The acquittal of George Zimmermann on Saturday night has led to demonstrations across the country, as if somehow society or the government dictated the outcome of the trial. The fact is that the jury acquitted him.
The twelve-man jury system goes back almost a thousand years to the time of King Henry II (1133-89), perhaps even earlier. Because the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution did not specifically state the required number, in 1970 six-member juries were introduced in some cases, the Zimmermann case being one of them.
The jury system has served Britain, America, and other countries well. It’s not perfect. Innocents have been found guilty and the guilty let go (remember OJ?). But it’s preferable to what other countries have, those that did not inherit the Common Law from England. Would we want to have a three-man tribunal, appointed by the government, decide all cases, as in some continental countries?
The system has not worked in some countries for some time – and the reason is cultural.
When we lived in West Africa, we soon realized that a jury will acquit a person if he is of the same tribe, but convict him if he is not. Clearly, the jury system does not work in societies that are tribal based.
Which explains our problem in the US – we are becoming more and more tribal, with ethnic divisions only worsening. We even have people in some areas calling for Sharia law.
A jury system is not likely to survive in such a climate. Whatever replaces it can only be worse!