Our View: ‘Travesty’ averted

Posted: July 15, 2013

The first, and perhaps most important, thing to be said of the George Zimmerman trial is that it’s over, Maybe now we, as Americans, can get back to concentrating on matters of genuine interest, like the economy, the preservation of our Constitution, or the proverbial price of cheese in Chicago. Or, more appropriately, if affairs in the Windy City register as a genuine focus of concern, the alarming number of homicides in that city of “broad shoulders.”

There’s a reason why this newspaper did not comment on the Zimmerman trial while it was ongoing. We simply refused to be drawn in by all the breathless attention surrounding it, preferring instead to monitor the course of the proceedings from afar.

But now that it’s over — and justice, however you choose to view it, has been served — allow us to say that anytime a teenager dies under such circumstances, there’s ample room for sorrow and maybe even initial anger — but not exploitation, especially when the true facts of the case defy certainty. How, precisely, did Trayvon Martin die? We may never know — and therein lies the crux of the matter and the ultimate reason for the final verdict of “Not guilty” on both second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.

But none of this kept the likes of Al Sharpton and others from transforming an incident, as hazy in detail as it was unfortunate, and the subsequent trial into some sort of racial passion play. You’d think after Crown Heights and Tawana Brawley that Americans could see through his execrable shenanigans, but the media — from those progressive “thinkers” at Salon to Big Apple scribe Mike Lupica, who once was a pretty fair sports columnist — bought into it all. And, needless to say (at least in retrospect), President Obama did himself no favors offering a knee-jerk opinion on the sad affair shortly after young Mr. Martin suffered that fatal gunshot wound to the heart.

Granted, spectacular crime stories — Lizzie Borden, Leopold & Loeb, Caryl Chessman, Sam Sheppard, and, of more recent vintage, O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony, and Jodi Arias — have long held grisly attraction for many Americans, but even by these untoward standards, George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin was pretty run-of-the-mill fodder. Especially when one considers, as alluded to above, the killing field that is now the South Side of Chicago.

Just as the Zimmerman trial was ratcheting up earlier this month, 74 folks sustained gunshot wounds over a bloody Fourth of July weekend in the Windy City. Twelve died. One of the shooting victims was a 5-year-old boy who was doing nothing more than enjoying a fireworks display. Is his name common knowledge across America? (It’s Jaden Donald, by the way.)

The point to be made? If Al Sharpton and, to a certain extent, even President Obama were truly interested in making things better for black Americans, they would eschew mantras of racial exploitation in favor of inspiring million-person marches against the black-on-black violence ravaging America’s inner cities.

The second thing that needs to be said about the Zimmerman trial is that, given the body of evidence (or lack thereof), the jury tendered the right verdict — in fact the onlyverdict it could. The prosecution simply could not prove Mr. Zimmerman acted with malice aforethought or in anything other than self-defense. Reasonable doubt prevailed.

It’s heartening to know that at least six Americans — the six women on the jury — were not about to be swayed by sentiment, emotion, the concocted lamentations of Mr. Sharpton, or the suggestion that Mr. Zimmerman be adjudged guilty of “something.” Instead, they took their charge seriously to assess the evidence before them and deliver a verdict based on the facts of the case as presented.

By doing so, as one defense attorney noted afterwards, they prevented a “tragedy” from turning into a “travesty.”