The Daily Star
---- — “Justice for Trayvon Martin” has been the rallying cry for advocates of the slain 17-year-old, who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman in 2012.
In the months after Martin’s death, many had no doubt hoped that justice would be found in a courtroom, when Zimmerman faced a charge of second-degree murder. But on Saturday, a jury of six women returned a verdict of innocent.
For others — Zimmerman, obviously, among them — this verdict does represent justice. Zimmerman argued that he was acting in self-defense, and the lack of evidence in this case made it hard to prove otherwise.
An initial lack of action by the Sanford, Fla., police department led to so much public pressure that the district attorney overcompensated, seeking a charge that had little chance of a conviction. Had Zimmerman been charged instead with manslaughter — an option held out to the jury at the last minute, too late to make a difference — it’s likely the outcome would have been different.
For those of us who still feel uneasy, we are forced to confront the fact that, since we can know so little about what actually happened on the night of Feb. 26, 2012, we must seek justice elsewhere.
Many issues stirred up by Martin’s death remain unsettled. “This case says so much ... about race, fear, crime, media, gun laws, prosecutorial discretion, minimum mandatory sentences, public trials,” H. Scott Fingerhut of the Florida International University College of Law recently told National Public Radio.
The fact that Zimmerman is Hispanic and Martin black prompted, first some less-than-wise remarks by commentators such as Geraldo Rivera (who decried Martin’s “thug wear” of a hooded sweatshirt), then some more-thoughtful discussions about racial profiling.
Then the focus shifted to Florida’s so-called “Stand Your Ground” law, which removes the requirement for retreat before using deadly force in self-defense.
Zimmerman had initially requested a hearing to claim immunity from prosecution under the “Stand Your Ground” law, but this never happened, making the law irrelevant to Saturday’s verdict.
But the torrent of criticism for the law that poured in from all corners of the nation has continued. Stevie Wonder announced Sunday that he would boycott Florida and other “Stand Your Ground” states.
“For those of you who’ve lost in the battle for justice … we can’t bring them back,” he said at a concert in Quebec City. “What we can do is we can let our voices be heard. And we can vote … for change and equality for everybody. That’s what I know we can do.”
Stevie Wonder is right. If we are still seeking justice for Trayvon Martin, we may find it by looking beyond George Zimmerman and looking at the host of other issues brought into focus by this tragedy.