This is a commentary piece by former Observer-Reporter publisher Bill Northrop which appeared in the July 21, 2013 edition of the newspaper.
By Bill Northrop
A six-person jury stopped a media and political lynching from being an almost real lynching by finding George Zimmerman not guilty for the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. There’s no other way to look at it. The state, which was politically coerced into charging Zimmerman with second degree murder in the first place, couldn’t prove its case because it didn’t have the evidence to prove it.
There was nothing secret about the trial. It was public, televised, and nothing was withheld from the prosecutors. Even the thrown-in-at-the-last-minute “manslaughter” charge couldn’t be made to stick. Most legal analysts predicted the verdict. It shouldn’t have been worth commenting on except that the pre-trial “hang ’im without a trial” mantra has now become “hang ’im anyway.”
This comes from such political opportunists as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, know-nothing football players and celebrities, Twitter cowards, the newly minted Black Panthers and the “let’s burn something anyway” radical left. Even an Associated Press reporter tweeted “So we can all kill teenagers now?”
Worse are top Democratic leaders weighing in. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said “it isn’t over.” And, of course, the Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Eric Holder, is now investigating whether to file criminal civil rights charges. Constitutional rights don’t have much meaning there anyway. No, let’s try Zimmerman until we get the politically correct decision. If the locals can’t do it, the feds can. They have unlimited money and power.
President Obama was more reserved and called for calm, but then threw in politics by saying gun control should be passed in honor of Trayvon Martin. Martin, if you recall, was the son Obama would have liked to have had. That was a piece of the pre-trial hanging Zimmerman got. It’s all because a white man shot, for no reason at all, a young, small black teenager. Except that Zimmerman isn’t white, unless President Obama should be called white. Zimmerman is Hispanic. And Martin wasn’t the little teenager shown earlier. He was 5 feet, 11 inches and weighed 158 pounds – no heavyweight, but in good shape – and Zimmerman is 5 feet, 7 inches and a portly 204 pounds. Martin, who was visiting there, was walking through a neighborhood that was plagued by burglaries committed by blacks. Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch guy, saw him, thought he was suspicious, called police and followed him.
Martin knew he was being followed, didn’t like it, but didn’t head for where he was visiting and didn’t call the police. A confrontation occurred, Zimmerman got hit and knocked down with Martin on top. His nose was broken and his head hit the concrete sidewalk. According to Zimmerman, he feared for his life and pulled the trigger on the gun he was legally carrying. All in all, a quirky, kind of absurdly escalating situation, that shouldn’t have gone where it went and shouldn’t have ended in tragedy, but did.
There were no real racial overtones, as the trial showed. Zimmerman is not a racist, in spite of his profiling Martin. Martin had “a background,” but Zimmerman didn’t know that. There was a history of black crime in the neighborhood, and there is a history of white-on-black injustice. But, here, it boiled down really to the confrontation and fight. That was what the trial was about.
There are lots of “ifs.” What if Zimmerman was black and Martin Hispanic? What if they were both white? What if they were both black? What if Zimmerman had not followed Martin? What if Martin had gone to his destination? What if Martin had killed Zimmerman? The “what ifs” weren’t on trial, however. The evidence for murder and manslaughter wasn’t there. You don’t try what ifs or racial history. Perhaps the only rational question is whether or not there should have been some punishment – other than character assassination and death threats – for Zimmerman. And, of course, there are real issues about “stand your ground” laws, or actions taken when in fear of your life.
It might have helped, though I doubt it, if critics had really followed the trial, or in the aftermath waited to carefully read the trial transcripts. No, it’s all about politics and race-baiting and media malpractice. In the meantime, the scandal of our age is largely ignored: the wholesale killing of young people in our city centers. There are more deaths there than in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Described often as black-on-black crime, it isn’t. It is people-on-people, human-on-human crime. There, as here, the color is irrelevant. The crime, causes, punishments and cures aren’t.
Insisting, as the political left and not-so-left does, that all issues be viewed through the prism of race freezes us in time and place and the past, and makes dealing with the present impossible. That is the real crime.
Bill Northrop, a former publisher of the Observer-Reporter, lives in North Redington Beach, Fla.