With the name “Trayvon Martin” having become a cry for the wheels of justice to get rolling, a Florida special prosecutor announced the filing of a second-degree murder charge against the 17 year old’s killer, George Zimmerman.
With the name “Trayvon Martin” having become a cry for the wheels of justice to get rolling, a Florida special prosecutor announced the filing of a second-degree murder charge against the 17 year old’s killer, George Zimmerman, on Wednesday.
During an afternoon press conference that had people throughout the nation focused on their televisions, Angela Corey delivered news that protesters in myriad cities had sought – Zimmerman was under arrest for the fatal shooting of the unarmed Martin.
The Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network appeared with Martin’s parents following Corey’s announcement and credited her for the job done. He noted that had there been no arrest or a charge, he and others would be condemning Corey and the person who appointed her to the case, Fla. Gov. Rick Scott.
“We must say that despite the fact that we are different political parties and different political persuasions, that tonight maybe America can come together and say that only the facts should matter when you are dealing with a loss of life,” said Sharpton.
Nameless, faceless people of myriad persuasions applied the pressure that led to a review of the original decision not to prosecute Zimmerman, said Sharpton.
“We do not want anybody high-fiving tonight,” said Sharpton. “There is no victory here. There are no winners here. They’ve lost their son. This is not about gloating. This is about pursuing justice. We have not won anything. All we have done is established that we must have the right to redress and justice in this country…
“We will monitor the trial every step of the way,” he said. “We will stand by and make sure the rights of all are not violated.”
Corey told reporters that she would not have filed the charge against Zimmerman had there not been “a reasonable certainty of conviction.”
Noting that she and her staff had met briefly with Martin’s parents when they picked up the investigation, Corey said, “The first thing we did was pray. We did not promise anything.”
Corey gave the first indication of Zimmerman’s arrest and that he had retained new council. On Tuesday, his previous attorneys used a bizarre press conference to note that they were stepping away from the case, citing an inability to get on the same page with their client about elements such as talking to the media and putting up a website.
As the news spread Wednesday of Zimmerman’s arrest and the second-degree murder charge, reactions came fast and in a hurry from several quarters.
“Your hard work, petitions, and prayers contributed to this moment,” NAACP president and CEO Benjamin L. Jealous said soon after in a written statement. “The arrest of George Zimmerman will not heal the hole that Trayvons murder left in our hearts. It will not bring him back to his family, nor will it bring back the countless other young, black victims of similar crimes.”
Still said Jealous, Zimmerman’s arrest could serve as a turning point. “As we have seen, the system does not always work perfectly. But we have shown that when we stand together as a nation we can compel it to work.”
For the NAACP, the case has always been about justice, fairness, and the rule of law, said Jealous. “We anticipate and expect a thorough federal investigation of the Sanford Police Department and its role in exacerbating this tragedy.”
Martin was killed on the night of Feb. 26 while walking home from a convenience in Sanford, Fla., a suburb of Orlando, where he had been visiting his father. After calling 911 to report a suspicious black male walking in the gated community, Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, was told not to follow him. Zimmerman ignored that instruction, continued to follow Trayvon, and ended up in a fight with him.
A single bullet to the chest fired from Zimmerman’s 9 millimeter automatic handgun killed Martin. Citing the state’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, Zimmerman claimed to be acting in self-defense. He was questioned by Sanford police and released without being charged.
“Elected officials, law enforcement officers, and our nation as a whole must understand that racial profiling and the official neglect of the murders of young men of color will not be tolerated,” said Jealous. “Together we can make sure the world we leave to all of the Trayvons in our lives is a better and safer place.”
Meanwhile, Dennis Parker, director of the ACLU Racial Justice Program, urged that Zimmerman not be the victim of a rush. The arrest is but one step in addressing issues of racial discrimination that Martin’s killing raised, he said in a written statement.
“We are hopeful that the prosecution of George Zimmerman will proceed in a fashion that assures that everyone involved in the incident is given the full due process and equal protection of the laws to which they are entitled,” Parker said.
“Regardless of the outcome of this prosecution, we would be doing a disservice to Trayvon Martin, to communities of color throughout the United States and to the nation as a whole if we failed to address the major issues of discrimination and fairness which this incident and many others have brought to light.”
On Monday, Special Prosecutor Corey had let it be known that she would not use a grand jury to determine if criminal charges should be brought against Zimmerman, sparking speculation of whether such a move might signal a quicker arrest of Zimmerman than having regular citizens decide his fate as grand jurors.
Prosecutors in many high-profile cases often convene grand juries to determine whether criminal indictments are issued against a suspect, thus sparing themselves from any public fallout from unpopular decisions.
In deciding to scrap the planned grand jury, Corey made it clear that she and she alone would decide if Zimmerman was culpable in Martin’s death. Under Florida law, only first-degree murder cases require the use of grand juries to determine if there is probably cause to charge a defendant.
In a statement issued after Corey made it known she would not be using the grand jury route, Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin’s parents, said, “The family has been patient throughout this process and asks that those who support them do the same during this very important investigation.”
(This story includes a NNPA report by George Curry)