The truth of the Martin/Zimmerman case is that none of us were physically there at the moment things got heated. But everyone's a critic. If this tragedy has shown us anything, it's that we need action and conversation on race and law, pronto.
I was asked by a friend when the news broke what I thought about the case. My first response was "it would be irresponsible of me to give an opinion on an incident that I wasn't present for." My un-lawyer-esque response was met with a curious gaze to which I replied "well...almost everyone I've seen on either Facebook or Twitter is disgusted with the outcome, the truth is there are few indisputable facts and what really happened that night is known only to Martin and Zimmerman. But I do think anything less than manslaughter would be unjust." The jury in the Zimmerman trial made a decision that they felt comfortable with, they didn't have to be racist, Florida law protected and provoked their decision.
It's easy to veer off into different directions with this case, but the foundation is built on the facts and there are few. Fact one, George Zimmerman pursued Trayvon Martin on foot despite being advised not to by the 9-1-1 operator. Fact two, there was an altercation in which someone can be heard screaming for help. Fact three, Zimmerman, armed with a gun, shot and killed Martin who was unarmed. Fact four, it was dark and rainy.
Fact five, Martin was an African-American male, Zimmerman is a Caucasian-Latino male.
Despite Florida's racially-charged past and present, this case can't be reduced to racial discrimination alone. A lot could have happened that night, maybe Martin reached for something that could have been confused as a weapon, Zimmerman truly felt threatened and in the heat of the moment reached for his firearm. Or maybe, as a majority who've taken to the streets have said, Martin was minding his own business, was pursued unnecessarily and murdered in cold-blood -- armed with only a hoodie, a cellphone and a bag of skittles.
The point is, collective anger and protest needs to be directed against the law, not store windows and not Wal-Mart. President Obama was right when he said that the United States is a "nation of laws," but that doesn't necessarily mean that all of those laws are just. In my last post I spoke in detail about the problems associated with the right to gun possession as there are many. The Martin case is a clear example of everything wrong with gun ownership and Stand Your Ground, it's not a racially discriminatory law per-se but it does leave room for 'interpretation' that can lead to tragic rulings like this which favour the aggressor. But I would hesitate in going so far as to say that this has signalled "open-season on young black males" though. Yes, the case sets an unfortunate precedent; but it doesn't mean that we're going to see a real-life scene out of The Purge anytime soon. The main question at the root of the anger nation-wide is, "was Trayvon Martin killed because he was black?" America is divided between yes and no and only Zimmerman knows the answer for certain.
The conversation on what it means to be black in America is an important and urgent one that needs to be had, not just on Oprah, but on national and state policy levels. This is the second part of the case that many see as being the key race-card. Zimmerman pursued Martin because he looked "suspicious." Why suspicious? Because of the hoodie? The pace he was walking? Because he was black? The words suspect and suspicious associated with the colour of one's skin or choice of clothing should enable us to start openly exploring the culture of stereotypes and stigmas that still exist in 21st-century North America about race and privilege and why they exist. Some would call the Zimmerman-style of profiling racist, but others would say that people who look and dress a certain way are suspicious because they resemble criminals who wear similar clothing and are of the same race. These are actual preconceptions in society that exist, pre-packaged judgements that are cast-out daily just by looking at you. We can't afford to band-aid them by silencing those we disagree with. We need to hear these inherent ideas. Then eliminate them through education.
I know these are highly-inflammatory conversations, but everything is far from kosher when all we've achieved from years of civil rights advocacy is covert-racism as opposed to the overt-racism of the past. That's not the type of change that Dr. King and so many others fought for. We need to get real with one another here. Change the law and address racism head on so that this tragedy doesn't happen again.
<strong>Feb. 19, 2012</strong> -- Trayvon Martin, 17, and Tracy, his father, travel from Miami Gardens to Sanford, Fla., to visit the elder Martin's fiancee in her townhome at The Retreat at Twin Lakes. <em>Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.globalgrind.com" target="_blank">globalgrind.com</a></em>
<strong>Feb. 26, 2012</strong> -- Trayvon Martin is walking to the home of his father's fiancee after purchasing items from a 7-Eleven store in Sanford. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, spots Martin at approximately 7 p.m. and calls police. "We've had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there's a real suspicious guy," Zimmerman tells police.
<strong>Feb. 26, 2012</strong> -- Roughly seven minutes after Zimmerman's call to police, authorities receive a 911 call from an individual reporting a fight. During the call, the dispatcher hears a gunshot in the background and sends police units to the location. Responding officers discover that Martin has been shot in the chest. The teen is unresponsive and pronounced dead at the scene. Police find no identification on Martin and label him a John Doe.
<strong>Feb. 26, 2012</strong> -- Questioned by police, Zimmerman informs them that Martin attacked him and he fired his gun in self-defense. Authorities confiscate Zimmerman's 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and take him to the Sanford Police Department for further questioning.
<strong>Feb. 27, 2012</strong> -- Following a lengthy interview, George Zimmerman is released from the police station at approximately 1 a.m. Hours later, Tracy Martin contacts police to report his son missing. Investigators soon connect the dots and inform the elder Martin of his son's death. After receiving treatment from a family doctor, Zimmerman meets with investigators and reenacts the events of the shooting at the crime scene.
<strong>March 8, 2012</strong> -- Tracy Martin holds a press conference, during which he criticizes the investigation into his son's slaying. "We feel justice hasn't been served," Martin tells reporters.
<strong>March 9, 2012</strong> -- Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump tells the Miami Herald he is filing a lawsuit for the release of public records in the case.
<strong>March 10, 2012</strong> -- Members of the New Black Panther Party, contending there has been a "miscarriage of justice," rally outside the Sanford Police Department.
<strong>March 12, 2012</strong> -- Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee holds a press conference, at which he claims that investigators were unable to arrest Zimmerman because he was protected by Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows residents to shoot someone if they reasonably believe they are being threatened. "There is no evidence to dispute Zimmerman's assertion that he shot Martin out of self-defense," Lee says. In response, Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, post a petition on the Change.org website calling for State Attorney Angela Corey to prosecute Zimmerman. The petition quickly garners support from multiple celebrities and receives nearly 900,000 signatures the first week.
<strong>March 13, 2012</strong> -- In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the NAACP expresses doubt in the Sanford Police Department's ability to appropriately handle the investigation, asking the Department of Justice to review the case. "The NAACP has no confidence that, absent federal oversight, the Sanford Police Department will devote the necessary degree of care to its investigation," the letter says. Sanford police announce the completion of their investigation and turn the case over to the State Attorney's Office for Brevard and Seminole Counties. "Trayvon Martin and his family, interested persons, and the public-at-large are entitled to no less than a thorough, deliberate and just review of the information provided, along with any other evidence that may or may not be developed in the course of the review process," State Attorney Norm Wolfinger's office says in a statement.
<strong>March 14, 2012</strong> -- Mary Cutcher, a woman listed in police reports as a witness who heard Martin's shooting, <a href="http://www.wftv.com/news/news/witness-sanford-police-blew-us-teen-slaying/nLSqk/" target="_blank">tells WFTV.com that police took only a short statement from her</a> following the shooting. "[The police] blew us off, and I called back again and I said, 'I know this was not self-defense. There was no punching, no hitting going on at the time, no wrestling,'" says Cutcher.
<strong>March 15, 2012</strong> -- Sanford police issue a statement calling Mary Cutcher's TV interviews "inconsistent" with her sworn testimony. Meanwhile, Zimmerman's father, Robert, tells the Orlando Sentinel that his son has been unfairly portrayed as a racist.
<strong>March 16, 2012</strong> -- Sanford police release eight 911 recordings in the case. One of the recordings includes a voice in the background screaming, "Help, help!" The screams are followed by the sound of a gunshot.
<strong>March 19, 2012</strong> -- The Justice Department and the FBI announce they have opened an investigation into the shooting.
<strong>March 20, 2012</strong> -- State Attorney Norm Wolfinger announces that a Seminole County, Fla., grand jury will review the circumstances of Martin's death.
<strong>March 21, 2012</strong> -- The Sanford City Commission votes "no confidence" in Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee and calls for his resignation.
<strong>March 22, 2012</strong> -- Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee holds a press conference and announces he is temporarily stepping down as police chief because his presence is a "distraction." State Attorney Norm Wolfinger recuses himself from the case and Florida Gov. Rick Scott announces that another state attorney, Jacksonville-based Angela Corey, will be replacing Wolfinger as special prosecutor in the investigation. Meanwhile, Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III and other civil rights leaders and politicians hold a justice rally at Sanford's Fort Mellon Park. They demand an arrest in Martin's shooting. An estimated 10,000 people attend the event.
<strong>March 23, 2012</strong> -- President Barack Obama tells reporters that the nation needs to do some "soul-searching to figure out how something like this happens." He adds, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."
<strong>March 24, 2012</strong> -- Members of the New Black Panther Party offer a $10,000 reward for the "capture" of Zimmerman.
<strong>March 25, 2012</strong> -- Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks in Eatonville and encourages revisions to Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. "If it's a moment, we go home. If it's a movement, we go to war," says Jackson.
<strong>March 26, 2012</strong> -- Police release new details of the investigation, saying Zimmerman told them Martin punched him and slammed his head into the sidewalk several times. Acting Police Chief Darren Scott takes over as chief of the Sanford Police Department. Thousands of people gather in Sanford to mark one month since Martin was killed.
<strong>March 29, 2012</strong> -- Zimmerman's brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr., tells CNN that medical records will prove his brother was attacked and his nose was broken.
<strong>April 3, 2012</strong> -- Florida State Sen. Chris Smith (D-Fort Lauderdale) announces the formation of a task force to review the state's "Stand Your Ground" law.
<strong>April 8, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman launches the website "The Real George Zimmerman" to raise money for his defense.
<strong>April 9, 2012</strong> -- State Attorney Angela Corey announces her decision not to use a grand jury in the Martin investigation. The move eliminates the possibility of a first-degree murder charge.
<strong>April 10, 2012</strong> -- Zimmerman's attorneys, Hal Uhrig (right) and Craig Sonner, announce that they will no longer be representing him.
<strong>April 11, 2012</strong> - State Attorney Angela Corey announces the charging of George Zimmerman with second-degree murder. Zimmerman turns himself in to police and is booked into the Seminole County Jail. Mark O'Mara announces his role as Zimmerman's new attorney.
<strong>April 23, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman's new lawyer, Mark O'Mara, enters a not-guilty plea on his client's behalf. Zimmerman is released from jail on a $150,000 bond. Per the conditions of his release, Zimmerman is required to wear a GPS monitoring device.
<strong>April 24, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman shuts down his website. According to his attorney, the site raised $200,000.
<strong>April 27, 2012</strong> -- Mark O'Mara launches the website GZLegalCase.com as the official site for Zimmerman's legal case.
<strong>May 8, 2012</strong> -- At Zimmerman's arraignment, Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. accepts his not-guilty plea.
<strong>May 17, 2012</strong> -- Prosecutors release police reports, witness statements, surveillance videos and other evidence in the case.
<strong>June 1, 2012</strong> -- Judge Lester revokes Zimmerman's bond, stating that his ruling is based on concerns that Zimmerman and his wife did not fully disclose their finances at the bond hearing.
<strong>June 3, 2012</strong> -- Zimmerman is returned to jail.
<strong>June 12, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman's wife, Shellie, is arrested on one count of perjury.
<strong>June 20, 2012</strong> -- The Sanford city manager fires Bill Lee from the police force.
<strong>June 21, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman's legal team releases discovery evidence on their client's website.
<strong>June 29, 2012</strong> -- Zimmerman's second bond hearing is held. The judge does not immediately issue a ruling.
<strong>July 5, 2012</strong> -- Judge Lester grants Zimmerman a higher bond of $1 million.
<strong>July 6, 2012</strong> -- Zimmerman is again released from jail.
<strong>July 19, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman relaunches his personal website.
<strong>July 27, 2012</strong> -- George Zimmerman's wife pleads not guilty to perjury.
<strong>Aug. 29, 2012</strong> -- An appeals court grants a request by George Zimmerman's defense team to dismiss Judge Lester from the case.
<strong>Aug. 30, 2012</strong> -- Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson is assigned the case.
<strong>Oct. 19, 2012</strong> -- Judge Nelson grants a defense motion requesting access to Trayvon Martin's school records and social media posts. The state is also granted access to Zimmerman's medical records.
<strong>Nov. 14, 2012</strong> -- Gov. Scott's "Stand Your Ground" task force concludes its final meeting and recommends no sweeping changes to the law.
<strong>Nov. 20, 2012</strong> -- Former Casey Anthony attorney Jose Baez announces that he is representing Sanford police Detective Chris Serino, the lead investigator in the shooting.
<strong>Dec. 3, 2012</strong> -- A new photo is released showing George Zimmerman with a bloody, broken nose on the night of the shooting.
<strong>Feb. 5, 2013</strong> -- On this day, Trayvon Martin would have turned 18.
<strong>Feb. 26, 2013</strong> -- Martin's parents hold a rally in his memory to mark the one-year anniversary of his death.
<strong>March 26, 2013</strong> -- Zimmerman's defense team releases its witness list of 134 people, including Sanford police officers and 56 unnamed witnesses.
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