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Making sense of the Zimmerman verdict

If you aren't too sick of reading or hearing about the Zimmerman trial and verdict, here is my take, from the perspective of a trial prosecutor with more than 40 jury trials.

Whether you agree with the jury's verdict or not, we must accept the verdict for what it was—an entirely reasonable and logical outcome, based on Florida law. After five weeks of inconclusive testimony from prosecution witnesses who seemed ill-prepared and, more often than not, supportive of the defense's theory of the case rather than the prosecution's, we cannot fault the six women who sat through it all and who deliberated for 16 hours before reaching a decision. They did not act hastily or without due consideration of all they saw and heard. They did their duty, as jurors and citizens, so let's stop, in the media and in our minds, chastising them.

At best, this was a manslaughter case to begin with, and it should have been investigated and charged as such. Second degree murder was a political charge, not one based on facts likely to produce a verdict of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Indeed, for me, the second degree murder charge was the most odious and dangerous aspect of this case, because it threatens our entire system of criminal justice, a system grounded in the rule of law, not emotional considerations or political pressure.  Read More 
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"Come home, America"

Okay, I'll admit it. In the 1972 presidential election, I voted for George McGovern over Richard Milhous "I'm-not-a-crook" Nixon. But it wasn't because of Watergate, which had barely invaded the national consciousness at the time.

Democratic nominee McGovern didn't get to make his acceptance speech at his party's National Convention that summer until the early morning hours, after most television viewers had gone to
bed. Consequently, few Americans heard one of the finest, most patriotic speeches ever delivered in a political campaign. Few Americans heard World War II-hero McGovern's stirring, eloquent plea, "Come home, America," in which he made the case for the United States to end its destructive, ill-conceived foray into Viet Nam and come home.  Read More 
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Christie and Property Taxes

Letter to the Editor, The Record

I was a frequent critic of Gov. Christie's early fiscal policy, especially his slashing state aid to suburban school districts in 2010. Ramsey, my town, lost $2.2 million in one swipe of the governor's budget-balancing knife, further burdening local property taxpayers.

Statewide, public education lost $800 million, all to preserve an income tax cut for the rich on the theory they would thus be motivated not to move to tax-friendlier climes. A theory since disproved.

Then, the governor redeemed himself.  Read More 
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"You have the right to remain silent . . . ."

The debate began soon after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's capture. Should authorities treat the 19-year-old Boston terrorist, a naturalized U.S. citizen, as an "enemy combatant" or as a murder suspect?

If the former view prevailed, the theory was that he could be questioned for an indefinite period without the need to administer his Miranda rights; if the latter, it was the general consensus  Read More 
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Speech at the "Stand Up for Gun Sanity" rally, sponsored by the Bergen County Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, Sunday, April 21, 2013, Christ Episcopal Church, Ridgewood, NJ

We thought Newtown would be different. Why? Because the specter of 6- and 7-year-old-bodies, each riddled by as many as 10 or 12 bullet holes from a semi-automatic rifle, was too horrible to imagine. Surely that image would be the tipping point, the impetus to get Congress to act.

But here we are, 128 days after Newtown,  Read More 
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