An Eclectic Journal of Opinion, History, Poetry and General Bloviating
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
The Terrifying Execution of Trayvon Martin—The Emmett Till Case for a New Century
Trayvon Martin was a
slender kid who looked younger than his 17 years. On February 26 he was shot to death walking
home on a rainy night from a convenience store in Sanford, Florida, an Orlando suburb. At the time he was armed with a can of tea
and a bag of Skittles. The man who shot him to death at
short as he screamed for help was a 28 year old virtually self-appointed
guardian of the comfortable middle class gated sub-division where the boy was
visiting with his father. After a
cursory investigation local police released George Zimmerman at the scene and announced that they had no reason
to charge him.
mention that Trayvon, a happy kid and good student who had never been in
trouble with the law, was Black and Zimmerman, always
described as the volunteer captain of a citizen’s watch, of
course was White?
generated local headlines, and then went national as days passed and it became
apparent, that no action would be taken against Zimmerman. Over the past weeks it has gone viral in the blog-o-sphere and on the social network forums of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
what happened that night have slowly emerged.
And it looks more and more like Zimmerman simply executed the boy while
local police tried to stifle or ignore eyewitness testimony.
We now know
that Zimmerman spotted Trayvon walking through the neighborhood and called 911
to report a “suspicious person” walking
in the rain and “looking around… he’s on drugs or something.” He told the dispatcher the pedestrian was
acting in a threatening manner. “These a--holes always get away.”
was in his SUV and actively following Trayvon.
The dispatcher explicitly told the caller, “You don’t have to do that.” Zimmerman ignored the advice.
point Zimmerman got out of his car and began to pursue Trayvon on foot. The frightened by tried to run for home. As Zimmerman closed in Trayvon began
screaming for help. Several 911 calls
from neighbors, released by police only when the victim’s family threatened to
sue, catch the boy’s screams for help before a single gunshot silences him.
witnesses who tried to tell police what happened were ignored on the scene and
police refused for days to do follow-up interviews with them. One woman said that when she told an officer
that the boy was crying for help, she was interrupted and told that no, it was
Zimmerman who called for help. The 911
tapes confirm that it was indeed Trayvon.
Seminole County authorities
only reluctantly open an investigation of the shooting under intense
pressure. Even Florida Governor Rick Scott, a pro-gun law and order Republican was forced to ask his state Justice Department to intercede.
believe that no matter what the evidence, Zimmerman will not be charged in
Florida because of the state’s Self Defense Law. In 2005 he state of Florida enacted
one of the nation’s strongest so-called “stand your ground” laws. A person in
Florida is justified in using deadly force against another if he or she “reasonably
believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to
himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible
Supported by the National
Rifle Association (NRA) and
other gun lobbies the law does not require a reasonable attempt to retreat from
danger. In fact it encourages aggressive
use of force. And the only standard is
the highly subjective belief of the shooter that he was in danger. That danger does not even have to be evident
to witnesses as long as the shooter maintains he felt that.
It is a hairy-chested wet dream of heroic fantasy
law. No one doubts that in Florida
before a jury that will carefully screen out most if not all Blacks a sharp
defense attorney appealing to those sentiments will portray Trayvon as the menacing black male society has been
trained to fear. His can of tea will
probably be described as a weapon. Black
boy. White hero. Zimmerman would walk.
under pressure the United States Justice Department opened up
its own investigation of the case to determine if it falls under Federal Hate Crime statutes.
They will also look into the shoddy investigation of local authorities.
Look for a
long investigation. Even if it comes to
trial, cases like this are difficult.
But Federal prosecution may be the only avenue for justice for Trayvon’s
about the shooting only grows. It needs
to be sustained. This is the Emmett Till case of our time.
Till was the 13 year old Black Chicago boy
brutally lynched in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a
white woman. The case became a national
cause celeb and eventually helped largely end lynching in the South. Perhaps Trayvon’s death can help stop new
lynching by hand gun legalized in statues like Florida’s.
But it is
cold comfort. Till’s known murders and
many of their suspected accomplices were never punished for their crime and
lived out their lives unmolested.