Now comes George Zimmerman's trial. The raciallycharged case that sparked nationwide acts ofprotest, marches and outrage is finally on its wayto court, to a trial by a jury of his - and,hopefully, Trayvon Martin's - peers. It will notbring justice. Not full justice, anyway. Zimmermanmay be the admitted gunman, but he's not the onlyone who's guilty.
The case, and the trial, is about the nature ofjustice itself. It's about whether justice trulyexists in America, or whether it is color-coded.
The victim is black. The admitted gunman, a whiteHispanic. (Many have questioned whether it is aliberal bias to make that distinction, both whiteand Hispanic. It's not. White is a race. Hispanicis an ethnicity. Hispanics come in many colors.And many in Sanford, Fl., where the killingoccurred, would swear that if Zimmerman had beenblack he would have been arrested the very nightof the shooting, regardless of his ethnicity.)
This much is known:
Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black wearing ahoodie, wandered into the wrong neighborhood onFeb. 26 on his way back from a 7-Eleven, carryingSkittles and a can of tea. George Zimmerman, the28-year-old coordinator of the gated community'sneighborhood watch with a history of eyeing youngblack males suspiciously and calling 911, saw him.He called 911. The dispatcher told him not tofollow Trayvon Martin. He did anyway.
A short time later, a series of calls flooded 911from other neighborhood residents. Several saidthey heard a man pleading for help, then a shot.In at least one, the blood-curdling cries, and theshot, can be heard.
This is where the other two parties enter, theones that are guilty of turning a tragedy into acase of national shame.
The Sanford Police and the local black communityhave a long and testy history. Blacks believe theyhave not received the same measure of justice.They can tick off examples: Travares McGill, shotby white security guards in 2005 - one the son ofa longtime Sanford police officer, the other adepartment volunteer. The guards were acquitted.
More recently, the 2010 beating of a blackhomeless man by a white teen. The beating wascaught on videotape. Police waited seven weeks toarrest a suspect - the son of a Sanford Policelieutenant.
To the city's blacks, letting George Zimmerman gofree was just another example of the injusticethey felt at the hands of police.
It's easy to see why. From the beginning, itseemed to be- at best - a bungled investigation,marred by ineptitude and a failure to pursue basicand obvious lines of evidence. At worst, it seemeddeliberately tilted against Trayvon Martin.Witnesses reported investigators "correcting"their statements to fit Zimmerman's version ofevents.
Then, came the final culprit in this dance ofdisgrace: The reason (or excuse, depending on yourpoint of view) that the police gave for notarresting Zimmerman - Florida's "Stand YourGround" law.
Zimmerman says Trayvon Martin attacked him frombehind, punched him in the face, and beat his headagainst the ground. He shot the teenager, he says,in self-defense.
In Florida, that's all it takes. If someone feelsthey are in danger they don't have to retreat.They can "stand their ground," and they can usedeadly force to defend themselves. And that's OK.
Last month, the Tampa Bay Times reported that thelaw has been invoked at least 130 times. Seventyinvolved a death. In the majority of cases, thepaper found, the person did not stand trial. In 50cases, police didn't file charges at all.
In Trayvon's case, it seemed like salt in theblack community's many wounds. This time, though,they insisted on justice. Almost six weeks afterthe killing, they got it. Or at least some.
"We simply wanted an arrest," Trayvon's mother,Sybrina Fulton, said after the charge wasannounced Wednesday evening. "We wanted nothingmore and nothing less, we just wanted an arrest.And we got it. And I say, 'Thank you, thank you,Lord, thank you, Jesus.' "
The trial, though, will be about the shooting, notthe police, and not the law. So no matter what theverdict, two of the biggest contributors inheaping indignity on Trayvon Martin's deathremain unscathed, and there's nothing to preventanother case just like it from happening.