It started with O.J. Simspon. The larger than life pageantry of a trial important enough to consume our national consciousness.
There are more recent examples, Casey Anthony, and even to a lesser degree Lindsay Lohan.
The ultimate in reality television.
People will disagree about whether or not they thought Casey Anthony killed her daughter. They’ll do the same with O.J., although anyone in their right mind knows the mountain of forensic evidence tying Simpson to the crime should have been enough to convict him.
But in the last few months, something startling has happened. A backlash against our criminal justice system.
It began with Troy Davis, a man convicted of killing an off-duty police officer in 1989. Part of the protests were anti-death penalty, while others insisted he was innocent.
Trayvon Martin is the latest case, one that has sparked solidarity across the nation.
An unarmed boy, just 17, shot to the death by George Zimmerman, the head of a neighborhood watch.
Murmers that Zimmerman should be arrested have grown to shouts, as even the politically docile professional athlete crowd has chimed in, supporting Martin and his family.
The problem with the uproar with Davis is similar to my criticism of the Martin case: we have a process for this.
Davis was tried by a court of his peers, the evidence was presented and he was found guilty. A slew of mandatory appeals and court decisions later, Davis’ conviction was upheld.
I’m not saying don’t question the system, but I argued at the time that the fact the courts didn’t bow to political pressure proves our system works.
We can’t try these cases in the court of public opinion.
The same is true of the Trayvon Martin killing (we don’t know it was murder).
There is little, if any, forensic evidence that suggests Zimmerman didn’t kill Martin in self-defense. In fact, one of the only witnesses to the crime saw Martin on top of Zimmerman repeatedly striking him.
According to Florida law, which is tricky, Zimmerman’s claims of self-defense preclude police from charging him unless they can prove otherwise.
That’s the way the law works and the way it ought to work.
Furthermore, how can any of us look into the heart and mind of Zimmerman, who has been accused of heinous racism of the highest order (can’t you think of a higher order than killing someone?) and say he shot this kid because he was black?
This is important. It is, whether we like it or not, a major component of this case. Had Trayvon Martin been white do you think the entire Miami Heat team takes a picture to show solidarity with his family? Don’t kid yourself.
This is about an unarmed black kid being shot.
Immediately, the shooter had to have been racist. Except the law doesn’t work like that. There has to be evidence.
What happened was no doubt a tragedy. Any time a 17 year-0ld, – who was holding skittles and iced-tea, not a gun – is killed, it can’t be ruled anything but a tragedy.
The fact that it’s been used to score political points by both our president and the GOP presidential hopefuls is also, though not equally, tragic.
Furthermore, blindly supporting an idea is a tragedy of our society. Zimmerman picked the fight, the evidence suggests Martin engaged him, and unfortunately for the boy, Zimmerman had a gun.
If Martin walks away, he’s probably still alive.
That’s an unpopular thing to say, but it’s the truth, regardless of the color of his skin.
A boy was killed and it’s horribly sad, but let’s not make this something it wasn’t by adding our own advocacy or solidarity when the facts don’t support your ideas.
Those who have changed their Facebook profile pictures to themselves in hoodies, or have spoken out like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, are not wrong for what they’re doing. Their hearts are in the right place.
My point is that its dangerous to jump to conclusions about why someone did something or what happened, when truly, the only people who know are George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. As for what happens to Zimmerman, we have a process for that.
Let those who have the facts act on them.