Thanks to the relentless efforts of Trayvon’s mother, Ms. Sybrina Fulton, his father, Mr. Tracy Martin, and their attorney, Mr. Bernard Crump — backed by an ever-increasing groundswell of support — the shocking killing has garnered nationwide and even international attention and at least some authorities are now beginning to move, albeit a month after the fact, to determine exactly what happened. There is much for them to find out.
Almost daily revelations are breaking down the claim by the shooter, Mr. George Zimmerman, that he acted in self-defense. More and more, information is surfacing that points to a strong racist undercurrent to his actions. The involvement of the state and the federal government in the investigation will no doubt uncover the facts of the case and underscore the failure of the Sanford Police Department to behave as a professional law enforcement agency. On Wednesday in Tallahassee, black lawmakers called on Gov. Rick Scott to appoint a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation.
A few residents who live next to where Mr. Zimmerman, by his own admission, shot Trayvon, tell a heart-breaking story of the wailing of a child that stopped when the shot was fired. The 911 tapes indicate not only that Mr. Zimmerman ignored a police directive not to follow Trayvon but also that his language was clearly racist. The outrage could not be stronger over the loss of the life of yet another young black man.
But whether justice can be truly served is still an open question because, with Mr. Zimmerman’s claiming self-defense he is trying to shield himself with Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. The measure gives immunity from prosecution to anyone who uses deadly force when feeling threatened – anywhere and at any time and without having to answer in a court of law.
This license to kill may seem incredible but the law has been in effect since 2005 and news reports have indicated that killings have tripled since then, almost all with impunity. But it is the sort of law that Florida’s legislators have been prone to pass in recent years, legislation approved with little thought of the consequences, except to appease narrow political interests.
Trayvon’s killing stands as a tragic indictment not just of the overall system that continues to hold little regard for the life of a black man but also of this outrageous law and all of us who show little interest in the caliber and policies of politicians we put into office.
We, all of us, share in the guilt of what happened to Trayvon Martin.