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The Elephant in the Room: Why Race Was the Determinate Factor in the Zimmerman Trial

Updated on July 19, 2013

There is little doubt that this last weekend’s verdict on the Zimmerman Case was a morose miscarriage of justice. In fact, most reasonably-minded people can agree that the fact that Mr. Zimmerman walked freely out of that courtroom was a colossal indictment of American jurisprudence.

As demonstrable from all the Monday morning quarterbacking on cable news by the armchair jurists, commentators, experts, reporters and a whole host of others who rightfully qualify as human misery pimps/profiteers, the bare facts of the case and other antecedent factors seem all too familiar, albeit almost trite, by now.

A neighborhood vigilante pointlessly gunned down a defenseless teenager after being repeatedly ordered by a 911 operator to cease and desist. The first-responding law enforcement officials who appeared on the crime scene and processed Mr. Zimmerman not only bought the initial stand your ground/self-defense story he concocted line, hook and sinker but actually let him return home the same night to his family without being charged with any crime even as 17-year-old Trayvon lay dead on the concrete pavement.

Nearly six weeks after the killing and over two million petition signatures afterwards, Florida law enforcement officials and prosecutors grudgingly and rancorously arrested George Zimmerman and charged him with the murder of Trayvon Martin.

When trial finally got underway, the prosecution delivered a performance that was consensually perceived as lackluster at best---it allowed the selection of an unfavorable all-woman jury, failed to articulate a credible alternative narrative about Trayvon’s fate, presented an ill-prepared, comical and injurious cast of witnesses, etc.

The defense team on the other hand, even amidst ordinarily daunting conditions and damning setbacks (the incredulity of Zimmerman’s claims relating to his fear of imminent harm when the minor scratches he received on his face and head did not approximate his story about Trayvon supposedly getting atop him and repeatedly slamming the back of his head on concrete; inconsistencies in the different versions of his recounting of the incident; etc.) put on a defense that was not only vigorous but actually at different points during the trial, sought to so desecrate and demonize Trayvon that one couldn’t come off thinking that the victim, and not Zimmerman, was on trial for his own death!

But beyond the foregoing unadorned elements of this case, it is my belief that race was from the very beginning, the factor that most centrally held the series of events that resulted not just in Trayvon’s killing but Zimmerman’s acquittal verdict together like the puppeteer’s invisible string of illusion.

First, contrary to what anyone claims, Zimmerman profiled Trayvon not because of his height, stature or the fact that he was acting suspiciously or actively engaged in any criminal activity. He sought him out, accosted him (even after being repeatedly told otherwise by the 911 operator) and ultimately gunned him down because he was black!.

Second, it is astonishingly alarming that the officers who responded to the 911 call that faithful evening would choose to err on the side of Zimmerman’s right to self defense, without any eye witnesses, than Trayvon’s right to life. Trayvon was in a heap, dead, on the concrete after being admittedly shot by Zimmerman! There is no question that if the roles were reversed and Trayvon were Zimmerman, he would have been hurriedly marched off to jail and charged with murder.

This initial race-inspired misstep caused the investigation to lose six crucial evidence-gathering weeks and unleashed a boomerang of other compromising effects that would later weaken the prosecution’s case.

Regarding the prosecution’s uninspired performance, I must say that rather than admit, even embrace, race as a conspicuous presence in the case, they got so spooked by it that they felt it necessary to prematurely and prominently disavow or discount it. They naively declared that race was not a factor in the case even though most people felt and knew otherwise. This smacked of inexperience, indifference or both; either way, it helped sink the prosecution’s case!

Then there’s the jury selection fiasco. What was the prosecution thinking when it went along with an all-woman jury without a single African-American? Understanding that at the end of it all, after all the fancy lawyering is done, Zimmerman’s fate rested with these jurors, I cannot fathom why the prosecution would make this monumental error.

Lastly, the prosecution failed to weave an alternative narrative about the chronology of events leading up to skirmish and eventual shooting. Being that Trayvon was dead, he understandably could not testify as to what truly happened that night.

One of the prosecution’s primary duties was to give voice to Trayvon’s spirit but it devastatingly faultered on that too! They were so busy playing defense and reacting to Zimmerman’s changing stories that they forgot a different and perhaps more plausible narrative.

What if Trayvon was actually the one trying to defend himself against a menacing armed assailant---a fight which he took on out of desperation, instead braggadocio, but which he’d ultimately lose? We do know that Zimmerman got out of his car strapping a gun; supposedly in an effort confirm what street he was on in a neighborhood he policed!

In conclusion, I believe that everyone, including Zimmerman, his family and his defense crew (even as they continue with their most callous and tasteless victory lap), should remain reminded that an uneventful walk from a convenience store to his father’s girlfriend’s house on an evening no different than this one cost Trayvon his life. It was never a case of the young man simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time; Trayvon Martin had every right to walk those streets like anyone else; nor was it another instance of a young man robbing or wilding. He did nothing wrong; he was just a young black man!


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      Arinze Oduah 4 years ago

      America has a race liability. You can't wish it away. It is an integral part of the history of America. A history replete with a sophisticated movement toward equity. The current milestone to the final destination is stll substantially beyond the midway point.

      As with the OJ case, you would be either naive, deluded, or obtuse to separate it from race. Race was was there when the young man was shot. Race was there when the jury was selected. Race was present in the judgement. Race seeps through the post-judgement commentary and reveals a country that will for long be divided by race.

      From the beginning, it was a farce. The clumsy prosecution. The unjust jury selection. The media. All conspired to reinforce the image of the shifty black youth, high on something, trespassing in polite surroundings. A pest to be exterminated, and if the exterminator was Zimmerman then we should thank him.

      This is dangerous. America must reexamine itself, and rescue itself from it's history. Revisiting this case would help.

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      Wayne Joel Bushong 4 years ago from America

      Race played no part in it and you would know this had you done your research! The neighborhood was filled with blacks that spoke highly of Zimmerman. Travon was a thug who was disrespectful and itching for a fight to prove he was a big man! You didn't write anything about the poor white man who has brain damage and NOTHING happened to the blacks who busted his head with bricks in LA! You havent wrote about the injustice of the white pharmacy worker who shot and killed a young black man that was robbing him at gun point and is now in a Oklahoma prison! You my friend need to allow the courts to do their job and stop getting folks riled over lies!