Forty-five days after, by his own admission, George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, he was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. The announcement came from Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey on Wednesday, following a bizarre turn of events that included the launch of TheRealGeorgeZimmerman.com, a website started by Zimmerman himself seeking donations, and the lawyers that had thus far represented him in the media holding a press conference to declare they were stepping down after losing contact with their client. Their odd, to say the least, ramblings revealed that Zimmerman had tried to speak directly to special prosecutor, had a conversation with FOX News host Sean Hannity and may not have been in the state of Florida. Zimmerman has now retained the services of attorney Mark O’Mara.
But for many, all that counts is that after weeks of sweating this out in hoodies, they get to say “finally.”
As Reverend Al Sharpton stated at the press conference following the announcement of the charges, “This is not a night for celebration, this is a night that never should have happened in the first place.” For starters, Zimmerman should never have shot and killed Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old who had just come from the store with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. Zimmerman fulfilled his duty as citizen by dialing 911 and reporting what he thought was suspicious. At the point, he should have left it to the police to handle the situation. Instead, he ignored the dispatcher and followed Martin in order to enact vigilante justice.
Self-appointed black friend Joe Oliver has said that Zimmerman is not racist and this has nothing to do with race, but that is hard to reconcile with the fact that he followed, possibly confronted, and shot an unarmed black teenager in the chest because, at least in part, Zimmerman didn’t believe Martin belonged where he was. Zimmerman himself may not be a racist (who among us can know his heart?), but from what we know it isn’t difficult to conclude that racial prejudices regarding black men had something to do with his actions on that night.
The fact is, though, Zimmerman did kill Trayvon Martin, and at that moment this became a matter for the Sanford police department to investigate to the best of their abilities and resources, a task they failed at every turn. Not only did they treat Martin as the perpetrator, testing his body for drugs and alcohol and neglecting to do the same for the shooter, they didn’t bother to notify his family they had his dead body in custody. They held his cell phone and called not one person in his address book, including the girlfriend that has come forward to say she was on the phone with Martin at the moment the confrontation between the two began. Witness testimonies were ignored, forensic evidence was not collected or examined, and onlookers were left to wonder what it would take for the death of a black child to be taken seriously in Sanford.
Widespread cries for justice created a media firestorm, which put Martin’s character on trial. Pictures of him wearing gold teeth or posing with an elevated middle finger circulated, along with information of a school suspension for marijuana, in an effort to tarnish his image and turn the behavior of a normal teenager into that of an unscrupulous thug. Zimmerman’s surrogates went on television to spin a narrative of the night in question, one not supported by any evidence, that turned Martin into a cartoon villain. In an instance where we knew the time, location, and name of the shooter, the burden of proof shifted to a dead 17-year-old to show that he was a worthwhile victim.