Now comes George Zimmerman's trial. The racially charged case that sparked nationwide acts of protest, marches and outrage is finally on its way to court, to a trial by a jury of his - and, hopefully, Trayvon Martin's - peers. It will not bring justice. Not full justice, anyway. Zimmerman may be the admitted gunman, but he's not the only one who's guilty.The case, and the trial, is about the nature of justice itself. It's about whether justice truly exists in America, or whether it is color-coded.
The victim is black. The admitted gunman, a white Hispanic. (Many have questioned whether it is a liberal bias to make that distinction, both white and Hispanic. It's not. White is a race. Hispanic is an ethnicity. Hispanics come in many colors. And many in Sanford, Fl., where the killing occurred, would swear that if Zimmerman had been black he would have been arrested the very night of the shooting, regardless of his ethnicity.)
This much is known:
Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black wearing a hoodie, wandered into the wrong neighborhood on Feb. 26 on his way back from a 7-Eleven, carrying Skittles and a can of tea. George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old coordinator of the gated community's neighborhood watch with a history of eyeing young black males suspiciously and calling 911, saw him. He called 911. The dispatcher told him not to follow Trayvon Martin. He did anyway.
A short time later, a series of calls flooded 911 from other neighborhood residents. Several said they heard a man pleading for help, then a shot. In at least one, the blood-curdling cries, and the shot, can be heard.
This is where the other two parties enter, the ones that are guilty of turning a tragedy into a case of national shame.
The Sanford Police and the local black community have a long and testy history. Blacks believe they have not received the same measure of justice. They can tick off examples: Travares McGill, shot by white security guards in 2005 - one the son of a longtime Sanford police officer, the other a department volunteer. The guards were acquitted.
More recently, the 2010 beating of a black homeless man by a white teen. The beating was caught on videotape. Police waited seven weeks to arrest a suspect - the son of a Sanford Police lieutenant.
To the city's blacks, letting George Zimmerman go free was just another example of the injustice they felt at the hands of police.
It's easy to see why. From the beginning, it seemed to be- at best - a bungled investigation, marred by ineptitude and a failure to pursue basic and obvious lines of evidence. At worst, it seemed deliberately tilted against Trayvon Martin. Witnesses reported investigators "correcting" their statements to fit Zimmerman's version of events.
Then, came the final culprit in this dance of disgrace: The reason (or excuse, depending on your point of view) that the police gave for not arresting Zimmerman - Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law.
Zimmerman says Trayvon Martin attacked him from behind, punched him in the face, and beat his head against the ground. He shot the teenager, he says, in self-defense.
In Florida, that's all it takes. If someone feels they are in danger they don't have to retreat. They can "stand their ground," and they can use deadly force to defend themselves. And that's OK.
Last month, the Tampa Bay Times reported that the law has been invoked at least 130 times. Seventy involved a death. In the majority of cases, the paper found, the person did not stand trial. In 50 cases, police didn't file charges at all.
In Trayvon's case, it seemed like salt in the black community's many wounds. This time, though, they insisted on justice. Almost six weeks after the killing, they got it. Or at least some.
"We simply wanted an arrest," Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton, said after the charge was announced Wednesday evening. "We wanted nothing more and nothing less, we just wanted an arrest. And we got it. And I say, 'Thank you, thank you, Lord, thank you, Jesus.' "
The trial, though, will be about the shooting, not the police, and not the law. So no matter what the verdict, two of the biggest contributors in heaping indignity on Trayvon Martin's death remain unscathed, and there's nothing to prevent another case just like it from happening.
Source: Terra/Carlos Harrison