'He got away with murder!'

Jermaine A. Wyrick

The only person of color on the jury, a Latina woman, stated these words after the jury acquitted George Zimmerman for the killing of an unarmed youth, Trayvon Martin. Unfortunately, the verdict demonstrates racial divisions based upon an individual’s perception of the law. The jury lacked diversity. Five of the six women were white. As an African-American male, I personally think the verdict was racist, based upon false, negative stereotypes that demonized Trayvon Martin as a “thug” solely because he was an African-American youth. Moreover, George Zimmerman racially profiled, wrongfully assumed that Trayvon Martin was suspicious, dangerous, and violent, when he was harmless.

He was peacefully walking to his father’s fiancé’s house after purchasing a bag of Skittles and an iced tea when he was confronted by George Zimmerman. The 911 operator told Zimmerman not to follow Martin. In his last words, Trayvon Martin told his friend, Rachel Jeantel, on his cell phone, that there was a “creepy” man following him and even asked, “What are you following me for?” and yelled, “Get off! Get off!” While there was a factual dispute about who cried for help on the 911 tape, considering Zimmerman was armed, he did not need any help whatsoever. Moreover, one of the neighbors, a retired teacher, insisted that it was Trayvon Martin’s voice on the tape.

The verdict is similar to a famous 1857 racist case, Dred Scott, where the court decided, “Blacks were so far inferior they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” Certainly George Zimmerman did not respect the rights of Trayvon Martin, nor did the jury. The acquittal of Zimmerman is analogous to the 1955 tragedy of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy who was brutally murdered for flirting with a white woman. An all-white jury rendered a “not guilty” verdict based upon their rationale that the prosecutor failed to prove the identity of the body, which had been savagely beaten by the white woman’s husband and her brother who kidnapped Till from his uncle’s home. Similarly, people nationwide were outraged not only at the verdict but the prosecutor’s decision not to charge the killers with kidnapping.

Hopefully, the Trayvon Martin verdict will be the impetus to a non-violent movement, the same way Till’s tragedy was for the civil rights movement. Last week, I attended a rally where Sabrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin spoke. In addressing the injustice of the jury’s verdict, she stated, “We must take action!” As an optimist, as unjust as the verdict was, positive solutions can come from this that must be explored. People of good will must report for jury duty so that they can influence just verdicts. Hopefully, the U.S. Department of Justice will pursue federal charges against Zimmerman for violating Martin’s civil rights. Individuals such as the iconic musical genius Stevie Wonder have called for a boycott of Florida and other “Stand Your Ground” law states. Personally, I do not think that entire states should be boycotted, because it can have an unfair, negative impact on those not responsible for the verdict, such as those who work in the tourism industry in Florida, who may have hoped for a Zimmerman conviction. I think it would be more effective to boycott businesses that gave financial support to Zimmerman’s defense. Supporters of Trayvon Martin can also donate to a foundation in his name. I applaud people such as radio disc jockey Tom Joyner who committed to paying for Rachel Jenteal’s college education to help her improve her plight in life after she not only experienced the tragedy of being the last person to talk to Trayvon Martin, but also the ridicule she was subjected to as a witness at the trial, including contempt from one of the jurors who stated, “she was not credible because of her communication skills.” We as a society must effectively communicate with others to eliminate racism and violence.

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Attorney Jermaine A. Wyrick can be reached at 313-964-8950, or by e-mail at Attyjaw1@Ameritech.net. He is available for speaking engagements on legal topics.

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