Guy W. Farmer: Racial politics cloud views of Zimmerman trial
July 20, 2013
At least two kinds of racism were on display during the George Zimmerman second-degree murder trial in Sanford, Fla.: white racism and black racism. And the racism continued after Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, was acquitted last weekend of murdering African-American teenager Trayvon Martin.
A six-woman jury was convinced Zimmerman killed 17-year-old Martin in self-defense. That's when the blogosphere erupted in a cacophony of accusations of racism.
In my opinion, justice prevailed despite political extremists' efforts to turn the trial into a black vs. white showdown. The prosecution failed to prove its case against Zimmerman beyond a reasonable doubt. The jurors did their duty based on the evidence presented to them, some of it by excruciatingly inarticulate prosecution witnesses.
Zimmerman was patrolling his gated community Feb. 26, 2012, when he noticed Martin, who was wearing a dark hoodie, walking through the neighborhood. Zimmerman called a non-emergency hotline and followed Martin, although the dispatcher told him not to. At one point, Zimmerman got out of his vehicle and approached Martin; a violent confrontation ensued in which Martin was shot and killed. Prosecutors argued that Zimmerman profiled Martin as a criminal, but Zimmerman's attorneys claimed that he fired in self-defense after the teenager attacked him.
Several neighbors called 911 when they heard screams for help. During the trial Martin's family and friends testified that they recognized the young man's voice, which would make Zimmerman the aggressor; Zimmerman's family and friends testified that it was his voice on the 911 tapes.
Under Florida law, a person must "intentionally commit an act that caused death" while demonstrating "a depraved disregard for human life" to be convicted of second-degree murder. Jurors decided that Zimmerman justifiably used deadly force because he believed it was "necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm" to himself. Martin wasn't an innocent young boy; he was a head taller than Zimmerman.
Although both families urged their followers to remain peaceful, race-baiters sprung into action. Thousands of pro-Martin demonstrators poured into New York's Times Square while violent protesters went on a rampage in Los Angeles. The NAACP and the Rev. Al Sharpton urged U.S. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder, who is black, to prosecute Zimmerman for violating Martin's civil rights.
Sharpton & Co. claim it's a civil-rights case because Zimmerman is a "white Hispanic" (huh?) and Martin was black. Zimmerman has a white father and a Peruvian mother; my kids' mother was from Mexico. Does that make them "white Hispanics?" Let's use some common sense.
Reno defense attorney David Houston summarized the case succinctly when he said "it's unfortunate that Zimmerman had to go through a trial simply to appease the politics of the situation. … This was a case where he forced a confrontation, but did what he had to do when he was attacked."
I agree. Both the Zimmermans and the Martins had their day in court, and Zimmerman was acquitted because the state failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Case closed.
Guy W. Farmer is an experienced English/Spanish courtroom interpreter.