It’s time to Break It Down!
I never wanted to write a post about the Trayvon Martin trial. In fact, I did not intend to. Many of my close friends and associates wanted, or at least expected me to do so. Secretly, I thought they were wrong…and I was prepared to prove it.
I usually try to direct readers’ attention to some current event. George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon in February 2012. The media has inundated the public with coverage of the case since that time. There just could not be, in my view much more to say. Rest assured, even in discussing it, I will make no effort to retry the case, nor provide anything resembling a blow by blow of pertinent details.
So I was poised to ferret out another topic. However, then…I listened to an airing of a portion of the Defense’s closing argument. It went a little something like this:
After presenting about an hour and twenty minutes of his closing argument, Mark O’Mara, the lead Attorney for the Defense, orchestrated a break. He set a timer for four minutes. After the time on the device expired, Mr. O’Mara said, “That’s how long Trayvon Martin had to run. About four minutes.”
With that one matter of fact comment, I knew immediately, “That…is a bloggable moment!” Not to worry; I will make this an endless diatribe, or interminable rant.
That statement, with or without the theatrics of the timer was, in my opinion, the Neutron Bomb, of the case. If in fact, you see whatever unfolded, in the manner in which Mr. O’Mara explained it in that comment, you must also believe, in effect, that no matter where he is, if a black man is being followed by a white man, he better run. Why? Because to do otherwise, is to place his life in jeopardy; he could be killed, and it would simply be deemed self-defense.
In this encounter, Trayvon Martin, who was seventeen years old, apparently had one advantage, the opportunity to run. Even though:
- Trayvon Martin was walking (to his father’s fiancée’s) home from the store; by most reasonable accounts, occupying space for which he had every right to be in
- Trayvon was unarmed, except for a bag of Skittles and a can of soft drink, be it tea or other flavored drink
- Trayvon was profiled; you may say it wasn’t racial, but he was followed because of how he looked
- Through all of this, Trayvon, it appears from the rationale put forward by the defense, and ultimately accepted by the jury, is accorded no rights…not of self-defense, not of standing his ground, not even of walking home from the store
Over the past two nights, CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewed Juror Number B37. The network maintained her anonymity during a nearly hour-long interview conducted on Monday, in which she answered an array of questions that left this writer, and many others, with the impression that her view of Mr. Zimmerman, of Mr. Martin, and of the case, was practically a mimeograph of the Defense’s collective arguments. According to her, the other jurors’ outlook was relatively consistent with hers.
On the face of it, this is a scary prospect. It would be even scarier, had the other jurors not distanced themselves from her comments. I have no idea whether the denials are a function of really having different views, or if they just desperately wanted to avoid any link to the views articulated by Juror B37. No doubt, that was especially true after those views immediately garnered so much negative feedback from across the digital spectrum.
Reaction was swift and negative! So much so, that Juror B37, who had revealed on Monday, plans to co-write a book about her jury experience, recanted Tuesday, saying she decided not to pursue the book. In a separate account, floating around the digital universe and reported by the Washington Post, the Literary Agent pulled the deal. It does not really matter. Either way, this bit of “compelling history” will have to wait for an appropriate vehicle.
What observations did Juror B37 make during her interview with Mr. Cooper?
She expressed several opinions some might consider more than a little controversial. A few that rise above others include:
The jurors considered the Stand Your Ground Law…even though the defense did not use that law as part of their strategy
Race played no part in the case; nor of Zimmerman profiling Trayvon
Trayvon was equally responsible for his death along with Zimmerman
She felt sorry for Trayvon (in the situation he was in)…and for Zimmerman (because of the situation he got himself into)
Juror B37 had no doubt Zimmerman feared for his life
The voice on the tape was “definitely George”
George Zimmerman learned his lesson about going too far, and he should still serve as a neighborhood watchman…and he should get his gun back
Zimmerman was guilty only of using poor judgment; he was egged-on by the 911 Operator
Zimmerman’s history of reporting black men to the police, and his decision to follow Trayvon had no role in the verdict
Rachel Jeantel’s testimony was not credible
OK, let us just go ahead and stipulate, if someone believes the assertions in all of the bullet points above, it is easy to see how that particular someone would arrive at a “Not Guilty” verdict. If one accepts all those assertions as facts, it is virtually impossible to conclude otherwise.
Not surprisingly, there has been considerable post-verdict interest in the case. Many media outlets as well as casual observers predicted there would be violent fallout from a Zimmerman acquittal. For the most part, this negative, but oft-repeated expectation has failed to materialize. There have been numerous protests across the country, but little violence to date.
On Sunday, President Obama issued a statement on the outcome of the case. In it, he noted that the jury has spoken, and called for Americans to honor Trayvon by respecting the calls for calm reflection and by asking ourselves how we can prevent tragedies such as this in the future.
Here is the statement in its entirety:
“The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.”
There remain various views about this case. These views include:
- Mr. Zimmerman, his family, the Defense and those who sided with it, insist, “Justice has been served.”
- Mark O’Mara contends that anyone who does not just accept the verdict and move on is disrespecting the process
- Fox News host Bill O’Reilly characterized those who are upset about the Zimmerman verdict as falling into one of two camps: 1) “Those who hate America; 2) Those who believe their country is racist
Of course, alternately, there are those who have done the research, who report:
Blacks receive longer sentences than whites for having committed comparable crimes
Blacks are convicted by far more often when the jury is all white, versus a more diverse panel
Whites are far less likely to be convicted in a case involving a black victim when the jury is all white, than when the panel is diverse
Justice is a complex concept and it often has a complicated array of moving parts. Undoubtedly, that was part of the fractured narrative accompanying this case. I admit I watched far too much of the Trial. Consequently, the verdict did not surprise me.
I would be disingenuous if I said I said I did not find the verdict disappointing; but surprised, I was not! The vast majority of the analysts I saw and/or heard contended the Defense was Storming the Castle on the prosecution. So many Prosecution witnesses buttressed the Defense’s case with their testimony, combined with the State abandoning its version of events regarding which of the two men was on top, assured that the handwriting on the wall was so clear, even Rachel Jeantel could read it. In fact, she pretty much said she did, in her Monday evening interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan.
I hoped for a different outcome. Until…I heard that sobering segment of Mr. O’Mara’s closing argument: “Four Minutes!” “That’s how long Trayvon Martin had to run.”
I’m done; holla back!
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