The question on many a mind is whether Zimmerman can get a fair trial. But the question plaguing me is why the Trayvon Martins of the world are not afforded a fair trail before execution. Before there was Martin, there was Rodney King and Amadou Diallo and many an unknown victim of prejudice.
As a matter of fact, I became aware of Martin’s murder because someone sent an email to me asking whether his killing was this generation’s “Emmett Till moment”. When people ask this question, they are already conceding legal defeat. Till was killed when he was 14 years old in 1955 while visiting Money, Mississippi. Till was from Chicago and didn’t know the ways of the south. He committed the “crime” of flirting with a white woman. He paid for that with his life when he was kidnapped from is grandfather’s home by two armed white men, beaten, tortured, and murdered. His corpse was later found bloated and disfigured in the river. The picture of Till in his casket, famous for being published in Jet magazine with his mother’s permission, garnered national attention. His murderers where put on trail and, as expected, acquitted. Some time later, they confessed to the murder to a journalist once assured that double jeopardy meant they could not be tried again.
I expect much of the same for Martin’s case. I fear that legal pundits will say that the evidence the police bothered to collect is inconclusive, that any potential jury pool has been tainted. And then there is the issue of Florida’s “stand your ground” law absolving people of crimes against those they fear. In 1950s Mississippi, Jim Crow public segregation laws demanded the acquittal of Till’s murderers. In 2012, we have stand your ground and a general acceptance that young black men bring violence upon themselves to shield justice from light and provide cover for those who meet out vigilante justice.