The State of Florida vs. George Zimmerman trial was by far the most widely-debated and highly publicized criminal case that our generation (the Y-Generation) has witnessed (sans-The State of California vs. O.J. Simpson double homicide case). Many Americans sympathized with the Martin family as it touched home with many racial and social classes alike that racism may have played a part in the unfortunate death of the 17-year-old African-American Trayvon Martin. Every American citizen with a pathway or avenue to viewership of the trial had an opinion on the case and what the verdict would ultimately be. There was “round-the-clock” media coverage as every day of the trial was covered in-depth by all major news stations. While this media frenzy provided citizens with knowledge about the case’s happenings, many people are claiming that the coverage was sensationalized and negatively propelled the “White America vs. Black America” race card. Other allegations were that the media was portraying Zimmerman as an evil, racist, villainous character and that he was being used to antagonize the continuing racial tensions in the United States. Reactions to the verdict of Zimmerman being found not guilty of murder in the second-degree caused enraged social media reactions which ranged from spectators claiming that “Black men in America aren’t safe” to claims that “George Zimmerman would be killed in the coming days”. There was an overwhelming sense of agreement and public outcry among the younger American population who believe that Zimmerman shouldn’t have gotten off Scot-free with blame being given through allegations of a faulty prosecution, an unfair jury, and/or an ill-favored legal system that is in not in the favor of the American minority. Following the verdict, heightened amounts of ignorance was put on display via social media networks Twitter and Facebook, as I’m sure everybody came across a picture, status, or tweet that seemed to perpetuate the negativity that many were or are fighting against. Whilst some agree with the verdict viewing Zimmerman’s actions justified under law, others believe that Zimmerman should’ve been guilty of at least manslaughter. The verdict sparked outrage across the United States as citizens and activists of all backgrounds staged protests in major cities the following day to combat what they saw as an injustice on behalf of the American judicial system. Recent reports issue that the U.S. Justice Department is looking into whether they should press civil rights charges or not.
Through my monitoring of these social networks, I saw an astounding amount of disregard to the facts of the case and Floridan provisions that are currently in-place. In this instance, we decided to create an article detailing some of the interesting facts of the shooting, charges, and subsequent trial. Read below. [Note: We made positive that these facts were not sensationalized in any way and that they represent no bias towards either side.]
George Zimmerman wasn’t originally going to be tried for the killing of Trayvon Martin: After he was questioned by police on the night of the murder about his part in the death of Martin and the actions leading up to the homicide, police figured Zimmerman acted within the law (“Stand Your Ground” provisions, see below) and allowed him to walk. It wasn’t until Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, hired a publicist to gain traction for the story and the subsequent media frenzy that Zimmerman was struck with a second-degree charge.
“Stand Your Ground” laws in Florida state that a person who is in fear of their life is allowed to use “deadly” force even before trying to retreat in a peaceful manner: The major argument that the defense used was that Zimmerman acted upon his rights when he shot Trayvon because he feared that his life was in “grave” danger. Opposing law officials claim that this provision was vacated if Zimmerman in fact did leave his vehicle to confront Martin since the law mandates that the person using the “deadly force” mustn’t have started the altercation. Sixteen other states in America have this same law however it is in only viable in the house of the victim. Florida’s provision extends this law to public places and vehicles. Law officials have expressed that the main reasoning for why the prosecution was faulty was due to the overbearing fact that Floridian laws essentially protected Zimmerman’s behavior. View and read the complete law here.
Zimmerman didn’t volunteer Martin’s race as previously reported: In the early misleading, filtered release of 9-1-1 calls, it seems as if Zimmerman offered Martin’s race to the police dispatcher. However, if you listen to the full call, you’ll see that Zimmerman only gave Martin’s race after he was asked by the police dispatcher. Early reports falsely showcase in filtered recordings of the 9-1-1 calls that Zimmerman voluntarily gave Martin’s race which critics say gave the impression that racism factored into the night’s proceedings.
Zimmerman’s claims: Where the story gets unclear is when and how the psychical confrontation began. On the 9-1-1 tape Zimmerman states that he got out his vehicle to follow Martin after Martin ran away. The dispatcher then tells Zimmerman to stop following Martin and that the police would come to asses the situation to which Zimmerman agreed to. Zimmerman then stated in his testimony that when he returned to his car, Martin reappeared and struck him in the face and that’s when the confrontation began. In later accounts, Zimmerman states that he wasn’t necessarily “following” Martin but got out the car to see where Martin had went and what exact spot police could’ve reported to in the neighborhood. According to the prosecution, Zimmerman continued to follow Martin after being told not to by the dispatcher and then caught up to Martin, where then the confrontation began.
The voice screaming for help in the 9-1-1 calls: During the Twin Lakes residents’ 9-1-1 calls, you can hear a voice screaming for help in background. Zimmerman and Martin families both have contrasting opinions about whose voice is pleading for assistance, for obvious reasons. Federal officials couldn’t confirm who the voice belonged to given that the person yelling was under intense emotional distress and the audible quality of the voice(s) were low. Audio experts claim that the voice(s) that are audible in the call could of been a combination of both Martin and Zimmerman. Judge Nelson disallowed audio experts from testifying on the prosecution’s behalf because no scientific method could prove the audio tapes as reliable evidence.
Honestly, no one knows what truthfully happened that fateful night except George Zimmerman and we will never know whether he is telling the complete truth or not beyond a reasonable doubt. Rapper Lupe Fiasco tweeted his opinion after the verdict was reached Saturday night stating, “Nobody knows what really happened except trayvon [sic] and Zimmerman. The justice system relies on reasonable doubt not our emotions.” I couldn’t agree more. Detractors offer that Zimmerman is guilty solely off the fact that he followed Martin and initially started the situation which is a troublesome claim given that every citizen under the law is allowed to report suspicious behavior to law enforcement. [Note: Weeks prior, Zimmerman notified police and identified a thief in the Twin Lakes neighborhood, who happened to be African-American]. However, there’s the argument that Zimmerman racially profiled the African-American Martin given that Martin wasn’t in the process of committing any crime at the time Zimmerman called police. In my opinion, this case more so sheds light on the evident centuries-long truth that Black men in America are unfairly stereotyped regardless of their personal background. Almost every Black male, including myself, has experienced a time or multiple instances where they were discriminated against or felt prejudice off the basis of their skin tone. No matter what the alleged reasoning for Trayvon’s death is, it still is highly unfortunate that two parents are without a son.
We should all learn from this and take it as an opportunity to better our country and challenge laws that we feel are unjust. All I ask is that people stay peaceful and that if you do protest, know what you’re fighting for and what you want to change.