As we come to the final stages of George Zimmerman’s trial in the shooting death of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin, it might surprise most of us to look up and see that less than two weeks have passed since opening arguments from the prosecution and defense were heard. With so much action being packed into the previous 10 days of legal meetings and matters, observers on all sides feel like this trial has last as long as the O.J. Simpson case.
However, the prosecution closed its arguments on Friday and Zimmerman’s defense team will probably do the same early next week, and then it’s up to a six-woman (five White, one Latina) jury to decide whether Zimmerman acted in self-defense or callously profiled, stalked and murdered a teenage boy. Whatever the outcome, it’s been an exhausting emotional process for all parties involved and the arguments that have been so incendiary will probably continue even after the verdict is announced.
It’s been stressful to watch Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton see crime scene pictures of their son’s lifeless body, then to see Mrs. Fulton suffer the indignity of defense attorney Mark O’Mara suggesting that she hoped it was her son screaming on the 911 call that picked up that fateful final struggle. It was stunning, but not surprising to see the Zimmerman family doing all they can to keep their relative out of jail with some baffling testimony.
It was embarrassing as a Black man to watch Black people shade Rachel Jeantel, who later revealed her bond with Trayvon was formed out of respect and him treating her as an equal, not making fun of her looks or speech. It was also bizarre to watch two separate medical examiners spar with the defense over the state of Trayvon Martin’s body.
This case has also brought out the right-wing, go-back-to-Africa, faux-Christian troll section of the Internet, with various people with access to Twitter and Facebook making racially-charged comments about the deceased and Blacks as a whole as a means to stir up drama.
Even with all of this, there’s still the climax of this case to come – the verdict. Will the jury be swayed by Don West and Mark O’Mara’s abrasive, borderline disrespectful cross examination or did the Bernie de la Rionda-led prosecution make a strong enough case that Zimmerman stalked, initiated a confrontation and then shot Martin to death? Whatever the case, this has polarized this country in ways unseen since the Simpson murder trial some 18 years earlier.
There are Black folks who fear and understand that Trayvon Martin in absentia and black men as a whole are on trial for the right to exist peacefully, not to be racially profiled and harassed. There are some of various races who feel Trayvon Martin was a petty thug and that his end, albeit tragic, could’ve been avoided by him. That last line of thought speaks to the previous point – Black people really are not welcome in this country. Haven’t been since the end of the Civil War.
The final question also remains – what will happen when the jury is handed this case and they decide on a verdict, no matter how long (or not) it takes? What will the response be? What will happen? Only time will tell.
But this remains certain – a 17 year old black boy and an overzealous White Latino neighborhood watchman crossed paths on a random February night in Florida and with tragic results, have re-opened wounds of racism and public space that never really had a chance to heal.
And regardless of the verdict, they probably won’t heal anytime soon.