Not really. It was clear enough who had the gun and who didn't and what reasonable force usually means in that situation. It was clear that Zimmerman wasn't outnumbered. For some juries those factors alone would have been decisive; just not this one. Meikle is right about this: it would be a hugely dangerous precedent to establish that all you need to do is be alone and unrecorded with your victim in order to murder him and credibly claim a "self-defense" that is functionally impossible to challenge. This in effect turns such isolated murder into the perfect crime, at least for those whom the justice system favours.
Only the decisions of judges on questions of law have precedential effect. Jury verdicts do not.
Yes, all else equal, those who commit unwitnessed crimes are more likely to be acquitted than those foolish enough to perform their misdeeds in front of an audience. Luck and good planning affect the outcome of a lot of human endeavors, including crime. The criminal justice system does not promise perfection in result, only fairness in process, and at least aspires to prefer the acquittal of the guilty to the conviction of the innocent. Are you suggesting the presumption of innocence should be reversed for those charged with committing unwitnessed crimes?
I don't disagree that a different jury might have returned a guilty verdict on the same evidence. So what? Zimmerman's acquittal reflected one rational view of the evidence -- that it failed to exclude beyond reasonable doubt the possibility that Zimmerman's confrontation with Martin unfolded essentially as he described it to the police, that Zimmerman rationally perceived mortal threat, and that he reasonably responded with deadly force. That a different verdict would also have been defensible on the evidence does not undermine the legitimacy of this one.
This is a distinction without a real difference. The posthumous reframing of Trayvon-as-dangerous-delinquent was done precisely to make the notion of Zimmerman having this "perception" non-ridiculous.
To the contrary, whatever stories may have been floated in the media about Trayvon Martin's alleged thuggishness, none of it made its way into the trial. In fact, Judge Nelson barred the defense from introducing just this sort of evidence.
No-one can predict the trajectory of the appeals process.
Lawyers predict the outcome of appeals all the time. The reliability of a prediction depends on how similar or dissimilar a given issue is to ones previously visited by the appellate court. Here, the law is quite well settled that evidence of a victim's good and pacific character is not admissible except to rebut admitted character evidence of his or her propensity for violence. The purpose of the rule is to reduce the risk a jury will convict a criminal defendant on otherwise weak evidence, out of sympathy or admiration for the alleged victim. Whatever passions the Zimmerman verdict may have stirred in you, I trust you see the wisdom of the rule.
Since the defense did not present character
evidence showing Martin was inclined to violence, it would have been reversible error had the court permitted the prosecution to present proof of his good character.
And Trayvon Martin was entitled not to be put on unfair posthumous trial for his own murder.
The dead don't have legal rights. The living do. These include the right to defend criminal prosecutions vigorously, even at the expense of another's good name.