The failure of Professor Ford to acknowledge the factual errors in his New Republic article and voluntarily correct them is disturbing. Had he based the conclusions of an academic law review article on such inaccurate, uncited facts he would be guilty of sloppy scholarship at best and academic dishonesty at worst.
The controversy created by the New Republic´s delay in correcting the factual errors in Professor Ford´s article is only one of numerous instances where lawyers and law professors either intentionally or negligently relied on a false narrative of events mined with factual errors when writing or commenting about Zimmerman´s prosecution. Slate´ś Emily Bazelon, The Nation´s Patricia J. Williams, as well as others, have drawn conclusions about the case based on incorrect facts that go uncorrected when the correct facts are either pointed out to them or become obvious through an examination of the trial court record.
The worst offenders, by far, have been the attorneys representing the Martin family. After the verdict, Martin family attorney Daryl Parks still described Trayvon Martïn as ¨a small Black child." The misleading description of Trayvon Martin, in conjunction with the constant use of the old photograph of Trayvon as a 14-year-old boy, has been the centerpiece of a false narrative that almost resulted in a wrongful conviction.
During the trial, one of George Zimmerman´ś neighbors testified that she believed that - of the two people she saw involved in the struggle on her street - Trayvon Martin was the one on the bottom being beaten. On cross examination, the witness conceded that her testimony was based on her assumption that Trayvon Martin was a small black child. The basis for her assumption was the photograph she had repeatedly seen in the media of Trayvon Martin as a 14-year old boy. In fact, Trayvon Martin was not a small Black child. He was a strong, lean and fit young man. At seventeen, with his parentś permission, he could have enlisted in the military and trained to be a combat soldier. In a physical confrontation, out-of-shape butterball George Zimmerman was no match for the athletic 17-year-old.
After the verdict, while appearing on the Greta Van Susteren show, Martin family attorney Jasmine Rand was confronted with her continued promotion of an inaccurate narrative of events that had been discredited by the evidence introduced at trial. She defended herself by noting that she was not just an attorney, but was also a ¨social engineer.¨ In the field of sociology, the term ¨social engineer" is just another word for professional propagandist. Social propaganda campaigns, throughout history, have almost universally been more concerned with the effectiveness of the message than with the truthfulness of the facts underlying the message.
Lawyers and law professors are not supposed to be ¨social engineers¨ when it comes to the administration of justice in a criminal trial. Their education and training in the concepts of due process, the presumption of innocence and the rule of law, as well as their status as officers of the court, confer upon them a moral obligation to communicate information about a pending criminal trial accurately and fairly. When attorneys and law professors fail to live up to this obligation they only damage the credibility of a jury system that is the last bulwark of defense between a poor criminal defendant and the danger of a maliciously motivated wrongful conviction based on police and prosecutorial misconduct.
|Trayvon Martin at 14, three years before his confrontation with George Zimmerman.|
|Trayvon Martin at 17, his age at the time of his confrontation with George Zimmerman|