The court of public opinion

July 16, 2013 

I’ve heard a lot of people say the past few days that under the law, young black men’s lives have little value. Frankly, I don’t know if that point is valid or not.

What I do know is that using the Trayvon Martin case to illustrate that is a bad example.

My gut reaction is that people have very deep opinions about this case, not because of points of law, but rather because of points of race. Most people well-versed in criminal trials would say that the prosecution of George Zimmerman did a very poor job.

That they didn’t establish the burden needed to convict somebody of murder. Unfortunately, no matter what the evidence was or how badly the case was tried, thousands believe they know the law and they believe they know what the outcome should have been.

Count me as a person thankful that our legal system doesn’t work that way. I don’t want guilt in the court of public opinion to trump actual law and argumentation.

In my opinion, under Florida law and the standards of proof needed to convict somebody of murder, the outcome said nothing about what a young black man’s life is worth. If I felt young black men’s lives have been cheapened, I wouldn’t have looked to Florida. I’d have looked to Chicago.

The Windy City has recorded over 200 homicides this year alone and more than 50 percent of them have involved black men 21 years old or younger. I might have looked to Los Angeles where in the past five years, over 70 percent of the youths killed in gang-related violence have been black or Hispanic.

We hear very little about those two situations because we don’t have the inflammatory aspect of race at play. Ironically enough, the main reason the Trayvon Martin case centered around race was because the media reported it that way.

In the first stories that aired, Zimmerman was called a white man. One cable news station even coined a new term to use — white Hispanic — when it was finally realized that he wasn’t as white as people wanted him to be.

While it has been alleged that Zimmerman racially profiled Martin, it was the public who racially profiled Zimmerman, and incorrectly, to boot.

I can’t, nor do I want to, defend the actions of a renegade vigilante. Because of Zimmerman’s overzealousness, a young man has died.

If either of them simply walked away or tried to talk out the matter, two lives would have been left alone.

But if you want to debate the worth of young black men, there are thousands of cases to pull from that involve cold-blooded murder. I’m still waiting for that outrage to actually occur.

Reach Cost at costanalysiscolumn@gmail.com.

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