On February 26, 2012, the tragic shooting of 17-year-old African American Trayvon Martin took place. George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old multi-racial Hispanic American, is on trial for the second-degree murder of Martin. This long-standing trial has caused many Americans to examine race relations in the U.S.
Zimmerman was the neighborhood watch coordinator for the gated community where the shooting occurred. Martin, who was unarmed, was making his way from 7-Eleven with some snacks. To briefly recap, Zimmerman had seen Martin and reported finding him suspicious to the dispatcher. Even though the dispatcher tells Zimmerman not to follow Martin, Zimmerman does not listen. Yelling and a single gunshot are heard by witnesses, but no one saw the events leading up to the fatal shooting.
Martin was not found to have handled Zimmerman's gun, and an "analysis showed that scrapings from underneath the teenager's fingernails did not contain any of Zimmerman's DNA" as reported on CNN. Zimmerman's legal defense has created a website raising defense funds with a goal of $120,000.
14 months later, as the murder trial begins, media coverage continues to share irrelevant information with the public. According to CNN, "Items taken from Trayvon Martin's cell phone — including a text-message discussion of drug use and pictures of a gun and marijuana plants — are among new details released …"
Martin's previous life choices are insignificant to what actually happened on the day of his death. Zimmerman's attorneys are doing everything they can to frame Martin as a drug-using, dangerous teenager, and the media is exposing every detail.
Live coverage in the courtroom reveals to the public Zimmerman's lawyer sharing a "knock, knock" joke as his opening statement. Is this appropriate behavior in a murder trial? Moreover, it's not necessary for the media to show this to the public. Cable news networks have turned this devastating incident into somewhat of an irreverent spectacle.
As stated in the Huffington Post, "Even MSNBC, which rarely covers court cases in-depth, has been providing live coverage of the trial … it aired the prosecutor using the f-word twice, before Chuck Todd came on to apologize…"
The media coverage of court trials should be treated in a serious and sensitive manner, not displaying features seen in a Hollywood flick. Although the public has the right to view legal proceedings, it should not be demonstrated in a way that mocks, insults, or degrades the system and its participants.