Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Justice: A Dream Deferred

I have been very vocal and passionate about the Trayvon Martin killing since I learned about it last year when protests to charge George Zimmerman were at a high. I wrote a couple blog posts, one of which focused on a four quadrant photo circulating on the internet in the initial attempts to smear Martin's character. Over a year later, apparently, in Florida, the “stand your ground law” doesn’t seem to apply if the victim is white or non-existent. At least that’s how Marissa Alexander and Trevor Dooley’s cases make it appear. 
  • Why is it that when the race roles are reversed, “stand your ground” law doesn’t apply, as in the case of Trevor Dooley, a 5-foot-7 69-year-old black man weighing in at 160 pounds, against David James, a 6-foot-1 41-year-old white man weighing in at 240 pounds? Dooley testified that James physically attacked him and, in fear for his life, Dooley was forced to shoot James; in about 90 minutes jurors came to a guilty verdict conclusion that Dooley shot James over “nothing.”
  • Why can George Zimmerman shoot and kill an unarmed black teenager and walk free for 44 days only to then walk free of all charges for ‘stand your ground’ when Marissa Alexander gets charged with 20 years for standing her ground with no casualties or injuries to anyone?
  • Why was the trial of Zimmerman’s charge of second degree murder actually the postmortem trial of Trayvon Martin?

These were just a few of the questions that bounced around in my head immediately after Zimmerman received a ‘not guilty’ verdict in the killing of unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin. Justice for blacks has never been an easy reality to come by and the idea that racism is a thing of the past is a fairy tale certain people tell themselves in order to avoid the harsh reality that truly invokes the notion that the more things change, the more they stay the same. It was difficult to watch the Zimmerman trial because of the defense’s attempt to prove, and the prosecution’s inability to disprove, that Trayvon Martin essentially brought his death on himself, and was simply a thug in a hoodie, unarmed mind you, who attacked a man that was following him. This man, Zimmerman, was fully aware of his own possession of a gun and, according to 911 tapes, was tired of people who didn’t belong getting away in his neighborhood. However, the verdict has already been passed down by a jury which included five white women and one Hispanic woman. Trayvon Martin was painted as a hulk-smashing, drug-using thug who beat the gun wielding, approaching Zimmerman within an inch of his life and was repaid with a bullet to the chest. Everything from Martin’s school records to social media presence weighed in, yet Zimmerman’s past records of violence seemed to play no part in the fact that he would be motivated with the intent to physically stop Martin by any means necessary. The fact that he lost the upper hand in the physical altercation did not suddenly make him a victim. Many questions arose of what the unarmed Trayvon Martin could have done differently in order to avoid getting killed rather than what the armed George Zimmerman could have done differently to leave the situation to authorities and avoid killing someone. Victim blaming at its finest.  This was clearly the mindset on the minds of authorities the night of Martin’s killing considering the fact that they released Zimmerman free as the wind. It was only after a month and a half of national protests of injustice that inspired the appointment of a special prosecutor that brought charges against Zimmerman.

Two days after the trial, juror B37 interviewed with CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 (AC360) and spoke about her initial intent, only one day after the trial, to write a tell-all book about her experiences being on the Zimmerman trial jury and how “…our justice system can get so complicated that it creates a conflict with our ‘spirit’ of justice.” Sounds like pure greed and exploitation of a tragic circumstance to me. Apparently I wasn’t the only one because, according to one article, Twitter lit up with tweets to literary agent Sharlene Martin speaking out against this idea:

"Hey, @sharlenemartin, please drop juror B37," Lauren wrote. "Do not help the person who let a murderer get away profit from this tragedy."

After a change.org petition reached 1,000 signatures, Martin Literary Agency decided to drop the unnamed juror and B37 subsequently abandoned the book idea. Even more interesting is the juror’s admission that she, and maybe other jurors, felt that Zimmerman went “above and beyond” acceptable action by confronting Martin. According to Yahoo News, B37 felt,

“[Zimmerman] got displaced by the vandalism in the neighborhood and wanting to catch these people so badly that he went above and beyond what he should have,” she said. “It just went terribly wrong. I think he’s guilty of not using good judgment. When he was in the car and called 911, he shouldn’t have gotten out of that car.”

Am I crazy or are these not the facts that prove Zimmerman is guilty? Zimmerman was angry over other vandalisms, and sought to forcefully stop Martin, all while knowing he was carrying a gun. If that’s not malice and intent, I don’t know what is. Yet this juror seems to have babied a grown man and a verdict for someone who shot and killed an unarmed, black teenager. Even more, the casualness with which juror B37 refers to Zimmerman in the interview as “George” but Trayvon as still “Martin” demonstrates to me the hypocrisy. In a revealing exchange, though, B37 paused and admitted that she’d only want Zimmerman serving neighborhood watch in her own community “if he didn’t go too far” since he’s most likely “learned a good lesson.” Poor judgment and lessons learned by a killer? Disgusting. As I mentioned previously about the prosecution’s inabilities, the fact that a peremptory challenge was not used to nix this woman proves that this jury was tainted from the beginning.

The juror went on to say how the six women, who were initially split three to three for acquittal and three for either murder or manslaughter, cried upon concluding their verdict which I find hard to believe since she was one of the jurors who already had the desire to acquit Zimmerman in the initial vote. Who was she exactly crying for if she believed Martin brought his death on himself and Zimmerman should walk free? It sounds like her ‘spirit’ of justice is way off. I only hope that the revelations coming out from the mouth of one of the jurors can result in a mistrial based on clear defects in jury procedure.