One chapter has closed: A jury acquitted George Zimmerman of charges for the killing of Trayvon Martin Saturday night. Over the weekend protests over Zimmerman's acquittal were mostly peaceful. Yet this story is far from over for Zimmerman and Martin's family. Just minutes after the verdict was announced, the NAACP released an online petition calling for a federal prosecution of George Zimmerman. The response was so overwhelming it temporarily crashed the site. And Sunday, the Department of Justice said it will investigate the case for violations of Trayvon Martin's civil rights.
I don't know what your Facebook feed looks like, but mine has been flooded with images of Trayvon's now iconic hooded face and calls for justice. Personally, I wasn't surprised by the verdict, though I was disappointed. I've served on a jury for a criminal trial, and I know what it's like to answer that requirement, without a shadow of a doubt. The narrative that seems so clear to an outsider gets murky and weighed down by details and the tedium of courtroom procedure. Not to mention, there are hints that the prosecutor Angela Corey wasn't all in, if you know what I mean.
And yet ... a man shot and killed an unarmed black teenage boy in the name of self defense. What is apparently justifiable under Florida law reeks of racism and injustice to much of the rest of the nation. We're just not ready to let this one go. It feels wrong.
So what can we expect from here? The DOJ has said it will investigate, but that doesn't mean they will prosecute. Here is their statement:
Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction, and whether federal prosecution is appropriate.
Key words there are "limited federal criminal civil rights statutes." That sounds to me like "we're not prosecuting unless we think we've got a slam-dunk case." I predict they'll spend a few weeks, maybe months, investigating and then wipe their hands of the case.
Meanwhile, many are to calling strike down Florida's "stand your ground" law (and similar laws around the country). That's a longer road, but it could do the most good in the long run -- well, if we can sustain our attention spans.
In other news, George Zimmerman gets his gun back. As DJ and commentator Jay Smooth said via Twitter Saturday night, "The fundamental danger of acquittal is not more riots, it is more George Zimmermans." We can't bring Trayvon Martin back to life. But can we prevent killings like this from happening again and again?
Were you troubled by George Zimmerman's acquittal?
Image via ABC News