Like most journalists, I have followed the George Zimmerman case and eventual trial for months. If readers have not closely followed the details and evidence, they may be filled with anger, and frustration today, because George Zimmerman is free. Closely scrutinized, the truth is that there was doubt in the minds of the jurists.
The chain of events leading up to the death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin should have never happened. As Martin walked through a gated community, he was spotted by a neighborhood watch volunteer. The volunteer, Zimmerman, believed he appeared suspicious. The young man was wearing a ‘hoodie,’ and he was black.
Here is where the situation took an ugly and fatal turn.
Zimmerman radioed the police about his observation. He was told not to follow the young man; that was not his responsibility. He was not law enforcement. He ignored the order, and continued to stalk Martin.
The prosecution’s claim was that Zimmerman had ‘racially profiled’ Martin.
The subsequent events were tragic, and avoidable.
At some point, after following Martin, Zimmerman exited his vehicle. A struggle ensued. During the struggle, screams were recorded, and finally a gunshot was heard. When police arrived, Trayvon Martin was dead. George Zimmerman had shot him, with a revolver he legally carried.
Zimmerman immediately claimed self-defense. He said Martin was beating his head onto the concrete, and he feared for his life.
When the major news services learned of the incident, the reading and viewing audience was given fragmented information. Anger began to rage for the 17 year old boy who was needlessly killed. Others immediately came to Zimmerman’s defense, claiming he acted in accordance with the law.
Accusations of racial profiling dominated the information highway. Martin’s ‘hoodie’ became a symbol of racism. Zimmerman was methodically molded into a ‘wannabe cop who hated blacks.’
The Florida jury was presented evidence by both the prosecution and defense, and both sides were diligent in their efforts. However, the best either the district attorney, or Zimmerman’s defense attorneys could do was to create a reenactment of what they believe happened in 2012.
There remain only two persons who know all the facts, and one of them is dead.
Both Martin’s and Zimmerman’s parents claimed the screams heard on tape were those of their son. The fatal bullet was dislodged at close range, which both sides contended.
The prosecution attempted to portray Zimmerman as a racist who aggressively pursued Martin, instigating the conflict, and shot the young man, ending his life.
The defense claimed that Martin attacked Zimmerman, and was beating the frailer man when the accused acted in self-defense.
When the trial began, there did not appear to be enough physical evidence to convict Zimmerman. There were no eyewitnesses. The incident demonstrated in court by both sides, as they believed the tragedy might have happened, were possible.
The dominating factor in the jury’s decision was the basis for American law: Was he guilty ‘beyond a reasonable doubt?’
After the verdict, protests damning the jury’s decision rose up all over the United States. They were filled with anger, and frustration because Zimmerman is a free man. Doubts remain, and answers may never come.
Alfred James reporting