats of retribution and riots if the “wrong” verdict is handed down.
But let’s step back a minute. You are, after all, Americans, and there is a shining example your proud history that ought to elevate this debate above the petty race-baiting so prevalent today.
History provides a far more emotionally charged example of clashing us-or-them groups, and an example in particular wherein not one, but several, people lay dead with the defendants claiming self-defense.
It was Boston. Tensions between the locals and the Redcoats were high, having something to do with Tea and a Harbor not long before that. On the 5th of March, 1770, a mob of locals jeered at, taunted, and attacked the British Sentries.
Shots were fired, and several Bostonians died. Naturally, the locals were outraged, and no local lawyers were willing to defend the Redcoats. Except, that is, for one John Adams, who insisted they get a fair trial.
Adams — no fan of the Crown — defended them, and saw many acquitted.
Adams — later President Adams — wrote in his diary:
“The part I took in defense of captain Preston and the soldiers, procured me anxiety, and obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country. Judgment of death against those soldiers would have been as foul a stain upon this country as the executions of the Quakers or witches, anciently.”
The American public would do well to consider the importance their founders placed on the presumption of innocence, and a fair trial, before presuming the guilt of the current defendant.
Unless, of course, as a nation, you are abandoning the principles that made you great in the first place.