A third way
President Obama's remarks last Friday on the Zimmerman/Martin case were thoughtful and impressive, and wisely he kept well clear of any comment on the conduct of the trial and the verdict. The jury's finding of 'Not Guilty' was virtually inevitable, given the circumstances of the case and the nature and limitations of the current legal system. But it does provide an opportunity to consider the benefit of having another option.
With only two possible verdicts in the present system - Guilty or Not Guilty - the result is that the accused walks away from the court with his (or her) record and reputation unblemished. But being not guilty does not necessarily mean that the accused is totally innocent: it just means that the case cannot be proved beyond all reasonable doubt.
In Scottish law there is a middle verdict - 'Not Proven.' This means that the record is free but there remains a cloud hanging over the accused that the evidence was just not strong enough to convict. Currently in Scotland, and to the consternation of some lawyers, there is consideration being given to changing this age-old fixture of Scots law. It has even been suggested that, if a change was made to have two verdicts instead of three, then the two should be - Proven or Not Proven.
There would appear to be much to be said for a verdict of 'Not Proven' that would have avoided allowing Zimmerman to walk away with no stain on his character for his choice of action.
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