It’s ironic how a country that claims to be the most liberal in the world can, well, make such a mess of things (putting it nicely). Unless skittles pose a huge threat to human health and everyone who wears a hoodie is a criminal of course. Let me explain.
On February 26th 2012 Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old African American, was shot dead by George Zimmerman, a half-Hispanic half-white 27 year old man responsible for the Neighbourhood Watch at the time. Martin was unarmed and returning to the home of his father’s fiancé with a bag of skittles and iced tea in one hand and his mobile phone in the other. He had not a weapon, and his hood was up.
George Zimmerman was recently acquitted of murder and manslaughter; the jury concluding that such force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm due to an attack from Martin.
As I have mentioned, Zimmerman was on Neighbourhood Watch at the time. Before going further it is worth mentioning that the Sanford Police Department “had been accused of protecting relatives of police officers involved in violent incidents with blacks”. Zimmerman was not in any sort of uniform and was in his SUV, not a police car.
The fact that Zimmerman was in his SUV and Martin was unarmed meant that Martin would have had to run to the car, break the window and pull Zimmerman out to have started a confrontation. This seems more than unlikely. If Zimmerman hadn’t gotten out of his car there would have been no fistfight.
What the defence used in Zimmerman’s favour was that Martin hid in a bush for four minutes prior to the confrontation, four minutes he could have used to run away. Let’s use some empathy here. If you were being stalked by an armed man with no uniform in his personal SUV on an evening wouldn’t the natural response be to be afraid and confused?
Various witnesses for the defence claimed to have seen Trayvon smash Zimmerman’s head against a paving stone and then break his nose, unfortunately the prosecution had not a single witness.
As for the jury, only six jurors were on it unlike the standard twelve, five of who were white women, the other appeared to be Hispanic. Without suggesting the jury was selectively picked or that their backgrounds may have had an influence, the fact is that the smaller a jury is, and the more similar its members, the less likely that varying opinions would have been considered, potentially leading to a verdict that may be unfair.
Whether Zimmerman did indeed shoot Martin in self-defence, or whether it was racially motivated; only Zimmerman himself will know. However, the fact remains that he followed Martin, an action that caused the alleged reaction of the 17 year old.
Many Americans view this as a miscarriage of justice, simplifying it down to Black vs. White. Nevertheless, the jury always has the final say and it’s just your luck what they make of the facts. This is where we are flawed; convictions are made on what we make of the facts and not the facts alone.
By Yassine Benlamkadem