Every so often criminal cases come up that touches a raw nerve in society and becomes a spectacle in which public opinion plays a prevalent role, thanks to its emotional charge and perceptions.
This is the case of the homicide of Trayvon Martin in Florida. Since the incident came to light in which George Zimmerman shot the teen dead, and to date no arrest has been made or charges filed against him, a general sense of indignation has swept the nation. Once again, as has occurred elsewhere, a young man is viewed as suspect-because he is an African-American walking in the dark-by an armed individual who ends up killing him under confusing circumstances.
All this was enough for suspicions of racism to be cast on a police force that did not immediately arrest the Latino Zimmerman and a prosecutor’s office that has yet to formally accuse him of anything.
The indignation has also given rise to a rush to judgment on an incident in which details are emerging slowly and there is no corroboration of what has been said or reported. Examples of irresponsible responses include filmmaker Spike Lee who, in his zeal to expose Zimmerman, tweeted an incorrect address, or the New Black Panthers offering a bounty on a citizen’s arrest.
At the same time, as we’ve said before, while racial profiling plays a major role in the incident, so do Florida’s lax laws regulating firearms that allow an individual to confront an aggressor rather than requiring him to avoid a clash.
Florida’s history of enforcement of these laws shows that Latinos, African-Americans and Anglos have all benefited and been victims of this legislation in various cases. There, those who claim self-defense when shooting go free regardless of ethnicity or color.
Next April 10, a Seminole County Grand Jury will hear the case to determine whether to press charges against Zimmerman. That is the right path to justice. The nation will be watching.
The protests and indignation may have forced authorities to be more careful than in other similar cases. However, the excessive emotional charge and declarations of guilt based on rumors and journalistic reports do not lead to justice.