Criminal court cases can be a tricky game of semantics and theatrics, but rarely do cases that explode on to the national scene resonate for long after the verdict has passed.
George Zimmerman, and his murder of teenager Trayvon Martin, will be an exception in this regard.
The volunteer night watchman acted outside of bounds, profiled Trayvon based off of hunches and assumption, and later confronted and killed the boy in cold blood.
There is no kinder way to depict what Zimmerman did that fateful February night in Sanford, Fla. Even the most astute minds will have to admit that this is a clear-cut matter, yet the six women of the jury – five of whom were White, one Hispanic – ruled in favor of the defense.
Legal experts will clash with pundits over the minutiae, such as the Florida State Attorney Angela Corey’s possible overcharging of Zimmerman with second-degree murder – despite the fact the killer’s actions were not far removed from what the charge entails, although it would be difficult to prove.
Corey’s aims were just, and the parents of Trayvon Martin, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, deserved the opportunity to legally pursue the highest charge available.
Manslaughter was allegedly the most plausible and expected charge to stick, given the sometimes questionable presentation of the prosecution. But the prosecutors knew that the only way to win was to prove without reasonable doubt that Zimmerman acted with ill intent and not self-defense as he continues to claim.
That did not occur and the prosecution had to begrudgingly face defeat.
The reaction from Zimmerman, and defense attorney Mark O’Mara, was the smug and self-aware pomp expected of a person who got away with murder. The lack of empathy and the vacant eyes of Zimmerman will be an all-too familiar reminder that he will be the only person that truly knows what happened that night.
Trayvon’s parents have cautioned against anger and violent protest, and it is amazing to note that many have followed suit. There were curious reports by major news outlets that seemed shocked that riots and the like did not occur.
Following Tracy and Sybrina’s graceful example is perhaps the best way to heal after such a emotionally draining and devastating trial.
An entire nation that supported the Martin and Fulton family are demanding justice, even if the state of Florida rules that Zimmerman did not commit a crime. Although it is a scant hope, this case may be heard by the Department of Justice as a civil rights matter, but we learned this weekend that relying on the law to work in favor of the people is something we can no longer expect.
This moment — tragic and disappointing as it is — just begins to scratch the surface of the pain and suffering of Black families across the nation that have lost a loved one to unchecked violence. Just months after Trayvon’s killing, young Jordan Davis was killed after White gun rights zealot Michael Dunn shot in to an SUV because Davis and a group of teens were playing music too loud. Perhaps many hoped a Zimmerman conviction would give way to some manner of closure for the Martins and Fultons — and give some hope to the Davis family that they would see that the law recognizes them.
What hope does a family of a Black boy or girl have that when a White adult is the clear aggressor in the slaying of their child, they’ll have a fair trial? The anguish that poured out on social media, and even among our readers, clearly marks that this is an issue with far deeper implications than a chance encounter between Zimmerman and Martin.
Black people have been under siege because of racism for hundreds of years, and there seems to be no end to the carnage.
In Washington, D.C., last night, protesters marched down the affluent 16th Street corridor, with some overcome with emotion. The contrast was interesting; gentrification has transformed much of the city into this safe, walkable place but only if you’re White and privileged enough to live in a so-called safe area.
The marchers made sure to remind anyone within earshot that the only people not protected and safe are young people of color.
In New York, similar demonstrations took place and the same was repeated in Chicago, San Francisco, and more. From all walks of life, people gathered in cities large and small in an emotional but necessary response to what occurred over the weekend. These groups were galvanized under one common thought: George Zimmerman is still a killer in the eyes of us all.
He snatched away Trayvon’s life because it was the only way he could become powerful. Without his handgun, Zimmerman was a doughy coward who played Pretend-A-Cop after failing to reach his goals in life. When there are persons instructing you to fall back and you ignore that call, it shows that a rank amateur overstepped his limits and got himself a body on his hands that he’ll have to own forever.
Zimmerman’s burden will become heavier despite his elation, and it can certainly be hoped that the family will continue to pursue their son’s murderer with the same intensity as before. If there is such a thing as justice, Zimmerman will feel that crushing weight of that burden before too long.