George Zimmerman Case
On February 26, 2012, 17-year old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman; the subsequent trial would endeavor to determine whether Zimmerman was guilty of second-degree murder, or whether this encounter was a case of self-defense. The prosecution based their case on the fact that Martin was merely walking in a community that he had the right to be in; he was not in the act of committing a crime, and thus was not a threat to Zimmerman. They also contended that Zimmerman profiled Martin, an African American male, and used this misperception as rationale for his violence. The defense, however, stood by their claims of self-defense, citing Florida’s “stand your ground” legislation.
The case of George Zimmerman ultimately comes down to two conflicting stories. Zimmerman claimed that he was accosted by Martin, and that he was, at one point, punched in the face and had his head held to the pavement. The prosecution countered with evidence of Zimmerman’s size as compared to Martin, contending there is no way the latter could have been a credible threat to the former. The defense continuously came back to the idea that the jury must be certain of their verdict beyond reasonable doubt, and that the gaps in witness testimonies and the physical evidence leaves ample room to give Zimmerman the benefit of the doubt. Ultimately, the jury in the case would find the narrative put forth by Zimmerman’s legal team to be more believable than that put forth by the prosecution. While the jury did return a verdict of not guilty, several members commented after the trial about their hesitations. Many believed that the legal definition of the crime Zimmerman was charged with left too much room for doubt; others believed that he was guilty but could not find the evidence necessary to convict. Still others commented that both Martin and Zimmerman were equally responsible for the turn of events. This case would prove to be a watershed moment in the fight against racial profiling in 21st-century America, and would provide fuel to the ever-growing fire of the Black Lives Matter movement.