Friday, March 23, 2012

A Country Divided: The Tragedy of Trayvon Martin

First off, my thoughts and prayers go out to the Martin family and friends during this time of tragedy.

In a case many have compared to the horrific lynching of Emmett Till in 1955, Trayvon Martin’s killing at the hands of presently uncharged Zimmerman in Florida is spreading throughout the country and social media sites. While I realize that the public does not receive all of the facts from the news in any case without being a key and present witness, 4 essential facts were released to the public:
  1. Martin's body was found unarmed with only tea and Skittles on his person.
  2. Martin was referred to as only looking "suspicious" by Zimmerman via released audio of Zimmerman's 911 call.
  3. Zimmerman is also heard saying "These a**holes; they always get away" during his 911 call according to the Chicago Tribune
  4. The 911 dispatcher audibly instructs Zimmerman to not continue following Martin when he responds to Zimmerman's admission of pursuit with, "Okay, we don't need you to do that."
Any story where a teenager is shot by another civilian, no matter what race or color merely yards away from his home and no investigation or proper protocol is sought despite of mounting evidence, is a tragedy. Currently Zimmerman walks free with no charges filed amid his immediate verbal claim at the crime scene of self defense. According to an article by USA Today, the Martin lawyer "Crump has questioned Sanford police actions after the shooting, noting that police did not run a blood-alcohol test or a background check on Zimmerman, but they ran both on Martin after he died. He said police took Zimmerman's word without conducting a thorough investigation."

I use the word “divided” in this post title to highlight not only a divide now between races and ethnicities in this country, but a divide between media outlet coverage, and law enforcement and civilians. Despite the country divide and growing anger and evidence over the killing of Trayvon Martin, many major news outlets have not mentioned or covered the story. Prominent media figures like Nancy Grace who covered stories like Casey Anthony for a time period of almost a year have not talked at length about this case. When I read the hatred, anger, and racial tension throughout the comment sections in news article threads and forums, it brings to mind a time, only a few decades ago, when the country was physically divided because of race with the and the utilization of segregation.
The "Stand Your Ground" law has become a point of defense and contention in this case and with Zimmerman's claim of self defense. The Florida Statute for the law is below.
Florida Statute XLVI Chapter 776: Justifiable Use of Force
776.012 Use of force in defense of person.A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:
(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or
(2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013.

There was, however, no investigation from police into whether Zimmerman was telling the truth. Even police officers are suspended pending investigations of discharging their weapons when it results in the death of someone, so I think a lot of family and national anger stems from the question of why a civilian shooting and killing another civilian would not be held accountable until all evidence, witness reports and crime scene facts are collected.