There are few cases with the road of bizarre twists that the Trayvon Martin case seems to be taking.
The latest one comes from the attorneys for George Zimmerman, the onetime neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed the unarmed teenager in a dark gated community outside of Orlando. Zimmerman’s lawyers are preparing to ask the court in Florida to delay the trial to provide time for them to subpoena and pore through the dead teenager’s school records and Facebook information.
It is a request that is at once outrageous and ludicrous. The defense seems to believe that the possibility of a poor academic performance or provocative Facebook conversation somehow entitles the teenager to Zimmerman’s bullet. Martin’s school and social media history is as relevant in this case as some of the Fox News commentaries on the subject. Martin’s parents and lawyers are convinced that the unarmed teenager was a victim of racial profiling, which seems to be more than a reasonable conclusion given the facts that have emerged.
It has been eight months since the African-American teenager was shot in Sanford, Fla., so let’s review the story: On a rainy evening in February, Martin, an African-American 17-year-old high school student, was returning to the home of his father’s girlfriend in a gated community, bearing nothing more lethal than a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles. Wearing a hooded sweatshirt, he caught the eye of Zimmerman, a 28-year-old man of white and Peruvian parentage who seemed to have an obsession with playing the role of amateur police officer.
Zimmerman had been following the teenager, telling police that he looked “suspicious.” If nothing else, Zimmerman was clearly intrigued by the presence of the young man. At one point, Zimmerman called the police, who said they would soon be at the gated community and advised the caller not to follow him.
Within minutes, Martin was shot to death by Zimmerman, who used a 9 mm handgun to shoot the teenager in the heart. Zimmerman has insisted that the young man had assaulted him and that the killing was in self-defense. The shooter sought to invoke Florida’s hideous “stand your ground” law, which allows citizens to use deadly force against one another so long as they feel threatened. It is little more than a license for people to resort to the practices of the Old West, or even the Jim Crow South, to enact their own version of justice.
A national outcry followed, with even President Barack Obama weighing in sympathetically on the matter. People marched in the streets. Rallies abounded.
In the meantime, Zimmerman has emerged as something of a shadowy figure. He and his wife misrepresented their financial status in a bail hearing, claiming poverty while collecting thousands of dollars in donations from misguided contributors to the couple’s website. It resulted in a higher bond and an embarrassing perjury arrest for Zimmerman’s wife.
Americans have a short attention span, but Americans of all stripes and backgrounds need to keep the heartbreaking case of Martin at the forefront of their attention. We need to remain aware of the vulnerability that our young men have to being racially profiled and, worse, assaulted. Moreover, we must remain determined that young people like Martin are not further victimized by having their privacy recklessly and irrelevantly exploited.