As they say at crime scenes, “Move along. Nothing to see here.”
Now that George Zimmerman has finally been arrested in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, that is.
The story evoked world-wide outrage and became a media sensation because of the seeming travesty of justice of a self-styled vigilante walking away after gunning down an unarmed teenager for the apparent crime of “walking while black,” with the extenuating circumstance, according to Geraldo Rivera of, “being with hoodie.”
It seemed blatantly obvious that this was a flagrant misapplication of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, possibly containing more than a hint of racial bias.
Hence the outrage and protests and 24/7 media coverage. And it worked. A new investigation was opened and Zimmerman was charged, not with the lesser charge of manslaughter, but second-degree murder. Now he’ll go on trial and a jury of his peers will decide whether or not he’s guilty.
So aside from several residual matters, such as determining whether or not the Sanford police department’s investigation was criminally inept, and taking a hard look at the “SYG” law, the media can turn its attention elsewhere, and let the case proceed as millions of others do.
I kid, of course. That is NOT going to happen. As the Daily Show has already predicted, we can now “look forward” to months of frenzied pundit speculation about the verdict, not to mention hordes of reporters breathlessly tweeting and blogging about on the daily goings-on inside the courthouse once the trial begins.
But to what end? If the Sanford police department had done its job properly and arrested Zimmerman at the scene, we likely would never have heard of Trayvon Martin. Or it would have been a one-day story. Black teenager getting shot is not normally stop-the-presses news.
After all, even Martin’s parents have said that all they wanted was an arrest in the case. No one (except maybe Spike Lee and others who posted – or thought they were posting – Zimmerman’s address online) was calling for Zimmerman to be summarily punished. The issue was Trayvon Martin having his death be accounted for in the justice system. Mission accomplished.
So from now on, the tail will be wagging the dog. By not letting go of the story, and now focusing on the outcome, the media can only inflame the situation. By the time Zimmerman is ultimately convicted or exonerated, it will have morphed into another “O.J.” case, a Rorschach test on race and the criminal justice system, its original reason for lodging itself in the public’s consciousness all but forgotten.
But, as numerous commentators have said, only two people really know what happened that night, and one of them is dead. The trial might reveal a side of the story we haven’t heard yet. Or the Sanford police department’s not testing Zimmerman for gun powder residue or drugs and letting him keep his weapon might’ve compromised the evidence so much that a conviction is impossible. But we’re miles from that point yet.
For now, the egregious injustice has been righted, the justice system corrected itself and the case is proceeding through the courts.
The story is over. Time to move on.