Did Race Play a Role in the Trayvon Martin Verdict?
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What was your reaction to the jury’s verdict that found George Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin? Do you think the verdict would have been different if Martin had been white?
Unless you’ve been living in a hole for the last couple of weeks, you’ve probably heard by now that George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. On the night of July 13, after more than 15 hours of deliberation, the six-person all female jury announced its verdict, finding Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter. The announcement culminated an intensely controversial case that captivated the nation for weeks, sparking heated debates about racial profiling, state gun laws and the definition of self-defense.
Specifically, the jury concluded that Zimmerman – who is half Hispanic and half white — justifiably used deadly force because he reasonably believed it “necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm” to himself, which aligns with Florida’s legal definition of self-defense.
It all began on the rainy night of February 26, 2012 in a Sanford, Florida subdivision. Martin, a 17-year-old black male who was visiting his father, was walking back from a convenience store when Zimmerman, a 29-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer, accosted him. Moments before, Zimmerman had called the police to report suspicious activity and was told to stay in his car. The two men got into a physical confrontation and Zimmerman fatally shot the unarmed Martin in the chest. Zimmerman admitted to the shooting, but claimed he had acted in self-defense. He was later released by the Sanford police, in large measure because of Florida’s bold stand-your-ground laws, which allows someone who reasonably believes he or she is in danger to use deadly force, even if walking away from the situation is an option.
After a series of protests around the country accusing Zimmerman of blatant racial profiling and demanding that he be tried for murder, he was officially arrested on April 11 – roughly six weeks after the incident – and charged with second-degree murder.
More than a year later, Zimmerman is again a free man. He was even given his gun back – the one he used to kill Martin.
The verdict has ignited another flurry of protests in cities around the country, with dissenters alleging that justice was not served. The outcome of the case, many argue, would have been very different if Martin had not been black, an assertion that has helped reignite debate over civil rights and racial profiling in this country.
Trayvon Martin’s family may now decide to file a wrongful-death civil suit against Zimmerman, for monetary compensation. Many analysts, however, say that it would likely be lost.
PBS NewsHour video Was Justice Served in Murder Acquittal of George Zimmerman? – July 15, 2013
The George Zimmerman verdict has provoked passionate debate about legal justice and race in the U.S. Judy Woodruff gets reaction from Christina Swarns of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, New Yorker contributor Jelani Cobb, Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University Law School and Carol Swain of Vanderbilt Law School.
To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDedspace and end it with #DoNowTrayvon
For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.
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KQED The Lowdown post Reactions to Verdict in Trayvon Martin Case Split Sharply Along Racial Lines – July 25, 2013
A Florida jury’s verdict earlier this month that acquitted George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, instantly fueled angry protests across the nation. From Atlanta to Oakland, demonstrators took to the streets, condemning the verdict as racially biased.
KQED Forum radio segment Fallout from the Trayvon Marton Verdict – July 15, 2013
A Florida jury’s decision to acquit neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman of murder charges in the death of Trayvon Martin has ignited anger and protests nationwide. Forum discusses the case and fallout from the decision.