Will The Zimmerman Trial Go The Way We Think Or The Way We Hope?
George Zimmerman‘s trial for the second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin begins tomorrow morning. While it took a lot of organizing, protesting, letter writing, and intensity to even get to this point (recall that Zimmerman was initially released from police custody without having been charged), will we really feel vindicated if a trial without a conviction is all we get?
This is an important question. Think of the names of the people, our people, who died or were brutally attacked under similar circumstances. Rodney King. Amadou Diallo. Sean Bell. Oscar Grant. How many of us were satisfied with the results of those trials? The only time in recent memory that a trial ended fairly was in the Danziger Bridge shootings in New Orleans, and that was after years of investigation following the first verdict.
Unfortunately, there is a real chance for this case to turn out to be more of the same. It may seem that momentum and public unrest and even the fear of rioting are on our side, but in all of the cases named above, our justice system showed us how much it cares about what we think of its rulings, verdicts, and sentences.
Despite the anguish this kind of realization can cause, all we can do now is watch and wait. The jury of six women – five white, one a minority – has been selected. Pretrial motions have been filed, and now it’s time for testimony, evidence, and the whole nine.
Things to look out for as we watch this trial are:
- A very confident, albeit misguided, defense team. Recall that Zimmerman first asked for, then rejected, a Stand Your Ground hearing. This means that at some point he decided he wanted to be tried in front of a jury and believes he can win.
- Demonizing characterization of Trayvon Martin. The defense is likely to try to convince the jury (especially when one considers whom that jury consists of) that Trayvon was an aggressive, scary, confrontational thug. Unfortunately, his parents will have to sit there silently while these things are said or implied about their son.
- Evidence about robberies in the neighborhood. Several crimes had been committed or attempted in the neighborhood where the shooting took place in the days leading up to it. Most of them involved young black men. Blogs and publications would eventually report on this as if this made it OK for a young black man to be suspected of criminal activity based on his mere presence, to be overzealously pursued and killed. Will the defense make the same case and if so, how receptive will the jury be? At least four of the six jurors are mothers. They might be able to relate to someone who claimed to be protecting his family and his neighborhood.
Hopefully, by the time both sides have rested their cases and the jury has deliberated, there will be justice for Trayvon, and for a group that grows increasingly suspicious of and enraged at our justice system with every marginalizing decision.