The search for justice in the killing of Miami Gardens teenager Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, in a gated community in Sanford, enters its second phase on Monday, when the process of selecting jurors is due to begin at the Seminole County Courthouse.
As happened after he was shot and killed by Crime Watch captain George Zimmerman, this phase cannot be expected to be smooth.
Three weeks before the trial was scheduled to start, defense attorney Mark O’Mara was rebuffed by Judge Debra S. Nelson when he attempted to introduce evidence that would, in effect, have put Trayvon on trial, rather than the man who admits to killing him. The most egregious example was Mr. O’Mara’s announcement that he had a video purporting to show that Trayvon taped his friends beating a homeless man. The truth is that the cell phone video recorded two homeless men fighting over a bike.
Mr. O’Mara apologized a few days later but the damage was already done and a similar effort is almost certain to surface during the trial: the ugly predication among some people that young black men have a predisposition to violence which led Trayvon to attack Mr. Zimmerman, thus forcing him to shoot in self defense. That racist slander must not be allowed to stand, just as the initial refusal of police and prosecutors to charge Mr. Zimmerman did not.
It took a nationwide campaign to convince the authorities to bring criminal proceedings in the case, with Trayvon’s indefatigable parents, Sabrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, and their attorneys in the lead. Getting the case into the court was always a non-negotiable aspect of this tragedy.
Now that the trial is about to start, there is every expectation that it will be fair. That is easier said than done in a region which is notorious for being biased against black males and which has a history of justice being warped in favor of white people. But it can happen. Whatever the verdict in a court of law, the fundamental expectation is that all the facts will be dispassionately laid out to a diverse jury which will render a verdict, and judge imposed sentence, if convicted, that are just. Once that happens, then justice will have been served.