It’s been difficult to ignore the furore across the Pond over the George Zimmerman acquittal. My Facebook feed has filled with heated invective from everywhere, and I’ve found myself intervening. I’m not qualified in US law, but every US state shares some foundational features with the legal systems that I do know about.
I’ve had to point out that “acquittal” is not to be equated with “innocence:” a verdict of “not guilty” simply means that the prosecution has failed to make out its case to the requisite standard, which—in a criminal trial—is “beyond reasonable doubt.” I’ve also had to point out that the accused doesn’t have to prove anything: all he has to do is raise a reasonable doubt. The best article I’ve read on the case—one that understands that law is seldom neat—is this one, by William Saletan, in Slate.
However, in response to the verdict and in the heat of scrounging up every injustice possible in the Trayvon case, multiple people started alleging that the Koch brothers had funded George Zimmerman’s legal defense. Every jack of the allegers was also dead keen to deny Zimmerman the presumption of innocence, or to try him again, or to condemn Florida’s “stand your ground” law. Yes, this Brit thinks a law like that is plainly barmy, but as Saletan points out, it was irrelevant to the case: no-one invoked it. And the presumption of innocence and double jeopardy are rather foundational when it comes to this ol’ steamboat we call Western Civ: throughout human history, most legal systems have worked on the premise that “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”
The left has an obsession with the Koch brothers; there’s even a documentary about how “evil” they are. However, many of the left’s accusations against the Kochs are largely untrue, including their involvement with the Trayvon Martin case.
Off I trotted to Snopes, where—unsurprisingly—I found the Koch funding allegation was untrue. I nearly wrote “slur” instead of “allegation” there, but no: did those so keen to waive the presumption of innocence in Zimmerman’s case desire that he not be represented? If the Kochs had paid his legal bills, I would not have cared.
However, I need to say something, and because I’ve got a lot of lefty friends, I’m hoping this post is spread far and wide: the Koch brothers are not evil. Koch money paid for a lot of the scholarship that fed into the pro-same-sex marriage amici briefs filed in Windsor v. United States. Koch money funded some of those briefs directly. Koch money (albeit indirectly) helped pay for this Reason Foundation Policy Brief (yes, I wrote that). Koch money has funded hundreds of scholars who are strong on social issues (everything from reproductive rights to same-sex marriage to the more typical drug legalisation). Often that funding is costly: in Britain, rights-based arguments cut no ice, so more expensive empirical study is to the fore. The Kochs cheerfully fund the lot.
So, lefties, sorry to burst your Kochtopus bubble: as Steve Horwitz observed yesterday, the “narrative of supreme evil does not hold, even by your own lights.”