The trial in Sanford attracted lots of national attention. Civil rights leaders from across the country converged on Seminole County, carrying signs demanding justice. The protestors told the media they only wanted George Zimmerman to be brought to trial.
The problem was the facts of the case did not bear out a criminal prosecution. After the shooting of the black teenager, Trayvon Martin, the Sanford Chief of Police was fired for refusing to immediately arrest Mr. Zimmerman. The Seminole County Assistant State's Attorney also did not move quickly enough for the protestors and Gov. Rick Scott was pressured into appointing a special prosecutor from Jacksonville. Angela Corey the District 4 State's Attorney had an ethical responsibility not to proceed with the case unless there was sufficient evidence, but the trial went on.
After three weeks and 56 witnesses in the most one-sided legal proceeding I have ever witnessed, it was clear Mr. Zimmerman had acted in self-defense and he was completely exonerated. That result was not satisfactory to the African American community. Al Sharpton and the NAACP then demanded the federal government bring charges that Mr. Zimmerman violated Mr. Martin's civil rights. That is a charge only enacted to appease people who are not happy with the results of a legal trial. It reeks of double jeopardy.
Back in the late 1970s, a cousin of mine shot a man to death in Savannah, Ga.
After an argument in a bar, my cousin went to his car to leave, but was followed. He took a .22 caliber pistol from the vehicle and killed the man. The shooter was charged with first-degree murder, but was acquitted on grounds of self-defense. Although witnesses said the man had threatened my cousin, he had never received a single blow. That case drew almost no interest. Even the Savannah newspaper barely mentioned it. I wonder how that would have played out had the victim not been a white man.
After the Zimmerman trial, there was a lot of talk about racism and the inequalities of our justice system. It is true racism still divides our nation, but protesting the outcome of a jury trial will only deepen that divide. All people must accept the findings of our legal system and live within it. There is no better way.
On March 21, the most horrific crime in recent memory was committed in Brunswick, Ga. That coastal town is just a few minutes north of Jacksonville on Interstate 95. In that case a young white mother was out for a walk with her 13-month-old son in a stroller. On a city street in broad daylight she was accosted by two black teenagers who demanded money. When she told them she had none, they shot her. Now wounded, she begged for mercy, but the two attackers told her if she did not produce the cash they would shoot her infant son. They did. The baby was shot in the head and died instantly.
In a short time, the police had the two suspects in custody and they are now awaiting trial.
You may not have heard about that case. No national media converged on Brunswick. Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson did not show up and President Obama did not give any statements concerning that crime. The white people of the town did not take to the streets. When that trial is over and if somehow the two thugs are set free, there will be no demonstrations or violent outrage. We live in a society governed by rules. Unless those rules apply to us all, racism is bound to continue.
Dan Smith is on the board of directors for the Ormond Beach Historical Society and The Motor Racing Heritage Association and is the author of two books, "The World's Greatest Beach" and "I Swear the Snook Drowned." Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (386) 441-7793.