Tag Archives: Trayvon

Justice for Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin is dead and the man who killed him is still in the land of the living as a free man.  I am still wrapping my head around this reality. I am proud of our nation for standing up and fighting for justice for Trayvon Martin. Without the public’s initial disgust with no arrest, this trial would have never happened.  We would have still been dealing with what ifs. So that I say that is a step in the right direction.  Just hard because it does not feel like Trayvon Martin and his family got the justice they so rightly deserved.

My mind always looks at trends or deviations from history. After this verdict I immediately thought of cases from the 1960s such as Medgar Evers and Emmett Till.  Both black men killed in the South by white men.  Their murder trials were brought before an all white jury who would ultimately fail to return a guilty verdict.  These cases happened 50 years ago but I cannot help to see the similarities with Trayvon Martin.  We think about how far we have come but moments like this remind us about how far we still have to go as a nation.

As an attorney I hoped and prayed that our justice system could show not just Black America, but also the world that we are no longer the same system of the past but Lady Justice is truly blind in America for once.  I cannot say that happened tonight.  Hardest thing for me as an attorney is to concede to people that the system does not always work. It does not always put the guilty behind bars and does not always free the innocent.  African American men as defendants and victims in this justice system face different realities and are so often those who face the unjust “justice” system.

The NAACP is already calling for the Department of Justice to pursue federal charges.  The Federal government could chose to bring charges under civil rights statutes against George Zimmerman and not violate double jeopardy.  From the beginning I hoped the Department of Justice would be able to make a case.  I just do not think that they will be able to.   They need to show that he killed Trayvon Martin simply because he was black.  While his reasons for initially following Trayon would leave many of us to believe that, it is a leap in logic to use that to pursue federal charges.

In today’s society, being racist is not the politically correct thing to do.  The man who murdered Medgar Evers in 1963, Bryon De La Beckwith was very open about his hatred of African Americans.  We do not always see that today.  The scariest racist is often the one who you cannot see, the one who does not fully articulate their hatred. They may harbor ill will or truly believe certain stereotypes. In addition, they may act on these beliefs in ways that can be explained away with some legitimate reason such as you just were not qualified for the job as opposed to they did not want to hire a black person.  To some degree it is even unconscious for them. This is the racist of today and I think they are even harder to convict under a Civil Rights statute.  That is the difficulty I see here.  Even now, we do not fully understand George Zimmerman’s thought process that night. He very well could be harboring hatred towards African Americans but he never stated that and more importantly his actions can be explained away by “self-defense” and not purely a hate crime.

Going forward I think the best plan of action for those who want to ensure this never happens again through lobbying within the state of Florida to change some of their laws. With the nation watching you guys have dropped the ball twice, once with Casey Anthony and now George Zimmerman. Time to reexamine some things Florida.  First I think self defense should be rolled back to the common law version of self defense that worked just fine forever.  Under that, you have the duty to retreat if possible unless you are in your home. You cannot “stand your ground” and essentially have a modern day duel.  One of the biggest things that new legislation should highlight is that the initial aggressor cannot then use self defense after creating the situation.  Another interesting thing Florida could do,

Florida should also increase the number of members of a jury.  Six people is clearly not enough to get a fair cross section of the community.  I say clearly because the jury consisted of five white women and one woman who’s race has been debated.  She has been described by some as a Hispanic woman or black woman and others as a biracial woman.  When you have underlining issues of race I think it is even more important to have a diverse jury.  They all bring different experiences in with them to the jury box.  The prosecution also dropped the ball on their selection in this case as well but with only six spots there is only so much you can do.

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Toure’s post seems to answer the questions I raised. What do you tell your child and how do you prepare them for this? These are great suggestions but still, it’s sad that I even have to prepare my potential son for how the world will treat him.

Ideas

1. It’s unlikely but possible that you could get killed today. Or any day. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. Black maleness is a potentially fatal condition. I tell you that not to scare you but because knowing that could save your life. There are people who will look at you and see a villain or a criminal or something fearsome. It’s possible they may act on their prejudice and insecurity. Being black could turn an ordinary situation into a life-or-death moment even if you’re doing nothing wrong.

2. If you encounter such a situation, you need to play it cool. Keep your wits about you. Don’t worry about winning the situation. Your mission is to survive.

3. There is nothing wrong with you. You’re amazing. I love you. When I look at you, I see a complex human being with awesome potential, but some others will look at you…

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Raising African American Males in America: The Trayvon Martin Case

The Travyon Martin case has truly shaken me to my core.  As an African American woman I think about the potential of bringing African American males into this world and the problems they may face simply because of their race and their gender.  I can tell my hypothetical son to pull up his pants, be polite, follow all rules and laws, and be respectful to authority figures especially cops. I can even provide the best education that money can buy perhaps even an Ivy League education and yet someone will still look at my hypothetical son as a potential criminal or a threat.  Simply walking down the street with a hoodie on a rainy night in his neighborhood could raise suspicions.

After reading this case the thought crossed my mind of how do you prepare your child to go out into a world that has already judged them before even knowing his name?  I come from a law enforcement family and never feared law enforcement like many of my African American peers but I was still taught the realities that African Americans face during interactions with law enforcement.  The ironic thing is despite instilling African American males with morals and encouraging them to respect the laws of the land you have to tell them that despite following the law they still may be questioned as if they are a common criminal. That seems to put young black men in an awkward place that regardless of their efforts to live a virtuous life they may be treated the same as a criminal by the police and even self appointed neighborhood watch captains.

I look at the Martin case and say based on the facts that we know what could Trayvon have done differently?  How could his parents have prepared him for this type of situation, a young black male walking alone with a hoodie in a gated community?  I am at a loss.  In a statement the Sanford police chief stated that George Zimmerman, the man who murdered Trayvon, wished he could change his actions that night and he Trayvon probably would as well. I disagree. Trayvon was walking to the store to pick up a drink for himself and a pack of Skittles for his brother.  He was walking in the neighborhood that housed the home he was visiting.  He like Zimmerman had every right to be there.  Zimmerman admits that he was following Trayvon and also stated Trayvon was looking at him.  Is that not what Trayvon would have been taught by his parents? Always be aware of your surroundings are things my parents told me.  From there Zimmerman states that Trayvon began to run.  Toddlers are taught to run away from danger.  I would imagine that Trayvon thought a man staring at him from a vehicle was a potential threat to him.   Trayvon’s family likely told him how to handle interactions with police officers but it is important to remember that Zimmerman is not a cop and Martin’s response to him should not be judged as if Zimmerman was.

Then we know that an altercation ensued between Trayvon and George Zimmerman.  In a statement from his father, Zimmerman claims that he did not follow Trayvon or approach him but from the 911 tape it is clear that the initial interaction between Zimmerman and Martin was initiated by Zimmerman because HE got out of his car and followed Trayvon Martin.   Think back to what your parents told you to do in these types of situations.  A strange man who is significantly larger and older than you approaches you.  Zimmerman may have asked questions or he may have jumped to trying to physically apprehend Martin because it is clear that he thought he was a cop.  First it was instilled in me to not speak to strangers, or answer questions. In addition my parents told me to scream for help, and finally if all else fails you fight off the stranger.  That is what the evidence, particularly the 911 tapes, tells me that Trayvon did.  Trayvon did exactly what his parents likely told him to do; yet he is no longer here.

So again I say how do we prepare our young black males for the scrutiny that they ultimately will face?  They can approach a situation with all the things their parents taught them and still be murdered and the justice system is unable to pursue charges.  I honestly do not know the answer and that is truly what scares me.   So many young black men could easily be Trayvon Martin.  In addition to charges being brought against George Zimmerman, I hope that this case brings racial profiling to the forefront again, encourages changes in Florida’s self defense laws and even potentially regulations for neighborhood watch vigilantes.

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Great legal breakdown of the self defense laws that George Zimmerman is trying to use. Without a doubt Zimmerman, an armed self-appointed neighborhood watch capitan, was the aggressor. Stepping out of his vehicle and approaching Martin made him the aggressor! As the article states any action taken by Martin are self defense.

In America

Editor’s note: Carolyn Edgar is a lawyer and writer in New York City. She writes about social issues, parenting and relationships on her blog, Carolyn Edgar.  You can follow her on Twitter @carolynedgar.

By Carolyn Edgar, Special to CNN

(CNN) — Imagine the following scenario:

You are a 17-year-old boy in Sanford, Florida. You are visiting your father and his fiancée at your soon-to-be stepmother’s home in a gated community. You decide to make a late-night candy run to your local 7-Eleven. It’s nighttime and drizzling, so you are wearing a hooded sweatshirt. At the store, you buy a package of Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea, then head back home.

As you are walking home, you notice a man in an SUV following you. The man gets out of the car. He’s a big guy who outweighs you by 100 pounds. He doesn’t identify himself as…

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