Despite the many suspicious aspects of the late February shooting of an unarmed black teenager, a mind-boggling logical fallacy by the local police department has protected the killer from arrest. According to a CNN report, the local Sanford, Fla., police failed to arrest shooter George Zimmerman in this highly suspicious killing because they had no evidence rebutting Zimmerman’s claim that he acted in self defense.
An elementary knowledge of formal logic, even a modicum of common sense, would tell any reasonable person that the burden of proof in this case lay with the killer to prove his self-defense claim, not with the police to refute it. To allow a mere claim of self defense to protect a killer from prosecution is to invite unjustified killings. Judged from the reported facts in this case, the shooter had no basis for his self-defense claim. To allow him to evade arrest and prosecution because the police lack evidence to refute his self-defense defense is absurd.
It is, however, not surprising to see this burden-of-proof reversal. In its extended assault on logic and scientific reasoning, the Bush administration continually used it — notably in defending its lie that Saddam Hussein ordered the 9/11 attacks. Confronted with the 9/11 commission report that it could find no evidence substantiating Vice President Cheney’s claim that Muhammed Atta, the suicide hijackers’ leader, had held a pre-attack meeting with an Iraqi spy in Prague, Cheney first admitted that this meeting’s occurrence had not been proved. He then noted that its occurrence had never been refuted!
In his first book, “Innocents Abroad,” Mark Twain got humorous mileage out of a burden-of-proof reversal. Informed that he was standing at the exact spot where the Creator had scooped up the dirt from which He had created Adam, Twain explained how he knew this proposition was true: because “in 6,000 years no man has ever been able to prove that the dirt was not processed here whereof (Adam) was made.”
Twain, of course, was writing in the 19th century, before the laws of logic had been repealed.