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Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

When George Zimmerman was found ‘Not Guilty’ of murdering Trayvon Martin, many Americans were shocked and outraged by the verdict.  They could not understand how the Florida jury of six women could NOT find Zimmerman guilty of either 2nd degree murder or manslaughter.  Most immediately chalked it up to a white Southern jury not being able to convict a white man of the killing a black youth due to the racial element that has been part of the trial from the beginning in most news reports.  They also chalked it up as another example of Florida ‘injustice’ like the same verdict in the Casey Anthony case.  After all, we all ‘knew’ she killed her young daughter and dumped her lifeless body along the side of a road.

After all, everyone ‘knew’ based on media reports and ‘unofficial’ police/prosecution leaks that George Zimmerman WAS guilty.   Of course, being fair, responsible and progressive Americans, Zimmerman should be allowed his day in court, but, in the end, it was expected that the results would be what was ‘just'(i.e. a conviction)–the presumption of innocence that we are entitled to entering a courtroom even being allowed for.

The problem is that the presumption of innocence is not just a nicety in our legal system.  It is the bedrock of our legal system.   It is a fundamental principle that each and everyone of us holds onto with dear life—it is the responsibility of the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty.  If a jury decides that standard was not reached, then they must as a matter of law find the defendant not guilty.  It is easy to Monday morning quarterback a decision reached by any jury.  It has happened many times before.  Besides the two Florida cases, we have seen the same attitude in the OJ Simpson double murder acquittal, the conviction of Mumia Abu-Jamal for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer, the acquittal of the LA Police officers in the Rodney King beating case, and countless other cases.

The reality is those who speak out condemning and being shocked by the Zimmerman verdict know in their heart of hearts that if we were to decide the guilt or innocence of defendants based on the standard of ‘what we know’ instead of ‘what the prosecution can prove beyond a reasonable doubt’, we would truly be living in a society where it would be dangerous to be accused of a crime.

By Being Latino Contributor, Jeffery Cassity   Jeffery Cassity is a mostly socially-liberal, fiscally-conservative Anglo male who is involved in his local Hispanic community as the widower of a 1st generation Mexican-American woman and his active, some would say hyperactive, membership in the local Council of the League of Latin American Citizens(LULAC).  Be sure to also follow his articles on the Sacramento Press website

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. Karen says:

    Yeah, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it, that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t grieve for the life that was lost.

  2. Karen, I agree with you. Mr. Cassidy, while we understand that there were discrepancies that did not allow for full review of what happened in this case….understand that the reason we didn’t have full picture is that the other main witness is dead and later found through evidence and testimony that he was unarmed and did not display any action that was considered “suspicious”. People should be outraged and upset. Do you have a dark skinned latino young son yourself? I assume you do not….because if you did…you would understand the fear, hurt and pain this would bring to your heart.

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