Trayvon Martin’s death has been one of the most highly covered events of 2012. While the Florida teenager’s death is certainly tragic, many individuals have already jumped to the conclusion that George Zimmerman was acting out of malice, not self defense. Even if he was, the public must allow the criminal justice system to investigate and decide if Zimmerman committed a crime for which he should be charged and tried. This process takes time, and investigators must be honest and impartial.
In 1996, police officer Richard Jewell saved dozens of lives during the Olympic Games in Atlanta. Seeing an unclaimed backpack, Jewell alerted higher authority and began to evacuate the area. The backpack, loaded with nails, then exploded, killing one and injuring 111. Initially, Jewell was heralded for preventing further casualties, but local and national media began to release information leaked by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that he was considered the bombing’s prime suspect. Although never charged, Jewell quickly went from hero to villain because the FBI, and later the public, were convinced of his guilt. The policeman was essentially tried by the media, destroying his reputation despite the fact that he was fully exonerated.
While the cases of Zimmerman and Jewell are not perfectly analogous, the court of public opinion played a deleterious role in each. The Floridian may very well have committed a heinous crime. However, if it so happens that Martin’s death really was an act of self-defense, will Zimmerman be given a fair trial to prove his innocence? The truth is that the shooter is already in court. Like Jewell, Zimmerman has been dragged through a trial by media, where celebrities are rallying, tweeting and calling for his arrest without full knowledge of what actually took place on the evening of Feb. 26. Martin supporters have settled on the following scenario: Zimmerman hunted and killed Martin because of his race. But without access to the investigation (forensics, observations, witness accounts and the like), no one can be sure if this is true.
Several facts involving the case have emerged in the past week, none of which have definitively determined the legality of the shooting. For instance, a video released Wednesday shows Zimmerman arriving at the Sanford police station for questioning. It seemed that his appearance contradicted previous claims he was injured and bloodied after Martin attacked him. The Daily Caller took a closer look and discovered what could be a sizeable gash on Zimmerman’s head. It should also be noted that a report filed by one of the officers who took Zimmerman in for questioning stated that he was “bleeding from the nose and back of the head.” I am willing to wager that there are plenty more facts yet to be released or discovered in the coming weeks. Instead of allowing the media to play the roles of judge and prosecuting attorney in the kangaroo court of public opinion, Sanford police and State of Florida should sort this out on their own. If this case does go to trial, will authorities be able to assemble an unbiased jury after the overwhelming media coverage?
I am not advocating for Zimmerman’s nor Martin’s guilt or innocence. Rather, people must understand that investigations take time and additional information has yet to be released, let alone discovered. Until the investigation is complete, should we really accept the scenario of events offered by people who are thin on facts and fat on agenda? After all, the FBI, the media, and the general public were largely certain of Jewell’s guilt, only to be proved shamefully wrong. Zimmerman and Martin are different sides of the same coin: both deserve justice equally. We must allow the criminal justice system to handle this case on its own time. Justice is colorblind; truth – not agendas – must prevail.