A Southern jury of six women – none of them black – found 28-year-old George Zimmerman's shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to be justifiable homicide because he acted in self-defense.
The jurors were prohibited from considering race. They were instructed only on the parts of self-defense law that helped Zimmerman, and the chief police investigator improperly testified that he believed Zimmerman.
None of the jurors thought race played a role in the case, Juror B-37 told CNN's Anderson Cooper. In fact the question of Zimmerman profiling Martin because he was African-American didn't even come up in deliberations, the juror said.
No wonder it never came up. At the beginning of the trial, the judge forbade the prosecution from speaking about racial profiling. Only the word "profiling" could be used, Judge Debra S. Nelson ruled. "Criminal profiling is based on behavior," NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said on Democracy Now! "Racial profiling is based on color and on race. And the reality is that it appears that George Zimmerman had a pattern of confusing color with grounds for suspicion."
The entire trial from start to finish was sanitized of any mention of race.
Zimmerman told the 911 operator, "These fucking punks" and "these assholes, they always get away," when he spotted Martin walking down the street in Sanford, Florida, that fateful evening. "Looks like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something," Zimmerman said. "Something's wrong with him." When an investigator later asked Zimmerman what he meant by those words, the shooter replied, "I don't know."
But the prosecutor was forbidden from telling the jury that the "something" that was "wrong" may have been the color of Martin's skin. The Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, senior pastor at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, told the New York Times, "Trayvon Benjamin Martin is dead because he and other black boys and men like him are seen not as a person but a problem."
Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, noted, "George Zimmerman saw a young black male as a threat to his community."
Clifford Alexander, who worked as a lawyer in the Lyndon Johnson White House, said in an interview with the Washington Post, "The clear reason why Zimmerman had the audacity to approach this child was that he saw the color of his skin as a threat."
Two days after the shooting, Zimmerman's cousin, known as Witness No. 9, told a Sanford police officer in a telephone call, "I know George. And I know that he does not like black people." She added, "He would start something. He's a very confrontational person. It's in his blood. Let's just say that. I don't want this poor kid and his family to just be overlooked."
But the judge sanitized the case and everyone involved was forced to ignore the elephant in the room. Indeed, after the verdict, Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman's defense attorney, made the preposterous statement that if his client were black, "he never would've been charged with a crime."
Florida's self-defense law prohibits "initial aggressors" from using force if their own conduct has provoked that force. So if a defendant "initially provokes the use of force" against himself, he cannot claim to have acted in self-defense, unless he withdraws or retreats.
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