The media at one point painted George Zimmerman as a man who automatically would be found guilty of murder. As we now know, he has been acquitted.
While there are many real and fundamental differences between the Zimmerman case and the murder case against Aaron Hernandez, anyone who watched the Zimmerman trial now understands that, under our system of criminal justice, there are no slam dunks.
There are no slam dunks because our system of justice would rather see 10 guilty men go free than one innocent man be imprisoned. The field tilts strongly in favor of the accused, with multiple constitutional protections aimed at ensuring that no one who is wrongfully accused will be wrongfully convicted.
Zimmerman’s case, as it was framed and presented by prosecutors, had plenty of reasonable doubt. Watching the trial, it was obvious; prosecutors either should have done a far better job presenting their case, or they shouldn’t have pursued it. Hernandez’s case may not nearly have as much reasonable doubt, but all it takes is a single if-it-doesn’t-fit-you-must-acquit moment for an otherwise ironclad case to suddenly become unable to hold water.
So keep that in mind as the Hernandez case goes forward. He looks guilty for now. Whether he’s guilty in the end depends on whether all reasonable doubt can be removed within the alternate reality that arises when facts are reconstructed in a court of law.
Even if Hernandez killed Odin Lloyd, if there’s reasonable doubt in the prosecutions effort to prove the case and the jury sees it, Hernandez will go free. Like George Zimmerman, O.J. Simpson, and every other person who ever was acquitted at trial.
Whether anyone agrees with that, it’s our system. And the protections afforded Zimmerman, Simpson, and Hernandez apply to every one of us.